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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WS
Department for Transport
Made on: 26 October 2018
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Transport)
Commons

Crossrail Update

On 31 August 2018, Crossrail Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Transport for London (TfL), announced a delay to the planned opening of the Elizabeth line.

Discussions between TfL and Government are underway as to how any additional funding will be provided, with London - as the primary beneficiary of Crossrail – bearing any additional costs via a financing arrangement.

TfL and the Department for Transport have commissioned an independent review of Crossrail’s governance and a separate review on Crossrail’s finance and commercial position.

Today, as an interim measure, we are announcing that £350m of short term repayable financing will be made available to the Mayor for the year 2018/19. This will ensure that full momentum is maintained behind Crossrail.

This project is already delivering benefits for the whole of the UK through its cross-country supply chain and its UK built train fleet. When open, Crossrail will be transformative and carry up to 200 million passengers a year, delivering £42 billion of investment into the UK economy.

A further update will be provided once the discussions on the financing arrangements have concluded.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1014
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Department for Transport
Made on: 24 July 2018
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Transport )
Commons

Annual Update on Crossrail 2018

It has been another productive year for the Crossrail project with a number of key milestones achieved and progress made across all areas. The programme is now 93% complete and is entering the critical testing and commissioning stage.

In May as part of the second stage of the Crossrail opening strategy, TfL Rail took over operation of the former Heathrow Connect service to Heathrow Airport as well as some local services between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington. This builds on the introduction of new Class 345 trains on the Liverpool Street to Shenfield route in June 2017. Fifteen of the new trains are now in regular service.

All core track work was completed last summer, which enabled the first Elizabeth line train to make its maiden voyage through the central tunnels in February this year. The new Abbey Wood station opened to existing rail passengers, and the construction and fit-out of the other new Elizabeth line stations continues to progress with the installation of lifts and escalators and completion of architectural finishes. The Department for Transport and Transport for London (TfL) – the joint Sponsors of the project – continue to work with Crossrail Limited to ensure operational readiness in advance of the opening of the Elizabeth Line.

As reported in the update to Parliament last year, cost pressures have increased across the project. Both the Department and TfL remain committed to the successful delivery of this project and have agreed an overall funding envelope for delivery of the project of £15.4bn. This will enable the completion of the project at a cost lower than planned under the last Labour Government. The anticipated cost of the project was previously estimated at £15.9 billion in 2007 and increased to £17.8 billion in 2009, before the Coalition Government took steps to bring down the costs following the June 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.

The additional funding is being provided to both Crossrail Limited and Network Rail.

£300m is being made available to Crossrail Limited, with the Department for Transport and TfL contributing £150m each.

Around £290m is being provided for completion of the programme of works on the national rail network, and is being funded by the Department for Transport and Network Rail.

It remains the case that over 60% of the project’s funding has been provided by Londoners and London businesses.

Further details on Crossrail Limited’s funding and finances in the period to 29 May 2018 are set out in the table below.

This year, the Crossrail project’s health and safety indicators have remained industry leading, with a strong performance demonstrated throughout the year with all the key indicators exceeding the corporate objectives for the year 2017/18.

Network Rail have also delivered a significant programme of Crossrail related surface works, successfully connecting the existing rail network with the Elizabeth line tunnels at Pudding Mill Lane, Plumstead and Westbourne Park. They have also completed the largest and most complex signalling upgrade ever undertaken by Network Rail on the approach into Paddington on one of the busiest stretches of railway in the country.

There have been planned changes in the leadership and governance of the project as we approach the final stages of delivery. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew Wolstenholme for his work in progressing the programme and acting as a champion for Crossrail during his time as Chief Executive. He has been succeeded by Simon Wright as Chief Executive and Programme Director. Crossrail Limited’s Board has been restructured to keep the management of the programme efficient and cost effective while maintaining the people and structure necessary to deliver the railway through to full opening. As part of this, both the Department and TfL have appointed new Non-Executive Directors to the Crossrail Board to provide increased scrutiny and assist in the transition of the project as it enters its final stages.

As with all projects of this nature, there have been a number of engineering and technical challenges that have already been surmounted in order to build the first new railway for a generation, and there will continue to be challenges right up until the final completion of the project.

