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Written Statements

Volume 700: debated on Friday 10 September 2021

Written Statements

Friday 10 September 2021

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Insolvency Service Performance Targets 2021-22

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

I have set performance targets for the Insolvency Service for the financial year 2021-22. The Insolvency Service is the Government agency that delivers public services to those affected by financial distress or failure by providing frameworks to deal with insolvency and the financial misconduct that sometimes accompanies or leads to it.

The Insolvency Service aims to deliver economic confidence through a fair corporate and personal insolvency regime which gives investors and lenders confidence to take the commercial risks necessary to support economic growth. It has a crucial role to play in supporting businesses and individuals in financial difficulty or facing redundancy owing to their employer’s insolvency.

This year, the Insolvency Service has reinforced its commitment to putting customer satisfaction and real-life impacts at the heart of its services, and a new approach has been taken to measuring the quality of customer contact.

I have set measures and targets at a level which will drive the Insolvency Service to deliver its essential services effectively for its stakeholders. These measures include:

Measure

2020-22 target

Make bankruptcy orders sought by individuals within 2 working days

95% or greater

Determine debt relief order applications within 48 hours

95% or greater

Average time taken to process redundancy payment claims

14 days or less

Issue reports to creditors within fifteen days of interviewing

92% or greater

Deliver against the agency apprentice target for 2021-22 as a percentage of new staff

2.3% or more

Pay supplier invoices within 5 working days

80%

Pay supplier invoices within 30 calendar days

100%

Customer satisfaction score

84% or greater

The Insolvency Service’s Annual Plan for 2021-22 is published in full on gov.uk.

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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation: Advisory Board and Future Focus

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation sits at the heart of the Government’s ambitious data agenda, and will play a critical role in helping the UK Government to deliver on the priorities set out in the national data strategy. The CDEI is the UK Government’s expert body on the trustworthy use of data and data-driven technologies, including AI.

Today, we are announcing changes to the CDEI’s role and the makeup of its advisory board. Building on the insights of the CDEI’s first two years of operation, and having conducted a robust internal review, it is clear that more active support is needed to facilitate responsible innovation on data use across the economy. The CDEI is well placed to play this role, and having listened carefully to the public’s views through our consultation on the National Data Strategy, I have decided that this should be the priority for the CDEI’s next phase of work. It should be concentrating on current Government priorities with the primary role of operationalising Government’s data and Al policy. The CDEI’s purpose is making sure that responsible data-driven innovation in complex areas actually happens, boosting the UK’s tech and research competitiveness, and supporting the transformation of the use of data and AI by the public and private sectors.

When working in partnership with organisations, the CDEI will deliver, test and refine trustworthy approaches to data and AI governance, and address barriers to innovation. It will operationalise concepts such as “transparency” and “accountability” in the real world, and build the foundations for public trust in the use of data and AI. In doing so, it will help the UK to capitalise on the societal and economic opportunities posed by data and data-driven technologies, while managing the risks.

The CDEI is already working with partners to pilot tech and data policy use cases in a number of sectors including local government, transport, online safety, recruitment and social care. Given these new objectives and activities, the CDEI’s current status as an expert committee is adequate and we are not planning for it to be placed on a statutory footing at this time. Similarly, the Government will not require the CDEI to report to Parliament in future separately from its parent department, DCMS. The CDEI will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the same way as any other aspect of departmental activity.

To support the delivery of an ambitious new work programme closely aligned with Government priorities, we have appointed an advisory board of leading experts to support the CDEI in its new phase of operations. The open recruitment campaign attracted a stellar group of proven innovators in data use. We are grateful that several outstanding members of the existing board have agreed to continue in their posts as well, including the Deputy Chair, Edwina Dunn. Edwina has agreed to act as interim Chair, while we continue our search for a permanent Chair.

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Data: A New Direction

Today, I am pleased to announce to the House that the Government are launching a consultation on reforms to the UK’s regime for the protection of personal data. This consultation will be open for 10 weeks, from 10 September 2021 until 19 November 2021.

