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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
07 March 2019
Volume 655

Written Statements

Thursday 7 March 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Offshore Wind Sector Deal

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As part of the industrial strategy, the Government are committed to continue to work closely with the offshore wind industry to further drive down the costs of clean power, while building a competitive UK supply chain.

Offshore wind is a huge UK success story, with the world’s largest offshore wind market and 8 GW of operational capacity (rising to 14 GW by 2023). Long-term Government support has underpinned growth and technological innovation in the sector, leading to significant cost reductions and resulting in offshore wind becoming one of the cheapest low carbon generation sources.

As a key part of our modern industrial strategy, sector deals bring industry and the Government together in partnership to boost productivity and earning power in specific sectors. The offshore wind sector deal sets out an ambitious partnership between Government and industry that will ensure the UK continues to play a leading role in the global market for offshore wind, and that UK companies capitalise on the opportunities of this growing export market; delivering on the industrial strategy’s clean growth grand challenge.

The development of the deal was led by the Offshore Wind Industry Council in close engagement with offshore wind developers, major equipment manufacturers, the wider supply chain in the UK and local communities with an interest in the success of the sector. This reflects on the excellent existing collaboration between the industry, the UK Government, and local, regional and devolved partners, who supported the formation of this deal. It follows ambitious sector deals with the life sciences, automotive, construction, creative industries, artificial intelligence, nuclear, aerospace and rail sectors.

The deal will build on the United Kingdom’s global leadership in offshore wind by growing the UK supply chain, increasing its competitiveness and productivity, taking advantage of new technology and developing the innovative products and services needed in the future. It will do this by:

Providing forward visibility of future contracts for difference auctions with support of up to £557 million, with the next auction to open by May 2019 and subsequent auctions around every 2 years thereafter1.

The sector committing to increase UK content to 60% by 2030, including increases in the capital expenditure phase.

Increasing the representation of women in the offshore wind workforce to at least a third by 2030, with an ambition to reach a higher figure of 40%.

Setting an ambition of increasing exports fivefold to £2.6 billion by 2030.

The sector investing up to £250 million of funding to establish a new offshore wind growth partnership to work with UK businesses and SMEs to address the UK’s productivity gap, increase business competitiveness, drive supply chain innovation and support the UK’s export drive.

Working to integrate offshore wind to support grid integration, such as co-located storage and wind to hydrogen.

Furthermore, the deal aims to bolster regional clusters in alignment with the industrial strategy’s aim to support prosperous communities throughout the UK. The offshore wind sector will continue to co-ordinate its approach and work with local, regional and devolved Governments and their economic development agencies to build on the opportunities created by this deal, through local industrial strategies in England, and city and growth deals across the UK.

Constructing up to 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and boosting exports to £2.6 billion per annum will bring new jobs and economic growth; the sector expects to grow its skilled workforce to 27,000 by 2030, creating opportunities across the UK. The sector aims to employ women as more than a third of its workforce by 2030 and a stretching ambition will be set for raising BAME representation, with the sector committing to initiatives for including people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and needs, which include age, ethnicity, education and other abilities.

This deal will support the offshore wind industry into the next phase of its development as a world leading industry. I will be placing a copy of this document in the Libraries of both Houses.

1 Depending on the prices achieved, this could deliver up to 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030.

[HCWS1382]

Cabinet Office

Committee on Standards in Public Life: Intimidation in Public Life

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In July 2017 the Committee on Standards in Public Life was asked by the Prime Minister to conduct a review of intimidation experienced by parliamentary candidates, including those who stood at the 2017 general election. The Committee also considered the broader implications for other candidates for public office and public office holders. Its report, “Intimidation in Public Life”, was published in December 2017.

In March 2018 the Government published their response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report. We thank the Committee for its work on the report which makes sobering reading. In that response, we committed to a series of actions based on the Committee’s recommendations, and today I wish to update Parliament on the work the Government have taken since March 2018 to play our part in building a democracy in which every voice can be heard. The Committee also made recommendations to a range of organisations including social media companies, political parties, Parliament, the police, and broadcast and print media. In our response we committed to encouraging and supporting those organisations to implement a number of the recommendations.

We have:

Undertaken a public consultation entitled “Protecting the Debate: Intimidation, Influence and Information”. The consultation sought views on a proposed new electoral offence of intimidation of candidates and campaigners, recasting the offence of undue influence, and on extending the imprints regime to cover digital electoral materials. The consultation closed in October 2018 and the Government’s response will be published in due course. As was said in the consultation, intimidatory behaviour during election campaigns harms everyone—including all voters—by putting people off taking part in elections and public service.

