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Written Statements

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 19 November 2020

Written Statements

Thursday 19 November 2020

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Gibraltar: Covid-19 Response

The covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on all of the overseas territories, including Gibraltar, where it has impacted on around 60% of its economy. The Government of Gibraltar also instituted a lockdown and financial support package broadly similar to that in the UK. The cost of maintaining this support and related measures, combined with the loss of revenue from its key sectors, has put a significant strain on the Government of Gibraltar’s finances. Consequently, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar sought financial support from the UK Government (HMG), as the sovereign power.

The UK Government were clear at the outset of the covid-19 pandemic that they were looking to overseas territories to make full use of their financial resources in order to address the needs of their people: we also indicated that we would consider requests for further support on a case-by-case basis, to complement comprehensive local responses. Following discussions with the Chief Minister, it was agreed that HMG would provide a loan guarantee for a lending facility of up to £500 million. This will provide resilience to the Government of Gibraltar’s finances by enabling them to borrow at more favourable rates, by leveraging HMG’s high sovereign credit rating as the guarantor, confirming the Government of Gibraltar’s capacity to repay the principal loan, providing HMG with the reassurance regarding their liability under the guarantee.

A contingent liability checklist has been approved by HMT and FCDO Ministers. The Government of Gibraltar have identified a bank prepared to open the requested drawdown facility, under acceptable terms, and contracts are being prepared for signature. The Government of Gibraltar have made commitments on transparency and information sharing and have ensured compliance with all relevant international standards in this respect.

The serious impact of covid-19 on Gibraltar’s economy means that it is important that these contracts are signed at the earliest opportunity. I have written to the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Public Accounts Committee explaining that it has not been possible to consult Parliament in advance on this occasion.

A departmental minute has been laid in the House of Commons providing further detail on this contingent liability. I will keep the House informed of further significant developments in the case.


Home Department

Applications for British Citizenship: War Crimes Screening

I have made the Equality (War Crimes etc.) Arrangements 2020 and the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) (War Crimes etc.) Arrangements 2020 to enable a Home Office Minister to subject applications from certain nationalities for British citizenship to more rigorous scrutiny than others for the purposes of determining whether the applicant has committed, been complicit in the commission of, or otherwise been associated with the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

The Equality (War Crimes etc.) Arrangements 2020 are made under paragraph (1)(1)(d) of schedule 23 to the Equality Act 2010, and replace the Equality (War Crimes etc.) Arrangements 2013. The corresponding Race Relations (Northern Ireland) (War Crimes etc.) Arrangements 2020 are made under article 40 paragraph 2(c) Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 and replace the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) (War Crimes etc.) Arrangements 2013.

The condition for subjecting these applications to more rigorous scrutiny is that the applicant is a national of a state specified on a list approved personally by a Home Office Minister for the purpose of the arrangements.

I have reviewed and approved this list and I am satisfied the conditions set out in the arrangements are met in respect of the countries on the list.

The arrangements will be reviewed on an annual basis and will remain in force until revoked. I will update Parliament when new arrangements are made.

Copies of the arrangements will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Prime Minister

Cabinet Committees

Today I am publishing an updated Cabinet Committee list. I have placed a copy of the new list in the Libraries of both Houses.


GCHQ Accommodation Procurement: Intelligence and Security Committee Reports

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) has today laid before Parliament a report of the former Committee on GCHQ accommodation procurement: a case study, examining the procurement process for the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) London headquarters and the decision of the (then) Government in 2016 to approve Nova South as the location.

We welcome the scrutiny that the Committee and the National Audit Office provide in order to ensure that the taxpayer receives the best value for money from investments made by the security and intelligence agencies. The procurement of Nova South as the headquarters of the NCSC was a unique challenge, undertaken within a demanding timeframe and as a result, the Government acknowledge there are lessons that can be learned from the procurement process. We have noted the Committee’s recommendations and will respond to them in full in due course.

The UK has never been better defended from cyber-threats than it is today. The NCSC offers unprecedented analysis, response and reduction techniques to the growing cyber-threat.

The Government accept that this report does not scrutinise the overall success of NCSC. However, as the public-facing part of GCHQ and the UK’s lead technical authority on cyber-security, the NCSC required a workspace which balanced the need for accessibility and operational capability to defend the UK against cyber-threats effectively.

Nova South met all the key criteria required by the Government, including proximity to Whitehall and other stakeholders within the Government secure zone. A further contributing factor to its selection was its availability which allowed the NCSC to be established at pace, within a year, providing a centre at time when there was an urgent need for the Government to increase their defensive cyber capabilities and respond to global cyber incidents like Wannacry.

Nova South has provided a much needed central focus for UK cyber-security since its procurement, hosting a wide range of Government and industry partners as well as contributing to our global commitment to cyber-security and the UK’s ranking as number one by the Global Cybersecurity Index.