MIL-OSI UK: Former HS2 Chairman and Transport Minister questioned by Committee

Source: British House Of Lords News

21 January 2019
The Economic Affairs Committee follows up on its inquiry, The Economic Case for HS2, in a one-off session with Sir Terry Morgan, recently resigned Chairman of HS2 and Crossrail, and Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport.

Witnesses
Tuesday 22 January in Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster
At 3.35pm
Sir Terry Morgan CBE, Former Chairman, High Speed 2 and Crossrail
At 4.30pm
Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport
Clive Maxwell, Director-General, High Speed and Major Rail Projects Group, Department for Transport
Dr Nick Bisson, Director, HS2 Phase 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, Department for Transport
Likely questions
Can HS2 be delivered within the £56 billion budget?
Will the speed be lowered and the number of trains an hour reduced to ensure the project is finished in time and on budget
Would a London terminus at Old Oak Common rather than Euston really save £8 billion on the cost of HS2?
Is the recent reduction in the growth in demand for long-distance rail travel a concern for the business case for HS2?
Is it right that HS2 is being prioritised over improvements to local and regional services in the north of England?
Does it undermine the case for the project’s objective to rebalance the economy that the main beneficiaries of overcrowding relief on the West Coast Main Line will be London commuters?
Further information
Image: PA

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MIL-OSI UK: Lords examines Trade Bill

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The Trade Bill begins its committee stage, the first chance for line-by-line scrutiny, in the Lords on Monday 21 January.

Members are expected to discuss the prevention of customs arrangements at borders, international trade agreements and territories forming part of a customs union with the UK
Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour) has proposed an amendment that the committee’s report is not received until the government has presented to both Houses proposals for a process for making international trade agreements once the UK is in a position to do so independently of the EU, including roles for Parliament and the devolved legislatures and administrations in relation to both a negotiating mandate and a final agreement.
If agreed to this amendment would mean that the bill would complete its committee stage in the Lords but not progress to report stage until the government’s proposals are received.
Lords second reading: Tuesday 11 September
Baroness Meyer (Conservative), made her maiden speech.
Members discussed a range of subjects covered by the bill including border arrangements in Northern Ireland, continued participation in the European medicines regulatory network and Free Trade Agreements.
Trade Bill summary
This bill aims to: 
Ensure the UK can implement any procurement obligations arising from the UK becoming a member of the Agreement of Government Procurement (GPA) in its own right.
Assist with the implementation of UK trade agreement with assisting partner countries.
Establish a new body, the Trade Remedies Authority.
Allow HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to collect information confirming the number of exporters of goods and services in the UK.
Establish a date sharing gateway between HMRC and other public and private bodies.
Further information
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MIL-OSI UK: Government statement following blow to UK nuclear future

Source: British Parliament News

17 January 2019
Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy  addressed the Commons concerning the UKs nuclear future following the announcement that Hitachi have suspended development of a nuclear power station on Anglesey.

The £20bn Wylfa Newydd plant on Anglesey was expected to be operational by the mid 2020s and create 9000 jobs in the area.
Hitachi said they would keep the option open for future development but that at this time, “from the viewpoint of its economic rationality”, the estimated annual cost of 600bn yen in operational costs and losses was not viable.
This is a second blow to the UK Nuclear energy industry, after Toshiba withdrew from a proposed nuclear power project in Moorside Cumbria. This means only one of three planned new nuclear power stations, at Hinkley Point in Somerset, is still in development with all but one of the UK’s current nuclear stations due to be offllined by 2030.
The Government has been in conversations with Hitachi, a Japanese firm, for some months, but has been unable to reach an agreement.
Addressing the Commons, Greg Clark said,

“Nuclear has an important role to play, as part of a diverse energy mix, but it must be at a price that is fair to electricity bill payers and to taxpayers. We will work closely with Hitachi and the industry, to ensure that we find the best means of financing these and other new nuclear projects.” 

A full transcript of proceedings in the Commons Chamber will be available through Hansard three hours after they finish in the Chamber.
Follow the @HouseofCommons on Twitter for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber. Please fill in our quick feedback survey to help us improve our content.
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MIL-OSI UK: Retail Price Index must be fixed, says Lords Committee

Source: British Parliament News

17 January 2019
The Economic Affairs Committee publishes its report on ‘Measuring Inflation’. The report considers the future of the retail price index (RPI) and its use by the Government.

