Written statements

Government Ministers and a small number of other Members of the two Houses can make a written statement to one or both Houses.

Written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. They also reproduced in the next edition of the Daily Report and of Hansard in the relevant House.

Written statements made before 17 November 2014 were published only in Hansard:

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HM Treasury
Made on: 20 November 2017
Made by: Mr Philip Hammond (The Chancellor of the Exchequer)

Notification of Contingent Liability

The Governor of the Bank of England requested on 20 November 2017 to raise the limit on purchases that may be undertaken by the Asset Purchase Facility (APF). This will ensure that the Term Funding Scheme (TFS) can continue to lend central bank reserves to banks and building societies at rates close to Bank Rate during a defined drawdown period, which will close at the end of February 2018.

When the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) first introduced the scheme in August 2016, I agreed with the Governor of the Bank of England that total TFS drawings would be determined by usage of the scheme. I have therefore authorised an increase in the total size of the APF of £25 billion to £585 billion, in order to accommodate expected usage of the TFS by the end of the drawdown period.

In line with the requirements in the MPC remit, the amendments to the APF that could affect the allocation of credit and pose risks to the Exchequer have been discussed with Treasury officials. The risk control framework previously agreed with the Treasury will remain in place.

The Government will continue to indemnify the Bank and the APF from any losses arising out of, or in connection with, the Facility. If the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal Supply procedure.

A full departmental Minute is laid in the House of Commons providing more detail on this contingent liability.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS260
Department for Education
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Mr Robert Goodwill (Minister of State for Children and Families)

Schools and Early Years update

Today the Government is launching a public consultation on its proposed approach to revising the entitlement criteria for free school meals and the early years pupil premium, in light of the national roll out of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is replacing a number of qualifying benefits for free school meals, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance, Child’s Tax Credit and Income Support.

Subject to the outcome of this consultation, we propose to introduce a net earned income threshold of £7,400 per annum for those in receipt of Universal Credit. A typical family earning around £7,400 per annum would, depending on their exact circumstances, have a total household income between £18,000 and £24,000 once benefits are taken into account. A threshold of £7,400 will increase the free school meals cohort by approximately 5% once Universal Credit is fully rolled out and in steady state. This equates to approximately 50,000 additional pupils being eligible to receive a nutritious free school meal than currently.

Furthermore, to ensure that no child who currently benefits from a free school meal loses this entitlement as a result of this criteria change, we aim to protect current beneficiaries’ eligibility up until the end of the roll-out of Universal Credit. From that point on, all children should retain this protection for the rest of their current phase of education.

The economic eligibility criteria for the early years pupil premium are the same as for free school meals. We believe that this consistency is important so that the most disadvantaged families benefit from this additional funding across the whole age range. As such, we propose to apply the same threshold as mentioned above for free school meals to the early years pupil premium, and to mirror the protection arrangements for current beneficiaries during the UC roll-out period.

If, following the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, the Government decides to take forward its proposals, we expect the revised regulations to come into force in April 2018.

The ‘Eligibility for free school meals and early years pupil premium under Universal Credit’ consultation will commence today and run for eight weeks. The consultation document containing full details of the proposals and inviting responses will be published on the Department for Education’s website. Copies of the consultation document will also be placed in the House Libraries.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS259
Northern Ireland Office
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Chloe Smith (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)

Northern Ireland Universal Credit implementation - non-consensual conception exception

In the light of recent questions in the House, I wish to set out the policy and respective responsibilities regarding the non-consensual conception exception to the policy to provide additional support in Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit, and its interaction with Northern Ireland criminal law.

There has been particular focus on section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967. This provides that where a relevant offence has been committed, it shall be the duty of every other person who knows or believes that the offence has been committed and that has information which is likely to secure, or to be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any person for that offence, to give the information, otherwise they shall be guilty of an offence, unless they have a reasonable excuse. This provision is not new, nor has it been affected in any way by the implementation of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland. Its implications for those who are victims of crime, including rape, date back to 1967. And as criminal law is a devolved matter, the UK Government has no role in determining the appropriateness of this particular provision, nor in proposing any amendment to it. What is more, we understand that there has not been a single prosecution of a victim of rape under section 5 of the 1967 Act in 50 years. That means that there is no recorded case where it has been considered that those limbs of the prosecutorial test have been met since 1967.