Consulted stakeholders on changes to deliver, and to go beyond, the recommendation for removing the requirement for the addresses of candidates at local council elections to appear on the ballot paper. The four statutory instruments to make these changes for local government, parish council, combined authority mayoral and local mayoral elections in England have been approved by Parliament, and are now in place for the local elections in May.

Consulted on our Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper, and we will publish a joint DCMS- Home Office White Paper. The White Paper will set out a range of legislative and non-legislative measures detailing how we will tackle online harms and set clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe. It will establish a Government-wide approach to online safety, delivering the digital charter’s ambitions of making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, while also leading the world in innovation-friendly regulation that supports the growth of the tech sector. It will also include ambitious measures to support continued education and awareness for all users and to promote the development and adoption of new safety technologies.

Led contact with other five eyes countries (Australia; New Zealand; Canada; USA) to establish a network of learning regarding our approaches to identifying and tackling online hate crime and intimidation. This aims to identify synergies or gaps in approaches, promote consensus, and gather best practice that can be shared for the benefit of all countries.

Written to local authority chief executives, to raise awareness about the sensitive interest provisions in the Localism Act 2011 which protect the personal addresses of councillors in England, ensuring that monitoring officers are aware of the guidance published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This has been made public on gov.uk.

Held discussions with the social media companies and the Electoral Commission about how a “pop up” social media team for elections could provide support for users that report inappropriate behaviour work and we will continue to collaborate as we explore potential next steps.

Over and above the recommendation in the Committee’s report, the Government will be considering what further steps are necessary to ensure the safety of parliamentarians and their staff, in the vicinity of Parliament, in their constituencies and online, and Ministers are open to representations from hon. Members across the House on this matter.

Alongside the work by the Government, other public bodies have been delivering on the recommendations from the Committee:

The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and the director of security for Parliament have written to all MPs reminding them of the security advice and services offered by police and the parliamentary security department’s Members’ security support service. There has been a significant improvement in the take up by MPs of recommended security measures.

In the area around Parliament, the Metropolitan Police have maintained an ongoing policing operation. Their role is to facilitate peaceful protest and balance the needs and rights of all those present, including protestors, MPs and members of the public. The police will deal robustly with incidents of harassment and abuse against anyone where that harassment or abuse constitutes a criminal offence. Officers in the area have been briefed to intervene appropriately where they hear or see breaches of the law.

The Metropolitan Police, through their parliamentary liaison and investigative team (PLAIT), provide support to all local forces on all issues relating to parliamentary candidates. Each force has a single point of contact in place, who has contact with the PLAIT through regular updates and meetings as required. In regard to social media training, the College of Policing has developed a new digital policing curriculum which includes communication offences (which social media is a part of). This is now incorporated into the policing education qualifications framework for all new starters and the college is currently developing the learning products for all existing staff to be up-skilled across the digital policing landscape including social media.

The College of Policing, in collaboration with the Electoral Commission, has been working to update the policing elections authorised professional practice on stalking and harassment, which will be available in spring 2019. The College of Policing also has a new digital policing curriculum which includes communication offences.

A working group led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council has been convened to develop new guidance for parliamentary candidates in line with the Committee’s recommendations. The revised guidance will feature two complementary documents, with the intention that both guides are read in conjunction. The first signposts a rapid pathway to achieve a resolution for both criminal and non-criminal unwanted behaviour and conduct and provides advice based on the experiences of prospective candidates. This is complemented by a longer piece of guidance, which provides details of what might constitute a breach of a number of criminal laws, in order to inform and assist candidates on any contact they may have with police and the wider criminal justice system. The working group will consult with the appropriate stakeholders, including the parliamentary parties panel, with a view to publishing the full set of guidance in April 2019.

We cannot allow intimidation to threaten the vibrancy and diversity of our public life. Intimidatory behaviour impacts on the quality of our democracy and the lives of those who play an active role in it. It is incumbent on all of us in public life to combat this issue and the Government will continue to work with others including public bodies, social media companies, policing and prosecution authorities, and political parties.

[HCWS1389]

Defence

Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body: Appointment

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I am pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for Defence has appointed Miss Kerry Holden as the next public sector member of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body. Her appointment commenced on 1 March 2019 and will run until 28 February 2022. This appointment has been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

[HCWS1391]

RAF Police Review

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I wish to inform the House that I am laying before the House today the second report from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services (HMICFRS) inspection of the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP).

The Armed Forces Act 2011 places a duty on HMICFRS to inspect and report to the Ministry of Defence on the independence and effectiveness of investigations carried out by each service police force, and this is HMICFRS’s second statutory inspection report on the RAFP.

I consider this report to be a very positive endorsement of the RAFP providing assurance from an independent civilian authority that the RAFP has a strong performance management process for investigations. No recommendations were necessary although a number of areas for improvement have been identified. The Royal Air Force accepts the report’s findings and work is already under way to address the areas for improvement.

