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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
17 October 2019
Volume 666

Written Statements

Thursday 17 October 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Radioactive Waste: Geological Disposal

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Today I am pleased to designate the “National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure”, which was laid in parliament on 4 July.

This is an important milestone in finding a solution to manage the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste and this marks the final step in the parliamentary process for the national policy statement.

It is important that we who have benefited from nuclear technology take appropriate steps now to manage the waste created from using that technology. Nuclear technology has provided clean energy to our homes and businesses and will continue to play an important role as we transition to a carbon-neutral economy. For a long time, we have also used radioactive materials to treat and diagnose serious illnesses, to deliver research and development and to help deliver industrial processes. Radioactive waste is created from a variety of sources including electricity generation, defence and healthcare, and geological disposal is internationally recognised as the safest and most secure means of permanently managing a proportion of this waste not suitable for other management regimes.

The “National Policy Statement For Geological Disposal Infrastructure” sets out the need for such disposal infrastructure to safely and securely manage the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes. The national policy statement provides an appropriate and effective framework for the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to examine and make decisions on development consent applications for geological disposal infrastructure in England

In order to support the requirements for the designation of “The National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure”, I am also publishing the “Final Habitats Regulations Assessment Report” and the post-adoption statement for the appraisal of sustainability on the Department’s website.

[HCWS18]

Treasury

Double Taxation Agreement: Gibraltar

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A new double taxation agreement with Gibraltar was mutually accepted in an exchange of letters signed in London on 1 October 2019 and in Gibraltar on 15 October 2019. The texts of the letters will be deposited in the Library of both Houses and made available on the gov.uk website. The texts will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

[HCWS19]

Home Department

Modern Slavery: Annual Report

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Today, I am publishing the 2019 UK annual report on modern slavery. The report covers the whole of the UK and has been drafted in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government. This report sets out an assessment of the scale of modern slavery in the UK and outlines the actions that have been taken to combat it over the last year.

A copy of the report will be available on gov.uk and placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS20]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Right to Shared Ownership

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Two thirds of social housing tenants would like to buy a home, yet only a quarter believe they will ever be able to do so. That is why I have announced today the Government’s intention to reinvigorate the home ownership offer for social housing tenants, by introducing a new right to shared ownership.

This will help reduce the gap between ambition and expectation, and make home ownership attainable and affordable for many more social housing tenants. It is part of the Government’s wider commitment to support people and families from all backgrounds to realise their ambition to own their own home.

The right to shared ownership will give housing association tenants the right to purchase a share of the home they rent and to purchase further shares in future when they can afford to do so. Alongside this, the Government will also cut the minimum initial ownership stake from 25% to 10% for all shared ownership homes, making the tenure even more accessible for aspiring homeowners who are struggling to raise a deposit.

This will build on the Government’s existing proposals to introduce a new national model for shared ownership. This new model will be redesigned to work effectively for aspiring home owners in today’s housing market, for example, by allowing shared owners to buy further shares in smaller increments, cutting the costly fees charged for additional shares and introducing a standardised preferred model to improve mortgage availability. The combined package will make it much easier to buy an initial share and to purchase additional shares in order to build up to full ownership.

The Government intend to make the right to shared ownership available to tenants in all new social homes delivered with grant in the future. Future investment will be considered at a future fiscal event.

We will also work with the housing association sector on a voluntary basis to determine what offer can be made to tenants in existing homes, so that the new right to shared ownership is extended as widely as possible. The right to shared ownership will not apply to tenants living in existing local authority homes, who already have the statutory right to buy.

[HCWS21]

International Development

Aid Sector: Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment

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This week marks one year on since the UK Department for International Development hosted the 2018 safeguarding summit, “Putting People First: tackling sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector”.

In early 2018 the aid sector’s failure over many years to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment (SEAH) came into sharp relief.

The shocking stories that emerged exposed how aid workers had been allowed to get away with sexual misconduct. Their actions undermined trust in the whole sector and all the positive work that it does.

So from February 2018 DFID set out to work with others to change the way the aid sector tackles SEAH, from root to branch.

The October 2018 summit in London was an important milestone. More than 500 organisations came together to make commitments for change. This included 22 donors —who provide 90% of global ODA. We committed to global standards on prevention and improved processes covering ethical behaviour, robust recruitment and complaints processes.

These were not empty promises. Work is ongoing to put victims and survivors first and drive real culture change across the aid sector. This includes:

DFID’s £10 million project with Interpol to help stop perpetrators of SEAH moving around the aid sector by strengthening criminal record checks and information sharing between countries. Regional hubs are being set up and priority countries have been identified.

The misconduct disclosure scheme, which means employers can share data on conduct and disciplinary records related to sexual misconduct with greater confidence. It is still early days, but the over 1,500 requests for information since January have prevented the hiring of at least 10 individuals.

Awarding the contract this month for DFID’s £10 million resource and support hub to provide guidance, support and training to NGOs and others and access to independent investigators for smaller charities.

Today, DFID is publishing three reports showing some of the progress made and the challenges remaining.

The first has updates from each of the eight groups which made commitments at the summit: donors, UK NGOs, private sector suppliers, the United Nations, international financial institutions, CDC, research funders, and Gavi and the Global Fund. Initiatives include new tools and guidance for NGOs; mechanisms to collaborate and learn lessons among private sector suppliers; a new reporting tool for United Nations staff; the development of a good guidance note by international financial institutions and CDC; an evidence review of safeguarding challenges by research funders; and the roll-out of new training by Gavi and the Global Fund.

The second covers how donors are meeting their commitments. This includes the adoption of a new OECD development assistance committee recommendation on ending SEAH in the aid sector; work to align donor SEAH clauses in funding agreements with multilateral agencies; and collective leverage to drive change across the UN. Donors are continuing to strengthen accountability, build more robust systems and drive culture change across the whole international system. The third gives more details about what DFID has done.

We have been clear that any sexual misconduct is totally unacceptable. But we know that sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector still happens far too often.

The international work led by DFID over the last year has generated good momentum and is starting to deliver results. But we must collectively keep working until every individual feels able to speak up and challenge abuses of power wherever they occur.

We must continue to do all we reasonably can to make zero tolerance a reality, by which we mean responding appropriately to every single report or case.

We must prevent SEAH from happening, listen to those affected, respond appropriately when allegations are made, and learn from every single case.

This is just the beginning of a long-term process.

I will build on the work of my predecessors to maintain momentum, to ensure the failings of the past do not happen again and to deliver better results for the people we serve.

If we do not get things right on safeguarding, and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable, then we fail in our ultimate goal to support the world’s poorest and jeopardise all the positive work aid does.

The commitments made at the London summit are having a positive impact. But more is required by every organisation and every programme if we are going to stop sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector—something which we must achieve.

[HCWS17]

Justice

Boundary Commission for Wales: Deputy Chair

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I should like to inform the House that I have made the following re-appointment under schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986:

The Honourable Mr Justice Lewis has been re-appointed as deputy chair of the Boundary Commission for Wales, effective until 31 December 2019.

[HCWS22]