Thursday 18 July 2019
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Furniture and Furnishings: Fire Safety
Today, I will publish the Government response to our consultation on updating the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, which set fire resistance requirements for cover materials and fillings used to make domestic upholstered furniture.
The review aimed to ensure that our legislative framework maintains fire safety for consumers, reflects technological advances in furniture manufacturing practices, and facilitates a reduction in the use of hazardous flame-retardant chemicals as a means of making furniture fire resistant.
The consultation sought views on proposals to amend the testing regime. It also sought views on proposals for clarifying and amending the scope of the regulations, strengthening the traceability requirements to bring furniture into line with other product sectors, updating labelling rules, and extending the time period for trading standards to institute legal proceedings.
The Government are committed to protecting consumers from all safety risks, but we will not compromise on fire safety. During the course of the review, to ensure the highest standards, we sought the views of chief scientific advisers from relevant Departments across Government.
The Government will now develop a new approach to address the different sources and chemical risks posed by fire to upholstered furniture and furnishings. It will focus on safety outcomes (such as reduced risk of ignition, reduced risk of fire spread) and will be underpinned by a set of essential safety requirements which all upholstered furniture placed on the market must meet.
This approach is consistent with that taken for other consumer products. The (new) legislation will be supported by British Standards which will be developed by the British Standards Institution in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including industry, fire-safety experts and consumer representatives.
This new approach will continue to ensure that manufacturers place only safe products on the UK market. I will consult on the detail of this new approach in due course. In the meantime, the existing regulations will continue to apply.
Registration of Overseas Entities
The Government have today published their response to the report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill.
The draft Bill was published on 23 July 2018 to enable pre-legislative scrutiny. The Joint Committee formed for the purpose of scrutinising the draft Bill was established in February 2019 and published their report on 20 May 2019. The report was supportive of the Bill and its intentions, concluding that it is “timely, worthwhile, and, in large part, well drafted”. The Government welcome the Committee’s report and thank the Committee’s Chair and members for their detailed scrutiny of the draft Bill. The scrutiny process has been valuable and the Government have accepted a number of the Committee’s recommendations and will be giving serious consideration to others to ensure that the legislation is as effective as possible in tackling the use of UK property for money laundering purposes by improving the transparency of property ownership.
A copy of this Government response will be laid before both Houses.
Senior Managers and Certification Scheme: Extension to Financial Conduct
Today the Bank of England and Financial Services Act 2016 (Commencement No. 6 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/1136 C. 35) are published.
In my Written Ministerial Statement of 3 July 2018 [HCWS823] I announced that the senior managers and certification regime would come into force for financial services firms regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority only—also known as solo-regulated firms—from 9 December 2019.I would like to update the House that, in these regulations, there will be two exceptions to the commencement date, for newer categories of solo regulated firms.
The first are benchmark administrators. This is a new category of authorised firm introduced by the EU benchmark regulation, which came into force on January 1 2018. The benchmark regulations included a transitional period such that these firms have until the end of 2019 to become FCA authorised. The SM&CR will commence for benchmark administrators on 7 December 2020 to allow the FCA to carry out a dedicated consultation for benchmark administrators before making final rules for the sector.
The second are claims management companies (CMCs). The Government have already legislated to bring CMCs within the FCA’s regulation, and applications for authorisation are currently being considered by the FCA. Firms awaiting full authorisation, but previously regulated by the Ministry of Justice will have temporary permission to operate. Not all CMCs will have gained full authorisation by December 9 this year, so the commencement regulations confirm that the SM&CR begins for these firms on December 9 this year, or at the date at which they receive full authorisation if this is later.
Fiscal Risks Report 2019
In accordance with the charter for budget responsibility, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has today published its second fiscal risks report (FRR). The OBR published its first FRR in 2017, which the Government responded to in 2018 through the managing fiscal risks report (MFR). FRR 2019 fulfils the OBR’s legal obligation to publish a statement setting out the main risks to the public finances at least once every two years. The report features an updated risk assessment of the original issues the OBR raised in FRR 2017, in addition to highlighting new risks to the public finances. It was laid before Parliament earlier today and copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.
The UK is one of the few countries in the world to publish a standalone report on fiscal risks and the FRR is the only such report to be published by an independent agency rather than the Government itself. The UK is a world leader in fiscal risk disclosure and management and is determined to set the global standard not only for the disclosure of fiscal risks but also for the active management of those risks. The IMF’s 2018 article IV consultation noted that “The UK continues to set international standards with respect to fiscal transparency”. This report keeps the UK at the frontier of fiscal management internationally and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to fiscal transparency and accountability. The publication of FRR 2019 further strengthens the cycle of accountability that the first report started. As required under the charter for budget responsibility the Government will respond formally to the FRR 2019 within the next year.
The Government have helped to build a stronger, fairer economy—dealing with the deficit, helping people into work, and cutting taxes for people, families, and businesses. The economy has grown continuously for the past nine years, the employment level is currently at a record high, unemployment is currently at its lowest rate and level since 1975, inflation is at the Bank of England’s target and real wages are rising. We are tackling the productivity challenge head on because it is the only way to sustainably improve living standards in the long term.
The Government have also made substantial progress in improving the health of the public finances since 2010, which have now reached a turning point. The deficit has been reduced by more than four fifths and debt has begun its first sustained fall in a generation. At the spring statement 2019, the OBR confirmed that the Government are forecast to meet both of the interim fiscal rules early, with the structural deficit now below 2% and debt falling in every year of the forecast. The Government have achieved this through a balanced approach to fiscal policy; continuing to reduce debt, while also supporting vital public services, keeping taxes low and investing in Britain’s future.
Within this balanced approach, the Government took the decision to make the NHS the number one spending priority, committing to an historic settlement that provides a cash increase of £33.9 billion a year by 2023-24. This record level of additional funding for our public services has been delivered within a responsible fiscal framework, and has been accompanied by a clear and credible NHS long-term plan, which includes measures to put the NHS back onto a sustainable financial path.
