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Written Statements

Thursday 2 July 2015

Cabinet Office

Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Matthew Hancock): I can confirm that the Review of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments will report later this year. The review will consider the role of the Commissioner and the processes around public appointments. The terms of reference for the review are as follows:

Terms of reference

The role of the Commissioner for Public Appointments was created by the Public Appointments Order in Council 1995 on 23 November 1995, following recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (under the chairmanship of Lord Nolan). We are now twenty years on, and this provides a suitable opportunity to review the role of the Commissioner and the processes around public appointments. In the light of the range and diversity of public appointments, it is important to ensure that the procedures are both effective and proportionate and to review whether procedures as practised fit within the intentions of the Nolan principles. The review will be led by Sir Gerry Grimstone and will report to the Minister for the Cabinet Office.



Financial Conduct Authority/Payment Systems Regulator

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Harriett Baldwin): The annual reports and accounts 2014-15 of the Financial Conduct Authority and Payment Systems Regulator have today been laid before Parliament.

These reports form a key part of the accountability mechanism for the Financial Conduct Authority under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and the Payment Systems Regulator under the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013. They assess the performance of the Financial Conduct Authority and Payment Systems Regulator over the past 12 months against their statutory objectives.



Armed Forces Pay Review Body

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I am pleased to announce that John Steele has accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to continue to serve as

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the chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, for a further two-year term of office commencing on 1 March 2016. This appointment has been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

New Consulate-General (Belo Horizonte, Brazil)

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I am pleased to announce to the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office intends to open a new British consulate-general in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, by the end of September 2015.

Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, is the third largest city in Brazil. Both the city and the state are politically important. Furthermore, Minas Gerais has a GDP of more than £150 billion, 10% of Brazil’s total, and boasts strong mining and agriculture sectors, a large automotive industry, and an expanding, high-tech industrial base.

Belo Horizonte will also serve as the location for Team GB and Paralympics GB’s pre-games training camps from July to September 2016, and will play host to multiple test camps, to check the training facilities, over the course of 2015 and 2016. The British Olympic Association and British Paralympics Association’s decision to host the training camps in Belo Horizonte is likely to open up further opportunities within Minas Gerais for the UK.

Opening a consulate-general in the city of Recife in north east Brazil in 2011 has shown us just how valuable having a presence in a state capital can be. Our consulate-general in Recife has allowed us to provide direct support to British businesses in accessing commercial opportunities in the state, while also enabling us to build stronger political links at a local level, of particular importance in a country the size of Brazil, where a considerable amount of decision-making power lies with the states themselves. Given the scale of opportunities in Belo Horizonte, and the added dimension of the British Olympic Association and British Paralympics Association’s decision to host their training camps there, the Government believe that we should open a new British consulate-general in Belo Horizonte for an initial period of two years. A resident consul will be appointed, and our consul-general to Rio de Janeiro will concurrently assume the title of consul-general to Belo Horizonte.

The rising economic and global importance of Latin America and Brazil is clear; our overseas network in the region plays an important role in strengthening our political, economic and commercial ties. The Government launched their Canning agenda in 2010; a long-term strategy aimed at revitalising relations with Latin America. While we have made good progress, we need to look for innovative ways by which we can fully realise the potential of closer relationships in the region. The opening of a new consulate-general in Belo Horizonte, within existing resource constraints, is an important part of that ongoing work.


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Ministerial Correction

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ben Gummer): I would like to inform the House of two inaccuracies in a statement I made in response to the Opposition day debate on A&E services in the House of Commons and to correct the record.

First, I stated that the number of training places for nurses,

“is now at a record level.”—[Official Report, 24 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 921.]

Nurse training commissions are at near record levels, following an increase of training commissions of 14% over the last two years.

Secondly, I referred to the Salford Royal Hospital,

“saving £5 billion a year.”—[Official Report, 24 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 924.]

when the correct figure is “£5 million a year.”


Home Department


The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire): The United Kingdom has a long and proud tradition of providing safe haven to those who genuinely need our protection and this Government take that commitment very seriously. But for an asylum system to offer help to those who genuinely need it, it must be capable of managing a high volume of applications by making quick decisions wherever possible.

The UK has operated a detained fast track policy for cases that can be decided quickly, including those that have very weak claims, since 2000. The decision to detain a person seeking asylum is never taken lightly, but the courts have been clear over the past decade in upholding the principle that an accelerated process for asylum seekers while detained, operated with certain safeguards, is entirely lawful.

Just over 30,000 asylum claims were made in the UK last year—close to the average for the last 10 years. The majority of applicants are provided with accommodation and support by the Home Office or find their own accommodation. Most decisions on asylum claims are made within three to six months. Many, including from countries such as Syria, are accepted as refugees and granted permission to stay.

But a fast track process, including for those that have very weak or spurious claims, with decisions normally made within a matter of weeks and subject to an accelerated appeals process, is an important part of our immigration system and ensuring that our help is rightly focused on those who truly need it.

It is vital that we deal robustly with unfounded or abusive claims in the asylum system. It is also vital, however, that we can identify vulnerable applicants, including victims of trafficking or torture, to ensure that they can receive a fair hearing.

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The Government are committed to the underlying principles of the detained fast track (DFT) and believe that for the most part it is operating well and is removing back to their own countries those whose asylum claims are clearly unfounded. But we must be satisfied that our safeguards for dealing with vulnerable applicants throughout the system are working well enough to minimise any risk of unfairness—as we have always striven to do.