As to the non-consensual conception exception more broadly, it is an important part of the two-child limit policy. It is in place to protect those who are not always able to make choices about the number of children in their family. But given its complex and sensitive nature, great care is taken in its application right across the United Kingdom. And we have worked with the Department for Communities, given that the administration of Universal Credit is a devolved matter, to ensure the same is true in Northern Ireland.

In particular, the legal position is made very clear on the forms and guidance for Child Tax Credits and Universal Credit, so that both the claimant and the third party professional are clear before any disclosure is made:

“Please be aware, that in Northern Ireland, if the third party knows or believes that a relevant offence (such as rape) has been committed, the third party will normally have a duty to inform the police of any information that is likely to secure, or to be of material assistance in securing, the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of someone for that offence”.

In addition, claimants applying for this exception will be told that they do not have to tell the third party professional the name of the child’s other biological parent. Nor is there a requirement on the approved third party professional to seek any further evidence to confirm the circumstances around the conception of the child beyond what the claimant has described to them. The role of a third party professional will simply be to confirm, by ticking boxes on a form, that the claimant has made a declaration to them which is consistent with the criteria for the non-consensual conception exception in relation to their child. No officials of either the UK Government or the Northern Ireland Civil Service will question a claimant about an incident. You can find details of the guidance and the forms online (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/publications/form-ncc1niis-support-child-conceived-without-your-consent).

Taken as a whole, therefore, the implementation of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland has been undertaken in a way that reflects the interests of claimants on the one hand, and the interests of those taxpayers who support themselves solely through work on the other. Ultimately, however, given the devolution settlement, the questions raised are properly for a restored Northern Ireland Executive.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS257
Cabinet Office
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Damian Green (First Secretary of State)

Social Care Update

Today the Government is setting out plans to publish a Green Paper by summer recess 2018 presenting its proposals to reform care and support for older people. Reform of this vital sector has been a controversial issue for many years, but the realities of an ageing society mean that we must reach a sustainable settlement for the long-term.

To achieve reform where previous attempts have failed, we must look more broadly than social care services alone, and not focus narrowly on questions of means-testing, important though these are. Our vision for care must also incorporate the wider networks of support and services which help older people to live independently, including the crucial role of housing and the interaction with other public services. It must consider how care is provided at present and challenge the system to embrace new technology, innovation and workforce models which can deliver better quality and value.

To deliver a lasting solution, it is right that we take the time needed to debate these complex issues and listen to a range of perspectives to build consensus. For this reason, over the coming months, we will work with experts, stakeholders and people using care and support services to shape the long-term reform which is urgently needed. The Government has already established an Inter-Ministerial Group to oversee development of the Green Paper, and as part of this initial engagement we have asked a number of independent experts in this area to provide their views to the group. The Government will also engage closely with representatives from local government, the NHS, the voluntary sector and care providers, as well as with people who use care and support, to underpin development of the Green Paper. And when the Green Paper is published, it will then be subject to a full public consultation, providing a further opportunity for interested parties to give their views.

We recognise that many MPs and Peers are already engaging in the debate about the future of care and support, and we want to hear their views. I am therefore writing today to invite the Chairs of relevant All Party Parliamentary Groups to meet with me in the coming weeks to listen to their perspectives and priorities for the reform agenda.

Whilst the Green Paper will focus on care for older people, the Government recognises both the challenges faced by people of working age with care needs and the many common questions about the sustainability of the care system. Many of the discussions on the Green Paper reforms will impact on care and support for adults of all ages. However, to ensure that issues for working-age adults with care needs are considered in their own right, the Government will take forward a parallel programme of work, led jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will focus on this group. This work will also be overseen by the Inter-Ministerial Group to ensure alignment with the Green Paper.

The Green Paper presents a unique opportunity to build consensus around reforms which can last. There is no escaping that building a sustainable care and support system will require choices about what that system should provide and how it is paid for. But getting this right promises a better system that everyone can have confidence in, where people understand their responsibilities, can prepare for the future, and know that the care they receive will be to a high standard and help them maintain their independence and wellbeing.

Home Office
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Mr Ben Wallace (The Minister of State for Security)

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Consultation on revised Codes of Practice

I am today publishing three revised codes of practice for consultation under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

The consultation is in relation to the following codes:

1. The Covert Surveillance and Property Interference Code of Practice.

2. The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Code of Practice

These codes provide guidance on the authorisation of directed surveillance, intrusive surveillance and covert human intelligence sources under Part 2 of RIPA, as well as property interference under the Police Act 1997 and Intelligence Services Act 1994. These powers are available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as a number of other public authorities specified under RIPA, for use where necessary and proportionate for purposes such as the prevention or detection of crime, and the protection of national security. The codes reinforce the safeguards provided by the Acts, for the careful and lawful deployment, management and oversight of the powers.

