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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
06 June 2019
Volume 661

Written Statements

Thursday 6 June 2019

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Telecommunications Council

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The telecommunications formation of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council will take place in Luxembourg on 7 June 2019. The Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Katrina Williams, will represent the UK.

The Council will begin with the adoption of A-points, including on the recast public sector information directive. The Council will then consider a progress report on the e-privacy regulation. Following this, the Council will adopt a decision on the position to be taken by EU member states on behalf of the European Union in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) world radiocommunication conference 2019 (WRC-19). After this, the Council will hold a policy debate and adopt conclusions on the future of a highly digitised Europe beyond 2020: “Boosting digital and economic competitiveness across the Union and digital cohesion”.

The Romanian presidency will then provide information on the recast public sector information directive: the digital Europe programme in the next multi-annual financial framework from 2021- 27; and the proposed regulation establishing the European cybersecurity competence centre and the network of co-ordination centres.

The Romanian presidency will then provide an overview of presidency events in Romania. The incoming Finnish presidency will then provide information on its work plan.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council

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The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini, chaired the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and an eastern partnership Ministerial on 13 May. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the eastern partnership Ministerial. The meetings were held in Brussels.

Eastern partnership Ministerial meeting and lunch

Foreign ministers highlighted the importance of the eastern partnership on its 10th anniversary and took stock of the commitments made at the last summit in November 2017. They discussed the implementation of the 20 deliverables for 2020 programme, which was adopted at that summit. They also reflected on future co-operation and discussed political priorities for the coming period.

Foreign Affairs Council—Current affairs

The High Representative and Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views on a number of pressing issues. On Iran, they recalled their full commitment to the preservation and full implementation of the JCPOA and expressed concern at recent declarations by Iran. Ministers also expressed regret at the re-imposition of sanctions by the US and underlined their commitment to achieving full operationalisation of the special purpose vehicle, INSTEX.

Ministers touched on the situation in Venezuela. The High Representative debriefed Ministers on the most recent international contact group (ICG) meeting on 5-6 May. Ministers reiterated their support for the ICG and its work.

Foreign Ministers noted the positive signals from the incoming Ukrainian administration, in particular its intention to continue and strengthen the reform implementation process. Ministers expressed concern at the Russian decree simplifying the issuing of passports in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The High Representative also referred to the situation in Sudan and to the US decision to discontinue the waiver on title 3 of the Helms-Burton Act.

Libya

UNSG Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salamé joined Ministers for an exchange of views on possible next steps to avoid further escalation in the conflict.

Sahel

Foreign Ministers discussed the political framework and prepared for the exchange of views between EU Foreign and Defence Ministers on 14 May and with the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger).

Council conclusions

The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:

The Council adopted conclusions on the Sahel.

The Council adopted a statement on Libya.

The Council adopted the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2018.

The Council adopted conclusions on EU relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, following the joint communication by the High Representative and the Commission on the “EU, Latin America and the Caribbean: Partnering for prosperity, democracy, resilience and global governance” of 17 April 2019.

The Council transposed into EU law an update issued by the UN on 19 April 2019 related to a person designated under the Central African Republic sanctions regime.

The Council adopted the EU’s common position with a view to the EU-Tunisia Association Council, which took place on Friday 17 May.

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Health and Social Care

Historic Patient Safety Incidents: Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust

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The report of an independent review conducted by Dr Bill Kirkup into the widespread failings by Liverpool Community Health Trust was published on 8 February 2018. The report described how over-ambitious cost improvement programmes as part of a bid for foundation trust status placed patient safety at risk, leading to serious lapses in care and widespread harm to patients. A culture of bullying meant that staff were afraid to speak up and safety incidents were ignored or went unrecognised.

Today, I am Informing the House that NHS England and NHS Improvement will establish an independent investigation of previous serious incidents at Liverpool Community Health. This second review will again be led by Dr Bill Kirkup supported by an independent expert oversight panel and will be conducted over three stages. Stages 1 and 2 will identify individual serious patient safety incidents that had not been reported or adequately investigated by Liverpool Community Health and undertake a series of historic, mortality reviews. Stage 3 will fully investigate those individual serious patient safety incidents identified from the previous stages to determine the scale of deaths and patient harm and identify local and national learning.

The independent investigation will also advise regulators where, in the opinion of the panel, the systems, processes and senior leadership within the former Liverpool Health Community Trust may have adversely contributed to the safe delivery of patient care. It will identify any themes, trends or issues that may require further investigation.

This will not be a re-run of the previous independent review, but it will draw upon its findings as well as the new evidence identified by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust in its response to the recommendations of the original report. The independent investigation will engage with families of former patients and affected staff to understand their concerns to inform the work of Stage 3.

