Speeches made during Parliamentary debates are recorded in Hansard. For ease of browsing we have grouped debates into individual, departmental and legislative categories.
e-Petitions are administered by Parliament and allow members of the public to express support for a particular issue.
If an e-petition reaches 10,000 signatures the Government will issue a written response.
If an e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures the petition becomes eligible for a Parliamentary debate (usually Monday 4.30pm in Westminster Hall).
These initiatives were driven by Jack Lopresti, and are more likely to reflect personal policy preferences.
MPs who are act as Ministers or Shadow Ministers are generally restricted from performing Commons initiatives other than Urgent Questions.
Jack Lopresti has not been granted any Urgent Questions
Jack Lopresti has not been granted any Adjournment Debates
Jack Lopresti has not introduced any legislation before Parliament
The South West of England is home to a large cluster of the UK’s leading aerospace businesses. Its contribution to environmental sustainability of the aerospace industry is therefore significant. My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently launched a new Airbus wing technology centre (AIRTeC) as part of its Wing of Tomorrow programme. This centre and research undertaken by companies such as GKN and Rolls-Royce will keep the South West at the forefront of the global move towards cleaner aviation.
As part of my Rt. Hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the Government is investing in future green aviation across the whole of the UK. in order to accelerate this work, we have created a Jet Zero Council which brings together stakeholders spanning airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers, fuel suppliers, academia, and environmental groups.
The Government is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the work of medical research charities through regular discussions on charity-funded research with the Association of Medical Research Charities.
We know the pandemic has been a challenging time for fundraising and we will continue to engage with the Association of Medical Research Charities on the challenges they are facing.
The Government has demonstrated its ambitions for research by committing £14.6bn to R&D in 2021/22. This funding will support the life sciences sector within which medical research charities operate alongside other research areas.
The Government remains in dialogue with industry and overseas governments about the potential benefits, practicalities, and implications of an aircraft scrappage scheme.
The Government recognises the value of British engineering capability and innovation. That is why we have already invested nearly £2 billion in the Aerospace Technology Institute Programme, providing advice on market opportunities and technology. We have also committed with industry around £1 billion through the Advanced Propulsion Centre, to research, develop, and commercialise the next generation of low carbon technologies to keep the UK at the cutting edge of low carbon automotive innovations. We are also supporting the innovation of digital design through the £147 million Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge.
At the last Budget, we set out plans for public investment in research and development to reach £22 billion?each year?by 2024/25, which is a record increase in spending.
As part of the upcoming Spending Review we will consider proposals for this investment, of which the Brunel Challenge and slingshot is one of many.
We are in regular discussions with aerospace companies and ADS Group, through the Aerospace Growth Partnership, to consider what additional support the sector might need.
We are supporting investment in innovation and competitiveness by small and medium-sized businesses in the supply chain through our National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme, Sharing in Growth, and SC21 Competitiveness and Growth productivity programmes, which will receive over £135 million of public funding.
The Aerospace Technology Institute research programme supports zero emission aircraft research projects. We have held discussions with industry, including through the Aerospace Growth Partnership, about accelerating the development of clean aerospace technologies. Further discussion will take place through the Jet Zero Council, which will bring together Ministers and airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers, fuel suppliers, academia, and environmental groups to provide leadership and strategic direction to position the UK as a global leader in clean aviation.
We recently received an industry proposal on a scrappage scheme for older civil large passenger aircraft and are assessing its potential impact on the UK aerospace and aviation industries.
UK airlines and aerospace manufacturers have already been boosted by £2.16 billion from the Covid Corporate Financing Facility. In addition, UK Export Finance expects to provide £3.5 billion of support for UK aerospace exports over the next 18 months. We also continue to invest heavily in technology to make our aviation sector greener and more sustainable, through our co-funded £3.9 billion Aerospace Technology Institute programme and £300 million Future Flight Challenge.
While there are no specific eligibility provisions for veterans within the Adult Education Budget, they do have the same rights to access educational and vocational qualifications as other individuals.
Residency eligibility criteria mean that an individual is required to have resided in England and have three-year ordinary residency in the UK and/or European Economic Area, depending on their nationality. Armed forces personnel and their family members posted outside the UK are classed as ordinarily resident in the UK and, where relevant, this may contribute towards the three years ordinary residency requirement, provided they are now residing in England and the learning is taking place in England.
