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Written Statements

Volume 690: debated on Monday 1 March 2021

Written Statements

Monday 1 March 2021

Treasury

Contingent Liability Notification and Disclosure of Asset Sale

I can confirm today that I have laid a Treasury Minute informing the House of certain liabilities that HM Treasury has taken on in authorising the sale of the remaining loan assets and share capital of Bradford & Bingley plc (B&B) and NRAM Limited.

This sale generates proceeds of £5.0 billion for the Exchequer, and will see NRAM, B&B and their subsidiary companies, including Mortgage Express (MX), together with their remaining mortgages and loan portfolios, sold to a consortium comprising Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP (Davidson Kempner) and Citibank (Citi). The majority of the financing for the transaction is being provided by funds managed by Pacific Investment Management Company LLC (PIMCO).

The transaction has been agreed and will complete in two stages. The first stage is the sale of the loans to Citi which is expected to complete within the next few weeks. The second stage is completion of the sale of the companies, and will see the sale of the legal entities of B&B and NRAM to Davidson Kempner. This stage is subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)and is expected to take place in the summer.

This sale constitutes a significant milestone in the work to achieve the Government’s aim of returning the institutions brought into public ownership as a result of the 2007-2008 financial crisis to private ownership.

Rationale

It is Government policy that where a Government asset no longer serves a public purpose, or that purpose can be more efficiently realised with the asset in private ownership, the Government may choose to sell that asset, subject to value for money and market conditions being supportive.

The Government intervened in the financial sector to preserve financial stability. As this policy objective has now been met, those assets which came into public ownership should be returned to the private sector.

Format and Timing

The Government, UK Asset Resolution (UKAR) and UK Government Investments (UKGI) concluded that this sale achieves value for money having:

Conducted a rigorous analysis of whether market conditions were conducive for the sale of this portfolio:

considered whether the transaction had generated sufficient competitive tension to lead to a properly competitive process; and

conducted an assessment of the fair market value for the assets, including the legal entities of B&B and NRAM.

The sale made use of a structured bidding process, which has been shown to create competitive tension and has been used for previous Government asset sales.

Customer protections:

A key element in selecting the successful bidder was the treatment of customers. As in previous UKAR asset sales, bidders were required to agree to a robust package of customer protections before their bids were considered on other factors.

Customers do not need to take any action and can be assured that there will be no changes to the terms and conditions of any loans as a result of this transaction. They will continue to receive the same protections for the lifetime of their mortgage as they do today, and their right to re-mortgage will be unaffected.

The structure of this transaction also means that the legal title holder and administrator of customers’ loans will not change at the point of sale. B&B, NRAM and MX will remain the legal title holders of the loans. Computershare will continue to service the loans.

Only the beneficial owner will change as a result of this sale, and the beneficial owner does not have an active role in the management of customers’ loans.

B&B, NRAM, MX and Computershare are all regulated by the FCA. This means that customers will continue to enjoy the protections of the FCA’s Treating Customers Fairly(TCF)principles and its Mortgages and Home Finance: Conduct of Business(MCOB)rules, as well as recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

As the customer protections require that the administrator and legal title holder of these loans will always be an FCA-regulated entity, customers will continue to enjoy the protection of the FCA’s rules if the legal title holder of their loans changes again at some point in the future.

Contingent Liability

On this occasion, due to the sensitivities surrounding the commercial negotiation of this transaction, it was not possible to notify Parliament of the particulars of the contingent liabilities in advance of the sale announcement.

The contingent liabilities HM Treasury is taking on include those which relate to certain warranties and indemnities that were given to the purchasers and which confirm regulatory, legislative and contractual compliance relating to the loans, assets and the share capital of the companies. The maximum contingent liability arising from the warranties and indemnities to the loan assets is approximately £4.9 billion.

The maximum contingent liability arising from the warranties and indemnities relating to the share capital of the companies is c.£290 million—100% of the purchase price of the shares. More information on these contingent liabilities has been set out in a Departmental Minute that has been laid before the House alongside this statement.