[HCWS1390]

Exiting the European Union

EU Exit: Advisory Groups on Negotiations

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The Government are committed to working at pace with the EU to have a future relationship in place by the end of December 2020, ensuring that the backstop solution to Northern Ireland is never used. However, the Prime Minister set out to the House of Commons that the Government’s objective is to ensure that, even if the full future relationship is not in place by the end of the implementation period, the backstop is replaced by alternative arrangements. The withdrawal agreement and political declaration already set out the shared determination of the UK and the EU to replace the backstop solution in Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement establishing alternative arrangements.

President Juncker has already confirmed with the Prime Minister that the EU will give priority to the specific work steam intended to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements. There have been further discussions on how to take forward this commitment with the EU—between the Prime Minister and President Juncker, and the Exiting the EU Secretary and Michel Barnier. The Government expect to give more shape to how the UK and EU will take these commitments forward in due course.

The Government expect that joint UK-EU work on alternative arrangements will be an important strand of the next phase of negotiations. In anticipation of this, and to ensure that the UK is ready to move at pace in the next phase, the Government are putting in place the UK’s arrangements to support this work, with a team drawing in all the relevant Departments including DExEU, HMT, HMRC, BEIS, DEFRA, the Home Office, and the NIO. This will report directly to the UK’s negotiating team.

In this context, the Government intend to establish three advisory groups to inform the UK’s negotiations with the EU, with the UK’s work co-ordinated by the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (FST), who has responsibility for customs policy and administration:

an expert advisory group of technical experts in trade and customs—such as from academia, think tanks, and customs brokers, to ensure those with specialist expertise are involved in developing options;

a business and trade union engagement group—to ensure that the views of those trading with the EU and the rest of the world inform the ongoing work;

and a parliamentary engagement group—to allow Government to consult with Members of Parliament from across both Houses with an interest in the work. The Government will discuss with parliamentarians how best to constitute this group. This will not affect the Government’s ongoing engagement with the Exiting the EU Select Committee, the Treasury Select Committee and the EU Select Committee.

The new groups will be constituted following the passing of the meaningful vote, and first meet in advance of the commencement of the next phase of negotiations between the UK and the EU. In the immediate term, the Government will look to engage with these groups on developing the UK’s understanding of alternative arrangements to inform negotiations with the with the EU, and ensure that the UK’s input is informed by a broad and inclusive range of voices domestically. Over the longer term, the Government will also consider how best these groups can contribute to their goal of ensuring that the UK is at the cutting edge of global customs policy, facilitating the greatest possible trade between the UK and the rest of the world. The Government will make available £20 million of funding, to support the development, testing or piloting of ideas that emerge from these groups where the Government believe it would be helpful.

Specifically, the technical advisory group will have a remit to support the Government on exploring approaches to reduce the risk associated with the movement of goods and for simplifying processes for businesses trading in goods. The Government will also seek the input and views of the business advisory group and parliamentary engagement group to the proposals that are brought forward, and will ensure they have the opportunity to contribute their views on how proposals might be developed.

Ministers will be supported in their engagement by the civil service. Ministers will attend the meetings, supported by those civil servants leading the work on alternative arrangements with the EU.

In the first instance, the technical advisory group will consider work drawing on, but not limited to, the following issues. The Government will also invite views from the other groups on potential areas for exploration.

Facilitations and simplifications for businesses—building on global precedents and best practice to develop the most ambitious possible trusted trader programmes, in addition to considering the scope for checks and controls to be conducted at a broader range of premises, and making processes easier for smaller traders to ensure schemes are accessible and affordable to them.

Advanced use of data and IT systems—seeking effective, secure data-sharing to provide for general customs and regulatory co-operation to anticipate and manage risk, combat customs fraud and other illegal activity, and support the recovery of claims related to taxes and duties. This includes the scope for big data to enable more advanced risk assessments and technologies.

Transit—including looking at global precedents for transit schemes, and considering how existing transit processes can be streamlined and modernised to reflect evolutions in goods movements.

Cutting-edge technologies designed to streamline and modernise border controls and support engagement with customs and regulatory processes, including:

Radio—frequency identification (RFID) technology—which has potential to identify the movement of relevant vehicles/consignments, and log where they have passed specific points;

App platforms—including the scope to use apps and other technologies to enable the tracking of goods movements across borders, in a way that can address legitimate concerns about data gathering and retention; and

Single windows—assessing the scope for allowing traders to lodge all information relevant to the movement of goods in one place, rather than across different platforms, and considering the scope for interoperability between the UK and the EU and other partners; and

Machine learning and automatic intelligence to allow traders to automate the collection and submission of data.

The minimisation and simplification of processes surrounding trade in commodities which are prohibited or restricted, including those associated with requirements for regulatory checks and controls. This will include an assessment of their interface with customs proposals.

