Thursday 21 October 2021
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Development Consent Application under Planning Act 2008: AQUIND Ltd
This statement concerns an application for development consent made under the Planning Act 2008 by AQUIND Ltd for the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of the UK elements of a 2,000MW bi-directional subsea electrical power interconnector between Normandy in France and Lovedean in Hampshire.
Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of the receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) of the Act to set a new deadline. Where a new deadline is set, the Secretary of State must make a statement to Parliament to announce it. The original deadline for the decision on the AQUIND interconnector application was 8 September 2021. This deadline was previously extended to 21 October 2021.
I have decided to set a new deadline of no later than 21 January 2022 for deciding this application. Following receipt of the report from the examining authority, I required clarification from the applicant on several issues. Interested parties were given the opportunity to comment on the applicant’s response. I have decided that further work is necessary to consider the application in detail including whether further information is required, and this requires an extension to the deadline.
The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.
Public Appointments Data Report 2021
My noble Friend, the Minister of State in the Cabinet Office, Lord True CBE, has today made the following written statement:
I am pleased to announce the publication of the public appointments data report 2021 and will today be depositing a copy in the Libraries of both Houses.
The public appointments data report provides a breakdown of the diversity of public appointees who were in roles covered by the governance code on public appointments on 31 March 2021, and those appointed to such roles between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. The latter data is a subset of the information published in the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ annual report.
Service Complaints Ombudsman Annual Report 2020
The MOD’S formal response to the Service Complaints Ombudsman’s (SCO) annual report for 2020 on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system has today been placed in the Library of the House.
The ombudsman’s report assessed the fifth year of operation of the reformed service complaints system which was implemented on 1 January 2016 and the work of her office in 2020. The response sets out MOD’s comments and approach to each of the ombudsman’s observations that she has made and includes a summary of our position on recommendations made in previous annual reports.
The MOD values the strong independent oversight that the ombudsman brings to the service complaints process, and remains committed to having a system in which our personnel can have confidence. This will include progressing outstanding recommendations and observations, together with improvements identified in Air Marshal Wigston’s report in April 2019 on inappropriate behaviours.
Sir Richard Henriques Review
It is vital for UK Defence that our service justice system has the most up-to-date framework, skills and processes in place to deal with all allegations of offending. At the heart of the service justice system must be robust, independent, and trusted investigation processes that have the confidence of service personnel and the international community. It is for this reason, that on 13 October 2020, I announced a review by Sir Richard Henriques to examine investigative and prosecutorial processes for dealing with allegations of offences on overseas operations and improve the quality of investigations and their outcomes.
The review was to build upon but not reopen the recommendations of the service justice system review by HH Shaun Lyons and Sir Jon Murphy. The review was to be forward looking and, whilst drawing on insights from the handling of allegations from recent operations, was not to reconsider past investigative or prosecutorial decisions or reopen historical cases.
I am pleased today to publish that report. I am very grateful for the comprehensive and considered work Sir Richard has undertaken and I particularly welcome his recognition of the need for a separate system of military justice. With the improvements which will flow from his recommendations we can be confident it will be a more efficient and effective system for the accused and for victims.
Sir Richard’s report contains 64 recommendations, approximately a third of which are focused on taking forward the establishment of a defence serious crime unit, which was originally proposed in the earlier Lyons/Murphy review of the service justice system. There are also operations-related recommendations (improved training, detention processes and record-keeping), recommendations for non-statutory protocols between the service police, the Service Prosecuting Authority and the judge advocate general relating to the investigation of allegations against UK forces of unlawful killing and ill-treatment in the context of overseas operations, recommendations for improving the technical/IT systems supporting the service courts, and recommendations relating to summary hearings. I particularly welcome Sir Richard’s support of the provisions in the current Armed Forces Bill to retain concurrent jurisdiction, and that the creation of the defence serious crime unit will help drive up conviction rates for serious offences.
We have considered Sir Richard’s recommendations carefully, and will be taking forward the work in the following ways:
The new defence serious crime unit is key to meeting our commitment to further strengthen the service justice system. The defence serious crime unit will brigade the investigative capability for serious offending of the existing three service police forces. Under the leadership of a new provost marshal for serious crime, it will be instrumental in ensuring our service police are fully capable of meeting the challenges faced by the service justice system now and in the years ahead. I have therefore prioritised this work. The Government will be bringing forward amendments to the Armed Forces Bill to implement the recommendations on this topic which require primary legislation at this stage. These amendments will ensure that the new provost marshal will have all of the legal powers and responsibilities of the existing provost marshals; and in particular, that the new provost marshal will be responsible for guaranteeing the independence of investigations conducted by the new unit.
