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Written Statements

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 25 March 2021

Written Statements

Thursday 25 March 2021

Cabinet Office

Civil Service Delegated Pay Remit Guidance

Today we publish this year’s civil service pay remit guidance. This document provides a framework for setting pay for civil servants throughout the civil service, including Departments, non-ministerial departments and agencies, as well as for public sector workers in non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and other arm’s-length bodies for the 2021-22 pay remit year.

Public sector pay context

In November 2020, the Chancellor announced at the spending review that the public sector workforces, excluding the NHS, would be subject to a pay pause for the 2021-22 pay year. The exception to this policy are organisations in legally binding pay deals, including those in multi-year deals.

This pay pause is necessary in order to help protect public sector jobs and protect investment in public services as well as ensuring fairness between the private and public sectors in this time of crisis. Performance pay, overtime, pay progression where it is in place, and pay rises from promotion will continue. Departments may continue to utilise existing allowances.

To protect the lower paid staff earning below the national median, those on full-time equivalent base pay of under £24,000 pa, excluding overtime and allowances, will receive a consolidated increase of £250. For those who will be receiving an increase to the new national living wage rate of £8.91 an hour, which from April 2021 will be extended to individuals aged 23 years and over, they will receive the national living wage increase or £250, whichever is greater.

Civil servants benefit from a competitive employment offer including access to one of the best pension schemes available and flexible working arrangements in managing work and family life.

In addition to this our ambition is for the civil service to be the most inclusive employer in the country, offering opportunities and a chance to progress in challenging roles delivering vital public services across the country.

Strategy for civil service modernisation

The covid-19 pandemic has posed a huge challenge to the civil service over the last year and to civil servants at all levels both through the work required in response, but also through the significant changes to working practices individuals have faced, as well as the impact on their personal lives. The significant task of tackling the pandemic, as well as EU exit transition, has placed an immediate pressure on resources. The civil service has been increasing its capacity and capability to meet this challenge, bringing on its own talent, investing in specialist skills and sourcing external support where necessary. Frequently this has meant the necessary redeployment of staff across and within Departments, as well as the creation of and recruitment to new posts within Departments at both junior and senior grades.

We intend to learn from the experience of both EU exit transition and the covid-19 pandemic, modernising government to respond to the big challenges facing the country and deliver our ambitious agenda. We will ensure that our people are closer to citizens and have the skills and experience to meet the needs of those we serve. We will put innovation at the core of how we work and seize the power of digital systems and data to improve our services. We will ensure the whole of government works together with a common purpose to deliver outcomes for citizens rigorously and efficiently, improving the delivery of our major projects.

The Government have committed to level up across the UK, including relocating roles to the regions and nations of the UK. The places for growth programme within Cabinet Office is driving the necessary planning within Departments and public bodies, with a commitment to relocating a minimum of 22,000 civil service roles over the next decade, with the majority of these in the regions and nations of the UK.

By 2030, large numbers of civil service roles and public bodies will be moved out of London and south-east England, moving whole organisations, and business units and functions of larger bodies and Departments, with a view to reducing our central London footprint but also to:

Strengthen the Union;

Support levelling up of the regions and nations;

Ensure that the civil service and administration of government is better connected with communities across the UK;

Tackle the recruitment and retention challenges of a London-centric civil service;

Reduce costs overall, especially estate and people costs.

A more regionally dispersed workforce has significant benefits for the UK civil service. Places for growth is working closely with Departments on their plans to relocate a number of civil service roles to the regions and nations, providing opportunities for civil servants to progress and build sustainable career paths.


Infected Blood: Victim Support

Today I am providing an update on parity of financial support, the commitment to considering a compensation framework, and enhancements to the psychological support for the victims of the infected blood tragedy.


In July 2019, a UK-wide agreement was reached in principle to resolve disparities in levels of support for people infected and affected. In January 2020 at a meeting with campaigners, the UK Government committed to resolving the disparities in financial support in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland as well as addressing broader issues of disparity, including support for bereaved partners.

I am pleased to confirm that the following changes are planned to the four separate schemes to bring them into broader parity. Increases in annual payments will be backdated to April 2019. Where lump sum payments are being increased, this will apply to all current scheme members. We will work with the four schemes to communicate the changes to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will continue to receive their current payments until the changes can be made. We hope that the schemes will be able to make additional payments where required by the end of the calendar year, and sooner if possible.

The key elements of change for the England infected blood support scheme are:

annual payments for bereaved partners will be increased to an automatic 100% of their partners annual payment in year 1, and 75% in year 2 and subsequent years, in line with the position in Scotland;

the lump sum bereavement payment will move from a discretionary £10,000 to an automatic £10,000, in line with the position in Wales;

the lump sum payment paid to a beneficiary in the scheme with hepatitis C stage 1 will increase by £30,000 from £20,000 to £50,000, in line with the position in Scotland; and

the lump sum payment paid to a beneficiary in the scheme with HIV will increase from up to £80.5k maximum in England, to an automatic £80.5k.