Furthermore, the Government have taken concrete action to reduce a number of risks, which the OBR has acknowledged in FRR 2019. This includes better management of new contingent liabilities, reducing the issuance of index linked gilts and improvements in the management and reporting of legal risks in the welfare system. The Government have also made significant improvements in monitoring and transparency of their fiscal risks, including introducing stricter disclosure requirements for asset sales and revised budgetary treatment for financial transactions.
While the Government have acted, many of the risks discussed by the OBR in its first report remain. In the medium term, the largest potential risks come from the macroeconomy and financial sector in the form of financial crises and major economic downturns. The OBR has also modelled the fiscal implications of the UK leaving the EU without a deal in its fiscal stress test. The stress test is based on the IMF’s less disruptive no-deal scenario. The OBR notes this scenario is not necessarily the most likely outcome and it is relatively benign compared to other possible scenarios (for example, assuming limited short-term border disruptions). The OBR reports that this scenario would add around £30 billion a year to borrowing from 2020-21 onwards and around 12% of GDP to net debt by 2023-24, compared with the OBR’s March forecast baseline.
In the long term, the most significant fiscal risks come from structural economic and societal trends such as lower productivity growth, higher interest rates, changes in consumption and working practice, demographic pressures and technological change. Additionally, the report highlights new risks—such as climate change and the costs associated with measures designed to adapt and mitigate the effects. The risks the OBR has highlighted further reinforce the need for prudent management of the public finances and the reduction of debt to more sustainable levels.
Overseas Detainees: Detention and Interviewing
On 20 May 2019, in response to an urgent question, I made a statement to Parliament on Ministry of Defence internal policy with regard to the receipt and sharing of intelligence related to detainees overseas. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), is updating the House today. Sir Adrian Fulford, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, has now finalised his review of the consolidated guidance and has recommended its replacement with a new document: “The Principles relating to the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas and the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees”, a draft of which was provided to the Government on 12 June 2019. The Ministry of Defence, along with other Government Departments, has considered these principles, accepts them in full, and has begun work to update its internal guidance accordingly. The principles and revised supporting internal guidance will be fully implemented by the end of the year.
Defence Fire and Rescue Project
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State in the House of Lords (Earl Howe) has made the following written ministerial statement.
I am announcing the outcome of the Defence fire and rescue project which has been examining potential improvements in how fire and rescue services are provided to the Ministry of Defence, both in the United Kingdom and overseas.
In June 2018, I announced the Ministry of Defence’s intention to award the Defence fire and rescue project contract to Capita Business Services Limited and I can today confirm this to be the case. Following a competitive bidding process Capita’s bid was deemed to deliver the best technical solution and the best value for money for Defence. The 12-year contract is worth £525 million and will mark a step change in capability for Defence’s fire and rescue capability.
The project will deliver a range of benefits whilst sustaining our worldwide fire and rescue capability. These benefits include improved safety for firefighter personnel and those they protect as well as fire risk management for the Department. This will be achieved through the investment in new equipment, technology and training which the contract will enable to happen faster than it otherwise would. In addition, we expect the contract to deliver significant financial savings over the course of its lifespan; money which can be reinvested into other areas of the Defence budget.
I can assure Parliament that these proposed contractual arrangements with Capita have been subject to thorough scrutiny and due diligence processes conducted across Government, including in the Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. These assurance processes included the financial sustainability of Capita and tested their technical expertise to deliver the contract in a sustainable and resilient manner. Safeguards are in place to ensure there is no break in service provision. Capita have experience in delivering fire and rescue service provision as they already operate the internationally recognised Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh.
Initially, around 560 MOD civil servants, mainly firefighting personnel, are expected to transfer under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations to Capita as the contract is implemented over the next few years. Fire station managers, their staff and trade union representatives of the civilian workforce have been consulted throughout the project and are being formally told of the contract award today. I would like to pay tribute to the work they have undertaken and will continue to undertake for Defence. The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will continue to employ firefighters. Over time there will be a reduction in the number of firefighters in the Royal Air Force due to the introduction of new technology and there may be opportunities in the future for some roles becoming sponsored reserves.
I can confirm that existing fire and rescue services provided to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, the Defence Science and Technical Laboratory in Porton Down and at US visiting forces bases in the United Kingdom are unaffected by these changes. The Defence Fire Training and Development Centre at Manston will close in due course with training transferred to Capita's existing fire training facility at Moreton-in-Marsh. The award of this contract will enable the Ministry of Defence to vacate large elements of the Manston site which will be released to support economic development, potentially including housing, in the local area.
This has been a complex procurement with a delay in the award of the contract following a legal challenge from Serco Limited, the other final bidder. We have now mutually agreed an out-of-court settlement of £10 million which provides better value for money for the tax payer than an uncertain and costly court case. I can confirm that the MOD’S accounting officer has commissioned an independent review to ensure we learn from this acquisition process. This will be led by Tony Poulter, a non-executive director at the Department for Transport. The findings of the review will be published after the summer.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Equality and Listed Events
I have written today to the BBC, S4C, Ofcom and the International Paralympic Committee in a limited consultation on adding the Paralympic games to the listed events regime. I have also copied the letter to Channel 4 which currently holds the broadcasting rights for the next Paralympic games in Tokyo 2020, to other eligible free-to-air broadcasters, and to the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
The Broadcasting Act 1996 gives the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport discretion to designate sporting and other events of national interest as listed events. Once listed, broadcasting rights to such events must be offered to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters (“qualifying broadcasters”) on fair and reasonable terms. Qualifying broadcasters are those which reach 95% coverage of UK viewers and at no additional cost to the viewer than the television licence fee. Broadcasters currently meeting these criteria are BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4.
The current list, compiled in 1998, consists of two categories of events:
Group A, in which full live coverage must be offered to the qualifying broadcasters; and
Group B, in which live coverage may be broadcast on subscription television as long as secondary coverage is offered to qualifying broadcasters.
Under section 97 of the Broadcasting Act 1996, the Secretary of State is able to amend the list providing that they have consulted with the statutory consultees. In my letter I have asked consultees to consider the following:
whether, based on the guidance and criteria given, the Paralympic games should be added to the list;
whether the Paralympic games should be listed under group A or group B of the list;
other factors affecting the likely costs and benefits to the sport concerned, to the broadcasting industry and to viewers, as set out in the guidance on the criteria for listing; and
any other factors relevant to the final decision.
