Tuesday 29 March 2022
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Government have condemned the use of threats of dismissal and re-engagement on reduced terms, so-called “fire and rehire”, as a negotiation tactic when employers are seeking to renegotiate contracts.
Last year I asked the Advisory. Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to look at this issue, and welcomed the publication of their online guidance. In the guidance, ACAS states that an employer should only consider dismissing and offering to rehire someone on new terms as a last resort. Before doing so, an employer must have made all reasonable attempts to reach agreement through a full and thorough consultation. The guidance is available at: Considering employment contract changes: Making changes to employment contracts – employer responsibilities - Acas
The Government will go further. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will bring forward a statutory code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement, under section 203 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. We will bring this forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.
This statutory code of practice will be admissible in evidence before a court or employment tribunal in England, Scotland and Wales. Where relevant, statutory codes are referred to by employment tribunal judges when deciding the level of award an employee is entitled to. Subject to satisfying the statutory requirements the tribunal can award an uplift in compensation to the employee subject to a maximum of 25% of the overall award. This increases the size of the sanction for companies who abuse the process and do not treat their employees fairly, and should provide a further deterrent effect.
The Government will set out next steps after recess, and will be consulting on the draft code later this year as required by law.
Civil Contingencies Act: 2022 Post-Implementation Review
I am pleased to inform the House that a comprehensive report, the “2022 Post Implementation Review of the Civil Contingencies Act” has today been laid before Parliament. This will succeed the 2017 “Report of the Post Implementation Review of the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) (Contingency Planning) Regulations 2005” in fulfilling the Government’s statutory obligation to review the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) every five years, as stipulated in regulation 59 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Contingency Planning) Regulations 2005.
The CCA sets out a framework for emergency preparedness in the UK, it defines what an emergency is, creates the conditions for effective multi-agency working at the local level and provides emergency powers which allow the Government to react quickly to make temporary special legislation in the most serious of emergencies. Emergency preparedness, supported by the CCA, is essential to protect the UK from hazards and threats that have the potential to cause harm. This post-implementation review (PIR) provides a technical assessment of the legislative framework to ensure that it remains appropriate and sufficient in order to maintain and improve the emergency preparedness landscape. This report will act as a building block for wider work to continue in the coming months and years to make the UK as resilient as possible.
To produce this report, the Government have conducted extensive consultation on the CCA with a range of stakeholders at the local and national level including local resilience forums (LRFs), responder organisations and the devolved Administrations, as well as providing opportunity for public comment on the Act via the resilience strategy call for evidence (summer 2021). Lessons from events since the last PIR were also considered.
The evidence gathered has demonstrated that fundamentally the CCA has served responders well since 2004 and that the principles of subsidiarity, co-operation and co-ordination it sets out remain key. The CCA, as a whole, is fit for purpose. However, the PIR does recommend a number of technical changes to improve the legislative framework under four key themes: role of LRFs and resilience structures; assurance and accountability; categorisation and duties on responder organisations; and part 2—emergency powers and regional nominated co-ordinator. A comprehensive description of these recommendations can be found in the full report.
Following the laying of the PIR, the Government will now turn their attention to how these recommendations may be implemented, beginning first with a process of impact assessments and further stakeholder engagement to ensure that enacting the recommendations will achieve their intended purposes. The Government will also continue to consider which future policy changes may be required to ensure local levels of preparedness meet future needs effectively.
Government Efficiency Savings 2020-21
As we set out in June 2021’s declaration on Government reform, HM Government are committed to strengthening the cross-Government functions to better support Departments’ delivery capability and maximise value for money for taxpayers.
In the financial year 2020-21, the Government continued their work to deliver savings to the UK taxpayer by improving operational efficiency and effectiveness. Functions, Departments and other central Government bodies have worked together to realise significant efficiencies in how services and outcomes are delivered. The figures set out here are those which meet the definition of cashable savings. Cashable savings are those which lead to a direct reduction (all other things being equal) in a Department’s budget.
During 2020-21, cashable savings totalled £3.4 billion. £1.9 billion of this was delivered through reducing losses from fraud and error, improving debt management and improving the effectiveness of grants. £1.4 billion of the savings were enabled by commercial teams driving improvements in the procurement of goods and services across Government. £142 million of the savings were delivered by digital teams supporting Departments to bring capability in-house and reducing the cost of running IT services. All of these savings have been assured for accuracy and robustness by the Government Internal Audit Agency.
Some improvements to efficiency and effectiveness, such as increases in quality or avoided expenditure, do not deliver cashable savings. As a result, we believe the figure of £3.4 billion understates the total savings and benefits delivered across central Government. Examples of these improvements include the work of functions to deliver expert advice, build professional capability, share good practice, and support continuous improvement. Further illustrations of this work can be found in the efficiency announcement which we have published on gov.uk.