In addition, the schemes managed by the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be similarly adapted so that across the UK there is broad parity of payments to infected and affected people. These adaptations are in line with the UK-wide agreement reached in July 2019.

In Scotland, the changes are to increase annual payments for infected beneficiaries and bereaved partners, and to introduce £10,000 lump sum bereavement payments for the families of those beneficiaries who have died since the scheme began.

In Wales, the changes are to increase annual payments for infected beneficiaries, increase both the payments and length of payments for the bereaved partners, in line with the position in Scotland, and changes to the lump sums for hepatitis C and HIV.

In Northern Ireland, the changes are to annual payments for non-infected bereaved spouses/partners, lump sum bereavement payments, and a commitment to introduce enhanced financial support for hepatitis C (stage 1), at the same payment levels as in England, as soon as a system can be put into operation.

We have agreed with Health Ministers that any future changes to national schemes would be subject to consultation between the UK Government and devolved Administrations.

Compensation framework

To meet the Government’s commitment to consider a framework for compensation, we can confirm our intention to appoint an independent reviewer to carry out a study, looking at options for a framework for compensation, and to report back to the Paymaster General with recommendations, before the inquiry reports.

The terms of reference of this study will be finalised in consultation between the independent reviewer and those infected and affected. The study will include consideration of the scope and levels of such compensation, and the relationship between a compensation framework and the existing financial support schemes in place.

The study is entirely separate from the public inquiry, which continues to have this Government’s full support; it will not duplicate the work of the inquiry, or cut across the inquiry’s findings. The study shall provide the Paymaster General with advice on potential compensation framework design and solutions which can be ready to implement upon the conclusion of the inquiry, should the inquiry’s findings and recommendations require it.

The name of the independent reviewer will be announced shortly.

Psychological support

Since May 2020, there have been important improvements to how beneficiaries of the England infected blood support scheme can access psychological support. Beneficiaries are now able to receive funding for counselling directly from the scheme without GP approval or the need to access waiting lists. This change has been communicated to beneficiaries.

The Department of Health and Social Care will continue to work with EIBSS and NHS England and Improvement to review if further improvements are necessary to the psychological support which is available for beneficiaries.

Finally I would like to place on record my thanks to the inquiry chair, Sir Brian Langstaff, and his team for the way the inquiry has managed to continue its work throughout the last 12 months despite the challenges presented by covid-19, and for consistently putting the interests of the infected and affected victims at the heart of their decision-making when dealing with significant logistical and planning challenges.


Local Government Elections and Referendums: Covid-19 Indemnity

On 5 February, the Government confirmed that the council, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections scheduled for 6 May 2021 will be going ahead as planned, and published a delivery plan outlining how these polls will be delivered in a covid-secure way. Since then, the Government have put in place a number of measures to support statutorily independent returning officers to deliver these elections successfully and with the right precautions in place. I have also today updated Parliament separately on the wider progress being made to support delivery of the local polls on 6 May 2021.

The Government have already, in line with usual practice, provided an indemnity in relation to police and crime commissioner elections. The delivery plan also included a commitment to provide a further indemnity for local elections and referendums1, in respect of covid-19 risks, in order to address any gaps in coverage of existing local authority insurance.

It is necessary to indemnify returning officers and counting officers in England against uninsured claims in this way because, for the purposes of local elections and referendums, returning officers and counting officers are statutorily independent officers and are separate from both central and local government. As such, they are personally liable for the conduct of the local elections and referendums. Existing insurance that covers returning officers and counting officers in discharging their statutory duties at local elections will not, in most cases, cover them against claims in relation to covid-19.

In light of this, I have today laid a minute setting out the Cabinet Office’s intention to indemnify returning officers and counting officers on this very limited basis at local elections and referendums in England taking place between 6 May 2021 and 4 May 2022 inclusively. The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle.

The purpose of the indemnity is to ensure that returning officers are financially supported if any covid-19 related claims are brought against them in relation to the local polls. Whilst the indemnity provides for reimbursement of costs incurred once a claim has been concluded, we want to support returning officers wherever possible to deal effectively with claims brought against them. We will look at any such claims on their merits and seek to provide returning officers with any relevant support we are able to give them to effectively and robustly defend such claims. It is right that returning officers can be held to account for the conduct of the polls but it is also right that we support these individuals financially in that process.

The indemnity covers (but is not limited to) a returning officer’s or counting officer’s liabilities to the public, as an employer, or otherwise incurred in his or her professional capacity:

in relation to any claim for personal injury or death where the cause of action relates to the contracting of covid-19 due to participation in the election or referendum process in the context of the returning officer’s or counting officer’s exercise of their functions, or

as a result of a challenge to the conduct of the election or referendum by an election or referendum petition arising from alleged poll irregularities caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

The indemnity only covers losses, liability, damages, costs, claims, proceedings or expenses incurred in relation to the conduct of the local government election or referendum arising from covid-19 related issues. There is no limit on the number of claims which a returning officer may make under this indemnity.

