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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
22 July 2020
Volume 678

Written Statements

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Cabinet Office

Consultation on 2025 UK Border Strategy

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When the transition period with the European Union concludes at the end of this year, we will leave the single market and customs union. As we embark on a new chapter for this country, we have the opportunity to design a future border that delivers maximum benefit to the UK.

Today, the UK Government will publish a public consultation to invite stakeholders to share ideas and evidence to help develop a 2025 UK border strategy that will deliver the world’s most effective border by 2025. A border that is more streamlined and user-centric, that helps businesses take advantage of new trading relationships around the world, while maintaining high-levels of security to protect the public, the environment and public health.

Our goal is to publish a 2025 UK border strategy by the end of the year setting out a clear vision and road map that the Government and border industry, working together, can deliver.

This announcement follows the launch of the public information campaign, “The UK’s new start: let’s get going”, and the publication of the border operating model on Monday 13 July that set out how businesses and industry can prepare for the end of the transition period.

[HCWS418]

Public Bodies 2019 and Public Appointments Data Report 2019

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My noble Friend the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (Lord Agnew of Oulton) has made the following written ministerial statement:

I am pleased to announce the publication of Public Bodies 2019 and the Public Appointments Data Report 2019 and will today be placing copies in the Libraries of both Houses.

Public bodies play a vital role in the delivery of public services for all our citizens, covering wide-ranging functions. Well-governed, effective and efficient public bodies enable the Government to deliver their priorities.

Public Bodies 2019 is an annual directory that provides a single transparent source of top-level financial and non-financial data on all Executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies and non-ministerial departments across Government.

The public appointments data report provides a breakdown of the diversity of public appointees who were in roles covered by the governance code on public appointments on 31 March 2019 and those appointed to such roles between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019. The latter data is a subset of the information published in the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ annual report.

[HCWS425]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Deployment of 5G and Extending Mobile Coverage

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Widespread, reliable mobile connectivity is essential for people and businesses. That is why the Government have agreed a £1 billion shared rural network deal with the UK’s mobile network operators to extend 4G mobile geographical coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025. The Government are also investing £200 million in a programme of 5G testbeds and trials to encourage investment in 5G so that communities and businesses can benefit from this new technology.

It is essential that the planning system continues to support the delivery of the mobile infrastructure that we need. On 27 August 2019, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a joint consultation on in-principle proposed reforms to permitted development rights in England. The consultation ran for 10 weeks, closing on 4 November 2019.

Today I am pleased to inform Members that we have published the Government’s response to this consultation.

We are satisfied that the proposed reforms are necessary to support the Government’s ambitions for the deployment of 5G and extending mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas, where mobile coverage tends to lag behind more urban areas. In taking forward these proposals, we will ensure that the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards are in place to mitigate the impact of new mobile infrastructure.

Therefore, subject to a technical consultation on the detail of the proposals, including the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards, we are intending to take forward the proposals consulted on to:

Enable the deployment of radio equipment housing, such as equipment cabinets, on land without requiring prior approval, up to specified limits and excluding on sites of special scientific interest, to support 5G deployment;

Strengthen existing masts up to specified limits to enable sites to be upgraded for 5G and for mast sharing without prior approval;

Enable the deployment of building-based masts nearer to highways to support deployment of 5G and extend mobile coverage, subject to prior approval and specified limits; and,

Enable higher new masts to deliver better mobile coverage, and mast sharing, subject to prior approval and specified limits.

These changes will benefit communities and businesses and provide greater regulatory certainty to incentivise investment in mobile infrastructure.

The mobile industry has a vital role to play in delivering these improvements and in bringing forward the infrastructure required, and we expect them to commit to further measures and assurances to ensure that the impact of new mobile deployment is minimised.

Making these changes would require amendments to existing planning legislation. Prior to any future legislative changes, we will undertake the technical consultation.

We will now develop the technical consultation, working with mobile industry representatives, relevant regulators including Ofcom, representatives of local planning authorities and those representing protected areas, to ensure that the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards are in place to mitigate the impact of new mobile infrastructure. This includes strengthening the code of best practice on mobile network development in England, which provides guidance to mobile network operators and local planning authorities.

As planning law is a devolved matter, any future legislative changes will apply to England only, but we will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that the planning regime continues to support the deployment of mobile infrastructure.

