Thursday 21 July 2022
Serious Fraud Office and the Unaoil Case: Independent review
I wish to provide details of the findings of an independent review I commissioned into the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) failings identified by the Court of Appeal in the case of R. v. Akle and Anor (2021). I committed to this in my written statement of 9 February 2022.
The objectives of the review were to consider and provide recommendations in relation to the following matters:
1. What happened in this case and why? In particular, assessing the two key failings identified in the judgment: a) What occurred as regards SFO contact with third-parties and why; and b) Why did the SFO disclosure failures identified in the Court of Appeal judgment occur?
2. What implications, if any, do the failings highlighted by this case have for the policies, practices, procedures and related culture of the SFO?
3. What changes are necessary to address the failings highlighted by the judgment and any wider issues of SFO policies, practices, procedures or related culture identified by the reviewer?
I am grateful for Sir David Calvert-Smith’s work on leading this review. His findings fall into two categories: thematic failings and events. Sir David found five recurrent themes that were fundamental to the Court's judgment, some of which indicate general organisational issues within the SFO’s control and where failures occurred. These themes are: record-keeping; compliance with casework assurance processes; resourcing; understanding about priorities; and distrust between the case team and senior management resulting from the latter’s contact with David Tinsley. Sir David highlights a sequence of 17 events or mistakes that led to the Court's judgment.
Following these conclusions, Sir David makes eleven recommendations which the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and SFO accept. They broadly cover:
1. Case assurance—all cases should have sufficient resources, all members of case teams should comply fully with case assurance processes and all contact with defendants, suspects and their representatives should be recorded as necessary. Superintendence should be revised and considered further.
2. Disclosure—all cases should have effective disclosure strategies and management, and the Attorney General’s Office and SFO should work together to identify any necessary changes to the Attorney General’s disclosure guidelines.
3. Personnel—all staff should be able to raise concerns about cases, the relationships between investigators and prosecutors should function as envisaged under the Roskill model, and there should not be “interregnum periods” between Directors or General Counsel.
Building on work already undertaken by the SFO a clear plan of action to respond to the review recommendations has been developed. I will be closely monitoring the SFO’s progress and delivery of that plan and will provide an update to Parliament in November 2022 and February 2023.
I will place a copy of the review and the response in the Libraries of both Houses so that they are accessible to Members. Junior officials’ names have been redacted from the published review in line with standard Government practice. The SFO has waived legal privilege in relation to legal advice referred to in the review only for the purposes of this review.
The documents will also be available on gov.uk.
UK Commission on Covid Commemoration
My noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord True CBE, has made the following written statement:
Today, I am establishing a UK Commission on Covid Commemoration to secure a broad consensus across our whole United Kingdom on how we mark and commemorate this very distinctive period in our collective history.
I have appointed the right hon. Baroness Morgan of Cotes to chair the Commission. She will be supported by 10 members from across the UK who have knowledge and understanding of some of the issues experienced by those affected by covid-19 and are well respected in their fields of expertise.
Working together with the Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Commission will recommend how those who have lost their lives should be remembered in our communities and across the UK. It will also consider how we can commemorate the service of critical workers, recognise the experience of those who were seriously affected by covid-19, celebrate the advances in UK science and remember the national spirit which led to so many people volunteering to support their neighbours and communities.
The Commission will engage individuals, particularly those who have lost loved ones, and organisations across the UK, to inform its recommendations. I have asked the Commission to submit its report to the Prime Minister by the end of March 2023.
I have today placed a copy of the list of the Commissioners and terms of reference for the Commission in the Libraries of both Houses in Parliament and published them on gov.uk.
Annual European Union Finances Statement
I am today laying before Parliament a document entitled “The European Union Finances Statement 2021 on the implementation of the Withdrawal and Trade and Cooperation Agreements” (CP 732). This is an annual publication and the 41st in the series.
This year’s statement continues to include an updated Government estimate of the financial settlement. As detailed below, the estimate can be found in annex A and contributing figures in chapter 2 and 4.
This year’s edition is the first in the publication series to cover the UK as a non-member state and having completed the 11-month transition period. Now that the UK has left the EU and is no longer involved in the EU’s multiannual financial framework, detailed financial reporting on participation is of diminishing relevance.
This year’s edition follows the recommendations from the European Scrutiny Committee in relation to how the information is presented in this year’s document. The cut-off date for reporting for this edition of the EU finances statement is December 2021, as these statements will continue to be published on a yearly basis. However, the statement also provides brief details of the invoice received subsequently to this period in April 2022, and which will be reported on in detail in next year’s statement. This year, the April invoice provides a single net liability for the UK of €3,419,693,252.35 (£2,877,500,887.19)
The focus of this statement, therefore, is on the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and the trade and co-operation agreement, in effect turning the formerly annexed chapters into the main body of the text. The presentation of both payments and the outstanding liability under the WA has changed accordingly.