The Government will have the freedom to create a bold new data regime outside of the EU. The UK can now reshape its approach to regulation and seize opportunities with its new regulatory freedoms, helping to drive growth, innovation and competition across the country.

This consultation is the first step in delivering on that objective and the next step in the Government's plan for digital regulation, while building on our groundbreaking action to keep people safe online through the Online Safety Bill. Furthermore we recently published plans to establish a new pro-competition regime for digital markets and outlined that we will be seeking to agree data adequacy agreements with leading economies such as the US and Singapore.

Data is a huge strategic asset. As set out in mission 2 of the UK’s national data strategy, the Government want to create a more pro-growth and trusted regime for personal data protection. We want to unlock the power of this data to drive innovation and boost the economy, while continuing to protect people’s safety and privacy. This is one of our 10 tech priorities.

In order to do this, the UK needs agile and adaptable data protection laws that enhance its global reputation as a hub for responsible data-driven business that respects high standards of data protection. A responsive framework will enable responsible innovation and a focus on privacy outcomes that avoids imposing any rules today that become obsolete tomorrow as technology evolves.

Any data protection regime requires active interpretation and pragmatic application to new and emerging technologies, such as machine learning. Over three years after its introduction, however, there is persistent uncertainty about how to apply the current regime, aspects of which are unnecessarily complex or vague. This risks throwing up barriers to responsible data access, use and sharing.

The reforms outlined in this consultation will:

Strengthen our position as a science superpower, by simplifying data use by researchers and developers of AI and other cutting edge technologies.

Build on the unprecedented and life-saving collaboration between the public and private sectors in using data responsibly to tackle the covid-19 pandemic.

Secure the UK’s status as a global hub for the free and responsible flow of personal data, complementing our ambitious agenda for new trade deals and data adequacy agreements with some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Reinforce the responsibility of businesses to keep personal information safe and encourage investment in effective compliance activities that reflect how they operate and their users’ expectations.

Ensure that the Information Commissioner’s Office remains a world-leading regulator, empowered to ensure people can use data responsibly to achieve economic and social goals.

Throughout this process, the UK intends to maintain its high standards of data protection, while taking a pragmatic and risk-based approach, rather than one that over-emphasises bureaucratic exercises. Far from being a barrier to innovation or trade, we know that regulatory certainty and high data protection standards allow businesses and consumers to thrive.

The reforms proposed in the Government’s consultation will create a set of new, ambitious, pro-growth and innovation-friendly data protection rules and regulations that underpins the trustworthy use of data for an even better UK data rights regime.

These reforms have clear benefits for both citizens and businesses. We are proposing to introduce more flexibility in how organisations embed privacy management in their processes alongside greater transparency about how their users’ data is protected and clearer procedures for handling complaints. We propose taking action to tackle nuisance calls which can disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people in our society. We will explore whether ICO should have powers to impose higher fines and carry out audits of companies which are responsible for breaching direct marketing rules. We will continue to look into voluntary industry-led action; and explore whether to mandate communications providers to do more to block calls and texts at source or to provide free-of-charge call-blocking services.

Furthermore, our proposed reforms will clarify how all kinds of businesses can navigate the data protection regime to innovate responsibly with personal data. We are also proposing measures that would require the ICO to recognise and account for how its regulatory activity on data protection may impact on competition and innovation in the digital economy.

Internationally, our reforms will allow us to operate a risk-based and proportionate regime that allows the UK to strike deals with some of the fastest growing economies in the world while keeping people’s data safe and secure.

These reforms will keep people’s data safe and secure, while ushering in a new golden age of growth and innovation right across the UK, as we build back better and I hope you will all join me in supporting this work.

Further details can be found in the consultation and supportive documents, available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/data-a-new-direction.

A copy of the consultation and the analysis of expected impact will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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National Data Strategy Monitoring and Evaluation Update

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government are, today, publishing an update on the national data strategy which sets out our approach to monitoring and evaluating the strategy. It also launches a 12-week call for evidence on the development of an indicator suite to support implementation of the strategy.

