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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
09 May 2019
Volume 659

Written Statements

Thursday 9 May 2019

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Cabinet Office

Common Travel Area

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Recognising the deep and enduring relationship between our two countries, the UK Government and the Government of Ireland yesterday entered into a memorandum of understanding reaffirming our joint commitment to the common travel area (CTA), and to maintaining the associated rights and privileges of British and Irish citizens under this longstanding reciprocal arrangement.

The UK has consistently reiterated its commitment to maintaining the CTA. Following on from guidance published in February, this Memorandum of Understanding reaffirms the support of the UK Government for the principles of the CTA, and the rights it affords British and Irish citizens when in the other’s state.

The CTA, involving the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and Ireland, facilitates the ability of British and Irish citizens to move freely within it. Flowing from this right to move freely are associated reciprocal rights and privileges that are enjoyed daily by British citizens in Ireland, and Irish citizens in the UK. These include access to employment, healthcare, all levels of education, and social benefits on the same basis as citizens of the other state, as well as the right to vote in local and national parliamentary elections.

Neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the CTA. Both Governments are committed to undertake all the work necessary, including through legislative provision, to ensure that the agreed CTA rights and privileges are protected.

[HCWS1548]

Treasury

Contingent Liability Notification

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I can today confirm that I have laid a Treasury Minute, informing the House of the contingent liability that HM Treasury has assumed in relation to the transfer of sponsorship of the Bradford & Bingley plc (B&B) employer defined benefit pension scheme and the NRAM employer defined benefit pension scheme (the “Schemes”) from B&B and NRAM, respectively, to UK Asset Resolution Limited (UKAR).

UKAR and the trustees of each scheme (the “Trustees”) have agreed that the sponsorship of both Schemes should be transferred from B&B and NRAM to UKAR.

The contingent liability takes the form of a credit support deed (a “CSD”), entered into by HM Treasury and UKAR in respect of each of the Schemes, which will provide comfort to the Trustees that, in the event UKAR is unable to meet any payment obligation in respect of one or more of the Schemes, HM Treasury will provide UKAR with sufficient funds to meet such payment obligation. The remote maximum contingent liability possible under the CSDs together is estimated at c. £1.4 billion, based on the current mortality assumptions and discounted defined benefit obligations of the Schemes. This would only crystallise in the highly remote circumstances where the value of assets in both Schemes fell to zero and HM Treasury became liable for all liabilities under each scheme. Given that the majority of assets in the Schemes are held in gilts and the expectation that each scheme will be in surplus at the time of transfer, this scenario is considered highly unlikely.

As the Schemes will be in surplus at the time of transfer, UKAR is not expected to make any additional payments to either scheme until at least the next triennial valuations in three years’ time. In the light of this and the fact that UKAR will be funded via the usual supply procedure, HM Treasury considers it unlikely that the CSD will be called upon.

The CSD will remain in place for as long as UKAR remains the sponsor of the Schemes. It should be noted that HM Treasury, as the ultimate owner of B&B and NRAM, already has indirect exposure to this risk. An existing guarantee given by HM Treasury to the B&B pension scheme trustees will remain in place following the transfer of the B&B pension scheme to UKAR.

The transfer of sponsorship will not affect members’ benefits, there will be no impact on members’ accrued rights, and the relevant trustee board of each Scheme will remain unchanged following the transfer of sponsorship to UKAR.

I will update the House of any further changes as necessary.

[HCWS1553]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council

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The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will take place in Brussels on 13 May. It will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini.

There will be an Eastern Partnership (EaP) ministerial before the FAC. The FAC will discuss current affairs, Libya and Sahel.

Eastern Partnership ministerial

Ministers will discuss the partnership’s achievements, the need for further progress on reforms and the partnership’s future direction post 2020. The ministerial forms part of a sequence of events to mark the partnership’s 10-year anniversary, including an anniversary statement and the EaP Heads of State and Government high level conference, hosted by Presidents Tusk, Junker, and Tajani on 14 May.

Current affairs

We expect HRVP Mogherini to update Ministers on recent developments in Venezuela, including the 7 May international contact group meeting. She may also provide an update on western Balkans, Sudan and the US decision not to renew the waiver of title III of the Helms-Burton Act.

Libya

Ministers will discuss the ongoing security situation in Libya, following Libyan national army (LNA) advances on Tripoli. The UK is deeply concerned by reports that the recent violence has caused the displacement of thousands of people, and blocked emergency aid to casualties, including civilians. The UK will underline that there is no military solution to Libya’s challenges.

