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Written Statements

Volume 698: debated on Wednesday 30 June 2021

Written Statements

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Subsidy Control Bill and Consultation on Subsidy Control

Today the Government have introduced the Subsidy Control Bill and published the Government’s response to the consultation “Subsidy control: designing a new approach for the UK”.

The UK Government have seized the opportunity presented by our exit from the European Union to develop a new, bespoke regime for subsidy control within the UK.

This new regime has been designed to reflect our strategic interests, strengthen our Union and help to drive economic growth and prosperity across the whole of the UK.

The new regime will be flexible, agile, and tailored to support business growth and innovation, as well as help to maintain a competitive free market economy and protect competition and investment in the UK.

Between 3 February and 31 March 2021, the Government held a public consultation on the UK’s future subsidy control proposals. The Government have used responses to the consultation to inform the design to provide a bespoke and dynamic framework, which will:

Empower local authorities, public bodies, and central and devolved Governments to design subsidies that deliver strong benefits for the UK taxpayer.

Enable public authorities to deliver subsidies that are tailored and bespoke for local needs to support the UK’s economic recovery and deliver UK Government priorities such as levelling up, achieving net zero and increasing UK R&D investment.

Provide certainty and confidence to businesses investing in the UK, by protecting against subsidies that risk causing distortive or harmful economic impacts, including to the UK domestic market.

Contribute to meeting the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control, including its international commitments at the World Trade Organisation, in free trade agreements and the Northern Ireland protocol.

The foundation of this new domestic subsidy control regime is a clear, proportionate, and transparent set of principles, underpinned by guidance, that will ensure public authorities fully understand their legal obligations and embed strong value for money and competition principles.

The Government will create streamlined routes to demonstrate compliance for categories of subsidies at low risk of causing market distortions, that promote our strategic policy objectives and that the Government judge to be compliant with the principles of the regime. This will ensure that these authorities are able to deliver these subsidies with minimum bureaucracy and maximum certainty.

In order to protect UK competition and investment and demonstrate where it is proportionate for public authorities to give greater scrutiny to their subsidies, we will create two specific categories of small number of subsidies that may undertake more extensive analysis to assess their compliance with the principles: subsidies of interest and subsidies of particular interest. Criteria for these subsidies will be set out in secondary legislation in due course. We anticipate there will be a very small number of subsidies in each of these categories.

The Bill also establishes an independent body which will be a UK subsidy advice unit in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The subsidy advice unit will have a role in monitoring and overseeing how the regime is working as a whole, as well as conducting a mandatory, non-binding review of public authorities’ assessments for subsidies of interest and subsidies of particular interest. Enforcement will be through the Competition Appeal Tribunal who will hear judicial reviews against subsidy decisions.

The Government have designed a subsidy control scheme that promotes a dynamic market economy throughout the UK and that minimises distortions within the UK. To ensure that this system works for all parts of the UK, the Government have worked closely with the devolved Administrations throughout this process, including meeting the statutory duty to share the consultation response document ahead of publication and consider devolved Administrations’ representations.

The measures in the Subsidy Control Bill strike the right balance between maximising our newfound flexibilities, having left the EU, and providing a consistent framework for all UK public authorities. The Bill will ensure that the UK maintains a competitive, free market economy—which is fundamental to our national prosperity—while protecting the interests of the British taxpayer.

I will lay the Government response to subsidy control consultation before Parliament and will place a copy of the impact assessment in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Health and Social Care

Covid-19: Booster Vaccines

Today the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published interim advice on options for a covid-19 booster vaccination programme for adults this Autumn.

It should be noted that this is interim advice and the JCVI will consider additional scientific data as it becomes available over the next few months ahead of developing its final advice. This includes, but is not limited to, further data on the durability of protection from vaccines beyond six months, and clinical trial data on immune responses following a third vaccination.

In summary, on the basis of current evidence and with the aim of reducing the occurrence of serious covid-19 disease, the JCVI advises the following as the likely shape of the autumn programme.

Any potential booster programme should begin in September 2021, in order to maximise protection in those who are most vulnerable to serious covid-19 ahead of the winter months. Influenza vaccines are also delivered in autumn, and the JCVI considers that, where possible, a synergistic approach to the delivery of covid-19 and influenza vaccination could support delivery and maximise uptake of both vaccines.

Any potential covid-19 booster programme should be offered in two stages.

Stage 1. The following persons should be offered a third dose covid-19 booster vaccine and the annual influenza vaccine, as soon as possible from September 2021:

adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed;

those living in residential care homes for older adults;

all adults aged 70 years or over;

adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable;

frontline health and social care workers.

Stage 2. The following persons should be offered a third dose covid-19 booster vaccine as soon as practicable after stage 1, with equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible:

all adults aged 50 years and over;

adults aged 16 to 49 years who are in an influenza or covid-19 at-risk group (please refer to the green book for details of at-risk groups);

adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

As most younger adults will only receive their second covid-19 vaccine dose in late summer, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later time when more information is available. The initial objective for winter 2021-22 is for persons in booster stages 1 and 2 to receive their influenza and covid-19 vaccines in good time.

Apart from the current UK approved covid-19 vaccines, the UK has placed orders for a range of other covid-19 vaccines, some of which may become available for use in a booster programme.

The JCVI will review the use of these vaccines once they have received UK regulatory approval. Vaccines designed specifically against variants of concern will not be available in time for booster revaccination this autumn. The use of variant vaccines will be considered by the JCVI in due course.