3. The Investigation of Protected Information Code of Practice

This code sets out guidance on the use of powers under Part 3 of RIPA governing the investigation of protected electronic information, usually in pursuance of a criminal investigation.

The three codes are being updated to reflect changes in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 which will impact on the use of the powers covered by the codes. In particular the codes reflect the creation of the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who has replaced the three existing oversight bodies, the requirement for public authorities to report errors to the Commissioner, and the new arrangements for authorisation of equipment interference which will apply in future to some techniques currently authorised under property interference provisions, and be relevant for use of the power under Part 3 of RIPA. At the same time the guidance in the codes under Part 2 of RIPA are being updated to reflect best practice in authorisation and management of the powers, to strengthen the safeguards relating to handling of confidential or legally privileged material, and to clarify the application of the RIPA framework to online investigation and research.

The consultation will last for six weeks. Copies of the consultation document and draft codes will be placed in the House Library. Online versions will be available on the www.gov.uk website.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS254
Home Office
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Victoria Atkins (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability)

Disclosure and Barring Service Annual Report and Accounts 2016-17

The 2016-17 Annual Report and Accounts for the Disclosure and Barring Service (HC 178) is being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS251
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation)

Notificiation to Parliament of Contingent Liability: Mercator Ocean

Today I will lay before Parliament a departmental minute describing the purchase of a shareholding in Mercator Océan and the resulting contingent liability.

Copernicus is the EU Earth Observation programme that monitors the global health of the planet. Mercator Océan is the ‘Coordinating Entity’ for the Copernicus Marine Services which provides free and open access to constantly updated information about the global ocean and the seas of the European region. Mercator-Océan is currently owned by five French public institutions with an interest/obligation to deliver research aligned to operational oceanography. It is broadening its ownership structure to be more in line with other delegated authorities.

The Secretary of State, acting through the Met Office, intends on 29 November 2017 to buy a 5% (€100k) share of Mercator Océan, alongside equivalent organisations from Norway, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The organisation is a “Societé Civile” (a not for profit organisation) under French law, meaning it has unlimited liability, and its shareholders are exposed to liability risk in proportion to their shareholding. A remote contingent liability will therefore exist as long as the Secretary of State retains a shareholding in Mercator Océan.

The organisation protects its shareholders through contractual mechanisms and through insurance. Also any residual claim would first be met from the assets of the company. Any contingent liability is considered to be extremely remote. In addition any contingent liability will cease to exist should the Met Office dispose of the shares, which it is able to do so at cost at any point within the first 3 years of ownership, and with 6 months’ notice after this point.

Regrettably, on this occasion pressing commercial requirements to procure the shares have meant that it has not been possible to provide the full 14 Sitting Days prior to taking on the contingent liabilities.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS250
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)

Local Plans

On 7 February we published our Housing White Paper in which we made clear that the housing market in this country is broken, and the cause is very simple: for too long, we haven’t built enough homes. We have identified three systemic problems: not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need; house building that is simply too slow; and a construction industry that is too reliant on a small number of big players.

Up-to-date plans, including local plans, are essential because they provide clarity to communities and developers about where homes should be built and where not, so that development is planned rather than the result of speculative applications. At present too few places have an up-to-date plan.

On 21 July 2015 we made a Written Ministerial Statement to the House on this same subject. At that point 82 per cent of authorities had published a Local Plan under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 regime. Today that figure stands at 92 per cent.

In the 13 years that have passed since the 2004 Act received Royal Assent, over 70 local planning authorities have yet to adopt a plan and of those 27 authorities still have failed to reach the publication stage. I am particularly concerned about the 15 local planning authorities that have recently either failed the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes, the public timetable that all local planning authorities are required to put in place.

I am therefore writing today to the local planning authorities of:

Basildon, Brentwood, Bolsover, Calderdale, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Liverpool, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Runnymede, St Albans, Thanet, Wirral and York.

These letters will start the formal process of intervention we set out in the Housing White Paper. We set out that we will prioritise intervention where:

  • the least progress in plan-making has been made
  • policies in plans had not been kept up to date
  • there was higher housing pressure; and
  • intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production

We also made clear that decisions on intervention will also be informed by the wider planning context in each area (specifically, the extent to which authorities are working cooperatively to put strategic plans in place, and the potential impact that not having a plan has on neighbourhood planning activity).

