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Written Statements

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 15 March 2022

Written Statements

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Cabinet Office

Infected Blood Compensation Framework

On 20 May 2021, the Government announced the appointment of Sir Robert Francis QC to carry out a study to look at options for a framework for compensation for people infected and affected by infected blood, and it was agreed that the study would report back to the Government before the independent Infected Blood Inquiry reports.

I am pleased to confirm that Sir Robert delivered his report to me on 14 March. Sir Robert completed the comprehensive and detailed study in a timely fashion, and I would like to thank Sir Robert and his team for the careful and sensitive way they have worked. I would also like to thank all those who contributed to the study, sharing their experiences and views with Sir Robert. I know this must have been very difficult for many. I am grateful for their valuable contributions.

I will now carefully consider Sir Robert’s findings and recommendations. It is my intention to publish the study and the Government response, in time for the inquiry and its core participants to consider them before Sir Robert gives evidence to the inquiry. I will write in due course to Sir Brian Langstaff, the chair of the inquiry, about our plans for responding and publication.

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Treasury

Independent Panel on Ring-fencing and Proprietary Trading: Final Report

Today I have laid before Parliament the final report on behalf of the Independent Panel on Ringfencing and Proprietary Trading. In 2020, the Treasury appointed an independent panel1—first to review the operation of the legislation related to ring-fencing; and secondly to review banks’ proprietary trading activities, following a statutory report from the Prudential Regulation Authority published in September 20202. Given the inherent links between the structure of the banking sector and proprietary trading activities, the Treasury appointed a single panel to conduct both reviews.

The ring-fencing regime was introduced in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, following recommendations from the Independent Commission on Banking in 2011, to strengthen the resilience of the UK banking sector. The regime, which came into force in January 2019, separates core retail banking services from investment banking activities, with the aim of protecting depositors from riskier activity conducted outside of the ringfence or in the wider financial system.

Following Brexit, the Government have the opportunity to develop an approach to financial regulation that better suits our markets, while maintaining high standards, fostering competition, and boosting international competitiveness.

The Treasury welcomes the panel’s comprehensive set of recommendations. The Treasury will establish a taskforce with the Bank of England with immediate effect to assess the panel’s recommendations and options for taking them forward and will publish a Government response later this year.

This report is published at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-panel-on-ring-fencing-and-proprietary-trading-final-report and copies are available in the Vote Office.

1 Terms of reference for the Panel’s appointment:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/members-of-the-ring-fencing-and-proprietary-trading-independent-review-panel-announced-and-terms-of-reference-for-the-review-published/independent-reviews-of-ring-fencing-and-proprietary-trading-terms-of-reference

2 https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/prudential-regulation/publication/2020/proprietary-trading-review

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Defence

Visits Abroad: Correction

Today I have made an online correction to parliamentary question 119455 answered on 10 February 2022.

Due to an administrative error incorrect data was reported in relation to my visit to the US in July 2021.

The total cost to the public purse of my overseas accommodation, meals, visas and other expenses excluding travel between 11 and 23 July 2021 was £6,687.68 and not as previously reported £1,766.68. This has now been corrected.

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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

National Lottery Update

The Gambling Commission has today announced the outcome of its competition to run the 4th National Lottery licence, covering the 10-year period from 2024 to 2034. In accordance with relevant legislation, this decision has been made by the Gambling Commission’s Board. DCMS and Ministers have not been involved in the decision-making process.

Today’s announcement marks an important moment in the history of the National Lottery, which has raised over £45 billion for good causes across the United Kingdom since its launch in 1994. The National Lottery has made over 660,000 individual grants to communities and to the arts, heritage and sports sectors. In recent years this included over £1.2 billion to support the UK’s Covid response and recovery.

The 4th National Lottery licence competition was launched by the Gambling Commission in August 2020. Following extensive market engagement, the Commission received four final applications to operate the licence—the highest number since the first licence was awarded in 1994. Following a thorough evaluation process, the Commission has chosen Allwyn Entertainment Ltd. as the preferred applicant to operate the licence and Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd. as the reserve applicant. Pending a legal standstill period, which will last for at least 10 days, Allwyn Entertainment Ltd. will be confirmed as the incoming licensee and will, following the signing of an enabling agreement, work with the Commission to ensure a smooth transition from the 3rd to the 4th licence, which will operate from 1 February 2024. The details of the Commission’s announcement can be found at: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk.