Individuals who meet the residency eligibility criteria can access provision including fully funded courses in English and maths, for adults who need to improve their literacy and numeracy, fully funded first full Level 2 and/or Level 3 for learners aged 19 to 23 and fully funded specified digital skills qualifications for adults with no/low digital skills.
They will also be able to access a range of provision funded through the National Skills Fund:
The government is aware of the disproportionate impact the crisis will have on some students.
We are making available an additional £50 million of hardship funding this financial year. In total we have made £70 million of funding available for student hardship given the £20 million made available to higher education providers in December 2020.
Providers will have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to students, in a way that will best prioritise those in greatest need. The funding can be distributed to a wide population of students, including postgraduates (whether taught or research) and international students.
This money is in addition to the £256 million of Student Premium funding higher education providers are able draw on this academic year towards student hardship funds.
We know that not all students will face financial hardship. The current measures aim to target support for students in greatest need and the government continues to monitor the situation going forward to look at what impact this funding is having.
On 13 January 2021, I wrote to the Office for Students, the regulator for higher education providers in England and outlined government expectations of the higher education sector. Universities should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition and seek to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have the resources to study remotely.
Given the critical importance of ensuring that all children and young people continue to learn during the national lockdown, the Department updated our remote education expectations for schools and FE colleges to clarify and strengthen what is expected, drawing on our evolving understanding of best practice in remote education.
To support disadvantaged children and young people with access to remote education and online social care, the Government is investing over £400 million. We have secured 1.3 million laptops and tablets and have already delivered over 1.2 million of these to schools, colleges, academy trusts, local authorities, and further education colleges to support disadvantaged children and young people who would not otherwise have access to a digital device.
The Department has also partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online, as well as delivering over 70,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.
The Department has also made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy, both for the summer term of the academic year 2019-20, and then for the 2020-21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception up to Year 11. Specialist content for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities is also available. Four major mobile network operators - Vodafone, O2, Three and EE - have also committed to working together to make access to Oak National Academy free for school children.
The BBC has adapted their education support for the spring term 2021 and is making educational content available on the television. This helps to ensure all children and young people can access curriculum based learning from home, even if they do not have access to the internet. To support this, BT and EE have made access to BBC Bitesize resources for free from the end of January 2021.
In addition, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) provides additional, targeted support for disadvantaged pupils to catch-up on missed learning. The NTP provides access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged pupils, helping to accelerate their academic progress and tackling the attainment gap between them and their peers.
Given the ongoing disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department announced in January that GCSE, AS and A level examinations will not go ahead as planned this summer. In ensuring our approach was developed with the sector, the Department and Ofqual launched a joint consultation in January 2021 on how to award grades in 2021 to ensure they are robust and fair. We received over 100,000 responses from students, parents, teachers, school leaders and other stakeholders. There was widespread support for our approach.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, confirmed in his statement on 25 February 2021 that pupils will receive grades determined by their teachers, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught. Fairness to young people is fundamental to the Department and Ofqual’s decision making. We want to ensure all young people have the confidence that, despite examinations not going ahead, they will receive a grade that reflects their ability and enables them to progress.
Full details on alternative arrangements to exams can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/teacher-assessed-grades-for-students.
During periods of national lockdown, education settings have remained open to vulnerable children and young people, including those with education, health and care plans. The guidance for the full opening of schools is clear that all children and young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), should return to education settings full-time from Monday 8 March. Where it is not possible for a child or young person with SEND to attend their education setting during this period, there is a legal duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the educational needs of their pupils or students. Discussions should be collaborative, focusing on the welfare and views of the child or young person and their parents.
To support remote learning, the department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy, both for the summer term of the 2019-20 academic year and the 2020-21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception to year 11. This includes specialist content for pupils with SEND, along with therapy-based lessons and resources.
Whilst inspection activity has been paused, Ofsted is conducting monitoring inspections of inadequate schools and some that require improvement. These include a focus on support for pupils with SEND, whether they are in school or being educated at home.
The government has announced further elements of the recovery support package so that children and young people can catch up on missed learning and development due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This will be supported with a new £700 million package, focusing on an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings, and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most. These measures will build on the existing £1 billion support package, which includes a £650 million catch-up premium directly allocated to schools, with additional weighting for specialist settings, recognising the significantly higher per-pupil costs that they face. Headteachers decide how this premium is spent (for example, on educational psychologists, speech and language therapy or other activities to support children to catch-up).