While the Government do not wish to reopen the list of events for a full review, we are committed to supporting more equality in the coverage of sport on TV, and in particular, disability and women in sport. It is for this reason that I am considering whether to exercise discretion to add the Paralympics to the list, and that I intend on holding a consultation later this year on adding women’s sporting equivalent events to the regime that match the men’s events.
I will inform the House of the outcome once I have discussed fully with statutory consultees.
Telecommunications, Radio Spectrum and Postal Services: Statement of Priorities
I am today laying before Parliament the Government’s draft statement of strategic priorities for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum, and postal services.
The statement sets out the Government’s strategic priorities and desired outcomes in a number of areas, including gigabit capable broadband deployment, 5G, spectrum management, the security and resilience of telecoms infrastructure, and furthering the interests of telecoms consumers.
The statement follows a statutory consultation that ran between 15 February and 27 March 2019. This elicited a number of responses from a large and diverse range of respondents, including industry, consumer bodies, local councils, and bodies representing rural interests. This has given the Government a wide variety of views to reflect upon. I would like to thank all respondents for taking the time and effort to respond.
I intend to designate the statement for the purposes of section 2A of the Communications Act 2003 after the end of the statutory “40-day period” (as defined in section 2C of the Act), unless either House of Parliament resolves not to approve it within that period.
Ofcom Provision of Information Regulations
I would like to update the House on Ofcom’s statutory duty to share information with the Government at least 24 hours before publication, introduced under section 24A of the Communications Act 2003, inserted by the Digital Economy Act 2017. This early access to information from Ofcom is important in supporting the Government’s wider policy responsibilities in safeguarding and improving the delivery of essential communications services on which consumers rely.
To commence the duty I must specify by regulations what categories of information will be exempt from this duty, following consultation with Ofcom. Our consultation with Ofcom has now concluded and I can inform the House of our intention to proceed with the implementation of the duty via a negative statutory instrument later in the autumn.
The categories of information to be listed as exempt in these regulations include broadcasting content standards and broadcasting licensing enforcement. This is to ensure that there can be no accusations or perceptions that the Government have had inappropriate prior knowledge or been involved in these functions. Corporate functions will also be excluded. Other types of information Ofcom proposes to publish, which fall outside of the above exemption regulations, will need to be shared with the Government at least 24 hours before publication by Ofcom once the duty comes into force, unless there are exceptional circumstances or prior agreement is reached.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be agreed between Ofcom, DCMS and BEIS, setting out processes to be followed for the provision of information by Ofcom. This MoU will provide the necessary assurances around who will have access to this information and when, as well as reinforcing the strong procedures Government Departments already have in place to handle sensitive information. Furthermore, additional arrangements for highly market sensitive information will see that such information only has to be shared once UK markets have closed (which may be less than 24 hours before publication), to provide necessary assurances to the companies Ofcom regulates.
The Government remain fully committed to Ofcom’s independence. This duty to provide information will not influence Ofcom’s investigations or decision making. Safeguards in the legislation legally prohibit representations being made to Ofcom before publication and also restricts with whom Ministers, and officials acting on their behalf, can share information before publication. For transparency, the consultation correspondence between DCMS and Ofcom will be published on gov.uk.
National Retraining Scheme
The world of work is transforming. In particular, automation is a key opportunity for the economy, creating new jobs and raising wages, but it could also bring significant changes to the economy. This means it is critical that we develop a national retraining scheme that helps prepare citizens for future changes to the economy, including those brought about by automation, and supports them to retrain into better jobs.
That is why we are developing the national retraining scheme through a unique partnership between the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress and Government, which will keep the voices of workers and businesses at the heart of the service.
The scheme will initially focus on employed adults aged 24 and over, without a qualification at degree level and earning below a certain wage threshold that we are testing to focus on those earning low to medium wages. We are investing in this group of people first as they have comparatively less access to existing Government support and are most in need of adapting their skills to take advantage of the opportunities the future changes to the economy will bring.
A key feature of the development of the scheme has been to start small, test, evaluate and scale up. We are putting the needs of individuals and employers at the heart of the development of the scheme, conducting extensive user research to understand what they need from a national retraining scheme. We are also conducting a range of pilots investigating innovative approaches to overcoming barriers to training that adults face.
Today, I am pleased to announce the release of the first part of the national retraining scheme, “Get help to retrain”, to a small number of eligible adults in the Liverpool city region. This digital service will help adults to understand their existing skills, explore alternative roles or occupations and find relevant training to unlock opportunities for a broad range of good jobs that could be within their reach. “Get help to retrain” will be rapidly expanded to more people and more areas throughout the testing phase before being made available to all eligible adults in England in 2020.
This is the first of a series of products that will make up the complete national retraining scheme and marks the first step of an adult’s journey towards gaining the skills needed to secure a better job.
Student Loans Company
I am announcing that the tailored review of the Student Loans Company has been published today.
The Student Loans Company (SLC) is a non-profit making Government-owned organisation, which pays loans and grants to students, universities and colleges in the UK.
The principal aim of tailored reviews, which are carried out according to Cabinet Office guidance, is to ensure that public bodies remain fit for purpose, well governed and properly accountable for what they do. The full report can be read on gov.uk.
This review involved consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including SLC staff, the Department of Education, the devolved administrations, UKGI and HMRC.
The review found that the SLC is functioning relatively well, meeting the majority of its performance targets even with significant operational growth. However, it is facing some significant operational challenges, particularly from outdated legacy IT systems, a workforce experiencing high turnover and a complex policy commissioning cycle.
The SLC’s own transformation programme seeks to address some of the issues and the tailored review provides additional and complementary recommendations.
The Department for Education is committed to working with the SLC and other stakeholders to develop and implement an action plan to take forward all 39 recommendations.
Copies of the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Environment Council June 2019
I attended the EU Environment Council on 26 June in Luxembourg.
I wish to update the House on the matters discussed.
Adoption of Council conclusions on a sustainable EU chemicals policy
The presidency invited member states to adopt its conclusions on the development of a “non-toxic environment strategy”, and to take action on other commitments made in the seventh environmental action programme (EAP) and other previous texts, which have yet to be fulfilled.