In respect of the recommendations which draw on the work of former judge advocate general His Honour Jeffrey Blackett and Lord Thomas of Gresford for the creation of a non-statutory protocol about the handling of serious allegations arising in the context of overseas operations, the Government believe these are matters for the independent service police, the Service Prosecuting Authority and the judge advocate general to consider in the first instance.
Work on implementing four other recommendations is also expected to be taken forward over the coming months. These will amend standard operating procedures to ensure that service police are informed with minimum delay of reportable offences, establish a serious incident board within the permanent joint headquarters, create or upgrade an operational record keeping system, and adopt a uniform approach in respect of training of service legal personnel prior to their posting to the Service Prosecuting Authority.
The remaining recommendations including legal support to personnel, improved technology/IT for the service courts and improvements to the summary hearing process, raise wider implications relating to policy, legal and resourcing issues. Those will be considered further by the Department over the coming months. The goal will be to ensure that the recommendations dovetail with our overarching intent to maintain operational effectiveness, including the swift delivery of fair and efficient justice for victims and offenders. Where appropriate and necessary, legislation will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows. I will update the House in due course.
I am confident that this review—along with the earlier service justice system review—sets out a template for the service justice system for the future. As I have set out above, where possible we are seeking to implement the most important of the recommendations as quickly as possible; and we are committing to progress the rest in the way I have described. The Government believe that the recommendations by Sir Richard will significantly improve the quality of investigations, will be fully compliant with the requirements in the European convention on human rights and will help improve service to victims of crime within the forces.
A copy of Sir Richard’s report will be placed in the Library of the House.
Higher Education Student Finance
I am announcing details of student finance arrangements for higher education students undertaking a course of study in the 2022-23 academic year starting on 1 August 2022.
The Government announced in the “Interim Conclusion of the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding” in January that maximum tuition fees would be frozen for a further academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of higher education under control.
I can confirm today that maximum tuition fees for the 2022-23 academic year in England will be maintained at the levels that apply in the 2021-22 academic year, the fifth year in succession that fees have been frozen. This means that the maximum level of tuition fees for a standard full-time course will remain at £9,250 for the 2022-23 academic year.
Maximum undergraduate loans for living costs will be increased by forecast inflation (2.3%) in 2022-23. And the same increase will apply to maximum disabled students’ allowance for students with disabilities undertaking full-time and part-time undergraduate courses in 2022-23. Maximum grants for students with child or adult dependants who are attending full-time undergraduate courses will also increase by forecast inflation in 2022-23.
We are also increasing support for students undertaking postgraduate courses in 2022-23. Maximum loans for students starting master’s degree and doctoral degree courses from 1 August 2022 onwards will be increased by forecast inflation (2.3%) in 2022-23. And the same increase will apply to the maximum disabled students’ allowance for postgraduate students with disabilities in 2022-23.
I am confirming today that current and former employees of the UK Government and their family members that have been relocated from Afghanistan to the UK under the Home Office’s relocation and assistance scheme will qualify for student support and home fee status in relation to new higher education courses from 1 August 2022 onwards if they have been resident in the UK and islands since the grant of such leave. They will also qualify for advanced learner loans for further education courses. Students who are in this category will not need to demonstrate three years’ ordinary residence in the UK and islands before the start of a course.
I am also confirming today that home fee status and tuition fee loans will be extended to the family members of all persons settled in the UK, subject to three years residence in the UK and islands immediately before the start of the course. Currently only the family members of UK nationals are eligible under this residency category.
I am announcing today that persons who have settled status on arrival in the UK, who come to the UK from specified British overseas territories and who are starting full-time and part-time undergraduate courses in 2022-23 will be eligible for tuition fee loans. To qualify, persons resident in the British overseas territories will need to satisfy the three-year ordinary residence requirement in the UK, islands or specified British overseas territories. Eligible persons in Gibraltar may continue to satisfy the three-year ordinary residence requirement in the UK, Gibraltar, the EEA or Switzerland to qualify for student support for courses starting on or before 31 December 2027.
UK nationals and their family members in the British overseas territories already benefit from access to home fee status if they meet the residency requirement of three years in the UK, islands and British overseas territories immediately before the start of the course. Family members of all persons settled when in the UK will now have access to home fee status.
