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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
04 September 2018
Volume 646

Written Statements

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Exiting the European Union

EU Exit

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Technical notices

As announced by the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on 18 July 2018, the Government are publishing a series of technical notices during August and September. On Thursday 23 August, we published 25 of these notices and will publish more in the coming weeks. These notices are designed to inform people, businesses and stakeholders about steps they may need to take in the event of a “no deal” scenario.

Notices were published on the following areas:

Overview

UK Government’s preparations for a no deal scenario

Applying for EU-funded programmes

The Government’s guarantee for EU-funded programmes

Horizon 2020 funding

Delivering humanitarian aid programmes

Civil nuclear and nuclear research

Nuclear research

Civil nuclear regulation

Farming

Farm payments

Receiving rural development funding

Importing and exporting

Trade remedies

Trading with the EU

Classifying your goods in the UK trade tariff

Exporting controlled goods

Labelling products and making them safer

Labelling tobacco products and e-cigarettes

Developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Producing and processing organic food

Money and tax

VAT for businesses

Banking, insurance and other financial services

Regulating medicines and medical equipment

Batch testing medicines

Ensuring blood and blood products are safe

How medicines, medical devices and clinical trials would be regulated

Submitting regulatory information on medical products

Quality and safety of organs, tissues and cells

State aid

State aid

Studying in the UK or EU

Erasmus+ in the UK

Workplace rights

Workplace rights

Notices were published on gov.uk during the parliamentary recess. These can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/how-to-prepare-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-with-no-deal.

Copies of notices were also placed in the Libraries of both Houses to ensure all Members had access, and we will continue to ensure that technical notices are made available to Members.

Slides on the framework for the UK-EU partnership

The UK negotiating team are also producing presentations for discussion with the EU, in order to inform development of the future framework.

Slides have been published in the following areas over the parliamentary recess:

Financial services

Open and fair competition

These were published on gov.uk during the parliamentary recess and were also deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies can also be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/framework-for-the-uk-eu-partnership-financial-services.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/framework-for-the-uk-eu-partnership-open-and-fair-competition.

[HCWS929]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Social Housing Green Paper

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On 14 August, my Department published our social housing Green Paper “A new deal for social housing” which proposes fundamental reform to ensure social homes provide an essential, safe, well managed service for all those who need it. The social housing Green Paper was laid before Parliament on 14 August (CM 9671).

Everyone deserves a decent, affordable and secure place to live. It is the most fundamental of human needs. While we have made important strides to build the homes we need in recent years, I recognise we have much further to go when it comes to making our housing market work for all parts of our society—not least for residents in social housing. Our Green Paper is an important step towards this.

It is based on conversations with almost 1,000 residents at 14 events across the country, with over 7,000 submitting their views and ideas online. We have heard what people love about social housing—stories of people’s pride in their homes and communities. But we also heard what needs to change. The Green Paper is underpinned by five principles:

Ensuring that homes are sale and decent

Residents were not only concerned about safety, but also the quality and maintenance of their homes. The Government have identified opportunities to accelerate a social sector early response to recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety by supporting residents and landlords to engage on issues of building safety. The Green Paper will also consider whether the decent homes standard is demanding enough and delivers the right outcomes.

Swift and effective resolution of disputes

Residents raised issues about how complaints were dealt with when things go wrong. We want to make the process of handling and resolving complaints faster, easier and more effective. As part of this, the Green Paper asks whether the “democratic filter” should be reformed or removed. In addition, we want to explore whether more could be done to strengthen mediation opportunities so landlords and residents can resolve disputes locally, and help residents to access the right advice.

Empowering residents

We want to ensure residents are empowered, with more transparency about the information they receive from landlords. The Green Paper contains proposals to assess landlords against standards that matter to residents, to publish these assessments, and to strengthen the regulatory framework for social housing. We want to make sure the regulatory framework as a whole remains fit for purpose and published a call for evidence which seeks views on how the current regulatory framework is working, alongside the Green Paper. We are also seeking views on how to ensure residents’ voices are heard and strengthening their choice over the services they receive.

