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Written Statements

Volume 742: debated on Monday 4 December 2023

Written Statements

Monday 4 December 2023

Culture, Media and Sport

Telegraph Media Group: Public Interest Intervention Notice

My Department has written to the Barclay family and RedBird IMI, the current and proposed owners of Telegraph Media Group (TMG), to inform them of my decision to issue a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) in relation to the anticipated acquisition of TMG by Redbird IMI.

This relates to concerns I have that there may be public interest considerations—as set out in section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002—that are relevant to the anticipated acquisition of TMG by RedBird IMI and that these concerns warrant further investigation.

At this stage, my decision to issue the PIIN triggers the requirement for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to report to me on jurisdictional and competition matters; and for Ofcom to report to me on the media public interest considerations in section 58(2A) of the Enterprise Act 2002—namely, the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression of opinion in newspapers. I have asked both the CMA and Ofcom to report back to me by 26 January 2024.

I have also made an order to prevent actions by the parties to the merger that might prejudice the process or impede my ability to protect the public interest during the period in which the intervention notice is in force. It prohibits transfer of the ownership of the business without my prior written consent. It also requires the parties to ensure that steps are not taken to integrate the business with any other enterprise, to take action to ensure that no significant changes are made to the management and oversight of the business, and to do what is within their power to ensure that key editorial staff within the business are not removed or transferred without my prior written consent, or they are at least encouraged to remain.

This order came into force at 10 am on 1 December 2023. It will remain in force until the PIIN ceases to be in force.

I reserve the right to take such further action under the Act as I consider appropriate, which may include exercising my powers under section 42 of the Act in relation to any other relevant merger situation. My decision to issue a PIIN is without prejudice to my ability to take any such additional action in accordance with the Act.

My role as the Secretary of State in this process is quasi-judicial and procedures are in place to ensure that I act independently and follow a process which is scrupulously fair, transparent and impartial.

DCMS will update Parliament after both reports from the regulators have been received and considered.

[HCWS86]

Independent Review of Women's Football

I wish to inform the House that the Government have today published their response to the recommendations made by the independent review of women’s football.

Women’s football has developed rapidly in recent years and there is no doubt that we are at a defining moment. The Lionesses’ win at the UEFA Euro 2022 final and their journey to the final of the FIFA World cup earlier this year has continued to raise the profile of women’s football, both domestically and internationally. It is vital that we continue to build on these successes to ensure a long-lasting and sustainable future for women’s football in this country.

The review of women’s football examined the opportunities and challenges for the women’s and girls’ game. The review made 10 strategic recommendations which would lift minimum standards and deliver bold and sustainable growth at elite and grassroots levels. The Government support all 10 of the recommendations in the review, and believe that these must be acted on as a priority to ensure the women’s game propels itself to the next level. I want to take this opportunity to thank Karen Carney again for the enormous amount of hard work and commitment that went into producing such a prominent review. I am grateful for her continued support for the women’s game and I very much look forward to working with her going forward.

Responsibility for driving forward the recommendations sits across multiple stakeholders, including the Football Association; NewCo, the new independent entity that will be responsible for the management of the women’s professional game; clubs; the Premier League; the English Football League; broadcasters; the Football Foundation; the Sports Grounds Safety Authority; Sport England; and the Government. The Government will continue to drive forward the recommendations requiring Government action while working with other key organisations to ensure implementation across the board.

In order to hold all stakeholders accountable, the Government will be convening an implementation group, which will be responsible for ensuring the delivery of each recommendation.

The Government have announced a further £25 million for the Lionesses Futures Fund, in addition to £5 million from the FA. This £30 million fund will deliver up to 30 3G pitches in England, with gold-standard provision for women and girls. These state-of-the-art artificial grass pitches will be built around women’s and girls’ priority use, using reserved peak-time slots, women-and-girls-only evenings, and priority booking for women’s and girls’ teams to drive up participation and create pathways for growth. The funding will also provide safe and necessary grassroots facilities, such as women’s and girls’ changing rooms and showers, to welcome the next generation of players both on and off the pitch. All this builds on our investment of over £300 million in similar facilities across the UK, which also substantially benefits the women’s and girls’ game at a grassroots level.

The ambition has always been for the review’s recommendations to go beyond women’s football and apply to women’s sport more widely—sharing best practice and giving women and girls equal opportunities to play the sport they love. With this in mind, the Government will be convening a roundtable discussion with industry leaders across all women’s sports.