This year the statement separates backward-looking reporting on the payment of net liabilities made by the UK from HM Treasury’s forecast of outstanding liabilities. Chapter 2 gives a breakdown of the April and September 2021 invoices received from the EU and their payment during that calendar year. It gives an updated figure for the total paid up to 31 December 2021 of £5,812,719,159.
Chapter 3 of the statement provides detail on the verification arrangements that HM Treasury has undertaken in relation to the financial settlement under the WA and which was reflected in domestic law in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.
HM Treasury estimates that the current net value of the financial settlement is £35.6 billion. Chapter 4 breaks down the forecast outstanding UK net liabilities to the EU from 1 January 2022 onwards, providing a point estimate of the total outstanding of €29.0 billion (£24.6 billion).
This statement reports on the status of EU programme association in chapter 5. In this edition we give the current estimate for the total cost of participation in all three programmes over the seven-year MFF (around £17 billion). This breaks down to in the region of £15 billion for Horizon Europe, £1.2 billion for Euratom R&T and Fussion4Energy, and £0.8 billion for Copernicus.
As all payments will be made from departmental accounts, HM Treasury do not plan to replicate or consolidate financial reporting on the TCA in future editions of the statement. Nor do we intend to report annually our revised estimate of liabilities expected under the TCA, because actual costs will, in future years, appear in the departmental resource accounts.
The latest estimate of £42.5 billion shows an increase against the original range of £35-39 billion, which is primarily due to the most recent valuation of the UK’s obligation under article 142 for EU pensions. The primary drivers are the latest discount rates and inflation assumptions, which are centrally set by the Government for valuing long-term liabilities. However, given that this is a multi-decade liability, the variables used in this forecast will continue to fluctuate up and down. The agreed scope of the underlying liability remains unchanged, and the UK will continue to pay those liabilities as they come due, according to the actual value at the time.
Military Support to Ukraine
I am pleased to provide the House with a further update on equipment that the UK is providing to the armed forces of Ukraine. The UK is proud to lead the way in providing military assistance to Ukraine. The Prime Minister announced at the NATO Leaders’ Summit on 30 June that a further £1 billion of military support to Ukraine will be provided. This brings the UK’s total military support to Ukraine to £2.3billion.
We have already supplied Ukraine with a significant quantity of equipment, including:
More than 6,900 anti-tank missiles (including more than 5,000 next-generation light anti-tank weapons, as well as Javelin, Brimstone, and other anti-tank weapons)
Multiple launch rocket systems
120 armoured fighting vehicles
Six Stormer vehicles fitted with Starstreak launchers as well as hundreds of Starstreak missiles
More than 16,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, as well as anti-structure munitions and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosive
Electronic warfare equipment
More than 82,000 helmets, 8,450 sets of body armour, medical supplies and more than 5,000 night-vision devices.
Our support for the armed forces of Ukraine (AFU) will continue. In the next few weeks, we will be giving the AFU equipment, including:
More than 20 M109 155mm self-propelled guns
36 L119 105mm artillery guns and ammunition
More than 50,000 rounds of ammunition for Ukraine’s Soviet-era artillery
At least 1,600 more anti-tank weapons
Unmanned aerial systems (including 100s loitering aerial munitions)
Counter-battery radar systems
Future planned military support will also include more sophisticated defence systems across a range of capabilities.
On 25 April I also committed to placing an update on international donations of military equipment to Ukraine in the House Library. I include below two summaries: one of UK donations; and a second of combined international donations. These summaries only contain quantities known to the UK where other countries are content for this information to be released. We do not necessarily see or know the totality of assistance provided by all donors. The delivery and provision of aid is dynamic and fast moving so the numbers and types of capability included are likely to change quickly.
The scale and range of equipment we are providing, at pace, demonstrates how we are delivering on our commitment to provide Ukraine with support to resist and defeat the Russian invasion. We will continue to do so until Ukraine’s sovereignty is restored.