The new railway will transform travel in, to, and across London, with the positive economic benefits being felt across the country. Its legacy will continue to support many thousands of jobs, over 1000 apprenticeships and a supply chain that is spread across the length and breadth of the UK.

During the passage of the Crossrail Bill through Parliament, a commitment was given that an annual statement would be published until the completion of the construction of Crossrail, setting out information about the project’s funding and finances.

The relevant information is as follows:

Total funding amounts provided to Crossrail Limited by the Department for Transport and TfL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2018)

£11,713,723,131

Expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Limited in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period (30 May 2017 to 29 May 2018) (excluding recoverable VAT on Land and Property purchases)

£1,619,238,000

Total expenditure incurred (including committed land and property spend not yet paid out) by Crossrail Limited in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period (22 July 2008 to 29 May 2018) (excluding recoverable VAT on Land and Property purchases)

£12,506,215,837

The amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or Crossrail Limited in the period covered by the statement.

£18,462,238

The numbers above are drawn from Crossrail Limited’s books of account and have been prepared on a consistent basis with the update provided last year. The figure for expenditure incurred includes monies already paid out in relevant period, including committed land and property expenditure where this has not yet been paid. It does not include future expenditure on construction contracts that have been awarded.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS889
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Department for Transport
Made on: 07 June 2018
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Transport)
Commons

East Midlands Invitation to Tender

I am pleased to inform the House that this morning the Department for Transport published the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the East Midlands rail franchise and the consultation document for the Cross Country franchise signalling the start of a 12 week public consultation.

East Midlands Rail Franchise

The ITT for the East Midlands franchise sets out an exciting future that will deliver a brand-new fleet of trains, more seats for passengers, reduced peak journey times between Nottingham, Sheffield and London and a dedicated, high quality, express service between Corby and London. These improvements will mean more comfortable journeys for both long distance and commuting passengers at the busiest times of the day.

We have listened to what improvements passengers want to see and will be requiring the next operator to deliver a wide range of improvements across the network including improved compensation for delays, smart ticketing, high quality Wi-Fi connection, more frequent and increased capacity on local services and services that start earlier and finish later.

As the Secretary of State set out in the Government’s Strategic Vision for Rail in November 2017, we are now fixing the operational divide between track and train so that both Network Rail and train companies share one imperative: putting the passenger first. Better performance and reliability on the East Midlands franchise will be delivered through a new collaborative partnership between the next operator and Network Rail.

Cross Country Rail Franchise

The current Cross Country franchise, operated by Arriva Cross Country is due to end late 2019 (though it can be extended by up to a year). I am therefore pleased to launch today a public consultation which will run for 12 weeks and will help to inform and develop the franchise specification for inclusion in the ITT. We will encourage responses to the consultation through: meetings around the network with formal stakeholders; promoting it directly to passengers on Cross Country trains; and one or more webinars to reach out to people across this extensive franchise.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS721
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Department for Transport
Made on: 27 April 2018
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Transport)
Commons

Ministerial Correction

I wish to inform the House that an error has been identified in the closing speech of the End of Day Debate: Thameslink upgrades across the South East, Official Report, 18 April 2018, Vol. 639. The correct information should have been:

“As part of this upgrade, a fourth track and other improvements are being built north of Bedford, which will provide space for an additional train path from December 2020. Unfortunately, until these works take place, some difficult decisions have to be taken. East Midlands Trains’ fast peak-time services will not call at Bedford or Luton from May 2018 to December 2020.”

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Department for Education
Made on: 11 December 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (The Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation )
Commons

Higher Education Update

The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (HERA) achieved Royal Assent on 27 April 2017. It set out a number of significant reforms that will improve the value for money that students receive from their investment in higher education. These include the establishment of a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), with a remit to drive value for money, a rigorous framework for assessing teaching and student outcomes, and provisions that make it easier for students to switch provider.

The Act also includes a power for the Government to set higher annual fee amounts for courses completed on an accelerated basis, which can be matched by higher corresponding student loan amounts. This measure will provide valuable new options to prospective students.

The way in which degrees are currently taught and studied has stayed largely unchanged for many years. The vast majority of providers offer a traditional three years of study regardless of subject, spread out across thirty weeks a year and with a long summer vacation every year. It is wrong that this is the only choice that most students have. The growing dominance of the classic three-year residential degree reflects more the convenience of the sector and financial incentives on providers than the needs of students for flexible ways of pursuing higher education. And it may be deterring some from higher education, and slowing the return of others to productive work.

