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Written Statements

Volume 681: debated on Wednesday 7 October 2020

Written Statements

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Powers Over the Office for Nuclear Regulation: Annual Report

Later today, the annual report to Parliament setting out the use of the Secretary of State’s powers exercised to the Office for Nuclear Regulation during the year will be published.

This is in accordance with section 108(1) of the Energy Act 2013.

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Treasury

Freeports Consultation Response

On 7 October, the Government responded to the recently closed public consultation on freeports.

A freeport is a place to carry out business inside a country’s land border but where different customs rules apply. A firm can import goods into a freeport without paying tariffs, process them into a final good and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs. They also allow goods to be temporarily stored without paying duties. Countries around the world have successfully used freeports to drive investment and prosperity.

The creation of freeports across the UK will be a cornerstone of the Government’s plan to level up opportunity across the country. Freeports will be national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, regenerating communities across the UK. They can attract new businesses, spreading jobs, investment and opportunity to towns and cities up and down the country.

Our published response confirms our intent to deliver freeports and sets out how our proposals will be achieved. At the centre of our new freeports policy is an ambitious new customs model which will improve upon both the UK’s existing customs facilitations and the freeports the UK previously had. Our model also introduces a package of tax incentives for businesses to invest in freeports to level up some of our most deprived communities. We are introducing new measures to speed up planning processes to accelerate development in and around freeports and new initiatives to encourage innovators to generate new ideas to create additional economic growth and jobs.

Freeports will be selected through a fair, transparent and competitive process, and will be expected to collaborate closely with key partners across the public and private sectors.

We want all the nations of the UK to share in the benefits of freeports. As such, we are working constructively and collaboratively with the devolved administrations to seek to establish at least one freeport in each nation of the UK.

The “Freeports Response to the Consultation” CP302 has been laid in Parliament. Copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office, and also at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/freeports-consultation.

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Public Service Pensions: Indexation Consultation

The Government are today publishing a consultation on “Public Service Pensions, Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) indexation”. The consultation sets out how the Government propose to ensure they continue to meet their past commitments to public service employees regarding the full indexation of public service pensions, including for any GMP element related to membership of a public service pension scheme.

On 6 April 2016, the Government introduced the new state pension (nSP). The reformed system simplified pension provision but removed the mechanism that enabled those public servants in “contracted-out” employment to have their guaranteed minimum pension (GMP) fully price protected. An “interim solution”, full indexation, was introduced in 2016, which was later consulted on and extended until 5 April 2021. This ensured that public service pensioners had the GMPs they had earned in public service fully indexed by their public service pension scheme.

The consultation will last for 12 weeks and close on 30 December 2020. The consultation document can be found on: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations /public-service-pensions-guaranteed-minimum-pension-indexation-consultation.

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Transport

High Speed 2: Phase 2b Western Leg

I have today published new information on the development of the western leg of HS2 phase 2b, running between Crewe and Manchester with a link to the west coast main line. This includes:

A Government consultation on four proposed changes to the design;

A response to western leg changes included in the 2019 design refinement consultation;

A route-wide update, which sets out how the route has developed, including changes in response to feedback from affected communities; and

Updated safeguarding directions for the western leg.

The Government have accepted the findings in the review by Douglas Oakervee that phase 2b should be delivered in smaller sections with legislation brought forward as it is ready. Therefore, HS2 Ltd has taken forward work to develop legislation for the western leg of HS2 phase 2b.

The Government have also accepted the Oakervee recommendation that plans for HS2 and other major schemes need to be brought together in an integrated rail plan (IRP) for the north and midlands.

The IRP will set out the form, scope and phasing of the phase 2b route, across the western and eastern legs, and the Government will therefore consider responses to this consultation alongside the IRP outcomes. If the IRP favours any major changes, further redesign will need to take place. This consultation seeks to ensure that unnecessary delay is avoided in the event that the IRP does not support change.

Work on HS2 phase 1 from London to Birmingham is already well under way at over 250 active sites, stimulating the economy and providing jobs through the approximately £10 billion worth of contracts already announced, two thirds of which will go to small and medium sized enterprises.

Legislation for phase 2a, from Birmingham to Crewe, is currently being considered by Parliament.

The proposals I am putting forward today are the next step in developing the design and legislation for the western leg of phase 2b, following the 2019 design refinement consultation. Phase 2b of HS2 is key to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and the consultation includes proposals to integrate the designs at a series of “touchpoints”, which are pieces of infrastructure to enable future connections between NPR and HS2. These proposals have been developed in partnership with Transport for the North and will reduce the amount of infrastructure required to deliver NPR in the future.

