Monday 18 September 2023
Business and Trade
Tata Steel: Port Talbot
The Government have agreed on a proposed joint investment package to provide £500 million to Tata Steel as part of their proposed £1.25 billion project to move to low carbon steel making in Port Talbot, subject to the necessary information and consultation processes that will be led by the company.
Through investment in a state-of-the-art Electric Arc Furnace at Port Talbot, this deal will support the UK’s efforts to meet increasing demand over the next decade and enable industry to take a significant step towards decarbonisation. It will strengthen our supply chain resilience, as well as protect thousands of skilled jobs across South Wales and the UK for the long term.
The Conservative Government have been supporting the UK steel industry for many years. The industry has been acutely impacted by recent wider geopolitical and macro-economic developments that have made traditional, blast-furnace steelmaking financially unviable. The global steel market has become saturated with heavily subsidised, carbon-intensive steel, while Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has dramatically increased energy costs. This Conservative Government will continue to stand by our steel industry, and this deal is part of our long-term plan for UK steel.
This ambitious transformation is the culmination of several years of negotiations between the Government and Tata Steel, and is one that has been backed by a majority investment by the company.
This transition will:
Secure continued production of steel at Port Talbot;
enable the industry to take a significant step towards decarbonising; and
provide a clear pathway towards a long-term financially and environmentally sustainable business model, removing the repeated need for Government intervention.
The Government are also enabling this major transformation and modernisation of the steel sector through key policy changes, including delivering the British Industry Supercharger to make electricity prices competitive for energy intensive industries.
Steel is a strategically significant industry which plays a vital role in the UK economy. The sector supports tens of thousands of UK jobs and remains a key driver for local economic growth in regions with proud steelmaking histories. It is also an industry in urgent need of modernisation. Decarbonising industry is a global challenge to meet the temperature goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
By replacing Port Talbot’s existing coal-powered blast furnaces, and assets nearing the end of their effective life, with an Electric Arc Furnace, this proposed project is expected to reduce the UK’s entire business and industry carbon emissions by 7%, Wales’s overall emissions by 22% and the Port Talbot site’s emissions by 85%.
This agreement with Tata represents the best offer and result for the UK and the people of South Wales. This package represents one of the largest support offers in recent history and will secure long term jobs, not just in Port Talbot, but across all of Tata Steel’s sites in England and Wales. It is a deal that not only safeguards jobs, but one that will help build greater resilience in the UK economy and will help create new opportunities in our construction, automotive and energy sectors.
During this transition, the UK Government will also ensure a broad range of support for staff who are affected by the transition, working with the Welsh Government and Tata Steel to provide up to £100 million of funding—in addition to the transformation investment —for a dedicated taskforce to support both employees and the local economy.
As part of the proposal Tata Steel will also release land in Port Talbot for redevelopment and use for new industrial businesses. Alongside the UK Government’s proposal for the Celtic Freeport and the land at Port Talbot which Tata expects to release for transfer or sale following the transition from blast furnaces, the investment could help unlock thousands of new jobs in both the South Wales and wider UK economy.
The funding proposal is subject to extensive scrutiny of detailed business plans, vigorous due diligence and subsidy control assessments. It will include strong conditions around financial probity, governance and delivery.
The landmark proposal builds on other major investments in UK green technology by Tata Group, including the July announcement of a £4 billion battery gigafactory creating 4,000 direct jobs, and represents a major vote of confidence in the UK.
The Minister of State, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, has today made the following statement:
I am today publishing the final report of the UK Commission on Covid Commemoration. The Commission was established in July 2022 to secure a broad consensus across our whole United Kingdom on how we mark and commemorate this very distinctive period in our history.
The Chair of the Commission, the right hon. Baroness Morgan of Cotes, submitted the report to the Prime Minister following a series of meetings with stakeholders across the UK and a UK-wide public consultation.
Communities across the UK have already started to find ways of commemorating our country’s experience of the pandemic and the Government are keen to support their efforts. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will work with the devolved administrations to consider carefully the Commission’s wide-ranging recommendations and will respond in due course. I would like to thank all those who have engaged with the Commission, particularly the bereaved family members who took the time to share their difficult experiences.