UK donations to Ukraine:
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Anti-Air <100 >300 Anti-Tank <100 >9,000* Anti-Structure >15,000 Anti-Personnel (including small arms, mortar & grenade) >6,000 >1,000,000 Anti-Ship <100 Artillery <10 >16,000
Anti-Personnel (including small arms, mortar & grenade)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Long range <100 Satellite >100 Short Range >400
Electronic warfare systems
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Jamming >300 Physical Counter <100
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Spare Parts >100 Tools (pallets, kits etc) <100
Tools (pallets, kits etc)
Intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) systems
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Laser Designator (eg range finders, aiming systems) >100 Optical (including Uncrewed Aerial Systems) <100 Radar <100
Laser Designator (eg range finders, aiming systems)
Optical (including Uncrewed Aerial Systems)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Rations <100,000 Medical <100 Clothing <100,000 NVDs / Thermal >5,000 Sleeping >2,000
NVDs / Thermal
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Armoured Fighting Vehicles >100 Ambulances <100 Soft Skinned (including cargo Uncrewed Aerial Systems) <10
Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Soft Skinned (including cargo Uncrewed Aerial Systems)
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Ballistic Vest >8,000 Helmet <100,000
*includes single use weapons and unguided munitions
International donations to Ukraine—43 countries including UK (International data as at 5 July 2022)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Anti-Air >700 >100,000 Anti-Tank <4,000 <250,000* Anti-Structure >2,000 >600,000 Anti-Personnel (including small arms, mortar & grenade) >7000,000 >100,000,000 Anti-Ship <200 Artillery >200 >250,000
Anti-Personnel (including small arms, mortar & grenade)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Armoured Fighting Vehicles >600 Ambulances <100 Soft Skinned (including cargo Uncrewed Aerial Systems) >200
Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Soft Skinned (including cargo Uncrewed
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Long Range <100 Satellite >900 Short Range >400
Electronic warfare systems
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Jamming >400 Physical Counter >200
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Spare Parts >12,000 Tools (pallets, kits etc) >100
Tools (pallets, kits etc)
Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid PPE <100 Metal Detector >400 Robot <100
Intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) systems
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Laser Designator (e.g. range finders, aiming systems) >2,000 Optical (including Uncrewed Aerial Systems) >500 Radar <100
Laser Designator (e.g. range finders, aiming systems)
Optical (including Uncrewed Aerial Systems)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Rations >1,000,000 Medical >200,000 Clothing >200,000 NVD / Thermal >30,000 Optics (sights, binoculars etc) >30,000 Sleeping >500,000 Utilities (including generators) >100
NVD / Thermal
Optics (sights, binoculars etc)
Utilities (including generators)
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Weapon Ammunition Other Aid Ballistic Vest >100,000 CBRN PPE >70,000 Helmet >200,000
*Includes single use weapon and unguided munitions
Academy Trust and Local Government Pension
In 2013, we introduced a guarantee to local government pensions scheme (LGPS) administering authorities that in the event of the closure of an academy trust any outstanding LGPS liabilities will not revert to the fund.
Although there is no end date to the guarantee, we committed to undertake assessments at regular intervals to determine whether the guarantee remains affordable and is being fully recognised by LGPS administering authorities in their risk assessments of academy schools and the subsequent setting of employer contribution rates.
I can today confirm that we will continue to provide a guarantee to LGPS administering authorities with a new increased annual ceiling of £20 million, and a parliamentary minute, which sets out the detail of the guarantee, has been laid in both Houses.
When we first introduced the guarantee, we agreed annual limits for each financial year based on estimates. We have reviewed all payments the Department has made under the guarantee policy since 2013 and have set a new annual limit of £20 million per annum.
In the three most recent financial years the amounts requested and paid under the guarantee policy were as follows: 2021-22: £3 million, 2020-21: £4 million, 2019-20: £11 million. Since the guarantee was introduced, the Department has never reached the set annual limit.
We expect administering authorities to recognise the direct Government backing provided by the guarantee and continue to treat academies equitably with local authority maintained schools when setting employer contribution rates and deficit recovery periods.
The guarantee provides academy trusts with direct Government backing for certain pension costs which will enable LGPS administering authorities, and I ask you to ensure that this is reflected in this year’s scheme valuation, both in the setting of the employer contribution rates and the length of the deficit recovery period.
Further Education Funding and Accountability: Consultation
Today, as the Government continue to build back better from the pandemic and begin the critical work of levelling up the UK, I am announcing further steps towards delivering the ambitious reforms set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper. Skills for Jobs set out our vision for a skills system that supports people to access the skills required and to get the jobs our economy needs, increasing productivity, supporting growth industries, and giving people opportunity.
We are launching a second consultation today, containing proposals for implementing a new further education funding and accountability system in England to help deliver on this vision. The consultation is open from 21 July 2022 until 21 September 2022.
In this consultation, we want to hear from all interested stakeholders and welcome responses to the consultation from individual learners, providers (especially colleges), employers, representative bodies, local government partners and MCAs.
Our reforms are about changing the incentives in the further education (FE) system by focusing on employment outcomes and simplifying the funding system so we can best support learners into high-value jobs. These reforms will:
Deliver a simpler and more effective funding system, to make it easier for providers to invest in the best way possible to achieve good outcomes for their learners.
Deliver a fairer system by moving towards a more equitable approach to funding areas in the next spending review, and in the meantime, exploring how our available resources can support those areas most in need to support levelling up and spread opportunity across England.
