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Written Statements

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 13 October 2022

Written Statements

Thursday 13 October 2022

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Boston Alternative Energy Facility: Deadline for Planning Decision

This statement concerns an application for development consent made under the Planning Act 2008 by Alternative Use Boston Projects Ltd for the construction and operation of an energy from waste facility at Boston in Lincolnshire.

Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of the receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) of the Act to set a new deadline. Where a new deadline is set, the Secretary of State must make a statement to Parliament to announce it. The current statutory deadline for the decision on the Boston alternative energy facility application was 7 October 2022.

I have decided to set a new deadline of no later than 10 January 2023 for deciding this application. This is to ensure there is sufficient time to allow for further consultation on the proposal.

The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.

[HCWS323]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Correction to a Written Parliamentary Question

I would like to inform the House that I wish to correct the formal record in relation to PQ 156485, which was tabled in the 2021-22 Session of Parliament. On 25 April 2022, I issued a response to this written parliamentary question from the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner):

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, how much her Department spent on (a) focus groups and (b) polling services in 2021”.

It was stated that the Department spent £51,455 (excluding VAT) on distinct focus groups and, more broadly, £403,688.37 (excluding VAT) on research and evaluation services which encompassed the use of focus groups and polling services to some degree in 2021.

However, this information was not comprehensive. The Department spent £110,875 (excluding VAT) on distinct focus groups commissioned to an external supplier in 2021. More broadly, the Department spent £1,259,396.63 (excluding VAT) on specific research and evaluation services, which encompassed the use of focus groups and polling services to some degree, in 2021. There could be other spending on opinion research in the Department, but this is attached to other types of services, such as wider programme spend, and it is not possible to proportion this out.

The Department uses opinion-based research as a key tool to improve our evidence base and inform policy development. It can provide insights into how businesses and households engage with our sectors and the potential barriers that they may face. It is also a useful method for understanding the impact of our policies by collecting views on what works. Notably, focus groups have been utilised as one tool to inform a trustworthy approach to AI and data governance, including for the UK’s algorithmic transparency standard, developed by the Department’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation alongside the Central Digital and Data Office. Focus groups and polling services have also been utilised, as part of wider research and evaluation, to support the evaluation of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth games and the VCSE—voluntary, community and social enterprise—support package.

This was an unfortunate error when assessing the Department’s financial data and I am confident it will not be repeated.

[HCWS322]

5G Network: Removal of Huawei Equipment

Public telecommunications networks and services are critical to the future prosperity of the UK. 5G offers new technical capabilities through higher data rates, reliable and low latency communications, and machine-to-machine communications. This gives 5G the potential to generate significant economic and social benefits across the digital economy. However, it brings risks as our national infrastructure becomes more dependent on these networks and services.

To manage the risks to UK national security, the Government have issued a designation notice to Huawei and designated vendor directions to 35 public telecommunications providers.

The directions place restrictions on the use of Huawei goods and services by those telecommunications providers. This follows long-standing advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Government on the use of Huawei equipment in UK public telecommunication networks. The Government have concluded a targeted consultation with telecommunications providers and Huawei and is now, following the passage of the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021, placing legal controls on the use of Huawei goods and services for the first time.

I have set dates by which telecommunications providers should meet the requirements in the direction. Having fully considered consultation responses, and following close consultation with the NCSC, the key deadline to remove all Huawei equipment in the UK’s 5G network by 2027 remains unchanged, as do eight other requirements.

For a small number of operators, the interim milestones initially proposed before the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic could have led to network outages and significant disruption for millions of customers, with delays caused by covid-19 restrictions and global supply chain issues. In light of this, while I am asking providers to continue to meet the original target dates for the removal of Huawei from network cores and the capping of Huawei in the access network to 35% wherever possible (January and July 2023 respectively), I am setting the legally required date for compliance to December and October 2023 respectively to avoid customer disruption. Providers also now have a legal requirement to report to me on progress in January and July 2023, so I can keep Parliament informed of progress. Providers will also work closely with NCSC through this period, who have confirmed that the adjustments represent a sensible balance between network disruption and network security.

[HCWS321]

International Trade

UK-Gulf Co-operation Council Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

The first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United Kingdom (UK) and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) took place between 22 August and 29 September. The negotiations were conducted virtually.

In this round of negotiations the UK and GCC discussed their objectives for the FTA, and exchanged technical information. Technical discussions were held across 29 policy areas over 33 sessions. In total, more than 100 UK negotiators from across Government took part in this round of negotiations.

An FTA will be a substantial economic opportunity, and a significant moment in the UK-GCC relationship. Government analysis shows that, in the long-run, a deal with the GCC is expected to increase trade by at least 16%, add at least £1.6 billion a year to the UK economy and contribute an additional £600 million or more to UK workers’ annual wages.

Both sides have committed to secure an ambitious, comprehensive and modern agreement fit for the 21st century.

The Government remain clear that any deal will be in the best interests of the British people and the UK economy. We will not compromise on our high environmental and labour protections, public health, animal welfare and food standards, and we will maintain our right to regulate in the public interest. We are also clear that during these negotiations, the NHS and the services it provides is not on the table.

The Government will keep Parliament updated as these negotiations progress.

[HCWS320]