I am writing today to give the local authorities the opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances, by 31 January 2018, which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan under the 2004 Act regime. I will take responses received into account before any final decisions on intervention are taken.

The remaining authorities who are not making progress on their plan-making and fail to publish a plan for consultation, submit a plan to examination or to keep policies in plans up to date are on notice that consistent failure to make sufficient progress will no longer be tolerated. My Department will begin formally considering the case for intervention as deadlines are missed.

We will also bring forward the important provisions we legislated for earlier in the year through the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017. I will shortly lay the Regulations under section 12 to prescribe that local planning authorities must review their plans every five years.

We will also shortly be commencing Section 8 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 which will place a requirement on all local planning authorities to have plans in place for their area which set out their strategic policies. Those strategic priorities are set out at paragraph 156 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As we set out in July 2015 we recognise that production of Local Plans is resource intensive. On 19 October 2017 we laid the regulations which, subject to approval of both Houses, will bring forward our White Paper commitment to increase planning fees by 20%. This delivers on our commitment to increase resources for local planning authorities where they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department. All local planning authorities in England have given this commitment. We will shortly announce details of the £25m of funding to help local authorities plan for new homes and infrastructure in their area that we announced in the White Paper.

We have, and we will continue to, support local planning authorities in plan-making, through the Planning Advisory Service, with support from officials of my Department and the Planning Inspectorate.

Where local planning authorities continue to fail to produce a plan to provide certainty to their community on where future development will be brought forward, we will use our intervention powers to ensure plans are put in place.

Prime Minister
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Mrs Theresa May (Prime Minister)

Machinery of Government Change: Gender Recognition Act

This written statement confirms that responsibility for the Gender Recognition Act 2004 will transfer from the Ministry of Justice to the Government Equalities Office. This change will be effective immediately.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Tracey Crouch (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Civil Society Strategy

I wish to inform the House today of the government’s intention to develop a Civil Society Strategy.

Civil society plays a vital role in the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities across our country, and in helping to address some burning injustices.

This Strategy will provide an opportunity to explore ways to build new partnerships within and between sectors and communities, so that we can better mobilise resources and expertise and find practical new solutions to the problems we face. It will reaffirm the value that government places on civil society. It will explore what more government can do to support its work.

Civil Society in England is broad. It encompasses the work of individuals, charities, youth organisations and communities. Civil Society is increasingly diverse, with growing numbers of social enterprises, mission led businesses and public service mutuals, as well as many more private businesses and investors that want to make a meaningful contribution.

I would like the Strategy to help shape the future direction for our work with and for civil society, and encompass all who have a role to play in building a stronger and fairer society.

It will be developed through dialogue and debate with people, groups, and organisations across government, businesses and wider civil society. It will build on engagements to date, including work with young people and youth organisations, as well as work to grow social impact investing, among others.

The Office for Civil Society, in the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, will lead this work, with input from the Department for Communities and Local Government and other departments. A listening exercise will be launched in the new year and findings reported later in the year.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs )

Water protocol in England and Wales

In conjunction with the Secretary of State for Wales I will today lay before the House a water protocol for England and Wales, agreed between the UK government and the Welsh Government. The protocol, which the Welsh Ministers are laying in the National Assembly for Wales in parallel, is made under section 50 of the Wales Act 2017.

The protocol reaffirms the close working between the two governments on matters relating to water resources, water supply and water quality. It underlines our commitment that no action or inaction by either administration should have any serious adverse impact on either England or Wales and crucially, that the interests of water consumers on both sides of our borders are safeguarded.

Agreement of the protocol paves the way for the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention in relation to water to be repealed. These powers, in the Government of Wales Act 2006, enable the Secretary of State to intervene if they believe an Assembly Bill, or the exercise of a devolved function, risks having a serious adverse impact on water resources, water supply or water quality in England.

The protocol replaces these intervention powers with a reciprocal agreement. The intervention powers will be repealed when the new reserved powers model of Welsh devolution come into effect on 1 April 2018.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS247
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Karen Bradley (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council

The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) Council will take place in Brussels on 20 and 21 November 2017. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU will represent the interests of the UK at the Youth, Culture and Sport sessions of this Council.

The Council will seek to gain a General Approach among EU Member States on the proposals laying down the framework for the European Solidarity Corps. The UK is proposing to vote in favour, subject to scrutiny. Also tabled is the adoption of draft Council conclusions on Smart Youth Work, which the UK supports. This will be followed by a policy debate as proposed by the Presidency. The Commission will also provide information on a new narrative for Europe.