Local stakeholders will be briefed and the investigation will publish its terms of reference once these have been finalised with the Chair.

NHS England and NHS Improvement expect work on Stages 1 and 2 will commence immediately and the independent investigation will report towards the end of 2020.

I am confident that Dr Bill Kirkup will oversee a thorough and independent investigation of these outstanding issues and deliver his recommendations swiftly.

[HCWS1601]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Building Safety

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As we approach two years since the fire at Grenfell Tower and prepare to mark in respect and remembrance that devastating event, I wish to update the House on work we are doing to ensure people are safe and feel safe in their homes.

Today we are publishing a consultation seeking views on our proposals for a new system of building and fire safety which puts residents’ safety at its heart.

Soon after the fire at Grenfell Tower, we commissioned the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt. Dame Judith concluded that the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings was “not fit for purpose” and had lost public confidence and residents’ trust. We accepted Dame Judith’s diagnosis of the system and in December 2018, we published our implementation plan that committed to take forward the review’s recommendations as part of a fundamental reform of the system for “higher-risk residential buildings”.

The consultation we are publishing today, titled “Building a safer future: proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system—a consultation”, outlines how we propose to take forward meaningful legislative reform and is seeking views on five areas of the new regime.

The first is the scope of the new regime. We propose the new regime applies, from the beginning, to all new and existing multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more, broadly in line with the ban on combustible materials which we brought into force last year. We propose that the system has flexibility to include other building types over time, based on evidence of risk and further research.

Secondly, we are proposing a comprehensive duty holder regime which means that at each stage of a building’s life—through design, construction and occupation, including those buildings already occupied—there will be clearly identified people who are directly accountable for the safety of residential buildings 18 metres or more. The duty holder regime will mean that for the first time there will be clear accountability on who owns building risks and clear responsibilities for managing the risks to ensure buildings are safe for residents. These responsibilities, which include creating and maintaining the digital records of a building and producing a safety case that will be approved by the new building safety regulator prior to issuing a building safety certificate, will be set out in law.

Thirdly, we are seeking views on giving residents a stronger voice in the new regime and ensuring their concerns are heard and acted on. We propose that residents should receive better information on their buildings so that they can participate in decisions about safety, as well as providing clear and quick routes of escalation for their concerns if things go wrong.

Fourthly, we have outlined plans for a new building safety regulator to provide oversight of the new building safety regulatory regime. This regulator will also oversee the wider building and regulatory system, incorporating and improving on the functions currently undertaken by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC). We are also proposing to strengthen the oversight and regulation of construction products.

Finally, the system proposed will be underpinned by strengthened enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime. We believe that this will help to drive real culture change across the industry.

Alongside this consultation, we are also publishing:

A “quick read” version of the consultation document to ensure that the content is accessible to everyone.

The summary of responses to our call for evidence on engagement with residents.

The report from the industry-led competence steering group setting out their proposals for oversight of competence

The Government are also launching a call for evidence on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. We want to ensure that the Order is fit for purpose for all buildings it regulates. The call for evidence is the first step to updating the evidence base on the effectiveness of the Order, since this gives an opportunity for fire safety professionals and businesses or individuals regulated by the Fire Safety Order to share their views and experience on how the Order works in practice.

But we have not waited for legislation to make change. While successful, fundamental, real-world change on this scale, and across a complex market and regulatory landscape, will take time, we are acting now to reform the system. We have:

identified over 400 high-rise buildings with unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, like the type used on Grenfell Tower, working with local authorities and fire and rescue authorities, ensuring that there are appropriate interim safety measures in place;

made £600 million funding available for the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise residential homes in the social and private sectors;

made expert advice available to building owners on a range of other safety risks and taken action to remove unsafe products from the market;

laid regulations and guidance to ban the use of combustible materials during building work on the external walls of new buildings of 18 metres or more in height and containing blocks of flats, hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation;

consulted on a clarified version of the building regulations’ fire safety guidance (approved document B) and issued a call for evidence as the first step in a full technical review of the guidance. We are currently reviewing responses and will publish the clarified statutory guidance and response to the call for evidence in the summer; and

launched the social landlords resident engagement best practice group, to develop and share ways to better engage residents in keeping their buildings safe.

We have also established a joint regulators group to help us develop and pilot new approaches. Some of the proposals set out in the consultation are being tested and piloted voluntarily by construction firms and housing associations who have joined our Early Adopters work. Today also sees the launch of the Early Adopters’ Building Safety Charter. I welcome their leadership in this area and encourage others to follow them.