It is normal practice, when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability in excess of £300,000 for which there is no specific statutory authority, for the Minister concerned to present a departmental minute to Parliament giving particulars of the liability created and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from incurring the liability until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.

1 This refers to council tax referendums, neighbourhood planning referendums and governance referendums held in England under the relevant legislation.


Prosperity Fund: Change of Ministerial Accountability

The cross-Government prosperity fund arrangement will end on 31 March and prosperity programming will move to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as part of a machinery of Government transfer. The transfer will help drive strategic coherence across overseas development assistance (ODA) programmes. This will allow the Foreign Secretary to make decisions on aid to implement the UK Government’s integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy.

The machinery of Government change will take effect on 1 April 2021.


Local Elections: May 2021

I am updating Parliament today on the progress being made to support delivery of the local polls on 6 May 2021 and to outline our expectations for the respective verification and count process. I have also today separately laid before Parliament the indemnity the Government are providing to returning officers and counting officers, in relation to covid-19, for the local elections and referendums in England taking place between 6 May 2021 and 4 May 2022 inclusively.

Safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. On 5 February, the Government published a delivery plan outlining how these polls will be delivered in a covid-secure way. The Government have been working closely with Public Health England, the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), political parties and independents to support the delivery of these polls.

On 26 February, the Government published guidance on covid-secure campaigning for the May polls, supporting a level playing field for candidates and ensuring that voters can make a well-informed choice while continuing to protect the NHS and save lives.

Parliament has made changes to the nomination process to reduce the amount of movement and person-to-person contact that might otherwise be necessary, but ensuring there remains a democratic check and balance for candidates.

Legislation has also been made to change the rules for proxy voting, enabling those who need to self-isolate close to polling day to request an emergency proxy vote at very short notice, right up to 5pm on polling day itself.

Building on these changes to legislation and guidance, the Government are also continuing to provide practical support to returning officers where appropriate, including the sourcing of over 2,000 additional volunteer staff for the polls to date.

This work supports the significant preparations already being undertaken by local authorities and is backed up by Government funding. The Government are directly providing around £95 million for the running of the polls, which includes an additional allocation of around £32 million to specifically cover additional covid-19 related costs.

As outlined in my written statement of 9 March 2021, the Government are also committed to tackling intimidation in public life. Further to this, we are today publishing security guidance for returning officers and candidates to support the May 2021 polls.

Of course, polling day is not the end of the electoral process and I am aware that many returning officers are considering carefully how they can conduct the verification and count, which are often large and complex events, in a covid-secure way. It is vital for free and fair elections that polls are transparent and effectively scrutinised. However, minimising the transmission of covid-19 and protecting public health is a priority during these elections. A strong set of measures will therefore be in place to ensure every aspect of the polls are covid-secure for voters, staff and observers.

It is the responsibility of returning officers to manage the conduct of the count and to ensure that appropriate reasonable measures are taken to comply with covid-19 regulations and to allow fair scrutiny of the count. Returning officers will want to put in place arrangements to allow the effective scrutiny of their counts while ensuring the count is covid-secure for everyone present. To support returning officers with this, the Government have been working with the Electoral Commission to update their guidance on the verification and count process in the context of the pandemic, in line with prevailing covid-19 restrictions. I have also written today to election administrators to provide guidance on there being no public health need to quarantine ballot papers or postal votes.

The announcement of results will, as usual, be made as soon as is practicable after the close of the polls. However, it is important to be clear that counts, like other aspects of these polls, may look and feel different to previous occasions. Due to covid-secure measures, each stage of the count may take longer than in previous years. It is essential that all involved recognise the need to work together to support them taking place effectively and safely.

Democracy should not be cancelled because of covid-19, and the Government have every confidence in the ability of the returning officers and their teams to run these polls in a way that meets the highest standards of both public safety and democratic integrity. The Government are committed to supporting the sector to achieve this. I would like once again to express gratitude for the tireless efforts and exceptional dedication of all those involved.

The associated documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office


The UK condemns the coup in Myanmar and reiterates our deep concern at the violent crackdown on peaceful protestors. We call on the military to hand back power to the democratically elected Government; protect rights and freedoms, including the right to peaceful protest; and to ensure unobstructed humanitarian access.

The UK has been at the forefront of a strong, co-ordinated international response. On 10 March we secured a presidential statement at the UN Security Council that condemned the violence against peaceful protestors and called for respect of Myanmar’s democratic transition and the release of all those detained arbitrarily. This followed further UK-led statements by the UN Security Council on 4 February and G7 Foreign Ministers on 3 February and 23 February.

Working closely with partners in the US, Canada and EU, the UK has already sanctioned nine individuals responsible for serious human rights violations during the coup, including three military cabinet members and all the military members of the State Administration Council. This is in addition to 16 individuals already sanctioned for their role in serious human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minorities.

Today, I am announcing, further measures to target the Myanmar military’s economic interests in conjunction with the US.