The award of the 4th National Lottery licence is made under provisions in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. That legislation sets out the roles and responsibilities of the Government and the Gambling Commission and gives the Commission the power to award the licence to run the National Lottery. It also enshrines the principles underpinning the UK’s National Lottery: that it be run with due propriety, that the interests of all players be protected and that, within these parameters, returns to good causes are maximised. These principles are at the heart of the 4th licence, which will see operator profits more closely aligned with good causes than under the 3rd licence, while also continuing to hold the operator to account for protecting players and maintaining the highest standards of propriety.

This award does not change the principles governing the distribution of funding to good causes across the UK, which is the responsibility of 12 public bodies acting as National Lottery Distributors, as set out in legislation.

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Home Department

Changes in Immigration Rules

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Priti Patel) is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.

The main changes are as follows:

We have made changes to the immigration rules which will implement the plan for growth measures, including the launch of the new Global Business Mobility route, High Potential Individual (HPI) route and Scale-up route.

The sponsored Global Business Mobility route will simplify the UK immigration offer for business by bringing together, reforming and expanding various business mobility routes. It will provide routes for the following:

Senior executives and specialists undertaking temporary assignments at a UK branch or subsidiary of the business they work for—replacing the intra-company transfer route;

Graduate trainees undertaking a placement in the UK as part of a structured training programme—replacing the intra-company graduate trainee route;

Teams of workers sent to establish a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas business—replacing the sole representative provisions in the representative of an overseas businesses route;

Service suppliers undertaking work covered by one of the UK’s commitments on trade in services—replacing the service supplier provisions in the temporary work international agreement route; and

A brand-new provision for secondments to UK businesses in connection with high value contracts for goods or investment.

The Global Business Mobility route represents a world-leading offer for businesses. For the first time, teams of workers will be able to undertake assignments connected to a business’s expansion to the UK, thereby facilitating inward investment, while the new provision for secondments is a world-first in enabling collaboration between UK and international businesses. These new and reformed routes will make mobility across the UK border as frictionless as possible, while at the same time ensuring international trade serves the interests of British workers and our economy.

Delivering on the Government’s commitment to build back better, we are launching two new immigration routes, the Scale-up and High Potential Individual routes. These routes will provide UK businesses access to a more flexible pool of highly skilled workers.

The Scale-up route recognises the benefits these high-growth businesses offer to the UK and the need to ensure they are fully supported in maintaining this growth at a key time.

Unlike other sponsored routes, the Scale-up route will only require individuals to be sponsored for the initial six months on the route. This will therefore enable UK businesses to compete for the internationally sought after, highly skilled workers they need to take these important high-growth businesses from strength to strength.

To ensure the Scale-up route is an attractive offer for this much sought-after cohort, it will allow for extensions of stay and settlement. To qualify, individuals must demonstrate, through a minimum level of PAYE earnings, they are employed in graduate level occupations.

The new High Potential Individual route will make it as simple as possible for internationally mobile individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK. It will be open to those graduating from top global non-UK universities, who hold a recently awarded degree, equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s or postgraduate degree. It will enable those who have already demonstrated their potential through academic achievement to come to the UK without a prior job offer. This will be a highly selective route with graduates of a limited number of universities eligible. The Home Office will update the list of eligible universities annually. Those granted will be given a two-year work visa—three-year for those with a PhD—and will be permitted to move into other long-term employment routes, subject to meeting the eligibility requirements. This route will support UK employers by enhancing the pool of the highly talented individuals available to UK businesses, by complementing the existing graduate route which allows a period of post-study work for international students graduating from UK universities.

To ensure the Global Talent visa continues to allow those at the very top of their professions a smooth application process, in consultation with our Global Talent endorsing bodies, we have further expanded the list of prestigious prizes which allow applicants to qualify without needing to apply for a separate endorsement decision.

