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Written Statements

Volume 686: debated on Tuesday 15 December 2020

Written Statements

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Cabinet Office

Government Transparency and Accountability

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the public and the media to hold public bodies to account.

Despite the need to reprioritise resources to respond to the covid-19 pandemic, tremendous progress continues to be made this year by central Government Departments in publishing core transparency data. Such online transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.

The Government will continue to look at how the range of information published by the Government can be improved and made as useful as possible to the public, press and Parliament.

The following subject areas include documents and information that the Government are due to publish, or which have recently been made available.

Ministerial Transparency

The Government are today publishing an updated list of ministerial responsibilities.

Transparency on Senior Officials and Special Advisers

An annual list of salary details for senior public officials in Departments and arm’s length bodies earning £150,000 and above will be published today. These Government organisations need to be able to attract high-calibre people who can deliver quality services and drive forward projects in a way that represents true value to the taxpayer. However, very high salaries in the public sector must be justified, so it is important that we publish this information and allow it to be scrutinised.

In line with legislation, an annual list of current special advisers and their costs is being published. Special advisers are a critical part of the team supporting Ministers. They add a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers while reinforcing the impartiality of the permanent civil service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support.

Transparency in the Civil Service

The Government are publishing new annual figures on gender pay differentials across the civil service. Our gender pay gap continues to narrow and is still significantly lower than the private sector, but we know there is more to do so continue to work hard to tackle this. In recent years we have introduced blind recruitment, advertised all jobs as flexible and continued to review recruitment policies to ensure fairness and equality.

Demographic data of the 2019 civil service people survey, an annual survey of our employees’ attitudes and experiences of working in the civil service has also been published. The employee engagement index was 63% in the 2019 people survey, the highest it had been since the survey began in 2009.

Transparency on spending

Departments have published routine prompt payment data, demonstrating our continued commitment to supporting businesses by ensuring they are paid on time. Departments will also be publishing routine spend data.

The Government have begun publishing the top three key performance indicators for central Government’s most important contracts.

Transparency in public procurement

Transparency is a key principle of public procurement. Openness underpins accountability for public money, anti-corruption and the effectiveness of procurements. Long planned reforms in our Green Paper on transforming public procurement, published today, will ensure open and transparent contracting.

Transparency on delivery

HM Treasury will today be publishing new priority outcomes for each UK Government Department. These capture the Government’s long-term policy objectives, from reducing crime to improving education standards across the country.

These outcomes and metrics include cross-cutting outcomes and shared metrics in areas where closer working between Departments would achieve better results. This reflects the Government’s commitment to breaking down silos and enabling stronger collaboration between Departments. Citizens will be able to track performance against finalised outcomes through public reporting.

Copies of associated documents are being placed in the Library of the House and will be published on gov.uk.

Further transparency publications will be published in the new year, in the usual way.

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Transforming Public Procurement

The UK spends around £290 billion per year on public procurement. Leaving the EU offers us a huge opportunity to reform how this money is spent so that it better meets the needs of this country. We can create a new, simpler procurement regime that will reduce costs for business and the public sector by reducing bureaucracy and improving commercial outcomes. Such a large amount of Government spending must be leveraged to play its part in the UK’s economic recovery and unleash opportunities for small businesses to innovate in public service delivery.

The UK remains open for business and committed to our international obligations. Being a member of the WTO Government procurement agreement gives British businesses access to £1.3 trillion in public procurement opportunities overseas. The terms of that trade agreement mean we cannot simply discriminate against suppliers from other GPA countries. Neither would we wish to discriminate against overseas suppliers that deliver inward investment and better value for UK taxpayers.

In support of this, I am launching a public consultation by a Green Paper on “Transforming Public Procurement”. The consultation will be open until March 2021.

In developing the Green Paper proposals, officials in the Government Commercial Function engaged with over 500 stakeholders and organisations through many hundreds of hours of discussions and workshops. Stakeholders included those from central and local government, the devolved Administrations, education, and health as well as start-ups, small, medium and large businesses, the voluntary and charity sectors, academics, international experts and procurement lawyers.

Our proposals are wide-ranging and include:

reducing the overall volume of legislation by harmonising the different regulatory schemes for the public sector, utilities and concessions contracts;

overhauling the current seven complex and inflexible procurement procedures and replacing them with three simple, modern procedures;

increasing the scope to take account of societal benefits when awarding contracts;

making procurement more transparent through greater use of open contracting and enabling a more efficient “tell us once” register of supplier data;

making it mandatory to publish a notice when a decision is made to use the limited tendering procedure;

providing more scope to exclude suppliers in certain circumstances, such as for poor past performance and corruption-related matters; and

reforming the remedies system, through making the court review process faster and less costly, capping damages, and further investigating the feasibility of tribunals.