By collectively implementing the recommendations from the review, the women’s game in this country can become a world-leading sport that not only generates immense economic and social value, but sets the standards for women’s professional sport globally that allow others to follow.

The full text of the Government’s response to the review of women’s football can be found at www.gov.uk.

[HCWS85]

Defence

Defence Equipment Plan

I wish to inform Parliament that the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Defence has written to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee with our 2023 update on the affordability of the 2023 defence equipment plan as at the end of financial year 2022-23, which details the Department’s spending plans in equipment procurement and support projects over a period of 10 years.

I am placing a copy of his letter and the supplementary tables in the Library of the House and they have been published online. This more concise update takes the place of the usual equipment plan financial summary report and maintains continuity of financial reporting ahead of implementing the outcomes of the Integrated Review Refresh and the Defence Command Paper 2023 (DCP23). I welcome the continued engagement of the National Audit Office (NAO) which has today published its independent assessment of our plans.

The world is increasingly dangerous and the transition into a multipolar, fragmented and contested world had happened more quickly and definitively than anticipated in the original Integrated Review. The risk of escalation is greater than at any time in decades.

This year’s equipment plan comes at a time of significant financial pressures due to pivotal world events, including the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the plan recognises the significant impact inflation has had on defence’s budget.

We have increased the budget for the equipment plan to £288.6 billion. Against this assumption we estimated there was a 6% pressure, but there are other reasonable scenarios in which the Department has a surplus over 10 years. The position reported in the plan and by the NAO does not reflect the Government’s aspiration to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP as soon as economic and fiscal conditions allow.

While we are currently forecasting a pressure, the Department is confident it can live within its equipment budget, with only 25% of the equipment plan committed over the next decade, providing the headroom to adjust the programme as needed and ensuring we can remain responsive to emerging events. We have also made significant changes to how we manage the nuclear enterprise which will support us in delivering the nuclear deterrent on schedule.

We published DCP23 this summer and work is already underway to develop proposals to deliver its intent within our current budget. The additional funding from the 2022 autumn statement and 2023 spring budget is already allowing us to make new investments in stockpiles and munitions.

While we recognise the affordability challenge of the 2023-2033 equipment plan, it is only right that the choices we make to address this reflect the Government’s priorities as set out in DCP23, as the Department focuses more on artificial intelligence, digital capabilities and assuring supply chains to modernise our armed forces. We continue to work on reform to our acquisition processes including more iterative development of capabilities.

[HCWS87]

AUKUS Defence Partnership

Just over two years ago, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia launched the ground-breaking new strategic partnership—known as AUKUS. As we have seen over the last two years or so, the world has become more dangerous. That is why Defence partnerships like AUKUS only become more important in ensuring that the UK and our allies maintain a strategic advantage.

For more than a century, our nations have stood shoulder to shoulder, along with other allies and partners, to help sustain peace, stability, and prosperity around the world.

On Friday, I was delighted to meet the US Secretary for Defence, Lloyd Austin, and the Australian Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Maries at the Defence Innovation Unit in California for the annual AUKUS Defence Ministers’ Meeting.

For Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines (Pillar I), we are collaborating to deliver this capability at the earliest possible date while upholding the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard.

For Advanced Capabilities (Pillar II), we are significantly deepening co-operation on a range of security and defence capabilities, making sure that each nation has the capabilities needed to defend against rapidly evolving threats.

Through these efforts, AUKUS contributes to integrated deterrence by pursuing layered and asymmetric capabilities that promote deterrence and stability.

We reflected on the exceptional progress made as part of delivering on the optimal pathway to develop a conventionally armed, nuclear powered, submarine capability to the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, as announced by the AUKUS leaders in March this year. This includes increased training opportunities for Australian sailors in the UK and US, and the introduction of enabling legislation to the US Congress and Australian Parliament. We reaffirmed our shared commitment to upholding the highest standard for nuclear non-proliferation. Our industry is supporting Australia in this endeavour. Both BAE Systems in Barrow and Rolls Royce in Derby are playing a key role in the delivery of this world-class capability.

We also reflected on how the strategic alignment of our national defence strategies, anchored by our shared values, is facilitating unprecedented collaboration in advanced technologies. Through Pillar II, we are accelerating and deepening the development and delivery of advanced military capabilities, based on the most important challenges we face. This progress will improve our shared ability to tackle emerging threats.