All three groups will have a particular focus on how any arrangements take into account the UK’s commitments to protect respective legal orders and markets, and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. They will also take into account how arrangements can apply more broadly beyond the specific focus on how they would operate in the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, to include how they could also help facilitate trade between the UK and EU.

The Government will provide a further update to Parliament, including on the membership of the respective groups, at the earliest opportunity in the coming weeks.

[HCWS1386]

EU Exit: International Arrangements

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The Government’s aim remains to ensure that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March with a negotiated deal which honours the result of the referendum. As the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave a number of international agreements to which it is currently party by virtue of EU membership. If the UK leaves with a deal, the EU has agreed that it will notify treaty partners and third countries that the UK is treated as an EU member state for the purposes of its international agreements during the implementation period up until 31 December 2020. This approach provides a basis for the UK to continue to be covered by EU international agreements during the implementation period. During this period, the UK will also be able to negotiate, sign and ratify new international agreements that come into effect after the implementation period ends. This approach provides continuity and gives businesses and international partners the certainty and confidence they want and need.

However, the Government are also continuing to plan for all eventualities, including a no-deal scenario. Colleagues across Government have been working with our third-country partners and international organisations to transition existing EU international agreements. My Department has co-ordinated the cross-departmental programme for the delivery of these agreements across a broad range of sectors, including fisheries, nuclear and transport.

This is essential preparation for our departure from the EU to ensure the UK can, where relevant and possible, maintain the benefits of these agreements, thereby providing continuity and stability to businesses and individuals.

It is the duty of Government to ensure that, as we leave the EU, business and citizens have the certainty, clarity and access to information they want and need in order that they can prepare accordingly. Departments have been communicating progress on plans to transition agreements to stakeholders and, where necessary, laying agreements before Parliament for scrutiny ahead of ratification.

In addition to this, my Department is today publishing on gov.uk further information on international agreements in the form of guidance, which will support stakeholders in preparing for our departure from the EU, and information on specific agreements. This information details those agreements that the Government are seeking to transition, including in a no-deal scenario, and clarifies whether they are expected to be in place for 29 March 2019. This information will be updated as further international agreements are agreed, signed and ratified. This includes information relating to trade agreements. Further details on trade continuity were recently published by the Department for International Trade on 21 February: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-02-21/HCWS1352/.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it will not be possible to complete the transition of all agreements by 29 March 2019. Where an agreement or arrangement is not in place on exit day, the Government will seek to ensure successor agreements and arrangements are in place as soon as possible thereafter. The information that will be available on gov.uk ensures that our stakeholders are aware where this is the case.

For those EU agreements for which the transition is not yet complete, discussions continue with our international partners to replicate their effects as far as possible and to minimise any potential disruption, and more agreements are likely to be finalised ahead of exit day. Unless an exceptional case should arise, the Government will continue to lay treaties subject to ratification before Parliament for scrutiny in accordance with the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG Act).

Given that there are limited sitting days, we are also exploring other means through which we could prevent any potential gaps. One option would be the use of provisional application. Provisional application would allow an agreement to be applied after signature, but before ratification, pending completion of parliamentary scrutiny. This would enable the Government to deliver their policy objective of securing continuity for the effects of existing EU-third country international agreements as far as possible. In exceptional cases it may be justified for the Government to use their powers under section 22 of the CRaG Act and ratify a treaty without parliamentary scrutiny, thus ensuring continuity from exit day. However, the Government’s strong preference remains to avoid using this power unless there was a justifiable case for doing so.

Specific country situations

It is not the Government’s intention to transition all agreements in their entirety. This includes the EEA agreement, the EU-Swiss free movement of persons agreement and the Ankara agreement.

The EEA EFTA states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) participate in the EU single market through their membership of the European economic area (EEA). The EEA agreement is the primary basis for the UK’s current co-operation with these countries in a number of important areas, including on trade and citizens’ rights to reside and work in another EEA state. The trade elements of our relationship with these countries are described in the annexed list available as an online attachment.

In the absence of any further action, the EEA agreement will no longer operate in respect of the UK when we leave the EU, including in a no-deal scenario. However, if the UK leaves with a deal, the EU has agreed that it will notify treaty partners and third countries that the UK is treated as an EU member state for the purposes of its international agreements during the implementation period up until 31 December 2020. This includes the EEA agreement. Once the implementation period ends, the UK will no longer be covered by the EEA agreement.

The UK and the EEA EFTA states have reached an agreement, which will mean that in a no-deal scenario UK and EEA EFTA nationals living in each other’s countries before exit day will be able to continue living their lives broadly as they do today. The Government have also published guidance on how the EU settlement scheme, which will be open to EEA EFTA nationals, will work after exit day.

