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Written Statements

Volume 687: debated on Monday 18 January 2021

Written Statements

Monday 18 January 2021

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Coronavirus-related Assistance: Industrial Development Act 1982

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. Members to bring to their attention spend under the Industrial Development Act 1982. In addition to the obligation to report annually on spend under the Industrial Development Act, the Coronavirus Act 2020 created a new quarterly reporting requirement for spend which has been designated as addressing the effects of coronavirus. This statement fulfils that purpose.

The statement also includes a report of the movement in contingent liability during the quarter. Hon. Members will wish to note that measures such as local authority grants, the coronavirus job retention scheme and self-employed income support scheme, and tax measures such as the suspension of business rates are not provided under the Industrial Development Act 1982 and hence are not included below.

This report covers the second quarter of 2020, from 1 April to 30 June 2020, in accordance with the Coronavirus Act. The Q1 written ministerial statement was published on 9 July 2020.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, there is a requirement to lay before Parliament details of the amount of assistance designated as coronavirus related provided in each relevant quarter.

Spend under the Coronavirus Act 2020

In the period from 1 April to 30 June 20202, the following expenditures were incurred:

Actual expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2020

£ 47,637,000

All expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 25 March 2020

£ 47,637,000

Expenditure by Department

Actual expenditure of assistance provided by:

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

£ 47,600,000

Competition Appeal Tribunal

£ 37,000

Contingent liability under the Coronavirus Act 2020

Contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 1 April 2020 to 3o June 2020

£ 30,383,783,770

All contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 25 March 2020

£ 30,456,183,770

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Education

Awarding Qualifications in 2021

On Friday 15 January, Ofqual and the Department for Education published a joint consultation outlining detailed proposals for alternative arrangements for awarding general, vocational and technical qualifications in summer 2021.

This consultation, outlined in “Consultation on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021” and ‘Consultation on alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021”,will be open for two weeks ending on 29 January. Responses can be completed using the online response forms on www.gov.uk for GCSE, AS and A-levels and for vocational and technical qualifications.

In his statement to the House on 6 January, the Secretary of State confirmed proposals that students taking GCSE, AS and A-levels this summer should be awarded grades based on an assessment by their teachers. Teachers’ judgement will be based on a range of evidence; Ofqual and the Department will consult on the evidence needed to inform teachers’ assessments of their students’ grades, including providing externally set papers to support their assessments. Teachers will be provided with training and guidance to support them.

We recognise that students who are not studying within a school or college, for example because they are home educated, must be able to be issued with a grade. We are seeking views on the proposals that would enable them to do so.

The consultation also proposes both that exam boards should provide information for schools and colleges to inform their own quality assurance, and that the exam boards themselves should undertake checks of schools’ and colleges’ processes and the evidence for the grades submitted. We propose that all students will have a route to appeal their grades.

The approach set out in the consultation for vocational and technical qualifications which are taken instead of or alongside GCSEs, AS and A-levels is consistent with the approach for these qualifications. For other general qualifications, such as Core Maths, Pre-U and the International Baccalaureate, the consultation also proposes the awarding approach should be similar to GCSEs, AS and A-levels.

The consultation proposes that those vocational and technical qualifications with practical exams and assessments which are required to demonstrate occupational competence for employment and apprenticeships should continue to take place where they can be delivered in line with public health guidelines, including remotely.

“On-demand” assessments of shorter, focused qualifications such as Functional Skills that can be delivered in line with public health guidelines, including remotely, should be permitted to continue to proceed.

The consultation seeks the views of students, parents and carers, teachers, school and college leaders before decisions are made on final arrangements. We will also take into account the views of further and higher education and employers, to ensure that young people can move onto the next stage of their lives.

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Children's Social Care: Independent Review

This Government are committed to levelling up across the country. In order to do this, it is absolutely vital that we start with children and families—particularly the most vulnerable—so that we can realise the benefits of establishing firm and loving foundations, both to individuals and to society for generations to come.