We have put major funding investments into education, including increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year, boosting the total budget to more than £8 billion in 2021-22. Local authorities have been allocated a further £4.6 billion to help their communities through the COVID-19 outbreak. This funding is un-ringfenced, recognising local authorities are best placed to decide how to meet the major COVID-19 service pressures in their local area, including support to children’s services.
Through the SEND review, we are committed to ensuring the SEND system is consistent, high quality, and integrated across education, health and care. It is also considering measures to make sure that money is being spent fairly, efficiently and effectively, and that the support available to children and young people is sustainable in the future.
We understand the challenges faced by zoos and aquariums during these unprecedented times. We also appreciate the significant opportunities zoos can provide for the public to access well managed and controlled outdoor spaces, and the potential to improve general wellbeing.
However, the Government has taken the decision that zoos and aquariums should not yet reopen, and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, which came into force on 1 June, provide greater clarity and certainty on this. While each individual attraction can be made safer, it’s vital that we do not move too quickly in reopening to ensure public health is protected.
We are continuing to work with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) to understand how we can reopen zoos in a safe way as soon as possible with social distancing measures in place.
The food industry has responded quickly and impressively to the significant changes in demand that we have seen over the past weeks. This has ensured supply into stores and people’s homes across the country and has demonstrated that the supply chain remains resilient.
To help industry, the Government has introduced several regulatory easements to keep food supply flowing. These include asking local authorities to show flexibility to allow extended delivery hours and flexing rules on drivers’ hours to allow a higher frequency of deliveries to stores.
More generally, this Government was elected on a manifesto commitment that in all of our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. The UK's growing reputation for quality food and drink, with high standards of food safety, animal welfare and sustainability, serves as an excellent platform to increase demand for our products still further.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the 2006 Act), local authorities, together with the police and officers of the Animal & Plant Health Agency, already have powers to investigate cases of poor welfare or animal cruelty, including cases of inappropriate tethering.
Tethering can be a useful equine temporary management tool when it is used appropriately. To assist horse owners and keepers as well as inspectors there is a the statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids (the Code) which provides information on how to meet the welfare needs of horses, as required under the 2006 Act. The Code contains specific information on how to tether a horse appropriately without being breach of the 2006 Act.
Local authorities are able to make decisions based on local needs and resource priorities and the local arrangements that work best for them. Therefore, I consider that this legislation and guidance provides the right safeguards and powers in respect of horse tethering. However, we will continue to engage with key stakeholders to see if more can be done to spread best practice among horse owners as well as increased partnership working in order to tackle the issue of inappropriate horse tethering.
The UK is supporting Iraq as it responds to the coronavirus outbreak. We have committed £16.9 million of funding to help combat coronavirus in Iraq, including in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This is helping to provide hospitals and primary care clinics with clean water, medication, soap and equipment. We are working closely with UN and INGO partners to help Iraq manage the pandemic whilst continuing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, including displaced people.
Since 2014, the UK has committed over £272 million in humanitarian support, and £110 million towards stabilisation efforts in Iraq, helping those who are most urgently in need following the conflict with Daesh.
During a recent ‘virtual visit’, the Secretary of State was inspired to meet young Iraqi entrepreneurs who are helping develop the Iraqi economy. The UK stands with Iraq as it responds to the coronavirus outbreak. We are working closely with UN and international partners to help Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, manage the pandemic whilst continuing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, including displaced people living in camps.
The UK government is deeply concerned about the allegations of incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s school textbooks. The International Development Secretary reiterated our concerns in a call to the Palestinian Authority’s Education Minister just last month.
The UK has been at the forefront of international action to get to the bottom of the allegations. We funded work to develop the methodology for an independent textbook Review sponsored by our European partners. We expect an interim report in June, with a full report later in the year. The UK has regular discussions with our European partners on the Review. I have not had specific discussions with my Norwegian counterpart on this issue.
Following the UK’s calls for international action, an EU sponsored independent review of Palestinian textbooks is currently underway. We understand that an interim report will be completed in Spring 2020 with the full report due later this year. The Development Secretary made it clear that incitement in education is unacceptable when she spoke with the PA Education Minister last week and she held him to account on progress to remove hateful content.
