Tuesday 7 January 2020
New Year Honours List
On Friday 27 December 2019 at 22:30, the Cabinet Office published the New Year Honours List 2020 on www.gov.uk. As part of this publication a version of the honours list was published online which contained address details of the 1,097 recipients. This was done in error. The document was accessible for approximately 40 minutes, and was available to those who had already accessed the information for a further 150 minutes via the original web link.
This incident was a result of human error. The Honours and Appointments Secretariat is responsible for managing and publishing the Honours lists. The New Year 2020 honours round was the first to use a new IT system from which a report was downloaded to create a file for publication.
The sensitivities around address data had been identified as a risk and previous versions of the file prepared for publication had not included address data. As part of the final checking process, further amendments were made to the file and a version of the file, including address data, was mistakenly sent for publication.
The team was made aware of the error at 23:00 on 27 December and the link was removed from the Cabinet Office web page within 10 minutes. It took a further 150 minutes to close the link to the document and remove the page altogether. In this intervening period those who opened the link or had the web page address could still open the document.
The immediate concern following the publication of this information was to ensure that there was no increased risk to any individuals and that their security was being appropriately managed. The Cabinet Office worked with the police and relevant authorities to identify any potentially high risk cases and put in place any necessary actions. Over 48 hours, the Department made contact with all affected individuals to inform them of what had taken place, provide contact details and to apologise for this incident. Chief Constables were briefed through the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and local forces made assessments for all recipients.
The Department has worked with the relevant organisations to ascertain the extent of the access to the data. We have no evidence that data has been exploited by a third party, or shared more widely though we continue to be vigilant.
The Government have been informed by the police and other agencies that there is no information to suggest an increased risk in relation to any persons as a result of this data breach. This is not to underestimate the concern this incident may have caused for individuals. On behalf of the Cabinet Office I apologise unreservedly for any distress or inconvenience caused.
Appropriate management action will be taken in response to this incident. Changes have already been made to ensure the relevant IT system generates reports containing only data that is suitable for publication, removing the scope for further human error. I have also instructed the Government Digital Service to improve their processes to ensure all access to data can be removed much more rapidly when required.
The Department reported the matter to the Information Commissioner on Saturday 28 December 2019 and will co-operate fully with its on-going inquiries. In addition, I am announcing today an independent review of data handling practices within the Cabinet Office. This review will focus on process, culture, policy and practice within the Department. It will establish whether appropriate controls are in place around the storage, sharing and deletion of personal data, including learning lessons from this case. More information on this review will be published shortly.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage
I am writing to inform the House that the Government are pleased to accept all of the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations for the new national living wage and national minimum wage rates, which will come into force in April 2020.
The Low Pay Commission is an internationally renowned independent and expert body which conducts extensive analysis and stakeholder research to make its recommendations.
The Low Pay Commission has recommended that:
The national living wage (for workers aged 25 and over) should increase from £8.21 to £8.72;
The rate for 21 to 24-year-olds should increase from £7.70 to £8.20;
The rate for 18 to 20-year-olds should increase from £6.15 to £6.45;
The rate for 16 to 17-year-olds should increase from £4.35 to £4.55; and
The apprentice rate (for apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship) should increase from £3.90 to £4.15.
The Low Pay Commission has also recommended that the accommodation offset increases from the current rate of £7.55 to £8.20 from 1 April 2020.
We welcome the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation of an increase to the national living wage rate such that it meets the Government’s objective of reaching 60% of median earnings by 2020.
The new national living wage rate of £8.72 will be the highest ever UK minimum wage and benefit over two million workers. From April 2020, a full-time worker on the national living wage will see their earnings increase by nearly £4,000 over the course of the year, compared to when the national living wage was introduced. This increase in the national living wage is the first step in meeting our commitment to raise the NLW to two-thirds of median earnings, provided economic conditions allow, within the next five years.
The Low Pay Commission’s recommendations for increasing the national minimum wage youth rates, by between 4.6% and 6.5%, are well ahead of forecast inflation.
These increases are due to come into effect from 1 April 2020, subject to parliamentary approval. The Government intend to lay implementing regulations before Parliament in due course.
A copy of the response will be available from the BEIS website at: www.beis.gov.uk.
Energy Emergencies Executive Committee Report
On Friday 9 August 2019, over 1 million customers were affected by a major power disruption that occurred across England and Wales and some parts of Scotland. The power outage was due to the loss of a mix of generation including a gas-fired power station and an offshore wind farm.