The Council will begin by presenting, for adoption, draft Council conclusions on promoting access to culture via digital means, which will have a focus on audience development. The UK intends to support the adoption of these conclusions. This will be followed by a policy debate on the role of culture in building cohesive societies in Europe, as proposed by the Presidency.

On Audiovisual, the Presidency is expected to provide an update on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). This update will act as the first reading since the General Approach was achieved at the last EYCS Council in May 2017. The discussion is expected to focus on the progress, thus far, of Trilogue discussions between the Council and the European Parliament.

In addition to these files, the German delegation will provide information pertaining to the file on the Regulation of the Import Cultural Goods. This file is at an early discussion stage, however it is anticipated that it will be implemented by January 2019, DCMS and HMRC are engaging with the Member States in developing this policy.

Additional agenda items include for information items on international cultural relations, offences relating to cultural property, defense of cultural heritage, re-establishing Europe through culture and the mobility of artists.

There will be two non-legislative activities tabled regarding sport. Firstly, the adoption of the draft Council conclusions on the role of coaches in society. Secondly, adoption of the Council resolution on the EU structured dialogue on sport. The UK intends to support the adoption of both sets of conclusions. These will be followed by a policy debate on the main challenges facing sport in the 21st century and cooperation between the EU, governments and sport movement, as proposed by the Presidency in accordance with the Council Rules of Procedure

Information will be provided from the EU Member States representatives in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA Foundation Board). This will act as a follow up to WADA meetings in Seoul on 15-16 November 2017. The Greek delegation will also provide information to the Council on supporting the Olympic Truce during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Council will be receiving information from the Bulgarian delegation, as the incoming presidency in the first half of 2018, to set out their work programme for the next six months.

Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Guy Opperman (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions & Financial Inclusion)


The Government has now completed the examination of the cap that applies to member-borne charges in default investment funds within defined contribution (DC) pension schemes used for automatic enrolment (AE).

After seeking a range of industry and consumer views and considering the findings of the recent Pension Charges Survey, which captures data from providers covering 14.4 million scheme members, we do not feel that now is the right time to change the level or scope of the cap.

The cap is working broadly as intended, helping to drive down member-borne costs, whilst allowing flexibility to allow asset diversity or tailored services for members and employers. It appears some small schemes are less able to take advantage of the most competitive market rates, and we have launched proposals to simplify the scheme consolidation process. This will allow smaller schemes who cannot secure value for money in the long term to exit the market and secure a better deal for their members elsewhere.

There continues to be a lack of transparency on transaction costs, which is hindering trustees and Independent Governance Committees’ (IGC) attempts to monitor and evaluate whether these represent value. We believe that it is vital to get disclosure right before deciding on whether a cap on transaction costs is appropriate. Recently announced DWP legislative proposals will ensure trustees have sight of these costs and can give that information to members. The FCA is developing similar rules for providers.

The Government remains committed to ensuring AE members are protected from unreasonable and unfair charges, and recognises that there is on-going concern amongst consumers.

We will actively monitor the situation, by reviewing the information which trustees of DC schemes will be required to publish from April 2018, and which providers will publish in due course, to monitor whether the downward trend in charges is continuing.

That will also inform our next review. In 2020 we intend to examine the level and scope of the charge cap, as well as permitted charging structures, to see whether a change is needed to protect members. This will also allow us to evaluate the effects of the next stage of AE and the new master trust and transaction costs regimes.

Whilst we are not pre-judging the decision, we expect there to be a much clearer case for change in 2020.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS248
Department for Exiting the European Union
Made on: 16 November 2017
Made by: Mr Steve Baker (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State)

General Affairs Council November 2017

My hon. Friend, the Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:

I will be attending the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 20 November 2017 to represent the UK’s interests. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full member.

The provisional agenda includes:

Preparation of the European Council, 14-15 December 2017

There will be a discussion on the agenda for the December European Council. This includes: defence, focusing on the launch of PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and a review of EU-NATO cooperation; social, education and culture, which includes a follow up to the November Gothenburg Social Summit; migration, involving a leaders’ debate on both the internal and external dimensions of migration as part of Donald Tusk’s Leader’s Agenda; and external relations.

European Council follow-up

The Presidency will give an update on the implementation of the October European Council Conclusions on migration, digital Europe, security and defence, and external relations.