Additional scientific data will become available over the next few months which will require further consideration by the JCVI ahead of any final advice. These include:

further data on the safety and effectiveness of covid-19 vaccines used in the UK and internationally;

clinical trial and real-world effectiveness data on the durability of protection beyond six months;

clinical trial data on immune responses following a third vaccination (booster revaccination);

clinical trial data on reactogenicity and immunogenicity following booster revaccination with the same or alternative covid-19 vaccines;

clinical trial data on other covid-19 vaccines in development;

the emergence of any new variants of concern in the UK or internationally;

data on the duration of immunity following a primary course;

a better understanding of the immune correlates of protection; and

data on the effects of on-going sars-cov-2 circulation in the population and its potential to confer long-term public health benefits.

JCVI note early evidence supports the delivery of both covid-19 and flu vaccines at the same time where appropriate.

Subject to the JCVI’s final advice, we are developing detailed plans for a booster programme. NHS England and NHS Improvement will be asking all local systems to develop detailed plans to ensure they are ready to deliver a booster programme from the start of September in line with this advice, working closely with partners including local authorities and voluntary organisations to ensure equal access and maximise uptake of both covid-19 and influenza vaccines.

All four parts of the UK welcome this interim advice, which will help us ensure we are ready in our preparations for autumn. We look forward to receiving the committee’s final advice in due course.

[HCWS135]

International Trade

Negotiations on Future Trading Relationship with New Zealand

The fifth round of free trade agreement negotiations with New Zealand took place between 8 and 16 June 2021. New Zealand’s Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor also visited the UK from 16 to 18 June for face-to-face talks. Both countries have agreed to accelerate negotiations to finalise the details of the deal with the aim of reaching agreement in principle.

Both countries are committed to agreeing a high-quality, comprehensive free trade agreement that supports jobs, broadens consumer choice, and provides more opportunities in key industries such as services, digital trade, and the green economy.

Strong progress was made in agreeing key issues across the deal including provisionally closing a further four chapters:

Government procurement chapter, which improves small medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs’) access to procurement and the integrity of supply chains.

Disputes chapter, which establishes mechanisms to promote and enforce compliance with the agreement and ensures that state-to-state disputes are dealt with consistently, fairly and in a cost-effective, transparent, and timely manner. It gives businesses and stakeholders certainty that the obligations under this agreement will be upheld.

Transparency chapter, which underscores the rule of law as the major cornerstone of good governance, outlining agreed expectations for the UK and New Zealand to be transparent, open, and accessible to UK businesses, with respect to this trade agreement and their respective regulatory environments.

Trade and gender equality chapter, which recognises that women are underrepresented in international trade, and aims to support women exporters, business owners, and entrepreneurs to participate in global trade.

Excellent progress was also made during round 5 on the following chapters, which the UK and New Zealand agree now have a clear path to closure:

Rules of origin

Goods

Cross-border trade in services

Customs

Digital

Telecoms

State-owned enterprises

Consumer protection

Good regulatory practice

Labour

Development

Anti-corruption

Initial and final provisions

General exceptions

Institutional provisions

In previous rounds, chapters on SMEs, competition and remedies were provisionally closed.

The Government have been clear that any future deal with New Zealand must work for UK consumers, producers, and companies. Throughout the process the UK will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure their views inform our approach to negotiations.

Any deal the UK agrees will be fair and balanced and in the best interests of the whole of the country. We remain committed to upholding our high environmental, labour, food safety and animal welfare standards in the deal, as well as protecting the national health service (NHS).

The UK and New Zealand both remain eager to make further progress, with the UK clear that momentum needs to be maintained across the whole agreement. Ahead of the next round, negotiating teams will share further proposals and discuss a range of issues.

The next round of negotiations, round 6, is scheduled to take place in July, with a series of intersessional discussions across the FTA planned for the next month.

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UK Steel Industry

The Government are announcing today that it will make new regulations to help defend the UK steel industry.

The move follows a review by the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) last year on defensive tariff rate quotas (TRQs) on 19 categories of steel imports retained from when the UK was a member of the European Union.

This review concluded that TRQs should be extended in 10 of the categories and revoked in nine others.

Current legislation means that the Government only have two choices: either to accept the TRA recommendation in full or reject it entirely—leaving all 19 categories of UK steel products at risk from tariff-free imports.

The Government have accepted the TRA’s recommendation to maintain the safeguard on 10 steel product categories for a further three years. The Government are at the same time making new regulations to further defend the UK steel industry by extending the safeguard by public notice. The public notice will set out the details of the temporary extension on a further five of the 19 steel products for one year. Imports outside the quotas will face a tariff of 25%.

The UK Government will always do everything in their power to defend UK industry and jobs and to allow our world-leading manufacturers to compete on a level playing field. Current disruption to industry caused by the covid-19 pandemic, threats of dumping and unfair subsidies, and continued trade restrictions in third countries all put UK steel products at an unacceptable disadvantage.

The steel sector supports the jobs of over 80,000 people across the UK, including some 35,000 well-paid jobs in steel production, and a further 44,000 jobs supported in wider supply chains.

That is why the Government are taking decisive action today by making new regulations to defend jobs in the UK steel industry. This will give an opportunity for the industry to appeal the recommendation made by the TRA so any new evidence can be reviewed in the context of the unique global market conditions which currently prevail.

This includes assessing the risk of injury arising from the EU safeguard which was published after the TRA made their decision.

It is important to note that the ability of industry to gather the data and the TRA to consider the evidence was extremely challenging given the unprecedented disruption to trade caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

The UK Government will also review the trade remedies framework as an urgent priority. The trade remedies framework was first introduced in 2018 under the previous Government. The current Government will review it to ensure it is up to date, champions WTO rules and is fit for purpose in the post-covid world.

It is crucial we have the tools in the future to ensure industries are defended against unfair competition and unforeseen surges in imports.

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