Finally, we want to create and deliver a system that is focused on outcomes. We will use the funding system to encourage providers to offer courses that lead to better outcomes for the local and national economy and society, while holding providers accountable for delivering for their learners.
This will enable providers to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their learners, employers, and the wider area, putting taxpayer investment to the best effect.
Subject to the responses to the consultation, we intend to introduce our reforms from the academic year 2023-24, with further reforms coming in the next spending review.
This is a key milestone in the delivery of our Skills for Jobs reform programme, which will transform the whole skills system so that we can train the dynamic and flexible workforce our economy needs.
Health and Social Care
NHS Covid Travel Pass for Children
As part of our continued commitment to support travel for the school holidays, on 21 July the Government are launching an NHS covid pass service for parents or guardians of children aged 5 to 15 years old to request a digital travel pass on behalf of their child. This will include a record of all covid-19 vaccinations received and proof of prior infection (recovery status). Children aged 5 to 11 can currently only access an NHS covid pass letter. Children aged 12 to 15 can currently only access a digital NHS covid pass using their own NHS login; this new service means that parents can also request a pass on their behalf.
Launching this new service, and thereby extending a digital solution to children aged 5 to 11, alongside giving the parents of children aged 12 to 15 the ability to request a pass on their child's behalf, will make it quicker, simpler and save families the cost of testing in countries where this is required for foreign travel. The UK has no covid certification requirements, this is to support outbound travel to a variety of countries that still have requirements.
A parent or guardian will be able to request a PDF version of the travel NHS covid pass via the NHS website. The digital pass will only be sent if they enter a mobile number which matches the number on the child’s GP record and if they correctly enter a one-time password sent to this number, or if they enter an email address that matches the email address on the child’s GP record.
This service will be available for children aged 5 to 15 resident in England or the Isle of Man. For those registered with a GP in Wales, parents or guardians should check the gov.wales “Get your NHS covid pass” website for information on their service. In Scotland, under 16s can request a copy by phoning the covid status helpline on 0808 196 8565. In Northern Ireland, parents or guardians of children aged 5 to 11 years can request a digital or printed covid certificate on behalf of a dependent. Those under 16 can upload the certificate—requested on their behalf—to display on the COVIDCert NI app.
Covid-19 Vaccine Supply
This statement is a retrospective notification to the House of Commons following accounting advice that the initial phase of this transaction should be classified as a gift. It is normal practice that when a Department proposes to make a gift of a value exceeding £300,000, a minute is presented to the House of Commons setting out particulars of the gift.
In September 2021, the UK Government announced initiatives to share 4 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses with Australia and 1 million doses with the Republic of Korea. This arrangement was mutually beneficial and ensured these Pfizer/BioNTech doses—which were not immediately required in the UK—were used to support international vaccination efforts. The same volume of doses were returned later in the year. Sharing doses meant those countries had immediate access to vaccines they could put to use in their domestic campaigns and enabled the UK to better align timings of our own supply with our requirements.
The vaccine taskforce has worked to optimise supply for UK domestic need through its close work with vaccine developers, as well as supporting the global distribution of vaccines with our international partners. The reciprocal dose sharing arrangements with Australia and South Korea is an example where we have worked with other countries in a mutually beneficial way to achieve this.
HM Treasury has approved the decision.
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
The United Kingdom continues to make good progress toward joining the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP) this year. Below is an update to Parliament on developments in negotiations over the course of recent months.
This bloc of 11 countries represents around £9 trillion in GDP and includes some of the world’s largest current and future economies. Joining CPTPP puts Britain at the heart of a dynamic group of countries, as the world economy increasingly centres on the Pacific region. And as these economies grow, it is even more important that the UK is in a free trade agreement with them, so that we benefit from this growth.
CPTPP membership offers a wide range of benefits for the UK. Accession could see 99.9% of UK exports being eligible for tariff-free trade with CPTPP members. Joining could also, for example, greatly benefit our world-class services sector through advanced provisions that facilitate digital trade, and modern rules on data to enable more financial and professional services markets to be opened up.
This will support the economy across the UK: the Department for International Trade’s published scoping assessment shows that joining the agreement could benefit all parts of the country, with the greatest relative gains expected in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The UK announced its intention to join CPTPP in February last year and began formal negotiations on our accession in June 2021. In February this year, CPTPP parties confirmed that we were ready to move to the final phase of the accession process, having largely demonstrated our compliance with the existing CPTPP rules.
This final phase of the accession process involves applicants making high-standard market access offers to CPTPP parties. The UK submitted initial offers in March 2022, including on goods, services, investment, Government procurement and financial services. Since then, we have continued to engage in talks on both a bilateral and collective basis with CPTPP members in order to come to an agreement on these market access issues.
