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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
20 May 2020
Volume 676

Written Statements

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Cabinet Office

European (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks

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I am today laying before Parliament a report, “The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 December 2019 to 25 March 2020”. I am laying this report because it is a legal requirement under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for quarterly reports to be made to Parliament on the progress of the work to develop common frameworks. The report is available on www.gov.uk and details the progress made between the UK Government and devolved Administrations regarding the development of common frameworks. This report details progress made during the seventh three-month reporting period, and sets out that no ‘freezing’ regulations have been brought forward under section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. A copy of the “The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 December 2019 to 25 March 2020” report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The publication of the report reflects the Government’s continued commitment to transparency.

Attachments can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questionsanswers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-05-20/HCWS250/ .

[HCWS250]

Defence

Chemical Weapons Convention: Declaration of Protective Programme for 2019

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My noble Friend the Minister in the House of Lords (the right hon. Baroness Goldie DL) has made the following written statement:

The UK’s chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons. In accordance with the Government’s commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK’s chemical protection programme in 2019.

Attachments can be viewed at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statements/Commons/2020-05-20/HCWS248

[HCWS248]

In-orbit Research Satellites: Contingent Liability

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I am today laying a Departmental Minute to advise that the Ministry of Defence has received approval from Her Majesty’s Treasury to recognise a new contingent liability associated with the operation of satellites conducting in-orbit research by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

The departmental minute describes the contingent liability that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will hold as part of its space science and technology programme.

Dstl has installed a ground station at its Portsdown West site, which will contribute to supporting space research activities, upskilling civilian and military personnel in satellite mission operations, and task its first research satellites for the Ministry of Defence. Through this programme, MOD will develop the skills and capability to achieve its strategic objectives in the space domain.

The contingent liability will last the duration of Dstl’s operation of the satellites and will come into effect if a satellite collision was caused via Dstl operation. Mitigations are in place against risks to minimise likelihood and impact which are deemed to be 0.001-0.01%. Her Majesty’s Treasury has approved a value of up to £500 million for the contingent liability to cover the maximum estimated damage cost resulting from a collision. The MOD will note the liability in its accounts May 2020.

Attachments can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questionsanswers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-05-20/HCWS249/ .

[HCWS249]

Rebalancing of Covid Support Force

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In late March, as the Government stepped up their response to the global pandemic, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) established the covid support force (CSF), in anticipation of a sharp increase in requests for military assistance to the civilian authorities (MACA).

Approximately 20,000 personnel, with appropriate planning, logistical, and medical expertise, were grouped within the CSF and held at higher readiness, alongside forward-based aviation assets, to ensure Defence could respond wherever and whenever needed across the United Kingdom.

Since then the CSF has played a key role throughout the national response. On any given day approximately 4,000 are “deployed” supporting other Departments and organisations. Many thousands more service personnel and civil servants are contributing to the response through their routine employment within defence medical services, defence science and technology laboratories, defence equipment and support, and various military headquarters. Together they have answered 162 MACA requests, from patient recovery in the Orkney Islands to logistical support in the Channel Islands.

Some of this has been highly visible, such as helping to build Nightingale hospitals, delivering PPE to hospitals and local resilience forums, and operating mobile testing units. However, much of it has been out of sight from the public: whether supporting national-level strategy formation in DHSC and MHCLG; countering disinformation with the Cabinet Office, procuring PPE and medical equipment; or mentoring and liaising within local resilience forums, and their devolved equivalents, as they react to the complex and varied situations in their local communities.

Those situations are currently improving, due to the public’s adherence to lockdown measures and the ability of other Government Departments to maintain essential services. As a result, the demand for CSF support has stabilised and it has not been necessary to deploy most of those personnel currently held at higher readiness.

It is appropriate that the MOD’S contribution and force posture are tailored to the evolving situation, so it can both respond to covid-19 and continue fulfilling other critical defence outputs.

This rebalancing is conditions-based and conducted in consultation with other Government Departments; assessing how many personnel are required to fulfil current CSF tasks and respond to all future requests, including those requiring uplifts in personnel.

That total is currently determined to be 7,500 personnel and it is now prudent to release the remainder of the CSF—otherwise held indefinitely at higher readiness—so they can return to other tasks and preparations for future operations.

Additionally, 2,000 of the reservists who volunteered for mobilisation but are no longer required to fulfil MACA tasks, are now being engaged about the processes for demobilisation with a view to mitigating the impact both to them and their employers. They are testament to the nation’s resolve in this crisis and we are grateful for their enduring commitment.

The crisis is not over, so the CSF will continue assisting civilian authorities wherever required and no personnel—regular or reserve—will be withdrawn from tasks while the demand remains. Likewise, Defence’s wider contributions to the covid-19 response, to the routine functioning of Government, and to the prosperity and wellbeing of society, all remain unaltered.

Defence is much more than its equipment and uniformed personnel. It is a community of public servants committing brains, brawn, and heart to ensure the nation’s defence and resilience. That community will continue to support our colleagues in health and social care, providing however many people are required, for as long it takes, to help them defeat this virus.

[HCWS251]

Prime Minister

Queens’ Birthday Honours List

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I would like to update Parliament on the Government’s plans for recognising the extraordinary contributions being made by so many in response to coronavirus (covid-19)—and the forthcoming publication of Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

There is, understandably, huge appetite across the country to say thank you to all those on the frontline, within our communities and in our public services, who are supporting the nation through these unprecedented times.

The Government are clear that there will be a range of opportunities to mark the contributions of so many—but this must come at the appropriate time. Our current priority—and that of the front line services—remains tackling the current public health emergency.

I want to provide assurance today, however, that the moment to mark so many extraordinary actions will not be lost.

The honours system recognises exceptional contributions made across every part of the UK and will play a key role in demonstrating the nation’s gratitude to all those involved in the response. In this context, The Queen has graciously agreed that the birthday honours list, due to be published in June, should be postponed until the autumn. This step will allow us to ensure that the list, agreed before this public health emergency developed, reflects the covid-19 effort, and comes at a time when we can properly celebrate the achievements of all those included.

We anticipate that covid-19 recognition will happen across future honours lists, reflecting the on-going work being done by so many. To ensure we are capturing contributions from across the country I would encourage the public to put forward nominations for those they know are going above and beyond, which they can do through www.gov.uk. These cases will be considered by the independent honours committees across a range of future honours lists.

Colonel Tom Moore, recently celebrating his 100th birthday, has become synonymous with the spirit of the current collective national effort. I have, exceptionally, recommended to The Queen that he be awarded a knighthood, in recognition of his extraordinary fundraising achievements, and as a signal of the kind of contributions we will want to mark in the months to come.

Further work is underway to identify the most appropriate ways and opportunities for the nation to express its gratitude and respect. The Government will make a further statement to the House in due course.

[HCWS246]

Transport

Manston Airport: Reopening and Development

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I have been asked by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State (Grant Shapps, MP), to make this written statement. This statement concerns the application of 17 July 2018 made by RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd (“the Applicant”) under the Planning Act 2008 for the proposed reopening and development of Manston Airport in Kent.

Under sub-section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under sub-section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a statement to the House of Parliament announcing the new deadline.

The Secretary of State received the examining authority’s report on the Manston Airport development consent order application on 18 October 2019 and, following an earlier extension of four months, the current deadline for a decision is 18 May 2020.

The deadline for the decision is now to be extended to 10 July 2020 to enable further work to be carried out before determination of the application.

The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant development consent.

[HCWS247]