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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
25 June 2019
Volume 662

Written Statements

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

EU Council

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The EU Energy Council will take place on 25 June 2019 in Luxembourg, where the Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union will represent the UK.

The presidency will put the Council conclusions on the future of the energy systems in the energy union to Ministers for adoption.

The European Commission will provide information regarding the EU’s external energy relations. This will be followed by an exchange of views.

Any other business (AOB) will include:

A presentation from the Commission on the draft integrated national energy and climate plans; and

Information from the Finnish delegation on the work programme of the incoming presidency.

[HCWS1649]

Treasury

Finance Bill

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The Government will introduce the Finance Bill following the next Budget.

In line with the approach to tax policy making set out in the Government’s documents “Tax Policy Making: a new approach”, published in 2010, and “The new Budget timetable and the tax policy making process”, published in 2017, the Government are committed, where possible, to publishing most tax legislation in draft for technical consultation before the legislation is laid before Parliament.

The Government will publish draft clauses for the next Finance Bill, which will largely cover preannounced policy changes, on Thursday 11 July 2019 along with accompanying explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes, responses to consultations and other supporting documents. All publications will be available on the www.gov.uk website.

[HCWS1657]

Defence

F-35B Lightning Aircraft

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The House may welcome an update on the deployment of the RAF’s new F-35B Lightning II aircraft.

The F-35B Lightning II is an advanced, fifth-generation aircraft procured to operate alongside the RAF’s Typhoon. It will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, will be able to operate with equal capability from land and sea, and will form an integral part of carrier strike operating from the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. With advanced sensors, mission systems and low-observable technology (stealth), the Lightning is a fifth-generation air system which will provide the UK with a world-beating combat air capability. The Lightning will give the UK operational flexibility, allowing us to act at a time and place of our choosing. Some 17 of the first tranche of 48 F-35Bs have already been delivered; we will maintain our plan to buy 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme, as stated in the strategic defence and security review 2015.

A detachment of F-35B Lightnings from RAF Marham has been forward-based at RAF Akrotiri since late May, developing the capabilities of this formidable new fifth-generation combat aircraft. This deployment has proven extremely successful. It was therefore, decided to offer the aircraft for use on Operation SHADER as part of the UK’s contribution to global coalition operations against Daesh. On 16 June, UK F-35B flew its first ever operational sorties as part of Operation SHADER. Since then, UK F-35B Lightnings have flown in the skies of Iraq and Syria, performing a variety of roles for our partner forces on the ground.

This F-35 activity is part of the UK’s ongoing contribution of sophisticated air power to global coalition efforts to find, identify and degrade Daesh’s military capabilities. Although Daesh’s military capability has been diminished, the organisation continues to pose a threat, and counter-Daesh operations are as crucial now as they were at Daesh’s height. The UK’s F-35B Lightnings will continue to help combat Daesh over Iraq and Syria, before returning to the UK in July 2019.

[HCWS1650]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Commonwealth Games

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I wish to inform the House that, on 25 June 2019, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport laid a minute advising of the investment of £778 million in Birmingham and the west midlands to deliver the 2022 Commonwealth games. This is an update to the minute laid on 9 October 2017, which set out the contingent liabilities that were taken on by the Government in order to support Birmingham’s bid to host the 2022 games.

The Government’s other commitments to the games, including the underwriting of the organisation and delivery of the games and a number of guarantees, will remain in place until the end of the 2022-23 financial year, following the successful bid by Birmingham and our agreement of a hosting contract with the Commonwealth Games Federation.

[HCWS1658]

Education

Relationships and Sex Education: Statutory Guidance

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Today, following the successful passage of the regulations for the introduction of relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education, the Government have published the final accompanying statutory guidance.

At the heart of preparing children for life in modern Britain is making sure that they understand the world they are growing up in. It is 19 years since the sex and relationships guidance was last updated. For children and young people, the challenges that they face today are very different. Children are encountering a more interconnected and interdependent world, and this has changed significantly how they build relationships, interact with their peers and manage their own mental and physical wellbeing.

This presents both opportunities and risks, as children have greater exposure to information, content and people that can and do cause harm. There is little distinction for many young people between their lives online and off, and that is why we believe now more than ever, that we need to provide young people with the knowledge they need in every context to lead safe, happy and healthy lives.

