Wednesday 24 March 2021
Strengthening the Union and Intergovernmental Relations
Today I am providing an update on the UK Government’s work on the Union and intergovernmental relations (IGR) with devolved Administrations. These are:
A progress update on the joint IGR review.
The inaugural quarterly report on the UK Government’s engagement with the devolved Administrations.
The Dunlop review into UK Government Union capability, alongside our response to Lord Dunlop which sets out UKG’s progress in implementing recommendations.
Copies of all these documents have been laid in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and are available on gov.uk.
The UK Government are steadfast in their commitment to protect and promote the hundreds of years of shared history, beliefs and interests embodied in our Union, the most successful political and economic partnership the world has seen.
Our response to the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of the broad shoulders of the UK Government in supporting the whole country. It has shown we are at our strongest when we come together as one United Kingdom. Together we are better able to tackle big problems, from defending our borders and fighting national cyber security threats, to delivering the furlough scheme to protect our jobs, and being first to secure the covid-19 vaccine for citizens across the UK.
Today demonstrates the UK Government commitment to putting the foundations in place for our covid-19 recovery. For our family of nations to thrive—for the Union of the UK to prosper—the UK Government will continue to work smarter for people in every part of the country, building back better and stronger from covid-19 and able, outside the European Union, to target money where it is most needed.
Progress update on the IGR review
The IGR review is a joint review by the UK Government and devolved Administrations to make sure intergovernmental structures are fit for purpose. This publication is the product of months of detailed analysis of how the UK Government and devolved Administrations can work together effectively, reconciling a range of goals and aspirations from all parts of the UK. It details our ambitious and forward-looking approach to future IGR, ensuring an effective culture of collaboration and co-operation, protecting the integrity of our Union and shaping our common future. Where discussions are ongoing, the UK Government suggested position is included in square brackets. We are committed to continuing discussions with our devolved Administration colleagues on these areas after the May elections.
Work has already begun to implement these measures across UK Government Departments, allowing this improved collaboration between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations to begin as soon as possible. We will continue to reflect on these arrangements to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
The UK Government and devolved Administrations continue to work together on the common frameworks programme. This has resulted in further frameworks being agreed, including Food Compositional Standards and Labelling; Blood Safety and Quality; Organs, Tissues and Cells Safety and Quality; and Public Procurement, which have been laid in Parliament.
Quarterly report on the UK Government engagement with the devolved Administrations
Our first quarterly report on the UK Government’s engagement with the devolved Administrations reflects the value the Government place on the core principles of transparency of intergovernmental relations. Due to the pre-election periods in Wales and Scotland, we are publishing this information early, covering a shorter period of two months; the next quarterly report will be published in July 2021.
This report predominantly provides information from all UK Government Departments on their participation in intergovernmental meetings with the devolved Administrations in January and February 2021. It is supplemented with a summary of engagement which has taken place since July 2019. The report will support the UK Parliament’s capacity to scrutinise our role in intergovernmental relations, so that parliamentarians can help guide our approach to strengthening our Union, while also demonstrating our commitment to transparency of IGR.
Dunlop review into UK Government union capability
We are very grateful to Lord Dunlop for his independent and expert assessment and analysis of the UK Government operations in the areas of devolution and IGR. We have carefully studied all of his recommendations and his report has provided the impetus for a wide-ranging programme of reform that I and my colleagues will continue to pursue vigorously.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
North Sea Oil and Gas and Clean Energy Transition
Today I am delighted to announce a landmark agreement between the Government and the oil and gas industry—the North sea transition deal—to support the industry’s transition to clean, green energy and secure future of high-skilled oil and gas workers and the supply chain. This follows our commitment to securing a deal in the 2019 Conservative party manifesto and is the first of its kind to be agreed by a G7 nation.
The offshore oil and gas industry has been a major British industrial success story. For decades, the sector has strengthened our energy security, generated significant tax revenue to fund our public services, and currently supports around 260,000 jobs across the UK. From the Shetland Islands and Aberdeen to Teesside and the Humber, the industry is critical to the health of local economies across the country.
In the energy White Paper, we have committed to work with industry to make the UK continental shelf a net zero basin by 2050. The oil and gas industry will have a critical role in maintaining our energy security through this transition. Domestically produced gas still met approximately 46% of the country’s supply of gas in 2019 and the Climate Change Committee forecasts our continued need for fossil fuels for years to come.
