The final day of Parliament before the summer recess – sometimes known as “taking out the trash day” – saw the usual flurry of government announcements before MPs head for the beach.
May takes personal control of Brexit talks
Theresa May was always in overall charge of negotiations but this “machinery of government” announcement confirms that Number 10 – rather than new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – is firmly in the driving seat as they enter a critical phase. Brexiteers suspect a “coup” by the Remain supporters in Downing Street. Mr Raab says a single chain of command will ensure “the best possible deal”.
Two RAF bases to close
The home of the Red Arrows air display team is to be sold off, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.
RAF Scampton, which was also home to 617 Squadron as they prepared for the Dambusters mission in World War Two, is to close in 2022, with the display team to be moved somewhere “more fit for purpose”.
Another base, RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire, where fast-jet pilots are taught, and where the Duke of Cambridge underwent training, will be closed in 2020.
MoD forgot to declare cash for Jordanian Armed forces
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said £13.3m was given to the Jordanian armed force between 2015 and 2017 that had previously not been declared to Parliament.
The money was given as a grant for equipment and infrastructure – including armoured vehicles, IT, accommodation and buildings.
The defence secretary said steps had been taken “to ensure than an oversight such as this does not occur again”.
‘Social rent’ U-turn
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire unveiled a new planning rule book – the National Planning Policy Framework – which he says will help councils challenge badly-designed developments and give local people more of a say over the kind of homes being built in their area.
The minister has restored “social rent” to the government’s definition of affordable housing following an outcry from the Local Government Association, who said more such homes were needed to tackle shortages.
The term was ditched from a draft version of the framework, which added mentions of Starter Homes and build-to-rent.
Tougher scrutiny of foreign takeovers
The government wants more power to block foreign takeovers if they are thought to pose a threat to national security, Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced.
“These proposals will ensure we have the appropriate safeguards to protect our national security whilst ensuring our economy remains unashamedly pro-business and open to high levels of foreign investment in the future.” said Mr Clark.
More cash for Crossrail
London’s Crossrail project is running almost £600m over budget with extra funding required to complete work on the east-west railway, which is due to open in December.
The project’s budget has been increased from £14.8bn to £15.4bn, rail minister Jo Johnson announced, blaming “cost pressures”.
Public sector pay boost
One million public sector workers are to get what the government says is their biggest pay rise in nearly 10 years. It includes 2.9% extra this year for the UK’s armed forces, and in England and Wales 2.75% for prison officers, up to 3.5% for teachers, and 2% for the police. GPs and dentists in England will also see a 2% increase.
Fracking in Lancashire gets go-ahead
Shale company Cuadrilla has been granted permission to start fracking at Preston New Road, in Lancashire, subject to certain conditions. The announcement sparked protests at the site, with six people arrested.
New director of public prosecutions
Max Hill QC – the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation – will replace Alison Saunders as the head of the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales in November.
Ms Saunders, who faced criticism after several rape trials collapsed due to evidence not being disclosed, is standing down at the end of her five-year contract.
Mr Hill pledged to “restore public trust in the Crown Prosecution Service”.
Fund to help schools support forces children extended
A fund to help schools support pupils with parents in the armed forces is being extended.
The Education Support Fund had been due to close this year – but will now carry on for another two years – because more service children are expected to return to the UK with the closure of bases in Germany.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said it would be extended on a “limited basis”, with £3m this year and £2m in 2019-20.
Seven English courts to close
The government says the courts are either underused, dilapidated or too close to another and services will be moved to nearby locations.
They are: Banbury Magistrates’ and County Court, Maidenhead Magistrates’ Court, Chorley Magistrates’ Court, Fleetwood Magistrates’ Court, Northallerton Magistrates’ Court, Wandsworth County Court, and Blackfriars Crown Court. A proposal to close Cambridge Magistrates’ Court has been withdrawn.
Schools funding extension
Local authorities in England had already been allowed to continue setting a local formula for school funding in 2018/19 and 2019/20, in parallel with the government’s introduction of a national funding formula. This period has been extended to 2020/21.
Guarantees for EU-funded projects
Funding for EU programmes run by UK charities, businesses and universities has been guaranteed up to the end of 2020, even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Shake-up for Local Enterprise Partnerships
Local Enterprise Partnerships replaced Regional Development Agencies in England in 2010 but they have been accused of being too complex, badly managed and lacking in accountability.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has announced proposals to merge some of the 38 LEPs, which are meant to boost growth and investment.
They will also get up to £20m of additional funding between 2018 to 2019 – and have to appoint more women to their boards and increase the diversity of those in charge.
Business rates pilots
On a busy last day of term, James Brokenshire also announced that more local councils in England are being invited to apply for powers to retain the growth in their business rates.
More support for full-time volunteers
Junior sports and civil society minister Tracey Crouch published the government’s response to a report on how government and employers can make it easier for people to do full time voluntary work.
Proceeds of crime update
Security Minister Ben Wallace announced that the independent reviewer of the search and seizure powers in the 2002 Act, Douglas Bain, says it is working well but has two recommendations, although his report has yet to be made public.
The law that, in theory, allows the courts to seize property, cars and other ill-gotten gains from convicted criminals has been criticised in the past for not working very well.
Hammond’s EU update
Chancellor Philip Hammond gave a routine update on the most recent meeting of European finance ministers – something he will no longer have to do, of course, when the UK leaves the EU because he won’t be invited.