Member states’ interventions focused on the need to improve the safe management of chemicals, and ensuring the chemicals sector continues to adhere to EU standards, especially with regards to human health and the environment. Therefore, all were in agreement that the “non-toxic environment strategy” should be published before the end of the seventh EAP in 2020. The majority of member states also made it clear that they supported the need to ensure the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was provided with sustainable and appropriate funding to allow it to continue to be the centre of knowledge on the sustainable management of chemicals, for the benefit of citizens and the environment.
I intervened to support the Council conclusions and to welcome an EU-wide chemical strategy. This was an important opportunity to reinforce our shared ambition for high environmental standards and continued improvement in the safe management of chemicals. I therefore highlighted our willingness to continue to collaborate with member states and the Commission, as well as other international partners, once we have left the EU, fully supporting calls to act on those commitments made in the seventh EAP. I also welcomed the gathering of data to better inform future decisions and to promote a risk-based approach to regulation, highlighting the need to minimise the impact on animals to achieve this aim.
Regulation on water reuse - general approach
The presidency invited member states to agree the proposed general approach on the regulation on water reuse.
The UK, along with a number of other member states, supported the compromise text provided by the presidency and its intention to promote waste water reuse across the EU for agricultural irrigation, within the context of future water scarcity and the circular economy. I made clear that harmonised rules could generate increased interest in reuse and stated that as drafted, the regulation offered a good degree of health and environmental protection. I also offered the forthcoming Finnish presidency our support in the trilogue discussions to follow between the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council.
The presidency concluded the general approach had been agreed, although two member states (Germany and Slovakia) abstained. The Finnish presidency has stated that it would like to begin trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament in October.
Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) - exchange of views
The Council exchanged views on the 2019 EIR report and the actions needed to ensure better implementation of EU environment policies and legislation.
The member states who intervened broadly welcomed the approach to the second cycle of the EIR, but agreed that additional work was required to identify workable solutions for closing environmental implementation gaps and addressing the root cause of poor implementation.
I took the opportunity to intervene, acknowledging the findings of the 2019 EIR and highlighting some of the additional actions we have taken since the publication of the report. This included the recent announcement of the designation of a further 41 marine conversation zones; the publication of our clean air strategy for England, which was commended by the World Health Organisation; and the forthcoming Environment Bill, which builds on the ambitions set out in our 25-year environment plan for England.
The following items were also discussed under any other business.
Clean planet for all (information from the presidency)
Council noted the information from the presidency regarding the Council debates held on the EU’s long-term climate strategy, “Clean Planet for all: strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy”. The Commission intervened to speak about the EU’s position ahead of the United Nations climate action summit in September, and its assessment that the EU will overachieve its current 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target. Several member states intervened with their reflections on the discussion on climate at the European Council on 20-21 June, and to comment on the timescales for securing agreement of the EU strategy by 2020.1 intervened to note the Government’s legislation for net zero green- house gas emissions by 2050, the Welsh Government’s announcement of their intention to legislate next year for a 95% reduction by 2050, and the Scottish Government’s amendment to their draft legislation to achieve a 2045 net zero target. I confirmed that the UK supported the EU target of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while also recognising the need for a just transition.
Draft integrated national energy and climate plans (presentation from the Commission)
Council noted the presentation from the Commission concerning the draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs). The Commission stated that they viewed these first drafts as positive overall, though there were areas for improvement.
Regulation on the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of C02 emissions for shipping (information from the presidency)
Council noted the information from the presidency concerning the regulation on the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of carbon dioxide emissions for shipping. Three member states intervened to raise the importance of aligning the EU MRV regulation with international reporting requirements.
Carbon pricing and aviation taxes (information from the Netherlands delegation)
Council noted the information from the Netherlands delegation on their conference on carbon pricing and aviation taxes, held on 20-21 June in the Hague. The member states which intervened on this AOB stated their support for the Netherland’s initiative.
Future Environment action programme (information from the Austrian delegation)
Council noted the information from the Austrian delegation on the workshop held in Hainburg on 11 and 12 June. All member states who intervened emphasised their support for an eighth EAP.
Clean mobility and electromobility (information from the Bulgarian delegation)
Council noted the information from the Bulgarian delegation about possible measures to support clean mobility and, in particular, electromobility. Those member states who intervened, whilst supporting the need to look at options to address the rising carbon dioxide levels in Europe and the on-going problems around air quality, highlighted the challenges associated with electric vehicles and the uneven charging infrastructure across Europe.
Recent international meetings-triple COP; UNEA (information from the presidency)
Council noted the information from the presidency with limited interventions.
G7 environment Ministers meeting (information from the French delegation)
Council noted the information from the French delegation with limited interventions.
LIFE regulation (information from the presidency)
Council noted the information from the presidency with limited interventions.
Update on priorities from Finland on their upcoming presidency
Council noted the information from the Finnish delegation with limited interventions.
In the margins of the Council, I met with a number of my counterparts from member states to discuss on global environmental issues including our legislation for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the UK’s bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in partnership with Italy under a UK presidency.
Global Resource Initiative Taskforce
In the 25-year environment plan, the Government committed to establishing the global resource initiative (GRI) to identify actions across supply chains that will improve the sustainability of products and reduce deforestation and other environmental degradation.
The GRI taskforce will put forward recommendations for how key sectors and stakeholders can best achieve the transformative change necessary to realise the GRI ambition on sustainable supply chains. Palm oil and cocoa are key commodities for which viable measures of sustainability already exist. The taskforce will look at a wider range of key commodities and supply chain measures.
The GRI taskforce is meeting for the first time today and will be chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire. Sir Ian will be joined by business and environmental leaders from organisations including Legal and General, McDonald’s, Cargill, Tesco, the Green Finance Institute, WWF and NGO Forest Coalition.
The GRI presents an opportunity to transform the UK’s approach to sustainable land use and support international commitments on climate and biodiversity, and the sustainable development goals. It can create a model for change that inspires other countries and galvanises wider international action on nature and climate change. The Government anticipate a report in 2020 which can help shape global policies due to be agreed during 2020 and 2021.
