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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
18 June 2019
Volume 662

Written Statements

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

CMA Loyalty Penalty Report

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Our competition, legal and regulatory frameworks are fundamental to our future economic success. We have a reputation for a world-leading competition framework and independent economic regulators with duties to protect the interests of consumers. However, where markets are not working for consumers, we will ensure that they are treated fairly. Today I published the Government response to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) loyalty penalty report. It is my intention that the UK’s competition and markets regime is firmly focused on delivering improved outcomes for consumers. That means ensuring that significant sources of consumer detriment, such as the loyalty penalty, are tackled quickly and effectively.

Following concerns raised by Citizens Advice in a “super-complaint”, the CMA uncovered harmful business practices by firms, which exploit consumer loyalty. The CMA investigation looked at the five markets highlighted by the super-complaint—cash savings, mortgages, household insurance, mobile and broadband—and found that there is a total loyalty penalty of around £4 billion a year in these markets. It also found that vulnerable people, including the elderly and those on a low income, may be more at risk of paying the loyalty penalty.

Our response to the CMA’s loyalty penalty investigation sends a strong signal that poor practices by suppliers will not be tolerated and sets out the following:

our intention to establish an administrative model of consumer enforcement for the CMA and to consult on how to do this as part of the forthcoming consumer White Paper

that the CMA and the economic regulators must do more to stop business practices that lead to the loyalty penalty, and that we are prepared to legislate to give our enforcers new tools to do so where necessary

that targeted price interventions, where proportionate, should be considered by regulators to tackle the loyalty penalty. Although pricing interventions should be a matter of last resort, it is vital that all potential interventions are considered to protect those who are most vulnerable

reiterates the commitments we set out in our smart data review, including creating an “open communications” initiative and establishing a vulnerable consumer challenge.

This builds on our consumer Green Paper, as part of our modern industrial strategy, published in April 2018, which tackles areas where markets are not working for consumers and businesses. We believe that all of these measures will help create the conditions for more effective competition and improve day to day outcomes for consumers.

I will place a copy of our letter to the CMA in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1629]

Treasury

Inheritance Tax Relief: Kindertransport

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The Government are proud to continue to support victims of Nazi persecution. Earlier this year, the German Government set up a compensation scheme for Jewish individuals who were transported from Germany on the Kindertransport. Under the previous rules, these payments would be treated as part of the individual’s estate and liable to inheritance tax. The Government will legislate in Finance Bill 2019-20 so that compensation payments made as part of this scheme will not be subject to inheritance tax considerations.

[HCWS1634]

Education

Disadvantaged Children in Education

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Education should give every child, no matter their background, the opportunity to reach their full potential. To this end, we are announcing the conclusion of the children in need review, delivering the Government’s manifesto commitment to better understand how we can improve the educational outcomes of children who have needed a social worker.

Through our reforms to social care and across Government, we are already taking action to improve safety and stability for these children: strengthening families and tackling domestic abuse, poor mental health and substance misuse, which are prevalent drivers of need. Through our action to drive up the quality of services in local authorities and to develop a highly capable, skilled social work workforce, we have seen the number of local authorities judged inadequate decline by around a quarter since 2017—providing consistently better services for thousands of children and families across the country.

We have also delivered significant work to raise the educational attainment of our most disadvantaged children. This includes the Timpson review of school exclusions, reforms to alternative provision, delivering on the 2014 SEND reforms, and ensuring a system of advocacy and support for looked after children.

Children in need are those who need a social worker for help or protection, including children on a child in need plan or a child protection plan, looked after children, and disabled children. The children in need review set out to assess the educational outcomes of this group of children and what actions and interventions are needed to improve them. As part of the review we have developed new data and analysis, conducted a broad programme of qualitative evidence gathering, including a call for evidence and literature review, and engaged with practitioners working in education and social care, as well as children and young people with experience of being supported by social care.