Recently the system has come under significant legal challenge, including on the appeals stage of the process. Risks surrounding the safeguards within the system for particularly vulnerable applicants have also been identified to the extent that we cannot be certain of the level of risk of unfairness to certain vulnerable applicants who may enter DFT.

In light of these issues, I have decided to temporarily suspend the operation of the detained fast track policy. I hope this pause to be short in duration, perhaps only a matter of weeks, but I will only resume operation of this policy when I am sure the right structures are in place to minimise any risk of unfairness.

This decision does not mean that we will cease to detain people for immigration reasons. Immigration powers and policies relating to detention remain in place and we will continue to use them across the immigration system, including for removing illegal immigrants and protecting the public, wherever necessary.

We will continue to exercise the right to detain or keep in detention illegal migrants who have claimed asylum, where their specific circumstances warrant it.

In the meantime, every individual who was detained under the DFT policy and remains detained will have their detention urgently reviewed at senior level. Those who meet the general criteria for detention will not be directly affected by the decision to suspend DFT. Many are already detained under these powers, for example because they are at risk of absconding and face imminent removal. Only if detention can no longer be justified outside a DFT process will applicants be released to continue their asylum claim in the regular asylum system.

Asylum seekers who face removal to a safe third country or who come from a country designated as being generally safe, those who pose a risk to the public, those who are foreign national offenders, or those who otherwise face the likely prospect of removal are still liable to be detained or remain detained. Their cases will be prioritised under existing general rules.

We will urgently review all the evidence we have about any possible unfairness in the DFT system and address any shortcomings identified. In the meantime, we will continue to consider all asylum cases very carefully, granting protection to those that need it and refusing and removing those that do not. Asylum must not be used as a means to avoid legitimate immigration control and we will continue to be robust in ensuring that it is not.

This decision is in keeping with the Government’s wider work to ensure that we are doing everything we can to safeguard the welfare of those whom we detain. In February this year, the Home Secretary asked Stephen Shaw, the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, to conduct a review into the welfare of people detained for immigration purposes, including those detained under

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the DFT policy. When he reports we will take his findings seriously and use them to continue to improve whatever processes are in place.

It is vital that our asylum policy ensures that safe haven is provided to refugees and that our systems are fair and offer good value to the tax payer. It is also important that if a case can be determined quickly, it should be so determined, and that no immigration advantage can be obtained by making a spurious or opportunistic claim. That is why the Government remain committed to the principles of a detained fast track system and will re-introduce one as soon as we are satisfied the right structures are in place to ensure it operates as it is supposed to.



Crossrail (Annual Update)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): On Thursday 4 June 2015, the Prime Minister joined the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Transport at Farringdon to mark the end of Crossrail tunnelling. For almost three years, eight tunnel boring machines have been in operation seven days a week below the streets of London to construct the 42 km of new rail tunnels.

Excavation of the Crossrail tunnels has also now been completed, and with it comes the creation of Wallasea Island, a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserve in Essex. A total of 1,528 shipments delivered 3 million tonnes of excavated material from the Crossrail tunnels to create the nature reserve.

In the past year we have made great progress in many different areas of the project. The project is now over 65% complete with work well under way on planning for and delivering an operational railway.

Major surface works being delivered by Network Rail on the existing rail network continue apace with a number of key milestones reached. The first section of the Stockley flyover has been completed; a new signalling system between Reading and the Heathrow Junction has been implemented; in south-east London the first mile of new Crossrail track has been installed and the existing station at Abbey Wood demolished; and improvement works are well under way at a number of surface stations.

In July 2014, Transport for London announced that it had awarded the contract to operate future Crossrail services to MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd (MTR).

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MTR is expected to employ around 1,100 staff with up to 850 new posts. This will include almost 400 drivers and over 50 apprenticeships for people from communities along the route. MTR have now taken over the operation of services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield on behalf of TfL Rail in readiness for the introduction of the new Crossrail trains supplied by Bombardier from May 2017.

In November 2014, together with the Mayor of London, we announced that all 40 future Crossrail stations will be step free, dramatically improving accessibility provision along the route. All newly built Crossrail stations will have marked routes together with simple signage and information, and the Crossrail fleet will be built by Bombardier to the latest accessibility standards.

In January of this year we marked the appointment of the 400th apprentice on the project, beating the original target of 400 apprentices over the lifetime of the project. Crossrail has now appointed 460 apprentices. Alongside this, 3,886 jobs have been created by contractors for local and/or previously unemployed people on the project. Crossrail’s tunnelling and underground construction academy has had over 10,000 enrolments on courses since opening in 2012; and over 12,000 people are currently working across 45 Crossrail construction sites.

The Crossrail board continues to forecast that the costs of constructing Crossrail will be within the agreed funding limits. We expect Crossrail to cost no more than £14.5 billion—excluding rolling stock costs.

During the passage of the Crossrail Bill through Parliament, a commitment was given that a statement would be published at least every 12 months until the completion of the construction of Crossrail, setting out information about the project’s funding and finances.

In line with this commitment, this statement comes within 12 months of the last one which was published on 3 July 2014. The relevant information is attached.

The numbers above are drawn from Crossrail Ltd’s books of account and have been prepared on a consistent basis with the update provided last year. The figure for expenditure incurred includes moneys already paid out in relevant periods, 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.

Attachments can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions- answers-statements/written- statement/Commons/2015-07-02/HCWS80/.