Students on accelerated degree courses can secure a degree qualification in their preferred subject, studying the same content for the same number of weeks over the life of the course as the standard equivalent degree, subject to the same quality assurances. But by studying for more weeks each year, they are able to graduate within only two years, and with significantly lower student debt – good news for the student and for the taxpayer.

I believe there is significant untapped potential for accelerated courses, starting first with degrees, in higher education. They offer benefits to students of lower costs, more intensive study, and a quicker commencement or return to the workplace. Innovative providers would like to offer more of these courses but face significant financial and operational disincentives in the current system.

But for these accelerated courses to become more mainstream, we need to be upfront about why more universities are not already offering them. Many universities are concerned about changing existing models and the costs associated with doing that. This includes extra teaching hours, capacity to research, or not being able to rent out rooms over the holidays. A three-year course condensed into two is more expensive to run.

That is why I am proposing a balanced package that ensures universities are able to cover these additional costs but must charge at least 20% less in tuition for an accelerated two year degree than they can for its three year equivalent.

The launch of the OfS and the new fee arrangements will help incentivise greater provision. This in turn will give students a genuine choice of accelerated degrees across the full range of undergraduate courses.

In the debate in Parliament on the passage of the Bill, we committed to consult on the detail of our proposals. The consultation that I am launching today fulfils that commitment so far as accelerated degrees are concerned.

The proposals on which we are consulting are:

  • Arrangements enabling greater provision and take-up of accelerated degree courses will be in place in Academic Year 2019/20, subject to Parliament passing secondary legislation which sets fees and loans specific to accelerated degrees.

  • Accelerated degree courses subject to the new fee arrangements will be undergraduate first degree qualifications recognisably provided within a more intense period of study than other equivalent courses.

  • The OfS will support and encourage more providers to offer accelerated degree courses, over a more diverse range of subjects than are currently offered.

  • The OfS will also act as regulatory gatekeeper, determining whether degree courses meet the statutory definition of ‘accelerated courses’.

  • The current means-tested living cost support package (the “long course loan”) available to students whose courses last for longer than 30 weeks and three days each academic year will continue to provide maintenance for students on accelerated degrees on the same terms.

  • The annual tuition fee and loan upper limit for accelerated degree students at Approved (fee cap) providers would be set at 20% higher than the standard level. For example, based on current fee limits, the annual accelerated limit for a TEF-rated provider would be £11,100 (vs £9,250 for the three-year equivalent). This would give students who opt for accelerated degrees a £5,500 or 20% saving in the total cost of tuition fees

  • The annual tuition fee loan limit for students at Approved providers (i.e. those outside the fee cap system) would be also be set at the standard level plus 20%. For example, based on current loan limits, students at TEF-rated Approved providers would have an annual tuition fee loan limit of £7,398 (vs £6,165 for the three-year equivalent).

  • Existing quality assurance arrangements for accelerated degrees should continue to apply, including after the OfS becomes responsible for monitoring them on 1 April 2018..

This balanced package offers students significant savings on the costs of graduating, while also addressing the additional in-year costs providers incur by condensing the final standard third year of teaching into the first two years of the accelerated degree course. The 20% uplift in annual fee revenue should cover the extra costs associated with accelerated provision for most courses in most providers.

Accelerated degrees are referenced in the Industrial Strategy published last month, which notes their potential to widen choice for students. And they have enjoyed cross-party support since Shirley Williams championed them in the 1960s. In the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill this year, MPs and peers from all sides called for government to support them. The proposals I am announcing today will remove the barriers to accelerated degrees, and make them a real choice for many more future students.

Annex A - consultation principles (PDF Document, 95.59 KB)
Annex B - assumptions and analysis (PDF Document, 141.1 KB)
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS330
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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 11 December 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation)
Commons

Competitiveness Council, 30 November–1 December: Post-Council Statement

The Competitiveness Council took place on 30 November and 1 December in Brussels. The UK was represented by Lord Henley on the first day and by Jo Johnson on the second.