Sahel

Ministers will discuss the current situation in the Sahel. The Council will seek to agree conclusions highlighting the EU’s commitment to working with the countries of the region to meet the security, development and humanitarian challenges they are facing.

Council conclusions

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Sahel and on the communication on relations between the EU and LAC (Latin America and Caribbean regional grouping).

[HCWS1551]

Home Department

Investigatory Powers Act 2016

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The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 provides extensive privacy safeguards and has established a robust oversight regime with independent mechanisms for redress. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the right hon. Lord Justice Fulford, is responsible for overseeing the use of investigatory powers by the intelligence agencies, law enforcement and other public authorities. This oversight includes a programme of inspection and audit by judicial commissioners and inspectors, reporting to the commissioner.

This statement notifies Parliament of compliance risks MI5 identified and reported within certain technology environments used to store and analyse data, including material obtained under the Investigatory Powers Act.

The investigatory powers regime is the subject of ongoing litigation where the Government continue to defend the UK’s legal framework. This does necessarily limit the extent to which it is appropriate for me to comment further on these issues, noting that the Government have, in line with their duty of candour, made the court aware of this issue in relevant litigation. The sensitivity of this issue will also be apparent. The Government will not say anything that could damage national security. To the extent that it is possible to set out in open the nature and context of the material relevant to this issue, I have done so in this statement. Protecting the UK’s national security is my top priority and it is critical that MI5 is able to continue to carry out its vital role.

The compliance risks identified relate to particular safeguards set out in the Investigatory Powers Act in relation to the processing of material that has been obtained under a warrant. Section 53 of the Act—which relates specifically to lawful interception—and parallel provisions for the Act’s other powers require the authority issuing warrants to ensure certain processing is kept to the minimum necessary for the statutory purpose, including the number of people to whom material is made available, the number of copies made and the length of time it is retained. A report of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office suggests that MI5 may not have had sufficient assurance of compliance with these safeguards within one of its technology environments.

As will be clear from the above, the compliance risks identified are limited to how material is treated after it has been obtained. They do not relate in any way to the manner in which MI5 acquires information in the first instance or the necessity and proportionality of doing so. All UK intelligence agencies treat protection of personal information seriously. MI5 has in place internal safeguards concerning the handling of such information and ensures stringent vetting of individuals who will have access to this sensitive material.

The report of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office into these risks concluded that they were serious and required immediate mitigation. The commissioner also expressed concern that MI5 should have reported the compliance risks to him sooner. In response to the commissioner’s report, MI5 has also taken immediate and substantial mitigating actions to address the concerns raised. Work to implement those mitigations is ongoing and is being treated as a matter of the highest priority, both by MI5 and the Home Office. This work is subject to review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to ensure that sufficient progress is being made.

It is of course paramount that UK intelligence agencies demonstrate full compliance with the law. In that context, the interchange between the commissioner and MI5 on this issue demonstrates that the world leading system of oversight established by the Act is working as it should.

Following his report, the commissioner was satisfied that the mitigating actions put in place by MI5 were sufficient for him to continue lawfully to approve decisions to issue warrants to MI5. I am also clear that none of the risks identified relate in any way to the conduct and integrity of the staff of MI5, who work tirelessly, under considerable pressure and without public recognition, to keep all of us safe.

The work MI5 does is absolutely critical, at a time when the threat from terrorism persists and continues to diversify. And the role of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and his office is also fundamental to protecting our citizens, ensuring that our operational agencies are able to carry out their vital work in accordance with strict and proportionate privacy safeguards.

Given the importance of these issues, I have established an independent review to consider and report back to me on what lessons can be learned for the future. MI5 will also continue to work closely with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and his team to address the concerns raised and I anticipate that the commissioner will outline his position in his annual report in due course. As the parliamentary body responsible for oversight of the intelligence services, the Intelligence and Security Committee has also been updated on this issue.

[HCWS1552]

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures: December 2018 to February 2019

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Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of his TPIM powers under the Act during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

TPIM notices in force (as of 28 February 2019)

4

TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 28 February 2019)

4

TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)

0

TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)

0

TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)

0

Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)

4

Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)

2

The number of current subjects relocated under TPIM Legislation (as of 28 February 2019)

2

The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The first quarter TRGs took place during March 2019.