Elimination of stigma

Stigma was one of the most consistent themes raised by residents. We are seeking views on a number of proposals to tackle this including ways to celebrate thriving communities, encourage greater professionalisation among housing management staff and promoting good social housing design. We are also exploring options for improving neighbourhood management and addressing anti-social behaviour, another key issue for residents.

Boosting the supply of social housing and supporting home ownership

Residents told us that they wanted to see more affordable homes delivered. We published the right to buy receipts consultation which sets out our proposals for exploring new flexibilities around how local authorities can use their right to buy receipts. We will also explore how we can help people living in affordable home ownership schemes, such as shared ownership, progress more easily to owning outright.

After listening carefully to social housing residents, we are proposing not to implement the provisions in the Housing and Planning Act to make fixed-term tenancies mandatory for local authority tenants at this time.

We recognise the benefits of fixed-term tenancies in the right circumstances to help social landlords make best use of their housing stock and that flexibility will remain. But we remain keen to ensure that victims of domestic abuse do not risk losing their lifetime tenancy if they are granted a new tenancy after fleeing abuse. We will bring forward new legislation to ensure that councils honour their lifetime tenancy in these cases.

In addition, on 16 August, I launched the £200 million voluntary right to buy midlands pilot. The pilot will enable thousands of tenants across the midlands to buy their home from their housing association, at a discount funded by the Government. The pilot builds on the small scale pilot with five housing associations in 2016-17, and will test two key aspects of the voluntary agreement with housing associations not tested in the initial pilot—the portable discount and one-for-one replacement overall of the homes sold. Eligible tenants in the midlands will need to register their interest on the MHCLG website, with the registration open until 16 September. To give all prospective purchasers an equal chance of participating, places on the pilot will be allocated by ballot.

[HCWS932]

Supported Housing and Rough Sleeping

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On 9 August, I announced that housing benefit will remain in place to fund supported housing, alongside publication of the Government’s response to the October 2017 consultations on possible alternative funding options. We also announced that we will not be pursuing the sheltered rent model. This demonstrates our commitment to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, by ensuring vital services are in place.

I am also keen to work with providers, local authorities, membership bodies and resident representatives to develop a robust oversight regime, to ensure quality and value for money across the sector. Alongside this enhanced oversight, my Department will undertake a review of housing related support in order to better understand how housing and support fit together.

Taken together, this gives the sector the confidence they need to continue to invest in supply.

On 13 August, I announced a cross-Government rough sleeping strategy setting out the first steps towards achieving our commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027. This builds upon the work of the rough sleeping initiative announced in March, and set outs the further action we will take to support those currently sleeping rough.

To develop the strategy my Department has worked across Government through the rough sleeping and homelessness reduction taskforce, and with the homelessness sector and local areas through the rough sleeping advisory panel, to set out our long-term vision for how both local and central government will work together to build a country where no one needs to sleeps rough again.

The strategy is based around three core pillars: prevent, intervene and recover, with a focus on moving to a “rapid rehousing” approach. Taken together with initiatives my Department had already committed to prior to publishing this strategy, this represents over £150 million of funding dedicated to reducing rough sleeping over the next two years. In addition, we confirmed additional funding for health services for people sleeping rough. We will refresh the strategy on an annual basis, setting out the progress we have made and ensuring that our interventions remain relevant and targeted. We are also developing a delivery plan, to be published in the autumn.

We will prevent rough sleeping by providing timely support to those at risk by, for example:

piloting suitable accommodation and tailored for those leaving prison so they do not end up on the streets;

researching the nature and scale of LGBT homelessness to determine what measures need to be put in place to prevent this;

ensuring that local authorities investigate rough sleeper deaths to understand and tackle the root causes; and

implementing the duty to refer on certain public bodies as part of the Homelessness Reduction Act, to ensure that more people get the help they need faster.