Our reforms are being developed to complement other important changes we are making elsewhere, such as those outlined in our Green Paper on social housing —“A new deal for social housing”— and reforms in the leasehold and private rented sectors.

The consultation opens today for eight weeks until 31 July. We will continue engaging with residents, industry and the wider sector as we develop these proposals further. The documents are published at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/building-a-safer-future-proposals-for-reform-of-the-building-safety-regulatory-system

The publication of the consultation I have announced today is essential for restoring trust in the building safety system and making sure that residents are safe now, and in the future.

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International Trade

EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) 27 May 2019

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The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Brussels on 27 May 2019. Sir Tim Barrow, UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, represented the UK at the meeting. A summary of the discussions follows.

WTO reform

Commissioner Malmström provided an update on WTO reform, focusing particularly on the appellate body. Following her meetings last week in the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council meeting in Paris, she reported positive progress in the EU-US-Japan trilateral process on industrial subsidies, and also in building support for proposals to enhance transparency and notifications. Nearly 60 countries had agreed to launch negotiations on domestic regulation in services. However, negotiations on fisheries subsides were not on track for conclusion by the agreed end-year deadline.

Member states, (including the UK), endorsed the Commission’s approach to the appellate body and other WTO reform issues. Ministers formally adopted the negotiating mandate for the E-Commerce joint statement initiative.

EU-US

Commissioner Malmström updated Ministers on EU-US trade relations following her recent meeting with US Trade Representative (USTR) Lighthizer, and in the light of President Trump’s recent announcement, which delayed a final decision on auto tariffs by 180 days while instructing USTR to adjust the level of auto imports into the US. The Commissioner reiterated the EU’s position that any solution must be WTO-compatible. Talks between the two sides continue, including on potential agreements to reduce industrial tariffs and enhance regulatory co-operation.

Member states provided strong support for the Commission’s approach and for continued negotiations with the US on industrial tariffs and regulatory co-operation. Member states also expressed views on a range of other EU-US trade issues, including the Airbus/Boeing dispute and the US enactment of the Helms-Burton Act.

EU-Vietnam

The presidency set out their ambition for the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement and investment protection agreement to be signed during the G20 summit on 28-29 June, with Council adoption on 25 June. Labour and human rights were discussed. Most member states indicated readiness to meet the timeline for signature of the FTA. Progress of member states’ internal procedures over the investment protection agreement was likely to be slower.

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Transport

High Speed 2

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I have today published a Government consultation on 11 proposed refinements to the route of HS2 phase 2b, the section of HS2 running from Birmingham to Leeds via the east midlands, and from Crewe to Manchester. These include the first proposals for infrastructure to one day allow Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) trains to use the HS2 route and vice versa.

HS2 is making progress and work on phase 1 (from London to the west midlands) is well under way. Around 9,000 jobs are now supported by the delivery of HS2, with 300 apprentices on board and 2,000 businesses working on building the new backbone of Britain’s rail network.

HS2 phase 2b will complete the full “Y network” and deliver the full benefits of HS2 in terms of capacity and better connections between cities and towns. Phase 2b will be a catalyst for regeneration and economic growth across the north and midlands. In July 2017, I confirmed the route from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds via the east midlands. In November 2018, I consulted on working drafts of the environmental statement and equalities impact assessment for phase 2b, a major milestone in preparing the hybrid Bill. I am today publishing a summary of the responses to those consultations, which are informing HS2 Limited’s ongoing design work.

The proposals I am putting forward today mark another major milestone for HS2 phase 2b and follow extensive work to ensure that the route offers the best value for taxpayers’ money as well as minimising disruption for residents and impacts on the environment.

This consultation includes proposals to allow for two future junctions that could see the HS2 line into Manchester used as part of NPR. These proposals have been developed in partnership with Transport for the North, and, in the future, would open up the opportunity for a potential new route between Manchester and Liverpool that could also be used for services between London and Liverpool.

Design work on the scheme continues and where further change is needed we will consult again ahead of Bill deposit. Further scope to support the interfaces with NPR (including at Leeds) and Midlands Connect is currently being considered and is subject to future funding decisions. This consultation also considers some works on the existing rail network that will allow for HS2 trains to run between the south and our great northern cities.

It is an opportunity for communities affected by all the proposed changes to have their say in how the scheme develops. Good quality community engagement is crucial to HS2 and we want the input of those who will be affected.

In addition to today’s consultation, I am also publishing updated safeguarding directions for the phase 2b route to reflect the project’s updated land requirements. I am also extending the rural property support zones for phase 2b in certain areas, this brings a greater number of property owners in scope of these compensation schemes, or a higher value payment, enabling more people to benefit.

Copies of the Command Paper and safeguarding directions will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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