We will provide regular, annual updates on how functional reform and the increasing professionalisation of government is delivering substantial savings and benefits for taxpayers and service users.
Copies of the 2020-21 efficiency announcement and accompanying technical note will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses in Parliament.
Financial Services Update
I can today inform the House of the disposal of approximately £1.2 billion worth of Government-owned NatWest Group plc—formerly Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS—shares, representing approximately 4.91% of the company, by way of a directed buyback transaction.
Approximately £1.2 billion worth of shares were sold to NatWest in a single bilateral transaction on 28 March 2022.
The Government remaining shareholding represents approximately 48.1% of voting rights in the company, meaning that for the first time since the financial crisis NatWest is no longer under majority public ownership.
It is Government policy that where a Government asset no longer serves a public policy purpose the Government may choose to sell that asset, subject to being able to achieve value for money. This frees up public resource which can be deployed to achieve other public policy objectives.
The Government are committed to returning NatWest to full private ownership, given that the original policy objective for the intervention in NatWest—to preserve financial and economic stability at a time of crisis—has long been achieved. The Government only conducts sales of NatWest shares when it represents value for money to do so and market conditions allow. This sale represents a landmark for Government in exiting the assets acquired as a result of the 2007 to 2008 financial crisis, as it takes the Government’s shareholding below 50%.
Format and timing
The Government, supported by advice from UK Government Investments, concluded that selling shares to NatWest, in a single bilateral transaction, represented value for money.
Share buybacks are a common practice undertaken by companies looking to efficiently deploy their excess capital. On 6 February 2019, NatWest obtained shareholder authority to purchase shares held by Government at market price. This authority was renewed at subsequent NatWest annual general meetings in April 2019, April 2020 and April 2021.
This is the fifth large block sale of NatWest shares undertaken by the Government, following previous disposals in August 2015, June 2018, March 2021 and May 2021. This is the second sale of shares via an off-market share sale directly to the company.
The sale concluded on 28 March 2022, with NatWest purchasing a limited number of its Government owned shares. A total of approximately 550 million shares, approximately 4.91% of the bank, were sold at the 25 March 2022 closing price of 220.5p per share. The reduction in the Government’s shareholding is less than the percentage sold following the cancellation of shares by NatWest. Following this transaction the Government shareholding stands at approximately 48.1%.
Details of the sale are summarised below:
Government stake in NWG pre-sale c.5,669 million shares Total shares sold to NWG c.550 million shares Share price at market close on 25/03/2022 220.5p Total proceeds from the sale c.£1.2 billion Government stake in NWG post-sale (as % of total voting rights) c.48.1 %
Government stake in NWG pre-sale
c.5,669 million shares
Total shares sold to NWG
c.550 million shares
Share price at market close on 25/03/2022
Total proceeds from the sale
Government stake in NWG post-sale (as % of total voting rights)
The net impacts of the sale on a selection of fiscal metrics are summarised as follows:
Metric Impact Net sale proceeds c.£1.2bn Retention value range Within the valuation range Nil Public Sector Net Borrowing There may be future indirect impacts as a result of the sale. The sale proceeds reduce public sector debt. All else being equal, the sale will reduce future debt interest costs for Government. The reduction in Government’s shareholding means it will not receive future dividend income it may otherwise have been entitled to through these shares. Public Sector Net Debt c.£1.2bn Public Sector Net Financial Liabilities Nil Public Sector Net Liabilities Nil
Net sale proceeds
Retention value range
Within the valuation range
Public Sector Net Borrowing
There may be future indirect impacts as a result of the sale. The sale proceeds reduce public sector debt. All else being equal, the sale will reduce future debt interest costs for Government.
The reduction in Government’s shareholding means it will not receive future dividend income it may otherwise have been entitled to through these shares.
Public Sector Net Debt
Public Sector Net Financial Liabilities
Public Sector Net Liabilities
Contingency Liability for Ajax Lessons Learned Review
I wish to inform the House that I am today laying a Departmental Minute to advise of a new contingent liability associated with the Ajax Lessons Learned Review.
Clive Sheldon QC has agreed to lead the review. Negotiations are ongoing and the contingent liability will come into force on the formal appointment of the Chair.
The Departmental Minute describes the contingent liability that the MOD will hold, which will provide an indemnity for conducting and reporting the review. The maximum contingent liability held against the MOD is unquantifiable and will remain following publication of the report.
It is usual to allow a period of 14 sitting days prior to accepting a contingent liability, to provide Members of Parliament an opportunity to raise any objections.
