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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
14 October 2020
Volume 682

Written Statements

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

International Vaccines Procurement Initiative (COVAX): UK Participation

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I am confirming that the United Kingdom has joined the global COVAX initiative to expedite the discovery, manufacture, and fair distribution of an effective coronavirus vaccine to 1 billion people globally.

The UK is a strong supporter and champion of COVAX and its mission to deliver fair and equitable access to covid-19 vaccines around the world. We are pleased that over 170 countries and territories have announced their intention to join COVAX. Through this initiative, countries are pooling resources to support “at risk” investment in manufacturing and secure advance purchase agreements with manufacturers for the supply of their vaccines. COVAX will procure vaccines for both high-income and lower-income countries and will distribute vaccines equitably.

The COVAX facility is being run by the vaccines alliance (Gavi), with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). It has two parts:

a self-financing facility to allow upper-middle and high-income countries to pool investments in candidates in exchange for early access to vaccines; and

the advance market commitment (AMC) fund, to support 92 low and lower-middle income countries to buy vaccines.

We have contributed £71 million to the self-financing facility. This will give us an option to buy vaccines available through COVAX for up to 20% of the UK population (13.5 million people). Any vaccines secured through COVAX will be complementary to those the UK has already secured through its agreements with vaccine developers.

The Prime Minister announced at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that the UK will allocate £500 million of ODA funding for the procurement and delivery of covid-19 vaccines in low and lower middle-income countries. This is in addition to the £48 million we allocated to the AMC at the global vaccine summit in June 2020.

This new funding includes a commitment to match £1 for every $4 committed by others, up to £250 million, encouraging other countries to fund the global effort to fairly distribute vaccines across the globe and leverage an additional $1 billion for the AMC. Canada, Germany, Sweden and Japan have all made commitments of over $422 million. This means we have, so far, matched almost £106 million of this funding.

In addition, the UK has worked with the World Bank to develop an ambitious $12 billion proposal for vaccine financing, which was also announced at UNGA. The World Bank will make up to $6 billion of its financing available to middle-income countries and $6 billion to low and lower middle-income countries, to help them secure access to covid-19 vaccines.

[HCWS511]

Cabinet Office

Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee Meeting

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The next meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place in London on 19 October 2020, with delegations attending in person and by video conference.

The meeting will be co-chaired by me and vice-president of the European Commission, Mr Maroš Šefčovič.

The agenda will include four items:

Introduction and opening remarks from co-chairs

Stocktake of recent specialised Committee meetings

Future specialised Committee meetings

Update on withdrawal agreement implementation

Citizens’ rights

Joint implementation report

Progress on Joint Committee decision on triangulation

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland

Progress on Joint Committee decisions foreseen by the protocol

Progress on Joint Committee decision on correction of errors and omissions

Dispute settlement—discussion on progress on Joint Committee decision on the establishment of a list of arbitrators

AOB

Concluding remarks

The UK delegation will include me and the Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt).

Representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive have been invited to form part of the UK delegation.

[HCWS514]

Prime Minister

Appointment Update

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The fire in Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 was an unimaginable tragedy that should never have happened.

The Government set up the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to get to the truth about what happened and to deliver justice for victims, survivors, bereaved families and the wider community.

Ensuring that such a terrible tragedy can never happen again remains a priority for this Government.

In February this year, I announced my intention to appoint an additional panel member to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Section 7(1 )(b) of the Inquiries Act 2005 allows me to appoint panel members to the inquiry panel at any time during the inquiry. In appointing a panel member, section 8(1 )(a) and (b) of the Inquiries Act 2005 require me to ensure that the inquiry panel (considered as a whole) has the necessary expertise to undertake the inquiry, and to consider the need for balance, considered against the background of the terms of reference, in the composition of the panel.

Phase 2 of the inquiry is the largest phase in terms of the number and range of issues to be considered, and given the diversity of issues, and the expertise already available to the inquiry, I am pleased to appoint Ali Akbor OBE as the inquiry’s third panel member.

Ali is currently the CEO of Unity Homes and Enterprise, a leading housing association supporting sustainable and diverse neighbourhoods in west Yorkshire. Prior to his role at Unity, Ali was finance director for the Community and Social Services Directorate at the City of Salford. In December 2019, he was awarded an OBE for services to the community in Leeds. His knowledge of, and professional expertise in social housing, local government and community engagement are highly relevant skills and experience which will add great value to the inquiry panel.

I am confident that Ali’s appointment will ensure that the inquiry panel has the diversity of skills and expertise necessary for the scope and complexity of issues to be addressed by phase 2 of its work.

I wrote to the chair of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, on 12 October informing him of my decision and to seek his consent to the appointment in accordance with section 7(2)(b) of the Inquiries Act 2005. Sir Martin replied on 13 October consenting to the appointment.

Ali will read into the work of the inquiry while he formally steps back from his role at Unity and will join the inquiry panel on 2 November for the start of module 2 of its work. It is intended that Ali will sit for the duration of the inquiry and, alongside his two fellow panel members, will be jointly responsible for the whole of the inquiry's phase 2 work.

Our exchange of letters can be found on gov.uk.

[HCWS513]

Work and Pensions

Warm Home Discount Scheme: Pensioner Support

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The warm home discount scheme (WHDS) provides up to £350m per year to tackle fuel poverty and the pressure placed by energy prices on low income households.

Around 1.2 million pensioner households who receive the guarantee element of pension credit are automatically eligible for the WHDS and will receive a £140 discount off their energy bill. Thanks to DWP IT we have data matched nearly one million eligible claimants who will receive this discount automatically.

A further 220,000 pensioners will receive a letter encouraging them to check their eligibility and apply. Pensioners can call to check their eligibility on 0800 731 0214.

Where eligible, the deduction will be taken automatically from energy bills before March 2021, with most pensioners receiving their discounts between now and January.

Up to a further 1.2 million low income, working age households can also benefit from a £140 discount from their supplier. These customers must meet an individual energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme to qualify, which will include being in receipt of certain means-tested benefits.

The WHDS also provides a range of initiatives to benefit fuel poor and vulnerable households, including debt assistance, benefit entitlement checks and energy advice to domestic customers in or at risk of fuel poverty.

More information on the warm home discount scheme is available at gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme.

[HCWS512]