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: Home Secretary questioned again about citizens’ rights after Brexit

Source: British House Of Lords News

21 January 2019
As part of their follow-up work on citizens’ rights after Brexit, the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee again hears from the Rt Hon Sajid Javid, Home Secretary, and Mr Glyn Williams, Director-General of Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System Policy and Strategy Group, Home Office.

Witnesses
Tuesday 22 January in Committee Room 3, Palace of Westminster
At 2.30pm
The Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP, Home Secretary
Mr Glyn Williams, Director-General of Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System Policy and Strategy Group, Home Office
Background
Home Secretary Sajid Javid is being questioned by members of the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee on Tuesday 22 January in a follow-up session on citizens’ rights post-Brexit.  The Home Secretary gave evidence to the Committee on 21 June 2018 where assurances were given about the UK having a welcoming attitude to EU citizens who live in the UK, and that lessons were being learned from the Windrush scandal.  
This follow-up session will focus on advertising and promotional materials for settled status, process, documentation and trials, eligibility criteria, reciprocal arrangements and no deal preparations. 
Further information

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MIL-OSI UK: Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit

Source: British Parliament News

21 January 2019
On 17 January 2019 we, as Chairs, Conveners and representatives of Committees scrutinising Brexit-related issues in the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, House of Commons and House of Lords, met at the House of Lords for the sixth meeting of the Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit. Officials from the Northern Ireland Assembly were in attendance as observers, and the meeting was chaired by the Senior Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, Lord McFall of Alcluith.

This was a timely meeting, given events of recent days, including the heavy defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons on 15 January, and the Prime Minister’s announcement that she would seek cross-party talks on next steps.
Following the fifth meeting of the Forum, in Cardiff on 25 October 2018, we wrote to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon David Lidington MP, to draw his attention, in the context of the Government’s review of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) structures and Memorandum of Understanding, to key recommendations made by our various committees, and our shared belief that the current system of inter-governmental relations is not fit for purpose and is in urgent need of substantial reform.
Today we received a reply from Mr Lidington, and also met Chloe Smith MP, Minister for the Constitution within the Cabinet Office, who reported on the progress of the Government’s review of the JMC structures. In response to questions, she indicated that it was for the four parliaments to bring forward proposals for a future structure for interparliamentary dialogue and scrutiny of intergovernmental relations post-Brexit, and that if they did so, the Government would be supportive. Members of the Forum also expressed concern over key issues, including the handling of areas of shared competence, the ambiguity of the Sewel Convention, and the mechanisms for intra-UK dispute resolution.
Given the current political uncertainty, we underline the continuing value of the Forum as an informal mechanism to enable parliamentarians from around the UK to come together and share thoughts and perspectives. But we reiterate that at some point, consideration of more formal interparliamentary structures will be needed.
The Forum will meet again in Edinburgh in April 2019.
Attendees
Lord McFall of Alcluith, Senior Deputy Speaker, House of Lords
Lord Blencathra, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, House of Lords
Lord Boswell of Aynho, Chair, European Union Committee, House of Lords
Baroness Taylor of Bolton, Chair, Constitution Committee, House of Lords
Lord Trefgarne, Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, House of Lords
Geraint Davies MP, Welsh Affairs Committee, House of Commons
Vicky Ford MP, European Statutory Instruments Committee, House of Commons
Patrick Grady MP, European Statutory Instruments Committee, House of Commons
John Grogan MP, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, House of Commons
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, House of Commons
Bruce Crawford MSP, Convener, Finance and Constitution Committee, Scottish Parliament
Adam Tomkins MSP, Deputy Convener, Finance and Constitution Committee, Scottish Parliament
Graham Simpson MSP, Convener, Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, Scottish Parliament
Stuart McMillan MSP, Deputy Convener, Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, Scottish Parliament
Mick Antoniw AM, Chair, Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, National Assembly for Wales
David Rees AM, Chair, External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, National Assembly for Wales
Further information
Image: CC0

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MIL-OSI UK: Committee questions lawyers on what’s next for Brexit deal

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee opens its inquiry into the implications of the withdrawal agreement and the backstop for Northern Ireland with a session with internationally regarded lawyers.