The consultation published today gives everyone an opportunity to help shape public procurement for the future and I wish to encourage all involved in public procurement to have their say. This includes those small and medium-sized enterprises and voluntary, community and social enterprises who feel the existing EU rules hinder their participation in the market.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questionsanswers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-12-15/HCWS651/.

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Unconscious Bias Training

This Government are committed to levelling up opportunity for everyone, no matter what their background. We are also determined to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. To meet those ambitions, we must ensure that policy and advice on equality is evidence-based, and is delivered in a way that means we can respond quickly to new insights.

Earlier this year, the Government Equalities Office commissioned the behavioural insights team for a summary of the evidence on unconscious bias and diversity training. Titled “Unconscious bias and diversity training—what the evidence says”, the report highlights that

“there is currently no evidence that this training changes behaviour in the long term or improves workplace equality in terms of representation of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups”.

It also states that there is emerging evidence of unintended negative consequences.

The report is published alongside this response, and will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses, today. In light of its findings, Ministers have concluded that unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims. It will therefore be phased out in the civil service. We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.

Background

Unconscious bias training typically aims to raise awareness of the potential biases and cognitive shortcuts that may negatively affect decision-making and behaviour in the workplace. The intent is usually to reduce both explicit and implicit bias towards members of particular groups that share characteristics protected under law and change behaviour.

Although unconscious bias training takes a variety of forms, it is normally delivered as a discrete individual or group session that aims to set out the theory behind implicit bias, provide exercises that demonstrate how such biases might potentially affect behaviour, and suggest strategies to participants for avoiding that behaviour in future.

Such training sessions have been introduced by a range of organisations as part of a well-intentioned effort to build fairer and more inclusive workplaces. They have often formed part of a wider employer toolkit aimed at tackling discrimination and building inclusion.

However, in recent years a significant debate has emerged over their effectiveness and quality. Despite a growing diversity training industry and increased adoption of unconscious bias training programmes, a strong body of evidence has emerged that shows that such training has no sustained impact on behaviour and may even be counter-productive.

Lack of evidence to support positive change

To be successful in tackling discrimination, unconscious bias training should change behaviour. However, evidence suggests that attitudes and behaviours are each driven by different psychological systems, so a single intervention is unlikely to impact effectively on both. A systematic review of unconscious bias training examining 492 studies (involving more than 87,000 participants), found changes to unconscious bias measures were not associated with changes in behaviour.1 Formal assessments of bias (e.g. the implicit association test) have also been criticised for failing to generate replicable results even when the same individuals have been re-tested.2

Further evidence also suggests that unconscious bias training may even have detrimental effects. The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that evidence for its ability effectively to change behaviour is limited and

“there is potential for back-firing effects when UBT participants are exposed to information that suggests stereotypes and biases are unchangeable”.

Instructions to suppress stereotypes may not only activate and reinforce unhelpful stereotypes, they may provoke negative reactions and actually make people exacerbate their biases.3

Finally, there is no recognised way of assuring the quality of unconscious bias training and multiple interventions of variable content may be given that label. This has serious implications for organisations, who risk putting funding into poor quality and ineffective training.

Government conclusion

The civil service is committed to being an open and inclusive employer. Civil servants work on a range of complex policies every day; working inclusively means that they will make better decisions, solve problems more effectively and ultimately deliver better services to citizens. An individual’s background must never be a limiting factor in the workplace. Our aspiration is clear: a civil service open to all, with individuals from a variety of backgrounds adding breadth and depth to our understanding of contemporary British society, providing greater challenge to received wisdom and fresh perspectives to the challenges we face as a nation—united by a commitment to the fundamental values of public life and service.

Efforts to ensure the civil service is representative of the whole population it serves, and that its workplaces are free from discrimination, must be based on clear evidence of what works, must uphold the merit principle for recruitment and promotion, and must represent value for taxpayers’ money. This approach is the reason, for example, that the civil service uses clear, standardised assessment techniques for recruitment and tests the fairness of any such tools with diverse user groups before deploying them.