We are significantly scaling up our co-operation on maritime capabilities and have committed to test these through a landmark maritime autonomy experimentation and exercise series. This will help us test our interoperability and increase the sophistication and scale of autonomous systems in the maritime domain. There will be significant opportunities for UK industry to engage.

We are advancing our trilateral anti-submarine warfare activities and undersea vehicle launch and recovery. These capabilities help to increase the range and capability of our undersea forces and will also support SSN-AUKUS. This follows our successful trials last month, where HMS Tamar played a key role in combined exercises off the east coast of Australia.

We are strengthening cyber capabilities across the three AUKUS partners, ensuring that we are working hand in hand with our industry partners across all our supply chains and protecting this endeavour for the future.

We are developing quantum technologies to increase resilience for our trilateral forces in Global Positioning System-degraded environments and enhance stealth in the undersea domain, including on future SSN-AUKUS submarines.

Critical to all of our capability development is our ability to facilitate faster and deeper defence trade between our nations. These efforts will increase private-sector co-operation across our nations, which is crucial to our ambition in emerging technologies. The Advanced Capabilities Industry Forum will provide a mechanism for industry-industry and Government-industry consultation on how to transfer the necessary technology, data, and know-how needed to deliver capability quickly. We have also previewed our first AUKUS Innovation Challenge.

In addition, we have confirmed our trilateral co-operation on the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) programme. This will provide 24/7, all-weather capabilities that will increase AUKUS nations’ ability to characterise objects deep in space up to 22,000 miles—36,000 kilometres —away from earth, supporting His Majesty’s Government’s commitments to be a meaningful actor in space under the National Space Strategy (2021). Cawdor Barracks in South-West Wales has been identified as the UK’s preferred host site, which will progress subject to planning permission.

Together, these initiatives provide us with a solid foundation to enhance our collective security and deterrence to keep all three nations’ safe in a world that is becoming more dangerous by the day.

For additional detail, I refer members to the AUKUS Defence Ministers’ communique https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3604511/aukus-defense-ministers-meeting-joint-statement/.

Science, Innovation and Technology

Horizon Europe and Copernicus Programmes: UK's Association

On Monday 4 December the UK and EU will sign our bespoke new agreement finalising the UK’s association to the Horizon Europe and Copernicus programmes. This deal is set to create and support thousands of new jobs as part of the next generation of research talent. It will help deliver the Prime Minister’s ambition to grow the economy and cement the UK as a science and technology superpower by 2030.

As part of the new deal negotiated over the last six months, the Prime Minister secured improved financial terms of association to Horizon Europe that are right for the UK—increasing the benefits to UK scientists, value for money for the UK taxpayer. It ensures:

UK taxpayers will not pay for the time where UK researchers have been excluded since 2021, with costs starting from January 2024.

The UK will have a new automatic clawback that protects the UK as participation recovers from the effects of the last two and a half years. It means the UK will be compensated should UK scientists receive significantly less money than the UK puts into the programme. This was not the case under the original terms of association.

Later today we expect UK and EU representatives to meet in the format of the Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes, where they are due to sign a decision to adopt Protocols I and II and amend Annex 47 of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, thereby formalising the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and Copernicus.

I will meet in Brussels with EU Research and Innovation Commissioner lliana Ivanova and members of the UK and EU R&D sectors to discuss and promote efforts to boost UK participation in Horizon Europe and Copernicus.

My visit to Brussels marks the start of joint UK-EU work to ensure that UK businesses and researchers and their international counterparts come together and seize the opportunity that UK association to the programmes brings.

Researchers, academics, and businesses of all sizes can confidently bid for a share of the more than £80 billion available through the two programmes, with calls for the 2024 work programme already open. It builds on the Government’s record-breaking backing for R&D, with a commitment to invest £20 billion in UK R&D by 2024-25, borne out in recent announcements like the £500 million boost to the AI research resource and £50 million for battery manufacturing R&D, announced in the autumn statement.

DSIT will shortly launch a communications campaign to maximise participation in Horizon Europe and Copernicus from researchers, academics and businesses of all sizes in the UK. Encouraging smaller businesses to pitch for, and win, Horizon and Copernicus funding supports DSIT’s aim to help the UK’s promising science and tech firms scale-up and grow. Officials will work closely with key sector stakeholders to ensure this message reaches businesses of all kinds, who might not have previously considered applying, as well as researchers and academics in every part of the country.

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