Corresponding changes will be made in respect of students in the above categories who are starting postgraduate master’s degree courses and postgraduate doctoral degree courses in 2022-23 who will qualify for postgraduate loans and those starting further education courses in 2022-23 who will qualify for advanced learner loans.
The changes set out above demonstrate our commitment to supporting economic development in the British overseas territories and enabling those who wish to study at one of our world-class education providers to be able to do so.
Further details of the student support package for 2022-23 are set out in the document available as an attachment online: https://questions-statements.parliament. uk/written-statements/detail/2021-10-21/HCWS339.
I expect to lay regulations implementing changes to student finance for undergraduates and postgraduates for 2022-23 in November. These regulations will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
The Government continue to consider the recommendations made by the Augar panel carefully. We plan to set out a full response to the review of post-18 education and funding in due course.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (1 June 2021 to 31 August 2021)
Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
TPIM notices in force (as of 31 August 2021) 5 Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period) 1 TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 31 August 2021) 5 TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period) 0 TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period) 1 TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period) 0 Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period) 4 Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period) 1 The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period) 3
TPIM notices in force (as of 31 August 2021)
Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period)
TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 31 August 2021)
TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)
Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)
Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)
The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period)
On 2 June 2021 a former TPIM subject was sentenced to an 18 month community order having pleaded guilty to a breach of the association measure of the TPIM notice.
The TPIM review group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. Second quarter TRG meetings were held throughout September 2021.
Response to Trade and Agriculture Commission Report and Launch of New TAC
In July 2020 the Government established a Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) to advise the Government on trade policies that will secure opportunities for UK farmers while ensuring the sector remains competitive and making sure that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined. The TAC fulfilled its remit and reported in March 2021. Today, the Government have published a response to the TAC’s advisory report, having carefully considered the recommendations detailed within it.
The Government recognise the key principles behind these recommendations which have been instrumental in establishing an ambitious framework for our trade policy development. Our bold approach will deliver world-class trade deals while protecting our domestic interests.
The response outlines a commitment to maintaining high animal welfare and environmental standards for future trade agreements. The UK will continue to use its influence in the international sphere to push for improved environmental and animal welfare, food safety, human rights and labour standards.
The Government’s response builds on the steps already taken to deliver for UK farmers, food producers and consumers as an independent trading nation. Earlier this year, the highly successful Open Doors campaign was launched to help the industry seize new opportunities through trade agreements with priority markets.
The Government are also pleased to announce the launch of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, chaired by Professor Lorand Bartels. As an international trade lawyer and academic, Professor Bartels will bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the role. The new commission will fulfil a different purpose to that of the original TAC, in line with the provisions debated and agreed by Parliament during the passage of the Trade Act 2021. The new TAC will bring together experts in a number of relevant fields such as animal and plant health, animal welfare, the environment and trade policy. It will scrutinise the UK’s new free trade agreements and assess whether they are consistent with the maintenance of UK levels of statutory protection in relation to: animal and plant health; animal welfare; and the environment. Its reports will be published and will make a vital contribution to Parliament’s understanding of the UK’s new trade agreements, helping to ensure effective scrutiny and demonstrating the Government’s commitment to transparency.
A copy of the Government’s response to the original Trade and Agriculture Commission report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and has been published on gov.uk.
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Reformed Annual Electoral Registration Canvas
In 2020, the Government brought in changes to the way in which the annual electoral registration canvass is conducted, streamlining a previously outdated and cumbersome process. Reform of the annual canvass is part of the Government’s drive to create a more efficient registration system; make the process clear and simple for citizens; and give electoral registration officers (EROs) more discretion, while maintaining completeness and accuracy of the registers.
The success of the canvass reform is clearly demonstrated by research conducted by the Cabinet Office, which I have today published on gov.uk and deposited in the Library of both Houses. As part of the modern electoral registration programme, the first stage of evaluation of the reformed annual canvass was conducted in 2020 and 2021 through surveys and interviews with EROs and electoral administrators. This research focused in particular on citizen and ERO experiences of the canvass, as well as giving some indication of the impact of canvass reform on completeness and accuracy of the register, and efficiencies in the registration system.
This research clearly shows a major improvement over the pre-reform canvass, with an increase across the board in satisfaction of EROs and administrators in the reformed system, and largely positive impressions from participants regarding the changed processes.
This improvement in satisfaction demonstrates how the Government successfully work with the electoral sector to develop effective policies, and also support the sector with implementation of a programme of change.
The Government worked closely with stakeholders in the electoral sector during the development and implementation of this change, but while reform was welcomed by electoral administrators and the Electoral Commission, it also faced opposition, with some claiming the changes would disenfranchise some electors. These fears have proven to be unfounded, as is often the case with changes to electoral systems.