[HCWS1549]

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures: September 2018 to November 2018

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Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of his TPIM powers under the Act during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

TPIM notices in force (as of 30 November 2018)

5

TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 30 November 2018)

5

TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)

1

TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)

1

TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)

0

Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)

5

Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)

1

The number of current subjects relocated under TPIM Legislation (as of 30 November 2018)

3

The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The third quarter TRG meetings took place on 12, 14, 18, 25 and 27 September 2018. The fourth quarter of TRG meetings took place on 4, 6, 10, 11 and 19 December 2018.

Three individuals have been charged with breach of a TPIM notice. Their criminal trials have yet to be heard.

[HCWS1547]

Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry

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Today the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse has published its latest case study report, which can be found at https://www.iicsa.org.uk/

This report relates to the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball case studies in the inquiry’s Anglican Church investigation. I am thankful for the strength and courage of the victims and survivors who have shared their experiences to ensure the inquiry can deliver its vital work.

The Government will review this report and consider how to respond to its content in due course.

I would like to thank Professor Jay and her panel for their continued work to uncover the truth, expose what went wrong in the past and to learn the lessons for the future.

[HCWS1550]

Transport

Airline Insolvency Review

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We have a thriving aviation sector, with competition between airlines delivering choice of destinations and competitive fares for consumers, but occasionally airlines, like any business, do collapse. Over the past decade we have seen two of the largest airline failures in UK history, with the collapse of XL Airways and Monarch Airlines. In both situations, the Government of the day took a decision to ask the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to intervene to assist the repatriation of passengers.

When Monarch collapsed in October 2017, it could have left around 110,000 passengers overseas without a flight back to the UK. Given the specific circumstances and scale of the situation, the Government asked the CAA to launch an operation to ensure that all those abroad were offered an alternative flight to the UK. This involved the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation operation. In total around 85,000 passengers were returned to the UK, with 98% of them travelling on the same day as their original flight.

While this support in both the XL and Monarch situations helped to reduce the detriment for passengers, it also resulted in significant costs to the taxpayer. In the case of the Monarch repatriation, the final cost to the taxpayer has been assessed to be £40.5 million.

Following on from the experience of Monarch, I commissioned an independent airline insolvency review, chaired by Peter Bucks. The review has considered consumer protection in the event of an airline or travel company failure. The final report has been published today.1 It draws on lessons from the collapse of Monarch Airlines and has considered both repatriation and refund protection to identify options to ensure passengers are protected and identified areas for further work.

We welcome the report and the work performed by Peter and his team. The Government are considering the range of options put forward by the review and will work swiftly to introduce the reforms that are needed to ensure a strong level of consumer protection and value for money for the taxpayer. In doing so we also need to consider the challenges faced by the aviation sector. We would welcome any views on the report’s recommendations and encourage stakeholders to respond as part of the ongoing consultation on Aviation 2050, which closes on 20 June.2

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/airline- insolvency

2 https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ aviation-2050-the-future-of-uk-aviation

[HCWS1546]

Work and Pensions

Welfare Sanctions

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Conditionality and sanctions are an important part of the welfare system, motivating claimants to engage with the support on offer to look for work while ensuring the system is fair to the taxpayer.

Sanctions must be proportionate, particularly for the most vulnerable. The level of a sanction depends on the severity of the claimant’s failure to comply with their work-related requirements. Sanctions escalate for subsequent failures, carrying greater penalties. Under current policy, a claimant on universal credit or jobseeker’s allowance may receive a three-year sanction the third or subsequent time they have failed to comply with a work-related requirement.

Three-year sanctions are rarely used, but I believe that they are counterproductive and ultimately undermine our goal of supporting people into work.

I have reviewed my Department’s internal data, which shows that a six-month sanction already provides a significant incentive for claimants to engage with the labour market regime. I agree with the Work and Pensions Committee that a three-year sanction is unnecessarily long and I feel that the additional incentive provided by a three-year sanction can be outweighed by the unintended impacts to the claimant due to the additional duration. For these reasons, I have now decided to remove three-year sanctions and reduce the maximum sanction length to six months by the end of the year.

It is important that sanctions remain proportionate to ensure they promote the best outcomes. For this reason, the Department is currently carrying out a further evaluation into the effectiveness of UC sanctions at supporting claimants to search for work. I will consider what other improvements can be made following this and inform the House in due course.

[HCWS1545]