Thursday 24 February 2022
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Platinum Jubilee Pageant Ltd
I am repeating the following written ministerial statement made today in the other place by my noble Friend the Minister for Arts, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay:
I am tabling this statement for the benefit of all members of this House to draw their attention to the departmental minute laid today which provides notice of a contingent liability created by the Department. This is in respect of a request for the Government to provide an underwrite to The Platinum Jubilee Pageant Ltd (“The Pageant Company”) to cover any projected losses should the platinum jubilee pageant be cancelled due to specific, extenuating circumstances. The underwrite will only be agreed in the event of certain conditions being met.
Buckingham Palace has invited the directors of The Pageant Company to deliver the platinum jubilee pageant. The Pageant Company is a company limited by guarantee.
The Pageant Company is independently fundraising to deliver the pageant at no cost to the taxpayer. The Government wish to place on record its thanks to the board of The Platinum Jubilee Pageant Company, and to all their partners and donors, for their efforts to mark this historic moment in our nation's history. Given the Government underwrite will only provide The Pageant Company with financial support in the event that the pageant is cancelled due to specific, extenuating circumstances, the likelihood that the underwrite will be required is low.
The Government underwrite will be capped at £2.45 million, will expire at midnight on Monday 6 June 2022, and will not be used to repay donors.
A copy of the departmental minute will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Higher Education Reform
Today I am announcing the Government proposed plans to reform the higher education sector through the launch of two linked consultations on higher education reform and the lifelong loan entitlement.
The Secretary of State for Education will make an oral statement to the House of Commons later today.
Our university sector is a great success story, home to world-leading universities that are true powerhouses of innovation and research and I am very proud that four of our great institutions are ranked in the top 10 in the world.
That does not mean our system is perfect and it is our duty as Ministers at the Department for Education to deliver solutions to the problems the higher education system is facing and to deliver a fairer deal for students and taxpayers.
These problems were examined in great detail with the review of post-18 education and funding, launched in 2018.1 am grateful to Sir Philip Augar and his panel for their thoughtful and important recommendations across the higher and further education sectors, and I am pleased to say that with the publication of these documents, which address the pivotal higher education recommendations, we have brought this review to its long-awaited conclusion.
Lifelong loan entitlement
One of the independent panel’s core recommendations was the provision of a lifelong learning entitlement. That is why we, the Government, are launching today a consultation on the lifelong loan entitlement, to seek views from the sector and public on the shape and scope of this policy.
Under this flexible skills system, new students will be able to sign up and log in online to find a lifelong loan entitlement worth the equivalent of four years of post-18 education (£37,000 in today’s fees) to be used across Higher and Further Education as they choose. This entitlement can be used for individual modules or full years of study, at higher technical and degree levels, provided in colleges or universities.
People will have the opportunity to train, retrain and upskill as needed, in response to changing skill needs and employment patterns. The lifelong loan entitlement will turn education from a narrow, set destination, into an accessible, long-term and flexible journey.
Picture vehicle technicians who have worked building and fixing diesel vans for 10 years. They know their current roles will eventually become extinct and they want to move to higher-wage, higher-skilled jobs in a growing part of their sector like electric vehicle production. Maybe they have children and time constraints, so they never imagined they would be able to flexibly reskill on a higher education course.
After 2025, these technicians will be able to log onto their online lifelong loan entitlement account and see their loan entitlement and receive clear signposting of the courses and modules they can enrol on in order to reach their career goals.
We will be the first country in the world to implement a system like this at scale. This places us in a brilliant position to have an education system and economy that work hand-in-glove together to produce a highly skilled, highly paid workforce. I look forward to working closely with the sector to implement this entitlement as part of the wider levelling-up agenda.
Interest rates and tuition fees
We have thought carefully about fairness for students in our consideration of the independent panel’s recommendations. I am delighted to announce that we will deliver our manifesto commitment to address the interest rates on student loans, by reducing interest to inflation only for new borrowers starting their courses in academic year 2023-24. This will mean that, under these new terms, borrowers will not repay more, in real terms, than they borrow.