The national data strategy was originally published for consultation in September 2020, setting out for the first time the Government’s ambitions to unlock the power of data in a single publication. The consultation confirmed that the strategy framework was fit for purpose, and the Government published a response to the consultation in May 2021 to confirm that our focus would now turn to implementation.

The monitoring and evaluation update published today sets out in more detail our approach to implementation, including how we will track delivery of Government interventions, assess their effectiveness, and plan for further interventions in the future.

We are also calling for evidence to develop an indicator suite that will track developments across the data ecosystem. This is the first time such a product has been produced by Government for data use in the UK. To tackle this challenge, and in the spirit of collaboration with which the national data strategy has been developed to date, we are seeking the widest possible input to inform the indicator suite’s development, to create a product which can be of value to all members of the data ecosystem. We will provide an update on the development of the indicator suite in due course.

More broadly, we will continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders to implement the national data strategy, including working through the national data strategy forum to help shape the development of the future vision for the strategy.

A copy of this update will be placed in the libraries of both Houses.

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Home Department

Police Leadership

I am pleased to inform Parliament that Her Majesty the Queen has granted a two-year extension to the appointment of Dame Cressida Dick DBE QPM, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

I recommended this extension to Her Majesty having had regard to a recommendation from the Mayor of London as occupant of the Mayor’s office for policing and crime.

This extension to 9 April 2024 provides continuity for the Metropolitan Police Service as we move forward, emerging from the restrictions demanded by the coronavirus pandemic, and face the challenges that lie ahead in protecting the safety of people in London and across the country. These include driving down violent crime, boosting the confidence of women, girls and ethnic minorities in law enforcement and responding to the concerns that have emerged from the report of the Daniel Morgan independent panel.

I will continue working closely with the Commissioner and the Mayor to ensure that the Met tackles these key challenges and serves the public well.

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Immigration Rules: Statement of Changes

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.

We have made changes to the immigration rules which will align the travel document requirements for most EEA and Swiss citizens with those which apply to other third country nationals.

From 1 January 2021, the Government have implemented a single global points-based immigration system.

Inconsistency in the design and security features of EEA national identity cards gives rise to document security risks, and the need for manual processing increases border queues. We therefore announced in October 2020 we would be phasing out the use of most EEA and Swiss national identity cards for entry to the UK.

The changes mean that, from 1 October 2021, EEA and Swiss citizens outside of those with status under the EU settlement scheme or rights under the withdrawal agreements will, like other nationalities, need a passport to demonstrate nationality and identity at the UK border, rather than use a national identity card.

We have also made a change to the immigration rules which reflects the change in the security situation in Afghanistan, by making changes to allow current and former Afghan locally employed staff (LES) and their family members who are outside Afghanistan to relocate to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and the ex gratia scheme. The schemes had previously only been available to those in Afghanistan.

Further to this we are also making a further change to grant indefinite leave to enter the UK to LES who are approved for relocation to the UK. This will replace the five years’ limited leave they are currently granted. Those already in the UK will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain before their limited leave expires if they choose to.

These changes emphasise the UK commitment to supporting LES and their families to settle in the UK, and our gratitude for the support they provided to UK forces in Afghanistan.

We are launching the new international sportsperson visa category which will amalgamate and replace the tier 2 and tier 5 categories for professional sporting workers with simplified, dedicated visa arrangements.

The tier 5 visa routes are being rebranded to deliver a package of temporary work routes, providing a better service for customers through simplified rules that are aligned with the new points-based system.

We are also launching a dedicated temporary worker-creative worker visa category, tailored to creative workers to better serve the needs of the sector.

Consequential amendments are being made to appendix AR to provide a right of administrative review for eligible decisions under the new international sportsperson route and the rebranded temporary worker routes.

Some changes are being made in respect of the EU settlement scheme (EUSS), which enables EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK by the end of the transition period, and their family members, to obtain the UK immigration status they need to continue living in the UK.

