Tuesday 19 April 2022
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
UK Green Infrastructure Platform
I can today inform the House that UK Green Infrastructure Platform Ltd (UKGIP) is being wound up, via a members’ voluntary liquidation, having fulfilled its objectives to own and manage the five assets retained following the sale of the UK Green Investment Bank and to enhance and realise value through their sale.
UKGIP, a private limited company, was established in 2017 to manage the Government’s interests in the unsold assets from the Green Investment Bank. It was 90% owned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. UK Green Investment Bank Ltd (UKGIB), which is wholly owned by Macquarie, held the remaining 10% shareholding in UKGIP.
Call-out Order: Illegal Entry into the UK
A new order has been made under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable Reservists to be called into permanent service to prepare for, participate in, or support operations by Her Majesty’s forces to counter illegal entries into the United Kingdom.
The Ministry of Defence is regularly tasked to support broader HMG objectives. As part of this support, reserve forces will be on standby, as part of a whole force approach with regular forces, to deliver a range of Defence outputs such as—but not limited to—the reinforcement of regular units, provision of specialist knowledge, skills and experience, and support to partners across Government.
The order shall take effect from the day on which it is made and shall cease to have effect 12 months from the date on which it is made.
Small Boats Migration
The Prime Minister announced on 14 April 2022 that the Ministry of Defence has commenced primacy for this Government’s operational response to small boat migration in the English channel. This follows months of close collaboration between Departments and partners to establish operational plans and detailed working arrangements. The details for Operation ISOTROPE—including responsibilities, governance and financial arrangements—have been agreed with the Home Office and will operate until 31 January 2023. This surge in Defence support will assist the Border Force in optimising existing processes, assets and expertise to bring small boat numbers under manageable levels, enabling continued public confidence in this Government’s response during a particularly challenging period.
Operation ISOTROPE will respond to the circumstances of attempted migrant flows in the months ahead. Initially, the Government have provided Defence with an additional £50 million of funding which will be used to enhance a number of surface and surveillance capabilities and optimise existing process and infrastructure. This will enable the MOD to monitor and manage migrants attempting this perilous journey and, alongside the Border Force, ensure that those arriving on UK shores do so safely and can then be passed promptly into the Home Office immigration system for appropriate processing. Overall responsibility for managing borders and immigration is not impacted by this announcement and remains with the Home Office.
Further Education Capital Transformation
My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education (Baroness Barran) made the following written statement on 4 April 2022.
I am pleased to announce the outcome of the bidding round for the further education capital transformation programme (FECTP). The bidding was open to all FE colleges and designated institutions, and 62 FE colleges across England have been successful.
The successful colleges have been offered grants, for 78 projects to upgrade buildings and transform campuses, helping to level up opportunities for more people. The total value of the funding from this round is up to £405 million, and colleges will also make a match funding contribution to their projects.
The FE capital transformation programme delivers the Government’s £1.5 billion commitment to upgrade the estate of FE colleges and designated institutions in England, promoting parity of esteem between FE and other routes. Improving the condition of FE colleges is important in ensuring students have the opportunity to develop skills in high-quality buildings and facilities, and in addressing skills gaps in local economies.
In September 2020, £200 million was allocated to FE colleges and designated institutions to undertake urgent remedial condition improvement works and to provide a boost to the economy and the education system.
In April 2021, we announced our plans to work in partnership with 16 colleges to upgrade some of the worst condition sites in England. We have worked with these colleges to develop their plans further and to manage procurement of their projects, with construction work now beginning.
This investment should be seen in the wider context of our reforms to further education, as set out in the White Paper “Skills for Jobs Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/skills-for-jobs-lifelong-learning-for-opportunity-and-growth and our plans to spread opportunity more equally across the UK, as set out in the Levelling Up White Paper https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/levelling-up-the-united-kingdom.
The successful colleges are listed online via this link: www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-education-capital-transformation-fund-stage-2-successful-applicants
Attachments can be viewed online at:
Canada Trade Negotiations
The first round of UK-Canada free trade agreement negotiations began on 28 March and concluded on 1 April. A delegation of 27 Canadian officials undertook technical talks in London with a further 133 joining the talks virtually.