The UK will enforce sanctions against Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL), the military owned conglomerate supporting the Tatmadaw. We have found credible evidence that MEHL contributed funds to support the Tatmadaw in their campaign on ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya in 2017, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that the funds would or may contribute to the serious human rights violations committed, and that MEHL is associated with the commander-in-chief and deputy commander-in-chief.

Designating MEHL will immediately impose an asset freeze on any assets that MEHL may hold in the UK and a ban on any UK individual or company from providing funds or economic resources to MEHL directly or indirectly. This will also prohibit funds being made available to any subsidiaries “owned or controlled” by MEHL as defined by the global human rights sanctions regime.

These sanctions complement the ongoing strategic review of the UK’s trade and investment approach led by the Department for International Trade. The Government’s position is that UK businesses should not be supporting the military or their businesses.

Along with the UN Security Council and the wider international community, we will continue to make clear that the military must stop killing its own people, release all those who have been detained arbitrarily and respect the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar.


Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

EU Emissions Trading System: Sale of Allowances

In April 2019, the Government entered into a commercial agreement with British Steel Ltd in relation to their annual obligations under the EU emissions trading system (ETS). This agreement was needed to support the operator in complying with its 2018 EU ETS obligations, in the absence of receiving its expected 2019 free allowances, due to restrictions placed on the UK’s participation in the EU ETS during negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) informed the House of this agreement on 1 May 2019—a bridge facility valued at around £120 million under section 7 of the Industrial Development Act 1982 at an interest rate of LIBOR plus 7%. Under this commercial agreement, the Government were entitled to recover the next allocation of allowances issued to British Steel Ltd, and sell these back to the ETS market to recover the full cost of the bridge facility.

Following ratification of the withdrawal agreement, restrictions on the UK’s participation in the EU ETS market were lifted in February 2020 and the Government successfully recovered the allowances to which they were entitled. The Government have since successfully sold these allowances back to the EU ETS market, and concluded the contractual obligations with British Steel (in compulsory liquidation), under control of the official receiver.

I am pleased to inform the House that sale proceeds of nearly £140 million have been received. This exceeds the total cost owed to the Government from this bridge facility, delivering value for money for the UK taxpayer.

The Government have also sold a separate 3,191 allowances in their possession. These allowances were transferred to the UK national Government holding account within the EU ETS union registry, over several years, following the closure of several operator and trader accounts, in line with EU ETS registry regulations. The net sale proceeds from this transaction is around £80,000. This transaction is not related to the agreement with British Steel Ltd, and the sale of 3,191 allowances was undertaken separately for administrative reasons to provide value for money to UK taxpayers.


Recovery Loan Scheme: Departmental Contingent Liability Notification

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members to bring to their attention the details of the recovery loan scheme (RLS) announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 3 March 2021.

RLS will be facilitated by the Government-owned British Business Bank and delivered through its delivery partners. Lenders will offer facilities of up to £10 million to support businesses that are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. There will be no limit on the number and aggregate value of loans that can be made under the scheme.

The scheme is based on the British Business Bank’s existing coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) but is open to all businesses regardless of turnover.

The key parameters of the scheme are as follows:

The percentage of the remaining balance of each loan that is guaranteed by the Government is 80%.

The maximum facility size will be £10 million per business, and the minimum facility size will be £25,001 for loans and overdrafts and £1,000 for asset and invoice finance.

Businesses will be required to meet the costs of interest payments and any fees from the outset.

Businesses who have made use of the current coronavirus loan schemes will be able to access the new scheme.

The lender must establish that the borrower has a viable business proposition assessed according to its normal commercial lending criteria. This may, but is not required to, be determined without regard to any concerns over the borrower’s short-to-medium term business performance due to the uncertainty and impact of coronavirus.

The scheme launches on 6 April and is open until 31 December, subject to review. The Government will be subject to an equivalent contingent liability as for CBILS. The maximum contingent liability for assumed initial lending of £12 billion (our central estimate) is £9.6 billion.

I will be laying a departmental minute today containing a description of the liability undertaken.


Law Commission’s Review of the Land Registration Act 2002: Government Response

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

I am grateful to the Law Commission for its review of the Land Registration Act 2002 which it published on 24 July 2018. The Government have today published their full response to the review recommendations.

HM Land Registry is committed to becoming the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data. The land registration regime provides essential trust and confidence to the property and lending markets. It does so by providing efficient access to secure and accurate information needed to transact land and use it as security for borrowing. The regime is underpinned by a state-backed guarantee of title. It is important the regime is examined, from time to time, to ensure that it is working effectively.

The Law Commission made 53 recommendations, most of which are quite technical in nature and narrowly focused. That should give us confidence that the land registration system is generally working well.

The full response sets out the Government’s conclusions in respect of each of the recommendations.

Once again, I thank the Law Commission for the diligence that has gone into its work examining the land registration regime, and for the clarity of its conclusions expressed in its report.


Health and Social Care

Early Years Healthy Development Review and The Best Start for Life: A Vision for the 1,001 Critical

In summer 2020 the Prime Minister commissioned the early years healthy development review. Chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), the review looks across the “1,001 critical days” from conception to the age of two, ensuring babies and young children in England can be given the best start in life.

