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Written Statements

Volume 681: debated on Monday 5 October 2020

Written Statements

Monday 5 October 2020

Cabinet Office

Future Relationship with EU: Negotiations

The Government have made a commitment to update Parliament on the progress of our future relationship negotiations with the EU. This statement provides an update on the ninth round of negotiations.

Led by the UK’s Chief Negotiator, David Frost, negotiators from the UK and the EU held discussions in Brussels on 29 September-2 October 2020. There were substantive discussions on almost all issues.

Discussions covered all workstreams including:

Trade in goods: Core areas of the goods elements of the FTA, including market access, customs and regulatory issues.

Trade in services, investment and other FTA issues: Including mode 4, procurement, digital and intellectual property (including geographical indications).

Fisheries: Quota-sharing and governance.

“Level playing field”: Covering subsidies, tax, competition, labour, environment, sustainable development and governance.

Energy: Including civil nuclear co-operation and electricity and gas trading.

Transport: Road transport, aviation safety and air services.

Law enforcement: Covering a number of capabilities including Prüm, mutual legal assistance, extradition and our future arrangements with EU agencies.

Mobility and social security co-ordination: Social security co-ordination arrangements.

Participation in Union programmes: Covering the general terms for UK participation and Peace+.

Thematic co-operation: Including future health security and security of information arrangements.

Governance: Including appropriate institutional architecture.

There were positive discussions in the core areas of a trade and economic agreement, notably trade in goods and services, transport, energy, social security, and participation in EU programmes. This has however been true for some time. Progress has also been possible on a law enforcement agreement. In other areas, however, significant and familiar differences remain, notably on the level playing field, and on fisheries where the gap between us remains very large.

The Prime Minister spoke to President von der Leyen on 3 October to review the progress of negotiations. They agreed on the importance of finding an agreement, if at all possible, and instructed the chief negotiators to work intensively to try to do so, given how short time now is before the European Council on 15 October.

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Treasury

Bilateral Loan to Ireland

I would like to update Parliament on the loan to Ireland.

In December 2010, the UK agreed to provide a bilateral loan of £3.2 billion as part of a €67.5 billion international assistance package for Ireland. The loan was disbursed in eight tranches, and the final tranche was drawn down on 26 September 2013. Ireland has made interest payments on the loan every six months since the first disbursement.

On 7 September, in line with the agreed repayment schedule, HM Treasury received a total payment of £405,490,687.38 from Ireland. This comprises the repayment of £403,370,000 in principal and £2,120,687.38 in accrued interest.

HM Treasury has today provided a further report to Parliament in relation to the loan as required under the Loans to Ireland Act 2010. The report relates to the period from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020. It reports fully on the two principal repayments received by HM Treasury during this period, and sets out details of future payments up to the final repayment on 26 March 2021. The Government continue to expect the loan to be repaid in full and on time.

A written ministerial statement on the previous statutory report regarding the loan to Ireland was issued to Parliament on 29 April 2020, Official Report, column 26WS.

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Housing, Communities and Local Government

Domestic Abuse: Support for Victims

Through the Domestic Abuse Bill, this Government are placing a new statutory duty on tier one local authorities to provide support to victims of domestic abuse in safe accommodation in England. Subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent, this new duty will commence in April 2021.

To help local authorities plan and prepare for the implementation of the new duty, I am pleased to announce today a £6 million domestic abuse capacity building fund.

I recognise the invaluable work that local authorities do each and every day to help residents in their local areas, including the most vulnerable in our society. This new funding will help ensure that local authorities are resourced to prepare for implementation of the new duty. It will promote more effective delivery on commencement, meaning local authorities will be more quickly able to commission much needed support for those victims of domestic abuse and their children who are currently turned away from refuges and other safe accommodation because their needs cannot be met.

This fund will be allocated equally to tier one local authorities (unitary and metropolitan authorities, county councils, the Greater London Association for London boroughs and the Council of the Isles of Scilly), who will be the accountable body under the new duty. It will be allocated as an unring-fenced grant in recognition that local authorities will know best how to prepare locally. I encourage tier one authorities to use it to engage with their local domestic abuse services, including specialist services for victims from diverse groups.

To further help local authorities with their preparation work, I am also publishing guidance setting out the purpose and suggested outcomes of this fund, and my officials are holding workshops to support local authorities.

Today I am also launching a consultation to seek views on the methodology proposed for allocating funding to meet the new burdens associated with the new duty once it comes into force. The level of funding is of course a matter for the spending review.

I encourage all local authorities to use this range of support to ensure they are ready for implementation in April 2021.

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International Trade

Prime Minister's Trade Envoy Programme

The Prime Minister has today made 15 new appointments to his trade envoy programme.