I would also like to thank the right hon. Baroness Morgan of Cotes and the 10 members of the Commission for their work.
I have requested that a copy of the Commission’s report be deposited in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament. A copy will also be published on www.gov.uk.
Energy Security and Net Zero
Nuclear Energy: Sizewell C
Britain needs a nuclear renaissance to help deliver a low cost, clean and secure electricity system. New nuclear will result in reliable, abundant energy, while driving down consumers’ bills and boosting economic growth.
Sizewell C is a crucial project for delivering against these objectives. As a near replica of the Hinkley Point C project under construction in Somerset, Sizewell C is our country’s next most mature new nuclear project under development, which can benefit from the design certainty and construction learnings that have been developed at Hinkley Point C.
Sizewell C would generate reliable, low-carbon power for 6 million homes—equivalent to 7% of the UK’s electricity—for six decades or more. Beyond keeping the lights on, in each year of operations it could avoid nine million tonnes of CO2 emissions, moving the UK forward on our path to Net Zero.
It would also act as a vehicle for levelling up nationwide, through the huge opportunities for jobs and skills provided by nuclear projects. Sizewell C Ltd—“the company”—has plans for 70% of the construction value to go to UK businesses, and to bring £4.4 billion of investment to the east of England economy during construction. As well as creating and supporting thousands of jobs in Suffolk and nationwide, the company also plans to create 1,500 apprenticeships, helping to build Britain’s nuclear workforce of the future.
In short, Sizewell C represents the next step in meeting our longer-term ambition to provide up to a quarter of the UK’s electricity from homegrown nuclear energy by 2050.
That is why this Government made a historic investment of c.£700 million in Sizewell C (Holding) Ltd—“SZC HoldCo”—last November, joining EDF—our valued partner as the operator of the UK’s existing nuclear fleet, and the lead developer of Hinkley Point C—as a co-shareholder.
Since then, the Government has worked with EDF and the Company to continue the project’s development, and to establish the best conditions for successful delivery. As a shareholder in SZC HoldCo, this summer we have made available £511m of further funding, supporting site preparation and investing in the local community.
We are now seeking to progress to the next stage.
As highlighted in my predecessor’s written ministerial statement in November 2022, we intend to use the regulated asset base (RAB) model to enable a private equity raise, with the aim of bringing new expertise and experience into the company. In our assessment, this approach has true potential to result in a good value for money outcome for consumers and taxpayers, with the RAB structure incentivising the company and private investors to drive efficient construction on schedule, and, in due course, ensure efficiency in operations.
This summer, the Government and the company undertook a market testing process, with a cross-section of potential investors, in order to understand their views on the project, financing approach and how they could assist in project delivery.
Having received positive feedback from this market testing process, and following agreement with our co-shareholder EDF, the Government and the Company are commencing pre-qualification for potential investors, as the first stage of an equity raise process.
To ensure that investment benefits the company, consumers and taxpayers, the intention is to secure investment from qualified organisations able to take a meaningful ownership stake, such that new investors’ incentives are aligned with other shareholders and, importantly, they are able to substantively and positively influence company governance and delivery over the construction period.
Investment is being sought from those with significant experience in the delivery of major infrastructure projects, especially in large-scale nuclear or other complex energy or infrastructure projects. Drawing from this experience would ensure Sizewell C benefits from expertise in areas such as project risk management, cost control, and instilling projects with a culture of commercial focus.
In taking this stake, at the time of a positive final investment decision, investors would be expected to make a commitment to their share of the Company’s equity requirement. This would provide confidence to the Government, EDF and the company that new investors would fulfil their shareholder obligations as Sizewell C moves into the full construction phase.
Any prospective investor interested in participating in the equity raise process will need to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire. My officials, together with SZC GenCo’s management, will assess investors’ suitability against pre-determined criteria and confirm investors’ eligibility for inclusion in the equity raise process. Details of how to access the questionnaire will be available and signposted on www.gov.uk.