Key findings
The Committee finds that the UK Statistics Authority is at risk of being in breach of its statutory duties on the publication of statistics, by refusing to correct an error that it openly admits exists in the Retail Prices Index (RPI). This error, made in 2010 when the process for collecting price quotes for clothing was altered, has resulted in RPI being 0.3 percentage points higher since 2010. As a result, commuters and students pay more because rail fare increases and student loan interest rates are linked to RPI, and holders of index-linked gilts at the time received an unwarranted windfall. The UK Statistics Authority has a duty to “promote and safeguard the quality of official statistics”.
The Committee calls for the Authority to follow the procedure for correcting the error and, given that RPI remains in widespread use, resume a programme of regular methodological improvements. The Committee also recommends a single measure of general inflation for use by the Government. This is to prevent so-called ‘index-shopping’ by Government, where indices are chosen because of their impact on the public finances rather than their merits as measures of inflation.
Chairman’s comments
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, said:

“When the Government gives money to people it is generally opting to adjust payments for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index. But when it takes money from people, it is generally opting to use the Retail Prices Index, which has been around one per cent higher than CPI in recent years. This simply is not fair. Together with the UK Statistics Authority, it needs to agree upon a single measure of general inflation which is used for uprating purposes. In the interim the Government should desist from ‘index shopping’ by switching to CPI in all areas not governed by private contracts, including index-linked gilts. “The UK Statistics Authority’s refusal to fix the problems it admits RPI has is untenable. By continuing to publish an index which it admits is flawed, it is arguably in breach of its statutory duty to promote and safeguard official statistics. It should seek to resolve the problems with the index, consulting the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer where necessary, and stop treating it as a ‘legacy measure’ when it remains in widespread use. “This is not just a technical debate. The Authority’s error created winners and losers. For example, commuters and students pay more because rail fare increases and student loan interest rates are linked to RPI.”

Key recommendations
The main problem with RPI is an unintended consequence of a routine methodological improvement by the UK Statistics Authority to the collection of price quotes for clothing. This has widened the difference (the ‘formula effect’) in the annual rate of change in RPI compared to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). As a result of the clothing change, the ‘formula effect’ has increased from 0.5 per cent to 0.8 per cent.
The Authority’s error has created winners, such as holders of RPI-linked Government bonds, who have received around £1 billion more in interest payments every year, and losers, such as commuters and students with annual rail fare increases and the interest rate on student loans linked to RPI.
Correcting the error would require the Chancellor’s approval because it would cause “material detriment” to index-linked gilt holders. When asked, the UK Statistics Authority told us they had not asked the Chancellor because they expected he would say no. The Treasury said they could not act, because no such request had been submitted. The Committee concludes that such a request should be submitted, and the Chancellor should consent.
The gap between RPI and CPI has encouraged governments to ‘index shop’: benefits, tax thresholds and public sector and state pensions were all switched from being uprated by the higher RPI to the lower CPI in 2011.
To have credibility, a single general measure of inflation requires a satisfactory measure of owner-occupier housing costs. At present, there are critics of how the RPI and the Consumer Prices Index including owner-occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) do this. The UK Statistics Authority should agree on a best measure of owner-occupier housing costs to be used in the new single general measure.
The Committee is unconvinced that the UK Statistics Authority should consider the interests of those materially affected by changes to statistical measures in making decisions about adjustments or corrections. UKSA has a statutory duty to promote and safeguard the quality of official statistics, which it may have neglected in the case of RPI. 
Further information
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MIL-OSI UK: Government rebuked for lack of preparation on Brexit and chemicals

Source: British Parliament News

16 January 2019
The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Committee has written to Defra Minister Thérèse Coffey MP highlighting renewed concerns about the Government’s ill-preparedness to take on the regulation of chemicals and maintain chemical trade after Brexit.

The chemicals sector is the UK’s second biggest manufacturing industry, worth £12.7 billion a year, and in 2017 73% of the UK’s chemical imports came from the EU. On 7 November 2018 the Committee published its Brexit: chemical regulation report, which called on the Government to:
urgently explain how its independent regulatory regime would work;
put forward a more credible plan for collecting information on chemicals;
identify which UK agency will take on the role of chemical regulation; and
enable UK chemical businesses, including SMEs, to take steps to maintain their access to the EU market ahead of exit day.
The Minister responded to the Committee’s findings on 4 January. It is the Committee’s view that although the Government has now developed a more credible approach for collecting information and identified the body that will be in charge of chemical regulation, it appears to have failed on a number of counts, by not taking steps that would have allowed UK chemical businesses to maintain their EU market access, not providing assurance that the database needed to replace the EU chemicals database will be ready in time, and not setting out how chemical risk assessments will take place after Brexit. The Committee is also concerned about the impact on UK manufacturing and businesses of the potential loss of access to thousands of chemicals as a result of Brexit.Lord Teverson, Chair of the Sub-Committee, said:

“Last year we were hugely concerned about the scale of work that needed to be done to maintain adequate chemical regulation in light of Brexit, and frankly the Minister’s response to our report has done little to alleviate our concerns. It seems Brexit could leave us without a functioning and populated UK chemicals database, without an independent and transparent process for risk assessments, and without access to the thousands of chemicals produced by EU-led companies. I hope the Minister can provide further assurances on the measures that are being put in place, otherwise we risk a severe impact on the UK chemical and manufacturing industries, and potentially on human and environmental health.”