The UK recognises the UN Relief and Works Agency’s (UNWRA) unique mandate to support Palestinian refugees until a lasting political settlement is reached which determines their final status. Until that time, the UK will continue to meet humanitarian need and promote regional security by supporting the 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East through UNRWA. Our contribution to UNRWA last year helped provide education to more than 530,000 children (half girls), health services for over 3 million people, and social assistance for over 250,000 of the most vulnerable people.
Students in all UNRWA schools are taught the curriculum of their host country. UNRWA reviews host country textbooks and when problematic material is identified, develops alternative content and provides its teachers with support to ensure that the lessons taught in its schools promote tolerance and peace. The International Development Secretary spoke to the Palestinian Minister of Education in February to emphasise this point and encourage the Palestinian Authority to remove all inappropriate material from textbooks.
On 17 December 2020, awards were announced regarding the £200 million Cabinet Office-led Port Infrastructure Fund (PIF). Bristol Port was allocated a Government grant of £1.75 million with which it intends to build a border control point (BCP) to allow effective import of EU goods in line with the UK’s new Border Operating Model.
Decisions on which ports shall be Freeports have not yet been taken. In November, the Government published the bidding prospectus for Freeports in England, setting out how ports can apply for Freeport status, and further policy details. The bidding period will close on 5 February 2021, with successful locations announced in the Spring following a fair, open and transparent selection process. Devolved administrations are following their own processes to a slightly later schedule.
Successful bidders to the Freeports competition will have the opportunity to access a share of £175 million of seed capital funding, as well as a small amount of revenue funding.
Assessment periods allow for UC awards to be adjusted on a monthly basis, ensuring that if a claimant’s income changes, they do not have to wait several months for a corresponding change in their UC award.
Earnings are taken into account in the assessment period they are received and in this way the UC paid to claimants reflects, as closely as possible, the actual circumstances of a household during each monthly assessment period.
The Department has been working closely with HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) since UC went live in 2013 to support and inform employers who report payroll earnings, to emphasise the importance of timely reporting via the Real Time Information (RTI) system.
HMRC have updated their guidance to reiterate to employers the importance of reporting payroll accurately and the impact of reporting payments late.
Employers should already record on HMRC’s RTI system the date a salary is scheduled to be paid, rather than the date it is paid, where it is earlier due to a weekend, bank holiday or at Christmas.
We recognise the vital role unpaid carers play in caring for vulnerable individuals. Unpaid carers are included in the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s priority group six - all individuals aged 16 to 64 years old with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. This also includes those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
This refers to those who people live with. To reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, people should keep at least two metres away from those they do not live with. Social distancing is essential to stop the spread of the virus, as it is more likely to spread when people are close together.
Further information on social distancing is available at the following link:
We published a personal protective equipment (PPE) plan on 10 April, setting out clear guidance on who needs PPE and in what circumstances they need to use it, how sufficient supplies will be secured and distributed to the front line.
The Government recognises the vital services that hospices provide across the United Kingdom. Distribution routes for PPE are constantly reviewed to strengthen and expand capacity, and efforts are currently being undertaken to boost the service to hospices.
We have provided local resilience forums with supplies of PPE to help them respond to urgent local spikes in need across front-line services, including hospices.
The National Supply Disruption Response exists as an emergency escalation route who handle queries including the supply of PPE as a last resort.
Dentists normally purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) through dental wholesale suppliers. However, for PPE which is needed as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has made supplies available free of charge for National Health Service dental contractors. A dedicated PPE portal has been developed to deliver these items. As of 4 November, over 5,100 NHS dental and orthodontic providers in England have registered with the PPE portal and over 36 million items have been delivered.
The Government is committed to doing all it can to ensure that National Health Service workers are able to travel to work with minimal disruption. We also recognise the important role public services and private companies play in delivering key services.
At present the Government has no plans to put in place restrictions on public or private transport as part of our response to COVID-19. However, we continue to keep all aspects of our response to the virus under review, guided by the best advice from our world-renowned team of clinicians, public health experts and scientists.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark on 22 January 2020 to Question 3763.
The Government is committed to meeting the additional health needs of thalidomiders and to give them the same opportunities that others enjoy. The provision of the Thalidomide Health Grant is a central element of this. The current multi-year settlement continues for a further three years running until the end of the 2022/23 financial year.