Exposure is limited to the contingent liability of any legal action in the run-up to and following the publication of the Review’s report. It will not cover claims for liabilities:
Arising from any fraud, wilful misconduct, dishonesty, or gross negligence on the part of a member of the Review Team;
Arising from any wilful breach of any contract or agreement with the Ministry of Defence relating to the Review Team.
It is the view of the Department that the likelihood of any claim is remote.
UK Defence Contribution in High North
Today I am publishing a new defence policy document for the high north, “The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North.” I have placed a copy in the Library of the House. The purpose of this defence high north paper is to ensure that future defence policies, activities and capabilities relevant to the high north region are coherent and effectively integrated with HMG’s broader objectives for the region.
The UK’s defence contribution in the high north sits as part of the broader UK Government approach to the region defined most recently in the 2018 Arctic policy framework, “Beyond the Ice.” While its focus is on the Arctic and high north, it notes that the region is contiguous with the north Atlantic and cannot be isolated from UK interests in adjacent regions, including northern Europe and the Baltic sea region, and the rest of the world. The UK Government will be reviewing its broader approach to the Arctic and will publish a new, integrated Arctic policy framework later in 2022.
“The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North” lays out how defence will support wider UK aims, as outlined in “Beyond the Ice.” The main commitments include:
Protecting our critical national infrastructure and our other national interests, and those of our allies and partners.
Ensuring our freedom to navigate and operate across the wider region.
Reinforcing the rules-based international system, particularly UNCLOS.
Contesting malign and destabilising behaviours.
The MOD recognises the growing importance of the high north to our defence and security, the opportunities it presents, and the potential for growing competition and tensions in the region. The MOD is determined to play its part in a Government-wide integrated approach, alongside allies and partners, to ensure that increasing access to the region and its resources is managed safely, sustainably and responsibly. This strategy sets out our commitment. It is intended to guide defence efforts over a 10-year period, including long-term capability decisions, but will be reviewed on a regular basis.
“The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North” can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2022-03-29/HCWS738/.
Contingent Liability for Ajax Lessons Learned Review
I wish to provide a further update to Parliament on the Ajax equipment project being delivered as part of the Armoured Cavalry programme.
Ajax is designed to provide ground mounted reconnaissance, allowing the Army to understand the battlefield in all weathers, 24 hours a day. Part of our £41 billion investment in Army equipment and support over the next 10 years, this modernisation is critical to address future threats.
Health and safety
On 15 December, I announced the publication of the report from the MOD’s Director of Health, Safety and Environmental Protection into the health and safety concerns raised by noise and vibration on the Ajax vehicles.
The report made 20 recommendations. Implementation of the recommendations is now under way. Some have already been implemented in full, for example the Army has stood up its noise and vibration working groups (Recommendation 2.2); future trials of armoured vehicles will have real-time measurement of noise and vibration (Recommendations 3 & 11); and we were already taking action to ensure our SROs and project leads stay in post longer (Recommendation 13.1). The remainder are being progressed. We continue to consider the recommendation relating to the overlap of demonstration and manufacture stages (Recommendation 9) to ensure it is implemented in a way that does not hinder our efforts to create a more agile approach to defence acquisition, consistent with the defence and security industrial strategy, and which reflects the industrial processes in different sectors.
Update on personnel
Following the most recent assessment on 17 February 2022, of the 310 people identified as working with Ajax, 13 individuals have had long-term restrictions on noise exposure recommended, potentially requiring a limitation in their military duties. The majority of these had pre-existing hearing issues prior to working on Ajax; some did not. A further five individuals remain under specialist outpatient care for hearing and other ENT issues. In addition, it remains the case that four individuals who worked on Ajax have been discharged on health grounds, in some cases for reasons wholly unrelated to hearing loss.
It remains the case that no individuals have had long-term restrictions or been discharged as a result of vibration. However, assessments continue for both hand-transmitted and whole-body vibration.
Lessons learned review
The health and safety report highlighted shortcomings that need to be addressed. Although the report only addressed the health and safety aspects of Ajax, it pointed to some cultural and systemic issues that have the potential to go beyond health and safety. That is why the Defence Secretary and I have commissioned an independent follow-on lessons learned review and I am pleased to announce that Clive Sheldon QC has agreed to lead the review. I am sharing copies of the terms of reference with the Public Accounts and Defence Select Committees and placing a copy in the Library of the House.
Work continues to resolve the noise and vibration issues. Testing is now under way to verify the effectiveness of modifications proposed by General Dynamics to mitigate the noise and vibration issues to a safe and acceptable level. We will then need to analyse this data in order to understand the practicalities of allowing trials and training to resume.