EU Industrial Strategy

Discussions focussed on the recent publication of a renewed EU Industrial Policy Strategy. Ministers agreed that European industry needed to adapt to changes in the global economy and the digital revolution. The EU should improve investment in research and development and support for SMEs, and strengthen its internal market. The UK noted that its recently-published industrial strategy identified many of the same challenges and drivers of growth, and stressed its commitment to an open, liberal market economy based around fair competition and high standards.

A number of Member States cautioned against arbitrary targets for industrial output, emphasising that support to industry was one policy among others to boost Europe’s competitiveness alongside a commitment to free trade and access to global value chains. Others called for greater sectoral support and called for the Commission to propose a longer-term vision for EU industrial policy towards 2030. Ministers agreed Council Conclusions.

Single Digital Gateway

Ministers voted to adopt the proposed general approach on the Single Digital Gateway. Member States generally expressed support for the objectives of the proposal and agreed that easier access to good quality online information and procedures was important for the internal market. There was broad agreement that the Presidency had struck a good balance between ambition and flexibility. Voting in favour of the General Approach, the UK noted its strong support for e-government initiatives and underlined the importance of maintaining a focus on user needs. The Commission welcomed the agreement but noted the extension of the implementation period to five years.

Unified Patent Court

A number of Member States joined the Presidency and the Commission in pressing those Member States yet to complete ratification of the Unified Patent Court to finalise preparations so the court can become operational in 2018. The UK re-stated its commitment to passing the final necessary domestic legislation currently before Parliament.

European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP)

The Presidency noted the EDIDP would run from 2019 to 2020, providing €500m towards the joint development of defence prototypes and increasing European industrial competitiveness. Timelines were ambitious with a general approach anticipated at the 12 December General Affairs Council. The Commission was looking for a €1.5bn fund after 2020, covering both defence research and prototype development.

Other items

Vice President Ansip updated the Council on the implementation of the Digital Single Market. He described the paradigm-shifting and multi-faceted impact of digitalisation on the world. He urged Ministers to help progress initiatives rapidly and ambitiously. The Presidency and Commission noted the provisional agreement on geoblocking with the European Parliament.

Hungary introduced a paper expressing concern about the impact of the tobacco track and trace implementing legislation on SMEs. Commissioner Andriukaitis emphasised its importance for public health and tackling illicit tobacco trade and underlined that its impact had been considered carefully. The final text included a number of SME derogations.

The Commission presented its recent public procurement package, stressing that more strategic use of procurement could help deliver environmental and social objectives. Savings of €200bn per annum were possible through increased professionalism. The Commission confirmed that all elements were voluntary.

Ministers had a lunchtime discussion on the automotive industry; the UK and others stressed the fast-changing nature of the sector. Germany and the Commission provided an update on the SME Action programme. Bulgaria presented its plans for its Presidency.

Day Two – Space and Research

The Formal Competitiveness Council (Space and Research) took place in Brussels on 1 December. Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation represented the UK in the morning and Katrina Williams represented the UK in the afternoon.

Council conclusions on the Mid-term evaluation of the Copernicus programme

The Council adopted conclusions on the Commission’s recent mid-term evaluation of the Copernicus earth-observation space programme, which underline the importance of maintaining its free and open data policy.

EU Space Programmes

The Council then held a debate on the future direction of EU space programmes, in light of the recent mid-term evaluations. The UK outlined the links to the UK’s Industrial Strategy, highlighting the importance of international collaboration and the desire for the UK to discuss future cooperation with the EU on space programmes as soon as possible.

Council conclusions on Horizon 2020

Next was a discussion on the Council Conclusions on Horizon 2020. Ministers agreed the conclusions in document 15320/17. The UK set out its interest for an ambitious science and innovation agreement with the EU and stressed the need to focus on EU added value, simplification and international collaboration in Framework Programme 9 (FP9).

The Mission-oriented approach in the ninth EU RDI Framework Programme

The Council then discussed the Missions-Orientated Approach to FP9. The Commissioner (Moedas) encouraged Member States to engage fully in the forthcoming consultation process. The UK highlighted the need to ensure continued focus on basic research and emphasised the need to avoid duplication of efforts undertaken at national level.