Through the NHS Long Term Plan, the National Health Service commits to testing and rolling out waiting time standards for adults in selected areas. Twelve areas in England have received over £70 million of transformation funding in 2019/20 and 2020/21 to test new integrated models of primary and community mental health care for adults.
Eight of these sites are implementing innovative service models that will improve access and quality for adults and older adults with eating disorders in line with new national guidance on adult eating disorder care.
For children and young people, we have introduced a waiting time standard with the aim for 95% of children (up to 19 years old) with eating disorders to receive treatment within a week for urgent cases and four weeks for routine cases. We are on target to meet this aim by 2020/21.
We are aware of ongoing supply issues with some hormone replacement therapy (HRT) preparations due to a range of issues including manufacturing issues, regulatory issues and problems accessing the raw pharmaceutical ingredient as well as commercial decisions made by some companies to divest these products.
We have been working closely with all suppliers of HRT preparations to maintain overall supply to patients. We have shared relevant information about the supply situation and availability of HRT products with the National Health Service and are having discussions with organisations such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Menopausal Society.
We continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure relevant information about the HRT products affected by supply issues and the products that remain available is shared with the NHS on a regular basis.
We anticipate the supply situation will improve from February 2020.
Iran's ballistic missile programme is destabilising for the region and poses a threat to European security. UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was unanimously adopted in the Security Council and underpins the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), calls on Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. These UN ballistic missile restrictions remain in place until 2023. Alongside France and Germany (as E3), we have written repeatedly to the UN Secretary-General, most recently on 18 February, to bring attention to Iranian missile activity inconsistent with UNSCR 2231. We urge Iran to fully abide by UNSCR 2231 and all other relevant resolutions.
As the Prime Minister said in his letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel, the UK is a strong supporter of the ICC and we respect the independence of the Court. In this instance we do not consider that the ICC has jurisdiction. We continue to closely follow the ICC's work and are looking at the implications of this decision.
The UK Government works closely with international counterparts on security issues. This particular incident has not been raised by partners - but we work closely with both India and Israel on security issues.
We continue to engage closely with the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council to address Iran's non-compliance. We strongly urge Iran to halt return to compliance with its JCPoA commitments without delay.
Iran's recent announcements regarding the installation of advanced centrifuges at Natanz and announcement that it will commence design work for a new heavy water reactor are of significant concern. It is imperative that Iran does not implement these measures and urgently returns to compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA.
We have been clear on the need to keep the diplomatic door open for talks with Iran which address in the long term our concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, its ballistic missile programme and its destabilising regional activities. We will continue to work closely with our international partners to lay the groundwork for such talks.
The UK did not want to see the arms embargo expire, given the major implications for security and stability in the region. We remain concerned at Iran's destabilising regional behaviour and continue to hold Iran to account for its activity in the region. We currently have over 200 EU sanctions listings in place against Iran, including against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety. We also continue to support the enforcement of UN prohibitions on the proliferation of weapons to non-state actors in the region, including to Lebanese Hezbollah (UNSCR 2216, Iraqi militia groups (UNSCR 1546) and the Houthis in Yemen (UNSCR 1701). The EU arms embargo on Iran remain in place as do UN ballistic missile restrictions on Iran. We are committed to working with regional partners, the E3 and the US to find a sustainable solution to Iranian proliferation to non-state actors in the region.
The UK continues to have a close relationship with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, and our ministers and diplomatic representatives maintained regular contact with representatives of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq in 2018 and 2019. Current and former Foreign Secretaries and Ministers for the Middle East and North Africa have spoken with the KRG leadership including President Nechirvan Barzani. Most recently, I spoke to Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Masrour Barzani on 23rd September. The UK looks forward to continued close engagement with the KRG as a critical and valued partner in the region.
The UK supports a strong Kurdistan Region within a strong and unified Iraq. We welcome the new Government of Iraq under Prime Minister Kadhimi and are encouraging the new Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to co-operate closely in order to resolve all issues in accordance with the 2005 Iraqi Constitution. The UK will continue to engage with both sides in support of this endeavour.
As the Prime Minister has said, Qasem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region.
The Government recognises the challenging circumstances facing the aviation industry as a result of Covid-19 and firms experiencing difficulties can draw upon the unprecedented package of measures announced by the Chancellor, including schemes to raise capital and flexibilities with tax bills. The aerospace sector and its aviation customers are being supported with over £11 billion support through the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, grants for research and development, and committed loan guarantees for aviation and aerospace exporters. This includes over £8bn of UK Export Finance Guarantees.