We have therefore brought forward measures requiring the introduction of compulsory relationships education for all pupils in primary schools, compulsory relationships and sex education for all pupils in secondary schools, and compulsory health education for all pupils in state-funded schools from September 2020.

With cross-party support, the regulations for these subjects were approved by both Houses of Parliament and were made by the Secretary of State on 9 May. The statutory guidance published today sets out the legal duties with which schools must comply, the required core teaching content for the subjects, and guidance on how the content should be delivered in an age appropriate way.

We will be setting out further details on how we will support schools to introduce the new subjects in September 2020. This will include working closely with the many schools who are choosing to begin teaching the subjects from September 2019, so that we can support their journey, learn lessons and share good practice.

We will also be convening a new working group, who will provide insight into how the new guidance is working in practice. This group, with representatives from teaching unions, sector experts, faith and minority groups, parents and young people, will provide us with evidence and feedback to improve the delivery of these subjects.

We believe that these subjects are an historic step in education that will help equip children and young people with the knowledge and support they need to form healthy relationships lead healthy lives and be happy and safe in the world today.

[HCWS1656]

Home Department

Forensic Service Provider: Cyber Incident

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On 3 June, Brussels-based scientific testing company Eurofins Scientific reported that it had been victim to a global ransomware attack. In the UK, its subsidiary Eurofins Forensic Services (EFS), which is a significant private sector forensic testing provider was affected.

Ministers have been briefed on the situation by operational leads and a range of actions have been taken to mitigate the impact on our criminal justice system and the public.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has taken the operational command of the criminal investigation in the UK, with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) leading our cyber response. Both the NCSC and NCA have deployed specialist officers to Brussels to assist Eurofins in the international investigation. These experts continue to work closely with both the company and the Cyber Incident Response firm EFS has employed to contain the situation. The affected UK law enforcement agencies reported the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office. There is no evidence to date that this crime was specifically targeting the UK company.

We have taken immediate steps to minimise the impact of this crime on the criminal justice system. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) suspended use of EFS immediately and isolated police networks from the forensic service provider to retain their integrity. The NPCC put in place the national contingency plan and diverted urgent and priority submissions to alternative suppliers. Other forensic submissions are being managed nationally to ensure that sufficient capacity is available for all forces.

These measures are temporary but will remain in place for as long as necessary. The NPCC, the UK Accreditation Service and the Forensic Science Regulator are working closely with the company to assess when it can continue to resume accepting forensic submissions.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is working to ensure all hearings remain based on reliable evidence. While investigations are ongoing, prosecutors will assess the impact on a case-by-case basis working closely with partners across the CJS and EFS.

If prosecutors or the police believe that there may have been an impact, they will contact the victims or witnesses involved. But if any victims are concerned, national support services are also available. These include the 24-hour Victim Support helpline with details on the Ministry of Justice website. However, I want to stress that at present we have no reason to believe there has been an impact on the forensic evidence tested by EFS.

The serious nature of this incident highlights the importance of all firms being cyber-aware; and we urge businesses of all types and sizes to follow the guidance on this growing threat on the NCSC’s website.

The Government continue to assess and enhance our cyber-security capabilities and it is vital we build strong defences—and every person, organisation or business has a part to play.

The investigation into this serious cyber-attack remains live but we will use our understanding of this latest incident to limit future harm to the UK.

[HCWS1655]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Joint Inspection Team: Contingent Liability for Indemnity

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I am today informing the House of changes to the contingent liability for the provision of an indemnity for the Joint Inspection Team (JIT) as set out in my statement and associated Department minute of 11 December 2018 (Hansard reference: HCWS1169). The purpose of the JIT is to provide support to local authorities in making hazard assessments of high-rise residential buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material cladding and then to provide advice to local authorities on enforcement action where the building owners are reluctant to remediate. As set out in the Department minute of 11 December 2018 the Local Government Association (LGA) was unable to obtain professional indemnity insurance to cover the work of the JIT and the LGA requested the Government to provide an indemnity. The LGA has subsequently requested a technical amendment to the contingent liability for the provision of the indemnity. The change is to allow the LGA to operate and manage the JIT from the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), which is part of the wider Local Government Group. The contingent liability will also be amended so that the indemnity provides cover against claims for death and personal injury for a period of 125 years and cover for all other types of claims for a period of six years after the JIT ceases to operate. The LGA has formally agreed it will not seek any further amendments to the indemnity.