Though the power disruption itself was relatively short-lived—all customers were restored within 45 minutes—the knock-on impacts to other services were significant. This is especially true for rail services which experienced major delays that extended into Sunday 11 August. The wider disruptions were caused by automatic safety systems under the control of individual service providers, which reacted to frequency and voltage fluctuations, or problems with their back-up power supplies.
Given the severity of the incident, I commissioned the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) to conduct a review to identify lessons learnt and put in place a robust action plan to improve the reliability and integrity of our power network. The committee’s final report was published on Friday 3 January. This follows the publication of its interim report on 4 October. The final report sets out 10 clear actions and these will be implemented in full, to help prevent and manage future power disruption events.
Alongside the E3C report, Ofgem also published the conclusions of its own investigations into the incident. This set out a series of cross-industry actions for maintaining the resilience of the electricity system, as well as announcing voluntary payments totalling £10.5 million for companies involved in the power outages.
GB power disruption: E3C lessons learnt and actions
Following a lightning strike on an overhead transmission line, there was a near simultaneous generation loss at two transmission-connection generators; and a significant number of smaller embedded generators connected to the distribution network.
The two transmission-connected generators experienced technical issues near-simultaneously. Both generators have acknowledged the role they played in the incident and since implemented technical fixes to ensure that their systems can withstand similar incidents in the future. The E3C will share the lessons identified with generators across the UK.
The loss of smaller embedded generation on the day was greater than expected. The E3C report sets out a series of actions to assess the need for improvements to the governance, monitoring and enforcement processes for large and smaller generators.
On 9 August, the cumulative loss of generation exceeded the amount of back-up generation on hold. This triggered the first stage, a demand disconnection protection system, which is the last line of defence when the system is out of balance. This resulted in over 1 million customers being disconnected from the network.
Given the events on 9 August, the E3C report recommends a review of how much back-up generation the electricity system operator should be required to hold. As this is funded through consumer bills, the review will include a cost benefit analysis of increasing the amount of reserves.
Although the demand disconnection protection system worked broadly as intended, the review identified some discrepancies in its operation; therefore, the report recommends further analysis of the schemes performance in order to develop options for short and long-term improvements. This includes considering whether distribution network operators should afford particular types of customers any form of protection, especially during the early stages of an incident.
In addition to the direct impacts of customers being disconnected from the electricity network, wider disruptions on the day were caused by the automatic safety systems owned and operated by individual service providers reacting unexpectedly to the frequency and voltage fluctuations on the electricity network; or problems with their own back-up power supplies.
The E3C will consider what more can be done to support essential services owners and operators with advice and guidance to put in place more robust business continuity plans.
Effective communication is a vital part of any emergency response. Unfortunately, industry communications on the day fell below the standard expected, with infrequent and disjointed updates to the general public.
The E3C will develop and roll out new communications processes to ensure the general public receives regular updates during any future disruptions. There will also be a review of operational protocols to make sure they are fit for purpose.
Where appropriate, the E3C and Ofgem reports contain jointly agreed actions and recommendations. The E3C will take the actions set out both reports to drive forward changes across the sector. The committee will provide quarterly updates to my Department and Ofgem.
The UK leads the world by working to eradicate its contribution to climate change by 2050. The actions I have outlined here today will form part of a wider package of work already under way across government and industry to ensure the UK’s energy system remains resilient as we transition to clean and affordable energy.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Troubled Families allocations
On 5 January I announced up to £165 million of new funding for the Troubled Families Programme for 2020-21. This funding will provide intensive support for some of the most vulnerable families and place the programme on a stable footing for the future. It will help more families to get early, practical and co-ordinated support to transform their lives for the better, with key workers working with the whole family to address their needs holistically rather than responding to each problem, or single family member separately.
This funding will also help local authorities and their partners to work together to reduce demand and dependency on costly, reactive key public services. The latest evaluation results show that as a result of the Troubled Families Programme, two years after joining there were a third fewer children going into care, a quarter fewer adults going to prison, 15% fewer juvenile convictions and 11% fewer claiming job seekers allowance.