During this first round, talks focused on reviewing the current trade agreement, sharing recent policy developments in the UK and Canada, and building a shared understanding of each other’s overall positions in every area expected to be covered in the new free trade agreement. Technical discussions were held across 34 policy areas over 50 separate sessions.
Both countries share a strong desire to secure an ambitious, modern and comprehensive deal that goes further than the existing trade continuity agreement, removing existing trade barriers and creating new opportunities for business in the UK and Canada. The negotiations are a key opportunity to deepen UK-Canada trade, already worth £20 billion, and to work with a like-minded partner on a range of inclusive and future facing trade policy such as supporting women’s economic empowerment, SMEs, innovation, climate and environment.
The second round of official level negotiations is due to take place in June 2022.
We remain clear that any deal the Government strike must be in the best interests of the British people and the economy.
The Government will keep Parliament updated as these negotiations progress.
Local Transport Funding
My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) made the following ministerial statement on 4 April.
Today I can update the House on three major transport investments we are making across England over the coming months, marking a significant milestone in our mission to deliver cheaper and better transport services across the country.
In our national bus strategy “Bus Back Better” published last year, we set out our plan to delivery better and cheaper bus services for passengers. The strategy acknowledged that while there are pockets of good bus performance outside London, far too many places still do not get the same service levels seen in the capital.
Today's announcements, along with the funding of zero emission buses, and the bus elements of the increased city region sustainable transport settlements, form part of the £3 billion for bus transformation announced in 2020. £2 billion has also been paid to bus operators to support services during the pandemic.
We have now chosen a total of 31 counties, city regions and unitary authorities to receive this funding to level up their local bus services.
Our investment will reduce fares, support the cost of living, and create new jobs for people by enhancing bus services and lowering the cost of travel. It will make a significant contribution to our levelling-up mission to bring local public transport connectivity across the country significantly closer to the standards of London.
Including earlier awards, this new funding means that just under two-thirds of England's population outside London will be benefiting from new investment in their bus services.
The successful areas have been chosen because of their ambition to repeat the success achieved in London—which drove up bus usage and made the bus a natural choice for everyone, not just those without cars. As the Government stated in “Bus Back Better” areas not showing sufficient ambition, including for improvements to bus priority, would not be funded.
We will be writing to all local transport authorities to advise them of the outcome of their proposals and will be offering practical support to those authorities that are not receiving funding on this occasion, as there is still a lot that can be done to level up local bus services and grow bus usage.
As confirmed at the 2021 spending review and Budget, we are investing a total of £5.7 billion to improve local rail networks, tram services, and buses in city regions across England.
The city region sustainable transport settlements are multi-year capital funding settlements to improve the local transport networks of eight city regions across England through five-year settlements from 2022-23. This combines new and existing funds, including highways maintenance, integrated transport block and final year transforming cities fund.
Following the assessment of their business cases, the Government have now confirmed their final settlements. Further work to finalise the full range of schemes to be delivered through these settlements will now take place over the coming months.
This unprecedented investment provides areas with long-term funding certainty to design and deliver transformational programmes.
The money will help deliver, among other things, a new mass transit network in West Yorkshire, major improvements to rail services in the Tees Valley, next generation Metrolink tram-train vehicles in Greater Manchester, the renewal of Supertram in South Yorkshire and bus rapid transit corridors in the West Midlands. Letters have been sent to the metro Mayors outlining the funding.
City regions benefiting from confirmation of the multibillion-pound transport investment are Greater Manchester (£1.07 billion), West Yorkshire (£830 million), South Yorkshire (£570 million), West Midlands (£1.05 billion), Tees Valley (£310 million), West of England (£540 million) and Liverpool City Region (£710 million). The North East will be eligible to access its share of the funding once appropriate governance is in place but will continue to receive funding in 2022-23 for highways maintenance, integrated transport block and final year of transforming cities fund.
Finally, as I previously updated the House on 1 March, the Government can now announce that light rail services in the midlands and north will receive over £37 million to support their continued operation and provide local areas time to adapt their systems to new post-pandemic travel patterns. This funding will support the Nottingham, Tyne and Wear, Manchester, Sheffield and West Midlands tram and light rail systems, and this brings the total amount provided to the bus and light rail sector over the next six months to £183.9 million.
