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Written Statements

Volume 696: debated on Thursday 10 June 2021

Written Statements

Thursday 10 June 2021

Education

Student Loans: Interest Rates

On 9 June I announced a temporary reduction in the maximum student loan interest rate following the recent decline in the prevailing market rate for comparable unsecured personal loans.

In accordance with the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, where the Government consider that the student loan interest rate is higher than the prevailing market rate for comparable unsecured loans, we will take steps to reduce the maximum student loan interest rate.

The Government regularly monitor the interest rates set on student loans against the interest rates prevailing on the market for comparable loans.

Following a decline in the prevailing market rate, on 9 June I laid legislation to cap the maximum post-2012 undergraduate income contingent repayment and the postgraduate income contingent repayment student loan interest rate in line with the prevailing market rate. The cap will come into effect from 1 July 2021 and last for a period of three months.

The reduction will be 0.3 percentage point on the maximum student loan interest rate to reflect the average market rates during the preceding monitoring period.

Student loan interest rates are updated each year to take account of changes in the retail prices index (RPI). The updates are applied annually at the start of each academic year, 1 September. To take into account this annual change in the ordinary student loan interest rates, two separate caps will be implemented, one for the period 1 July to 31 August and one for the period 1 to 30 September.

The maximum post-2012 undergraduate income contingent repayment student loan interest rate and the postgraduate income contingent repayment student loan interest rate will be 5.3% between 1 July and 31 August.

The maximum post-2012 undergraduate income contingent repayment student loan interest rate and the postgraduate income contingent repayment student loan interest rate will be 4.2% between 1 September and 30 September.

From 1 October 2021, the post-2012 undergraduate and postgraduate income contingent repayment student loan interest rates will revert to the standard rate +3%.

Further caps may be put in place should the prevailing market rate continue to be below student loan interest rates.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Annual Fisheries Negotiations

The UK and EU have now reached an agreement on fishing opportunities for the current fishing year. This concludes all annual fisheries negotiations for 2021. This has been a landmark year with the UK negotiating as an independent coastal state for the first time in over 40 years.

Throughout the negotiations we have worked as a UK team with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments to take advantage of our new status as an independent coastal state. The outcomes secured by the UK team will enable us to improve the sustainable management of our fish stocks in support of the whole of the UK fishing industry in the short and long term.

Collectively, from all the negotiations, the UK has secured agreement on the total allowable catches (TACs) for 87 stocks.

UK-EU agreement

The agreement we have just reached with the EU, for 70 EU-UK TACs, results in a total value of fishing opportunities for the UK in 2021 of approximately 160,000 tonnes, worth approximately £333 million. This is around 26,000 tonnes more than in 2020, with an estimated value of £27 million.

On non-quota stocks, due to the late conclusion of negotiations this year and the need to provide our respective industries with clarity, the UK and EU agreed that, exceptionally, tonnage limits would not be applied in 2021.

The UK and EU have instead agreed to work together through the specialised committee on fisheries to develop multi-year strategies for managing non-quota stocks as a priority, as well as addressing challenges in mixed fisheries management, particularly in the Celtic sea, and on implementing a longer-term exchange system for quota.

Exchanges of quota with the EU, as part of annual negotiations, were not possible this year. However, the agreement includes a commitment to quickly develop an interim basis for exchanging fishing quota ahead of a longer-term exchange system to be decided by the specialised committee on fisheries. The UK expects that quota exchanges would be part of future annual negotiations, as provided for in the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement.

We have also agreed changes for 2021 on seabass to reduce wasteful discarding, without increasing fishing mortality.

UK-EU-Norway agreement

The trilateral negotiations between the UK, EU and Norway concluded on 16 March 2021, and set TACs for the six North sea jointly-managed stocks. Three of these stocks were set consistent with independently assessed sustainability levels.

The agreed TACs resulted in catch reductions for North sea cod, plaice, saithe and herring compared with 2020, whilst there were increases for haddock and whiting.

The UK and Norway also committed to several priority work areas including a review of the management of North sea herring.

UK-Norway and UK-Faroes bilateral negotiations

Since the beginning of the negotiations, we have been very clear that the UK’s overriding priority in all negotiations is to agree a balanced deal in the best interests of the entire UK fishing industry. We worked hard to find a way to reach an agreement between the UK and Norway and the UK and Faroes this year, and regret that we concluded that we were too far apart.