Exiting the European Union
General Affairs Council July 2019
Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
I will attend the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 18 July 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 2021-27
The Finnish presidency will present its plan for approaching the next phase of negotiations on the multiannual financial framework (MFF). The intention is for member states to reach an agreement on the negotiations by the end of the year.
Presentation of the priorities of the Finnish presidency
Finland took up the EU presidency from 1 July and will hold it until 31 December. The presidency will deliver a presentation on its priorities which include: strengthening common values and the rule of law; making the EU more competitive and socially inclusive; strengthening the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action; and protecting the security of citizens comprehensively.
Implementation of the strategic agenda 2019-24
Ministers will discuss the implementation of the new EU strategic agenda 2019-24. The strategic agenda sets the overarching priorities for the next institutional cycle and it was adopted by the European Council on 20 June 2019. The priority areas are: protecting citizens and freedoms; developing the EU’s economic base: the European model for the future; building a climate-neutral green, fair and inclusive future; and promoting Europe’s interests and values in the world.
Commission communication on further strengthening the rule of law
The Commission will present its new communication on further strengthening the rule of law in the EU.
Rule of law in Poland / article 7 (1) TEU reasoned proposal
The Commission will provide a further update on the rule of law in Poland. This follows the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Poland’s Supreme Court law.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
British Council Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19
Copies of the British Council’s annual report and accounts for the 2018-19 financial year have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities and it makes a significant contribution to projecting British values overseas and generating soft power for the UK in return. In doing so it makes a lasting difference to the UK’s security, prosperity and influence. The British Council is the world’s leading cultural relations organisation, with a reach in 2018-19 of 791 million people. This included 80 million direct interactions, through a presence in over 100 countries.
The Council received £184 million grant-in-aid from the FCO in 2018-19, which included additional funding to support its work in Europe.
The report can also be found at the British Council’s website: www.britishcouncil.org
Health and Social Care
Human Medicines Regulations 2012 Advisory Bodies Annual Report 2019
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Lords), my right hon. Friend Baroness Blackwood has made the following written statement:
I have received the annual report of the human medicines regulations advisory bodies for 2018, which has been laid before Parliament today in accordance with the requirements of part 2 regulation 12 (4) of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.
I am glad to acknowledge the valuable work done by the distinguished members of the human medicines regulations advisory bodies and thank them for the time and effort dedicated in the public interest to this important work.
Regulation of Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates
Today I am pleased to announce that we have asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to regulate physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs) across the UK.
On 7 February 2019 the Government published their response to the consultation on the regulation of medical associate professions in the UK.
The response confirmed the decision announced on 12 October 2018 by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to introduce statutory regulation for physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs) (formerly known as physicians’ assistants (anaesthesia)).
However, we set out that further work was required to decide which regulator would take forward regulation of these roles.
Following the completion of this work, we believe that the GMC is best placed to regulate PAs and AAs. Regulation will enable these groups to work to their full potential and provide the very best care to patients as part of a multidisciplinary clinical team, contributing to the development of a safe and flexible workforce. This is an important step towards meeting workforce commitments in each of the four countries including the interim NHS people plan in England.
The UK and devolved Governments will now work together alongside stakeholders to develop and then consult on draft legislation.
Disclosure and Barring Service Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19
I am today publishing the annual report of the Disclosure and Barring Service (HC 2539). Copies of the report have been laid before the House and will be available in the Vote Office.
Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority Annual Report and Accounts 2017-18
The 2017-18 annual report and accounts for the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (HC 2486) is being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.
Security Industry Authority Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19
The 2018-19 annual report and accounts for the Security Industry Authority (HC 2540) is being laid before the House today and published on www.gov.uk. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Building Safety: ACM Cladding
I wish to update the House before the summer recess on building safety, including: my expectations of building owners on the removal of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding; the steps this Government are taking on the remediation of existing buildings; wider updates on testing programmes; and early action on delivering the recommendations to reform the building safety regulatory system.
My priority is that residents should be safe—and feel safe—in their homes. All buildings with ACM cladding have had interim safety measures put in place as soon as they have been identified, and fire and rescue services are conducting inspections to ensure those measures remain in place.
However, too many people have been living in fear for too long because of the slow progress being made by those responsible for making their buildings permanently safe. While many building owners have rightly taken action, there are still a number of residential buildings across the public and private sectors with unsafe ACM cladding where remediation has not yet started.
I am clear that this situation is unacceptable. That is why I want to set out my expectations on the timing of remediation of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. Given the £600 million of funding this Government have made available, there is no further excuse for delay.
In the social sector, other than a small handful of exceptional cases, remediation will be completed by the end of the year.
In the private sector, progress has been slower, which is why this Government took action by announcing a £200 million fund. By the end of December 2019, any building in the private sector which I have not been assured is permanently safe should have a clear commitment to remediation, with a start and finish date agreed. Where no such safety assurance or plan has been brought forward by the end of December, building owners can expect enforcement action to be taken. My expectation is that, other than in exceptional circumstances, building owners should complete remediation within six months of agreeing a plan, by June 2020.
I acknowledge that this Government also have a role to play in ensuring that remediation is undertaken. That is why, on 9 May I announced that this Government were introducing a new £200 million fund to unblock progress in remediating private sector high-rise residential buildings. My Department has been in contact with relevant building owners or managers to enable them to start preparatory work on an application to the fund. My Department will today publish a prospectus setting out the scope and eligibility criteria for the fund, how to apply and the timetable for submitting applications.
To help facilitate remediation, I would like to clarify the planning treatment of ACM cladding replacement works. Planning permission may not be required where the external appearance of a building is not materially altered by replacement cladding. Approval for recladding is only needed if the work amounts to “development” within the meaning of section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or is required within the terms of a previous planning permission.
Local planning authorities should take a proportionate approach and work proactively with building owners to identify whether planning approval is necessary. I strongly encourage developers to engage with the local planning authority at the earliest opportunity during development of their remediation plans.
Where a planning application is considered necessary, pre-application engagement can help to resolve any issues and assist local planning authorities in issuing timely decisions. Local planning authorities should also take a proportionate approach to the amount of information needed to support an application and consider carefully whether charging a fee for their early advice is appropriate in these cases. Decisions on applications should be made as quickly as possible and can be made as soon as the time limit for consultation has expired. Building owners would also need to ensure that the work complies with building regulations and that they obtain the necessary approval.