These new appointments will extend the total number of trade envoys to 31 parliamentarians covering 69 markets. The Prime Minister’s trade envoy programme is an unpaid and voluntary cross-party network, which supports the UK’s ambitious trade and investment agenda in global markets. The new appointments are:

The Baroness Hooper CMG (Gloria Hooper) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Panama,

The Baroness Meyer CBE (Catherine Meyer) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ukraine,

My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Caribbean (with focus on 12 Commonwealth Countries),

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Western Balkans (covering Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia),

My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Helen Grant) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria,

My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Mongolia,

My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam,

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Mozambique,

My hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Damien Moore) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Tunisia and Libya,

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Kenya,

My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Gamier) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brunei, Myanmar and Thailand,

The Lord Austin of Dudley (Ian Austin) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Israel,

The Lord Davies of Abersoch CBE (Evan Mervyn Davies) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Sri Lanka,

My right hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Morocco, and

The right hon. the Lord Bates (Michael Bates) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ethiopia.

They join the following list of trade envoys:

The Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yambury (Jane Bonham-Carter), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Mexico,

The Baroness Morris of Bolton OBE (Patricia Morris), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Jordan, Kuwait and the Palestinian Territories,

The Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Emma Harriet), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan,

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Bangladesh,

My hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru,

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines,

My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Tanzania,

My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to South Africa,

My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ghana and Guinea,

The Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Richard Faulkner), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Taiwan,

The Lord Popat (Dolar Popat), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo,

The Lord Risby (Richard Spring), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Algeria and Lebanon,

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey Donaldson), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Egypt,

The right hon. the Lord Astor of Hever DL (John Jacob Astor), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Oman,

The right hon. the Lord Janvrin GCB GCVO QSO (Robin Janvrin), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Turkey and

The right hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Norman Lamont), the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iran.

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Prime Minister

Northern Ireland-Related Terrorism: ISC Report

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has today laid before Parliament a report of the former Committee on Northern Ireland-related terrorism, looking at the key challenges faced by MI5 and others in tackling the threat posed by dissident republican (DR) groups in Northern Ireland.

The current security situation in Northern Ireland (NI) is in no way comparable to the troubles. However, DR and loyalist paramilitary groups continue to be a feature of life and the threat in NI from DR groups remains unchanged at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. DRs reject the 1998 Belfast agreement and consider the use of violence a legitimate tool. Despite significant pressure from the police and security forces, demonstrated by the recent arrests targeting the New IRA, the terrorist threat they pose is enduring, and there remains a minority who aim to destabilise the peace process, harming communities across NI.

The DR threat is, however, just one part of the wider security picture in NI. The lines are often blurred between those involved in terrorist activity, paramilitary activity, and organised crime. In one way or another, these groups exert control over and exploit those communities for their own criminal ends. To achieve lasting peace in NI these threats cannot be dealt with in isolation.

The Government welcome the Committee’s conclusions on the importance of covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) and in particular the strong endorsement that it is sometimes necessary to authorise CHIS to participate in criminal conduct. This is a long-standing tactic which is vital for national security and the prevention and detection of crime. The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill introduced to Parliament on 24 September, and which has its Second Reading in the House of Commons today, provides an express power for the authorisation of criminal conduct, providing certainty to public authorities using this critical tool. The Bill makes clear that a criminal conduct authorisation can only be authorised where strictly necessary and proportionate to do so, and is subject to robust oversight including by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

I welcome this report and thank the Committee for the work that has gone into it. The Government will consider the report in full and respond formally in due course.

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Transport

Union Connectivity Review

On 30 June the Prime Minister announced a review would be undertaken into Union connectivity, exploring ways to improve connectivity between our four nations and bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects.

I have now published the terms of reference for this independent review. Chaired by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, the review will make recommendations on how the UK Government can level up transport infrastructure and improve connectivity between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, boosting access to opportunities and improving people’s everyday connections.

Working closely with the devolved Administrations, Sir Peter will look at road, rail, air and sea links, and how they could be improved to fuel the UK’s recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. Sir Peter brings extensive experience and knowledge to the role with over 45 years working in the transport sector—including as Chair of Network Rail and successfully running London’s transport network during the Olympics.

The review will look at how the quality and availability of transport infrastructure between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can support quality of life in communities across the UK while also aiding economic recovery. This will in turn lead to recommendations on whether and how best to improve connections, and whether that includes the need to invest in additional infrastructure by the UK Government. Among other things, Sir Peter will look at the feasibility and conduct a detailed initial assessment of options for improved road and rail connections between England and Scotland, and England and Wales, as well as improved air links across the UK.

The review will also look to the future—considering the role of future technologies and assess environmental impacts of current and future infrastructure. Sir Peter will be expected to publish his final recommendations in summer 2021.

This announcement follows a recent pledge by the UK Government to bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in the devolved nations—working with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK Government will identify opportunities for “spades in the ground” ready projects to help build up communities and create jobs quicker for people across the United Kingdom.

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