It remains the case that we cannot yet set a date for the introduction of Ajax into service with the Army. Once a solution to the noise and vibration problems has been identified by GDUK and agreed by the Department, we will need to agree with General Dynamics a realistic schedule to initial operating capability and full operating capability.
In parallel with looking at noise on Ajax vehicles, the MOD has commissioned independent testing of the performance of all headsets used in the full range of in-service armoured fighting vehicles to ensure the specific headsets issued to service personnel offer the best balance between protection and functionality. We are also testing other commercially available headsets for use in our in-service fleet of vehicles. As a precaution, in December 2021, we placed temporary restrictions on the use of headsets across our in-service fleet of armoured vehicles, restrictions we were able to relax later that month as a result of the testing conducted. We continue to be able to fully meet all ongoing, planned and likely operational commitments.
The focus for the MOD and General Dynamics remains on developing and delivering long-term solutions for noise and vibration. We are working closely with General Dynamics and it is showing great commitment to resolving these issues. Until we know what those solutions are, it is not possible to determine a realistic timescale for the introduction of Ajax vehicles into operational service with the Army. We want it to succeed and to deliver what the British Army requires with the utmost urgency. We have a robust firm price contract for the delivery of 589 vehicles at a cost of £5.5 billion. We will not accept a vehicle that is not fit for purpose.
The terms of reference can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2022-03-29/HCWS739/
High Needs Provision Capital Allocations
I am today announcing High Needs Provision Capital Allocations (HNPCA) amounting to over £1.4 billion of new investment. This funding is to support local authorities to deliver new places for academic years 2023-24 and 2024-25 and improve existing provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or who require alternative provision (AP).
This funding forms part of the £2.6 billion we are investing between 2022 and 2025, represents a significant, transformational investment in new high needs provision and will support local authorities to deliver new places in mainstream and special schools, as well as other specialist settings. It will also be used to improve the suitability and accessibility of existing buildings.
Combined with the recommendations outlined in the SEND Green Paper released today, this capital investment will support efforts to ensure the high needs system is sustainable into the future.
This funding is on top of the £300 million invested in financial year 2021-22 and our ongoing delivery of new special and AP free schools. There are currently 67 applications approved to open new special and AP free schools.
Full details of this announcement, including allocations broken down by local authority and the methodology used to distribute funding, have been published on the Department for Education section on the gov.uk website here:
Health and Social Care
Covid-19 Testing: Future Approach in England
On 21 February 2022, the Government published, “Covid-19 Response: Living with Covid-19” which set out the Government’s plan for living with covid-19. This included removing remaining legal domestic restrictions while continuing to protect people most at risk of serious illness from covid-19 and maintaining resilience.
The Government’s objective in the next phase of the covid-19 response is to enable the country to manage covid-19 like other respiratory illnesses, while minimising mortality and retaining the ability to respond if a new variant emerges with more dangerous properties than the omicron variant. As a result, the Government now assess that it is time to transition their response towards guidance and encouraging responsible behaviours, while targeting protection towards those individuals most at risk from the virus. I have today set out the future approach in England to testing beyond April.
The “Living with Covid-19” strategy is already being implemented. Individuals are no longer legally required to self-isolate, and instead are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if they test positive. This advice will be updated further as set out below. The Government have removed their advice for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake routine twice weekly asymptomatic testing. The Government have started the process of reducing their testing and tracing infrastructure, in preparation for the end of free universal testing from 1 April. We are now reconfiguring our services to target Government testing provision to enable treatment and protect our most vulnerable settings.
The Government will continue to provide free symptomatic testing for:
Patients in hospital, for whom a test is required for clinical management or to support treatment pathways.
People who are eligible for covid-19 treatments, because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from covid-19. People in this group will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests.
Individuals who live or work in high-risk closed settings, for example in some NHS, social care and prison—and other places of detention—settings where infection needs to be identified quickly to minimise outbreaks.
NHS England will be writing to those eligible people to inform them of the new process.
DHSC will continue to fund some asymptomatic testing in NHS services, during periods of higher prevalence, including for staff and patients.
For ASC services and hospices, DHSC will also continue to fund some regular asymptomatic testing for staff in periods of high prevalence. Asymptomatic testing of care home and hospice residents will be provided on admission and during an outbreak, not routinely.
In addition, in some closed or semi-closed settings, for example: parts of the prison estate, places of detention, and some refuges and shelters, where individuals are at high risk of severe disease outcome and infection can spread rapidly, asymptomatic testing will continue to mitigate risk during higher prevalence periods.
Most visitors to adult social care settings, and visitors in the NHS, prisons or places of detention will no longer be required to take a test.