We will intervene to help people already on the street get swift, targeted support by, for example:

rolling out a new initiative, Somewhere Safe to Stay, to help up to 6,000 people who are new to the streets or vulnerable to rough sleeping, offering support to rapidly identify issues that led them to sleeping rough;

introducing “navigators”—specialists who will act as trusted confidantes—who will help people sleeping rough access the appropriate services and accommodation;

providing up to £30 million for health services for people sleeping rough, informed by the findings of a health provision audit to be carried out this year; and

providing training for frontline staff on how to best help people under the influence of Spice, those who are victims of domestic abuse, modern slavery, as well as how best to support homeless LGBT people.

We will help people recover, find a new home quickly and rebuild their lives by, for example:

providing affordable accommodation for those leaving hostels and domestic abuse refuges, and to support them in managing this accommodation;

investing money from dormant bank accounts into housing for those on the streets or at risk of rough sleeping;

launching a new fund to help up to 5,000 former rough sleepers and those at risk to sustain their tenancies by working with them to boost financial independence and access training and employment opportunities; and

launching a £50 million fund for homes outside London for people ready to move on from hostels or refuges but need additional support.

We recognise that this is a challenging commitment but are confident this strategy will pave the way towards achieving our 2027 vision. We are clear, however, that this is just the first step.

The rough sleeping strategy was laid before Parliament on 13 August (Cm 9685).

[HCWS931]

Tenant Fees Bill

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I am today placing in the Library of the House the Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order 83L in respect of the Government amendments tabled for Commons Report stage for the Tenant Fees Bill.

[HCWS930]

Work and Pensions

Pensions Update

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Throughout the last decade, Government have worked closely with the pensions, financial services and consumer community to rebuild the UK’s pension savings culture.

Through automatic enrolment, 10 million people will be newly saving or saving more into a workplace pension scheme, with an estimated £20 billion extra pension saving by 2019-20.

The pension freedoms have given people much greater choice about when and how they use their pension savings.

The Government have a significant programme of work ahead to increase confidence in workplace pensions, by improving:

The provision of information to, and financial capability of, individuals, in order that they can make informed and more confident financial decisions.

The way pensions are run, making them more secure; improving transparency; and responding more quickly when things go wrong.

Improving the provision of information to, and financial capability of, individuals

The pensions dashboard will offer people the opportunity to access their pension information in a clear and simple form—bringing together an individual’s savings in a single place online.

The work that the Department for Work and Pensions has done in assessing feasibility for a pensions dashboard has made it clear that we should not underestimate the size or complexity of the challenge. An industry-led dashboard, facilitated by Government, will harness the best of industry innovation. We will continue to engage with industry on this model and Government will protect pension savers and personal information by legislating where necessary. This will build on the Government’s “Check your State Pension” online service for the state pension. We will shortly report on the findings from the feasibility study.

To improve financial capability and understanding we have taken through Parliament the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018, which gives us the power to introduce the Single Financial Guidance Body. This will bring together the services currently delivered by the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. The creation of the SFGB is a genuine opportunity to improve provision of free and impartial Government-sponsored money and pensions guidance and debt advice so that people—especially those who are struggling, can make informed choices about their finances.

The appointments of the chair and chief executive of the new organisation have recently been announced, and we expect to establish the body as a legal entity in October when the chair and chief executive take up their roles. It will then launch in January when it takes on its delivery functions of money and pension guidance, and debt advice.

Improving security and transparency

We have legislated to introduce a new master trust accreditation regime from 1 October 2018 for multi-employer pension providers wishing to continue to operate in the automatic enrolment market.

We will strengthen the powers of the pensions regulator to ensure that peoples’ pensions are protected. The Department recently consulted on proposals to improve the regulator’s powers so that they can be more proactive, punish wrongdoing and get involved earlier when employers make changes which could affect their pension schemes. We are currently considering the responses, and hope to publish our conclusions towards the end of this year. We are also investigating how to facilitate consolidation of DB schemes, including looking at the establishment of “superfunds”, and intend to publish a consultation on this in the autumn.

Finally, collective forms of pension saving offer interesting new possibilities, and the Department is currently working through proposals for the first collective defined contribution schemes in the UK. We intend to launch a formal consultation in the autumn.

This is an ambitious programme of work, which has the potential to further transform the pensions landscape and benefit consumers.

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