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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
22 May 2019
Volume 660

Written Statements

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Contingency Fund

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has sought a repayable cash advance from the contingencies fund of £14,700,000 to ensure the CMA’s relocation to Canary Wharf remains on schedule.

The CMA will receive its voted funding for this project at the main estimate, and consequently may only draw the related cash from the consolidated fund after the Supply and Appropriation Act has received Royal Assent in July 2019. This requirement has arisen because the 2019-20 capital expenditure for the construction works at the CMA’s new offices at Cabot Square exceeds the vote on account for capital expenditure prior to Royal Assent. The requirement to include the voted funding in the main estimate was agreed after the vote on account for 2019-20 was approved.

The cash advance will ensure the project stays on track and on budget and ensure that the CMA also meets its operational needs.

Parliamentary approval for additional capital of £14,700,000 will be sought in the main estimate for the CMA. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £14,700,000 will be met by repayable cash advance from the contingencies fund.

[HCWS1576]

Competitiveness Council

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The Internal Market and Industry Day of the Competitiveness Council will take place on 27 May 2019. Katrina Williams, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, will represent the UK.

The Research and Space Day of the Competitiveness Council will take place on 28 May 2019. Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, will represent the UK.

Day oneInternal Market and Industry

The Internal Market and Industry Day will consider a number of non-legislative items, including a competitiveness “check-up”. Attendees will be asked to debate and agree the adoption of conclusions on “a new level of ambition for a competitive single market” and “an EU industrial policy strategy: a vision for 2030”. This will be followed by the adoption of “conclusions on the competitiveness of the tourism sector as a driver for sustainable growth, jobs and social cohesion in the EU for the next decade”.

Under any other business, there will be updates on the following current legislative proposals: (a) the directive on cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions; (b) the directive on the modernisation of the EU consumer protection rules; (c) the directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers; and (d) the regulation on the general safety of vehicles.

The presidency with also provide information on better regulation and the forum dedicated to the auto industry. Finally, the Finnish delegation will provide information on the work programme of the incoming Finnish presidency.

Day twoResearch and Space

The Research and Space Day of the Competitiveness Council will begin with a session on space, during which the Council will hold a policy debate on “strengthening Europe’s role as a global actor and promoting international co-operation, space diplomacy and contributing to building the global space governance”.

The Competitiveness Council will then break for the 280th European Space Agency (ESA) Council where the UK, as an ESA member state, will vote on the ESA resolution “space as an enabler”. The Council will then reconvene for the 9th EU-ESA Space Council where there will be an exchange of views and adoption of conclusions on “space as an enabler”.

The research session will start with a policy debate concerning “research and innovation as a driving force for a more competitive European Union”. Finally, the Finnish delegation will provide information on the work programme of the incoming Finnish presidency.

[HCWS1579]

Register of Beneficial Owners of Overseas Entities

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Our modern industrial strategy seeks to maintain the UK’s global reputation as a good place to do business. People come to Britain confident in our high corporate standards, including market transparency, which foster confidence and trust. Transactions are improved and the market has greater confidence when people know who they are doing business with, while lack of transparency can facilitate criminal behaviour.

The 2017 national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing highlights the fact that property continues to be an attractive vehicle for criminal investment, in particular for high-end money laundering. The risks relating to abuse of property are most acute where property is owned anonymously through corporate structures or trusts.

This Government committed at the 2016 international anti-corruption summit to create a register showing the beneficial owners of overseas entities which own or buy property in the UK. The Government also committed in primary legislation, through section 50 of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, to report to Parliament annually on the progress that has been made towards putting in place such a register.

Over the past year, significant progress has been made towards the introduction of the register.

The Government published a draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill on 23 July 2018 and invited comment on it from interested parties. Some 29 responses were received from civil society groups, the property sector and others, which has informed the development of the register. The draft Bill and explanatory notes set out how the register will operate.

A Joint Committee was appointed to consider and report on the draft Bill. The Commons members of the Committee were appointed on 19 February 2019. The Lords members were appointed on 25 February 2019. The Committee held a number of evidence sessions, including one on 25 March 2019 at which I gave evidence. They also invited interested individuals and organisations to submit written evidence to their inquiry.

The Committee made recommendations in a report to both Houses, published on 20 May 2019. The Government welcome the Committee’s thorough and helpful scrutiny of the Bill. We are considering their recommendations and will publish a response in due course.

The Government intend to introduce the Bill to Parliament as soon as parliamentary time allows. We will continue to work closely with interested parties, including our delivery partners, in developing secondary legislation and preparing for implementation. Following Royal Assent and the making of secondary legislation, the Government intend that the register will be operational in 2021.

The UK continues to lead the global fight against illicit finance. The Financial Action Task Force completed a landmark review of the UK’s regime for tackling money laundering in December 2018, concluding that we have some of the strongest controls in the world.

[HCWS1580]

Home Department

Modern Slavery

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Today I am laying before the House the final report of the independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (CP 100). Copies of the report will be available from the Vote Office and it will also be published at: www.gov.uk.

Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the UK has transformed its response to modern slavery over the last five years. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was the first legislation of its kind in the world. The Act provided law enforcement with new tools and powers to apprehend perpetrators, new duties on businesses to publish transparency in supply chains statements, enhanced protections for victims and created the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner role. The impact of the Act is evident: more victims than ever before are being identified and supported, more offenders are being prosecuted and convicted and thousands of companies have published transparency statements and are taking action to prevent slavery and trafficking in their supply chains.

Alongside the Act, this Government are delivering a comprehensive programme of policy measures to tackle modern slavery. We are reforming the national referral mechanism (NRM) to improve the support available to victims and to streamline the decision-making process. We are continuing to hold businesses to account on their obligations to publish transparency statements and central Government Departments will publish a transparency in supply chains statement this year, to set out the steps we are taking through public procurement to prevent the risks of modern slavery in our supply chains. We are also working with international partners to drive action to address modem slavery risks in supply chains and public procurement.

We continue to play a leadership role internationally, pushing for co-ordinated action to deliver the sustainable development goals on modern slavery, supported by a commitment of £200 million of UK aid, as well as building partnerships with countries from where the UK receives high numbers of victims. To build on this work, the Government recently awarded a further £5 million in grants to seven organisations through the modern slavery innovation fund to trial new and innovative approaches to tackle this heinous crime.

However, this Government are not complacent, and we are determined to lead global efforts to eradicate modern slavery, particularly as the methods used by criminals to exploit vulnerable people and our under- standing of the crime evolves. That is why in July 2018 I commissioned right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and the noble Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE to conduct an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act. The review considered four themes relating to provisions in the Act: the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, transparency in supply chains, legal application and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The final report has made a total of 80 recommendations.

I am grateful to the reviewers and all those who contributed to the review for their commitment and comprehensive analysis. The Government intend to consider all recommendations in depth, before making a formal response in summer 2019.

[HCWS1578]

International Trade

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)

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The EU Trade Foreign Affairs Council will take place in Brussels on 27 May 2019.

The substantive items on 27 May will be: non-legislative items: the state of play of World Trade Organisation modernisation and negotiations, the state of play of EU-US trade relations, and an exchange of views on preparation for signature of the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement and investment protection agreement.

[HCWS1577]

Justice

Sentencing Code

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I am today announcing the Government’s interim response to the Law Commission’s report on the Sentencing Code, published on 22 November 2018. The interim response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/ government/publications/government-response-to-law-commission-report-on-the-sentencing-code. I am also announcing the Government’s intention to introduce the Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill to Parliament, which will pave the way for the sentencing code.

The Law Commission’s draft sentencing code is a consolidation of legislation governing sentencing procedure which aims to ensure that the law relating to sentencing procedure is readily comprehensible and operates within a clear framework as efficiently as possible. For the code to operate as intended, there are some amendments required to the existing law to facilitate the consolidation and to remove historic, and now redundant, layers of legislation. To enable this the Law Commission has also drafted a pre-consolidation amendment bill. Neither the code nor the pre-consolidation amendments make any changes to existing offences and penalties, nor do they introduce any new substantive law or sentencing disposals.

The key recommendation of the report is that the draft legislation be enacted. The Government welcome the Law Commission’s report and draft legislation and consider the consolidation of sentencing procedure to be a major step forward in simplifying what is often a complex and technical area of law. It is absolutely vital that unnecessary errors made in our criminal justice system are minimised, and that the courts, offenders, and victims of crime and their families are not put through the time and expense of unnecessary appeals.

The Ministry of Justice is looking carefully at substantive sentencing reform. For example, there is persuasive evidence showing that community sentences, in certain circumstances, are more effective than short custodial sentences in reducing reoffending, and therefore keeping the public safe. At this stage, we are still considering options and have not ruled anything in or out.

However, questions of substantive reform are distinct from the important task of making sure that sentencing procedural law is clear and accessible to those that need to use it. We believe the sentencing code provides that clarity and transparency. I will bring forward more detailed proposals in due course, but I emphasise that the opportunity for the consolidation of complex sentencing procedural law presented by the code is a separate matter, and should be brought forward separately.

The Law Commission has also made some further recommendations to the Government for the reform of sentencing law. These have not been given effect in the draft legislation and both Bills as drafted by the Law Commission can be enacted without taking these additional recommendations forward. The Government are grateful for the in-depth analysis that has gone into these complex issues during consultation, acknowledging that in some cases they were unsuitable for inclusion as part of the consolidation process or outside the terms of reference for the project. For those reasons, we do not propose that these recommendations be taken forward at this time, while noting that the benefit of the sentencing code is that it will be readily open to Parliament in future to make such changes. We will, however, provide a fuller response to these further recommendations raised by the Law Commission in due course.

The Government thank the Law Commission for the considerable effort that has gone into producing the report and draft legislation. While the sentencing code itself should be brought forward through the parliamentary procedure for Law Commission consolidation Bills, I am pleased to announce that the Government will be introducing the Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill to Parliament, giving effect to the pre-consolidation amendments, through the special procedure which is available for Law Commission recommended Bills.

[HCWS1581]