I am laying a Departmental minute approved by Her Majesty’s Treasury providing further detail of the changes to the indemnity for the JIT.

[HCWS1654]

Justice

GRECO

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The Government have not opted into the adoption and application of the Council Decision on the position to be taken, on behalf of the EU, on the EU’s participation as an observer at the meetings of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO).

GRECO is a body set up by the Council of Europe (CoE) to monitor compliance with CoE criminal law convention on corruption and the civil law convention on corruption. The EU’s participation in GRECO has been a priority for co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe. We are supportive of the EU gaining observer status and attending the June meeting.

The UK and Ireland have a special position under Protocol 21 to the treaty on the functioning of the European Union in relation to JHA measures and have three months from the date of the publication of a legislative proposal to decide whether we want to participate in the measure. The JHA opt-in applies in this case because one of the legal bases of the proposed decision is article 83 TFEU, relating to criminal justice co-operation in relation to serious crimes (including corruption).

The Commission proposal was published on 6 June and adopted at Council on 18 June, to enable the EU to attend the GRECO plenary on 17-21 June 2019 as an observer.

The Government did not therefore have the three month period allowed for in Protocol (No. 21) to the EU treaties to decide whether to opt in to the proposal. The UK is not therefore bound by this Council Decision. The Government judge that in this particular case there is no practical effect of not being bound as the Decision pertains to the EU’s participation as an observer in GRECO. The UK tabled a statement at Council expressing regret at not having the three month period allowed for under the EU treaties to reach this decision. Additionally, the UK underlined that the Council Decision had not gone through Parliamentary scrutiny processes and that the procedure should not constitute a precedent for similar decisions.

[HCWS1653]

Prime Minister

Office for Disability

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This written statement confirms that the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) will transfer to the Cabinet Office from the Department for Work and Pensions in November 2019 through a machinery of government change.

The ODI will be incorporated into the newly established cross-Government disability team based in Cabinet Office. This move recognises that disabled people face barriers across a wide range of aspects of their lives and coordinated cross-Government action is therefore vital. It also signals the importance the Government place on disability.

The new disability team in the Cabinet Office will sit in the new equalities hub alongside the Government Equalities Office and the race disparity unit. Together they will be better equipped to drive meaningful progress on equality and to tackle intersectional issues.

This aligns with the Minister for disabled people’s written statement laid today on a new cross-Government approach to disability.

[HCWS1652]

Work and Pensions

Disability: Cross-Government Approach

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Today I am pleased to launch a new cross-Government approach on disability which is guided by a vision that recognises the contributions that disabled people make and where disabled people can participate fully in society. To drive forward this approach, Government will establish a new cross-departmental team in the Cabinet Office, recognising that disabled people face barriers across a wide range of aspects of their lives and co-ordinated cross-Government action is therefore vital.

To inform this new approach, Government are committed to strengthening the evidence base on disability and to improve engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations, in line with relevant recommendations from the United Nations.

The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health and Social Care will consult on how employers can best support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to stay and thrive in work. This will include measures to reform statutory sick pay so that it is better enforced, more flexible and covers the lowest paid employees as well as improved quality, cost effectiveness and capacity in the private sector occupational health market.

Alongside this, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will consult on raising mandatory accessibility standards for all new homes in autumn. The Department for Work and Pensions will also in the coming months bring forward a Green Paper on health and disability support, to enable a conversation about building a welfare system for the future that is an ally of disabled people. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will also be setting out plans to work with Departments, regulators and stakeholders to improve consumer outcomes for disabled people through developing metrics to compare how well companies deliver for disabled customers in essential markets.

The team will work closely with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and charities to take forward this new approach to disability, with their views and experiences at the forefront of any new policy.

This written statement aligns with the Prime Minister’s written statement tabled today on Machinery of Government change for the Office for Disability Issues.

[HCWS1651]