We are also introducing a reformed route for settlement family life. This route applies to partners and parents who must complete a 10-year qualifying period in the UK before qualifying for settlement. People who have a 10-year qualifying period for settlement as a partner or parent begin to qualify for settlement in July 2022—the 10-year route started in July 2012 when Appendix FM was introduced—and the changes ensure they benefit from simplified rules.

We are also introducing a reformed private life route. This route introduces a number of changes for children and young people, including bringing the concession on early settlement, introduced on 20 October 2021, into the rules. It means children and young adults who have spent half their life in the UK can be granted settlement after a five-year qualifying period, rather than 10 years. This allows for a child who was born in the UK and who spent their first seven years here to qualify for immediate settlement. The reformed private life route also clarifies that where an adult has permission on this route, their children born in the UK during the parent’s time on the route can qualify for permission as the parent’s dependants. These rules allow for increased flexibility for applicants to count time on other routes to settlement towards their qualifying period, meaning when a person’s circumstances change their qualifying period for settlement does not have to start again. The changes also ensure an applicant with a criminal conviction resulting in a sentence of 12 months or more cannot qualify for settlement, and they make clear, where a person has breached other suitability rules but nevertheless been granted permission to stay in the UK, they must complete a 10-year qualifying period, and at least five years showing compliance since the breach, before they can qualify for settlement.

The changes to the private life route also aim to ensure applicants on the private life route benefit from simplified rules.

Changes are also being made in respect of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), which enables EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK by the end of the transition period, and their family members and the family members of certain British citizens returning with them from the EEA or Switzerland, to obtain the UK immigration status they need to continue living in the UK. Some changes are also being made in respect of the EUSS family permit, which enables relevant family members to travel to the UK.

In particular, these changes reflect the concession arrangements in place outside the rules for an EUSS family permit to be issued in place of an EEA family permit in certain circumstances. These arrangements reflect the closure of the EEA family permit route after 30 June 2021 and enable those covered by them to apply to the EUSS following their arrival in the UK.

The changes also enable a dual British and EEA citizen who exercised free movement rights in the UK before acquiring British citizenship and who has retained their EEA nationality of origin—known as a “Lounes” dual national, in line with EU case law—to sponsor relevant family members under the EUSS and the EUSS family permit in some additional circumstances. These are where the dual national acquired British citizenship without having met free movement requirements to have held comprehensive sickness insurance in the UK as a student or self-sufficient person.

There are also changes on validity of applications and about variation of applications.

Finally, the seasonal worker route is being expanded to include roles in ornamental horticulture, to support our distinguished flower growers in the UK. A new minimum hourly pay requirement has been added to the route to require that all workers will be paid at least £10.10 per hour. This will be equal to the minimum hourly rate that those applying on the skilled worker route are required to meet to discourage poor conditions often seen in the sector.

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International Trade

Trade Update

On 14 March 2022, the Government announced that they will take action to deny Russia’s entitlement to Most Favoured Nation tariff access to our economy for hundreds of imports, adding a 35-percentage-point tariff increase on £900 million-worth of imported goods from Russia and Belarus, including vodka and antiques—tariffs increasing from 0% to 35%. This is a balanced starting point with room to go further in due course. The UK will also ban exports of luxury goods to Russia in lockstep with our G7 allies. The export ban will affect goods such as luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art.

We want to maximise the harm to the Putin war machine, while minimising the impact on UK businesses, as G7 leaders unite to unleash a fresh wave of economic sanctions on Moscow. In particular, the ban will make sure oligarchs and other members of the elite, who have grown rich under President Putin’s reign and support his illegal invasion, are deprived of access to luxury goods and assets.

Denying Russia access to Most Favoured Nation treatment and applying additional tariffs will restrict Russian imports to the UK. We will target imports from Belarus with the same measures, in line with the evolving sanctions position, and to prevent circumvention of Russian-origin goods. The UK Government reaffirms our commitment to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), working closely with others in taking action to ensure those who do not respect the rules-based international order cannot benefit from it.