Given the evidence, now captured in the report accompanying this statement, an internal review decided in January 2020 that unconscious bias training would be phased out in Departments. In addition, while there is clearly a role for training to support a more inclusive workplace and civil service, evidence also suggests that even the broader category of “diversity training” as a standalone exercise can undermine such efforts if it appears to be a “tick box exercise”. The civil service will therefore integrate principles for inclusion and diversity into mainstream core training and leadership modules in a manner which facilitates positive behaviour change. This new strategy will be published in the new year, and will reassert our commitment to being an inclusive employer with a stronger focus on engaging measurable action.

The Government expect other parts of the public sector, including local government, the police, and the NHS, to review their approaches in light of the evidence and the developments in the civil service. We will continue to build the evidence on what works to make our workplaces fairer, and unite and level up across our country, with the reformed equality hub playing a key role.

1 Forscher, P. S.*, Lai, C. K.*, Axt, J. R., Ebersole, C. R., Herman, M., Devine, P. G., and

Nosek, B.A. (2019). A meta-analysis of procedures to change implicit measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117, 522-559.

2 Gawronski, Bertram and Morrison, Mike and Phills, Curtis and Galdi, Silvia. (2017). Temporal Stability of Implicit and Explicit Measures: A Longitudinal Analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 43. 300-312. 10.1177/0146167216684131.

3 Dobbin and Kalev (2018), “Why Doesn’t Diversity Training Work? The Challenge for Industry and Academia”, 10(2), 48-55; Dobbin and Kalev (2016) Why Diversity Programs Fail, Harvard Business Review 94, (7); Michelle M Duguid, Melissa C Thomas-Hunt, “Condoning stereotyping? How awareness of stereotyping prevalence impacts expression of stereotypes”, March 2015, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25314368/; Frederick L Oswald, Gregory Mitchell, Hart Blanton, James Jaccard, Philip E Tetlock, “Predicting ethnic and racial discrimination: a meta-analysis of IAT criterion studies”, 17 June 2013, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23773046/ id="18WS" class="column-number" data-column-number="18WS">

The attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-12-15/HCWS652/.

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Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Business Impact Target

My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility (Lord Callanan) has today made the following statement:

This statement sets the Government’s business impact target in respect of the economic impact on business of qualifying regulatory provisions which come into, or cease to be, in force for this Parliament, and covers related matters as required under section 21 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (“the Act”).

The manifesto undertook that Government

“will strive to achieve the right regulatory balance between supporting excellent business practice and protecting workers, consumers and the environment”.

The Government do not believe that the current methods of assessing regulatory impacts allow for this. Therefore, the Government will consult with business to ensure the impact of regulation is reflected more effectively, so as to continue to provide necessary protections without placing unnecessary burdens on business. Until the completion of the review the Government will set a target of zero. This will in effect be a holding target and will enable the Government to continue to monitor regulatory impacts and remain transparent to business on the impacts of the regulatory programme it is delivering in the immediate term. This holding target makes clear that Government remain committed to achieving regulatory balance and do not intend to increase the regulatory burden on business.

Upon completion of the review, the target and the methodology to be used for assessing the economic impact, along with any other related matters as required under section 21 of the Act, will be revised to reflect the findings of the review.

Business Impact Target1

The Government are setting a net target of zero savings to business and voluntary or community bodies from qualifying measures that come into force or cease to be in force during this Parliament.

Interim Target2

The interim target covers the savings to be achieved from qualifying measures that come into force or cease to be in force in the first three years of this Parliament. The Government’s interim target is also set at zero.

Measurement of the Business Impact Target3

The impact of each qualifying measure will be assessed on the basis of its equivalent annual net direct cost to business (EANDCB) measured in 2019 prices and with a 2020 present value base year. As in the previous Parliament, the contribution to the business impact target will be the sum of the EANDCB over the first five years for which the measure will be in force, or the sum of the EANDCB over the full lifetime of the measure for measures that are, or will be, in force for less than five years.

