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Written Statements

Volume 682: debated on Thursday 22 October 2020

Written Statements

Thursday 22 October 2020

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Rohingya Donor Conference and Funding

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) has made the following written statement:

The UK is co-hosting a donor conference today for the Rohingya refugee response, alongside the United States, European Union and UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Bringing together donor countries and partners from the region, this conference will rally international support for the Rohingya humanitarian response in Bangladesh, Myanmar and other countries hosting Rohingya refugees in the region. Our aim is to ensure sustained support for Rohingya refugees and displaced populations, while working towards long-term durable solutions.

Maintaining international funding will become increasingly difficult over time—yet three years on from the terrible violence that erupted in August 2017, the Rohingya remain one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. I pay tribute to the resilience, courage and tenacity of the Rohingya people. I also express our gratitude to the Government and people of Bangladesh for hosting the 860,000 refugees currently living in Cox’s Bazar district.

The UK continues to support the Rohingya on both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border while we push for a long-term solution that enables their voluntary, safe, and dignified return to Myanmar. This includes advocating for the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations, including reform of citizenship laws and freedom of movement. The UK is clear that there must be accountability for atrocities. This will be fundamental to give the Rohingya people confidence that it is safe to return.

The UK is already one of the biggest donors supporting the Rohingya. The crisis remains a priority and we have worked hard to prioritise resources to maintain assistance in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

I am therefore pleased to announce that this Government are committing a further £37.5 million to the Rohingya response operation in Bangladesh to continue our life-saving support, a total of £293.5 million committed to the crisis since 2017. This funding supports refugees in Cox’s Bazar with protection, food, healthcare, water and sanitation, counselling, and will help mitigate the impact of natural disasters and disease, in addition to supporting local communities.

Covid-19 has created an additional dimension to the adversity Rohingya communities have faced. So far, UK aid has added more than 2,400 handwashing facilities in the camps and created capacity for over 600 beds for treating refugees and locals alike suffering from severe respiratory infections. I am happy to announce that we are also committing £10 million support for Bangladesh to help the country respond to coronavirus and natural disasters nationally.

In the meantime, providing education for Rohingya children and livelihood opportunities for adults is fundamental to equipping Rohingya with the essential knowledge and skills for their future in Myanmar and to prevent a lost generation. It is also the best guard against rising domestic violence, criminality and tensions between the refugee and host communities. Significant material support will be needed for the foreseeable future to uphold basic standards of living.

The UK also provides significant support to the Rohingya in conflict-affected Rakhine state in Myanmar. This includes over £25 million since 2017 for Rohingya communities for nutrition, water, health and sanitation, protection, skills and livelihoods support. UK aid is also working hard to respond to the additional health and humanitarian needs brought on by covid-19, amidst access restrictions.

We hope that the international community will continue to demonstrate its strong commitment to the humanitarian response and find solutions for the Rohingya that will enable them to return home voluntarily, safely and with dignity. We will continue to push for regional and international attention and support in helping manage and resolve the crisis.

[HCWS532]

Health and Social Care

Joint Committee on Human Rights Reports: Detention of Young People with Learning Disabilities and/or or Autism, Human Rights and Implications of Government Covid-19 Response

Today we have published the Government’s formal response to the recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report “The detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism” published on 1 November 2019 and those made in its report “Human Rights and the Government’s response to covid-19: The detention of young people who are autistic and/or have learning disabilities” published on 12 June 2020. A copy of the response will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

We welcome the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ (JCHR) reports and their recommendations. Protecting the rights of people with a learning disability and of autistic people is a matter of the utmost importance to the Government. Rights must be upheld regardless of wider circumstances, no matter how unprecedented. This is especially so for those who may be at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives, in crisis or receiving treatment in specialist mental health inpatient settings. The Government’s manifesto committed to improve how people with a learning disability/and or autistic people are treated in law and to make it easier for them to be discharged from hospital in recognition of some of the challenges faced by this group of people.

The JCHR made recommendations for Government and their system partners to improve the care and support of people with a learning disability and/or autism which was not found to always meet the high standard we would expect for each and every individual.

We have carefully considered these recommendations and are accepting in full or in principle the vast majority, including:

The JCHR have specifically recommended that a legal duty is introduced on local authorities and clinical commissioning groups to ensure the availability of sufficient community-based services. We have accepted this recommendation in principle and plan to consult on new duties to ensure an adequate supply of community services for people with learning disabilities and autistic people.