We will also continue to freeze tuition fee caps for undergraduate degrees up to and including academic year 2024-25, meaning the maximum fee cap will have remained at £9,250 for seven years. This will reduce debt levels for students in real terms and encourage higher education providers to increase efficiency further. In combination, the reduction in interest rates and the two-year fee freeze mean a borrower entering a three-year course in academic year 2023-24 could see their debt reduced by up to £6,500 at the point at which they become eligible to repay. When the total seven-year fee freeze is taken into account, this totals up to £11,500 less debt, at the point at which they become eligible to repay.
Fairer system for students and taxpayers
It is now more important than ever that we have a funding system for Higher Education that is fair for both students and taxpayers. Without intervention, the student loan book is estimated to reach over half a trillion pounds, in financial year 2020-21 prices, by April 2043, up from £161 billion in April 2021. Only 23% of borrowers who enter full-time higher education in academic year 2023-24 are forecast to repay their loans in full. This is not fair for taxpayers, many of whom will have chosen not to go to university. This is not a sustainable basis upon which to maintain a world-class university sector.
Further changes to student loan repayment terms are necessary to keep higher education accessible for students with the ability and desire to benefit from it, while keeping costs down for the taxpayer. The annual income threshold above which post-2012 student loan borrowers are required to make repayments on their loans will be kept at its current level of £27,295 until April 2025. For new student loan borrowers who start their studies from September 2023 onwards, there will be a repayment threshold of £25,000, rising with inflation from April 2027 onwards, and a loan term of 40 years. With the current 30-year loan term, graduates who finish their course in their 20s will have unpaid loans written off in their early 50s, a period when the earnings premium for most borrowers is still likely to be significant. These changes will increase the proportion of 2023-24 entrants who are forecast to repay in full to over half, as well as enabling the significant reduction in interest rates for new loan borrowers.
We have considered carefully how we can support disadvantaged students with this package of reforms. We want access to higher education to be dependent on attainment and ability to succeed rather than background. Our proposals to reduce the fees and loans for foundation years will help make them more affordable for those who would benefit from another chance to access high-quality higher education at lower cost. Our flagship national state scholarship worth up to £75 million will help support high-achieving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their dream, regardless of course or university.
The changes to student finance and funding are detailed in full in the higher education policy statement and reform consultation.
Investment in higher education
In addition, we are putting almost £900 million of new investment into our fantastic system over the next three years. This includes the largest increase in Government funding for the sector to support students and teaching in over a decade. £750 million will be invested in high-quality teaching and facilities including in science and engineering, subjects that support the NHS, and degree apprenticeships.
We are consulting on policies that will help to ensure every student can have confidence that they are on a high-quality course that will lead to good outcomes. These policies build on the significant regulatory reform we are taking forward with the Office for Students to drive up quality and standards, and tackle pockets of low-quality provision, setting expectations on completion rates and progression to graduate jobs or further study, and taking action where provision does not meet these expectations. These are key priorities which we recognise the importance of taking forward. We are also working to improve transparency in course advertising, so that in next year’s admissions cycle, adverts provide comparable data on the percentage of students who have completed their course, and the percentage who have gone into professional employment or further advanced study.
Our consultation on low-level minimum eligibility requirements and limited student number controls will seek views on how we can ensure everyone who goes to university will be able to reap its benefits and help us to deliver real social mobility. This means shifting from a focus of simply getting students through the door, to ensuring they complete their course and secure good outcomes after they graduate.
It is therefore right that we have the conversation about low-level minimum eligibility requirements, which could for example be a return to the old requirement of two E grades at A-level, or a grade 4 in GCSE English and Maths. These could also include a number of exemptions on which we are consulting. We should not be pushing young people into university if they are not ready.
Bringing further education and higher education closer together
Higher technical skills are vital to meeting the needs of the economy now and in the future. As a result, and as a pathway to the lifelong loan entitlement, we are rolling out higher technical qualifications (HTQs). These are level 4 and 5 qualifications approved as providing the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours that employers need. Higher technical qualifications are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, drawing on the advice of their employer panels, using the same framework of employer-led standards which underpin higher apprenticeships. They will be offered by further education colleges, universities, independent providers, and institutes of technology.