I wish to assure the House that the interests of consumers and taxpayers are central as we progress the project. The Government will only accept private investment if it is likely to result in value for money. We will continue to assess and consider our approach over the coming months and will take the time needed to reach a deal which satisfies this objective. As committed to during the passage of the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act 2022, the Government will publish a full value for money assessment of the company and the project at the point of any final investment decision.
I also want to be clear that the equity sought at this stage does not represent the limit of potential private investment in the company, and that following the outcome of this process there may be further opportunities for private investment during construction and operations.
Finally, as well as value for money, I want to assure the House—as well as British consumers and taxpayers—that should any investments reach the relevant statutory thresholds, investors will be required to pass through the process set out in the National Security and Investments Act 2021, allowing scrutiny of any risks posed with respect to this legislation. The Government will also hold a special share in the company, enabling us to require investors to take certain actions in respect of their shareholdings should future risks appear, including on national security or public policy grounds.
I will continue to update the House on Sizewell C more broadly over the coming months.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The Government are taking urgent action to bring forward a ban on XL bully dog types following a concerning rise in attacks and fatalities, which appear to be driven by this type of dog.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, a definition of the “American XL bully” breed type needs to be specified in order to impose a ban. The Environment Secretary and the Home Secretary will convene experts to define the “American XL bully” breed type. This group will include police, canine and veterinary experts, and animal welfare stakeholders. This is a vital first step towards adding it to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act. We will engage with the relevant devolved Administrations about adopting a UK-wide approach.
The Government will then legislate to add it to the list of dogs banned under the Act. I intend to have the legislation in place to deliver this ban by the end of the year. This will make it an offence to own an unregistered XL bully, or to breed, gift or sell one. We need to safely manage the existing population of these dogs. Therefore, there will be a transition period. Further details on how this period will work will be provided ahead of the tabling of the legislation later this year. Dog owners do not need to take any action at this stage.
We have been working hard with the police, local authorities and animal welfare groups to help prevent attacks by encouraging responsible dog ownership, to ensure dog control issues are addressed before they escalate and to make sure the full force of the law is applied. Owners whose dogs are dangerously out of control are already breaking the law, and we already have a full range of powers to apply penalties to them. Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, any dog that is dangerously out of control can be euthanised and their owners put in prison for up to 14 years and banned from ever owning a dog.
While the courts have the power to allow people to keep banned breeds with certain conditions, like being muzzled and neutered, the number of so-called exempted dogs is higher than a decade ago. That was not the intention of the legislation passed over 30 years ago. Therefore, we will also review our guidance to enforcers of the law.
Water Resource Infrastructure
Following the approval of the House, I am pleased to inform the House that I am today—18 September 2023—designating the national policy statement (NPS) for water resources infrastructure under section 5(1) of the Planning Act 2008, and have arranged for publication as required by section 5(9)(a) of that Act.
The national policy statement for water resources infrastructure provides a clear framework for those making development consent applications for water resources infrastructure, in particular by setting out the need for infrastructure providing assessment principles against which an application should be examined and determined. The NPS gives water companies clarity regarding the Government’s planning expectations, and added certainty about the areas planning inspectors might consider at a planning inquiry. This also supports the implementation of the Government’s “Plan for Water” and securing our water supplies by enhancing the resilience of water infrastructure.
The next step is for applicants to develop their plans, and then carry out further public consultation as required under the Act. Any application for development consent will of course be considered carefully and with an open mind based on the evidence provided, including through a public examination by the independent Planning Inspectorate, before a final decision is made.
Health and Social Care
Clinical Negligence Claims
On 15 September, the Government response to the consultation on fixed recoverable costs in lower damages clinical negligence claims was published on www.gov.uk.
The rising costs of clinical negligence claims are of great concern to the Government. Costs have more than quadrupled in the last 16 years, with legal costs comprising a notable proportion of this rise. Claimant legal costs have risen sharply in lower damages claims—claims valued up to and including £25,000—and are often disproportionate to the value of those claims. These costs are funded from the core NHS budget and use resources that could otherwise have been spent on patient care.
The length of the legal process can also be disproportionate given the relative straightforwardness of many claims at this level, meaning that people who have been harmed are waiting longer to receive compensation.