In these negotiations, the UK sought to secure fishing opportunities for the UK industry, whilst at the same time addressing the historic imbalance between fishing opportunities taken in UK waters by other coastal states compared to those the UK took in theirs. In 2019 Norway landed approximately eight times higher value of fish from UK waters than UK vessels landed from Norwegian waters.

Whilst negotiations were constructive, neither Norway nor the Faroes were willing to provide appropriate compensation for access to fish in UK waters, without which the relationships would have been left significantly weighted against the UK. Neither coastal state was willing to conclude an agreement with the UK solely on quota exchanges.

Other international negotiations

This year the UK also participated, and reached agreement, in a number of other international negotiations. This included multilateral negotiations on TACs not covered under the EU-UK and trilateral negotiations, such as mackerel, blue whiting, Atlanto-Scandian herring, and redfish. We also took part in negotiations in several regional fisheries management organisations.

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Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Hong Kong: Six-monthly Report

The latest six-monthly report on the implementation of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong was published today. It covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2020. The report has been placed in the Library of the House. A copy is available on the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ foreign-commonwealth-development-office. I commend the report to the House.

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Health and Social Care

Patient Safety

I would like to inform the House of the launch of a public consultation on proposed legislative provisions governing the appointment and operation of the patient safety commissioner for England.

As my colleagues will be aware, on 14 December 2020, the Government tabled an amendment to the Medicine and Medical Devices Bill to establish an independent patient safety commissioner for England. The Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021 (MMD Act) achieved Royal Assent on 11 February 2021 and on 11 April established the commissioner position and its main duties and powers.

The introduction of a patient safety commissioner also acts on the second recommendation of the independent medicines and medical devices safety review, “First Do No Harm”, published in July 2020 by Baroness Cumberlege.

The patient safety commissioner will add to and enhance the existing work that has been done to improve patient safety by acting as a champion for patients. Listening to our patients is integral to our healthcare system and the commissioner will help to make sure patient voices are heard.

The core duties of the commissioner are to promote the safety of patients in the context of the use of medicines and medical devices and to promote the importance of the views of patients and other members of the public in relation to the safety of medicines and medical devices.

Under the MMD Act 2021, (paragraph 6 of schedule 1) the Secretary of State is able to make legislative provisions about the appointment and operation of the commissioner, for example, the terms of office, finances and other support for the commissioner. As is required by the MMD Act, the Department has launched a public consultation to gather views from interested persons on the detail on the appointment and operation of the commissioner. Consultation responses will be carefully considered and will feed into the required secondary legislation.

This consultation will help to ensure that the provisions governing the appointment and operation of the patient safety commissioner are as comprehensive as needed, so that the commissioner will be able to work for, with and in the best interests of patients.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the House that the Government continue to prioritise work on this initiative. The launch of this consultation represents good progress in setting up of the commissioner.

The consultation can be accessed using the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-appointment-and-operation-of-the-patient-safety-commissioner.

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Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme: Fifth Annual Report

I would like to acknowledge today the publication of the fifth annual report of the learning disability mortality review (LeDeR) programme, now known as “Learning from lives and deaths—People with a learning disability and autistic people” by the University of Bristol. A copy will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Sadly, as set out in today’s report, we know that some people with a learning disability have died from covid-19, and this report provides moving, personal stories of some of those who lost their lives. My deepest sympathies are with their families and loved ones.

This annual report recommends that the needs of people with a learning disability should be built into the national policy response by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in the case of future emergency health situations. This is absolutely essential, and throughout the covid-19 pandemic, we have taken action to protect people with a learning disability and used emerging evidence to inform our policy response. For example, in October, we added adults with Down’s syndrome to the clinically extremely vulnerable list following the identification of an elevated risk of severe outcomes for this group of people. And the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation added people with severe and profound learning disabilities to group 6 for the vaccine, and people with Down’s syndrome to group 4.

We value the insight that the LeDeR programme has brought us during the challenging time we have all faced over the past year. We have been able to use data from the LeDeR covid-19 report to inform our response to the pandemic. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at the University of Bristol for their invaluable work over the past years on the LeDeR programme. Past reports have prompted action across the health and care sector, including the trialling of the Oliver McGowan mandatory training in learning disability and autism.

