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Written Statements

Volume 658: debated on Wednesday 10 April 2019

Written Statements

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Treasury

Public Sector Exit Payment Cap

Today, I have launched a consultation on the draft regulations to implement the public sector exit payment cap. The Government introduced powers to cap exit payments in the public sector at £95,000 in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.

Public servants deserve to be properly rewarded for the vital work they do. That is why the Government announced the biggest public sector pay rise in 10 years last summer, with most going to the lowest paid nurses, teachers and police officers.

However, the way we reward public servants must be proportionate and fair to taxpayers. The very high exit payments we have seen granted to some highly-paid public sector employees in recent years clearly breach these principles. It is right that the Government acts on this to give taxpayers the confidence their money is being spent properly.

This consultation sets out the proposed method for implementing the cap, including which bodies should be in scope.

The consultation can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/restricting-exit-payments-in-the-public-sector.

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Defence

Armed Forces' Standards and Values

The Ministry of Defence and our armed forces expect the highest standards from our personnel. The vast majority not only meet, but exceed these standards on a daily basis in all manner of challenging situations, wherever they are deployed, reinforcing the values on which we pride ourselves. However, it is clear that in a number of cases the standards and values we expect are not being met.

The Ministry of Defence and our armed forces are absolutely clear that there is no place for sexual offending or sexual harassment across the services. Inappropriate behaviour is unacceptable and it stands in stark contrast with everything the armed forces represent. Anyone found to have committed a sexual offence will be dealt with appropriately and will face the full force of the law. To ensure our service personnel are adhering to the highest standards, I have commissioned Air Marshal Michael Wigston, deputy commander for capability at HQ Air Command, to conduct an urgent report into inappropriate behaviour, to include sexual harassment, across the services.

The objectives of the report are threefold: to understand the current evidence regarding inappropriate behaviour across the services; to make recommendations on what can be done to ensure and reassure that the armed forces are an inclusive and modern employer; and, to identify areas for further action, including potential improvements to controls, processes or policy. The Air Marshal will provide me with a report of his findings and recommendations by mid-May. Once the recommendations have been considered and implementation plans have been agreed, the House will be updated.

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Transport

Rail

I am updating the House on the east midlands, south eastern and west coast partnership franchise competitions.

I am pleased to inform the House that, following rigorous competition, I intend to award the next east midlands railway franchise to Abellio East Midlands pending successful completion of a standstill period of at least 10 days.

The franchise is due to start on 18 August 2019 and will run for eight years, until 21 August 2027, with an extension of two years callable at my discretion.

Passengers, local authorities, businesses and other stakeholders across the country contributed to a highly demanding and challenging specification for this new franchise. Bidders were invited to demonstrate how they would meet this specification, and I am very pleased that we have agreed a plan with Abellio East Midlands for them to exceed these expectations.

Abellio East Midlands will oversee the introduction of brand-new trains, entirely replacing the existing intercity fleet with more reliable and comfortable trains. Passengers will benefit from an 80% increase in the number of morning peak seats into Nottingham, Lincoln and St Pancras. Passengers will also see faster journey times over long distances, with a new express service from Corby through Luton into London.

The east midlands railway will be at the forefront of the Government’s commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener rail network. Abellio East Midlands will trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the midland main line and will run zero-carbon pilots at six stations along the route.

The new franchise will also deliver a fairer deal for passengers. Over £17 million will be invested in improving station facilities across the route, including to deliver accessibility improvements. Abellio East Midlands will also deliver an additional 916 extra car park spaces and 1,050 cycle spaces.

Passengers will benefit from the provision of free wi-fi throughout the franchise, both on trains and at stations, and a significant uplift to the current ticketing system, with the introduction of smart, flexible ticketing options, including to provide better value for those who travel regularly but less than five days a week, as well as improved ticket-buying facilities and nine newly staffed stations.

The new east midlands railway franchise will also introduce enhanced delay repay compensation, with passengers able to claim compensation if their train is more than 15 minutes late.

We look forward to working closely with Abellio East Midlands to ensure they deliver the high-quality services that passengers expect and deserve from the railway and the east midlands railway franchise.

With regards to the south eastern franchise competition, I am also today updating the House that my Department is negotiating a short-term extension to the current franchise agreement with Govia while we make a decision on the competition. This will ensure continuity of services for passengers until 10 November 2019, with an option to extend the agreement further to April 2020.

We are due to award the west coast partnership in June.

Alongside this, there is a root-and-branch review of the railway underway, independently chaired by Keith Williams. This will make ambitious recommendations before the end of the year to reform the structure of the whole rail industry to prioritise passengers’ and taxpayers’ interests.

The next east midlands railway franchise and the ongoing competitions include significant improvements for passengers and steps to bring track and train closer together. From 2020, we will begin to roll out further reforms, advised by the rail review, across the country. We will be guided by the approaches that deliver benefits to passengers and other rail users soonest. Awarding the new east midlands railway franchise is part of that strategy.

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