The focus on these 1,001 critical days from pregnancy to the age of two is important. They are a unique period of time, when the foundations for an individual’s cognitive, emotional and physical development are developed and set. It is also a period of time when babies are at their most vulnerable and susceptible to, and influenced by, the environment around them.

It is for these reasons, and many more, that I am pleased to share the first publication from the early years healthy development review entitled: “The Best Start for Life: A Vision for the 1,001 Critical Days”.

This comes at a timely moment for our nation as we reflect on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and begin to turn our focus on building back better. As we do this, we must place our youngest citizens at the centre of our ambition.

Our vision sets out an ambitious programme of work to transform how we support families across England throughout these 1,001 critical days. It sets out six action areas to ensure that families have access to the services they need, when they need them. We want to enable the parts of the system to work even better together to provide this support.

Action area 1: Seamless support for families. Our vision is for seamless support for families, with local areas encouraged to publish a start for life offer. The offer should explain clearly to parents and carers what services they are entitled to and how they can access them.

Action area 2: A welcoming hub for the family. All families need a welcoming space to access services. Our vision is that family hubs are a place for families to access start for life services.

Action area 3: The information families need when they need it. All families need to have access to trustworthy information at the times they most need it. This includes digital, virtual and telephone services designed around the needs of the family.

Action area 4: An empowered start for life workforce. Our vision is that every family will be supported by a range of professionals and volunteers, each of whom brings skills, knowledge and empathy to interactions with families. From their first appointment, every parent and carer must feel that they are heard and that they can ask for help.

Action area 5: Continually improving the start for life offer. We want every parent and carer to have confidence that the services and support in their area will help them give their baby the best start for life. A brilliant start for life offer will continuously improve with better data, evaluation, and proportionate inspection.

Action area 6: Leadership for change. Leadership is critical to the success of the vision. There must be local and national commitment and accountability.

This is just the beginning of our work, and the early years healthy development review will continue with a second phase where we will focus on the implementation and delivery of these six action areas.


Temporary Indemnity for Designated Care Home Settings: Contingent Liability

Further to the written statement made on 18 January 2021 by the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members to bring to their attention the undertaking of a contingent liability. This relates to an extension of the designated settings indemnity support (DSIS), which offers targeted and time-limited state-backed indemnity arrangements to care homes registered, or intending to register, as “designated settings”, and which are unable to obtain sufficient insurance cover.

On 18 January 2021, the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment announced in a written ministerial statement, and accompanying departmental minute, provision of these temporary indemnity arrangements under the DSIS. The DSIS includes cover for 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 is covered under the new coronavirus temporary indemnity scheme; clinical negligence is covered by the clinical negligence scheme for trusts. The DSIS is supervised by DHSC and administered by NHS Resolution, and, to date, has proved to be an effective package of support to designated settings.

DSIS initially provided cover for designated settings until the end of March 2021. Following a review of DSIS, it will now be extended until 30 June 2021, in order to maintain the current level of support for these vital settings. This extension will benefit current DSIS participants, as well as any additional settings who may wish to apply for the support and who meet the criteria for inclusion. A review of DSIS will take place in early June.

I regret that in this circumstance, due to the need to ensure that there are no gaps in DSIS cover after the current 31 March end-date, the normal 14 sitting days for consideration has not been possible. A departmental minute will be laid in the House of Commons providing more detail on this contingent liability.


NHS England and NHS Improvement: Mandate for 2021-22

The Prime Minister paid tribute to the extraordinary success of the UK’s covid-19 vaccination programme when setting out on 22 February 2021 his road map for easing lockdown restrictions in England. This vaccination programme would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of many thousands of NHS staff who have already worked tirelessly for many months to support the covid response while doing their utmost to reduce the impact on wider NHS services.

I am today laying before Parliament the Government’s 2021-22 mandate for NHS England and NHS Improvement. It will make clear that covid-19—including further roll-out of the vaccination programme to ensure that every adult in England will be offered a first vaccination by 31 July—remains the NHS’s top priority in 2021-22. At the same time, and taking account of the pandemic’s impact, the NHS will return to implementation of the important transformative ambitions set out in its long-term plan and our 2019 manifesto. These will underpin recovery, and support the NHS’s longer-term resilience and sustainability. There will be a renewed focus on prevention to empower people to live as healthily as possible, and on tackling those health challenges which have been highlighted by the pandemic. The NHS will also work to recover performance of non-covid services that were unavoidably impacted by the pandemic—including elective care.

The new mandate is underpinned by our further funding commitments to the NHS. In addition to the substantial support made available for the pandemic response in 2020-21, and the further £6.3 billion increase in NHS funding already confirmed as part of its funding settlement to 2023-24, we are providing a further £3 billion in 2021-22 to support NHS recovery. This includes £1.5 billion for indirect covid pressures in 2021-22 as well as £1 billion for tackling backlogs in elective activity, and £500 million for mental health and the NHS workforce, for which operational delivery will be agreed in due course. This is in addition to the £6.6 billion announced last week for operationally necessary costs arising from the pandemic in the first half of 2021-22.