Today’s report makes several recommendations for Government and their system partners to help to improve the care of people with a learning disability. We remain absolutely committed that people with a learning disability should, and must, receive high quality care which will in turn reduce preventable deaths and health inequalities.

NHS England has published its “Action from Learning” report alongside the fifth LeDeR report, which sets out a range of work taking place to improve the safety and quality of care to reduce early deaths and health inequalities. We welcome the ongoing invaluable work by NHS England, including during the covid-19 pandemic, in this area.

The Government’s focus in 2020 was on the covid-19 response, and our priority was to protect people’s lives. We will publish a response to both the fourth and fifth reports in late summer/autumn of this year, to allow time for us to fully consider the recommendations for the Department, and agree actions, including those on covid-19 related issues and on mandating reporting to the LeDeR programme.

This report also highlights the disparities experienced by ethnic minority people with a learning disability. It is vital that we continue to work with our partners to tackle the poor outcomes experienced by ethnic minority people with a learning disability.

Based on the evidence from completed LeDeR reviews, the fifth annual report makes 10 recommendations for the health and care system, as follows:

Recommendation 1. LeDeR reviews to be undertaken through the lens of greater racial awareness. (Audience: NHS England and NHS Improvement)

Recommendation 2. Local Authorities to ensure that joint strategic needs assessments (JSNA) collect and publish local data on the health needs of children and adults with learning disabilities, capturing any characteristics that relate to specific ethnic groups. Integrated care systems (ICSs), and their commissioned primary care networks to take actions to reduce any disparities between people from different ethnic groups when planning local services for people with learning disabilities and their families. Accountability for this to be monitored at regional level, and by NHS England. (Audience: Local authorities, NHS England and NHS Improvement, ICSs, NHS Race and Health Observatory)

Recommendation 3. A nationally endorsed standard resource is required, with local flexibility, that provides information for people with learning disabilities and their families about their legal rights and entitlements, national services available and how to access them, and local sources of support. Mechanisms must be in place for its effective distribution, particularly to people from minority ethnic groups. (Audience: NHS England and NHS Improvement)

Recommendation 4. Strategically planned, long-term, targeted, joint investment is needed to strengthen partnerships with local communities and provide support for peer-to-peer networks, to build on and future-proof existing contacts and structures within local communities and increase trusted word-of-mouth communication and information sharing. (Audience: Local authorities, ICSs, primary care networks)

Recommendation 5. Local systems, including commissioning, to be responsive and develop strategic plans that address the longstanding needs of people with learning disabilities and their families that the covid-19 pandemic has illuminated, including the availability of specialist learning disability teams in acute, primary and community care. (Audience: ICSs)

Recommendation 6. From the outset of any future public health emergency, the needs and circumstances of people with learning disabilities must be considered and built into national policy and guidance by the National Institute for Health Protection and the Department of Health and Social Care. A data collection tool should be established to capture emerging evidence relating to people with learning disabilities, which would trigger adjustments to policy, guidance, systems and processes as required. (Audience: National Institute for Health Protection, Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement)

Recommendation 7. Commissioning guidance for NHS 111 services to include a requirement for the provision of specifically tailored training to NHS 111 staff about how to respond appropriately to calls about people with a learning disability or from people with a learning disability and their families. (Audience: NHS England and NHS Improvement)

Recommendation 8. A LeDeR representative should routinely and as of right be involved with the child death review meeting/process for children with learning disabilities, in order to ensure that necessary information is collected and transferred into the wider LeDeR programme. (Audience: NHS England and NHS Improvement)

Recommendation 9. NHS England to collect and collate evidence about the needs and circumstances of people who have been subject to mental health or criminal justice restrictions and use this to inform appropriate, personalised service provision for this group of people. While waiting for this evidence, robust after-care support (as required by S117 of the Mental Health Act) must be provided. (Audience: NHS England and NHS Improvement, local authorities)

Recommendation 10. Progress on actions in response to previous recommendations about minimising the risk of aspiration pneumonia in people with learning disabilities needs to be published. (Audience: NICE, Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement)

While we have taken urgent action during the covid-19 pandemic to protect the lives of people with a learning disability, we know that there is more to be done as we begin to move out of the pandemic. We will continue to work with partners to ensure improvements are made, and to address the recommendations in the reports.