[HCWS422]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

London Croughton Annex

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I informed the House on 20 December that I had instructed my officials to discuss with the United States a revision of the immunity arrangements at the Croughton annex for US personnel and their families, following the road collision of 27 August 2019 in which Harry Dunn was killed. As I set out previously to the House, the status of US staff under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations (VCDR) at the Croughton annex is the subject of special arrangements between the UK and US Governments, captured in exchanges of notes dating back to 1995. Those arrangements contained a waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction for US staff outside the course of their duties, but no such waiver for their family members.

I am glad to inform the House today that we have concluded those discussions with the US and agreed a revision of the arrangements. I welcome the constructive engagement of our US allies in these discussions.

First and foremost, the US waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of US staff at the Croughton annex, thus ending the anomaly in the previous arrangements and permitting the criminal prosecution of the family members of those staff, should these tragic circumstances ever arise again.

Secondly, the waiver from criminal jurisdiction now extends also to all embassy staff serving at the Croughton annex in respect of acts outside their official duties, not just administrative and technical staff.

Thirdly, the revised arrangements contain a further and new waiver in respect of inviolability. The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations not only provides for immunity from jurisdiction, but also provides for the separate privilege of inviolability, including complete protection from arrest and detention. The earlier Croughton arrangements contained no waiver of inviolability. This is addressed in the revised arrangements.

I am therefore pleased to report to the House that we have secured the agreement of the US so that the Croughton arrangements could not in future be used in the same way as in the tragic case of Harry Dunn. These changes took effect by way of an exchange of notes on 20 July.

Separately, we have continued to press the US on the need to improve road safety at RAF Croughton. I welcome the steps taken by the US base commander to extend mandatory requirements for driving training and instruction for all US staff on the base, and the improvement of road signage within the base and vehicles of staff to remind them to drive on the left.

I welcome the action of local authorities to add added extra signage outside the base to remind drivers to drive on the left.

I am pleased to inform the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has launched a safety review of roads around the 10 US visiting forces (USVF) bases in England. This entails working with the Ministry of Defence, Highways England and respective police and local authorities—in the case of Croughton, the Northamptonshire police and South Northamptonshire Council.

We have the deepest sympathy for Harry Dunn’s family. No family should have to experience what they have gone through and I recognise that these changes will not bring Harry back. However, I hope that the knowledge that the Croughton arrangements have been revised and that a family in their position would now see justice done brings some small measure of comfort.

[HCWS419]

Home Department

Hong Kong: British National (Overseas) Visa and Suspension of Extradition Treaty

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The decision of the Chinese Government to impose its national security legislation on Hong Kong is a matter of deep regret to this Government. This legislation and its strict implementation constitutes a clear breach of the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration, undermining the “one country, two systems” framework. It cannot be ignored.

I set out here the Government’s plans for a new Hong Kong British national (overseas) (BN(O)) visa and for the suspension of our extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

Hong Kong BN(O) Visa

Before the handover of the UK’s responsibilities for Hong Kong, we created the British national (overseas) (BN(O)) nationality status, which was opened to people in Hong Kong, through a registration process, to those who had British dependent territories citizenship. This status recognised the special and enduring ties the UK has with those people as a result of our role in Hong Kong before 1997. Now that China through its actions has changed the circumstances that BN(O) citizens find themselves in, it is right that we should change the entitlements that are attached to BN(O) status. I have decided to significantly improve those entitlements, to reassure BN(O) citizens that they have options to live in the UK if they decide that is an appropriate choice for them.

Today I am laying before the House a Command Paper (CP 280) providing further detail on a new bespoke Hong Kong BN(O) visa, covering eligibility, conditions and entitlements, the application process, timing, the position for BN(O) citizens in the UK, and arrangements for BN(O) citizens arriving at the border.

BN(O) citizens in Hong Kong are in a unique position, which is why I have designed a policy that is specific to them in the wider immigration system. It will not set a precedent. It is a proportionate response to the situation that has arisen. The UK is entitled to decide on the rights attaching to BN(O) status, which it has previously conferred, and that is what I am doing with these changes.