Fiscal Impacts

The impacts on the fiscal aggregates, in line with fiscal forecasting convention, are not discounted to present value. The net impacts of the sale on a selection of fiscal metrics are summarised as follows:

Metric

Impact

Sale proceeds

c. £5.0 billion

Hold valuation

Net present value of the assets if held to maturity using Green Book assumptions

The price achieve this above the hold value range.

Public Sector Net Investment

Nil

Decreased by:

Current budget

£350 million in 2024-25

Increased by:

Public Sector Net Borrowing

£350 million in 2024-25

Public Sector Net Debt

Reduced by £5.0 billion— £4.4 billion in 2020-21 and £0.6 billion in 2021-22

Public Sector Net Liabilities

Increased by £100 million in 2020-21

Public Sector Net Financial Liabilities

Increased by £100 million in 2020-21

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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Destination Management Organisations: Independent Review

On 1 March 2021 the Government launched an independent review of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in England. The review aims to examine and assess how such organisations are funded and structured, and how they perform their roles. The review will seek to establish whether there may be a more efficient and effective model for supporting English tourism at regional level, and if so what that model may be.

Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) are a common feature of local and regional tourism landscapes worldwide, and play an important role in the English tourism ecosystem.

There are an estimated 150 DMOs in England, although these vary substantially in terms of activity, size, geographical area covered, funding models, structure, impact and the degree to which they work with both the central Government and the British Tourist Authority (BTA, trading as VisitBritain and VisitEngland).

The Government recognise that the tourism sector has been among the worst-hit industries by covid-19 and that DMOs have been particularly hard hit, especially those reliant on commercial income. Many DMOs have been at risk of closure at a time when their business support role has become more important. Simultaneously, the pandemic has highlighted strong examples of standardisation, collaboration and more agile working among DMOs, and the Government are aware that DMOs will have an important role to play in supporting the English tourism sector recover in the medium and long term, in line with Government priorities around economic recovery and levelling up.

Against such a background, this independent review will seek to produce a detailed examination of the DMO landscape in England, focusing on:

a) current funding models;

b) organisational structures and

c) performance levels—both in respect to before the covid-19 pandemic and since the start of 2020.

It will then try and establish whether the status quo is the most efficient, economically justifiable way of organising local and regional English tourism sectors. It will also look at whether these structures maximise opportunities for supporting policy priorities on a local, regional and national scale, and, where relevant, internationally. These priorities include sector recovery, levelling up and economic growth, as well as various local and regional priorities that are likely to differ from area to area.

The review will be led by Nick de Bois, the current Chair of the VisitEngland Advisory Board. He will be acting in an independent capacity, supported by a DCMS Secretariat, and will aim to deliver a report with recommendations to the Government in summer 2021. It will then be for the Government to respond to the report in due course. The review marks an initial step in the Government’s development of a tourism recovery plan.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2021-03-01/HCWS811/.

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Education

Contingencies Fund Advance

The Department for Education has sought a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund of £1,550,000,000.

The requirement has arisen due to increased costs relating to essential expenditure, including that relating to the covid-19 response. The funds associated with this estimate will not be released until the Supply and Appropriation Bill achieves Royal Assent in early March 2021.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £852,500,000 and capital of £697,500,000 has been sought in a supplementary estimate. Pending that approval, expenditure estimated at £1,550,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

The cash advance will be repaid upon receiving Royal Assent on the Supply and Appropriation Bill.

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Home Department

Protect Duty: Consultation

The first duty of the Government is to protect the public, and we are committed to improving the security of public venues, as outlined in our 2019 manifesto. The Government are proposing the Protect duty whereby certain venues and organisations would be required to consider terrorist threats and reasonable mitigations to these.

While there is much good work being done by many organisations to improve security, in the absence of a legislative requirement, there is no certainty that considerations of security are undertaken by those operating the wide variety of sites and places open to the public, or, where they are undertaken, what outcomes are achieved. This consultation considers how we could improve this position, through reasonable and not overly burdensome considerations of security and corresponding mitigating measures.

A consultation document was published on Friday 26 February, which seeks the views of those organisations and venues potentially within the scope of the protect duty, as to how we can work together to develop appropriate security measures to improve public security. It puts forward criteria and thresholds for inclusion, and considers how those responsible for public places could consider threat and appropriate proportionate mitigating action. It also considers what support would be required for venues and organisations to fulfil the requirements of the duty, and what oversight and sanctions would be appropriate were there to be non-compliance.

