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Written Statements

Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 8 June 2022

Written Statements

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Treasury

The Double Taxation Convention between the United Kingdom and Luxembourg

A double taxation convention with Luxembourg was signed in London on 7 June. The convention reflects the improvements made in the latest version of the OECD’s model tax convention. The text of the convention is available on the HM Revenue and Customs pages of the gov.uk website and will be deposited in the Library of both Houses. The text of the convention will be scheduled to a draft Order in Council and laid before the House of Commons in due course.

[HCWS80]

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

FCDO Update: British Virgin Islands

On 18 January 2021 [Hansard, HCWS716, column 32WS], the House was informed that the then Governor of the British Virgin Islands, or BVI, had launched a commission of inquiry, or COI, into claims that corruption, abuse of position and serious impropriety had taken place in public office in recent years.

On 4 April, the BVI Governor received the report of the independent commissioner, the right honourable Sir Gary Hickinbottom. The Governor announced that publication would follow in June after discussions between BVI political leaders and the UK Government on the report’s findings and recommendations. However, the arrest by US authorities on 28 April of the then Premier of BVI, Andrew Fahie, led to the Governor publishing the report the following day.

The report is a thorough, evidence-based assessment of the state of governance in the BVI. The commissioner has identified that serious impropriety and gross failures of governance by elected officials through several administrations is highly likely to have taken place. I have today placed copies of the report in the Library of both Houses.

The report makes 48 recommendations to address underlying issues, including urgent reforms, investigations and medium-term measures. These will help deliver the deep change that the people of the BVI deserve.

The commissioner made a further recommendation, assessing that elected officials in the BVI would not deliver the essential reforms required: he reluctantly concluded that the only way to ensure required change would be for a temporary suspension of those parts of the constitution by which areas of Government are assigned to elected representatives, and the assumption of related powers by the Governor.

Since the commissioner delivered his report, there have been a number of significant developments, not least with the removal of Andrew Fahie as Premier through a vote of no confidence and the creation of the new Government of National Unity, or GNU. The Governor has also ordered a number of criminal investigations, as recommended in the COI report.

The UK and the Governor have worked with the GNU since its formation to turn its public commitments to reform into a strong implementation plan with a strict and comprehensive set of milestones that need to be met. If they are, that will protect against corruption and ensure the return of good governance.

I believe, in the first instance, that the new Government should have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to reform through the implementation of the 48 COI recommendations and the further measures they have proposed.

The Governor and UK Government will monitor implementation and assess progress quarterly. Each BVI Government Ministry and Department will also provide a monthly report. The detailed implementation plan will be published by the GNU in due course.

If it becomes clear that this approach is not delivering the reform that the people of the BVI want and deserve, we will take action. This may require the swift implementation of the final report recommendation.

In order to be able to do so quickly if required, the UK Government has submitted an Order in Council to the Privy Council that would allow this administration to be introduced. The Order will be laid in Parliament, but not brought in to force. Should it prove necessary to do so, I will instruct the Governor to make a proclamation in the BVI Gazette appointing a day that the Order will come into force.

The people of the BVI want and deserve change and have made their desire for better governance clear. Elected officials know this. We want to support the new Government in making this change and allow them the opportunity to reform. The Order in Council will provide the people of the BVI with complete reassurance that change will happen.

We have a duty to protect the people of BVI from corruption, criminality and poor governance. We will stand by them.

[HCWS81]

Health and Social Care

Monkeypox

Following the increased prevalence of cases of monkeypox in England, and transmission within the community for the first time, I would like to inform the House that as of Wednesday 8 June 2022, the following amendments have been laid and come into force:

The Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010 have been amended to include monkeypox as a notifiable disease in Schedule 1 and monkeypox virus as a notifiable causative agent in Schedule 2.

The National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 have been amended to include monkeypox in Schedule 1.

The public health assessment remains that the threat to the public is low. These amendments will support the UK Health Security Agency, or UKHSA, and our health partners to swiftly identify, treat and control the disease, and reduce potential financial barriers to overseas visitors in England who require NHS-funded secondary care services in relation to monkeypox.

Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010

From today, 8 June 2022, monkeypox is a notifiable disease and there is now an explicit legal duty on doctors to notify the “proper officer” of the relevant local authority if they see a patient they suspect of having the monkeypox virus in England. While we believe cases have been reliably notified to date, this amendment puts beyond doubt the legal obligation of doctors to report cases of suspected monkeypox. Placing a legal duty on doctors to report suspected monkeypox cases, and provide the relevant patient information, will strengthen our understanding of the virus and its transmission within the UK and, if required, support the implementation of timely prevention and control measures.

We have also placed a legal duty on laboratories to notify the UKHSA if they identify monkeypox virus when they test a sample in England, by listing the virus as a notifiable causative agent. Positive laboratory samples will be an important core dataset, strengthening surveillance and helping to inform our understanding of outbreak progression and trends to underpin action. Laboratory notification will also help to identify the links between cases and act as an important contingency if case notification by doctors has not occurred.

National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 (“the charging regulations”)

The charging regulations require providers of NHS-funded secondary care to make charges to people not ordinarily resident in the UK (“overseas visitors”) except where an exemption category applies.

We have taken swift action to ensure that, should an overseas visitor in England need NHS- funded secondary care services in respect of monkeypox, they will not face any charge for them. Providing such services without charge removes a potential financial barrier to overseas visitors presenting for NHS-funded secondary care, therefore ensuring that the risk to the public’s health from infected visitors is minimised. This brings monkeypox into line with most other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and covid-19.

The inclusion today of monkeypox in Schedule 1 of the charging regulations will mean that overseas visitors will not be charged for the diagnosis and treatment of monkeypox. The charging regulations have also been amended so that if any charges have already been incurred during this outbreak, they must be cancelled, or, if paid, they must be refunded.

[HCWS82]