As in previous years, I will also today lay a revised 2020-21 mandate. As required by the NHS Act 2006, this revision is to reflect changes to the capital and revenue resource limits included in it that result from in-year funding decisions.


Housing, Communities and Local Government

Covid-19: Construction Industry and Retail Sector

As England moves towards step two of the covid-19 response road map out of lockdown, which will take place no earlier than 12 April, the Government want to ensure that planning measures are in place to support businesses to operate safely and drive the economic recovery.

First, the Government recognise that the construction industry will need to continue to operate in a safe and productive way. Temporary extensions to working hours were introduced over the last year on some sites to facilitate safer working and allow tasks to be completed where social distancing can be challenging. These changes have also helped to protect and support jobs in the construction industry and reduced pressures on public transport at peak hours throughout the pandemic.

This written ministerial statement confirms that the approach set out in my previous statement to the House of 13 May 2020, about construction working hours due to covid-19, will remain in place until 30 September 2021. This continued flexibility is necessary due to the continued impact of covid-19 and to support the construction industry to recover and operate safely as we emerge from the pandemic. This date will be kept under review.

Secondly, the Government would like local planning authorities to continue to take a positive and flexible approach to planning enforcement action to support economic recovery and support social distancing while it remains in place. The national planning policy framework already emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.

In particular, to ensure a safe and successful reopening of the non-essential retail sector from step two of the road map, the Government want to see retailers given the opportunity to extend their daily opening hours from Monday to Saturday, notwithstanding local planning restrictions on opening hours, where appropriate. This will help to spread footfall, ease transport pressures and make shopping in a socially distanced way easier by giving shoppers greater flexibility to choose when they shop and avoid peak times.

Accordingly local planning authorities, having regard to their legal obligations, should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in the unnecessary restriction of retail hours between 7 am to 10 pm Monday to Saturday, from step two of the road map (no earlier than 12 April) until the introduction of step four of the road map (scheduled for no earlier than 21 June 2021).

Where appropriate, local planning authorities should also highlight this temporary relaxation to retailers in their area so that they can take advantage of longer opening hours if they wish to do so.

The Government recognise that longer retail opening hours could have a temporary impact on local residents, but this needs to be balanced by the significant public interest in ensuring there is a safe retail environment when non-essential shops reopen. The 10 pm limitation should also mitigate the impact for local residents. There will be no change in licensing restrictions on retailers.

Finally, I am through this written ministerial statement extending the statement that I made to the House on 13 March 2020 about planning enforcement and the delivery of food and other essential goods to retailers until the introduction of step four of the roadmap (scheduled for no earlier than 21 June 2021). This will help supermarkets and other retailers to continue to continue to provide home deliveries while restrictions are still in place.


Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal

In March 2017 the Government committed to the Oxfordshire housing and growth deal (the deal), to support ambitious plans to deliver 100,000 homes by 2031. The deal committed to an Oxfordshire-wide joint statutory spatial plan to be adopted by 2021, and to be supported by £215 million of funding to help deliver more affordable housing and infrastructure improvements to support sustainable development across the county.

As part of the deal, to support this strategic approach to supporting housing delivery through joint working, Oxfordshire was granted flexibility from the national planning policy framework policy on maintaining a five-year housing land supply. Since 2018, Oxfordshire has had to provide proof of a three-year land supply for planning purposes. This has worked to support the delivery of the local plans for the area and ensure that the local authorities could focus their efforts on their joint spatial strategy.

This flexibility was laid out by the Secretary of State at the time the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) in a written ministerial statement on 12 September 2018—

Since 2018, Oxfordshire has not finalised and adopted its joint statutory spatial plan. Therefore, in the best interests of housing delivery in the region, my Department has extended the time afforded to Oxfordshire for the delivery of this plan to 2023. This extension, however, will not be subject to the original land supply flexibilities. From today, Oxfordshire will need to maintain a five-year housing land supply in accordance with the national planning policy framework.

This statement is a material consideration in planning decisions and applies to those local planning authorities in Oxfordshire with whom the Government agreed the Oxfordshire housing and growth deal, namely Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council. This statement applies from today.


Covid-19: Support for Businesses

Covid-19 has presented a significant challenge for businesses in all sectors. The Government response to the pandemic has been unprecedented in scale, with more than £280 billion provided to protect millions of jobs and businesses, and the Budget in March setting out an additional £65 billion of support in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

On business rates specifically, at Budget 2020 the Government announced a 100% business rates relief to all eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties, given the acute and direct impact of covid-19 restrictions, non-pharmaceutical interventions, on these sectors. This was worth around £10 billion in 2020-21 and, alongside other business rate reliefs, ensured that over 1 million properties paid no business rates this year. At Budget 2021, the Government announced that it would extend the scheme for the first 3 months of 2021-22 at 100%, followed by a 9-month period of relief at 66%, subject to a cash cap for businesses. Taken together, this amounts to business rates relief worth £16 billion for retail, hospitality and leisure properties.

