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Written Statements

Volume 672: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2020

Written Statements

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Health and Social Care

NHS Prescription Charges

The National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (“the Amendment Regulations”) will be laid before Parliament to increase certain national health service charges in England from 1 April 2020.

This year we have increased the prescription charge by 15p from £9 to £9.15 for each medicine or appliance dispensed. The cost of prescription pre-payment certificates (PPC) will also be increased: three-month PPC increases by 55p to £29.65 and 12-month PPC increases by £1.90 to £105.90. The increase is in line with inflation. Charges for wigs and fabric supports will also be increased in line with inflation. Details of the revised charges for 2020-21 can be found in the table below:

Charge from 1 April 2020

Prescription Charges


Single Charge


3 Month PPC


12 Month PPC


Surgical Brassiere


Abdominal or Spinal Support


Wigs and Fabric Supports

Stock Modacrylic Wig


Partial Human Hair Wig


Full Bespoke Human Hair Wig




The four UK Governments have today published an action plan that sets out how we have responded so far and how we intend to respond going forward to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which I am pleased to present to Parliament today. Copies of the plan are on publications/coronavirus-action-plan and will be e-mailed to Members of both Houses and deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.


Home Department

Domestic Abuse Bill

I am pleased to announce that today the Government will be re-introducing the Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Commons.

This landmark Bill will help better protect and support the victims of domestic abuse and their children and bring perpetrators to justice.

The measures in the Bill seek to:

Promote awareness—to put domestic abuse at the top of everyone’s agenda, including by legislating for a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical and sexual violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. Statutory guidance will accompany the definition to assist in understanding and dissemination of this important feature of the Bill, including taking account of the fact that the majority of victims of domestic abuse are women.

Protect and support victims, including by introducing a new domestic abuse protection notice and domestic abuse protection order, and placing a new duty on tier one local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation.

Transform the justice response, including by helping victims to give their best evidence in the criminal courts through the use of video evidence, screens and other special measures, and ensuring that victims of abuse do not suffer further trauma in family court proceedings by being cross-examined by their abuser.

Improve performance—the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner will help drive consistency and better performance in the response to domestic abuse across all local areas and agencies.

The Bill was originally introduced in July 2019 having had the benefit of pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses, chaired by the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller). In the Government’s original response to the Joint Committee’s report (CP 137), we undertook to publish a further response addressing the outstanding recommendations; the Government have today published this further response alongside the re-introduction of the Bill (CP 214). Copies of the further response will be available from the Vote Office and it will also be published on the website.

Part 2 of the Bill establishes in law the independent office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Clause 10 makes provision for a framework document which, in effect, sets out how the Home Secretary and the Commissioner will work together. The document deals with, among other things, matters relating to governance, and the funding and staffing of the Commissioner’s office. To assist the scrutiny of the Bill, I have today published a draft of the framework document which has been agreed with the designate Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs.

The draft framework document, together with other Bill documents including a revised impact assessment and policy equality statement are available at: https://www.



Electronic Execution of Deeds: Government Response

The Government welcome the Law Commission’s report on electronic execution of documents, and I am very grateful to the commission for the detailed consideration it has given to this important topic.

I agree with the report’s conclusion that formal primary legislation is not necessary to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures. The existing framework makes clear that businesses and individuals can feel confident in using e-signatures in commercial transactions.

I endorse the commission’s draft legislative provision as set out in the report, as reflecting the Government’s view of the legal position on electronic signatures. They are permissible and can be used in confidence in commercial and consumer documents.

I accept the Law Commission’s recommendation that an industry working group should be established, which the Government should convene. As the report demonstrates, notwithstanding the position in law, there are issues on the security and technology of electronic signatures that require further consideration from suitably experienced experts.

I will ask the industry working group to consider the question of video witnessing of electronic signatures.

The report highlights that technological advances have meant that the status of electronic signatures is also applicable in other fields of law, and I note that while this presents opportunities it also entails challenges. These include ensuring that reform does not have any adverse impact, particularly on vulnerable people.

That is linked to the Law Commission’s recommendation that there should be a wider review of the law of deeds, which I accept. The Government will ask the Law Commission to undertake this review, although the timing for the review will be subject to overall Government and Law Commission priorities given the volume of law reform work which exists.



Merchant Shipping Regulations

By way of a consent order dated 18 February 2020, the Administrative Court has provided that the Merchant Shipping (Bridge Visibility) (Small Passenger Ships) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/1025) are quashed and are of no effect. Consequently, the Merchant Shipping (Bridge Visibility) (Small Passenger Ships) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/2286) have been reinstated and will continue to have effect. This order is the result of a judicial review claim.

I have, through the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, assessed the safety implications of this decision and believe that there are no regulatory safety concerns arising from it.