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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
11 March 2019
Volume 656

Written Statements

Monday 11 March 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Financial Reporting Council: Independent Review

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The Government have published their public consultation in response to the independent review of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

The UK has always been a world leader in audit and accounting services, with world-class frameworks for corporate reporting, corporate governance and regulatory oversight. Our modern industrial strategy sets out our vision to ensure that the UK is the best place to start and grow a business and is an attractive place to invest. The Government see a tough and robust regulator, and an audit sector with the highest standards, as a key part of that strategy. Stronger regulation of audit will benefit all, giving shareholders, investors, and the wider public every confidence in company reports and audited accounts.

In April 2018, I commissioned Sir John Kingman to undertake a root and branch review of the FRC to ensure the UK continues to stand as a beacon, with a first- class regulator of audit and corporate reporting. The review published a comprehensive set of challenging recommendations in December 2018, designed to transform the regulation of these important functions which underpin the economic life of our country.

The Government welcome and shares the review’s vision for a new regulator with a new mandate, leadership, and stronger statutory powers. The Government intend to move swiftly to implement these reforms, replacing the FRC with a new regulator called the “Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority”. This new body will build on the UK’s status as a great place to do business and will form an important part of strengthening public trust in businesses and the regulations that govern them, ensuring that the UK maintains and advances its status as a place of the highest standards in audit. In the interim period, until the new regulator is in place, we will be working with the FRC taking forward 48 of the review’s recommendations.

Through the consultation the Government also seek views on how more complex recommendations should be taken forward; note where further detailed policy development will be undertaken, and a further consultation will be published; and confirm where matters are for other authorities to consider.

There is a range of important work going on in relation to the audit market, and we also look forward to receiving the findings of the competition and markets authority’s market study of the audit sector and of Sir Donald Brydon’s review of the quality and effectiveness of audit. That work, taken together with the independent review of the FRC, will enable us to deliver a major set of reforms of company audit, accounting and reporting which will ensure the UK’s corporate regime is of the highest quality.

The consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and available on the www.gov.uk website. The consultation will run for 12 weeks and I look forward to the continued contribution of interested parties.

[HCWS1397]

EU Emissions Trading Scheme

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Today, the Government will publish legislation for a short extension to the deadline for UK operators participating in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to surrender their emission allowances for the 2018 scheme year.

The Government remain committed to meeting their target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by the year 2050, relative to 1990 levels. The UK also remains strongly committed to achieving the climate goals of the Paris agreement. This includes our commitment to carbon pricing as an emissions reduction tool, while ensuring energy and trade intensive businesses are appropriately protected from any detrimental impacts on competitiveness.

Our participation in the EU ETS has shown the benefits of carbon pricing, which gives emitters a choice to reduce their emissions where it is economic to do so, achieving our environmental goals in the least-cost way to society. The EU ETS covers around 1000 installations and approximately 140 aircraft operators in the UK. Across the EU ETS, the scheme covers around 45% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.

EU ETS participants are required to monitor their emissions during each calendar year, and at the end of each reporting year, surrender one emissions allowance for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (C02e) they have emitted, to meet their EU ETS obligations.

This legislation would extend the deadline for UK operators to surrender allowances from 15 March 2019 to 26 March 2019. The deadline for UK operators to report their 2018 emissions to their regulator remains 11 March 2019.

This short extension to the deadline to surrender allowances would allow all UK operators additional time to meet their EU ETS compliance requirements. UK operators would still be able to surrender allowances to meet their 2018 compliance obligations on any date before 26 March 2019.

This extension does not change the requirement for all UK operators to comply fully with their obligations under the EU ETS.

[HCWS1393]

Defence

Recruiting STEM Graduates into Defence

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The Ministry of Defence is strongly committed to recruiting and developing the brightest and best young people it can to support our armed forces and wider defence requirements. In an increasingly complex and technologically driven world, the need for talented individuals with a wide variety of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills has never been greater. They will be central to developing, maintaining and exploiting our current and future military capabilities, to help defence stay at the leading edge of technological change. Through their contribution to innovation and experimentation, to harness new technologies, we will be better prepared to meet the challenges and threats of today and tomorrow.

Defence has been reviewing its STEM graduate requirement and will put in place a new, targeted scheme to recruit undergraduates in related subjects; the STEM graduate inflow scheme (SGIS). This scheme has been designed to significantly increase the number of STEM graduates brought into defence and the variety of STEM disciplines they are from. It will be open to undergraduates across all UK universities and be supported by a competitive financial package. The new scheme will also be more flexible and enable defence to adapt quickly to future changes in requirement.

The new scheme will replace the current defence technical officer and engineer entry scheme (DTOEES), which has produced some excellent young graduates but is not meeting defence’s requirements or providing sufficient value for money. Ending the current scheme will also mean that the Defence Sixth Form College (DSFC) at Welbeck will close, with a final intake in September 2019. The DSFC was set up in 2005, providing STEM focused education opportunities for 16 to 18-year-olds prior to going up to university as defence bursars. But defence needs to increase numbers well beyond the current scheme’s ability to deliver, and it needs to be more responsive and agile to succeed in an increasingly competitive market for STEM graduates in the UK and globally.

Full transition to the new scheme will take place incrementally over the next five years, during which the current intake of students will be fully supported. For the final two years Welbeck remains a going concern. That time will be used productively to work with local authorities and stakeholders to seek the best possible future use of this impressive school, including within the education sector or an alternative use within defence.

[HCWS1396]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Implementation of International Humanitarian Law at Domestic Level: Voluntary Resort

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I am delighted to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has today published the United Kingdom Government’s first “Voluntary Report on the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law at Domestic Level”.