While support has been needed to support these sectors, our business rates system is designed to provide a stable source of income for local councils and help fund vital local services, such as street lighting and keeping streets safe and clean. It is based on the principle of regular revaluations, with changes in property values reflected at these revaluations. Market wide economic changes affecting property values, such as from covid-19, can only be properly considered at these general revaluations, which is why we have changed the date of the next revaluation to 1 April 2023, based on rental values at 1 April 2021, to ensure it can better reflect the impact of the pandemic.

Between these revaluations rateable values should only change for material change of circumstances, which is a process intended to consider individual cases like roadworks near a property that affect its value. A number of businesses that do not qualify for our existing reliefs have sought to challenge their business rates liability by seeking reductions to their property’s value through this material change of circumstances provision.

Relying on this system to help businesses that need further support from the pandemic is not the right mechanism. These appeals would seek to reduce rate bills, and funding for local councils, based on the estimated impact of covid-19 on the market value of a property, and not on the economic circumstances of the business. This system was not designed to address the challenges we face and would mean significant amounts of taxpayer support going to businesses based in offices—like banks, large online retailers and technology businesses, law firms and consultancy firms—many of whom have been able to operate successfully throughout the pandemic.

The process of resolving these appeals and litigation through the courts could take years and would not provide the support now when it is most needed. It would also expose local authorities to uncertainty about their financial position, including whether they would need to return money spent on their response to covid-19, and how much.

Without action and legislation, there would also be a significant impact on the entire business rates system, as the Valuation Office Agency faced working through these cases, further valuation tribunals, wider separate cases, and preparing for the next revaluation in 2023. This would be at the detriment of other ratepayers who would suffer as a result of the valuation system grinding to a halt.

Nevertheless the Government recognise that businesses outside of the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors have also been adversely affected by the pandemic, including through limitations on how their property can be used. So we are now going even further than the £16 billion of relief since Budget 2020 and providing £1.5 billion of additional support to businesses that have not already received business rates relief. This is the fastest and fairest way to support businesses outside the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

The new relief will ensure a fairer and more proportioned allocation of support, by awarding funding through local authorities, who will able to use their knowledge of their local businesses and the local economy to award dedicated support to those businesses who need it most. Funding will be allocated to councils taking into account the economic impact covid-19 has had on specific sectors. This approach will ensure relief is awarded quicker than would be the case if businesses sought support under the sometimes drawn out process of a rating appeal, which can often last years.

At the same time we will legislate to ensure that the Government response to covid-19, including restrictions on the use of property, is reflected at the next revaluation in 2023, in line with the principle of the business rates system, and not through complicated and protracted property-by-property litigation. We will do this through:

Introducing primary legislation with retrospective effect, when parliamentary time allows, to clarify that covid-19 and the Government response to it is not an appropriate use of material change of circumstance provisions; and

Laying a statutory instrument today with the same effect prospectively and bringing it into force on the same day.

Taken together, this will ensure support for covid-19 continues to be directed to ratepayers through rate reliefs—including the additional £1.5 billion of support—in the fairest and fastest way, and not through valuation appeals made by rating agents. We will work with and support local Government to enable ratepayers to apply as soon as possible this year, once the legislation relating to material change of circumstance provisions has passed and local authorities have set up local relief schemes.

This will give local councils the certainty they have been seeking, and will ensure that support flows to businesses in need across England, rather than primarily to high- value locations and the office market.


Troubled Families Programme

As required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, section 3(1), today my Department has published the 2020-21 annual report of the troubled families programme. The report sets out how the programme has been supporting our most disadvantaged families who face multiple and complex problems. We are laying this report today and will place a copy in the Library of the House.

The troubled families programme has been at the heart of our ambition to strengthen families and improve their futures since 2015. In last year’s spending review the Chancellor announced £165 million of new investment to extend the programme until the end of 2021-22.

“Improving families’ lives: annual report of the Troubled Families Programme 2020-2021” includes an update on the programme’s performance and a summary of the latest research findings and policy developments for the programme.

It sets out how the programme has driven a profound shift in the way that local services respond to entrenched problems and support our most disadvantaged families. The programme assigns a single key worker to each family, backed by multi-agency partners and coordinated data. This joined up “wrap-around” support for families has been shown to be successful in tackling the range of issues they face.

Since 2015 the programme has supported 401,719 families to achieve successful outcomes. This includes 32,382 adults who were helped into sustained employment. These families faced multiple and complex problems including a combination of crime, truancy, neglect, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, poor mental health, worklessness and financial exclusion. Every successful family outcome represents a family’s life changed for the better—a considerable achievement for the families and the local services supporting them.

The report sets out how local services funded by the programme have responded to the covid-19 pandemic. The programme has been a key part of the local response to covid-19 by supporting families with immediate needs such as food and equipment for home learning. The programme will play an important role in the recovery, supporting families with longer-term impacts of the pandemic such as unemployment and mental ill health.

