Tuesday 31 October 2017
Cabinet Committees and Implementation Taskforces
Today the Government are publishing an updated list of Cabinet Committees and implementation taskforces. The new list includes a new Sub-Committee and changes to an existing Sub-Committee.
The new EU Exit and Trade (Domestic Preparedness, Legislation and Devolution) Sub-Committee will oversee domestic policy preparations and implementation of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The new Sub-Committee will be chaired by the First Secretary of State.
The EU Exit and Trade (Negotiations) Sub-Committee will be extended to become the EU Exit and Trade (Strategy and Negotiations) Sub-Committee. It will oversee the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the European Union.
These will sit alongside the EU Exit and Trade Committee and the EU Exit and Trade (International Trade) Sub-Committee which will continue to serve the same purpose as previously.
Copies of the associated documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and published on gov.uk.
Communities and Local Government
Supported Housing: Funding
Supported housing is a lifeline for vulnerable older people, for individuals with learning and physical disabilities, for those at risk of domestic abuse, and for many others. It is an investment in our society and our economy, with the savings it brings to other parts of the public sector, such as health and social care. The Government have been clear that they are committed to protecting these homes and the people who live in them. Reforming the funding model for supported housing costs and putting it on a sustainable and stable footing is therefore vital.
In the autumn statement 2015, we announced our intention to apply the local housing allowance rates to social rents, including supported housing, with effect from 2018. The implementation date was subsequently deferred to April 2019.
Since then, we have listened carefully to the concerns raised by the supported housing sector and other key stakeholders about the issues that this measure would present, because supporting the most vulnerable people in our society is a priority for the Government. We value the important role that supported housing plays and we are committed to protecting and boosting the supply of supported housing, and ensuring tenants are able to enjoy the best quality of life.
In response to those concerns the Prime Minister announced last week that the Government will not apply the local housing allowance rates to tenants in supported housing, nor to the wider social rented sector.
Last year we also committed to reform the funding model for supported housing costs, in order to ensure it provides good outcomes for tenants, better oversight and cost control, and compatibility with the modernised welfare system. This covers the funding for housing costs only, as the support costs are funded separately: there will be no change to how these are provided. We have worked with the sector since then to develop a workable funding model, and we have heard their views and concerns. We are therefore bringing forward a flexible funding model that works for this very diverse sector, as set out in more detail in our policy statement published today.
All long-term supported housing will be retained in the welfare system. We heard calls for a separate model for older people’s housing to ensure we are building more of these vital homes. We will therefore be introducing a “sheltered rent” for sheltered and extra care housing, a type of social rent that will see the social housing regulator use existing powers to control rent inclusive of eligible service charges. This approach means that we will set an overall limit on the amount that providers can charge in sheltered rent—rent inclusive of eligible service charges—on each unit of sheltered or extra care provision. It will also, as we currently do for net rents, limit annual increases. We will work closely with the sector to set these limits at an appropriate level.
The rest of long-term supported housing, such as housing for people with learning or physical disabilities or mental ill health, will remain in the welfare system as it currently is. We will be working with the sector in England to develop and deliver an approach that will ensure greater cost control across the sector while driving up outcomes for vulnerable people.
We recognise the need for a distinct model for short-term supported housing. Funding for this part of the sector will be provided through locally administered ring-fenced grants. This means that all the funding that was previously provided by housing benefit will instead be allocated to local authorities to fund and commission services at a local level. An individual’s entitlement for help with their housing costs—though housing benefit or the housing cost element of universal credit—will be unchanged. In Wales and Scotland, an equivalent amount will be provided for short-term supported housing, and it will be for those Administrations to decide how best to allocate funding. We intend to retain this ring-fence in the long term to protect this important provision and the vulnerable people it supports. The amount of short-term supported housing grant funding will continue to take account of the costs of provision and also our current understanding of future need.
We are also seeking to improve local planning for supported housing and commissioning across service areas. Our policy announcement sets out proposals for a national statement of expectation and local level strategic planning to underpin the new funding regime.
These important and necessary changes will take time to implement and it is crucial that the support provided to people is not interrupted or put in doubt, which is why these changes will now commence from April 2020 rather than April 2019.
Alongside our policy statement, we are launching two consultations on specific elements of the model, and a draft national statement of expectation. We have today published the independent reports of our task and finish groups, which were instrumental in helping us design a new model that will work for the sector. We have also published our response to the November 2016 consultation “Funding for supported housing”, and our response to the joint Select Committee report “Future of supported housing”.
We have also considered the important role of refuges and calls from some of the sector to nationalise the funding and commissioning of this. The Government were clear in their violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy that refuges provide a vital service. We believe that local authorities are best placed to deliver the better outcomes for vulnerable renters in crisis and emergency supported housing as they understand local needs and can take a holistic view on both housing and support provision. They will be funded as set out in the model above, on a local basis, protected by a ring-fence on the grant funding. The supporting oversight regime will also set out our expectations, including on supporting those without a local connection. The Government have already committed—in the 2016 to 2020 violence against woman and girls strategy—to review the current approach to refuge provision in England by November 2018. We will need to pay particular attention to the funding of care and support costs as we do this, and will continue to work closely with this sector to make good our commitment to the victims of these terrible crimes.
It is our aim through making these changes to provide funding security to the sector, allowing them to make long-term investment and therefore secure future supply. It will also ensure value for money for the taxpayer, and enable councils to have a stronger role in providing appropriately for their local areas. Most importantly, it will support positive outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in this country.