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Home Department

EEA citizens and Right to Work and Rent Schemes

The UK has left the European Union (EU), and the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 ended free movement law in the UK on 31 December 2020. On 1 January 2021, a grace period of six-months began, during which time relevant aspects of free movement law have been saved to allow eligible EEA citizens and their family members resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 to apply to the EU settlement scheme. This period ends on 30 June 2021.

We have committed to providing parity between EEA and non-EEA citizens under the new immigration system. All migrants residing and coming to the UK will be required to obtain the correct immigration status, regardless of their nationality. From 1 July 2021, EEA citizens and their family members require UK immigration status to evidence their rights and entitlements in the UK, in the same way as other foreign nationals, such as their right to work or right to rent.

The right to work and right to rent schemes—the schemes—were introduced as part of a suite of measures designed to tackle and deter illegal immigration. They are intended to prevent individuals without lawful immigration status in the UK from taking up employment or accessing accommodation in the private rented sector; and to support efforts to tackle those who exploit vulnerable migrants, often in very poor conditions.

Employers and landlords are required to carry out simple checks, applicable to everyone, including British citizens, to ensure the individual has lawful status in the UK before they employ or let a property to an individual.

Today, I have laid before Parliament the Immigration (Restrictions on Employment and Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) And Licencing Act 2003 (Personal and Premises Licences) (Forms) Order.

The order seeks to amend the schemes’ lists of acceptable documents which demonstrate a right to work or a right to rent, by removing EEA passports and national identity cards. It provides the following additions to the lists: an Irish passport or passport card, frontier worker permit, service provider of Switzerland visa, and documents issued by the Crown dependencies EU settlement schemes.

From 1 July, employers and landlords will undertake right to work and right to rent checks on EEA citizens, who have been issued with digital evidence of their UK immigration status using the Home Office online services. We have already begun this journey, with employers being able to use the online right to work service since January 2019. Since the launch of the optional online right to work service, there have been over 1.3 million views by individuals and over 390,000 views by employers carrying out right to work checks digitally. The online right to rent checking service went live in November 2020, and since then there have been over 36,000 profile views by individuals, and over 6,500 views by landlords carrying out right to rent checks digitally.

The online services make it simpler for employers and landlords to carry out the checks, as they do not need to see or check documents. The checks can be carried out by video call, as the individual’s immigration status information is provided in real time directly from Home Office systems. The service is secure and free to use.

However, we recognise that some individuals are anxious about navigating a digital system. Therefore, users will be supported to adapt through clear guidance, with direct support available for those who are less digitally confident, ensuring they are not disadvantaged due to any inability to access or use digital services, including where they have no access to a device or the internet.

The order also enables employers and landlords to confirm via the Home Office employer or landlord checking service a certificate of application or document issued by the UK, Bailiwick of Jersey or Bailiwick of Guernsey EU settlement schemes, which confirms an outstanding application made by the 30 June deadline. This will ensure that EEA citizens can continue to evidence their eligibility to work and rent until the application is finally determined.

The order also amends the Immigration (Residential Accommodation) (Prescribed Requirements and Codes of Practice) Order 2014 by extending the list of those granted status as a visitor who can prove their right to rent using the combination of a national passport, plus proof of their arrival within the last six months, for example a physical or electronic air/sea/rail ticket or boarding pass, to EEA citizens.

Finally, the order amends and updates the existing statutory codes of practice to reflect these important changes which will improve the operation of the schemes. It also makes consequential amendments to the Licensing Act 2003 (Personal licences) Regulations 2005 and the Licensing Act 2003 (Premises licences and club premises certificates) Regulations 2005, and the Illegal Working Compliance Order Regulations 2016, to align with the changes in this order in relation to right to work check.

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Housing, Communities and Local Government

Liverpool City Council

On 24 March 2021, I announced to the House that I was minded to appoint commissioners to take over functions associated with highways, regeneration and property management, together with associated audit and governance arrangements at Liverpool City Council (“the Authority”). I also announced that I was minded to appoint commissioners to take over functions associated with the appointment and dismissal of statutory officers.

At the same time, I also announced proposals to introduce electoral changes, in particular:

to make an order using my powers in the Local Government Act 2000 to provide for whole council elections in 2023 and every fourth year thereafter; and

to direct the authority to consider and consult upon a new submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England as part of the current boundary review, which includes consideration of a proposal to reduce the number of councillors to those consistent with elections on a single member ward basis, and be approved by the commissioners.