Higher technical courses can lead to better life chances for those who take them. We are addressing financial barriers for learners and moving towards the flexibility envisaged by the lifelong loan entitlement by placing the student finance package for higher technical qualifications on par with degrees, from academic year 2023-24. This means extending student finance access to higher technical qualifications and allowing part-time learners to access maintenance loans, as they can with degrees. Together these reforms will help to bring together further and higher education, in line with the independent panel’s recommendations.
While we are considering and implementing a range of reforms, after careful analysis of responses to the separate consultation on post-qualification admissions, we have decided not to proceed with this at this time. I want to thank the sector for their considered input and assure them that we will work to address underlying problems that underpinned calls to introduce post-qualification admissions.
As a whole, I believe that these reforms are fit for a dynamic and growing economy. I am confident they will set up the sector for great success in the years to come. These reforms will keep our student finance system future-proofed and fair for students and taxpayers and help to ensure that higher education remains open to anyone with the ability and desire to benefit from it.
Health and Social Care
Coronavirus Test Device Approval
The UK is developing one of the most rigorous regulatory regimes in the world for coronavirus tests. The coronavirus test device approval regulations set high bars of specificity and sensitivity to ensure only high-quality tests are available on the UK market.
I have been impressed by the number of applications that the validation process has received to date. This figure currently stands at 212 applications across all antigen and molecular test devices. This is a testament to the willingness of businesses to rise to the public health challenges set by this pandemic. However, some manufacturers have struggled to provide sufficient evidence in time.
In order to ensure the greatest possible number of high-quality tests are available to the public, we have worked closely with applicants to support them through the process, which inevitably slows the validation process overall. As of 24 February 2022, 31 devices are on the approved products list and officials continue to work closely with applicants to support them through the process.
To avoid the serious public health risk posed by a shortage of covid-19 tests, I exercised my power under regulation 39A of the Medical Devices Regulations 2002 to permit certain tests with a pending application to remain on the market up to 28 February 2022, or until their validation application is determined, as a temporary protocol.
With the current end date of the protocol being 28 February 2022, this means some useful devices would have to be temporarily removed from the market while they complete their validation under the CTDA process. This will likely create a contraction in supply to the market, particularly of self-test lateral flow devices. This presents a serious risk to supply chains and testing used by vulnerable people. Therefore, the creation of two new protocols is needed to address the public health risks presented by the ending of the current protocol, otherwise, these devices would be removed from the UK market.
From 1 March 2022, I am now intending to create two new protocols, one for three months for certain devices until 31 May 2022 and one for six months until 31 August 2022. These new protocols would replace the current protocol which expires on 28 February 2022.
The tests that are permitted to remain on the market with a pending validation application are listed in the protocol on gov.uk. These tests have been selected because they have been through similar validation previously by a public sector body and have an existing CTDA application. There is, therefore, a reasonable expectation that the performance of these tests can be trusted to protect the public from the risk posed by false results.
I have placed copies of both protocols in the Libraries of each House of Parliament and they have been published on the gov.uk website.
Early Medical Abortion: Extension of Temporary Arrangements
Today I am announcing a six-month extension to the temporary arrangements for the provision of early medical abortion put in place during the covid pandemic. The Government will end the temporary approval put in place at the beginning of the pandemic that allows women to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 10 weeks gestation at home. The temporary approval will end at midnight on 29 August 2022. From this point, the pre-covid regulatory requirements for the provision of early medical abortion will be reinstated.
At the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Government put in place a temporary approval in England, enabling women to take both pills for early medical abortion up to 9 weeks and 6 days gestation in their own homes if they chose to do so. A telephone or e-consultation must have first taken place with a clinician. However, women did not need to physically attend a hospital or clinic. Prior to the pandemic, only the second pill for early medical abortion could be taken at home and women were required to attend a clinic to take the first pill.
This temporary measure was put in place at the start of a public health emergency, to address a specific and acute medical need, reducing the risk of transmission of covid-19 and ensuring continued access to abortion services. At the time, a decision was made to time limit the approval for two years or until the pandemic was over, whichever was earliest.
After careful consideration, the Government’s view is that the provision of early medical abortion should return to pre-covid arrangements. The wellbeing and safety of women requiring access to abortion services has been, and will continue to be, our first and foremost priority.