These new measures will further tighten the growing economic pressure on Russia and ensure the UK is in line with sanctions imposed by our allies.

Secondary legislation to implement this decision will be laid before Parliament under the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 as soon as possible.

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UK Export Finance Update

The Government are appalled by the unprovoked, barbaric and brutal invasion of Ukraine and will continue to stand strong in supporting Ukraine through both significant economic and humanitarian assistance.

Due to the effects of the Russian aggression, I was advised by UK Export Finance’s (UKEF) Accounting Officer that in his view, the risks involved in the provision of UKEF support in Ukraine no longer met UKEF’s normal underwriting criteria. However, the Government have concluded it is in the national interest for UKEF support to remain available to facilitate the continuation of UK exports to Ukraine. I have, therefore, instructed UKEF to remain open for cover in Ukraine within an overall market appetite of £3.5 billion and to make appropriate arrangements accordingly.

I have also instructed UKEF to cease cover for Russia and Belarus and, as a result, UKEF support for exports to, and investments in, these countries has now been withdrawn.

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Justice

Criminal Legal Aid Proposals

The pandemic has been exceptionally challenging for our justice system. We owe our whole legal profession—solicitors, barristers, chartered institute executives, and judiciary and court staff—a debt of gratitude for keeping the wheels of justice turning over the last two years.

Thanks to their immense efforts, we are making progress in tackling the court backlog, and getting back to a more normal way of working—in the interests of victims, witnesses and the wider public.

As Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, I am committed to making sure our world-class justice system is put on a stable footing for the future, for the benefit of victims, defendants and the whole of society, which is why I am today announcing the launch of the Government’s response to the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review (CLAIR) and the means test review consultation for both criminal and civil legal aid.

I would like to thank Sir Christopher Bellamy for his thorough, invaluable report—along with his panel of experts, and everyone who contributed their views as well as all of those who contributed to the means test review.

These two consultations address the recommendations made by Sir Christopher Bellamy and his advisory panel and the review of the legal aid means test launched in 2019. The Government’s response to CLAIR reflects the whole system approach taken in that review.

My proposals include an uplift of almost all criminal legal aid fees for criminal defence practitioners by 15% as soon as possible. This would inject an additional £115 million p.a. at steady state. A further £20 million p.a. is being held for other proposals including:

a reformed litigators graduated fee scheme which pays solicitors in the Crown court,

investment in work in the youth court, and

grants for training contracts and for solicitor advocates to gain rights of audience in the Crown court to support the sustainability and development of solicitors’ practice.

These proposals bring the total investment to £135 million p.a. at steady state, in line with Sir Christopher’s recommendations.

With the Government’s additional funding to support court recovery, this will take taxpayer funding of criminal legal aid to £1.2 billion p.a., the highest level in a decade.

And, in the short term, our proposed cash injection will give a 15% boost to fees for police station work, magistrates court work, the work of advocates in the Crown court, most of the work of litigators in the Crown court, solicitors in very high cost cases, and some smaller schemes.

CLAIR made a number of recommendations non-fee recommendations about the future of criminal legal aid, and in line with these we are also making proposals including:

to reform fee schemes, so they reflect the way our legal professions work including increased work outside of trials and new practice like pre-recorded evidence;

to explore new ways of delivering remote legal advice in police stations;

to work with the professions and regulators on how, together, we can promote greater diversity across the system—opening up a career in law to anyone with the talent to succeed, regardless of their background;

to establish an advisory board bring together information and real experience from the front line to inform Ministers’ decision making on legal aid policy;

to remove barriers to the work of members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives who do not enter the profession through traditional routes; and,

to support training contracts for criminal solicitors and grants for solicitors to train to represent clients in the Crown courts and above as solicitor advocates.

Investment and reform will make the fee structures better reflect work done and will improve the efficiency of the criminal legal aid system by incentivising early engagement and resolution where appropriate.

They will reinforce a more sustainable market, with publicly funded criminal defence practice seen as a viable, long-term, career choice, attracting the brightest and best from all backgrounds—a pipeline for the judges of tomorrow.