The North sea transition deal between the UK Government and the oil and gas industry will support workers, businesses, and the supply chain as it transitions to a net zero future by harnessing the industry’s existing capabilities, infrastructure, and private investment potential to exploit new and emerging technologies such as hydrogen production, carbon capture, usage and storage and offshore wind—as well as offshore decommissioning.
Through the deal, the oil and gas sector and the Government will work together over the long term to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North sea production, as well as other carbon-intensive industries. Not only will the deal support existing companies to decarbonise in preparation for a net zero future, but it will also attract new industrial sectors to base themselves in the UK, develop new export opportunities for British businesses, and secure new high-value jobs.
Through the package of measures, the deal is expected to support up to 40,000 jobs across the supply chain and is expected to cut pollution by up to 60 million tonnes by 2030 including 15 million tonnes from oil and gas production on the UK continental shelf—the equivalent of annual emissions from 90% of the UK’s homes.
The North Sea Transition Deal
Delivery of the new green industrial revolution will require a strong partnership between the Government, regulators and industry. This deal sets out a template for that partnership and includes an ambitious plan to meet stretching greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The deal aims to support and anchor the expert supply chain that has built up around oil and gas in the UK, to both safeguard and create new high-quality jobs.
The deal includes:
The sector setting early targets to reduce emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, and it has committed to cut emissions by 50% by 2030. This will be supported by joint work to address the commercial and regulatory barriers to electrification of offshore platforms to realise these targets.
Joint Government and industry investment of up to £16 billion by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions. This includes up to £3 billion to replace fossil fuel-based power supplies on oil and gas platforms with renewable energy, up to £3 billion on carbon capture usage and storage, and up to £10 billion for hydrogen production.
By 2030, the sector will voluntarily commit to ensuring that 50% of its offshore decommissioning and new energy technology projects will be provided by local businesses, helping to anchor jobs to the UK. This will be supported by the appointment of an industry supply chain champion who will support the coordination of local growth and job opportunities with other sectors, such as carbon capture, usage and storage and offshore wind.
A 60Mt reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, including 15Mt through the progressive decarbonisation of UKCS production over the period to 20301.
Support for up to 40,000 direct and indirect supply chain jobs in decarbonising UKCS production and the CCUS and hydrogen sectors.
Today’s announcement delivers on the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and builds on our ambitious energy White Paper, which set out how the Government would support the decarbonisation of offshore oil and gas production while promoting opportunities for the sector to transition to clean energy.
To aid the transition to a green economy, today’s package follows the recent Budget in which the Chancellor committed to funding that targets the oil and gas sector and supports businesses to develop green energy. This includes up to £27 million for the Aberdeen energy transition zone to transform the area into a green energy hub and up to £5 million additional funding for the global underwater hub based in Aberdeen to open up opportunities for the city to become a global hub for underwater engineering, including in offshore wind and hydrogen—further supporting the creation of green jobs and helping the transition to net zero.
I will place a copy of the North sea transition deal in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Review of Future Licensing of Offshore Oil and Gas
We committed in September 2020 to reviewing policy on licensing for North sea oil and gas to ensure it was compatible with our climate change objectives. This included assessing whether licensing for new oil and gas exploration and production should continue in its current form, as well as the scope for formalising any aspects of our existing processes to provide additional assurances.
Noting the ongoing role of oil and gas on our path to net zero, the Government will introduce a new climate compatibility checkpoint on future oil and gas licensing rounds to ensure they are compatible with wider climate objectives, including net zero emissions by 2050. This checkpoint will use the latest evidence of the time, looking at the UK’s demand for oil and gas, the sector’s projected production levels, the increasing prevalence of clean technologies such as offshore wind and carbon capture, and the sector’s continued progress against its ambitious emissions reduction targets.
Design of this checkpoint will be completed by the end of 2021, before the next oil and gas licensing round. The Oil and Gas Authority has already indicated that that it will not be running a new licensing round this year. In parallel, the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning is commencing work on a new offshore energy strategic environmental assessment which will underpin future licensing rounds.
Government response to the public consultation “Aligning UK international support for the clean energy transition”
At the Climate Ambition summit on 12 December 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the UK will end new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas, other than in limited circumstances, as soon as possible. A consultation on this and how to accelerate growth in UK clean energy exports was subsequently held until 8 February 2021.
