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Written Statements

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2023

Written Statements

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Cabinet Office

Places for Growth Update

Today we have published the latest statistics relating to Places for Growth role relocations. This publication sets out a Places for Growth programme overview, relocation data collection and methodology and progress against programme targets 2020 to 2023. Relocations data is broken down by nation, region, location, grade and Department, cumulatively providing a holistic overview of the progress made in relocating Government roles to date.

Places for Growth is delivering on the Government’s commitment to relocate 22,000 roles from London and to have 50% of UK-based senior civil service roles based outside London by 2030. In addition to publishing the latest statistics, today I have announced I am bringing forward the delivery timeframe to relocate 22,000 roles from 2030 to 2027. This recognises the huge progress that has been made to date on this initiative; since 2020 the Places for Growth programme has worked with Government Departments to relocate more than 16,000 roles. This announcement will also launch the headquarter locations of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in Greater Manchester, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero in Aberdeen in addition to Salford and the Department for Business and Trade in Darlington, as well as establishing Wrexham as a key location benefiting from additional roles from the Ministry of Justice and an increase in headcount from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Through Government role relocations and the strengthening of civil service communities across the UK, Places for Growth supports a number of other key Government priorities including modernisation and reform, levelling up and strengthening the union.

Places for Growth will establish a network of locations across the regions and nations of the UK, supporting a geographically diverse civil service that delivers excellent public services, contributes to local economic growth and is better connected to, and representative of, the communities we serve.

I am depositing a copy of the Places For Growth role relocations data 2020 to 2023 in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

Following this statistical release, Places for Growth will publish Government role relocation data on gov.uk on a quarterly basis.

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Energy Security and Net Zero

Energy Infrastructure Planning Projects

This statement concerns an application for development consent made under the Planning Act 2008 by Sunnica Energy Farm for the construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic electricity generating station, situated across west Suffolk and east Cambridgeshire.

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 Sunnica Energy Farm application is 7 December 2023.

I have decided to set a new deadline of no later than 7 March 2024 for deciding this application.

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

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Introduction of Forest Risk Commodities Regulations

Deforestation is now the second leading cause of climate change globally, after burning fossil fuels, and is responsible for around 11% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Forests host around 80% of the world’s wildlife on land and are home to many species found nowhere else. In the last 60 years, more than half of tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed, reducing biodiversity and endangering beloved and crucial species like orangutans and other great apes, tigers, leopards, and jaguars.

Commodities such as cattle and palm oil have been identified as some of the key drivers of deforestation. The UK believes that working in partnership with producer countries to strengthen forest governance is the best way to prevent illegally deforested commodities from the global commodity market.

This is why, as world leaders gather at COP28 for the next round of climate negotiations, we are confirming how UK law will work to prevent the use of forest risk commodities derived from illegally deforested land in UK supply chains.

The legislation will help to protect precious tropical forests at risk of illegal clearance. This will help us to support producer country efforts to enforce their laws and stop illegal clearance and protect vital forest habitat for endangered wildlife.

New due diligence requirements

In 2021 this Government introduced new legislation in the Environment Act to tackle illegal deforestation in UK supply chains. This is a flagship measure to deliver on the commitment made by the UK and over 140 other countries at COP26 in Glasgow to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Schedule 17 to the Environment Act introduced three core requirements on regulated businesses:

It prohibits them from using illegally produced forest risk commodities, including both raw and derived products.

It requires that they establish a due diligence system for each regulated commodity.

It requires that they report annually on their due diligence exercise. To ensure transparency, parts of their reports will be published.

Secondary legislation is necessary to operationalise the requirements of schedule 17. Therefore, we are developing regulations for key forest risk commodities to ensure that they were produced on land used in compliance with local land laws.

Commodities in scope

Initial secondary legislation will focus on four commodities identified as key drivers of deforestation: cattle products (excluding dairy), cocoa, palm oil and soy. These four commodities are estimated to account for 64% of the UK’s tropical deforestation footprint, with as much as 93% of this deforestation likely to be in violation of local laws. Regulating these four commodities will tackle over half of the UK’s estimated deforestation footprint and enable us to quickly put this critical regulation into force, while not disrupting trade and supply chains.

We will keep the regulations under review, taking an opportunity to make any necessary refinements if required. The use of illegally harvested timber in supply chains is regulated separately through the UK timber regulations.

Businesses in scope and exemptions

These regulations are a significant step towards reducing the UK’s overseas deforestation footprint. We are setting a global annual turnover threshold at £50 million to ensure that only larger businesses that can most effectively influence supply chains are in scope of the regulations. In addition, businesses that are using 500 tonnes or less of each commodity per annum can apply for an exemption from the obligations.

We are setting a grace period to enable businesses to prepare following the regulations being made. The intention is that the obligations will apply from the beginning of a reporting year.

Enforcement

The regulations will provide for a wide array of sanctions that can be used for a range of contraventions, from reporting failures to significant breaches of the prohibition against using forest risk commodities produced on land illegally occupied or used. Among these, we have set an unlimited monetary penalty to offer an effective deterrent to regulated businesses by enabling sufficiently high-value penalties to be applied for the most serious breaches, while offering a reasonable range that an enforcement body can use in practice.

To ensure fair and proportionate enforcement action, appropriate guidelines for the issuing of sanctions will be published.

Protecting biodiversity is a global priority and all nations have a part to play. This law shows the UK delivering on our commitments by ensuring that there is no place on our supermarket shelves for key commodities that have been grown on land that is illegally used or occupied, tackling climate change and helping to protect so many beloved endangered species.

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Home Department

Fire Reform White Paper and Consultation: Government’s Official Response

I am pleased to announce to the House that the Government are today publishing our official response to the fire reform White Paper and consultation.

Last year we published our White Paper, “Reforming Our Fire and Rescue Service” (CP 670), to gauge the public and sector’s views on how we wished to drive reform within fire and rescue services. Our proposals were built on the lessons learned from the covid-19 pandemic as well as the recommendations from His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services’ independent inspections, challenging national report findings and the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

In the period since the White Paper was published, further challenges in the fire sector have been the focus of public and parliamentary debate. I refer, in particular, to the independent review of culture in the London Fire Brigade and the HMICFRS national spotlight report into values and culture. These reports highlighted misconduct in multiple fire and rescue services and uncovered totally unacceptable behaviours. Our White Paper response sets out our ambition to improve integrity across the sector.

The feedback on our proposals has allowed us to refine our next steps and announce today our package of reform, which will focus on the areas that have the biggest impact for the public and for fire professionals: developing a profession to be proud of and ensuring that fire services do more to put the public first. These include:

Introducing a professional college of fire and rescue to raise standards and strengthen leadership

Developing provision for fire chiefs to have operational independence

Tasking the National Joint Council to review the pay negotiation mechanism

Taking action to improve integrity and culture in fire and rescue services through improved training, more open recruitment practices and working towards a statutory code of ethics for fire and rescue employees.

Our fire and rescue professionals deserve our support as they not only respond to a changing world but also seek to develop and strengthen their own capabilities. This consultation response sets out how we can work together with partners across the fire sector to deliver this.

I would like to put on record my thanks to everyone who has engaged with us on our White Paper and consultation. Whether they have helped us shape our proposals or provided feedback on how they can work, their help has ensured we can drive forward much-needed and long overdue reform for our fire and rescue services and ensure the best possible service for the public.

The Government’s response has been laid before Parliament as a Command Paper (CP 993) and will be available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforming-our-fire-and-rescue-service

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