In response to the recommendation that families should not be prevented from speaking out about poor care, we will introduce guidance on the use of injunctions to stop the inappropriate use of injunctions and ensure that families are able to speak out, driving up the standard of care for people with a learning disability and/or autism.

This guidance will require health bodies to notify the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of their intention to seek an injunction. This will enable us to monitor these instances and take further action such as following up with the body in question to seek additional information on the grounds seeking the injunction if required.

We propose to take forward a number of recommendations made by the JCHR through reform of the Mental Health Act and more detail will be provided in a Mental Health Act White Paper in due course. Reforming the Mental Health Act will help to ensure that when someone is admitted to hospital, the care they receive is therapeutic and beneficial and will have a positive impact for people with a learning disability and/or autistic people who are admitted for assessment or treatment. The White Paper will provide an opportunity to consult on changes as recommended by the JCHR including:

Placing care, education and treatment reviews (CETR) on a statutory footing. This would help to ensure that the CETR process is more robust and that there is greater involvement, where appropriate, of families. This should ensure that the process for resolving problems that keep people in hospital for longer than they should is improved along with improving current and future care planning, including plans for leaving hospital.

Reforming the detention criteria and the detention process should reduce inequalities by making sure inpatient care for people with a learning disability or autistic people is only used when it offers clear benefits. For those who need inpatient care, having a say in the care they receive and requiring care to be therapeutic should ensure that people with a learning disability or autism are treated with the same dignity and respect that we would all expect.

Enforcing and enhancing the rights of individuals and families to advocacy will be addressed, including through recommendations on improving access to independent mental health advocates, which would expect to have a positive impact in supporting individuals with learning disabilities and autistic people and their families.

The action we are taking in responding to these recommendations will help to ensure that people with a learning disability and autistic people are supported to live fulfilling lives in the community and that if they are admitted to hospital, the care they receive is both therapeutic and beneficial. The steps we are taking will also ensure that where appropriate family members will have a greater input into the care and support their loved ones receive. We must remain committed to delivering on our existing plans and on the new steps set out in this response.

[HCWS530]

Home Department

Istanbul Convention Ratification: 2020 Report on Progress

The Government have today laid before Parliament and published the fourth annual report on the United Kingdom’s progress toward the ratification of the Council of Europe convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence (the “Istanbul convention”). The UK signed the Istanbul convention in 2012, signalling our strong commitment to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) and this Government remain committed to ratifying it as soon as we possibly can. The report sets out the work undertaken by the UK Government and the devolved Administrations to tackle VAWG since the 2019 report on progress, as well as the remaining steps required as we progress towards ratification.

Our measures to protect women and girls from violence are already some of the most robust in the world, and in most respects we comply with, or go further than, the convention requires.

Since signing the convention in 2012, we have significantly strengthened our legislative framework, introduced a range of new protective tools, and issued new guidance for professionals to better protect victims.

This year, the covid-19 pandemic has placed those at risk of violence against women and girls in an even more vulnerable situation. In response to this, the Government announced enhanced support for victims, including £76 million of funding to ensure that victims and survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and modern slavery, as well as vulnerable children and their families, receive the support they need during the pandemic.

On 3 March 2020 we reintroduced the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament, which includes a package of measures to transform our response to domestic abuse. The Bill was passed by the House of Commons in July and has now moved to the House of Lords. The Bill, together with the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill currently before the Northern Ireland Assembly, includes the necessary legislative measures to ensure all parts of the UK are compliant with article 44 of the convention, which requires that criminal courts in the UK have extraterritorial jurisdiction over certain violent and sexual offences.

The Northern Ireland Executive had not been restored at the time of the last progress report, so the Domestic Abuse Bill as originally introduced in July 2019 contained a provision for a new domestic abuse offence which would criminalise psychological violence in Northern Ireland, as required by article 33 of the convention. Following the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland, provision for this new offence was omitted from the re-introduced Westminster Bill and placed in the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill, which was introduced into the Northern Ireland Assembly on 31 March 2020. As this is a devolved matter, the timetable for the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill is for the Assembly to set. Nevertheless, I know that Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive share my desire for ratification of the convention to proceed as swiftly as possible and that they will do all that they can to enable swift implementation of the new offence once the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill is enacted.

The issue of support for migrant victims of domestic abuse was raised by the Joint Committee on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, and we committed to undertake a review of the Government’s overall response to migrant victims of domestic abuse. This review has been completed, and the findings were published on gov.uk on 3 July 2020. More detailed evidence is needed to demonstrate which cohorts of migrant victims are likely to be most in need of support, the numbers involved and how well existing arrangements may address their needs.