The consultation response sets out a way forward for these lower damages claims: a set of fixed legal costs and a new streamlined process. Our aim is to facilitate faster resolution for claimants and defendants at a lower, more proportionate cost than under the current system for these claims. The scheme would only affect the amount of legal costs that claimant lawyers can recover from defendants following a successful claim, not the compensation that a claimant could receive.
We also believe that these reforms will achieve significant cost savings and make an important contribution towards addressing the overall rise in clinical negligence costs. The Department’s modelling indicates that introducing these reforms could realise cashflow savings to the NHS in England of around £500 million over a decade. These reforms would apply to care provided by NHS, non-profit and private healthcare providers in England and Wales, but would not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The responses to our 2022 consultation on introducing fixed costs in ‘lower value’ clinical negligence claims have been vital in helping us shape these reforms and informed some changes to the original proposals, in particular around strengthening the safeguards we have in place to protect claimants’ access to justice.
Alongside the response, I have launched a further consultation focusing on the specific issue of disbursements under the fixed recoverable costs scheme, inviting views on a proposed way forward on disbursements for all claims in the scheme. That further consultation will run for six weeks, ending on 27 October 2023. I welcome views from all interested parties on those proposals.
We will work with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee to ensure the smooth delivery of these reforms. Subject to agreement, the Government expect that legislation will be in place to implement the reforms by April 2024.
Tissue and Cell Donation
The findings of the Government commissioned review into donor selection policies, that was carried out by the ‘For Assessment of Individualised Risk’ (FAIR) Steering Group, led to the implementation of changes in summer 2021 to address inequalities in blood donation. These changes mean that anyone who attends a blood donation centre regardless of sex or sexuality will be assessed for eligibility according to individual risk.
It is almost two years since the implementation of the changes for blood donation and I am pleased to announce today the publication of recommendations in the FAIR III report for tissue and cell donation. The report highlights an individualised risk-based approach for living tissue and cell donation—surgical bone, amnion, stem cells and cord blood—and deceased tissue donation. The Government have now reviewed the evidence presented by the FAIR III Steering Group, together with the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, and has accepted this recommendation.
This change will provide equity in access to donation for men who have sex with men across the UK, aligning with changes to blood donor selection related to sexual behaviours and the Government’s commitment to address health inequalities, as set out in the Levelling Up White Paper and the NHS Long Term Plan.
The Government wish to pay tribute to the tissue and organ donation experts and the patient and donor family representatives on the Steering Group, as well as health and academic colleagues whose valuable engagement led to the development of this important evidence-based report.
The Government are also grateful to the Joint United Kingdom Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services Professional Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs and NHS Blood and Transplant for their work in developing recommendations that are based on robust evidence from epidemiology, behaviour and psychosocial data and engaging with service users and providers.
The Department of Health and Social Care is working with NHS Blood and Transplant and the Devolved Governments to implement this change. We will have monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure the safety of donors and patients, including continued monitoring of infections. The changes will be reviewed in 12 months.
Unexplained Wealth Orders: 2022-23 Report
Today I lay before Parliament the unexplained wealth order report for the period 2022-2023. The UWO report details the number of UWOs made by the High Court in England and Wales during that period, and the number of applications made to that Court by enforcement authorities for such an order during that period.
In total, one UWO was applied for during the reporting period. This was obtained in June 2023. One other UWO was applied for since Royal Assent of the Economic Crime Transparency and Enforcement Act 2022 but before the reporting period began. This case has been adjourned to a date outside of this reporting period.
The number of UWOs applied for and obtained for the period is low but this must be understood within the wider context of the UK’s asset recovery system. Enforcement authorities have a number of powers available to them to investigate, search for and seize assets. Even a single UWO may have a high impact. A UWO used in one investigation resulted in civil recovery proceedings that led to the recovery of almost £10 million.
While law enforcement agencies remain committed to using UWOs where they will add value to an investigation, they are operationally independent from Government and cannot be tasked to use UWOs. We will continue to keep the UWO regime under review.
Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.