The Committee has written to the Minister seeking further details on the Government’s preparations, and has requested a response by the end of January.
Further information
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MIL-OSI UK: Lords debate Committee’s report on consumer protection after Brexit

Source: British House Of Lords News

10 January 2019
On Wednesday 16 January the House of Lords debates the European Union Committee’s report, Brexit: will consumers be protected? which was published on 19 December 2017.

The report called on the Government to explain exactly how it intends to ensure that UK citizens’ consumer rights will be protected and enforced after the UK leaves the European Union. The Committee argued that mirroring the rights we currently have in EU law (via the EU Withdrawal Act) is not on its own enough. The report also called on the Government to share its plan for how it intended to maintain the UK’s access to the many EU based agencies and networks that contribute to the protection of consumers’ rights.
The Government’s disappointing response was received in February last year, and this debate is the Committee’s first opportunity to discuss these issues with the Government.
The debate is being moved by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws. Speakers include Lord Bilimoria, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, Lord Henley and The Earl of  Kinnoull.
Other Members of the House of Lords who are due to speak in the debate can be viewed on the Government Whips’ Office Speakers’ Lists.
Further information
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MIL-OSI UK: Lords examines Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill

Source: British Parliament News

07 January 2019
The Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill will have its committee stage, the first chance for line-by-line scrutiny, in the Lords on Tuesday 8 January.

Members are expected to discuss a range of subjects, including:
limiting the new regulations to ensure there are no changes in government policy other than to reflect the UK’s status as a non-EU member
ensuring the competitiveness of UK financial markets is not affected by EU withdrawal
requiring HM Treasury to begin reporting on the use of its powers by October 2019 and every six months thereafter.
Baroness McDonagh (Labour) has laid a motion against the debate, recommending that committee stage of the bill be postponed until after the scheduled date for the Lords committee stage of the Trade Bill has been published in the House of Lords Business Paper.
Lords second reading: Tuesday 4 December
Members discussed a range of issues raised by the bill, including restrictions within the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 on the use of delegated legislation, the accurate number of ‘in flight’ pieces of EU legislation and shortening the bill’s regulatory period following a ‘no deal’ scenario down from the current twelve-month proposal.
Lord Bates (Conservative), minister of state in the Department for International Development, responded on behalf of the government.
Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill summary
This bill will aim to provide the government with powers to implement and make changes to ‘in flight’ files of EU financial services legislation. The powers will last for two years after UK withdrawal from the EU, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario.
‘In flight’ refers to pieces of EU legislation that:
have been adopted by the EU but not yet enacted, and so would not apply under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
are currently in negotiation and may be adopted up to two years following EU withdrawal
Further information
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MIL-OSI UK: Ministerial correspondence on National Security and Investment proposals published

Source: British Parliament News

20 December 2018
Following recent correspondence with the Business & Industry Minister, Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee comments on the Government’s proposals for new powers to block foreign takeovers.

Correspondence published
The BEIS Committee publishes a letter from Richard Harrington MP, Minister for Business and Industry, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responding to a series of questions raised in a joint BEIS & Defence Committee hearing on the Government’s National Security and Investment proposals.
Potential for conflict to arise in judging foreign takeovers
Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said:

“The Government is proposing a bigger role for Ministerial intervention in foreign takeovers but remains unclear about how it will implement these proposals, or the resources required to manage the expanded regime. 
There is potential for conflict to arise between defence and business interests in judging foreign takeovers.
Given this, it is surprising the Government has brought these plans forward without having a clearer idea of whether it is the Defence or BEIS Secretary of State who should be making the final decision on whether to block or green-light foreign investment.
There is also a lack of clarity about the evidence the designated Senior Minister would consider from Ministers in other Departments, for example, on jobs or on long-standing relationships in the business or defence sectors.
Given the potentially far-reaching consequences of these proposals, the Government should go further in setting out how it will implement these plans and ensure that business gets the clarity it needs, and that foreign investment and UK assets are safeguarded.”

Further information
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MIL-OSI UK: Coastal Communities Minister to give evidence to Committee

Source: British House Of Lords News

17 December 2018
Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, will be giving evidence on Tuesday 18 December 2018 to the Regenerating Seaside Towns Committee.

Witness
Tuesday 18 December in Committee Room 2A, Palace of Westminster
At approximately 3.25pm
Mr Jake Berry MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, MHCLG
Possible questions
Questions the Committee is likely to ask include:
Should the challenges of seaside communities be recognised in a more strategic way by Government?
Is the Government planning to give local authorities more powers or financial flexibility to improve poor quality houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)?
How will the development of local industrial strategies ensure that coastal areas benefit from efforts to improve local economic prosperity?
How will the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ensure that the Shared Prosperity Fund meets the needs of coastal communities that were previously supported by EU regional funding?
What does the Government expect the priorities of the potential Tourism Sector Deal to be?
Would the Government ever consider reducing VAT for certain tourism related activities to help the tourism industry?
Further information
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