The report summarises the latest research findings relating to the programme. Staff survey research showed consistent support for the programme from local teams. 95% of troubled families co-ordinators agree the programme is effective at achieving whole family working and 89% agree it is successful at achieving long-term change for families. An independent evaluation of the supporting families against youth crime fund shows that the fund improved the provision of local services addressing youth crime. The fund supported a number of innovative approaches in 21 local areas. Local areas reported that whole family interventions, role model based and mentoring interventions were most successful.

This builds on previous analysis which found that the programme has made a significant impact in reducing the proportion of children who are taken into care. A cost benefit analysis showed that for every £1 spent on the programme it delivers £2.28 of economic benefits (includes economic, social and fiscal benefits) and £1.51 of fiscal benefits (only budgetary impacts on services).

“Improving families’ lives: annual report of the Troubled Families Programme 2020-2021” is accompanied by a range of publications that evaluate the programme’s progress which can be accessed at These are:

Evaluation report: Supporting Families Against Youth Crime

Staff Surveys: Troubled Families Co-ordinators: part five

Staff Surveys: Troubled Families Keyworkers: part five

Staff Surveys: Troubled Families Employment Advisors: part five.



Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy 2

In 2017 the Government published the first statutory cycling and walking infrastructure strategy (CWIS 1) which covered the period 2016-17 to 2020-21. Since it was produced, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have significantly expanded the ambition and funding of the Government’s cycling and walking programme, launching the Gear Change White Paper in summer 2020 with £2 billion of additional funding over this Parliament for active travel, the largest amount of dedicated spending ever committed to increasing cycling and walking in this country. Significant delivery on the ground has already occurred.

Because of the pandemic, the multi-year spending review planned for autumn 2020 was postponed. Instead, as with most other budgets, a single-year settlement for cycling and walking reflecting the ambitions set out in Gear Change has been set for the year 2021-22. The Government will set out plans for future years, including future funding for cycling and walking beyond 2021-22, at the spending review later this year.

I am today informing Parliament of my intention to publish as soon as possible thereafter a second four-year statutory cycling and walking investment strategy (CWIS 2), reflecting the new policies in Gear Change and the multi-year funding settlement.

The Government will consult on CWIS 2, with relevant stakeholders, ahead of its publication, as required by the legislation.


Work and Pensions

Annual Households Below Average Income and Separated Families Statistics 2019/20

The Department for Work and Pensions has today published annual statistics covering 2019-20 including on households below average income (HBAI) and separated families. HBAI covers a range of information, including household incomes and a range of low-income indicators for 2019-20, derived from the family resources survey of around 20,000 households.

Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the proportion of people below the absolute low income line fell. Before housing costs, this was a decrease of one percentage point to 14% or 9.2 million people. After housing costs, it was a fall of two percentage points to 18% or 11.7 million people. There were also decreases in absolute low income after housing costs for children, pensioners, working-age people and individuals living in a household where someone is disabled. Compared to 2009-10, there were over 1.3 million fewer people in absolute low income, after housing costs: 260,000 fewer children, 890,000 working age adults and 180,000 pensioners.

In 2019-20, median household incomes grew by 4.5% after inflation, an increase of over £1,000 a year to reach an all-time high, alongside a record high employment rate. This was the strongest annual income growth since 2001-02. Incomes increased across the entire income distribution, with the poorest 20% of households seeing their real incomes increase by over 6% on average after housing costs. This growth in median income reflects the success of Government policies we have taken to help people move into work and keep more of what they earn—for example, raising the national living wage and increasing the personal tax allowance.

The statistics show increases in the proportions of households below the relative low income lines, reflecting the very strong growth in median income in 2019-20. The proportion of households below the relative low income line, before housing costs, increased by one percentage point to 18% or 11.7 million individuals, and, after housing costs, the proportion remained the same at 22% or 14.5 million individuals. There were increases in relative poverty both before and after housing costs for children, pensioners and those living in households where someone is disabled.

Rates of combined low income and material deprivation for children were lower in 2019-20 than in 2010-11 and rates of material deprivation for pensioners remained at a record low of 6%.

Today’s statistics also show that 44% of separated families did not have a child maintenance arrangement in place in 2019-20. We know that child maintenance payments have a significant impact on reducing the number of children living in low income households. For the first time, estimates relating to the income distributions of parents in separated families have been published, showing that 60,000 children move out of absolute low income before housing costs; and 120,000 after housing costs as a result of child maintenance payments from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

We have also published data on household food security from the family resources survey for the first time, to get a better understanding of the lived experience of families. This shows that 8% of households are classed as food insecure, with 4% of households in low food security and 4% in very low household food security.

Overall, these statistics reinforce that the economy entered the pandemic in a strong position, with people seeing rising incomes. The Government have built on this firm financial foundation with an unprecedented package of measures to protect livelihoods and incomes, including the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employment income support scheme and an extra £7.1 billion of welfare support in 2020-21. Our plan for jobs and the support provided through universal credit are helping people to raise their incomes by moving into and progressing in work.