Witnesses
Wednesday 23 January 2019, Committee Room 18, Palace of Westminster
At 9.30am
Isabelle Van Damme, Van Bael and Bellis
Martin Howe QC, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain
Sir Stephen Laws, First Parliamentary Counsel 2006-2012
Background
The protocol on Northern Ireland, known as the backstop, contained in the negotiated EU withdrawal agreement has emerged as a sticking point. The House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement this week, and the Prime Minister must now look for a way to break the deadlock in Parliament.
Purpose of the session
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will hear from three lawyers about legal options for securing a unilateral exit from the backstop, the implications of renegotiating the Agreement and how a no-deal Brexit could affect Northern Ireland.
The Committee will question the lawyers, who approach the withdrawal agreement from different perspectives, on potential futures for the backstop, how Northern Ireland’s voice can be heard in any renegotiations, and the implications for Northern Ireland of other options such as extending Article 50 or trading on WTO terms.
Further information
Image: PA

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MIL-OSI UK: Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay MP questioned on Brexit

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The Lords EU Committee discusses Brexit with Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Rt Hon Stephen Barclay MP.

Witness
Wednesday 23 January in Committee Room 1, Palace of Westminster
At 4.00pm
Rt Hon. Stephen Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Topics
The Committee will question the Secretary of State on Brexit, with topics including:
Possible changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that was rejected by the Commons on 15 January;
Government ‘no deal’ preparations;
UK engagement with the EU and other 27 Member States;
Government thinking on future UK-EU relations
Further information
Image: Parliamentary copyright

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MIL-OSI UK: Committee concerned about future of Human Rights Act post-Brexit

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has exchanged correspondence with the Government about clarifying the wording of the Political Declaration regarding the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The EU Justice Sub-Committee wrote to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke in December in the context of its work on citizens’ rights. The Committee sought clarification about a change in wording between the draft and final versions of the Political Declaration regarding the UK’s relationship with European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The reply from Edward Argar MP, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, was received last week. The Government’s response again pledged an unchanging commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, but it did not explain the reason for the change in wording in the Political Declaration.  The letter ended with a reference to revisiting the Human Rights Act once the process of leaving the EU is concluded, and the Committee is concerned by the lack of assurances about the Government’s commitment to the Human Rights Act post-Brexit.
Further information
Image: iStockphoto

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MIL-OSI UK: Committee question Attorney General

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The Justice Committee holds a one-off session on the work of the Attorney General.

The Committee will question the Attorney General on his duties as the principal legal adviser to the Government and as the head of the Law Officers’ Departments.
Witnesses
Wednesday 23 January 2019, Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster
At 10am
Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox QC MP, Attorney General
Further information
Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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MIL-OSI UK: Committee questions Secretary of State

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The Committee holds a further evidence session with the Secretary of State for Defence on his priorities for the Ministry of Defence following the oral evidence session of 29 October 2018 having been cut short.

The session will cover the remainder of the areas of policy which were not reached in October including NATO, UK-US relations, threats and the protection of former and serving personnel from historic allegations. This session will be the first opportunity for the Committee to take evidence following the publication of the Modernising Defence Programme document in December 2018. Matters that have arisen since October, such as the airport drone incidents and the US announcements on the INF Treaty and the Middle East will also be discussed.
Witnesses
Tuesday 22 January 2019, The Wilson Room, Portcullis House
At 3.30pm
Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Defence
Lieutenant General Richard Nugee CVO CBE, Chief of Defence People
Air Marshal Richard Knighton CB, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Financial and Military Capability)
Angus Lapsley, Director General Strategy and International
Further information
Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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MIL-OSI UK: Chair of Welsh Affairs Committee responds to high level of imprisonment in Wales

Source: British House of Commons News

17 January 2019
Chair’s statement
Following the finding of the Wales Governance Centre that Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe, Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, David T.C. Davies MP commented:

“The report raises a number of questions about the criminal justice system in Wales. My Committee has been inquiring into the provision of prisons in Wales and this week we demanded answers from Justice Ministers on issues such as overcrowding, prison deaths and a lack of provision for women offenders in Wales.
My Committee will be considering the evidence we have heard and will be making recommendations to the Government on how to address Wales’ particular imprisonment problems in due course.”

Further information
Image: PC

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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
Image: iStockphoto

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