The Chancellor also announced on 17 December that the CJRS will be extended until April, with employees receiving 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. This will continue to protect jobs and businesses across the UK in light of recent developments in the path of the virus.
The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme announced on 24 November will also provide support for eligible businesses, up to the equivalent of their business rates liabilities in the 2020/21 financial year, subject to certain conditions and a cap per claimant of £8m. This is intended to help reduce cash burn and could unlock shareholder and lender support.
The Citizens’ Rights Agreements protect those EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who were frontier workers in the UK by the end of the transition period at 11pm on 31 December 2020 and who continue to be so.
The UK’s frontier worker permit scheme, which has been open to applications since 10 December 2020, allows those protected frontier workers to obtain a permit, free of charge, as evidence of their right to continue entering the UK as a frontier worker after 30 June 2021.
There is no deadline by which protected frontier workers must apply for a permit, though it has been mandatory for non-Irish frontier workers to hold a frontier worker permit to enter the UK for work from 1 July 2021.
Where an overseas worker is not protected by the Citizens’ Rights Agreements, the new points-based immigration system provides routes for skilled workers and specialist services suppliers. Such work visas are typically issued within three weeks, making the UK system one of the fastest visa services in the world.
We recommenced face to face substantive interviews on 21 September 2020.
Tackling Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) remains a key priority of this Government and we will be publishing a new Cross-Government Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy in the Spring. To inform the new strategy, we launched a Call for Evidence on 10 December, inviting responses from the public, organisations that provide support to victims and survivors, frontline professionals, and academics.
Tackling VAWG is everyone’s business and requires a cross-departmental approach to help prevent these crimes from taking place, support victims, and better target perpetrators. The Government is committed to working across departments to develop the upcoming Tackling VAWG Strategy 2021-2024.
In order for the Home Office to fulfil their statutory obligation to accommodate asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute, asylum accommodation is provided on a no choice basis and accommodation may not be provided near to the point of entry.
A veteran does not require a recognition or ID card to prove their status and access veteran related services or discounts. There are a number of ways that Service can be verified, and the lack of a recognition or ID card should not act as a barrier.
The Government remains committed to developing an online digital verification tool, which will make it as easy as possible for veterans to verify their Service. We are working with colleagues across Government to find a solution that is secure and easy to use. A delivery date will be confirmed in due course, along with details of the next phase of the Veterans’ ID card roll-out. Closer to the launch date, information will be released at the following website: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-veterans-id-cards-rolled-out-to-service-leavers
The Gurkha Pension Scheme closed to new applicants in 2007 and those serving from that date, or those who chose to transfer to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme, receive the same pension rates as all other armed forces service personnel.
For veterans who chose to remain on the Gurkha Pension Scheme it represents a very fair scheme ensuring that Gurkha veterans are provided with a good standard of living. For most Gurkha veterans the Gurkha Pension Scheme provides a pension at least as good, and in many cases better, than that given to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme members with identical periods of service.
The requested information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 January 2021 to Question 142767 to the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Laurence Robertson).
The operational capacity and capability offered by the Combat Air Force, constituting Typhoon and F-35b Lightning, have ambitious capability development plans to ensure that the UK can sustain operational advantage into the future. Our requirements are reviewed regularly - including as part of the ongoing Integrated Review - to ensure provision of a balanced portfolio which addresses current and future threats in line with our National Security Objectives.
The support to Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) Security Sector Reform (SSR) has been very important. Indeed, when visiting the KRG myself in December 2020 I was able to see how it contributes to our overarching support to the Iraqi state towards the enduring defeat of Daesh. So far, the UK has trained over 120,000 Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Security Forces in Infantry skills, counter-IED, engineering, and medical expertise. As a result, their capabilities have increased considerably, and they are able to contribute to the success of the counter-Daesh campaign.
Her Majesty's Government has had sustained engagement with the Government of Israel on their vaccination programme. This has included Defence's Surgeon General regularly engaging with his Israeli counterpart. The Ministry of Defence however has not been in receipt of guidance from Israel specifically on the use of military personnel in vaccine roll out. We will remain in regular contact with the Government of Israel and health providers regarding efforts to tackle the virus.