Qualifying Regulatory Provisions4

Under the Act, the measures that are in scope for the business impact target are described as “regulatory provisions”. That includes both legislation and the activities of Ministers and listed regulators. The Secretary of State must determine the regulatory provisions that are to be scored against the target (“qualifying regulatory provisions”). Qualifying regulatory provisions are regulatory provisions that do not fall within any of the exclusions set out below:

a) Regulatory provisions that have been certified by Departments or regulators as falling under the de minimis rule, namely those that have an EANDCB of less than ± £5 million;

b) Regulatory provisions that implement new or changed obligations from European Union regulations, decisions and directives, and other international commitments and obligations, except in cases of gold-plating. This includes measures incorporating EU law into domestic law under the EU Withdrawal Bill and legislation made for the purpose of implementing the EU Withdrawal agreement, including implementation of new EU law during the implementation period.

c) Regulatory provisions that have been certified by departments or regulators as dealing with deficiencies in retained EU law (under the EU Withdrawal Bill and other legislation);

d) Regulatory provisions that are intended to deliver—or to replicate—better competition-based outcomes in markets characterised by market power;

e) Regulatory provisions relating to systemic financial risk;

f) Regulatory provisions relating to civil emergencies;

g) Regulatory provisions concerning fines and penalties, and redress and restitution;

h) Regulatory provisions that implement changes to the classification and scheduling of drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 where these follow the recommendations of the relevant independent advisory body;

i) Regulatory provisions that have been certified by departments or regulators as relating to the safety of tenants, residents and occupants in buildings that stem from, or relate to, Government’s response to the Grenfell tragedy, reviews, inquiries or working groups;

j) Regulator casework including specific investigation and enforcement activity, individual licence decisions, and individual advice;

k) Education, communications activities, and promotional campaigns by regulators, including media campaigns, posters, factsheets, bulletins, letters, websites, and information / advice helplines;

l) Policy development by regulators, including formal and informal consultations, policy reviews, and ad hoc information requests;

m) Changes to the organisation and management of regulators, except for those resulting from legislative changes or another policy change that is a qualifying regulatory provision;

Independent Verification Body5

The Government will reappoint the Regulatory Policy Committee as the independent verification body to verify the impact on business of measures in scope of the business impact target (and the list of non-qualifying regulatory provisions).

1As required under section 21(1)(a) of the Act.

2As required under section 21 (1)(b) of the Act.

3As required under section 21 (3)(b) of the Act.

4As required under section 21(3)(a) of the Act.

5As required under section 25(1) of the Act.

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Climate Ambition Summit 2020

On 12 December, the United Kingdom co-convened the Climate Ambition summit with the United Nations and France, and in partnership with Chile and Italy, on the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement. The summit marked a major milestone on the road to the crucial UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow next November.

Countries representing around 65% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and around 70% of the world’s economy have now committed to reaching net zero or carbon neutrality. This includes announcements made in the run-up to and at the Climate Ambition summit and those expected early next year. This follows a huge diplomatic and cross-government effort to raise ambition.

75 leaders from all continents outlined over 90 commitments at the summit demonstrating that climate change is a global priority despite the shared challenges of covid-19. There is mutual understanding that the science is clear. Climate destruction is accelerating, and there remains much more to do as a global community to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5C.

The UK met commitments covering the three pillars of the Paris agreement. We formally communicated our nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC which commits the UK to a new ambitious target to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, published our first adaptation communication and reiterated our commitment to providing £11.6 billion in climate finance. A copy of the NDC has been laid in Parliament.

The Prime Minister announced that the UK will no longer provide any new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas, other than in exceptional circumstances, as soon as possible, and align its support to enable clean energy exports. The consultation, which is now live, will seek views on how to further enable an accelerated growth in UK clean energy exports, and on the impacts of the timing of implementation of the policy shift.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution announced last month which spans clean energy, buildings, transport, nature and innovative technologies and will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to unlock three times as much private sector investment by 2030; support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs; and level-up regions across the UK.

44 countries and the EU announced headlines of their more ambitious NDCs. This includes a number of countries who have made significant increases such as Colombia, Jamaica, Peru and the EU, as well as the UK.

24 countries have now announced new commitments, strategies or plans to reach net zero or carbon neutrality with recent commitments from China, Japan, South Korea and Argentina establishing a clear benchmark for G20 countries.

The summit heard from the poorest and most vulnerable countries, who are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Barbados, Ethiopia and Maldives set themselves an aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, with the right support. Meanwhile, Fiji, Malawi, Nauru and Nepal and others are aiming for 2050.

20 new or forthcoming adaptation commitments including in national adaptation plans, adaptation communications and NDCs. Countries such as Ethiopia are leading the way, by taking a whole-of-economy approach that protects people and nature, and Suriname is stepping up its implementation of its national adaptation plan. Developed countries, including the UK, Netherlands and Spain, are also upping their adaptation efforts, showing no country is immune to the impacts of climate change. The summit also saw the launch of the Race to Resilience, setting a goal of safeguarding 4 billion people vulnerable to climate risks by 2030 (more detail below).