Further to my written ministerial statement of 12 February 2020, I am making this statement to launch the independent review of children’s social care, which was committed to in the Government’s manifesto. I am pleased to inform hon. and right hon. Members that the review will be carried out by Josh MacAlister, who is the founder and chief executive of the children’s social work charity Frontline. Josh brings both an understanding of the challenges facing the system that supports vulnerable children and families and experience of developing and implementing innovative solutions.

The review will start from children’s experiences and look at the whole system of support, safeguarding, protection and care and the children’s journey into and out of that system, including relevant aspects of preventive service that are provided to children and families as part of early help. It will engage with children, young people, adults and families with direct experience of children’s social care, in order to ensure those individuals’ views and lived experience are fully embedded in the review’s work. The review will aim to improve children and young people’s lives and outcomes and address major challenges facing the system.

I am placing copies of the terms of reference in the Libraries of the House, and it is also available on www.gov.uk alongside other documents that have accompanied the launch of the review.

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Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

British Virgin Islands: Commission of Inquiry

The UK is extremely concerned about the state of good governance in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

A consistent and deeply troubling array of concerns have been put to the Governor by local institutions and the community. The Governor has set out these concerns to me. They include, but are not limited to:

Allegations of political interference and coercion in relation to appointments in the public service and statutory boards, the criminal justice system and individual criminal cases;

Claims that people in public service, media and community leaders have been intimidated to such a degree that they describe living in a climate of fear;

Allegations that funds set aside for struggling families during the pandemic may have been reallocated to political allies;

Concerns around spending on Government contracts without any proper procurement process;

Misuse of taxpayers’ money on infrastructure and transport projects.

Against this backdrop, we are also concerned about the potential vulnerability of the islands to serious organised crime. The scale of this was made clear in November 2020, with the seizure of more than two tonnes of cocaine, worth just under £190 million.

Successive attempts have been made to address these concerns through local institutions, many of which have done commendable work to bring them to light. However, the scope and seriousness of the concerns are now beyond local capacity to address.

The UK Government are responsible for ensuring the security and good governance of BVI. We have a constitutional and moral duty to protect the interests of the people of BVI. We cannot ignore such serious allegations.

With this in mind, on 18 January, the Governor of BVI, supported by the UK Government, announced an independent Commission of Inquiry.

The Commission will inquire into whether there is information to substantiate claims that corruption, abuse of position and serious impropriety has taken place in public office in recent years, and it will make recommendations. The Commission will be led by the right honourable Sir Gary Hickinbottom, who will have the powers of a high court judge within the territory with respect to gathering evidence. The BVI Commission of Inquiry Ordinance makes provisions for the scope of the inquiry to be adjusted or extended should it prove necessary.

The Government expect the Commissioner to deliver his report to the Governor within six months. At this point, we hope that the UK and BVI will be able to consider the recommendations together in a constructive manner that best serves the people of BVI.

This Government’s aim is to build stronger governance for the people of BVI and uphold our commitment to our overseas territories and their people.

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Health and Social Care

Community Pharmacy and Care Home Vaccinations

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members to bring to their attention two contingent liabilities: one relating to clinical negligence liabilities incurred by pharmacy-led covid-19 vaccination sites between 1 January and 30 June 2021, and one relating to a targeted and time-limited state-backed indemnity to care homes, registered or intending to register as “Designated Settings”, which are unable to obtain sufficient insurance cover.

On the first, Members will be aware that we have initiated the covid-19 vaccination programme to deliver the vaccine across England. As this programme continues to roll out, we are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) to stand up sites in every community.

NHSE/I intends to administer the covid-19 vaccine through trusts, general practice and community pharmacy-led settings to ensure adequate vaccination centre coverage across England. Healthcare professionals need clinical negligence indemnity for delivering covid-19 vaccines. This is provided through the existing state schemes in England for NHS trusts and GP practices.

However, community pharmacies are not covered by state indemnity and are obliged to obtain their own commercial insurance. Following engagement with community pharmacy representatives, our assessment was that the insurance market would not be able to comprehensively provide cover for this risk at such short notice, and we agreed the state indemnity.