Through the UK’s membership of the EU, we are party to the EU-Swiss free movement of persons agreement. In a no-deal scenario, this agreement will no longer apply to the UK from exit day.

The UK and Switzerland have reached an agreement which will mean that in a no-deal scenario UK and Swiss nationals living in each other’s countries before exit day will be able to continue living their lives broadly as they do today. The Government have also published guidance on how the EU settlement scheme, which will be open to Swiss nationals, will work after exit day.

We are in discussions with Switzerland on transitional arrangements for UK workers wishing to move to Switzerland and Swiss workers wishing to move to the UK after exit in a no-deal scenario. We are close to reaching an agreement and details on this will be published in the near future.

Turkey’s relationship with the EU is largely governed by the agreement creating an association between the Republic of Turkey and the European economic community (also referred to as the Ankara agreement) and its additional protocols and council decisions. The trade elements of our relationship with Turkey are described in the annexed list available as an online attachment.

Turkish nationals enjoy particular rights derived from the Ankara agreement. Following exit from the EU, the UK’s obligation to this agreement falls away either after 31 December 2020 in a no-deal scenario, or earlier in a no-deal scenario. However, as a transitional arrangement, the UK will seek to replicate the effect of the ECAA arrangements for the resident Turkish population. This will allow resident ECAA workers and ECAA business persons and their family members to apply for further leave with similar eligibility requirements as they have now, and apply to settle in the UK. We have not yet entered into any commitments in respect of Turkish nationals arriving after the UK’s departure in a no-deal situation.

I hope the House welcomes this statement as a demonstration of our commitment to transparency in our approach to transitioning international agreements, and will agree that it will help those affected to prepare for all eventualities.

Online attachments are available at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-03-07/HCWS1392/.

[HCWS1392]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Middle East and Yemen

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The United Nations describes the situation in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Of a population of less than 30 million people, 24 million depend on aid for their food and medicines. The number of children treated for malnutrition exceeds 420,000. The number who have died from starvation is estimated to be in excess of 85,000. Behind these stark numbers are individual men, women and children. Their suffering is caused not by natural disaster but by man-made conflict. I will update the House on my visit to the region and my judgment about the prospects for the Stockholm peace process. I want to start by commending the extraordinary efforts of UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, without whom Stockholm would not have happened.

My message on this trip to all parties was simple: the ceasefire in Hodeidah, the first sustained ceasefire since the conflict began four years ago, is in peril. It will not last unless what was agreed is implemented in full—and time is running out.

On Sunday, I was the first western Foreign Minister to visit Yemen since the war began. I travelled to Aden where I met the Deputy Prime Minister of the legitimate Government of Yemen, along with the Foreign Minister and the Interior Minister. Our talks were in the presidential palace where the scars of battle were visible. I emphasised how all sides must redeploy their forces away from the port of Hodeidah. The Stockholm agreement requires them to hand over control to neutral local security forces “in accordance with Yemeni law and answering to local state institutions”. That matters because Hodeidah is the entry point for about 70% of Yemen’s food imports. Over 50,000 metric tonnes of grain from the world food programme are stored in the port. Unless the withdrawal happens they cannot be distributed to the rest of the country. I ask the House to reflect on the obscenity of people starving to death in a country where food is just sitting idly in a port because warring parties will not allow it to be released. But a ceasefire in Hodeidah was also meant to be the first step to a nationwide ceasefire. If trust can be established there, it has the potential to be a bridge to the lasting political settlement sought by all sides. But if it cannot, and Stockholm is not implemented rapidly, the ceasefire will end and the prospects for humanitarian relief evaporate.

After meeting Government of Yemen representatives, I travelled by helicopter to Aden’s port where a United Nations official described the unique challenges of distributing aid in a country torn by conflict.

I also met Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman for the Houthis, in Oman. I listened carefully to their concern but also delivered a candid message about the need to act quickly to save the Stockholm agreement. I also requested humanitarian access for UN helicopters and NGOs, which is currently either impeded or prevented. I also travelled to Saudi Arabia where I met President Hadi of Yemen and his Foreign Minister as well as my Saudi counterparts, Adel al-Jubeir and Ibrahim al-Assaf.

Finally, I visited the United Arab Emirates, where I held talks with my counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. I welcomed the restraint shown by the Saudi-led coalition in Hodeidah since the Stockholm agreement but also reiterated my judgment that no side in this conflict can achieve outright military victory. The only way ahead is a negotiated political settlement. In the meantime, Britain and our allies are doing everything possible to alleviate the human suffering. Last month, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced another £200 million of British aid for Yemen, enough to treat 20,000 children for malnutrition and provide food for 3.8 million people for a month.