Portishead Branch Line: MetroWest Phase 1 Development Consent Order Application
I have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Grant Shapps) to make this written ministerial statement. This statement concerns the application made by North Somerset District Council under the Planning Act 2008 for the construction of a new railway on the track-bed on the former branch line from Bristol to Portishead.
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 House of Parliament announcing the new deadline.
The Secretary of State received the Examining Authority’s report on the Portishead branch line-MetroWest phase 1 development consent order application on 19 July 2021 and, following an earlier extension of four months to allow further consideration of environmental matters, the current deadline for a decision is 19 April 2022.
The deadline for the decision is now to be extended to 19 February 2023—an extension of seven months—to allow North Somerset District Council further time to demonstrate that funding for the entire scheme has been secured.
The decision to set the new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent for the above application.
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
UK Shared Prosperity Fund
Last week, my Department announced the launch of the £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund, publishing a prospectus that sets out the fund’s objectives, priorities and local allocations, as well as how the fund will be delivered. This starts the process of places across the country developing local plans to deliver the fund.
It represents the culmination of concerted effort and joint working across Government, with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and local partners across the UK. It is a key component on our journey to transform the country, set out in the Levelling Up White Paper, and our central mission to level up and spread opportunity and prosperity to all of our communities.
We are investing in domestic priorities and targeting funding where it is needed most: building pride in place; supporting high quality skills training; supporting pay, employment and productivity growth; and increasing life chances.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a marked shift from the EU structural funds it succeeds. Under the EU, organisations had to go through a lengthy application process. Indeed, the process between first application and approval could easily exceed 12 months. The UK employed hundreds of civil servants to facilitate this, with projects only getting paid in arrears. The EU had strict, rigid requirements on what money could and could not be spent on, but our approach is much more flexible, empowering local people who know best.
In contrast, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund provides a three-year allocation to local authorities, with the goal of approving investment plans within three months. The fund will be much more flexible and locally led, freeing communities from the bureaucratic, rigid and complex processes of the EU structural funds. Bureaucracy will be slashed, and there will be far more discretion over what money is spent on. EU requirements for match funding, which impacted poorer places, will be abolished.
Instead of regional agencies, funding decisions will be made by elected leaders in local government, with input from local Members of Parliament and local businesses and voluntary groups. The fund will lead to visible, tangible improvements to the places where people work and live, alongside real investment in people’s skills, giving communities up and down the UK more reasons to be proud of their area.
All areas of the UK are receiving an allocation from the fund, with even the smallest places receiving at least £1 million, recognising that even the most affluent parts of the UK contain pockets of deprivation and need support. Funding will also match in real terms what was previously spent through the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each Local Enterprise Partnership area of England, meeting the UK Government’s commitment to match EU funding. We are ramping up UK Shared Prosperity Fund funding as EU funds tail off, and when that funding ends, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will match the annual average spending of EU funds, reaching around £1.5 billion per year, which is more generous than the average EU funding budget, which is around £1.3 billion average per year.
As funding is confirmed for three financial years—2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25—this will facilitate places’ planning and allow the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to act as a predictable baseline element of local growth funding. It comes alongside other funding to level up the UK, including the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund and £150 million Community Ownership Fund, and builds on the £200 million for UK Community Renewal Fund projects that we announced last year.
A key part of the fund is Multiply, the adult numeracy programme. With up to £559 million in funding available, this programme will offer local and national support for people to improve their numeracy skills—equipping adults across the UK with the skills they need to progress in life. It is being led by the Department for Education in England and funding will be distributed to the Greater London Authority, all Mayoral Combined Authorities, and upper tier/unitary authorities outside of these areas in England. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Multiply will be delivered alongside wider programmes of UK Shared Prosperity Fund activity.
Further information about the fund and the investment planning process, as well as local allocations, is included in the UK Shared Prosperity Fund Prospectus and the Multiply Prospectus, both of which have now been published.
The next step is for each place to work with the private sector, civil society and others, as well as the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to develop a local investment plan. This should set out how they will target their funding on local priorities, against measurable goals. Once this is in place and agreed with the UK Government, they can unlock three years of investment.
This new fund is a clear manifestation of our commitment to level up all of the UK. Alongside historic levels of investment confirmed through Spending Review ’21, it will make a significant contribution to overcoming geographic disparities, spreading opportunity and boosting employment, wages and life chances right across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.