Legislative Programming - Commission's Work Programme for 2018 (CWP 2018)

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans will present the CWP 2018, which sets out the legislation and other initiatives that the Commission intends to present to the Council of Ministers and European Parliament over the coming year.

Interinstitutional Agreements (IIA) Implementation

The Presidency will lay out what progress has been made on the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making (IIA), signed by the Presidents of the European Council, Commission and Parliament in April 2016. The IIA set out the commitments of these institutions regarding better regulation, interinstitutional relations and the legislative process.

European Semester 2018

The Presidency will introduce the timetable for the European Semester 2018, which will provide a framework for the coordination of economic policies across the EU.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS255
HM Treasury
Made on: 15 November 2017
Made by: Mel Stride (The Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

Childcare Service Update

This Government is committed to supporting parents with the cost of childcare. We’ve doubled free childcare to 30 hours a week and introduced Tax-Free Childcare. This support is fairer than the employer voucher scheme, as for the first time it is available to self-employed parents, and all qualifying working parents regardless of their employer. It is better targeted as the support is based on a per child basis, rather than a per parent basis.

The Government opened the childcare service in April of this year – one site where parents can apply for both 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare through an easy-to-use, single digital application. This avoids the need for parents to provide the same information twice and means that many parents receive an eligibility result in real time.

More than 275,000 parents now have an open childcare account. Of these, over 216,000 parents received an eligibility code for 30 hours free childcare in September.

However, HMRC recognise that over the summer some parents didn’t receive the intended level of service whilst using the site. Whilst the majority of parents used the childcare service without significant problems, some parents experienced technical issues including delayed decisions about their eligibility for one or both of the schemes. The Government acted quickly to address this, and HMRC and their delivery partners NS&I have now made significant improvements to the service.

Over the coming months, we will gradually open the childcare service to parents of older children, whilst continuing to make further improvements to the system. This means we can manage the volume of applications going through the service, so parents continue to receive a better experience and prompt eligibility responses when they apply – almost all parents receive a response within five working days, and most get their decision instantly. All eligible parents will be able to apply by the end of March 2018.

On 24th November, we will open the service to parents whose youngest child is under 6 or who has their 6th birthday on that day. Parents can apply online through the childcare service which can be accessed via the Childcare Choices website: https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk

Applications for Tax-Free Childcare accounts have been lower than expected. We want to encourage more parents to take up the offer they are entitled to and now the service has improved, we will undertake activity to raise awareness of Tax-Free Childcare amongst parents.

Tax-free Childcare is just one part of the support this Government offers for childcare costs. Where eligible, parents are able to access Working Tax Credits which covers 70% of childcare costs or Universal Credit which increases this support to 85% of costs, 15 free hours of childcare for disadvantaged 2 year olds, 15 free hours for all 3 and 4 year olds, and an additional 15 hours to working parents of 3 and 4 year olds. Employer Supported Childcare will also remain open to new entrants until April 2018.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS245
Department for Transport
Made on: 15 November 2017
Made by: Chris Grayling (Secretary of State for Transport)

Road haulage update

The impact of disruption at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel in Kent can lead to significant congestion in that county and further afield. In the event of such disruption, Operation Stack is deployed which queues lorries on the M20 until they can access their ferry or train, closing parts of the motorway to other traffic. However, it has been accepted that this is not an ideal contingency solution particularly given the impact it has on the M20, the surrounding roads, and in particular on people and businesses in Kent.

Following significant and long-running disruption in the summer of 2015, due to French ferry employee industrial action and migrant activity in France, Operation Stack was deployed for over 30 days that summer. The government determined to find a solution to the issue and announced that a new lorry holding park would be built at Stanford West in Kent. The lorry park was to be designed to mitigate the worst impacts of Operation Stack by taking lorries off the road until they could be released to Dover or Eurotunnel.

However, in October 2016 this decision was judicially reviewed on the grounds that the Government had not properly taken into account the environmental impact on a local business and the area in which the lorry park would be built.

Today I am withdrawing the earlier decision to site a lorry park at Stanford West on the grounds that the Government can no longer defend the judicial review. My Department and Highways England have, since being judicially reviewed, tried to find a solution so that the lorry park could be delivered as quickly as possible to mitigate the impacts of Operation Stack, whilst also meeting our environmental obligations. However, it has not proven possible to do so.