These proposals followed the publication of the independent best value inspection report, led by Max Caller CBE, which concluded that the Authority had failed to comply with its best value duty over a number of years. The Report did not comment on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, on Mayor Steve Rotheram, or on other councils in Merseyside.

The main finding of the Report, as set out in the inspector’s covering letter, is that:

“Liverpool City Council itself, under the officer leadership of Tony Reeves, has started to make some of the improvements necessary. However, the burden of the police investigation, the pandemic, and the legacy of past actions by the Council has prevented speedy progress. At political level, the Council needs a reset, until that happens and the work that is currently being undertaken is continued at pace and embedded, I cannot be confident about continued progress.”

As part of my announcement in March, I invited the Authority to make representations about my proposals on or before 24 May 2021. The Authority and two advocacy groups made representations, as did 13 members of the public. Most representations were supportive of the intervention and the proposal to appoint commissioners. However, a number expressed concern about aspects of the electoral reforms which I had proposed, specifically in relation to the proposal to introduce single member wards and to reduce the number of councillors for the City.

Best value intervention in Liverpool City Council

Following consideration of these representations, and further consideration of the inspector’s report, I have decided to proceed with the proposals that I announced on 24 March, with the following modifications:

The commissioners’ functions relating to the appointment and dismissal of statutory officers are expanded to include the role of assistant director governance, audit and assurance.

This modification is to reflect what was proposed in the inspection report and has been accepted by the Authority;

The direction to the council to consider and consult upon a new submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE), as part of the current boundary review, is clarified to include consideration of a proposal to reduce the number of councillors to those consistent with elections on the basis of predominantly single member wards, that is single member wards across the whole council area save where the LGBCE consider a multi member ward is essential to balance their statutory duties of delivering electoral equality, reflecting interests and identities of local communities, and of promoting effective and convenient local government. This modification is in response to the representations I received; and

As part of my intention to make an order using my powers in the Local Government Act 2000 to achieve the fresh start the Authority requires by providing full council elections from 2023,1 am now setting out my intention that the order specifically provides for:

Liverpool City Council to hold all-out elections every four years from 2023 and to adjust retirement dates for existing councillors accordingly;

Postponement for one year of the May 2022 elections of one third of Liverpool City councillors and extend terms of office accordingly; and

The movement of the next election for Liverpool City’s mayor to 2023 from 2024 and shorten the term of office accordingly.

I am mindful that the lessons from past interventions suggest that once commissioners are in post additional issues can arise. I have therefore asked commissioners to specifically have regard to:

the Council’s LGBCE submission;

the Council’s governance referendum;

the financial position of the Council; and

broader service delivery insofar as they raise concerns for the Council’s wider improvement journey.

I will write to the lead commissioner asking him to provide assurance to me on these issues as well as to work with and support the council to minimise the risk of further intervention.

Rationale for whole council elections in Liverpool City Council

These modifications will help address the inspection report recommendation of ensuring as much stability as possible during a period of significant change. Going forward, the city mayoral and council elections will take place in the same year every four years. The order will be subject to the negative resolution procedure and will be made as soon as practicable and well in advance of the local government elections currently scheduled for 2022. Following the making of the order, the independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England will be able to undertake their electoral review, with its necessary legislation, subject to parliamentary approval.

My decision to make an order providing for Liverpool City Council to have whole council elections reflects not only the recommendations in the best value inspection report but also our past experience of the merits of whole council elections. The absence of such elections is often a consistent feature of underperforming councils and a common thread through many council interventions. I of course recognise that there are many excellent councillors up and down the country performing their duties effectively with elections by thirds or other patterns. But holding elections three years out of four, or every other year, risks creating a culture of perpetual electioneering in a council where there is little focus on the strategic, an inability to address longer-term challenges and leadership which can lack the stability needed for a high performing authority.

In contrast, holding whole council elections every fourth year can facilitate stable, strategic local leadership, delivering a clear programme for which it can be held to account by the electorate, and having the time to tackle some of the longer term issues its communities might face. Whole council elections can thus add a higher degree of accountability, and the stability they can bring can help effective partnership working and give greater confidence to the business community in their dealings with the council. Whole council elections are also more cost effective than holding elections say three years out of four, and hence I am clear they represent better value for money for local taxpayers.