Thanks to the success and impact of the national vaccination and booster programme, we are in a very different position compared to the beginning of the pandemic. However, health services and the workforce have been under increased pressure in recert months. A short-term extension of the temporary approval will be made to enable a sure and reliable return to pre-pandemic arrangements and continued access to services.
The replacement temporary measure will end at midnight on 29 August 2022.
As with any healthcare service, this measure will be kept under review.
I am depositing a copy of the summary of responses to the Government’s consultation on this issue in the Libraries of both Houses.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures
Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.
The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.
TPIM notices in force (as of 30 November 2021) 4 Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period) 0 TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 30 November 2021) 4 TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period) 0 TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period) 0 TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period) 0 Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period) 5 Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period) 0 The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period) 2
TPIM notices in force (as of 30 November 2021)
Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period)
TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 30 November 2021)
TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)
TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)
Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)
Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)
The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period)
The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The fourth quarter TRG meetings were held in January 2022.
British National Overseas Immigration: Hong Kong
The Government are today announcing changes to the British National (Overseas) immigration route.
On 31 January 2021, the UK launched a bespoke immigration route for British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) status holders and their family members. The route reflects the UK’s historic and moral commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking up BN(O) status before Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, and followed China’s passing of the national security law which significantly impacts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.
The route has already been a great success and as of 31 December 2021, there have been 103,900 applications since the route launched.
The current rules enable adult children of a BN(O) status holder to apply as a dependant if they apply at the same time as their BN(O) parent, are part of their parent’s household in Hong Kong, the UK or the Crown dependencies and were born on or after 1 July 1997. However, some of this cohort cannot currently access the BN(O) route because their BN(O) parent does not wish to apply, because they are not part of their parent’s household, or they are unable to apply at the same time.
It was right to think about the family unit of the BN(O), but this is creating unfair outcomes for the families of BN(O) status holders with some children able to access the route independently as they were old enough to be registered for BN(O) status, while their younger siblings aged between 18 and 24 are unable to access the route. It is right and important to address this so the Government have made the decision to enable individuals aged 18 or over who were born on or after 1 July 1997 and who have at least one BN(O) parent to apply to the route independently of their BN(O) parent.
This cohort will still be required to meet all of the other suitability and eligibility requirements for the route, including six months maintenance funds and the requirement for the applicant to be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, the UK, or the Crown dependencies. Applicants will also need to pay the existing application fees for the route (£180 if applying for 30 months leave or £250 if applying for five years leave) as well as the immigration health surcharge. They will be able to be joined in the UK by their partner and children under the age of 18. After five years in the UK those on the BN(O) route will be able to apply for settlement, followed by citizenship after a further 12 months.
We intend to lay the changes to the immigration rules in September with the changes expected to go live in October.
This Government are committed to ensuring those planning to make the UK their home feel fully supported and welcomed when starting their lives here. As with those who have already come to the UK on the BN(O) route, this additional cohort will have access to the provisions available through the UK-wide Welcome programme led by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which consists of a package of support with up to £43.1 million made available so far.
We look forward to welcoming applications from those individuals who wish to make the UK their home.
Disclosure and Barring Regime
On 21 July 2021, the Government published their “Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls” strategy. The strategy sets out a raft of measures capturing activity across Government to prioritise prevention, support victims and survivors and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. The strategy also set out measures to strengthen and ensure the systems and agencies in place both take action to tackle violence against women and girls and work together to do so. This included the commitment that the Home Office would undertake a review of the disclosure and barring regime to provide assurance on its effectiveness in safeguarding the vulnerable. The regime helps employers to make informed and safer recruitment decisions through the disclosure of relevant criminal records. The review will assess the effectiveness of the regime in England and Wales in safeguarding the vulnerable.
I am pleased to announce today that I have appointed Simon Bailey, ex chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary and National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection and abuse investigation, to lead this review. With over 35 years of experience serving with the police and working on those areas to protect those most vulnerable within society, including the creation of a project to change the way the police service responds to vulnerability, exploitation and abuse, Mr Bailey brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge.
To further support the review I have also appointed Stephen Linehan QC, who holds extensive experience of dealing with victims, witnesses and defendants and has worked on cases related to rape and serious sexual offences, including those involving children, young persons and vulnerable adults. Mr Bailey will also engage with those offering expert knowledge on areas linked to those delivering the regime, a representative of victims and survivors and an independent representative to provide input on policy delivery.