A number of leaders set out concrete policies to implement their economy-wide targets. Pakistan announced that it will have no more power based on coal, while Israel has committed to ending fossil fuel energy use by 2050. Canada greatly increased the floor price for carbon. Denmark announced that it will end all new oil and gas exploration in the North sea. Fifteen countries profiled their targets to accelerate the transition to renewable energy by 2030—with Barbados (fossil-fuel free), Vanuatu (100% renewables) and Austria (100% renewables) all turning their backs on fossil fuels. Alongside the UK, France and Sweden set out plans to end international financial support for fossil fuels.

A strong commitment to protecting nature was also clear. Leaders spoke about their existing plans to increase the use of nature-based solutions to combat climate change.

12 donor countries highlighted their commitments to support developing countries, including just under €500 million in additional investment from Germany, an additional €1 billion per year from France from its previous target, as well as a World Bank commitment to ensure that 35% of its portfolio includes climate co-benefits, and an EIB commitment to ensure that 50% includes climate co-benefits, as well as 100% alignment of EIB’s activities on Paris agreement. However, it is clear that there is much more to do to ensure that no one is left behind. Covid-19 has impacted international climate finance flows this year. 2021 will be a critical year to show that finance is flowing and to meet and surpass the $100 billion goal.

The summit also saw commitments from business, cities and investors. Over 2,500 businesses, cities, regions, investors and members of the Climate Ambition Alliance representing nearly 70% of the global economy have now got commitments to net zero by 2050.

The Race to Resilience campaign, launched at the summit, brings together non-state actors and initiatives which commit to building resilience actions to safeguard by 2030 the lives and livelihoods of 4 billion people from groups and communities vulnerable to climate risks. Examples of actions include: Zurich Insurance (Switzerland) announced that the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance will triple funding by 2025 and expand its reach from 11 to 21 countries, and the Mayor of Freetown (Sierra Leone) committed to planting 1 million trees between 2020 and 2021.

Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative (Global)—representing US$9 trillion of assets under management has seen each of the 30 founding members unequivocally commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This includes setting individual portfolio targets, as well as engaging companies in each member’s portfolio to set decarbonisation goals in line with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C.

C40 Cities (Global)—announced the launch of the Cities Race to Zero campaign and that 70 cities and local governments have joined in the first month.

Godrej & Boyce (India)—a manufacturing company, announced commitments to key global initiatives including the business ambition for 1.5C, setting science-based targets, and advancing energy efficiency, in line with their overall ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

International Airlines Group (Spain/UK)—are the first airline group worldwide to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and the Oneworld Alliance of 13 airlines representing 20% of global aviation is investing US$400 million in the development of sustainable aviation fuels (over the next 20 years).

Dalmia Cement (India)—40 of the world’s leading producers of cement issued an industry commitment to deliver carbon-neutral concrete by 2050. The Indian cement company has gone further and established a roadmap to become carbon negative by 2040 and is working globally to meet its 100% renewable energy objectives.

Movida-Rent-a-Car (Brazil)—presented the actions that will underpin their pledge of net zero emissions by 2030 and becoming carbon positive by 2040.

Apple (United States)—pledged carbon neutrality for its supply chain and products by 2030 and announced new progress that 95 of its suppliers have committed to moving to 100% renewable energy.

Artistic Milliners (Pakistan)—a textile company announced joining the UN fashion industry charter for climate action and shared their actions on the circular economy to reduce their carbon footprint and provide zero emissions energy to thousands of homes.

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Education

Education: Covid-19 Testing

As a Government we have made it a national priority that education and childcare settings should continue to operate as normally as possible during the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak, and we have continued to work with the profession to continue full-time face-to-face education.

We are therefore deploying the latest rapid-result coronavirus tests to schools and colleges from January. This will help us to find those with the virus and isolate them quickly to break chains of transmission. It will also help us keep close contacts of positive cases—whether staff or students—in education as we will test them every day rather than asking them to self-isolate.

Testing, along with existing infection prevention and control measures such as ventilation, increased hygiene, and wearing of face coverings in communal areas where appropriate, can ensure pupils are given the best chance of continuing face-to-face education.

The testing programme builds on the success of testing pilots in schools and colleges over the past few months. It will start with secondary schools and colleges, with staff eligible for weekly rapid tests.

This will help identify asymptomatic cases—which make up a third of all cases—limiting the spread of the virus.