Accordingly, for all these reasons I would like to take this opportunity strongly to urge all those councils still not holding whole council elections to consider using the powers which Parliament has given them to switch to such elections. I believe this could lead to councils providing stronger, more accountable local leadership better able to serve their communities, promote local economic growth, and drive forward the levelling up of opportunity and prosperity across the country. If councils which still elect by thirds or halves now take the opportunity to switch to whole council elections, this could significantly strengthen local government and its ability to serve local people. It is an opportunity I hope all other councils will take in due course.

Appointing commissioners for Liverpool City Council

I have decided to appoint four commissioners forming a team with a proven record in adherence to the rule of law, leadership and delivering cultural change, together with specific expertise relevant to their functions:

Mike Cunningham QPM (Lead Commissioner). Has been involved in policing for more than 30 years, most recently as Chief Executive of the College of Policing from 2018 to 2020, the standards setting body for policing in England and Wales. Formerly one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary, inspecting forces in the north of England and Northern Ireland, and the national lead inspector for the development and implementation of inspections into police efficiency, legitimacy and leadership, and Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police.

Joanna Killian (Local Government Improvement Commissioner). Has more than 30 years of experience in the public sector delivering transformational change and service improvement. Since March 2018 she has been Chief Executive of Surrey County Council. Prior to this Joanna worked at KPMG and was also Chief Executive of Essex County Council for 9 years.

Neil Gibson (Highways Commissioner). Former Executive Director of Transport Economy and Environment for Buckinghamshire County Council, where he also acted for a time as Interim Chief Executive. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and former President of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport.

Deborah McLaughlin (Regeneration Commissioner). Extensive experience working in regeneration and housing for over 30 years across public and private sectors, including as Director of Housing at Manchester City Council, regional director for the North West at Homes England and Director of Capita’s real estate business. Also worked at the Audit Commission as a best value inspector and auditor.

The Commissioners have been appointed for the period from 10 June 2021 to 9 June 2024 or such earlier or later time as I determine. I am clear that the directions should operate for as long, and only as long, and only in the form, as necessary.

I want to be clear that most decisions will continue to be made by the council; the intention being that commissioners will only use their powers as a last resort if they are dissatisfied with the council’s improvement processes.

The Government will continue to work closely with the political, the business and the cultural leadership of the city and with the wider region, including with Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

Conclusion

We will do all that we can to support Liverpool, as it recovers from the covid-19 pandemic, and to give confidence to those who want to invest in the city to contract with the council, and to do business in the city.

I have published the directions and explanatory memorandum associated with this announcement on https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/inspection-into-the-governance-of-liverpool-city-council

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Transport

Rescue Aviation Programme

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency plays a vital role in saving lives, and the Government’s second-generation search and rescue aviation programme called UKSAR2G has now reached a pivotal point. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency announces today the shortlisted companies that will be invited to tender for the provision of the next decade of coastguard aviation.

The UKSAR2G programme will procure services that will provide the next generation of coastguard search and rescue helicopters, planes and remotely piloted drones. New technology will enable the coastguard to find people who need help even more quickly.

Data has been used extensively to enable aviation operators and manufacturers to put forward innovative solutions that meet the complex demands of all the emergency services and the other Government Departments that benefit from coastguard aviation long into the future. The programme will build upon the success of the current contracts which provide search and rescue helicopters and reconnaissance planes.

Like the arrangements it replaces, UKSAR2G will be a pan-Government aviation service that supports not just Her Majesty’s Coastguard, but UK policing in the search for lost and missing people as well as the health services in the transfer of critically ill people between NHS hospitals. This will also continue to support the work of our colleagues in other law enforcement bodies in an even more collaborative fashion than today. The scale of this collaboration is seldom seen in Government procurement. The MCA should be commended for thinking beyond requirements to maximise the value from its investment in aviation services.

The UKSAR2G invitation to tender will be issued today to shortlisted bidders to provide their responses by the end of August 2021. Following negotiation, the MCA expects to award the contract in mid-2022. This will allow time for the successful bidder or bidders to establish operations before commencing service from 2024 for at least 10 years.

Since 2013, the UK search and rescue helicopter service has been delivered by Bristow Helicopters Ltd, with planes being provided by 2Excel. All existing aviation services currently under contract to the MCA will be replaced once the new contract commences.

The transition out from the current contracts will start 30 September 2024 and runs through to 31 December 2026, to guarantee a smooth transition of aviation services.

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