This year, the UN has asked for over £3.2 billion to cope with the emergency in Yemen—the largest humanitarian appeal ever. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have each pledged over £570 million. But the people of Yemen cannot be left to depend on outside aid forever. From my meetings in the region, I concluded that all parties genuinely want Stockholm to succeed, but there is a profound lack of trust and a deep reluctance to take the necessary steps in case they are not reciprocated. But in any successful peace process, all sides must take risks that are deeply uncomfortable. The Government of Yemen are understandably worried that without military pressure, the Houthis will not negotiate seriously. The Houthis, meanwhile, do not wish to hand over Hodeidah to any force that might be under Government control.

I told all sides that the only way to truly build confidence is for all parties to do precisely what they promised in Sweden, including not just leaving Hodeidah but also prisoner exchanges, paying salaries to Government employees, and allowing full humanitarian access to UN agencies. We then need to move rapidly on to discuss a long term political settlement, including the creation of a Government of national unity in which all sides are represented. The Stockholm peace process is our best chance yet to end this war. But the window for implementing it is closing. In the critical weeks that lie ahead, Britain will use every diplomatic and humanitarian lever we have to ensure this opportunity does not slip away.

[HCWS1383]

Home Department

EU Settlement Scheme

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My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before Parliament a statement of changes in immigration rules (HC 1919). The changes provide for the full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March 2019 for resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain the UK immigration status which they will require in order to remain here permanently after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The Government are also laying before Parliament today two negative procedure statutory instruments: the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Refund, Waiver and Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which provide for no application fee for the scheme as announced by the Prime Minister on 21 January 2019, and the Immigration (European Economic Area Nationals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which, in part, make changes associated with the scheme to other secondary legislation.

Protecting EU citizens’ rights remains our number one priority. We value the contribution they make to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the UK and we want them to stay. The best way to protect their rights, and those of UK nationals resident in the EU, is for the UK to reach a withdrawal agreement with the EU. However, as a responsible Government we are planning for all scenarios. In response to the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has written to the EU about the possibility of a joint UK/EU commitment to preserving the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement in the event the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal. We await their response. The full opening of the EU settlement scheme will enable EU citizens and their family members to secure their UK immigration status whether a deal is reached or not.

In the light of the successful testing of the online application process for the scheme during the private beta test phases from August to December 2018, in which we received and processed more than 30,000 applications, a public beta test phase of the scheme began on 21 January 2019. This phase is open to resident EU citizens (and their EU citizen family members) with a valid passport, and to their non-EU citizen family members with a valid biometric residence card. In this public beta phase, we received more than 120,000 applications by the end of February 2019, enabling us to test the system at a greater scale than previous phases.

By the end of February 2019, more than 105,000 of these applications had been concluded, with 71% granted settled status, the rest granted pre-settled status and none refused. 75% of these applicants received their decision within three days and 80% of those who provided feedback found the online application process easy, or fairly easy, to complete. A report on the public beta test phase will be published after its conclusion on 30 March 2019.

This means that, since the opening of the initial private beta test phase on 28 August 2018, we had, by the end of February 2019, received more than 150,000 applications under the scheme, of which 135,000 (nearly 90%) had already been concluded. Of these concluded cases, 71% were granted settled status, with the rest granted pre-settled status and none refused.

The Government therefore intend to go ahead, as planned, with the full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March 2019. The immigration rules for the scheme contained in the new appendix EU include the following changes to the scope of the scheme:

Resident citizens of the other European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and of Switzerland, and their family members, will also be able to apply for UK immigration status under the scheme, in line with the citizens’ rights agreements reached with those countries;

EEA and Swiss citizens and certain family members will from 9 April 2019 be able to apply under the scheme from outside the UK, so that they can obtain status under it, based on their previous residence in the UK, without needing to travel here in order to make an online application;

The scheme will be open to the family members of British citizens who were exercising their free movement rights under EU law before returning to the UK (“Surinder Singh” cases), and to the family members of certain dual British/EU citizens (“Lounes” cases);

The scheme will be open to others lawfully resident in the UK by virtue of a “derivative right” to reside, based on wider EU law. These are “Chen carers” (the primary carer of a self-sufficient EEA citizen child), “Ibrahim and Teixeira” cases (a child of a former EEA citizen worker who is in education in the UK and their primary carer), and “Zambrano carers” (the primary carer of a British citizen child or dependent adult);

Residence in the Crown dependencies (Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man) will be counted as UK residence for the purposes of the scheme, consistent with the wider operation of the common travel area;

EEA and Swiss citizens previously resident in the UK will be able to count as UK residence for the purposes of the scheme time spent on an overseas posting as a Crown servant, as will a partner or child of any nationality accompanying such a person or accompanying a member of HM Forces on an overseas posting. Such EEA and Swiss citizens have made a strong commitment to the UK by serving overseas in this way, or by accompanying someone who is doing so, and this should not disadvantage them under the scheme; and

Consistent with the basis on which the scheme will operate in a “no-deal” scenario, provision is made for the “specified date”, by which EEA and Swiss citizens will need to be continuously resident in the UK and certain relevant family relationships will need to be formed, to be 29 March 2019 in that scenario rather than 31 December 2020.