The UK is in regular dialogue with NATO to agree our commitments to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force and our provision of NATO Assurance Measures missions on a year-by-year basis. These targets are agreed based upon the forecast availability of both UK and NATO aircraft, and output is closely monitored throughout the period; for this year the UK is forecast to meet all of its agreed NATO Assurance Measures commitments.
Commitment of UK AEW&C capability to sovereign operations is based upon the forecast available assets and the RAF is currently able to meet its contingent commitments. The UK retains the authority to prioritise the employment of its E-3D aircraft in support of additional short-notice (contingent) sovereign operations should the need arise.
We regularly discuss equipment programmes with our partners, however, I am withholding the detail of any potential saving as it remains commercially sensitive and cannot be disclosed at this time.
Defence spends in excess of £9 million per year to provide digital welfare services to deployed personnel. To maximise value for money and to get the best possible service for personnel deployed overseas on Operations and Exercises, Defence always seeks to use local telecoms infrastructure (4G, WiFi or Broadband Internet) wherever possible. As a minimum this enables regular daily voice calls and, in most cases, provides access to video communication and on-line entertainment streaming services, but this is dependent on both the infrastructure and security considerations.
When there is no local or only poor-quality fixed infrastructure available (e.g. on deployed Maritime operations), welfare services such as video communications and entertainment services are provided using the Skynet 5 satellites. In recent months, recognising the impact caused by the COVID crisis and the strain on Service personnel, Defence Digital and Airbus Defence and Space has increased capacity for the maritime welfare services.
Future welfare services for deployed personnel will be provided as part of the follow-on Skynet 6 programme, which is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s timeframe. The aim is to provide service personnel with unlimited access to high-speed internet anywhere in the world and at any time. As this work forms part of an underway competitive tendering process the expected costs cannot be provided at this time.
Her Majesty's Government will continue to exceed the NATO target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5 above inflation every year of this parliament. The UK is one of only a handful of nations that meets the 2 per cent target, and we remain the largest European Defence spender in NATO. It is too early to speculate on the outcomes of the Integrated Review but I can assure you that our national security capabilities will be determined by the threats that we face and that this country will maintain the strength of our world class Armed Forces.
Her Majesty's Government will continue to exceed the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5 above inflation every year. The UK is one of only a handful of nations that meets the 2% target, and we remain the largest European Defence spender in NATO. The Integrated Review will consider all aspects of international policy from defence to diplomacy and development. It is too early to discuss specifics, but I can assure?you?that this country will maintain the strength of our world class Armed Forces.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) does not hold information on the type of schools attended by Officers of the British Armed Forces and so I am unable to make the assessment.
However, can I assure him that the MOD is working closely with the Armed Forces in line with the Government's priority to build a fairer society, by attracting talent from the widest possible base across the UK, regardless of socio-economic background, educational status or ethnicity. The opportunities, education, and training provided to both officers and enlisted personnel in both the Regular and Reserve Forces enable recruits to progress as far as their aptitude will take them, regardless of their background.
The Department is engaging with industry throughout the review in order to seek views and inform the analysis. The Department is using its strong relationship with relevant trade associations and already established Government-Industry fora as much as possible to discuss the review. These include the Defence Suppliers Forum and the Defence Growth Partnership. We are also working alongside colleagues from other Government Departments to engage with industry through broader security focussed groups such as the Security & Resilience Growth Partnership and the Cyber Growth Partnership.
There are currently no plans to make any changes to the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project or the Challenger 2 Life Extension Project. The Government's Integrated Security Defence and Foreign Policy Review will consider all aspects of our defence and security capabilities including these projects.
The Army is in the process of assessing its future requirement for an artillery system capability and has established a programme, known as Mobile Fires Platform, to refine the requirement and modernise the capability.