My offer to BN(O) citizens is therefore a very generous one. There will be no skills tests or minimum income requirements, economic needs tests or caps on numbers. I am giving BN(O) citizens the opportunity to acquire full British citizenship. They do not need to have a job before coming to the UK—they can look for work once here. They may bring their immediate dependants, including non-BN(O) citizens.

At the same time, it is not an unconditional offer. BN(O) citizens will need to support themselves independently while living in the UK; they must meet strict criminality checks and stay of good character; they will need to pay visa fees, the immigration health surcharge and, if they subsequently apply for citizenship after they become settled, the fee and meet the criteria. These are reasonable things to ask of BN(O) citizens, and BN(O) citizens will need to ask themselves whether coming to the UK to put down roots here is the right choice for them. It is a choice I am making available and I welcome warmly all those who decide to take it.

We are planning to open the Hong Kong BN(O) visa for applications from January 2021. BN(O) citizens do not need to hold a BN(O) passport in order to apply for the visa—so there is no need to apply for or renew a BN(O) passport specifically for this purpose. All BN(O) citizens will need a visa to be able to settle in the UK.

We understand there will be cases where the children of BN(O) citizens will not normally be eligible because they were born after 1997 (so are not BN(O) citizens) and are over 18 so they would not normally be considered as a dependant in the UK’s immigration system. Therefore, in compelling and compassionate circumstances, and where applications are made as a family unit, we will use discretion to grant a visa to the children of BN(O) citizens who fall into this category and who are still dependent on the BN(O) citizen.

If the above does not apply then the existing youth mobility scheme is open to people in Hong Kong aged between 18 and 30, with 1,000 places currently available each year. Individuals from Hong Kong will also be able to apply to come to the UK under the terms of the UK’s new points-based system, which will enable individuals to come to the UK in a wider range of professions and at a lower general salary threshold than in the past.

The Home Office looks forward to receiving applications for this visa.

Extradition

The imposition of new national security legislation has significantly changed the assumptions underpinning the 1998 agreement for the surrender of fugitive offenders, our extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The Government remain especially concerned about articles 55 to 59 of the law, which could give mainland authorities the ability to assume jurisdiction over certain cases and try those cases in Chinese courts.

The national security law provides no legal or judicial safeguards in such cases. The decision can be made by the mainland authorities with no reference to the Hong Kong Government. Other than access to a lawyer, there are no legal or judicial safeguards in such cases and mainland systems of investigation, trial and punishment, about which the international community has long standing concerns, would apply. If China applies that legislation extraterritorially, it will pose a risk not only to Hong Kong residents who travel abroad, but potentially to British and other nationals travelling into Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Department of Justice has therefore been notified of our intention to suspend the extradition treaty, immediately and indefinitely, until the UK is sufficiently assured that the new National Security Agency established by China in Hong Kong will not be able to initiate extradition requests to the UK, that extradition requests will not be sent in relation to newly created offences under the national security law; and that people extradited from the UK could never be transferred from Hong Kong to mainland China without the UK’s explicit consent.

The suspension will protect those resident in the UK, including those who may soon be here by virtue of the new immigration route, from unwarranted pursuit through the provisions of the extradition treaty.

[HCWS421]

Independent Office for Police Conduct: Annual Report and Accounts

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I am today, along with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, publishing the 2019-20 annual report and accounts for the Independent Office for Police Conduct [HC 511]. This will be laid before the House and published on www.gov.uk. The report will also be available in the Vote Office.

[HCWS423]

Police and Crime Commissioner Model: Review

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I wish to set out to the House details of a review into the role of police and crime commissioners.

The Government’s manifesto committed to strengthening the accountability of PCCs and expanding their role. Police and crime commissioners were introduced in 2012 to give the public a direct say over policing in their area. Since coming into post, they have brought real local accountability to policing and are working to give local communities a stronger voice.

After eight years, it is right that we step back and consider how we can continue to evolve the PCC model. It is important that PCCs are strong, visible leaders in the fight against crime and have the legitimacy and tools to hold their police forces to account effectively.

To deliver this commitment, I am today announcing a two-part internal review into the role of PCCs.

Part 1 will commence in late July and report to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and myself by October 2020. It will be focused on changes required to strengthen the model, which, where possible, can be delivered ahead of the 2021 PCC elections. In particular, it will consider how to strengthen the accountability, resilience, legitimacy and scrutiny mechanisms of the existing model to drive up standards; identify and share best practice across the sector; and examine the effectiveness of the relationship between PCCs and chief constables and the checks and balances currently in place.