The vast majority of officers are brave and hard-working individuals but serious concerns persist regarding standards and culture in policing, particularly in light of recent cases and the concerning findings of Baroness Casey’s review into culture and standards in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The Government are committed to ensuring the police discipline system is fair and effective at removing those officers who fall seriously below the high standards we rightly expect of them.
It is for this reason that we launched a review into the police dismissals process in January of this year. The review considered evidence from stakeholders, as well as the results of a national data collection. The core recommendations from this review were announced on 31 August and today we are publishing the report of the review, setting out the evidence collected and full list of proposals we intend to take forward. These proposals include:—
Creating a presumption for dismissal where gross misconduct is proven. This change will ensure that—unless exceptional circumstances apply—officers found guilty of gross misconduct can expect to be dismissed.
Ensuring officers who fail vetting can be dismissed. We intend to make it a statutory requirement for officers to hold vetting—and support a legislative routeway to dismiss those who are unable to do so.
Specifying that certain criminal offences automatically amount to gross misconduct. We intend to introduce a list of barred offences, meaning that conviction of certain criminal offences—including sexual offences—automatically constitutes gross misconduct.
Returning responsibility for chairing misconduct hearings to senior officers. To ensure chief constables are afforded a stronger role in the system—while retaining necessary independence—the responsibility for chairing hearings will now sit with senior officers. A legally qualified person (LQP) and independent panel member (IPM) will sit alongside the senior officer.
Streamlining of the unsatisfactory performance procedures (UPP). We intend to streamline the current statutory performance system for police officers to make it easier to use—identifying under-performing officers and, where there is no improvement in their performance, effectively dismissing them.
A number of other changes are expected to improve the efficiency of the system and ensure greater transparency.
The Government are committed to delivering these important reforms, the majority of which require changes to secondary legislation, and will work with stakeholders to deliver these as soon as practicable.
The review report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and published on www.gov.uk.
Work and Pensions
National Disability Strategy
In my written statement of 12 July, I informed the House of the judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal on 11 July 2023 regarding the national disability strategy judicial review. In that ministerial statement, I was pleased to inform the House that the Court of Appeal found in favour of the Government. This meant that both the UK disability survey and the national disability strategy have now been found to be lawful by the Court of Appeal, and we are able to continue with the important work of implementing this long-term strategy to transform disabled people’s everyday lives for the better.
I further committed to providing the House with an update in September on how this Government will take forward work on the strategy now that it has been found to be lawful.
The Government’s intention has always been to create more opportunities for disabled people to participate and thrive; to protect and promote the rights of disabled people; and to tackle the barriers that prevent disabled people from fully benefiting from, and contributing fully to, every aspect of our society.
The vast majority of departmental commitments outlined in the national disability strategy 2021 were not impacted by the High Court’s initial judgment. The Government have progressed well on delivering these and other commitments, as can be seen by all the Government’s achievements, as set out in my letter placed in the Library of the House in July.
I will place a note in the Library of the House to provide an update:
on how the Government now propose to take this the 14 commitments that were paused to comply with the High Court’s declaration; and
on all departmental commitments in the national disability strategy. This includes details as to whether the individual commitments have been delivered or are in progress. There are 47 commitments that have been “completed”, 54 commitments “in progress”, one that is currently “paused”, and two that are no longer being taken forward.
In parallel with taking forward the commitments in the national disability strategy, the Government are also pressing ahead with our disability action plan, focused on concrete actions to improve disabled people’s lives in 2023 and 2024.
I am pleased to confirm that on 18 July 2023 we published the disability action plan consultation. The disability action plan consultation is open for 12 weeks and responses can be submitted until 6 October. The consultation document sets out a number of proposals and consultation questions—informed by the experiences of disabled people, research and the current policy landscape—as an initial step to make sure policy development direction is correct. The findings of this consultation will inform the final published disability action plan.
Taken together, the national disability strategy and the disability action plan set out a complementary, ambitious programme of work across Government to improve disabled people’s lives in the short, medium and long term. I will continue to work with my ministerial disability champion colleagues across Government to drive progress against these commitments and to make the greatest possible positive impact for disabled people.