We will continue to negotiate with CPTPP members over the coming months. We will ensure the UK joins the agreement on the right terms, and that British businesses can begin taking advantage of this trade deal as soon as possible.
The Department will continue to engage with Parliament over the course of negotiations. Once the agreement is signed, it will be subject to pre-ratification scrutiny under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG), and any legislation required to implement the agreement will need to be passed. Prior to commencing scrutiny under CRaG the Government will commission and publish the advice of the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission, as well as laying its own report under section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020.
Mexico Trade Negotiations
The first round of United Kingdom-Mexico free trade agreement negotiations took place during the week commencing 11 July. A small delegation of officials undertook technical discussions in person in Mexico City with most talks taking place virtually.
During the first round, talks focused on gathering insights on key interests and priorities across policy areas as well as building a shared understanding of each other’s initial positions in the areas expected to be covered in the free trade agreement. Technical discussions were held across 31 policy areas over 28 sessions.
The United Kingdom and Mexico share a joint ambition to take our trade and economic relationship to the next level, deepening trade and increasing investment flows for the benefit of both countries.
The existing United Kingdom-Mexico trade continuity agreement is outdated. These negotiations are an important opportunity to negotiate a significantly more ambitious agreement which is better suited for the 21st century. This includes strengthening United Kingdom-Mexico trade in goods and services, already worth £4.2 billion, and delivering on new and progressive issues such as digital trade, trade and gender equality and innovation.
The second round of official level negotiations is due to take place in autumn 2022.
HM Government remain clear that any deal will be in the best interests of the British people and the economy.
HM Government will keep Parliament updated as these negotiations progress.
UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement
The Government have, today, laid before Parliament a report on the UK-New Zealand free trade agreement. The report is required under section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020, prior to the agreement being laid before Parliament for formal scrutiny under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG).
The Government have always been clear that we will not compromise on the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards in our trade negotiations. This report, which draws on independent advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission1, Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland, confirms the Government’s view that the UK-New Zealand FTA is consistent with the maintenance of UK statutory protections in these areas.
This report is intended to inform and support scrutiny of the UK-New Zealand agreement prior to its ratification and entry into force. The text of the agreement was published on 28 February 2022 and will be formally laid before Parliament for scrutiny under the provisions of CRaG in due course.
1 TAC advice published on 30 June 2022 at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-new-zealand-fta-secretary-of-state-for-international-trades-request-for-trade-and-agriculture-commission-advice
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Intergovernmental Relations Quarterly Report: Quarter 2 2022
Today, the UK Government published the report of our engagement with the devolved Governments in quarter 2 of 2022 on gov.uk.
The report covers a period where we have seen unprecedented events, and gives an insight into the extensive engagement between the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive between 1 April and 30 June 2022. During this reporting period the Governments collaborated on a number of areas, not least in the further development and progress of the domestic response to the war in Ukraine, including the expansion of the Homes for Ukraine resettlement scheme to allow children and minors under the age of 18 to come to the UK in defined circumstances.
The report is part of the UK Government’s ongoing commitment to transparency of intergovernmental relations to Parliament and the public. The UK Government will continue with publications to demonstrate transparency in intergovernmental relations throughout 2022 and beyond.
The Government that I have had the privilege to lead have focused relentlessly on delivery. This statement updates the House on what we have achieved since I was invited by Her Majesty The Queen to form a Government in July 2019, and puts on record why the millions of people who voted Conservative in 2019, many for the first time, were right to place their trust in me and in this Conservative Government.
First, after the country had endured three years of indecision and uncertainty with a deadlocked Parliament and a paralysed Government, we got Brexit done. We delivered on the decision the people of the United Kingdom made in 2016, and took our country out of the European Union, negotiating a new trade and co-operation agreement that preserves zero tariff, zero quota trade. Since our exit, we have been seizing the opportunities that come with this new freedom. We have signed three major new trade deals with Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, supporting food, drink and manufacturing exports as well as digital trade, and taking our total number of FTAs to over 70, with negotiations under way on many more. We have selected eight locations for freeports, with two already operational and the others coming on stream later this year. We have passed the Agriculture Act and the Fisheries Act, reforming what were wasteful and bureaucratic European schemes to the benefit of our farming and fishing communities and the environment. We have put in place a points-based immigration system that gives the people of this country control over our own borders. It is because we have this control that we have been able to react swiftly and generously to events in Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine, and strike the migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda in response to the shared international challenge of illegal migration, breaking the business model of people smuggling gangs.