I note that concerns were previously expressed around the Government’s introduction of individual electoral registration in 2014, and with the decision to hold polls earlier this year during the covid-19 pandemic; both of which subsequently proved successful. Evidence has shown that the individual system drives up registration figures and enhances the accuracy of the registers, and the independent Electoral Commission’s evaluation of the May 21 polls showed that people had high levels of satisfaction with the polls and that the challenges of covid-19 did not stop voters taking part.
Along with the previous introduction of individual electoral registration and the measures in the Elections Bill, this reform of the annual canvass is a further example of the improvements that the Government are making to registration and elections in the UK. This Government are committed to ensuring our democracy is secure, fair, modern and transparent and our electoral system is kept up to date for our age.
Intergovernmental Relations Quarterly Report
Today the UK Government published the second quarterly report of our engagement with the devolved Administrations on the gov.uk page for intergovernmental relations (IGR). This report has also been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The report aims to be useful, accessible, and engaging to a broad audience, recognising the public interest in how the UK Government and the devolved Administrations work together to deliver outcomes for all citizens across the UK. It reflects the Government’s continued commitment to increased transparency of IGR and effective scrutiny of the UK Government’s role in intergovernmental meetings.
Our second quarterly report on IGR provides information on intergovernmental meetings across the UK Government with counterparts in the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive between 1 March and 30 June 2021. It covers an important period of ministerial engagement following the parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales, and continued joint working as we focus on the UK’s covid-19 response and recovery.
I have been asked by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State to make this written ministerial statement. This statement confirms that it has been necessary to extend the deadlines for decisions on the following two applications made under the Planning Act as indicated below to allow for further consideration of environmental matters:
M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley interchange: for the proposed development by National Highways which would authorise a number of improvements to the junction between the M25 and the A3. The Secretary of State received the Examining Authority’s report on 12 October 2020 and the current deadline for a decision was 12 November, having been extended from 12 January 2021 to 12 May 2021 and then to 12 November 2021. The deadline is now extended to 12 May 2022;
M54 to M6 link road: for the proposed development by National Highways which would authorise a link road between junction 1 of the M54, junction 11 of the M6 and the A460 to Cannock. The Secretary of State received the Examining Authority’s report on 21 July 2020 and the current deadline for a decision was 21 October 2021. The deadline is now extended to 21 April 2022.
Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within three months of receipt of the Examining Authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a statement to the Houses of Parliament announcing the new deadline.
The Department will also endeavour to issue decisions ahead of the deadlines above wherever possible.
The decision to set new deadlines is without prejudice to the decisions on whether to give development consent for the above applications.
Work and Pensions
Expanding Our Services Update
On 23 March 2021, I outlined how, as part of the Government’s commitment to support people back into work, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was expanding its services by introducing additional temporary jobcentres. This expansion of DWP estates is supporting our comprehensive £30 billion Plan for Jobs, helping people back into employment across Great Britain.
As of March 2021, DWP had secured 80 additional temporary jobcentres. This number has now risen to 177. DWP has been opening these temporary jobcentres to the public gradually over the past few months and I am pleased to announce that, on 7 October, Maidstone became the 100th additional jobcentre to open to the public.
These additional, temporary, jobcentres enable DWP to continue to provide the tailored support that claimants need to get back into and progress in work. They also provide space for the 13,500+ new work coaches we have recruited since March 2020.
These new sites provide a high-quality, modern, accessible and digitally enabled environment for both colleagues and customers. Furthermore, as part of our design requirements, we are aiming to reduce the environmental impact per site, for example, by increasing the energy performance certificate rating across sites.
They will enable many more customers to be supported, with work coaches often working with employers directly and using the new premises to hold job fairs which local employers attend.
To highlight just one example, the temporary site in Barking opened in July 2021 and so far the site has hosted over 30 employer events attended by 173 employers conducting over 1000 interviews. This has resulted in 424 successful job outcomes to date, in a range of job sectors, changing the lives of some of our most vulnerable customers.
As the economy recovers we will look to close these temporary sites to ensure that we balance providing essential services for our customers with value for money for the taxpayer. If any of the new sites offer better, more suitable, accommodation than our existing offices we may look to retain them instead and I will update the House accordingly.
DWP continues to update the list of temporary jobcentres regularly on gov.uk and notified MPs of new openings and additional services which cover their constituencies including our new youth hubs.