The proposals will put criminal legal aid on a sustainable and stable footing for many years to come—underpinning an effective and robust justice system that will benefit victims of crime, and everyone in our society who relies on it.

On the means test review, I am proposing a wide suite of changes to ensure continued access to justice. These include:

increasing income and capital thresholds for legal aid eligibility, meaning that 3.5 million more people will be eligible for criminal legal aid in the magistrates’ court and 2 million more people will be eligible for civil legal aid;

removing the upper income threshold for legal aid at the Crown court, meaning that all Crown court defendants will be eligible for legal aid;

excluding assets from the means test where they are the subject matter of the case, making it easier for domestic abuse victims to access legal aid;

removing the means test for three areas of civil legal aid: civil representation for under-18s, civil representation for parents or those with parental responsibility facing the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment from their child, and legal help for inquests involving a potential breach of rights under the ECHR (within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998) or where there is likely to be a significant wider public interest in the individual being represented at the inquest.

These measures aim to improve the operation of the whole criminal defence market and the justice system. They are designed to make the criminal justice system more efficient—particularly around new technology—and to make the criminal defence market more sustainable. The consultations will run for 12 weeks, after which the Government will consider responses in detail and formulate our response.

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Outdoor Weddings and Civil Partnerships

On 20 December 2021, the Government launched a public consultation on outdoor weddings and civil partnerships. The consultation sought views on the Government’s proposals to continue to permit outdoor civil marriages and civil partnerships on approved premises, and to permit outdoor religious marriages in the grounds of places of worship. I am writing to inform Members of the publication of the consultation response on outdoor weddings and civil partnerships and laying of the resulting statutory instrument (SI). The consultation sought views on the Government’s proposals to continue to permit outdoor civil marriages and civil partnerships on approved premises, and to permit outdoor religious marriages in the grounds of places of worship.

Since 1 July 2021, couples have been able to have their civil marriage and civil partnership proceedings in the open air, in the grounds of buildings such as stately homes and hotels which are approved or become approved for these civil ceremonies. Previously, these proceedings could only take place indoors or otherwise within permanently immovable structures. These outdoor ceremonies were made possible because the Government laid a temporary SI putting in place these flexibilities, in order to give couples more choice and flexibility in the setting, and to support the wedding and civil partnership sector. However, that SI has effect only until the end of 5 April 2022. The Government are now laying this further SI so that these outdoor civil marriage and civil partnership proceedings can continue indefinitely, thus continuing to offer increased choice and flexibility.

The Government also proposed to extend the policy of permitting outdoor ceremonies to religious marriages in the grounds of places of worship using a separate legislative reform order. This would provide similar choice and flexibility to couples seeking religious weddings and to the religious bodies that solemnise them. The proposals would enable couples to have a greater choice in relation to the location of their ceremonies, and for approved premises and religious bodies to have more flexibility in the locations for ceremonies, should they choose to offer it. No religious group would be obliged to provide outdoor ceremonies, and existing protections to safeguard religious freedoms would remain in place.

The Government have carefully considered all the responses to the consultation. Respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of continuing the provision of outdoor civil marriages and civil partnerships: therefore, the Government are now laying this SI so that these proceedings can continue beyond 5 April 2022 indefinitely.

Respondents were also in favour of the proposal to extend the provision of outdoor ceremonies to religious marriages, on a permissive basis. The Government will therefore take these proposals forward via a separate legislative reform order to be brought before Parliament in due course, as this will require a change to primary legislation to implement.

This reform for continued outdoor ceremonies will act as a stepping stone towards later and more comprehensive and durable reform following the Law Commission’s recommendations, should the Government decide to undertake such reform. The full consultation report, including detailed analysis of responses to individual questions and a list of respondents, is available at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/outdoor-marriages-civil-partnerships/.

The SI has been laid in Parliament today, to come into effect on 6 April therefore ensuring the smooth continued provision of outdoor marriages and civil partnerships beyond the expiry of the previous SI. A copy of the consultation response will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

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