Following the consultation, the Government will no longer provide support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas from 31 March 2021. This will include UK Export Finance support, international aid funding, and trade promotion for new crude oil, natural gas and thermal coal projects.
To support the UK’s energy sector in making this transition, we will provide a one-year exemption for small and medium-sized enterprises, to ensure the most vulnerable firms are given time to adjust; provide a new “transition export development guarantee”, so that oil and gas focused companies with credible transition plans can benefit from UK Export Finance’s working capital support to achieve these plans; and publish a comprehensive and transparent description of the exemptions underpinning the policy shift, to provide clarity and certainty for business and civil society.
This balanced approach will make the UK an even stronger and more credible international partner to the growing number of countries who are seeking to make the transition to a cleaner future. The UK will build on the implementation of the policy shift by working with likeminded partners to make similar commitments, including through our G7 and COP26 presidencies.
1The 60Mt also includes emissions savings from CCUS and hydrogen already set out in the PM’s 10-point plan.
Climate-related Financial Disclosures Consultation
Today, the Government published their consultation on proposals requiring mandatory climate-related financial disclosures by publicly quoted companies, large private companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs).
In November 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that in order to accelerate progress on climate risk disclosures, the UK will move towards mandatory Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) across major segments of the UK economy by 2025, with a significant portion of requirements to be introduced by 2023. This will make the UK the first G20 country to make TCFD-aligned disclosures mandatory across the economy.
TCFD is an industry-led initiative which seeks to develop recommendations for climate-related financial disclosures. In 2017, the TCFD launched its recommendations, which set out how companies of any size, and in any sector or geography, could better manage and disclose their climate-related financial risks. Our proposed regulations will require companies to disclose information in line with the four pillars of TCFD: governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets.
High-quality disclosure of how organisations will manage the material financial risks and opportunities arising from climate change will improve transparency and encourage better informed pricing and capital allocation. As a result, and over time, TCFD-aligned disclosures will support investment decisions aligned with our transition to net zero. Our ambitious proposals will ensure the UK is leading the way ahead of COP26, where we will have an opportunity to encourage other countries to replicate our action.
I will place a copy of the consultation document in the Libraries of both Houses.
Public Spending: Devolved Administrations
On 15 February the UK Government announced an additional £2.1 billion for the devolved Administrations through the Barnett formula to support people, businesses and public services affected by coronavirus. This was on top of the £16.8 billion that had previously been guaranteed.
In recognition of the exceptional circumstances and in response to calls for flexibility, the devolved Administrations were given the option to carry forward any of the £2.1 billion into 2021-22 on top of their existing facilities to transfer funding between financial years.
The devolved Administrations have now confirmed they wish to carry forward the following amounts. They will receive this funding at Main Estimates 2021-22.
£million Scottish Government Welsh Government Northern Ireland Executive Resource DEL excluding depreciation 873.510 497.557 238.054 Capital DEL (general) 236.845 137.130 74.964 Capital DEL (Financial Transactions) 41.532 25.530 14.039 Total DEL 1,151.888 660.218 327.057
Northern Ireland Executive
Resource DEL excluding depreciation
Capital DEL (general)
Capital DEL (Financial Transactions)
The devolved Administrations’ 2020-21 funding as at Supplementary Estimates 2020-21 is therefore being reduced by the same amount.
In line with the Statement of Funding Policy, the Welsh Government are also switching £501 million from Resource DEL to Capital DEL (general).
This means that revised 2020-21 funding is as follows:
£million Scottish Government Welsh Government Northern Ireland Executive Resource DEL excluding depreciation 39,210.215 17,923.931 14,974.531 Capital DEL (general) 4,836.545 2,837.569 1,591.874 Capital DEL (Financial Transactions) 612.198 313.696 214.816 Total DEL 44,65.8957 21,075.195 16,781.222
Northern Ireland Executive
Resource DEL excluding depreciation
Capital DEL (general)
Capital DEL (Financial Transactions)
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
The Union flag will now be flown on UK Government buildings every day unless another flag is being flown—acting as a visual symbol of the UK’s union, heritage and pride.
Currently, Union flags are only required to be flown on all UK Government buildings in England, Wales and Scotland on designated days, such as the Queen’s birthday.