The consultation is for an extended 18-week period, in recognition that many of those potentially within scope continue to be impacted by covid-19. Extending the consultation period into the summer will allow those organisations more time to respond to proposals as businesses return to more usual operation. The Government will carefully consider next steps and their timing in light of consultation responses and the ongoing situation with regards to combating covid-19.

I would like to pay tribute to the families of those who have died in the recent attacks we have seen in the UK, many of whom have called for a legislative requirement to consider security to be implemented, in particular Figen Murray and the Martyn’s Law campaign team.

A copy of the consultation document was placed in the Libraries of both Houses on Friday 26 February.

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Controlling or Coercive Behaviour Offence: Government Review

Today, I am pleased to announce the publication of the Government’s review into the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB) in an intimate or family relationship—as provided for in section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. The review follows a commitment made in response to the 2018 consultation on domestic abuse.

The review considered the available data and research to understand how the CCB offence has been working since its introduction in 2015. It found that since the offence came into force in December 2015, police recorded CCB offences, as well as CCB prosecutions, have increased year on year. These increases demonstrate that the CCB offence is being used across the criminal justice system (CJS), indicating that the legislation has provided an improved legal framework to tackle CCB. However, the review recognises that there is still room for improvement, particularly with regard to raising awareness of what constitutes CCB among the public and across the CJS, and improving the ability of the CJS to record, evidence and prosecute these crimes. The review also considered views from a number of stakeholders who expressed concern that the cohabitation requirement within the offence is preventing some victims of this abuse from seeking justice, and poses challenges for police and prosecutors to evidence and charge abusive behaviours that are not captured by other legislation.

The review made a number of recommendations, including:

Building on the work of the Office for National Statistics in 2017, to develop robust estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of CCB;

In consultation with victims and support services, to develop suitable measures for victim outcomes;

Further work to assess the levels of awareness and understanding of the offence across the criminal justice system.

The review also recognised calls for legislative change, highlighting in particular the removal of the cohabitation requirement as well as some calls to extend the maximum sentence length and to remove the requirement to evidence a “serious effect” on the victim. As such, the review made the following research recommendations:

If legislative changes are implemented, the operation of the legislation should be monitored and reviewed closely to assess the impact and identify any unintended consequences;

If legislative changes are not made at this time, further research should be undertaken to ascertain the need for, and impact of, such changes to the legislation.

CCB is an insidious form of domestic abuse and this Government are committed to ensuring all victims are protected. We recognise that coercive or controlling behaviours may escalate following separation, and that members of a victim’s extended family may be involved in control or coercion. We have heard the calls from experts on this matter, and I am very pleased to say that the Government will be removing the cohabitation requirement contained within the offence through an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill at Report stage in the House of Lords. This amendment will bring the controlling or coercive behaviour offence into line with the statutory definition of domestic abuse in clause 1 of the Bill and send a clear message to both victims and perpetrators that controlling or coercive behaviours, irrespective of living status, are a form of domestic abuse.

We recognise that the review also raised questions around the need for other legislative change, including reference to increasing the maximum penalty for the CCB offence in line with the current maximum penalty for stalking, and removing the evidence requirement to prove that the behaviour had a serious effect on the victim. Given the review acknowledged that evidence for these changes is currently limited, we will continue to monitor the offence and keep these other proposals for legislative change under review.

This summer we will be publishing a domestic abuse strategy which will build on work to date to help transform the response to domestic abuse, tackling perpetrators and placing the needs of victims at the heart of our response. We will consider the wider policy and data recommendations made in the review throughout the development and implementation of this strategy, and will of course continue to engage with domestic abuse organisations throughout this process. We will also update the statutory guidance for the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to reflect both the findings of the review and change to the legislation.

Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime and this Government are committed to doing all that we can support victims and tackle offenders. I am delighted that, in removing the co-habitation requirement within the CCB offence, we are able to take another step in ensuring every victim has access to the protection that they need.

A copy of the review will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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