The new appendix EU also includes the following changes to the application process for the scheme:

There will be no application fee under the scheme, as the Prime Minister announced on 21 January 2019;

In certain circumstances, an application under the scheme will be made on a paper application form rather than through the online application process, including in “derivative right” cases where the applicant will need to provide additional information to that generally required under the scheme, and in exceptional circumstances, where provision of a paper application form complements the assisted digital support available for applicants who need help to complete the online application process;

Applicants in the UK will be able to rely on a wider range of documents as proof of their identity and nationality: their valid national identity card for an EEA or Swiss citizen, as well as their valid passport, and their valid passport or biometric residence permit for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen family member, as well as their valid biometric residence card;

There will be scope for applicants to submit their identity document by post to be checked and returned to them quickly, as an alternative, for EEA/Swiss citizens and for non-EEA/Swiss citizens with a biometric residence card, to use the identity verification app or visit one of the locations at which they can be helped to use this (of which there will be at least 50 across the UK by 30 March 2019); and

There will also be scope for the Secretary of State to accept alternative evidence of identity and nationality where the applicant is unable to provide the required document due to circumstances beyond their control or to compelling practical or compassionate reasons.

This statement of changes in immigration rules makes the following other provision associated with the EU settlement scheme:

Consistent with the draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, the new appendix EU (Family permit) provides for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen who is the family member of an EEA/Swiss citizen with status granted under the EU settlement scheme to apply for an entry clearance to join that EEA/Swiss citizen in the UK, or to accompany them here, whether for a short stay or to make an application under the scheme in the UK;

Changes to part 1 and part 9 of the rules to ensure that the grounds for the revocation of an entry clearance granted under appendix EU (Family permit), the refusal or cancellation of leave to enter held by virtue of a person having arrived in the UK with such an entry clearance, and the cancellation or curtailment of leave to enter or remain granted under appendix EU are consistent with the EU law public policy tests for conduct committed before 31 December 2020 (or before 29 March 2019 in a “no-deal” scenario) and with UK suitability provisions for conduct thereafter; and

Enables an application for administrative review of a decision under the scheme to be made outside the UK as well as within the UK, reflecting the scope for overseas applications under the scheme.

The full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March 2019 will provide a straightforward and user-friendly means for resident EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members to remain here permanently. They make a huge contribution to our economy and society and the full opening of the scheme is tangible evidence that we want them to stay.

Further information about the EU settlement scheme is available on gov.uk and was summarised in my 12 February 2019 letter to colleagues. This contained links to a range of further communications material about the scheme which community organisations and others may find helpful, and is available at: https://www. gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-update

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Home Office Funding 2018-19

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Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £500 million will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Home Office. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure ahead of the resource being voted, estimated at £500 million, will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

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Immigration Rules

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My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in Immigration Rules (HC 1919).

Entrepreneurs and investors play key roles in creating jobs and driving economic growth and innovation in the UK. The Government are committed to ensuring our immigration system continues to attract individuals from around the globe who will create innovative businesses in the UK and make substantial investments in our economy.

The changes we are introducing today include two new visa routes that enhance the UK’s offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent:

The start-up visa, announced by my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, in June 2018, will provide for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK.

The Innovator category will be for more experienced business people who have funds to invest in their business.

Both new categories will build on the endorsement model which has proved successful in our graduate entrepreneur and exceptional talent routes. Business experts, rather than the Home Office, will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability, to identify those that will bring the greatest benefits to the UK. These organisations will include business accelerators, seed competitions and Government agencies, as well as higher education providers.

These new routes will replace the existing tier 1 entrepreneur and graduate entrepreneur routes, which have attracted some high-quality businesses, but the tier 1 entrepreneur route also has a long tail of low quality projects which contribute little or nothing to the wider UK economy. We will keep the existing routes open for a transitional period to allow those who are already in them to extend their stay and settle if they meet the existing requirements.

The immigration rules for the new routes are designed to be clearer and easier to read. Endorsement will reduce the evidence which applicants need to submit to the Home Office and provide them with greater certainty. The rules for extensions and settlement are more flexible, recognising there are many ways in which a business may benefit the economy. Accelerated settlement continues to be available for the most successful innovators, and extensions of stay are provided for those whose businesses fail and who wish to try a new business idea.

Parliamentarians and anti-corruption campaigners have expressed concerns about whether the tier 1 Investor route is sufficiently robust against financial crime. There is also more that can be done to increase the benefits of applicants’ investments to the UK economy.