Staff and students who are close contacts of positive cases will be eligible for daily testing, preventing the need for self-isolation. Only if a daily test returns a positive result will the person need to isolate.

Using daily testing for close contacts of positive cases will help tackle covid-19 related absence among the work- force and students, allowing them to continue in face-to-face education, with all the benefits that this brings.

To support delivery of asymptomatic testing in schools and colleges, settings will be able to apply for reimbursement for reasonable administrative costs such as staff time.

We realise that this year has been incredibly difficult for staff, students, pupils and parents. I want to thank all involved in education for their tireless dedication. The hard work of our education workforce has already substantially reduced the risk of transmission of coronavirus within education settings and we will now use this new testing approach to ensure more young people are able to remain in education, benefiting from the national priority of keeping education open for all.

As with all policy, this will be kept under review in light of scientific evidence, and the Government will provide further advice if necessary.

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Home Department

Group-based Child Sexual Exploitation

Today I am publishing a paper on the characteristics of group-based child sexual exploitation, which was prompted by high-profile cases of sexual grooming in towns including Rochdale and Rotherham.

An external reference group, consisting of independent experts on child sexual exploitation, reviewed and informed this work. Members included Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion, Conservative MP for Wakefield Imran Ahmad Khan, survivor and campaigner Sammy Woodhouse, and Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs Council lead on child protection.

The paper summarises studies which suggest individuals committing group-based child sexual exploitation are predominantly, but not exclusively, male and often under the age of 30.

Studies indicate that motivations differ between offenders, but that a sexual interest in children is not always the predominant motive. Financial gain and a desire for sexual gratification are common motives, and misogyny and disregard for women and girls may further enable the abuse.

Offenders can come from a range of social backgrounds —some have been stable middle-class professionals, some of whom were married, whilst others have had more chaotic lifestyles.

Some studies have indicated an over-representation of Asian and black offenders. However, it is difficult to draw robust conclusions about the ethnicity of offenders as existing research is limited and data collection is poor.

This is disappointing because community and cultural factors are clearly relevant to understanding and tackling offending. Therefore, a commitment to improve the collection and analysis of data on group-based child sexual exploitation, including in relation to characteristics of offenders such as ethnicity and other factors, will be included in the forthcoming tackling child sexual abuse strategy.

Victims and survivors of these abhorrent crimes have told me how they were let down by the state in the name of political correctness. What happened to these children remains one of the biggest stains on our country’s conscience. I am determined to ensure the Government, law enforcement and other partners better understand any community and cultural factors relevant to tackling offending—helping us to safeguard children from abuse, deliver justice for victims and survivors, and restore the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to confront these repulsive crimes.

The paper is available on gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/group-based-child-sexual-exploitation-characteristics-of-offending). A copy of the paper will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I thank Members for their continued engagement on this important issue.

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Prime Minister

Investigatory Powers Commissioner: Annual Report 2019

I have today laid before both Houses a copy of the annual report of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner 2019. The report was drafted and submitted by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Brian Leveson QC.

Overall, this report demonstrates that the security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies and other relevant public authorities show extremely high levels of operational competence combined with respect for the law. The report also sets out the breadth and complexity of the powers covered by Investigatory Powers Act 2016 and other legislation, and offers constructive criticism on the practical framework and individual instances of how these are used. Where IPCO has identified problems, Departments and agencies have worked rigorously to address these.

Further to Section 234 of the 2016 Act, the Commissioner has also submitted to me a confidential annex to the report, dealing with the work of the intelligence agencies. I concur with the Commissioner that publication of this annex would be prejudicial to national security and not in the public interest. However, I can confirm that the annex does not raise substantive concerns or criticisms not covered in the main report.

I would like to add that this report demonstrates the high quality of the oversight of our security and intelligence agencies’ use of the most intrusive powers. I am satisfied that our arrangements are amongst the strongest and most effective in the world.

I would like to place on record my thanks to the current and previous Commissioners and their staff for their work, as well as echoing the Commissioners’ thanks to the agencies and Departments and civil society organisations which have helped with the establishment of IPCO over the past few years.

I commend this report to the House.

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Investigation of Unauthorised Disclosure on 30 October

At the beginning of Prime Minister’s Questions on 18 November, I updated the House on the Cabinet Office investigation into the unauthorised disclosure on 30 October of the decision to put in place further restrictions across England to combat the spread of covid-19 (Official Report, col. 909044).

This investigation remains ongoing. If the final aspects of the investigation identify the source, the Government will provide a further update to the House.

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