Second, thanks to the fortitude and spirit of the British public, we guided the country through its greatest challenge since the Second World War. A pandemic is the kind of crisis that no Administration want to face, but which it is the Government’s solemn duty to tackle. We supported the NHS and the incredible doctors, nurses and carers who acted so valiantly to treat and care for the ill, and to whom I owe my own life. We built a huge testing regime, distributing more than 2 billion lateral flow tests across the UK, and at the peak delivering more than 7 million tests to households every 24 hours. We invested in antivirals, adding more powerful new drugs to our armoury than any of our neighbours. In the face of predictions of 12% unemployment, we deployed the furlough scheme, which supported the jobs of 11.7 million people through lockdown. Most importantly, we bet early and bet big on vaccines before success was guaranteed, becoming the first country in the world to administer one outside of clinical trials and the fastest in Europe to roll them out at scale—over 70% of the entire UK population aged 12 or above received at least one dose within the first six months, and the total number of jabs now stands at over 150 million. Thanks to these efforts, we were able to emerge from lockdown early and set out our plan for living with covid, getting our lives back on track.
Third, when I became Prime Minister I stood on the steps of Downing Street and said it was my job to level up the country, because while potential is evenly distributed throughout the population, opportunity is not. This meant bringing down crime, strengthening our health system, sorting out social care and improving our schools—and the Government acted on every front.
Our streets are safer. We have recruited more than 13,500 additional police officers, over halfway to delivering our pledge to put an extra 20,000 officers on the streets by 2023. We have taken over 50,000 knives and offensive weapons off the streets, and brought knife crime and thefts down last year compared to 2019. We have backed the police with the support they need, providing the largest funding boost in a decade, and equipping them with new powers to tackle disruptive protests and use stop and search. We have rolled up over 1,500 county lines, going for the gangs that peddled them and protecting the young people exploited by them. We have changed the law to make sure serious violent and sexual criminals spend more time behind bars.
Our NHS is on a surer footing. We have more doctors and around 30,000 more nurses than in March 2019, well over halfway to meeting our commitment of 50,000 more nurses by 2024. We have recruited another 18,000 primary care staff, such as physiotherapists and pharmacists, putting us on track to reach 26,000 by 2024. We have launched the biggest catchup programme in the NHS’s history to tackle the legacy of the pandemic, aiming to deliver around 30% more elective activity by 2024-25 than before the pandemic hit, underpinned by a £39 billion investment. We have opened almost 100 community diagnostic centres, helping millions of patients to access earlier diagnostic tests closer to home. We have begun the biggest hospital-building programme for a generation. We have published England’s first women’s health strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of women and girls, and widened access to life saving drugs.
Our broken social care system is finally being fixed. We have ended the cruel lottery of social care costs with a plan that means no one will pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime, when previously many had to pay six figure sums. We have lifted the previous limit for financial support by more than 400%, so that anyone with assets of under £100,000 will be eligible for help, and those with under £20,000 will pay nothing at all. We have designed a way to make the overall system fairer, so that those who fund themselves do not pay more than state-funded individuals for the equivalent standard of care. We have committed to providing our brilliant social care workforce with new training and qualification opportunities, so that they can progress and improve while providing an even greater standard of care.
Our schools are better. We have supported children to recover from the impact of the pandemic with over 2 million tutoring courses and a programme to reach 6 million by 2024. We have supported teachers too, with over 80,000 benefiting from additional training and support, while bringing starting salaries up to £30,000, attracting more bright and able graduates to inspire the next generation. We have injected the biggest funding boost in a decade, taking core funding to £56.8 billion by 2024-25. We have driven up school standards, with 87% of schools now rated good or outstanding, up from 68% in 2010. We have set an ambition for 90% of children to leave primary school at the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.
Fourth, in spite of the challenges posed by covid and the subsequent headwinds in the global economy, we secured the fastest economic growth in the G7 last year. We have helped people into jobs by partnering with employers, including 500,000 since January this year through the Way to Work programme, and we have the lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years. We have focused on getting young people into work, an area where versus other OECD countries we know we can do better, with 163,000 supported by the Kickstart scheme to start their career and gain vital work experience. We have redressed Britain’s historic underinvestment in infrastructure, developing a five-year, £600 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects to improve connectivity and drive economic growth, including a £96 billion investment through the integrated rail plan—building three new high-speed lines in Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 East and HS2 West, and reopening lines to industrial and country towns cut off under Beeching. We have committed £5 billion to boost buses and cycling and a further £5.7 billion to level up local transport systems in the mayoral combined authority areas. We have accelerated the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen power generation, with the 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and our broader net zero agenda already yielding £22 billion in private sector investment and 68,000 clean jobs—and an ambition to unlock £100 billion of investment and 480,000 such jobs by the end of the decade. We have continued to support the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term, which must underpin our transition to cleaner and cheaper power, working to retain the skills and industry in Aberdeen and elsewhere by putting nearly £2 billion into technologies such as carbon capture, usage and storage. We have raised the proportion of properties able to access the fastest gigabit-capable broadband from 9% when my Administration took office to 68% now. We have set an ambitious 2030 date for ending sales of new petrol and diesel cars, with over half of all new cars sold now electric or hybrid, and we have bolstered our strategic road network through a £27.4 billion road investment strategy that includes building the first new trans-Pennine dual carriageway since 1971.