But I can announce today that we are immediately starting the process to promote a lorry park through the normal planning process, including a full Environmental Impact Assessment, as a potential permanent solution to Operation Stack. As part of this we will reassess the scope, scale and location of our solutions, taking into account changes since the original concept of the lorry park was promoted, in particular the UK’s exit from the European Union but also the need for ‘business as usual’ lorry parking in Kent. Highways England intend to consult on the options in early 2018 with a view to submitting a planning application in 2019.

Alongside this, I have tasked Highways England with developing an interim solution to be in place by March 2019. Highways England have developed a number of options that, while continuing to hold HGVs on the M20, would allow non-port traffic to continue to travel in both directions reducing the levels of traffic disruption seen in Operation Stack. This could, for example, be through holding HGVs in the centre of the motorway rather than on the coastbound carriageway. Different technologies ranging from steel barriers to moveable barrier systems could be deployed to deliver these solutions. A final decision on which option to take forward will be made in early 2018, with a view to completing delivery by March 2019.

Specific investment decisions on both the permanent and interim solutions will, of course, be subject to normal considerations of affordability and value for money.

Today’s announcement demonstrates that despite the setback to our plans to build a lorry park at Stanford West, the Government is still serious about finding both short and permanent solution to help tackle the traffic disruption that can occur from disruption at our busiest border for lorry freight

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS246
Department of Health
Made on: 15 November 2017
Made by: Steve Brine (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health)

Report of the Expert Working Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord O'Shaughnessy) has made the following statement:

Today, the Commission on Human Medicines has published the report of its Expert Working Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests. Based on its extensive and thorough review, the Expert Working Group’s overall finding, endorsed by the Commission on Human Medicines, is that the available scientific evidence, taking all aspects into consideration, does not support a causal association between the use of Hormone Pregnancy Tests, such as Primodos, during early pregnancy and adverse outcomes of pregnancy, either with regard to miscarriage, stillbirth or congenital anomalies.

In the UK, Hormone Pregnancy Tests first became available for diagnosing pregnancy in the 1950s. Between the 1950s and 1978, when Primodos was withdrawn from the market in the UK, a number of studies were published which investigated a possible link between women being given a Hormone Pregnancy Test to diagnose pregnancy and the occurrence of a range of congenital anomalies in the offspring.

Although there was never any reliable evidence that HPTs were unsafe, concern about this issue, coupled with the development of better pregnancy tests meant that a number of precautionary actions were taken to restrict the use of HPTs. The tests were voluntarily removed from the market by the manufacturers.

The body of information subsequently accrued by the ‘Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests’ and other campaigners, led to a Parliamentary debate in 2014 during which the then Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP, stated that he would instruct that all relevant documents held by the Department of Health be released. In addition, he determined that an independent review of the papers and all the available evidence was justified.

The purpose of the review was to ascertain whether the totality of the available data, on balance, support a causal association between use of a Hormone Pregnancy Test by the mother and adverse pregnancy outcomes. It also considered whether, alternatively, the anomalies could have been due to chance alone or due to other factors.

An Expert Working Group of the Commission on Human Medicines was established in October 2015 to conduct the review with the benefit of up-to-date scientific expertise.

The Expert Working Group was subject to a strict conflict of interest policy and comprised experts from a broad range of specialisms, together with lay representation. The terms of reference of the Expert Working Group, were as follows:

  • To consider all available evidence on the possible association between exposure in pregnancy to hormone pregnancy tests and adverse outcomes in pregnancy (in particular congenital anomalies, miscarriage and stillbirth) including consideration of any potential mechanism of action.

  • To consider whether the Expert Working Group’s findings have any implications for currently licensed medicines in the UK or elsewhere.

  • To draw any lessons for how drug safety issues in pregnancy are identified, assessed and communicated in the present regulatory system and how the effectiveness of risk management is monitored.

  • To make recommendations.

    The final report summarises the scientific evidence that was considered by the Expert Working Group, its conclusions on the evidence, and its recommendations. All the available relevant evidence on a possible association has been extensively and thoroughly reviewed with the benefit of up-to-date knowledge by experts from the relevant specialisms.

    In addition to the overall conclusion, the Expert Working Group has made a number of recommendations to safeguard future generations through strengthening the systems in place for detecting, evaluating, managing and communicating safety concerns with use of medicines in early pregnancy. These recommendations can be found in the report. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will coordinate their implementation, in collaboration with relevant organisations; and the Commission on Human Medicines, together with its Expert Advisory Group on Medicines’ for Women’s Health, will ensure progress is regularly monitored.