My Department has also commenced a data collection exercise which will enable the Department to build a complete picture of external wall systems in use on high rise residential buildings. We have asked local authorities and housing associations to identify external wall materials and insulation on all high-rise residential buildings 18 metres and over.
On 11 July a fire test in accordance with British standard 8414 was carried out at the laboratories of the fire protection association. This test was commissioned by my Department on the advice of the independent expert advisory panel and involved a cladding system consisting of a class B, fire retardant, high pressure laminate rain-screen with a non-combustible rock fibre insulation. This is part of an ongoing, systematic investigation into the fire risks from non-ACM cladding systems. I can confirm that this system met the relevant pass criteria and that the expert panel are satisfied that this specific system does not present a risk to public safety. Detailed advice from the expert panel on high pressure laminate cladding systems is also being published by my Department today.
My Department has also continued its investigations into fire doors. We have already made available the results of a sample of glass-reinforced plastic composite fire doors tested by my Department. Following the advice of the expert panel, Government expanded the testing to include timber fire doors. Today I am making available the results from the testing of a sample of timber fire doors from 25 manufacturers. I am pleased to report that all have succeeded in meeting the required 30-minute fire performance standard. The sample included a range of glazed and un-glazed fire doors with a variety of hardware and were tested on both sides of the door. The summary results of the timber fire door tests to inform building risk assessments are now available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fire-door-investigation
As a result of our tests, the expert panel have concluded that they do not believe there is a performance concern with timber fire doors across industry, where they are purchased directly from the manufacturer and produced to specification.
It is important to be clear that, although the results of our testing provide assurances for residents who have concerns about their fire doors, it is for building owners to assure themselves that the fire doors they install are fit for purpose and have the required documentation and certification. Guidance for building owners who are replacing flat front entrance doors can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/advice- for-building-owners-on-assurance-and-replacing-of-flat-entrance-fire-doors
Since 2007, building regulations guidance has stated that all new blocks of flats over 30 metres should have sprinklers. In 2013, the Department wrote to all local authorities and housing associations, asking them to consider a coroner’s report recommendation that they should consider retro-fitting sprinklers in existing residential buildings over 30 metres.
The housing revenue account borrowing cap was abolished on 29 October 2018, giving freedom to local authorities to help finance unforeseen capital repairs programmes, such as retro fitting sprinklers, as well as build new homes. It is for building owners to seek professional advice and decide whether to fit sprinklers, on the basis of their assessment of the particular risk faced in their buildings.
At the heart of the regulatory reform is our intention to establish a regulator to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings. We are working closely with the health and safety executive (HSE), who are sharing their considerable regulatory experience and expertise to help us shape the functions of the new regulator, alongside other members of our joint regulators group. My Department is working with partners to develop proposals to allow the regulatory functions to exist prior to the new legislative regime being in place. We are similarly seeking the advice and input of the HSE on implementing the new regime following legislation.
Ebola Outbreak: UK Response
It is nearly a year since the declaration of the tenth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is the second largest Ebola outbreak and the first in a conflict zone. The risks remain very high. And we need—as an international community—to keep a relentless focus on these issues: addressing failings in public health systems, controlling cross-border transmission, working with communities, and getting the basics right on surveillance, tracing, vaccination and treatment.
Since my oral statement to the House on 20 May, the number of cases has continued to grow and despite successes in some areas, new geographic areas have been affected—including Goma in the DRC and across the border in Uganda. Yesterday the World Health Organisation declared this outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. This declaration is highly significant and will bring more focus and instruments to bear on the crisis. The UK has been a major donor since the start. This week we have announced up to an additional £50 million of support to combat the outbreak in the DRC. We have also been pushing hard at meetings of the G7 development ministers, WHO and at the UN for more support from other countries.
The affected part of the DRC has suffered from decades of conflict and under-development, is an opposition stronghold, and there is a deep mistrust of national and international institutions. Despite the best efforts of front-line health workers, the response has struggled to gain trust, and responders have been the direct target of multiple attacks. The outbreak has spread to new health zones in the current two provinces, and several areas that were previously under control are now seeing new cases again. As of 14 July, there have been 2,501 cases, of which 2,407 are confirmed and 94 are probable. In total, there have been 1,668 deaths (1,574 confirmed and 94 probable) and 700 people have recovered. This is the most complex public health emergency in recent history.
For the first time in this outbreak, three cases were confirmed in Uganda in June. This represents the sixth outbreak Uganda has had since 2000. Uganda’s Ministry of Health, with good support from the DRC and significant assistance on preparedness from the UK, reacted swiftly to this long-anticipated outbreak. While Uganda deserves praise for containing these cases, there is no room for complacency, particularly in addressing resources for health facilities where public health systems are weak.
A record number of health zones have now been affected in the DRC. The city of Goma, on the border with Rwanda, has in the last week confirmed its first case. The confirmed case in Goma is a significant development and may increase the risk of further transmission to other areas of the DRC and neighbouring countries. Goma is a significant regional trading and transport hub and we are therefore closely monitoring the situation. We are also asking the WHO to increase its focus on preparedness in the region, particularly in South Sudan and Burundi.
I am thankful for the prompt response by staff at the Ebola treatment centre in Goma, which I visited on my recent trip to the DRC. However, it was clear during my time there that some measures, such as temperature checks at the hospital entrance, are not consistently applied and could be improved. I also visited the Ebola treatment centre in Katwa that has been rebuilt after being burned down in February. This centre seemed to have a good focus on basic procedures and to be making good use of the latest technology, including transparent cubes which allow doctors and families to interact with patients without wearing full protective gear.
I want to once again commend the bravery of the Congolese and international frontline responders who are working incredibly hard to end this outbreak. But they must have adequate support. To ensure a successful response, the UK is committed to supporting the response financially, but also through sending UK-funded experts to the region, including data analysts, response co-ordinators and managers.