The changes will apply to all Government buildings across the UK, with the Union flag being flown by default if nothing else is being flown, such as another national flag of the UK, or a county flag or other flags to mark civic pride. The guidance will also encourage other buildings, such as councils, to follow this example, where they have a flagpole and wish to fly a flag.
The Union flag is the national flag of the United Kingdom, and it is so called because it embodies the emblems of the three constituent nations united under one sovereign—the Kingdoms of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Northern Ireland. It serves as a reminder of our shared history and union. Flags other than the Union, such as national flags of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, the armed forces flag, the Commonwealth flag, county and other local flags, can be flown on non-designated days.
We will also cut red tape to allow dual flagging—where two flags can be flown on one pole. This will allow organisations to highlight local and national identities, for example by flying a Middlesex county flag alongside the Union flag in Middlesex, or the Saltire alongside the Union flag in Scotland Where organisations have two flag poles, they can fly the Union flag alongside another flag—for example, flying the Saltire alongside the Union flag in Scotland.
The Union flag must always be flown in the superior position.
Following our departure from the European Union, planning regulations (in England) introduced by the then Government in 2007 that allow the EU flag to be flown on public buildings without securing express consent in the normal way will also be removed.
Instead, new “deemed consent” will be granted for the NHS flags. This will allow for NHS flags to be flown, without the need for express consent—alongside the Union flag.
The changes will help champion the UK’s national identities and strengthen our shared pride in the Union through the institutions that define Britain.
This guidance is published today and will apply from the summer.
The attachment can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2021-03-24/HCWS883/.
Health and Social Care
UK Health Security Agency
I wish to inform the House of progress in establishing the UK health security agency and the appointment of its leadership.
In August 2020, the Government announced its intention to create a new body, bringing together the at-scale operational response capability of NHS Test and Trace, the joint biosecurity centre’s intelligence and analytical capability and the public health science and health protection expertise of Public Health England into an organisation focused wholly on protecting people from external threats to this country’s health.
From 1 April, we will formally establish the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The UKHSA will be this country’s permanent standing capacity to prepare for, prevent and respond to threats to health.
The UKHSA will plan for the risk of future infectious disease pandemics and other major health threats, maintaining this focus both during a crisis and in better times. It will work with partners around the world and lead the UK’s global contribution to global health protection research. The new agency will prevent threats by deploying the full weight of our analytic and genomic capability, on infectious diseases and beyond, and will hold responsibility for our health security scientific capabilities including those at Porton Down and Colindale.. It will respond to the threats we face with speed and scale, including terrorist threats to health, another pandemic or environmental hazards.
The agency will operate with local and national partners to deliver its brief, including building a strong partnership with local government and directors of public health. It will work with the national public health bodies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, continuing strong collaborative work such as the joint biosecurity centre to support health security for the whole of the UK.
UKHSA will be empowered to hire the very best team possible from around the world. Its chief executive will be Dr Jenny Harries, who has performed brilliantly during this crisis. Dr Harries previously led the public health response to the Novichok poisonings, she played a critical part in the UK’s Ebola response, and last year, as deputy chief medical officer, she delivered the shielding programme which is both incredibly sensitive and has been superbly delivered. Dr Harries’ distinguished career as both a public health physician, and crucially, as a public health leader, make her impeccably qualified for this role.
Ian Peters will be UKHSA’s Chair. Under Ian’s leadership as chairman of Barts Health NHS Trust, the trust has built an impressive track record in life sciences with the combination of private sector, academic and Government capability that is so important to delivering excellence at scale. Ian brings his extensive experience of leadership in the public and private sector to this task, including several years as managing director of British Gas. Both Dr Harries and Mr Peters will be appointed from 1 April.
To protect operational continuity and provide for necessary staff consultations, the transition of responsibilities and capabilities from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace into the new agency will take place over the coming months, with the UKHSA fully operational from October 2021. Until this date, PHE and NHS Test and Trace will continue to deliver their existing functions.
I will provide a further update in due course on the Government’s wider plans for public health reform, including on arrangements for promoting and improving health.
Sale of a Credit Guarantee Finance Loan
In 2005 the Department of Health, as it was then, made two loans under a policy created by HM Treasury called credit guarantee finance, one for the private finance initiative scheme at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust for the Bexley oncology wing and the other for the PFI scheme at the Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust for the redevelopment of the Queen Alexandra Hospital. The purpose of the policy was to reduce the financing costs of private finance initiative deals and improve their value for money. An assessment at the time concluded that these objectives had been met.