We have awarded 101 towns deals across the country to address high levels of deprivation and open up new opportunities by fostering economic regeneration, stimulating investment and delivering vital infrastructure. We have made it easier to own a home, with over 400,000 first time buyers last year marking the highest number since 2006, and housebuilding rebounding strongly after the challenges posed by the start of the pandemic. We have set out plans for renters reform that will provide renting families more security at the same time as supporting landlords. We have cemented the UK’s status as a science superpower, recognising that the ability to advance and exploit science and technology will be an increasingly important competitive edge over the coming decade, growing research and development spending by 33% over this Parliament, the fastest ever rate. We have attracted more venture capital investment in tech startups this year than any country bar the US, putting us ahead of China, Japan and Germany. We are levelling up skills, because stronger skills lead to better, higher paid jobs—with over 20,000 people already benefiting from skills bootcamps, and 175 colleges due to offer T-levels from this September. We have announced a lifelong loan entitlement so that from 2025 everyone can access funding to support up to four years of post-18 study, be that modular or full time—helping people gain skills at any stage of their life. We have increased the national living wage by the largest ever cash amount, and reduced the universal credit taper rate to make sure work pays.
Fifth, embracing the freedom we now have to chart our own course, we led on the international stage. We used our G7 presidency to launch the $600 billion Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment—closing the infrastructure gap in developing countries while enhancing our economic and national security—and to agree a minimum corporate tax rate to crack down on avoidance. We have driven action on climate change, marshalling nearly 200 countries at COP26 to treble global net zero agreements so that they now cover 90% of the world economy, committing to reach net zero in the UK by 2050, and driving down emissions at the fastest rate in the G7. We have stepped up where our help was needed, be it in evacuating over 15,000 people from Afghanistan in just 16 days through Operation Pitting, offering a route to the UK for holders of British national (overseas) passports and their family members in Hong Kong, standing up the Homes for Ukraine scheme, or providing £548 million to COVAX to get 1.3 billion vaccine doses into 87 developing countries.
Across these five fronts—Brexit, covid, public services, the economy, and the world stage—this Government have delivered. As we prepare for a change in Administration, there are two further fronts on which we are already taking decisive action, and on which the commitment of the next Conservative Prime Minister will not waver.
At home, we are standing by the side of the British public as we cope with pressures on the cost of living—just as we did in the darkest hours of the covid crisis. We have set out a £37 billion package which will see the most vulnerable 8 million households get support worth £1,200. Qualifying low income households will get £650, with the first half being paid into bank accounts this month, and the remainder following in the autumn. Every household in the country will get £400 towards their energy costs. Most will get a £150 council tax rebate. Pensioners in receipt of winter fuel payments will get a separate payment of £300, and disabled people a further £150.
Both I, and my successor, will continue to focus support on those who need it the most.
Abroad, we are standing up for Ukraine—as we always have when our fundamental values are threatened. We have brought the G7 and NATO together in support of the Ukrainian people so that the free West speaks with one voice and brings its collective might to bear. We have provided significant amounts of lethal aid, including 2,000 anti-tank missiles in January before the invasion started. We have committed military, humanitarian and economic assistance totalling nearly £4 billion, more than any other country apart from the US. We have donated over 11 million medical items, 856 mobile generators and 20 NHS ambulances, and sent the largest fire deployment to ever leave the UK. We have acted decisively with our allies to sanction over 1,000 individuals and 100 entities, freeze the assets of banks, and isolate Russia from international trade. We have introduced the fastest and largest visa scheme in our history to welcome Ukrainians who wish to find safety elsewhere, with over 95,000 arriving in the UK to date. We have stepped up our NATO commitments to strengthen the alliance, more than doubling our presence in Estonia, providing the SkySabre air defence system to Poland, and delivering enhanced air policing missions. For as long as it takes, the UK will continue to back Ukraine’s fight for freedom.
Finally, in everything this Government have done, we have striven to deliver for the whole of our United Kingdom—for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From the vaccination programme, where we were able to ensure everyone across our islands could benefit from swift access to jabs, to the furlough scheme, which relied on the financial firepower of the UK Treasury, to our Levelling Up fund, supporting town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets across the UK, the benefits of our great union have never been more evident.
I am proud of our record in office since 2019. I remain determined that we continue to deliver in our final weeks. And I know that the Conservative Government that follows after us will do what their predecessors have always done and meet the challenges of the day by serving the British people.