The review will commence immediately and will aim to report to me in the summer of 2022. Its focus will be to identify key issues of concern about the current regime; consider current responses to them; assess and advise on risks and opportunities; and make recommendations for improvement.
I will place a copy of the terms of reference for the review in the Libraries of both Houses.
Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation: 2019 Report
In accordance with section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2006, Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has prepared a report on the operation in 2019 of the Terrorism Acts, which was laid before the House on 23 March 2021.
I am grateful to Mr Hall for his report and have carefully considered the recommendations and observations included within. I am today laying before the House the Government’s response to the report (CP 623). Copies will be available in the Vote Office and it will also be published on gov.uk.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Rough Sleeping: Annual Snapshot
Today the annual rough sleeping snapshot is published which shows that the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn has fallen to an eight-year low and almost halved since 2017, with a reduction of 49%. This year the numbers have fallen by 9%, with falls seen in every region across England.
These figures are the result of remarkable work and dedication from local authorities, charities and other local partners, backed up by significant Government funding and support. This year alone we are investing £800 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, including £202 million for the rough sleeping initiative which is empowering local areas to deliver tailored local solutions for rough sleeping. It also includes funding for the rough sleeping accommodation programme, which is delivering 6,000 homes for rough sleepers—the biggest ever investment in housing of this kind. We are also investing up to £52 million for rehab and detox services for people with drug or alcohol issues. The statistics released today are proof that this approach is working and is helping thousands of vulnerable people to turn their lives around.
At the local authority level, the three largest decreases are in Westminster, Manchester and Exeter. Westminster faces a significant flow of new rough sleepers to the borough, and has focused on immediate accommodation, triaging cases for support and rapid, effective move on into more settled accommodation. In Manchester, its partnership working alongside an assertive outreach approach has contributed to its reductions in the number of people sleeping rough. Exeter has focused on a flexible off the street offer and has worked to minimise returns to the street. These areas are all fantastic examples of what can be achieved when local partners and local leaders work with central Government to develop ambitious plans. We look forward to seeing further progress in the coming years, particularly through local areas’ rough sleeping initiative 2022 to 2025 plans.
We have also published today further monthly management information for February to December 2021, which shows numbers of people on the street, numbers in emergency accommodation and their nationality, and numbers moved on into settled accommodation. Publishing this additional data provides greater transparency about rough sleeping levels across the year and helps also to track progress in providing individuals with safe accommodation.
Since May 2020, thousands of people have been helped into long-term accommodation. Our figures show that as at the end of December 2021, 40,240 individuals have been supported into long-term accommodation. Both the annual rough sleeping snapshot statistics and the additional management information published today show positive progress and demonstrate the impact of the significant support Government has put in place to support rough sleepers off the streets, including throughout the pandemic.
We want rough sleeping to be prevented wherever possible and, when it does happen, to ensure that rough sleeping is rare, brief and non-recurring. To deliver this we will bring forward a bold, new strategy to end rough sleeping. The strategy will set out how we will ensure rough sleeping is prevented in the first instance and is effectively responded to in the rare cases where it does occur, but also that our police have the ability to intervene where needed and to keep people safe.
We know that we cannot end rough sleeping without a whole system, cross-Government approach, which is why working together is critical to providing individuals with the range of support and services that they need—working with relevant Government Departments, local authorities, police forces, the health sector and the voluntary sector to achieve this. This will be supported by the £2 billion we have committed to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next three years.
Every person brought off the street represents a life that has been turned around, thanks to the dedication and hard work of local partners. This Government are committed to ending rough sleeping, and we will continue to work with local and national partners to achieve this.
Machinery of Government: UK-EU Relationship
Responsibility for the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union, including oversight of the implementation of the trade and co-operation agreement and the withdrawal agreement, is being moved to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The transfer of responsibilities to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office aligns the UK’s European strategy and bilateral relationships with the Department’s diplomatic expertise, as we continue to build a new relationship with the EU and its member states as sovereign equals, underpinned by trade, our shared belief in freedom and democracy and co-operation on common global challenges.