The review has evidenced, for the first time, the prevalence of children who have needed a social worker currently or previously, and the extent of these children’s lasting poor educational outcomes. We now know that 1.6 million children have needed a social worker at some point, equivalent to one in 10 last year. This group do significantly worse than others at all stages of education. Of young people who needed a social worker in their GCSE year, by age 21, half had still not achieved level 2 qualifications (which include GCSEs) compared to 12% of those not in need.

The review has developed four priority areas for action, and identified where we can start work immediately. These are: promoting visibility and recognition, not only for the purposes of safeguarding but in education; keeping children in school, making sure education is a protective factor against abuse, neglect and exploitation; raising aspiration to believe that more is possible of this group of children; and finally, supporting schools to support children themselves—recognising the consequences of childhood adversity on attendance, learning, behaviour and mental health.

The immediate action we will take includes:

Clarifying and strengthening our expectations around information sharing between and within schools and social care;

Continuing to improve our national data on this group;

Improving clarity, timeliness and transparency around in-year admissions;

Developing much-needed new research on tackling absence;

Consulting on strengthening the role of the designated safeguarding lead in schools, and exploring whether there is a case for extending and adapting the scope of virtual school heads;

Building on reforms to mental health support, by identifying and sharing best practice around responding to the lasting impacts of childhood adversity;

Working with What Works for Children’s Social Care to analyse which

interventions, trialled by the education endowment foundation, are most effective for

children with a social worker.

This action aims to ensure that every child can benefit from their education, ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to fulfil their potential, and the resilience they need for future success. However, it is only a start. To support families and communities, the whole of Government will continue to work together in preventing and tackling the causes of need, from the early years through to adolescence.

The report “Help, Protection, Education: concluding the children in need review” has been published alongside a companion data and analysis document on gov.uk. I will place a copy of the documents published in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1635]

Exiting the European Union

Bilateral Voting Rights

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Today, I can confirm that the Government have reached a bilateral agreement with Luxembourg that will secure the rights of UK nationals living in Luxembourg, and Luxembourgish citizens living in the UK, to stand and vote in local elections in both a deal and no-deal scenario. This agreement builds on our close ties and reinforces our commitment to the future relationship between our two nations.

Citizens have always been our priority in the negotiations for our departure from the EU, as has protecting the interests of British expats. The UK pushed hard in negotiations to protect the right to stand and vote in local elections for UK nationals living in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, but these rights were not included in the withdrawal agreement. Instead, we have been pursuing bilateral arrangements with individual member states to secure these rights. Throughout this process we have been clear that allowing EU citizens to vote in local elections in the UK should be considered alongside the rights and interests of UK nationals and it has been our priority to secure these reciprocally.

We have now reached agreements with Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg and we are continuing our discussions with other member states.

UK nationals will be able to continue to vote, and in some cases stand, in elections in member states where their domestic legislation allows this and they meet the requirements set out, for example on length of residency. This includes: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

I will be depositing a copy of the latest agreement in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1633]

General Affairs Council

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I will attend the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 18 June 2019 to represent the UK. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full member state and continue to act in good faith.

The provisional agenda includes:

Multiannual financial framework 2021-2027

Ministers and the Commission will discuss progress on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) negotiations. The intention is for member states to reach an agreement on the negotiations in autumn 2019.

Preparation of the European Council on 20-21 June 2019: Conclusions and European Council follow-up

The Council will discuss preparations for the June European Council. The agenda includes: adoption of the 2019-2024 strategic agenda for the European Union; MFF; climate change; the European semester; and the disinformation and elections report prepared by the Romanian presidency in co-operation with the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Ministers will also discuss progress in implementing previous European Council conclusions.

Enlargement and stabilisation and association process

Enlargement is the process whereby European countries are able to join the European Union. Ministers will discuss and adopt conclusions on the 2019 enlargement package which was presented by the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and other EU institutions on 29 May.