We will also use part 1 of the review to help us map out our longer-term ambition for the expansion of the PCC role. In relation to fire, the Government are clear that further reform of fire and rescue services is required in order to respond to the recommendations from phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower inquiry and to build on the findings from Sir Tom Winsor’s state of fire and rescue report, both of which demonstrate the clear challenges and improvements required in professionalism, people and governance. The review will consider further options and opportunities to strengthen fire governance and accountability, drawing on the lessons from the first cycle of fire governance transfers to PCCs.

The review will also be fully aligned with the Government’s commitment to expand the benefits of devolution across England through the local recovery and devolution White Paper. Mayors of combined authorities should be powerful local figures with the ability to drive public safety, as well as economic growth and local recovery. We plan to develop the role of PCCs with that longer-term trajectory in mind, building on the models in London and Greater Manchester.

I would like to be clear that neither part 1 nor part 2 of the review will consider a wholly new governance model for policing or examine the 43 police force model.

An advisory group will support part 1 of the review, comprising senior external stakeholders with expertise in the policing and fire sectors. It will also be important that the public’s views on those who represent them in policing are heard and the review team will seek to engage a sample of citizens and local and national victims’ groups as appropriate.

Part 2 of the review will commence after the 2021 elections and will allow us to consider further ways to strengthen and expand the role of PCCs, including the role PCCs play in tackling reoffending to help reduce crime. It will focus on longer-term reforms and the potential for wider efficiencies to be made within the system with a view to implementation ahead of the 2024 elections.

I will place a copy of the terms of reference for part 1 of the review in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS416]

UK Anti-corruption Strategy: Year 2

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Today, I am publishing the second annual update on the UK anti-corruption strategy 2017-22. The Government are committed to providing an annual written update to Parliament on progress.

The UK anti-corruption strategy provides a framework to guide Government anti-corruption policies and actions. This update sets out the significant progress that the UK has made on implementing many of the commitments of the anti-corruption strategy during 2019, while recognising that a more challenging global environment has led to some areas of more limited progress. Corruption undermines our national security and prosperity. It corrodes trust in our institutions and threatens our borders. Without strong anti-corruption measures it is harder for British businesses to compete in the new and emerging markets we are starting to foster.

The year 2 update demonstrates that the Government are determined to deliver on their commitment to combat corruption in order to keep our citizens safe, to help secure a more prosperous society and to strengthen trust in our domestic and international institutions. The unprecedented challenge posed by covid-19 only heightens the relevance and urgency of this activity. The Government will continue to combat corruption and to promote integrity and transparency at home and overseas, working with international allies and through multilateral institutions to address existing and emerging threats, raise standards and promote collective action.

I have written to the devolved Administrations as the update is of direct interest to them.

A copy of the year 2 update report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and also published on www.gov.uk.

[HCWS420]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme 2020

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Today, I am laying before Parliament a departmental minute setting out the details of a contingent liability that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government intends to incur under the Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Act 2012. The contingent liability will be created by a new £3 billion affordable homes guarantee scheme.

The new affordable homes guarantee scheme—announced at spring statement 2019—will be delivered by a delivery partner on behalf of the Ministry under the oversight of Homes England. The delivery partner is being appointed through a fair, open and competitive procurement process, and we have appointed a preferred bidder with whom we will agree the detailed operational arrangements. We plan on awarding the contract over the coming weeks and for the scheme to be open for business by the end of the year. In delivering the scheme, the delivery partner will raise capital from bond market investors and on-lend the proceeds to registered providers of affordable housing in England. The Ministry will guarantee both the proceeds to bond investors and payments by borrowers to the issuing entity.

Through the scheme, the Government will boost investment in providers of affordable housing and support the delivery of a significant number of new affordable homes for those whose housing needs are not currently met by the market.

[HCWS424]

Prime Minister

Machinery of Government: Data Use

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I am making this statement to bring to the House’s attention the following machinery of Government change.

Government use of data

Responsibility for Government use of data has transferred from the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to the Cabinet Office. DCMS will retain responsibility for data policy for the economy and society. This change will help ensure that Government data is used most effectively to drive policy making and service delivery. The change is effective immediately.

[HCWS417]