    The evidence which has been reviewed by the Expert Working Group will be published in the New Year once it has been checked in line with the legal duties of data protection and confidentiality.

    I attach a copy of the report.

CHM EWG HPT Report (PDF Document, 946.07 KB)
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS242
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 15 November 2017
Made by: John Glen (The Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Tourism)

Implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention and Protocols

I am today announcing and publishing measures to support the effective implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999 and the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017.

The United Kingdom ratified the Convention and acceded to the Protocols on 12th September. They will enter into force for the United Kingdom on 12th December.

Commencement regulations have been made to bring the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 into force on that date.

I am publishing a document setting out implementation measures in three key areas: cultural property protected by the Convention and Protocols; safeguarding protected cultural property; and use of the cultural emblem.

Part one of the document identifies seven categories of cultural property in the United Kingdom which we consider meet the definition of cultural property set out in the Convention and are therefore protected by the Convention and Protocols. These categories are indicative and non-exhaustive: there may be other cultural property which meets the definition and which is therefore also protected. The list of categories is UK-wide and has been agreed with the devolved administrations.

Part two sets out our approach to safeguarding cultural property. It explains that we do not intend to impose any additional or specific safeguarding requirements on the owners, guardians and trustees of cultural property in England to be implemented during peacetime, given that they should already have plans in place to deal with emergencies and disasters and armed conflict affecting the territory of the United Kingdom is not expected in the foreseeable future.

Part three deals with use of the cultural emblem. It explains when permission to use the cultural emblem is required and how to request permission. It also explains that the government does not intend to grant permission for the cultural emblem to be displayed on immovable cultural property, such as museums and historic buildings, during peacetime, except where a strong, persuasive case can be made for doing so, in order to protect the integrity of the cultural emblem as a symbol of protection during armed conflict.

Initial permissions to use the emblem for education and training purposes and by the Ministry of Defence, for the new Armed Forces’ Cultural Property Protection Unit, the British Red Cross, and the Blue Shield International and National Committees of the Blue Shield are included in an annex. These permissions will come into force on 12th December.

Parts two and three and the permissions in the annex relate only to England. The devolved administrations are responsible for safeguarding cultural property and for granting permissions to use and display the cultural emblem in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I am also publishing a separate guidance document on the new offence of dealing in unlawfully exported cultural property which is created by section 17 of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017.

Both documents are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protection-of-cultural-property-in-the-event-of-armed-conflict.

I have arranged for copies of both documents to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Department for Education
Made on: 14 November 2017
Made by: Nick Gibb (Minister of State for School Standards )

Teacher recruitment, leadership and development

Today I am confirming that the Government has decided to transfer the functions of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) relating to the recruitment of teachers, teacher development, and leadership into the core of the Department for Education. This will enable better delivery of the overall co-ordinated strategy to support and develop a strong high-quality teaching profession with continuous professional development at its heart.

The agency’s remaining functions and responsibilities will focus on the regulation of the teaching profession, including misconduct hearings, and acting as the Competent Authority for teaching in England. Its role will also include the recognition of the professional status of teachers from outside England. It will remain an Executive Agency of the Department for Education and will be known in future as the Teaching Regulation Agency. The repurposed agency will be operational from 1 April 2018.

The Department will work with staff, unions, stakeholders and the education sector to finalise and deliver our plans.

Details of today’s statement will be published on GOV.UK.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS241
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 14 November 2017
Made by: Margot James (Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility)

General Affairs Council November 2017

A meeting of the General Affairs Council (Cohesion) will be held in Brussels on 15 November 2017. The UK will be represented by Rory O’Donnell (Counsellor for Regions, Agriculture and Fisheries) from the UK Permanent Representation to the European Union.

The General Affairs Council is expected to focus on the modification of the Common Provisions Regulation; followed by an exchange of views based on the 7th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion.

Modification of the Commons Provisions Regulation

The Estonian Presidency will provide an update on proposed changes to the Common Provisions Regulation (the overarching EU regulation which governs the European Structural and Investment Funds). These are expected to be in place before our withdrawal from the EU and were proposed by the Commission as part of the Mid-Term Review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in order to simplify and harmonise existing regulations.

7th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion

The Council will discuss conclusions from the cohesion report, which assesses the EU’s Cohesion Policy in recent years and recognises the need for greater visibility in its implementation. It calls for further simplification and flexibility in the period beyond 2020. A discussion between Member States on the themes raised in the report is expected.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS240
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