The WHO and the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) convened a meeting in Geneva on 15 July to focus attention and signal a reset of the response. I was privileged to be able to represent the UK at that meeting, which was timely, as a new strategic response plan (SRP4) covering the next six months of the response will shortly be published.
In Geneva I made clear the UK’s ongoing support to the Government of the DRC and the region more broadly, with a new commitment of up to £50 million for the response in the DRC. So far, UK aid has provided technical experts to eastern DRC, including senior epidemiologists, data scientists and a clinical trials specialist, and previously funded the development of a vaccine, which has helped to contain the outbreak. More than 160,000 doses have been administered to at-risk people in the DRC and neighbouring countries. The vaccine has proved to be over 97% effective and is a vital part of the response in this fragile and complex environment. However, vaccination alone will not end this outbreak, and stronger community ownership is essential. We need to build trust in the response. To end this outbreak people with symptoms of Ebola need to come forward and seek treatment. Effective isolation and treatment will improve their chance of survival and allow the response to follow up quickly and vaccinate those who they have been in contact with.
I also made clear in Geneva that we expect other countries to play a bigger role in the response as a matter of urgency. They need to step up their efforts and funding. The US and UK are the two biggest bilateral donors to the response and although other countries have given some financial support, more is needed. Other countries, particularly francophone countries, which have a presence and history in the region, must support the response with funding, technical expertise and political support.
The UK will also continue to play a leading role in regional preparedness—where we are the largest donor. Events in Uganda demonstrate the value of investing in preparedness activities and health systems strengthening; quick action saves both lives and costs in the long term. Again, other countries should step up their support to avoid a crisis that destabilises the wider region.
The risk of Ebola to the UK population remains very low. Public Health England continues to monitor the situation daily and review the risk assessment on a two-weekly basis. The UK Government continue to work across all Departments to ensure all relevant expertise is brought to bear on tackling this important issue.
Prime Minister’s Trade Envoys
The Prime Minister has today approved two new appointments to the trade envoy programme. The hon Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Israel, and Lord Risby as Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Lebanon (this is in addition to his current role as PM’s trade envoy to Algeria) These new appointments take the total number of trade envoys to 27 parliamentarians covering 58 markets. The Prime Minister’s trade envoy programme is an unpaid and voluntary cross-party network, which supports the UK’s ambitious trade and investment agenda in global markets.
Consultation on Future Free Trade Agreements: Summary of Responses
Last summer, we launched four 14-week long public consultations providing citizens and businesses across the UK and overseas with the opportunity to give their views on potential future free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and on the UK potentially seeking accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP).
Today, I will place a summary of responses received for each consultation exercise in the Library of the House. I will also publish these online on gov.uk.
The public consultations attracted significant interest with 601,121 responses received across all four consultations. In view of the need to ensure that due consideration is given to each submission, we will publish the Government response at a later date but before any formal trade negotiations begin, alongside an outline approach which sets out our high-level negotiation objectives and will explain how these have been informed by the consultation responses.
The Government are committed to ensuring a transparent and inclusive trade policy, which supports the interests of consumers and businesses across the whole of the UK. The Government will continue to engage with the public, businesses and other stakeholders in order to understand their views and to help develop UK trade policy.
Overseas Detainees: Detention and Interviewing
The Government are today publishing new guidance titled “The Principles relating to the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas and the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees”. This will replace the existing “consolidated guidance” and follows a thorough review by Sir Adrian Fulford, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.
Following my request last June for him to conduct a review, the Commissioner held a public consultation in the autumn and organised a Chatham House event in December 2018 for academics, practitioners and representatives from non-governmental organisations to discuss how the consolidated guidance could be improved. He has also taken into account the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament’s recommendations in their June 2018 detainee report and those of Sir Mark Waller, the then Intelligence Services Commissioner, in his 2016 report on UK relationships with partner counter-terrorism units overseas.
The Government have accepted the Commissioner’s proposed principles in full. It is being published today on gov.uk and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The new guidance is being extended to include the National Crime Agency and S015 Metropolitan Police Service and will provide clear direction for UK personnel on their interaction with detainees held by others overseas and the handling of intelligence derived from them. The principles will come into effect from 1 January 2020 once the necessary underlying departmental training and guidance is in place. The consolidated guidance will remain in use until then. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner will continue to oversee and report on its application.
The Government are grateful to the Commissioner for undertaking this review. The new principles will ensure that the United Kingdom continues to lead the field internationally in terms of providing guidance to personnel on intelligence sharing in a manner that protects human rights.
Our policy remains clear: the Government do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose.
Trailer Safety Report
Colleagues across the House will be aware that towing safety is an issue of widespread interest and concern, particularly ahead of the key summer caravanning season. In that context I am pleased to announce to the House the publication of a report into trailer safety. This sets out the Government’s position as required by the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018.
This country has one of the best road safety records in the world, but every death and injury is a tragedy for the families involved. Ministerial colleagues and Department officials have heard directly from families of those affected by fatal trailer incidents. I pay tribute to all those, including the parents of Freddie Hussey, and of Harry Christian-Allan, who have sought to improve trailer safety following such terrible bereavements. I also pay tribute to Members across the House, such as the hon. Member for Bristol South, who have taken action in this area, such as the recently-convened all-party parliamentary group on trailer and towing safety.
This report has helped consolidate and develop the evidence base related to trailers. It is clear, including from roadside checks by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) undertaken for this report, that many light trailers are used on public roads in a defective state. A focus must be maintained on driving up the safety of these trailers. However, only in a relatively few cases do vehicle defects contribute to serious incidents. Trailer-related incidents share some characteristics with the wider light vehicle fleet, including that human error is a far more prevalent reason for incidents. On the basis of the information set out in this report, the Government is therefore not extending current vehicle testing or registration requirements in relation to trailers.
However, as the report highlights, there is further work in this area which the Government will take forward. There is more information to consider and this report proposes some future steps, including additional trailer checks to be carried out by DVSA. This will build the evidence base further. A number of non-regulatory and other regulatory levers, including previous changes in driving licence entitlements now spreading through the motoring public, will also have an effect.
This report is an important milestone and is not itself an endpoint. I look forward to working together with all parties to ensure that momentum is maintained in this area, and that trailer safety continues to improve.