It has now been agreed that the Department of Health and Social Care will sell its entire interest in the credit guarantee finance loan which was used for the PFI scheme at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.
The credit guarantee loan which was used for the PFI scheme at Bexley oncology wing, at the Leeds was repaid in full in 2017
Specialty and Associate Doctors’ Contract Agreement
I am pleased to confirm that specialty and associate specialist doctors have backed a multi-year pay and contract reform agreement.
This is a diverse group of doctors who play a vital role in delivering high-quality care within healthcare teams and we recognise the particular issues they have faced. This agreement focuses on fixing long-standing concerns around equality of pay and terms and conditions for this group of staff. The agreement will improve their experiences of work and provide more opportunities to progress in their careers, in return for contractual changes which will deliver improvements to NHS services.
The deal will give around 10,000 doctors the option to transfer to new contracts. The contract changes prioritise doctors’ physical and mental wellbeing through introducing new limits on work in unsocial hours and additional annual leave to improve equity with other staff groups. The new pay scales will have fewer progression points, enabling faster progression to the top of the pay scale, heeding the recommendations from the gender pay gap in medicine review. The introduction of a new senior grade will expand opportunities for career progression for specialty doctors.
Over recent years we have sought major contractual reforms right across the NHS workforce. Public sector pay must deliver value for money for the taxpayer and this agreement commits investment in return for reforms which will help improve recruitment and retention, enhance morale and boost capacity and productivity.
This agreement delivers on the commitment in the NHS People Plan to make these roles more attractive and fulfilling and will help us retain more talent to ensure our NHS is there for everyone in the years to come.
New Plan for Immigration
We have today published the “New Plan for Immigration”—the Government’s landmark programme to deliver the first comprehensive overhaul of the asylum system in decades.
These reforms are explained in more detail in our policy statement, which we have published today. To inform the proposals set out and ensure we can deliver effective change across the system, we have also launched a public consultation and run a wide-reaching engagement process. We will use this opportunity to listen to a wide range of views from stakeholders and sectors as well as members of the public.
The policy statement and consultation are available at:
Since becoming Secretary of State for Transport, I have shared the concerns of many regarding All Lane Running (ALR) motorways. Any question about safety on our road network must be taken with the upmost seriousness. Therefore, one of my first actions as Secretary of State was to commission a stocktake to set out recommendations to raise the bar on safety. While the evidence has suggested that ALR motorways are in most ways as safe as, or safer than, conventional ones, I am determined to go further and ensure that they are the safest roads in Britain.
To this end, in March 2020,1 announced a package of 18 measures, costing £500 million, including the faster rollout of a radar-based stopped vehicle detection (SVD) across the ALR motorway network.
Earlier this year, I asked for a one-year-on report from Highways England detailing its progress in delivering the 18-point action plan and identifying actions that can be delivered ahead of schedule. I asked for this by 12 March 2021.
Highways England has now provided my Department with that anniversary report, and work is rapidly being completed to assess it, including stocktake actions, and to establish next steps. The report will be published by summer, once I am assured that the proposals are sufficiently robust.
The publication of this report will not, however, mark the end of the process, and I am determined to ensure all possible actions to make ALR motorways safer still are explored. I have therefore ordered my officials to continue to work with Highways England on developing possible future options, working closely with road safety groups and parliamentarians, as well as the Transport Select Committee, which currently has an active inquiry into this issue. I am interested to receive its final report.
The latest safety evidence drawn from data and analysis of the 2019 STATS19 official statistics has been produced by Highways England and will be contained within its report. There has been considerable public and media interest in understanding motorway accident and fatality data and I have commissioned the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to independently review the data to provide further analytical assurance and ensure that the conclusions arrived at are robust. The ORR is the independent statutory monitor of Highways England and its management of the strategic road network.
Within this role, the ORR already scrutinises Highways England’s delivery of the smart motorway stocktake actions, and its performance against its road safety KPIs. However, I believe there may be scope to go further. In addition to asking ORR to undertake an independent review of the available safety evidence on ALR motorways, my officials will explore what further independent scrutiny may be appropriate.
Ensuring our roads are safe for those who use them is my top priority.