Other Items

The European Commission gave an update on the European Open Science Cloud. Hungary gave an update on the Extreme Light Infrastructure project, which was on schedule to begin operations in 2018. Bulgaria then presented its presidency plans. Their priorities for science and innovation include the next Framework Programme (FP9), the future of the ITER project and the transfer of knowledge, data and research results to innovators and researchers. They will also focus on the roadmap for the governance and funding of the European Open Science Cloud and the European super computer EuroHPC.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS327
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Department for Education
Made on: 06 December 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (The Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation )
Commons

Higher Education: Response to the Resolution of the House, 13 September 2017

On 13 September 2017, the House agreed the motion that the Higher Education (Higher Amount) (England) Regulations 2016 (S.I., 2016, No. 1206) and the Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations 2016 (S.I., 2016, No. 1205), both dated 13 December 2016, copies of which were laid before this House on 15 December 2016, in the last Session of Parliament, be revoked. These Regulations cover maximum fee caps for the current academic year, 2017/18.

The Government listened carefully to the views expressed in the House on 13 September 2017, and to those expressed by young people and their parents. I therefore made a Written Ministerial Statement to the House on 9 October 2017 setting out changes to higher education student finance which will benefit students further in 2018.

In that statement, I confirmed that the Government had decided to maintain maximum tuition fees at their current level for the 2018/19 academic year. This means that the maximum level of tuition fees for a full-time course will remain at £9,250 for the next academic year (2018/19). This is around £300 less than it would have been had the maximum fee been uprated with inflation.

I also confirmed changes to the earnings threshold above which borrowers are required to make contributions to the costs of their education. From April 2018, the repayment threshold for loan repayments will increase from its current level of £21,000 to £25,000 from the 2018-19 financial year. Thereafter the threshold will be adjusted annually in line with average earnings. These changes apply to those who have taken out, or will take out, loans for full-time and part-time undergraduate courses in the post-2012 system. They also apply to those who have taken out, or will take out, an advanced learner loan for a further education course.

Increasing thresholds will put more money in the pockets of borrowers by lowering their monthly repayments with the greatest overall lifetime benefit for those on middle incomes. Borrowers earning less than the repayment threshold (currently £21,000 a year, rising to £25,000 for 2018-19) will continue to be exempt from repayments.

Following the Written Ministerial Statement to the House on 9 October, I can now make a further announcement on student finance arrangements for higher education students undertaking a course of study in the 2018/19 academic year beginning in August 2018.

Maximum grants and loans for living and other costs will be increased by forecast inflation (3.2%) in 2018/19. And for the first time, students starting part-time degree level courses from 1 August 2018 onwards will qualify for loans for living costs.

Further details of the student support package for 2018/19 are set out in the attached document.

I expect to lay regulations implementing changes to student finance for undergraduates and postgraduates for 2018/19 early in 2018. These regulations will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. The Department of Health will be making a separate announcement on changes to student finance for postgraduate healthcare students and dental hygiene and dental therapy students in 2018/19.

These announcements build on the Government’s existing reforms to Higher Education, which have delivered a 25% increase in university funding per student per degree since 2012. University funding per student is today at the highest level it has ever been in the last 30 years.

We have world class universities accessed by a record number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and a progressive funding system which ensures that costs continue to be split fairly between graduates and the taxpayer. The entry rate for disadvantaged 18 year olds is already at a record high this year, and significantly higher than at the end of the 2016 cycle. People recognise that degrees from our universities provide a route to rewarding and well-paid jobs, and that is why more people are deciding to go to university than ever before.

We will build on those strengths through our planned reforms, which seek to improve the quality of teaching and incentivise universities to focus on graduate outcomes through the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework.

We will be consulting shortly on widening provision of accelerated degrees to enable students to study more intensively, obtain degrees at lower cost, and secure a quicker entry or return to the workplace.

And the Government is committed to conducting a major review of funding across tertiary education to ensure a joined-up system that works for everyone. As current and significant reforms move into implementation, this review will look at how we can ensure that our post-18 education system is accessible to all; and is supported by a funding system that provides value for money and works for both students and taxpayers, incentivises choice and competition across the sector, and encourages the development of the skills that we need as a country.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS312
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Department for Education
Made on: 06 December 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (The Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation )
Commons

Government asset sale

Today, I can update on the Government’s sale of part of the pre-2012, commonly known as ‘Plan One’, English student loan book.

The sale included loans issued by English Local Authorities under the previous (pre-2012) system, specifically those that entered repayment between 2002 and 2006.