We are therefore introducing changes that require investors to provide evidence of the source of any investment funds they have obtained within the last two years—up from 90 days at present. We are requiring UK banks to confirm they have carried out the checks they are required to make before opening an investment account. We are excluding investment in government bonds and tightening the rules around investment in companies.

We also intend to require investors to undergo enhanced checks on their financial situations and business histories, carried out by a UK regulated auditor, before making a visa application. We are working with industry to develop this requirement, with a view to introducing it in a future immigration rules change.

Minor changes are being made to the Government stateless leave policy to simplify the route to settlement for those who are genuinely stateless by granting an initial 5 years’ limited leave rather than 30 months’. We are also taking steps to protect the integrity of this route and deter abusive applications by making clearer in the rules that someone must show they have tried to obtain a nationality or right of permanent residence in a country they could reasonably expect to be entitled to, before benefitting from stateless leave.

In May last year, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, committed to look again at what we could do to make it easier for family members of Afghan locally engaged staff, who worked for UK forces in Afghanistan, to come here. Minor changes will give effect to this commitment, so those who were part of a family before the local staff member relocated can benefit from the relocation scheme rather than having to apply under family migration rules.

Finally, appendix H of the immigration rules contains a list of countries of low immigration risk whose nationals benefit from a streamlined application process for students. 2018 saw the expansion of visa national countries included in appendix H for the first time, which benefitted tens of thousands of students.

Careful consideration is given to which countries could be added to appendix H, taking into account objective analysis of a range of factors including the volume of students from a country and their tier 4 immigration compliance risk. The latest annual review of appendix H has resulted in the inclusion of Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Oman, Peru and Tunisia; whilst Argentina, the Maldives, and Trinidad and Tobago are being removed from the list. This will result in approximately 4,500 additional students being able to benefit from appendix H.

The list of countries in appendix H will be kept under review and regularly updated to reflect the fact that countries’ risk profiles change over time.

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Transport

Air Services to the EU

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Leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government’s top priority. This has not changed. However, a responsible Government must plan for every eventuality, including a no-deal scenario.

In December, Cabinet agreed to proceed with the Government’s next phase of no-deal planning. This means we are setting in motion our remaining no-deal plans.

Both the EU and the UK have been clear that they are committed to maintaining air services in any scenario. Aviation links are a key priority for the Department for Transport. The UK has the third largest aviation network in the world, and the biggest in Europe. Air travel is vital for both the UK and the EU in connecting people and businesses, facilitating tourism and trade. The UK and EU have a mutual interest in maintaining well-functioning aviation markets.

The Government have made preparations to deliver continuity of air services between the UK and the EU in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement. We set out in our technical notices in September 2018 that the UK would take a pragmatic approach to any no-deal scenario, and provide EU airlines with permission to operate. We expected EU countries to reciprocate and provide permissions to UK airlines.

Following this, the European Commission proposed a regulation to ensure air connectivity in the event that the UK leaves without a withdrawal agreement. A final version of the draft regulation has been provisionally agreed by the EU. This is expected to be confirmed by the Council and the European Parliament shortly. The provisionally agreed EU regulation is intended to apply after the UK leaves the EU, and would entitle UK airlines to continue operating air services from the UK to the EU until March 2020.

Accordingly, I am today publishing a policy statement to set out how the UK intends to provide the necessary permissions to member state airlines in order for them to operate to the UK. We have made all decisions in relation to how the UK will reciprocate based on three key principles. First, we want to provide certainty and reassurance to industry and consumers. Secondly, we want to minimise the potential for disruption. Finally, we want to maintain a level playing field for UK industry, ahead of future negotiations.

Full details on how the UK will reciprocate are set out in the policy statement. In short, for the 12 month duration of the EU regulation, the UK intends to reciprocate the rights provided in the EU’s regulation, and grant EU air carriers a level of access to the UK at least equivalent to the rights that would be granted to UK airlines under the regulation. This includes traffic rights, ownership and control, leasing of aircraft, co-operative marketing arrangements and fair competition. As an exceptional measure to ensure the continuity of regional services and to minimise disruption, we will for a short period go further and allow member state airlines to operate wholly within the UK for the IATA summer season 2019, which ends on 27 October 2019, ensuring continued regional connectivity and providing time for EU businesses to adjust to new arrangements. We will also allow code sharing on existing services to continue.

While continuing to plan for all eventualities, we also believe that it is right to underline the fact that the UK is taking a positive and pragmatic approach. Overall, we continue to believe that liberal, reciprocal market access is in the best interest of the EU countries and the UK, and we will move swiftly to propose negotiations on this basis in the event that the UK leaves without a withdrawal agreement.

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