Without adequate indemnity cover, pharmacies would be unable to commit to the programme. Their participation is crucial as they have been selected to fill geographical gaps in cover or where NHS capacity is such that they are unable to participate. Therefore, DHSC has provided a time-limited clinical negligence indemnity to community pharmacies to 30 June 2021, to enable them to engage at pace with this programme. The provision of such an indemnity enables pharmacy contractors to start to run services, while the Department and NHS England and NHS Improvement continue to work with the community pharmacy sector on a longer-term approach to insuring community pharmacy for covid-19 vaccinations. We had originally intended to time-limit this to the end of March but, with the decision to extend the period between vaccine doses, have decided to run the indemnity until the end of June.

All claims of clinical negligence will be managed through the provider of the current state-backed schemes—NHS Resolution—in line with the existing schemes.

The need for the indemnity was extremely urgent as pharmacy-led centres could not begin to vaccinate patients until this was in place and, indeed, vaccinations have begun at six centres as of 14 January 2021. Delaying would have postponed the roll-out of this vital aspect of the vaccination programme, restricting access to the vaccine in some areas of the county. We concluded that such a delay was not acceptable, and I hope it is clear why this was indeed a case of special urgency. Therefore, the normal 14 sitting days for consideration has on this occasion not been possible.

I would also like to update the House on the DHSC’s scheme to provide a targeted and time-limited state-backed indemnity to care homes, registered or intending to register as “Designated Settings”, which are unable to obtain sufficient insurance cover.

The Government are committed to ensuring the best care possible for people with covid-19. For people admitted to hospital who need social care support, we have worked closely with local authorities and the Care Quality Commission to register certain adult social care homes as designated settings. I welcome the response of the care sector to the demand for such care. It is our priority to ensure that people are discharged safely from hospital to the most appropriate setting, and that they receive the care and support they need.

I acknowledge the role of the insurance industry in continuing to provide cover, where possible, for this activity. However, we know that obtaining sufficient insurance to accept covid-19 positive patients and sign up to become a designated setting has been a barrier for some care home providers wishing to join the scheme. The designated setting scheme is for people who are medically fit for discharge from hospital (i.e., they do not require to be in an acute NHS bed) but whose ongoing care and support needs are such that they require full-time residential or nursing care. A large proportion of these people will already have been living in a care home.

The scheme forms part of wider policy on hospital discharge set out in “Hospital discharge service: policy and operating model”—August 2020—which enshrines a principle of “home first”, whereby at least 95% of discharges from hospital should be to a person’s own (private) home.

This is limiting the ability of a small number of local authorities to operationalise designated settings capacity, and in other areas is limiting the expansion of such capacity in response to rising demand.

Given the severity and immediacy of the pressures facing the NHS, we want to take all possible steps to remove obstacles to sufficient local designated settings provision. This includes ensuring that where the creation of designated settings has created barriers to insurance, the Government will introduce a targeted and time-limited indemnity offer to fill gaps in commercial cover.

The indemnity will cover clinical negligence, employer’s and public liability where a care provider seeking to become a designated setting is unable to secure sufficient commercial insurance, or where an existing provider has been operating without sufficient cover. Employer’s and public liability will be covered by a new indemnity scheme; clinical negligence will be covered by the clinical negligence scheme for trusts, an existing state scheme. The indemnity arrangements will be supervised by DHSC and administered by NHS Resolution. The indemnity will cover designated settings until the end of March 2021, with a review point in mid-February.

I regret that in this circumstance, due to the need to take this action urgently to support timely discharge from the NHS at this stage of the pandemic, the normal 14 sitting days for consideration has not been possible. A departmental minute has been laid in the House of Commons providing more detail on this contingent liability.

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Housing, Communities and Local Government

Planning and Heritage: Historic Statues, Plaques, Memorials and Monuments

Protecting our nation’s heritage

I would like to update the House about the role of the planning system in relation to the protection of historic statues, plaques, memorials and monuments. I am concerned that, over the last few months, some such heritage assets may have been removed without proper debate, consultation with the public and due process.