I am placing copies of our policy announcement made today—comprising a policy statement, two consultations, and a draft national statement of expectation—and the Government response to the joint Select Committee inquiry in the Libraries of both Houses.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
I wish to inform the House that on 31 October 2017, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a consultation on proposals for changes to gaming machines and social responsibility requirements across the gambling industry.
The Government announced a review of gaming machines and social responsibility measures in October 2016. The objective of the review was to ensure we have the right balance between a sector that can grow and contribute to the economy, and one that is socially responsible and doing all it should to protect consumers and communities. The responses to the call for evidence have also been published alongside this consultation so that respondents can see the evidence that we have drawn on in developing these proposals.
We believe that the current regulation of B2 gaming machines is inappropriate to achieve our stated objective of protecting consumers and wider communities. We are therefore consulting on regulatory changes to the maximum stake, looking at options between £50 and £2, in order to reduce the potential for large session losses and therefore to the potentially harmful impact on the player and their wider communities.
While the industry proposes increases to the remaining stakes and prizes, and permitted numbers and allocations across other categories of machine (B1, B3, B3A, B4, C and D gaming machines), we believe retention of the current regulatory environment will better protect players from potential harm than industry’s proposed increases.
We are aware that the factors which influence the extent of harm to the player are wider than one product, or a limited set of parameters such as stakes and prizes, and include factors around the player, the environment and the product. We are therefore also consulting on corresponding social responsibility measures across gaming machines that enable high rates of loss, on player protections in the online sector, on a package of measures on gambling advertising and on current arrangements for the delivery of research, education and treatment (RET). Within this package, we want to see industry, regulator and charities continue to drive the social responsibility agenda, to ensure all is being done to protect players without the need for further Government intervention, and that those in trouble can access the treatment and support they need.
The consultation will close on 23 January 2018, following which Government will consider its final proposals.
The consultation is available at:
A copy will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Underwater Cultural Heritage
In the culture White Paper, published in March 2016, we undertook to review the Government’s position on ratification of the 2001 UNESCO convention on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage. Earlier this year we said we were considering plans for a review, with a view to making an announcement.
Since we published the culture White Paper, we have had to reconsider our priorities and our ability to carry out a review in the light of changing circumstances.
As a result, we have decided to defer the review while we focus our efforts and resources on delivering new and more immediate priorities.
The Government have adopted the principles set out in the annex to the convention as best practice in the management of underwater cultural heritage. There is no change to this.
We remain committed to reviewing the Government’s position on ratification of the convention when priorities and resources permit.
Government Asset Sale
Today, I can confirm that the Government are resuming the process required to sell part of the “plan 1” (i.e. pre-2012) English student loan book as previously announced to the House on 6 February 2017. The sale covers loans issued by English local authorities only under the previous (pre-2012) system, specifically those which entered repayment between 2002 and 2006, with a total face value of around £3.7 billion. This is the first sale of the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) loan book and it is proceeding on the basis that there is a reasonable prospect of achieving value for money. It will only complete subject to market conditions and a final value for money assessment.
As the Government have previously made clear, the position of all graduates, including those whose loans are part of a sale, will not change as a result of the sale. A sale will not alter the mechanisms and terms of repayment and sold loans will continue to be serviced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Student Loans Company (SLC) on the same basis as equivalent unsold loans. These protections mean that purchasers will have no right to change any of the current loan arrangements or to directly contact borrowers. Government have no plans to change, or to consider changing, the terms of pre-2012 loans.
The sale terms are expected to include a number of warranties and indemnities for sale arrangers and investors, which give rise to contingent liabilities for Government. In this case, although there is specific statutory authority for the liability under the Sale of Student Loans Act 2008, in line with HM Treasury rules I believe it is appropriate to notify Parliament before incurring these liabilities. As a matter of record I have placed a Departmental Minute in the Libraries of both Houses describing the contingent liabilities that the Department for Education will hold on behalf of Government as a result of this first sale of the pre-2012 English student loan book. The maximum contingent liability against the Department for Education is unquantifiable and is expected to be in place for as long as there are outstanding securities.
The House will also be informed if and when a sale is completed.
Promoting Professionalism, Reforming Regulation
Today I am publishing a consultation on the reform of the regulation of healthcare professionals in the UK.
This takes forward the manifesto commitment to legislate to reform and rationalise the current outdated system of professional regulation of healthcare professions, based on the advice of professional regulators.
The UK’s model of professional regulation for healthcare professionals has become increasingly complex and outdated. It needs to change to protect patients better, to support our health services and to help the workforce meet future challenges. This consultation is a major step towards developing a modern system of regulation for healthcare professionals.
My Department has worked with the Governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as the healthcare regulation bodies to develop proposals for reform. We have built on the work of the Law Commissions of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The UK Governments have five objectives in taking forward reform:
Improve the protection of the public from the risk of harm from poor professional practice;
Support the development of a flexible workforce that is better able to meet the challenges of delivering healthcare in the future;
Deal with concerns about the performance of professionals in a more proportionate and responsive fashion;
Provide greater support to regulated professionals in delivering high quality care; and
Increase the efficiency of the system.
This consultation considers the reforms that are needed in order to maximise public protection while supporting workforce development. We want to design a flexible model of professional regulation that secures public trust, fosters professionalism and improves clinical practice, while also being adaptable to future developments in healthcare.
The responses to this consultation will allow the Government to consider future options for professional regulation. The consultation will run for 12 weeks and close on 23 January 2018. The consultation document has been attached and can be accessed online at: https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/professional-regulation/regulatory-reform.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-10-31/HCWS206/.