In response to the review, the Government therefore committed to launch a £1.5 million support for migrant victims (SMV) pilot scheme to address these evidence gaps, which will then enable us to take well-grounded and evidence-based decisions on how best to protect these victims in the long term. Details of the pilot scheme were published on 19 October. We have therefore recorded articles 4(3) (to the extent that it relates to non-discrimination on the grounds of migrant or refugee status) and 59 as “under review” this year, pending the evaluation and findings of the SMV scheme.

The publication of this report fulfils the requirement of section 2 of the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017. I will lay before Parliament the report required by section 1 of that Act when our timescale for ratification is clear.

Copies of the 2020 progress report will be available in the Vote Office and it will be published on the Government’s website at gov.uk.

[HCWS531]

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Report on Operation in 2018 of Terrorism Acts

In accordance with section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2006, Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has prepared a report on the operation in 2018 of the Terrorism Acts, which was laid before the House on 19 March 2020.

I am grateful to Mr Hall for his report and have carefully considered the recommendations and observations included within. I am today laying before the House the Government’s response to the report (CP 310). Copies will be available in the Vote Office and it will also be published on gov.uk.

[HCWS534]

Points-based Immigration System

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.

In February and July 2020, we published our policy statements on the UK’s points-based immigration system. This set out how we would fulfil our commitment to the British public to take back control of our borders by ending free movement and introducing a single, global immigration system. The points-based system will cater for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes including routes for global leaders in their field and innovators.

The changes to the immigration rules are a crucial part of the future points-based immigration system. They also introduce the new Hong Kong British national (Overseas) (BN(O)) route for a BN(O) citizen who wants to live and work in the UK and will extend the Afghan interpreter ex gratia scheme.

The rules also represent a significant further step in our commitment to simplify the rules, implementing many of the recommendations of the Law Commission to ensure we provide greater clarity to migrants, employers and all other users of the rules.

At the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, free movement will end and newly arriving European economic area (EEA) and Swiss citizens will come within the scope of the new global immigration system. These rules will generally commence between 1 December and 1 January, but EEA nationals will not be granted permission until after 1 January as they are able to rely on free movement right until then.

I have set out in a separate document the details of the changes we are making to the immigration rules, which should be read together with this statement.

The attachment can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-10-22/HCWS533/.

[HCWS533]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Financial Support for Local Authorities: Covid-19

Following the Prime Minister‘s announcement on 12 October of new financial support for all local authorities, I wish to set out to the House how that support will be allocated to local authorities.

The allocation of this financial support, worth over £1 billion in total, consists of:

£919 million in further un-ringfenced grant for all local authorities;

£100 million package of support for public leisure services, to be administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The Government will once again be using the covid-19 relative-needs formula to distribute the grant funding, as well as taking account of previous allocations. My approach also guarantees each authority gets at least £100,000 in additional funding—recognising that all areas continue to face pressures as we head into winter. This approach will ensure the funds are distributed in a way that balances the need to support all areas across England, while maximising efficiency and targeting resources where they are most needed.

Un-ringfenced grant for local authorities

As with previous support, the great majority of this additional funding is un-ringfenced, recognising that local authorities are best placed to identify the specific pressures they are facing and to respond to local priorities. As with previous rounds of funding, local government should prioritise: adult social care, children’s services, public health services, household waste services, shielding the clinically extremely vulnerable, homelessness and rough sleeping, domestic abuse, managing excess deaths and support for reopening the country.

The grant funding also includes an amount from the Department of Health and Social Care’s PPE fund to support councils in relation to PPE expenditure.

Package of funding for leisure centres worth £100 million

To address the ongoing challenges council leisure centres are facing, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will introduce a new £100 million fund to support centres which are most in need. This complements the existing sales, fees and charges scheme established by the Government which supports leisure centres run directly by local councils. Further details on the scheme will be set out in due course.

Overall position

This brings the total direct funding provided to councils through this pandemic to £6.4 billion, comprising £4.6 billion in un-ringfenced funding, £1.1 billion from the infection control fund, £300 million to support test and trace as well as funding allocated to councils from the new local alert level system and a number of grants to support communities and vulnerable people.

The funding announced today is in addition to the up to £465 million that the Government have already announced for local authorities moving up to a higher local alert levels—this will ensure that councils, working alongside NHS Test and Trace can take the additional steps needed to contain the virus.

The Government have always been clear that we will stand behind local councils, and this funding demonstrates that the Government are taking the necessary steps, so that local government can continue to fulfil its pivotal role in the response to the covid-19 pandemic.

[HCWS535]