Active Travel England: Framework Document
The Department for Transport is today publishing the framework document for Active Travel England. This confirms Active Travel England’s responsibilities and objectives and sets out its relationship with, and accountability to, the Department and Parliament.
Active Travel England will lead the delivery of the Government’s strategy and vision for creating a new golden age of walking and cycling where half of all journeys in towns and cities are walked and cycled by 2030.
Active Travel England will hold the active travel budget in England, including for new infrastructure and behaviour change initiatives such as cycle training. It will assess all applications for active travel capital and revenue funding, including from wider funds such as the city region sustainable transport settlements, the levelling up fund and road investment strategy 2, and award funding to schemes only if they meet the standards and principles set out in local transport note 1/20, or any later national design standards. It will also inspect new active travel infrastructure to ensure schemes meet these new standards and principles and ask for funds to be returned for any which have not been completed as promised, or not started or finished within the agreed timeframe. Active Travel England will work with local authorities developing new schemes and support their capacity by delivering training and disseminating best practice. ATE will also begin to inspect, and publish reports on, highway authorities for their performance on active travel and identify particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians. In these regards, the commissioner and inspectorate will perform a similar role to Ofsted from the 1990s onwards in raising standards and challenging failure.
It will also act as a statutory consultee in the planning system and review active travel provision in major planning applications.
Ministers at the Department for Transport will have responsibility for Active Travel England. As an Executive agency, Active Travel England will have a degree of operational independence in delivering its duties. It will be led by its chief executive officer who will be the agency’s accounting officer and report to Parliament as needed. Active Travel England will also have its own board which will be chaired by the national active travel commissioner.
The framework document will come into effect when Active Travel England is formally established as an Executive agency later this year and will be reviewed next year. I am placing a copy of Active Travel England’s framework document in the Libraries of both Houses.
The standing up of Active Travel England is gathering pace. Today’s publication of its framework document follows last month’s announcement of senior appointments to Active Travel England. This included confirming Chris Boardman as England’s national active travel commissioner on a permanent basis and the appointment of Danny Williams as Active Travel England’s chief executive.
Search and Rescue Aviation Procurement
Following an extensive 18-month procurement process to procure the next decade of search and rescue aviation services, this process has now finished, and I wish to inform the House of the results.
I am pleased to announce that a £1.6 billion contract will be signed today to provide a search and rescue helicopter service for the whole of the UK with Bristow Helicopters Ltd.
The new contract will see the UK search and rescue region benefit from advances in technology to save more lives, even more quickly. A fleet of state-of-the-art helicopters, planes and drones will operate across the United Kingdom and far out to sea in support of the lifesaving work of HM Coastguard. These aircraft will also support the work of the other emergency services, border protection, fisheries protection and pollution prevention.
A strong competition led to this contract being signed, and a credible, data-led requirement resulted in a contract that is highly innovative and takes account of anticipated future demands such as increased tourism in certain areas.
The new contract will guarantee that there will be no base closures or job losses in this critical service. Instead, two new seasonal bases, operating for six months of the year, will be opened in areas of particular growing demand. A new base at Fort William will meet the summertime peak tourism demand in the Ben Nevis area, while a new base in Carlisle will also meet similar demands in the Lake District area.
All helicopter bases will continue to be operational 24 hours a day, apart for Fort William and Carlisle which will operate 12 hours a day from April to September. The transition out from the current contract will start 30 September 2024 and run through to 31 December 2026. The transition will be seamless and will follow extensive engagement with stakeholders including the thousands of rescue volunteers who rely on these arrangements.
In addition to our existing base in Doncaster, highly sophisticated surveillance planes will operate from Prestwick and Newquay. This will give the UK much more capability to search for people needing our help over large areas and prevent illegal or anticompetitive activity in UK waters. Both Doncaster and Prestwick will be operational 24 hours a day, with Newquay operational 12 hours a day all year round. Some of these aircraft can reach the mid-Atlantic, which is the extent of the UK's search and rescue region.
The new service will comprise of:
18 helicopters including existing Leonardo AW189s and Sikorsky S92As augmented with the introduction of Leonardo AW139 helicopters.
Six King Air fixed-wing planes, including the B350, B350ER and the B200.
One mobile deployable Schiebel S-100 drone system capable of operating anywhere in the UK.
A new state-of-the-art search and rescue helicopter simulation training facility at Solent airport next to the HM Coastguard training facility will house a synthetic rescue hoist and helicopter suspended over a large training pool. This is a vital addition to training the next generation of technical winch crew.
Further innovation throughout the life of the contract will involve the use of uncrewed aircraft and aircraft powered by sustainable aviation fuels.
This is a major investment by the UK Government in critical national service which covers a wide range of activity. It protects the services we have come to rely on for years to come.