The publication of this report reflects the UK Government’s determined commitment to the proper implementation of, and compliance with, International Humanitarian Law (IHL). This is a vital responsibility of all States. IHL is the manifestation of the long-standing determination of the international community to limit the effects of armed conflict. In an age where IHL continues to be violated frequently by both States and non-State parties to conflict, it is critical to reinforce these fundamental humanitarian rules that form an integral part of the international order in times of conflict. We are proud of our strong record of IHL implementation and compliance.

The voluntary report aims to explain in a single document the key steps that the United Kingdom has taken at a domestic level to implement IHL. Publishing specific examples of our practice to implement IHL is intended to help improve understanding of IHL, and encourage and inform dialogue on IHL issues both at home and abroad. We hope it will encourage other States to publish details of their activities to implement IHL at the domestic level, to better identify best practice and ultimately to improve implementation and compliance with IHL.

I am grateful to the United Kingdom National Committee on International Humanitarian Law for leading the compilation of this voluntary report. The British Red Cross, in its capacity as an auxiliary to the UK Government, deserve special thanks for assisting the FCO with the production of this voluntary report.

The voluntary report will be available on the: www.gov.uk website. I will also place a copy in the Library of the House.

[HCWS1394]

Health and Social Care

Dental Charges

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Dental charges remain an important contribution to the overall cost of the NHS budget. We have taken the decision to uplift dental charges for those who can afford it, through a 5% increase this year.

This means that the dental charge payable for a band 1 course of treatment will rise by £1.10 in 2019-20, from £21.60 to £22.70. The dental charge for a band 2 course of treatment will increase by £3.00 in 2019-20, from £59.10 to £62.10. The charge for a band 3 course of treatment will increase by £12.80 in 2019-20, from £256.50 to £269.30.

The uplift continues with the aim of finding an appropriate balance between the costs paid by service users and those met by the NHS through the contributions of taxpayers.

Those who qualify for free dental treatment will remain entirely exempt from charges. Those under the age of 18, those under the age of 19 and in full-time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby in the previous 12 months, and those on qualifying low income benefits will not be impacted by these changes.

Even those not entitled to exemption from dental charges, but who are on low incomes, are eligible to receive full or partial help with dental charges through the NHS low income scheme.

This policy will allow us to continue to protect the most vulnerable through exemptions and the NHS low income scheme. We therefore consider that the proposed uplifts in charges are fair and proportionate and will support NHS front-line services.

Details of the revised charges for 2019-20 can be found in the table below;

Band

Description

2019-20 (proposed

patient charge)

1

This band includes examination, diagnosis (including radiographs), advice on how to prevent future problems, scale and polish if clinically needed, and preventative care (e.g. applications of fluoride varnish or fissure sealant)

£22.70

2

This band covers everything listed in band 1, plus any further treatment such as fillings, root canal work or extractions

£62.10

3

This band covers everything in bands 1 and 2, plus course of treatment including crowns, dentures, bridges and other laboratory work

£269.30

Urgent

This band covers urgent assessment and specified urgent treatments such as pain relief or a temporary filling or dental appliance repair

£22.70

[HCWS1395]

Prime Minister

Exiting the European Union

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This is a statement, for the purposes of section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, that political agreement has been reached. I am of the opinion that an agreement in principle has been reached in negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union on the substance of:

the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, and

the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom after withdrawal.

This agreement reflects the result of further discussions with the European Union subsequent to the debate in the House of Commons on the motion under subsections 13(6) and (11) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 on 29 January 2019. This statement therefore supersedes the statement of 26 November 2018 made in my name.

A copy of the draft withdrawal agreement which, in my opinion, reflects the agreement in principle so far as relating to the arrangements for withdrawal, including provisions for the implementation period, has been laid before the House of Commons on Monday 11 March 2019 with the title “Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community”.

Two additional documents relating to the withdrawal agreement which were not included in the documents laid before Parliament under section 13 on 26 November 2018, have also been laid as annexes to the statement that has been laid before the House of Commons on 11 March 2019. These are:

A legally binding joint instrument relating to the draft withdrawal agreement, with the title, “Instrument relating to the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community”; and

a unilateral declaration by the United Kingdom in relation to the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, with the title, “Declaration by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

At this stage, the withdrawal agreement represents a version of the text which has been agreed, but has not yet been formally signed. As set out in my statement of 26 November 2018, the withdrawal agreement laid before Parliament following political agreement being reached in November represented “a version of the text which has been agreed, but has not yet been formally signed. Before this formal signature takes place, the agreement must complete the European Union’s jurist-linguist translation process. During that time, minor technical corrections will be made to the text, though these changes will not affect the substance of the agreement”.

In line with that, the text has since been subject to minor technical corrections, for example to correct stylistic or grammatical errors. In addition, it has been put on to the EU’s standard template for international treaties as part of its publication in the EU’s Official Journal which has led to further formatting changes. The Government’s intention is to sign the agreement after it is approved by the House of Commons under section 13(1)(b). The laying of the withdrawal agreement before Parliament at this stage does not trigger any procedures under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

A copy of the framework for the future relationship which, in my opinion, reflects the agreement in principle so far as relating to the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom has been laid before the House of Commons on Monday 11 March 2019 with the title “Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom”.

In addition, a further document which was not included in the documents laid before Parliament under section 13 on 26 November 2018, a supplement to the framework for the future relationship, with the title, “Joint statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” has also been laid as an annex to the statement that has been laid before the House of Commons on 11 March 2019.

This statement, and the associated documents, will also be laid before the House of Lords on 12 March 2019.

The documents associated with this statement are also available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/11-march-withdrawal-agreement-and-political-declaration-laid-before-parliament-following-political-agreement.

[HCWS1398]