Indeed, the removal of a statue in Bristol was an act of criminal damage. We should never tolerate criminal acts and mob rule.

This Government are committed to ensuring our nation’s heritage is appropriately protected. It is important that all decisions on removing historic statues, plaques (which are part of a building and whose alteration or removal materially affects the external appearance of the building), memorials and monuments—even for a temporary period—are taken in accordance with the law and following the correct process. Decisions to remove any such heritage assets owned by a local authority should be taken in accordance with its constitution, following consultation with the local community and interested parties, and the rationale for a decision to remove should be transparent.

The planning system plays a crucial role in conserving and enhancing our heritage. Under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, listed building consent from the local planning authority is required for the removal or alteration of a statue, plaque, memorial or monument which is designated as a listed building, or which forms part of a listed building, where it affects the special historic or architectural character of the listed building.

Paragraph 193 of the national planning policy framework already states that great weight should be given to the conservation of a designated heritage asset. Paragraph 195 also requires that where development will lead to substantial harm to a designated heritage asset, local planning authorities should refuse consent, unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or total loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss.

I would also like to remind local planning authorities of the current requirements to notify Historic England and the national amenity societies of applications involving the demolition of a listed building. In those cases where local planning authorities are minded to grant consent for the removal of a listed statue, plaque, memorial or monument despite an extant objection from Historic England or one of the national amenity societies, they are required to notify the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who will then consider whether to call in the application or not. Where an extant objection is in relation to a listed building consent application made by Historic England or a local authority itself, the local planning authority must refer it to the Secretary of State for determination.

At present, these notification requirements do not apply in relation to grade II listed buildings where the removal of a statue, plaque, memorial or monument constitutes an alteration to a listed building rather than demolition. I intend to exercise my powers to direct local planning authorities that these types of application are subject to the same notification requirements as for applications involving the demolition of a listed building.

It is also important that the removal of historic statues, plaques, memorials and monuments which are not listed are subject to proper process. These heritage assets can often be well known local landmarks, but unless they meet certain size thresholds, their removal will not be currently classified as development for planning purposes and so is not subject to planning control.

I am today therefore setting out my intention to make the removal of any historic unlisted statue, plaque, memorial or monument subject to an explicit requirement to obtain planning permission. I also intend to require local planning authorities to adhere to similar notification requirements as for listed building consent applications involving listed statues, plaques, memorials and monuments. This will require directions and changes to secondary legislation including the permitted development right for the demolition of buildings.

In considering any applications to remove a historic statue, plaque, memorial or monument (whether a listed building or not), local planning authorities should have regard to the Government’s clear policy on heritage (summarised as “retain and explain”) as set out by the Digital Infrastructure Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman)—to Parliament on 25 September 2020. This statement now forms part of national planning policy and should be applied accordingly.

Historic statues, plaques, memorials and monuments should not be removed before a decision on the application is made.

I would also draw local planning authorities’ attention to the advice Historic England has published to support decision making involving heritage whose story or meaning has become challenged (“Checklist to help local authorities to deal with contested heritage listed building decisions”). As they note, “Our stance on historic statues and sites which have become contested is to retain and explain them; to provide thoughtful, long-lasting and powerful reinterpretation that responds to their contested history and tells the full story.”

The new legislation and directions referred to in this statement will come into effect in the spring.

I would like to make clear that, as the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, I have wide discretion to “call in” planning applications or recover appeals for my own determination, not least because of the controversy attached to such decisions. I will not hesitate to use those powers in relation to applications and appeals involving historic statues, plaques, memorials or monuments where I consider such action is necessary to reflect the Government’s planning policies as set out above.

In conclusion, this Government believe it is always right to examine Britain’s history, but the knee-jerk removal of statues does harm rather than good. Our aim should be to use heritage to educate people about all aspects of Britain’s past rather than censoring our shared British history.

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