This consultation deals with four technical refinements to the western leg of phase 2b: a new Crewe connection, which would also support the vision for a Crewe hub; changes to the already proposed rolling stock depot at Crewe; expansions to the stations at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport; and a newly proposed facility for stabling rolling stock at Annandale in Scotland.

Changes at Manchester Piccadilly to facilitate Metrolink and Manchester Airport High Speed station are subject to the agreement of local funding contributions. We continue to collaborate positively with Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester Airports Group and other Greater Manchester delivery partners on this matter. Greater Manchester partners have confirmed that they are prepared to prioritise the funding of the local proposals for Metrolink underground at Piccadilly in future funding rounds. This will form part of the shared programme between DfT and Greater Manchester in implementing the Manchester HS2 growth strategy. In the 2020 Budget, the Government made £4.2 billion of funding available to eight city regions for intra-city transport initiatives over the period 2022-23 to 2026-27.

In addition to today’s consultation, I am publishing my response to the proposed western leg changes included in the June 2019 phase 2b design refinement consultation. The Government haves decided to proceed with these changes subject to the outcome of the IRP.

I have also published a route-wide update which sets out wider developments to the route. The safeguarding directions for the phase 2b western leg route have also been updated to reflect the project’s updated land requirements.

Engagement with affected communities is at the heart of our plans for HS2 and it is our commitment to ensure we listen to those affected by these proposals. Restrictions put in place in response to the covid-19 pandemic mean that we will not be able to hold local information events in the same way that we usually would as part of our formal consultation process. HS2 Ltd will deliver information events via digital platforms instead. These digital events will allow those affected the same opportunities to understand what refinements are being proposed and to ask any questions that they may have to our representatives. Where owners of land or property are newly affected by the proposals, they will be contacted directly by HS2 Ltd to arrange online or telephone appointments.

Copies of the consultation Command Paper and safeguarding directions will be placed in the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries.

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Transport

Covid-19: International Travel

I committed to keep the House updated on proposals for testing international arrivals to safely reduce the 14-day self-isolation period in my statement on 7 September; this statement provides an update on next steps.

The introduction of travel corridors in July was a major step forward in safely re-starting international travel whilst retaining the Government’s ability to act quickly if public health was at risk, with international passenger numbers handled at UK airports up by around 400% between June and July to 3.1 million passengers.

However, many of our major markets remain or have become high risk, and therefore are not eligible for our travel corridor list. A potential solution that has been widely debated is the use of testing to reduce or replace the need for self-isolation.

As I made clear in my statement to the House on 7 September, based on scientific evidence, the Government do not support the use of a single test on arrival as an alternative to self-isolation. However, a combination of self-isolation and testing is promising.

Since then, my Department and the Department of Health and Social Care have been working extensively with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of such a regime. My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed that a regime, based on a single test, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger after a period of self-isolation, could achieve our objectives.

The next step is to further develop how this approach could be implemented. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that, at the request of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and I are standing up the global travel taskforce.

The overall aim of the taskforce will be to consider what steps the Government can take, both domestically and on the international stage, to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel. To do this, the taskforce will work at pace to consider:

How a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK;

What steps we can take to facilitate business and tourist travel on a bilateral and global basis, through innovative testing models and other non-testing means; and

More broadly, what steps we can take to increase consumer confidence and reduce the barriers to a safe and sustainable recovery of international travel.

The taskforce will further consider what day that testing should be taken on, informed by public health analysis of when this would be effective, but taking into account economic and other factors, as well as finalising a delivery plan. However, testing is not the only solution and so the taskforce will also consider steps to support the recovery of international travel more broadly, including non-testing based interventions.

Facilitating safe international travel is not a task that can be undertaken by the Government alone, so this taskforce will operate in collaboration with the transport industry, the tourism and local business sectors and the private testing sector. It will also engage with partners from governments across the globe, including on the development of bilateral testing pilots.

Each country has understandably implemented its own measures, but these are confusing and complex for the consumer and for operators, so we will show global leadership by developing a framework for international travel to provide that global consistency, while protecting public health.

The taskforce will be chaired by myself and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. It will include collaboration between officials from Departments across Government, and will liaise with the travel sector in order to work on the operationalisation of testing approaches designed to safely reduce self-isolation.

The taskforce will operate at pace for a time limited period, and will formally report back to the Prime Minister no later than early November. I will update the House on its conclusions and outputs. I have published terms of reference alongside this statement on gov.uk and will place a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.

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