Attachments can be viewed online at https://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2019-07-18/HCWS1744/
Work and Pensions
Response to Opposition Day Debate: Inequality and Social Mobility
Following the recent Opposition day debate on 12 June, I am setting out the approach this Government are taking to tackling inequality and improving social mobility.
This Government are leading the way in creating opportunity so every person growing up in Britain has the chance to build a bright future for themselves and their families—no matter what their background. Employment has risen in every UK region under this Government, as wages outstrip inflation, the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed since 2011 and the proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds in education or apprenticeships is at its highest ever—that is social mobility in action.
Our record on employment is vital to our approach, and one of which we are rightly proud. There are now over 3.6 million more people in work compared with 2010. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since the 1970s having fallen by more than half since 2010. This is not just a London or a south-east success story—over 60% of the employment growth since 2010 has occurred in other parts of the UK. We are working across Government and with businesses to ensure everyone has the chance to gain the skills and high quality jobs they need to compete in a dynamic, global market place.
Around three-quarters of the growth in employment since 2010 has been in full-time work, which we know substantially reduces the risk of poverty. Wages have consistently outpaced inflation for 15 months—in fact they are growing at their fastest rate for a decade. The growth in employment rates has overwhelmingly benefited the poorest 20% of households, and household income inequality is also lower than it was in 2010.
Behind these statistics are people whose mental health and wellbeing are improved by moving into work and having the dignity and security that it brings. There are 930,000 more disabled people in work today compared with five years ago, and 667,000 more children in working households compared with 2010. We know that children in households where all adults work are about five times less likely to be in relative poverty than a child in a household where nobody works.
We also know that children growing up in workless families are almost twice as likely as children in working families to fail at all stages of their education. Since 2011 we have narrowed the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers by around 13% at key stage 2, and 9.5% at key stage 4. We are supporting pupils to thrive at every stage, that is why we introduced 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds on top of the 15 hours’ free childcare offer for all three and four-year olds.
We are investing in our world-class education system; core funding for schools and high needs has risen from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £43.5 billion this year. We are investing £72 million through our opportunity areas programme in 12 places in the country with weak social mobility and up to £24 million through our Opportunity North East programme, tackling the specific issues that are holding back young people in the North East. Through both these programmes we will improve educational outcomes for children and young people working in partnership with local partners. We have set a 10-year ambition to boost children’s early reading and communication skills. We are transforming technical education with investment of an extra half a billion pounds per year once T-levels are fully rolled out. Disadvantaged 18-year-olds are now entering full-time higher education at record rates, and we are providing coaching for young jobseekers to put them on track to succeed.
Supporting people on low income to progress in work is also key to our success in tackling inequality. Universal credit removes the structural disincentives to move into work and to work more hours that were a part of the legacy benefits it replaces. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reported that universal credit is likely to help an extra 300,000 members of working families out of poverty, the majority of which include someone who works part-time. We want to build a clearer picture of how and why people progress in work, and what we can do to support them as they do that. We have started discussions with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry on how we can do this. We are going further with two national pilots on in-work progression; one will train work coaches to help those in work to decide when and how to switch jobs, to achieve that ambitious step up. The other will boost our capability for working with local businesses, by creating jobcentre specialists who encourage local employers to support progression and good-quality flexible working.
Childcare costs can affect parents’ decisions to take up paid work, increase their working hours, or remain in paid work. To overcome this barrier to employment we increased the level of support for childcare costs from 70% in legacy benefits, to 85% within universal credit. This is in addition to providing a significant package of childcare support to parents and carers, including our 30 hours offer for working parents of three and four-year-olds which has rolled out successfully, benefiting around 600,000 children in the first two years of delivery and introducing tax-free childcare worth up to £2,000 a year per child.
Our national living wage, which is among the highest in the world, is expected to benefit over 1.7 million people; and, with the increase to £8.21 from April this year, has increased a full-time worker’s annual pay by over £2,750 since 2016. We have taken action to reduce income inequality through the tax system too. Our tax changes will make basic rate taxpayers over £1,200 better off from April, compared with 2010. Taken together, the most recent changes mean that a single person on the national living wage has, from April, taken home over £13,700 a year—£4,500 more than in 2009-10.
It is absolutely right that we continue to support those who need it and our welfare safety net remains one of the strongest in the world. This year we will spend over £95 billion on benefits for people of working age; and £52.7 billion to support disabled people and those with health conditions. In total, welfare spending in this financial year will be over £220 billion.
We recognise that there is more to do to tackle poverty; and we have taken action to increase the incomes of the poorest in society. In the last Budget we announced a £4.5 billion cash boost that will make a huge difference to the lives of working families and provide extra support for people moving onto UC. In particular, we have put an extra £1.7 billion a year into work allowances, increasing the amount that hard-working families can earn before the taper is applied. That is an extra £630 a year for 2.4 million families.
It is vital that we have evidence on the effects of poverty in order to tackle it, and in the run-up to the spending review we will examine what more can be done to address poverty, particularly child poverty, and to support social mobility. We are working with the Social Metrics Commission and other experts in the field to develop new experimental statistics to measure poverty, which will be published in 2020 and, in the long run, could help us to target support more effectively.
The welfare system is not just about providing financial support. The most vulnerable in our society often face complex barriers to employment which can prevent them from moving on with their lives. So we are taking wider action to address barriers specific to different groups and ensure that universal credit works for all those with complex needs.
By supporting care leavers through their difficult transition into adulthood with a series of safeguards and easements, work coaches can have a real impact on a young person’s life chances. And around 135 prison work coaches based in resettlement prisons across Great Britain help prisoners gain employment on release, supporting with benefit claims pre-release.
We have a proud record when it comes to supporting victims of domestic abuse. Work search requirements can be suspended for up to six months under universal credit to enable them to stabilise their lives. By the end of the summer, we will have a domestic abuse and homelessness advocate in every jobcentre in England, who can build work coach capability in these areas, and make important links with organisations in the community.
In conclusion, work provides economic independence, pride in having a job and improved wellbeing. Through record employment, investment in early years, education, and other public services, this Government are taking long-term steps to tackle poverty. It is the right approach and the only sustainable one.