The changes reflect in the immigration rules for the EUSS, in appendix EU, the concession outside the rules for applicants whose continuous residence in the UK has been affected by coronavirus (covid-19) which was published in guidance on 10 June 2021. This will ensure, in a range of circumstances where, due to covid-19, the applicant would have exceeded the permitted absence from the UK, and broken their period of continuous residence, they will continue to qualify for status under the EUSS.

The changes also allow a joining family member to apply to the EUSS whilst in the UK as a visitor, replacing the concession to this effect outside appendix EU currently set out in guidance.

Technical changes are being made to reflect the passing of the 30 June 2021 deadline for applications to the EUSS by those resident in the UK by the end of the transition period (though a late application can still be made where there are reasonable grounds why the person missed that deadline), and to reflect the fact that a person who is exempt from immigration control can, if they wish, apply to the EUSS whilst they remain exempt or they can apply once they have ceased to be exempt.

Changes are being made to the youth mobility scheme (YMS) to rebrand the route from T5 (temporary worker) youth mobility scheme to youth mobility scheme.

We are also expanding our YMS to include new arrangements with Iceland and India. This will deliver on international commitments made via a memorandum of understanding with Iceland and mobility agreements with India. Both schemes are expected to launch on 1 January 2022.

The YMS update will also allow citizens and nationals or the rightful holder of a passport issued by a territory, without deemed sponsorship status, to apply for this route from any post that accepts such applications worldwide.

The allocations for 2022 have also been updated in appendix youth mobility scheme: eligible nationals.

Finally, following a concession made outside the rules to allow the partner and, if applicable, child under 18 of a British national (overseas) (BN(O)) status holder to join the BN(O) status holder following a grant on the Hong Kong British national (overseas) route, this has now been incorporated into the immigration rules for the BN(O) route.

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Transport

HGV Driver Shortage

The HGV driver shortage is a long-standing challenge facing countries across the world.

As a result of the pandemic, driver testing was suspended for large parts of the last year. It is now back up and running and the Government have already increased capacity, but we can go further.

Over the summer, we consulted on three measures which will substantially increase the number of vocational driving tests available. I can announce today that we will proceed with the measures we consulted on:

First, car drivers will no longer need to take another test to tow a trailer or caravan, allowing roughly 30,000 more HGV driving tests to be conducted every year.

Secondly, tests will also be made shorter by removing the “reversing exercise” element—and for vehicles with trailers, the “uncoupling and recoupling” exercise—and having it tested separately by a third party.

And thirdly, we will make it quicker to get a licence to drive an articulated vehicle, without first having to get a licence for a smaller vehicle. This would make around 20,000 more HGV driving tests available every year and mean drivers can gain their licence and enter the industry more quickly, without reducing the rigour of the test.

We have already provided a 50% increase in testing compared to pre-covid. These measures go even further. These new measures follow a public consultation over the summer, which saw thousands of respondents, including industry leaders, support the move as a positive step to help the sector tackle the lorry driver shortage currently affecting countries around the world. Some of these changes will generate additional capacity for HGV tests very rapidly, and we will shortly lay the appropriate licensing regulations before the House. These changes will not change the standard of driving required to drive an HGV, with road safety continuing to be of paramount importance. Any driver who does not demonstrate utmost competence will not be granted a licence. All car drivers will also still be encouraged to undertake training to tow trailers and caravans.

A new cross-Government ministerial group has been set up to monitor labour supply chains, identify pinch points and consider necessary Government action. Chaired by CDL and meeting on a weekly basis, the group includes ministers from numerous Government departments including the DIT, DFE, Home Office, BEIS and DEFRA to make sure all angles are being considered.

The driver shortage is a widespread problem affecting countries across Europe and also the United States, caused by a range of factors, including an ageing workforce. Today’s announcement will ramp up driver testing and numbers and help industry leaders build a resilient haulage sector which attracts drivers from across society.

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