European semester—Horizontal report on country specific recommendations

The European semester provides a framework for the co-ordination of economic policies across the EU. Ministers will discuss the Commission’s horizontal report on the macro-economic position of the EU, which draws on country specific recommendations. The report will be passed to European Council ahead of its meeting on 20 and 21 June.

[HCWS1632]

Home Department

Firearms Licence Fees

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Today, I am publishing the Government response to the consultation we launched in January 2017 on new fees for applications for firearms licences administered by the Home Office and the Scottish Government. These licences are:

licences to possess firearms that are prohibited under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. Such licences are issued to, for example, dealers or manufacturers of prohibited firearms and are distinct from police-issued certificates for civilian firearms, shotguns, and those issued to registered firearms dealers who deal in civilian firearms and shotguns;

licences for museums that hold firearms as part of their collections; and

licences for approved target shooting clubs.

The Government introduced measures, through the Policing and Crime Act 2017, to enable new fees for these licences to be set on a cost recovery basis, through secondary legislation. The fees will apply in England, Wales and Scotland.

I am very grateful to those who responded to the consultation. We received almost 5,000 responses.

The Home Office has reviewed the levels of fees set out in the consultation document, and we discussed our proposals with representatives of fee payers. The levels of fees now set out in the Government response are significantly lower than those originally proposed, due to both revised estimates of Home Office costs and a fresh look at the costs that it is appropriate to recover through the new fees.

An important issue raised by fee-payers’ representatives was the potential impact of the proposed fees on museums with firearms collections. Given that the museums involved are publicly funded and act in the public interest, the Government has decided to maintain the current museum firearms licence fee level of £200 for the grant and renewal of these licences. This is set out in more detail in the impact assessment accompanying the consultation response. The Government response and the impact assessment will be published on gov.uk, and I will arrange for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The new fees will be introduced by statutory instrument as soon as parliamentary time allows.

[HCWS1630]

Justice

Female Offenders

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Today, I am publishing the Farmer review, which was commissioned as part of our female offender strategy in June 2018.

This work builds on Lord Farmer’s 2017 review of family ties for male prisoners, which concluded that good relationships are vital to reducing reoffending. For women, relationships are the most significant factor to impact directly on the likelihood of reoffending. More so than men, women in the justice system are in relationships that are abusive and/or criminogenic, and therefore supporting female offenders to strengthen and develop relationships is not straight forward.

We also know that women are more likely to be primary carers than men when entering the criminal justice system. Whereas children of male prisoners will often remain at home with their mother, children frequently have to leave their home when mothers go into custody. This tells us that incarceration of women disproportionately impacts families and children, and could increase the risk of intergenerational offending.

This is why I am immensely grateful to Lord Farmer for undertaking this important review.

Building on his original review, this review looks at his earlier recommendations through the lens of the needs of female offenders, including the distinct complexities in their relationships.

The Farmer review for women investigates how supporting female offenders to engage with their families can lower recidivism, aid rehabilitation and assist in addressing the issues of intergenerational crime. It does this by looking across the whole system—not just within prison—following the vision of our strategy to support women and improve outcomes for them at all points of the justice system.

The review finds that there is a lack of information on the personal circumstances of women, including of dependent children, which poses a fundamental barrier to supporting women to maintain those relationships. It draws practical proposals to help women communicate better with their family and dependents when at court and in custody, as well as proposing how prisons can better facilitate more frequent, safe, and private family visits.

In line with our strategy, the review represents a preference for women to be managed, and to manage their own relationships safely, in the community where possible.

The review can be found online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/farmer-review-for-women

I am pleased to welcome this report and to share my commitment to take forward this important area of work. We will look closely at the findings and recommendations from Lord Farmer’s review for women and how we can best give effect to these in both the short and longer term.

In doing so, my Department will build on the good work we have been taking forward following Lord Farmer’s original review. My officials will also work closely with other agencies, partners and Government Departments to ensure the importance of strengthening family and relational ties for female offenders and their children is reflected across the criminal justice system.

[HCWS1631]