Delivering on the Armed Forces Covenant, the Government has taken steps to ensure that serving personnel and veterans are not disadvantaged when seeking to access social housing
The law was changed in 2012 so that seriously injured, ill or disabled Service personnel, and former members of the Armed Forces, with urgent housing needs are always given ‘additional preference’ (high priority) for social housing. At the same time, regulations were introduced which ensure that serving personnel and those within 5 years of having left the forces cannot be disqualified from social housing because of a local connection or residency requirement
Both provisions also apply to seriously injured and disabled Reservists and bereaved spouses of Service personnel who are required to leave accommodation provided by the Ministry of Defence
In June 2020 we published new statutory guidance for local authorities to further improve access to social housing for members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/improving-access-to-social-housing-for-members-of-the-armed-forces . The guidance:
We have also ensured that members of the Armed Forces have priority for government-funded shared ownership schemes. Service personnel retain their priority status for up to 24 months after service. If they die while in service, their priority can be transferred to their bereaved spouse or civil partner
In recognition of the unique nature of service to the Armed Forces, we have arranged that serving members, veterans within 5 years of leaving the services, divorced or separated spouses or civil partners of serving members, or the spouse or civil partner of a deceased member of the Armed Forces (if their death was wholly or partly caused by their service) shall not have to meet any local connection criteria in order to qualify for a First Home. This will give them the opportunity to settle in the community of their choosing
First Homes are the Government’s new home ownership scheme, designed to provide a sustained and ongoing supply of new homes sold to first-time buyers with a discount of at least 30% (in some areas, the discount could be as high as 50%). The discount will remain with the property each time it is sold and local authorities can apply additional criteria (such as a local connection test) to target specific groups with housing need.
On 8 September the Government confirmed the new model for Shared Ownership. The new model has reduced the minimum share to 10 per cent, introduced 1 per cent staircasing and introduced a 10-year period during which the landlord will support with the cost of repairs on new build homes. These reforms will help to make the scheme more consumer friendly, more accessible and fairer, leading to a better experience for a future generation of shared owners.
In line with making Shared Ownership more consumer friendly, the Government believes very strongly that service charges should be transparent and communicated effectively, and that there should be a clear route to challenge or redress if things go wrong. The law is clear that service charges are payable only to the extent that costs have been reasonably incurred. In support of this, leaseholders, including shared owners, have the ability to apply to the Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal for a determination where they do not believe the charges are reasonable.
The Government established an independent working group chaired by Lord Best to raise standards across the property sector, which also considered how fees such as service charges should be presented to consumers. The working group published its final report to Government (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulation-of-property-agents-working-group-report) and we are considering the report’s recommendations before announcing next steps.
Legal aid plays an important role in supporting access to justice; that is why we spent £1.7bn on civil and criminal legal aid in 2019-20. Individual decisions about legal aid funding are taken by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), which is responsible for administering the legal aid scheme and takes funding decisions independently of the Ministry of Justice.
We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a range of challenges for the provision of legal aid. The Government is committed to maintaining access to justice during this time. For civil legal aid, individuals who have lost their income (or suffered a reduction in their income) who apply for funding will be assessed on their current circumstances.
Individuals who are claiming Universal Credit or some other means-tested benefits will be deemed to qualify automatically within the income threshold; and will qualify for non-contributory legal aid (subject to passing any capital and merits test). As there is not a capital assessment for criminal legal aid, if an applicant’s income is within the income threshold they will qualify for non-contributory legal aid.
The Armed Forces Covenant makes clear that veterans should not be disadvantaged as a result of their service, including in the provision of healthcare.
Health is a devolved matter, within the competence of the Northern Ireland Executive. The NI Health Minister, Robin Swann, is therefore responsible for issues relating to the health of all citizens in Northern Ireland, including veterans.
The New Decade, New Approach deal committed to the establishment of a Veteran’s Commissioner in Northern Ireland and I recently met with the new Commissioner, Danny Kinahan. We are keen to support him in his important work.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I will continue to engage with veterans’ support networks in Northern Ireland, the Office of Veterans’ Affairs and the NI Department of Health on matters pertaining to veterans’ welfare.
The Charity Combat Stress received one of 102 grants, totalling £6million, issued under the Covid Impact Fund. They received £250,000 to enable them to accelerate the UK-wide delivery of a digital veterans' mental health service.
The Government recognises the vital role charities play in supporting veterans' mental health. In the 2018 Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer awarded £10 million to support projects that will improve the mental health and wellbeing of veterans.
The Government has been clear that it will bring forward legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of investigations, which is not working for anyone.
We are determined to deliver on our commitments to veterans who served in Northern Ireland, and provide a fair, balanced, and proportionate system for all those who have been affected by the events of the past.
Despite the challenging circumstances caused by the ongoing Covid-19 situation, we will continue to seek to make progress on this as quickly as possible, working with all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.