Throughout the process, Government’s decision on whether to proceed remained subject to market conditions and a final value for money assessment. I can update Parliament that the transaction achieved a value of £1.7bn, exceeding the HMT Green Book valuation.

Ministers will shortly be laying before Parliament a report on the sale in accordance with Section 4 of the Sale of Student Loans Act 2008. This will provide more detail on the sale arrangements and the extent to which they give value according to HM Treasury Green Book rules.

In advance of that, I would like to reiterate the points I have made previously about the impact of the sale on borrowers and on Government policy.

The position of all borrowers, including those whose loans have been sold, will not change as a result of the sale. The sale does not and cannot in any way alter the mechanisms and terms of repayment: sold loans will continue to be serviced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Student Loans Company (SLC) on the same basis as equivalent unsold loans. Purchasers have no right to change any of the current loan arrangements or to contact borrowers directly. Those whose loans have been sold will be notified in writing by the Student Loans Company within 3 months, for information only. No action will be required. Government has no plans to change, or to consider changing, the terms of pre-2012 loans.



This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS313
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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 29 November 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation)
Commons

Competitiveness Council, 30 November – 1 December: Pre-Council Statement.

The Competitiveness Council will take place on 30 November and 1 December in Brussels.

Day one – Internal Market and Industry

The Council will aim to agree a General Approach on the Single Digital Gateway. The objective of the Single Digital Gateway proposal is to remove barriers to the single market created by lack of easy access to high quality information and Government services online.

The Commission will then present a Competitiveness check-up including details of the objectives of the EU Industrial Strategy. This will lead into a discussion on the EU industrial strategy, where the Estonian Presidency will present a report. The Council will be invited to adopt Conclusions on the Commission’s communication on ‘A Renewed EU Industrial Policy Strategy’.

The Council will then discuss a number of AOB points on geo-blocking, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, the Digital Single Market, the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court, the European SME Action Programme, the public procurement package and the traceability system of tobacco products. In these AOB points the Council will be given information by the Presidency or by a Member State delegation.

The day will end with a presentation by the Bulgarian delegation on details of their upcoming Presidency


Day two – Space and Research

The Council will adopt Council conclusions on the Mid-term evaluation of the Copernicus programme. This will be followed by an exchange of views on the way forward for EU space programmes.

The afternoon session will begin with a discussion on Council conclusions “From the Interim Evaluation of Horizon 2020 towards the ninth Framework Programme”. The Council will then debate the mission-orientated approach proposed for the ninth Framework Programme.

Under AOB, the Commission will provide information on the state of play with Open Science.

Day two will conclude with information from the Bulgarian delegation on their incoming presidency work programme.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS281
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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)
Commons

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
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Department for Education
Made on: 31 October 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation)
Commons

Government Asset Sale

Today, I can confirm that the Government is resuming the process required to sell part of the “plan 1” (i.e. pre-2012) English student loan book as previously announced to the House on 6 February 2017. The sale covers loans issued by English local authorities only under the previous (pre-2012) system, specifically those which entered repayment between 2002 and 2006, with a total face value of around £3.7bn. This is the first sale of the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) loan book and it is proceeding on the basis that there is a reasonable prospect of achieving value for money. It will only complete subject to market conditions and a final value for money assessment.

As the Government has previously made clear, the position of all graduates, including those whose loans are part of a sale, will not change as a result of the sale. A sale will not alter the mechanisms and terms of repayment and sold loans will continue to be serviced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Student Loans Company (SLC) on the same basis as equivalent unsold loans. These protections mean that purchasers will have no right to change any of the current loan arrangements or to directly contact borrowers. Government has no plans to change, or to consider changing, the terms of pre-2012 loans.

The sale terms are expected to include a number of warranties and indemnities for sale arrangers and investors, which give rise to contingent liabilities for Government. In this case, although there is specific statutory authority for the liability under the Sale of Student Loans Act 2008, in line with HM Treasury rules I believe it is appropriate to notify Parliament before incurring these liabilities. As a matter of record I have placed a Departmental Minute in the Libraries of both Houses describing the contingent liabilities that the Department for Education will hold on behalf of Government as a result of this first sale of the pre-2012 English student loan book. The maximum contingent liability against the Department for Education is unquantifiable and is expected to be in place for as long as there are outstanding securities.