Pets in privately rented accommodation
As part of the steps the Government are taking to secure a better deal for renters, I have called on landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well behaved pets in their homes while recognising landlords’ rights to protect their properties from damage. Pets bring a huge amount of joy and comfort to people’s lives, but some families cannot experience this because they rent their homes privately. We will publish a revised model tenancy agreement shortly, which can be used as the basis of lease agreements, to remove restrictions on responsible tenants with wellbehaved pets.
Rogue landlord enforcement
I have awarded more than 100 councils across England a share of over £4 million to crack down on criminal landlords and letting agents through the Private Rented Sector Innovation and Enforcement Grant Fund. This builds on £2.4 million awarded in January 2019 and will continue the Government’s ongoing work to make the private rented sector fairer and stamp out criminal practices for good. Most landlords provide decent homes for their tenants, but a small minority persist in breaking the law, making tenants’ lives a misery by offering inadequate or unsafe housing. The grants support a range of projects to enable councils to make the best use of their enforcement powers and include trialling innovative ideas, sharing best practice and targeted enforcement where we know landlords shirk their responsibilities. The Government are committed to helping good landlords to thrive, and ensuring that hard-working tenants across the country get the homes they deserve—creating a housing market that works for everyone.
High Streets package
At the heart of this new Government’s mission is a commitment to supporting places and communities that have been overlooked and undervalued for far too long. We will make an immediate start on levelling up across the regions and I am reorganising my Department to relentlessly focus on these places so that we can deliver real change for communities through our £3.6 billion Towns Fund, announced by the Prime Minister in July 2019. It will support an initial 100 town deals across England and includes £1 billion for the Future High Streets Fund.
The Future High Streets Fund aims to renew and reshape town centres in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability. Last week we released over £1 million of additional funding, on top of £13.5 million already invested in local authorities, to further support places developing detailed business cases of their original proposals.
In addition to this funding I also announced that the High Streets Task Force, established to provide hands-on support to local areas, will be piloting interventions, products and services in 20 places in early 2020 before rolling out expert, training and data offer across the country later in the year. The places benefiting from being part of this pilot will be a mixture of local authorities, business improvement districts and community groups. The taskorce is also holding an open recruitment for a board chair to provide expert leadership to this programme.
My Department has also launched a survey to consult on the proposed register of empty commercial properties, to improve transparency of ownership on the high street and make it easier for businesses or community groups to make use of vacant commercial properties and identify landlords. The consultation exercise will remain open until 9 February 2020, after which we will consider responses and decide how to proceed.
Cold Weather Fund
This Government are committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping within the term of this Parliament. To this end, on 23 December I announced the allocation of £263 million in funding to local authorities designed to support the delivery of services to tackle homelessness. This is an increase in overall funding for local authority homelessness services of £23 million on the previous financial year.
My Department is also funding many additional rough sleeping services across the country this winter through our £10 million cold weather fund. In recognition of the level of interest in the fund we have announced a further £3 million available to all local authorities in England. This will enable us to build on the successes of the fund so far by increasing outreach work further and extending winter shelter provision to support rough sleepers off the streets this winter. These announcements underline our commitment to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping and will ensure local authorities are given the resource they need to make this a reality in local areas.
My Department announced recently that 200 people have so far been housed through the Housing First pilot, underway since 2018 in Greater Manchester combined authority, Liverpool city region and west midlands combined authority areas. The Housing First approach offers permanent affordable housing to rough sleepers with multiple complex needs as well as wraparound support to ensure that they are able to maintain their tenancies and provide the support that they need to recover from mental health issues, substance misuse and the physical effects of living on the streets.
On 22 December I announced a £1.15 million fund that will assist an estimated 100 communities to either own their local pub or benefit from new, pub-based community services and facilities. This funding will also create valuable new jobs and volunteering opportunities. Pubs run by the community and for the community help bring people closer together. Importantly, they are a space for older, vulnerable and more isolated residents to access important local services and feel part of their communities.
The £1.15 million fund will support pubs through two key programmes. £650,000 will be allocated to the second “More than a Pub” programme. More than a pub provides small grants and specialist advice for community groups at the start of their journey to community ownership. It also supports groups later in the process who require specialist professional advice with larger grants and loans to help with business planning, conveyancing, architectural help or financial advice.
Five hundred thousand pounds will be allocated to” Pub is the Hub” to enable a range of projects providing new, pub-based community services from post offices and shops to libraries and allotments. This will increase the services available in rural and remote communities and help sustain pubs as community assets and businesses.