The House will also be informed if and when a sale is completed.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS204
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Department for Education
Made on: 09 October 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation)
Commons

Student finance update

I am today confirming the earnings threshold above which individuals are required to make contributions to the cost of their education from April 2018. I am also confirming the maximum tuition fees for the 2018/19 academic year.

Earnings threshold

The earnings threshold will be increased from 6th April 2018. From its current level of £21,000 the threshold will rise to £25,000 for the 2018-19 financial year. Thereafter it will be adjusted annually in line with average earnings.

The new threshold will apply to those who have already taken out and will take out loans for tuition and living costs for full time and part time undergraduate courses in the post-2012 system and those who took out or will take an advanced learner loan for a further education course.

The lower threshold for variable interest rates for post-2012 student loans will also rise to £25,000 on 6th April 2018, and the upper threshold will rise to £45,000 from £41,000 on the same date. Both the repayment and variable interest thresholds will be adjusted annually in line with average earnings thereafter. In 2018-19 around 600,000 borrowers will benefit from the threshold changes. Most of those 600,000 borrowers will both make lower contributions and have a lower rate of interest applied.

The repayment thresholds applicable to pre-2012 student loans, the older mortgage style loans and master’s loans are not affected by these changes.

Tuition fees

Maximum tuition fee caps will be maintained at 2017/18 academic year levels in the 2018/19 academic year.

For HEFCE funded providers that have a current Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) award and have an access agreement with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), the maximum tuition fee for full-time courses will remain £9,250 in 2018/19. For HEFCE funded providers that have a current TEF award but do not have an access agreement with OFFA, the maximum tuition fee for full-time courses will be £6,165 in 2018/19. For HEFCE funded providers that do not have a current TEF award, the maximum tuition fee for full-time courses in 2018/19 will remain £9,000 for providers with an OFFA access agreement and £6,000 for providers without an OFFA access agreement.

Maximum fee loans for all new students and eligible continuing students who started their full-time courses at publicly funded providers on or after 1 September 2012 will be maintained at £9,250 in 2018/19 academic year.

For continuing students who started their full-time courses before September 2012, maximum tuition fee and fee loan caps at publicly funded providers in 2018/19 will be maintained at £3,465.

For HEFCE funded providers that have a current TEF award and have an access agreement with OFFA, the maximum tuition fee for part-time courses will be £6,935 in 2018/19. For HEFCE funded providers that have a current TEF award, but do not have an access agreement with OFFA, the maximum tuition fee for part-time courses will be £4,625 in 2018/19. For HEFCE funded providers that do not have a current TEF award, the maximum tuition fee for part-time courses in 2018/19 will be £6,750 for providers with an OFFA access agreement and £4,500 for providers without an OFFA access agreement.

Maximum fee loans for all new students and eligible continuing students who started their part-time courses at publicly funded providers on or after 1 September 2012 will be maintained at £6,935 in 2018/19.

For all new students and eligible continuing students who started their full-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 and are undertaking courses at private providers that have a current TEF award, the maximum fee loan will be £6,165 in 2018/19. For private providers that do not have a current TEF award, the maximum fee loan for full-time courses will be £6,000 in 2018/19.

For all new students and eligible continuing students who started their part-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 and are undertaking courses at private providers that have a current TEF award, the maximum fee loan will be £4,625 in 2018/19. For private providers that do not have a current TEF award, the maximum fee loan for part-time courses in 2018/19 will be £4,500.

The Government will set out further steps on HE student financing in due course.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS146
WS
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 12 September 2017
Made by: Joseph Johnson (MINISTER OF STATE FOR UNIVERSITIES, SCIENCE, RESEARCH AND INNOVATION )
Commons

THE 2016 GOVERNMENT CHEMIST REVIEW

The twentieth Annual Review of the Government Chemist has been received. The Review will be placed in the Libraries of the House and those of the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Review will also be laid before the Scottish Parliament.

The Government Chemist is the Referee Analyst named in Acts of Parliament. The Government Chemist’s team carry out analysis in high-profile or legally disputed cases. A diverse range of referee analysis work was carried out during 2016, including measurement disputes relating to mycotoxins, authenticity, protein allergens and sulphites.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS125
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