UKHSA will maintain critical surveillance capabilities to provide insight into emerging threats and retain contingency capabilities to enable a rapid response . This includes genomic sequencing to identify a variant of concern and the ability to scale up a national response, should that be warranted. It will retain the ability to enable a rapid testing response should it be needed, such as because of a new variant of concern. UKHSA will also retain critical lab and contingency infrastructure, delivery channels, mobile testing units, and accompanying digital infrastructure. Altogether, this will ensure we retain critical resilience—giving rapid, reactive capability to respond to a future health threat, while a more comprehensive response can be scaled.
Guidance will be published on 1 April that sets out the actions that those with symptoms of covid-19 or respiratory illness should take to reduce risk of infection to others.
UKHSA is committed to working with devolved Governments to take forward the testing programme in each nation in 2022-23.
The Government have provided significant additional funding, through additional borrowing, to respond to the pandemic, the cost of living with covid-19 will be met within existing funding streams, including the additional funding allocated at SR21. The Government will reallocate resources as necessary to pay for the maintenance of our pharmaceutical defences against covid-19 and preserve hard-won freedoms.
Free parking in hospital car parks for NHS staff was temporarily introduced for the duration of the pandemic and will also come to an end on 31 March. However, over 94% of NHS trusts that charge for car parking have implemented free parking for those in greatest need, including NHS staff working overnight.
Finally, on behalf of the Government, I would like to record my thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to keep people safe over the last two years and whose efforts have enabled us to move to the next stage of the covid-19 response.
The Government will continue to work together with our partners to keep all these measures under review.
Immigration Rule Changes
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Priti Patel) is today laying before the House a statement of Changes in Immigration Rules.
The changes reflect our commitments to Ukraine and the main changes are as follows:
We are now formally bringing the Ukraine Family Scheme, launched on 4 March 2022; the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme launched on 18 March 2022; and a new Ukraine Extension Scheme, which will launch on 3 May 2022 into the Immigration Rules.
These new routes show the UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and its citizens. The changes we have made to the visa process are making it quicker and simpler for Ukrainians to come here, as well as ensuring those already here can stay.
A Ukrainian national who is an immediate or extended family member of a person in the UK who is a British citizen, settled in the UK, or who has certain types of limited leave can come to the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme if they were resident in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022. They can also bring their immediate family members to the UK.
A person who meets these requirements who is already in the UK can also apply to stay, so long as they have permission to be in the UK—except as a visitor—or if their permission to stay has recently ended.
Immediate and extended family members include married, civil and durable partners, fiancé(e)s or proposed civil partners, parents—of a person both under and over 18 years old—grandparents, grandchildren, children—both under and over 18 years of age—siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws, as well as their immediate family members—partner, parents and children.
A Ukrainian national and their immediate family members can come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme if they were resident in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022 and have an approved sponsor in the UK who has agreed to provide them with accommodation for at least six months.
A Ukrainian national and their partner and children who had permission to stay in the UK on 18 March 2022—or which has expired since 1 January 2022—can stay in the UK under the Ukraine Extension Scheme.
All the routes are free.
Applicants must also meet suitability requirements and under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme the sponsor and anyone else living in the accommodation will be subject to security checks.
People applying for entry clearance who have a valid Ukrainian passport are able to start their application overseas, and, if they appear to be eligible, they will be permitted to travel to the UK and granted permission to enter for six months on arrival, and they can complete their application for three years’ permission to stay by providing biometrics in the UK.
Successful applicants will be granted permission to stay in the UK with full access to work, study and public funds.
Due to the importance of providing the certainty reflected in these rules, they will come into effect on 30 March 2022 for the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme; and 3 May 2022 for the Ukraine Extension Scheme.
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Social Housing Reform
Everyone in this country deserves to live in a safe and decent home. It is unacceptable in a country like the UK that anyone should have thick black mould covering their walls and have to worry about their children breathing in spores; to be put at risk of slipping on a permanently wet floor; or to have water dripping through their ceiling on to electrical appliances, putting their safety at risk. Yet too many people in social housing do live in circumstances such as these. And too often, social housing residents have simply not been listened to or felt respected by their landlords when they have tried to raise complaints, or simply talk to their landlord about these issues.
The package of reforms I am announcing today helps address these issues and is just one of a number of reforms that the Government have delivered since the Grenfell Tower fire, including the Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Act, to help social housing tenants live in safe and decent homes. We have made progress. In 2010, 20% of social homes were classified as non-decent. In 2019, 13% of social homes were classified as non-decent. However, we must go further.
That is why the Government will bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows which will ensure robust regulation of social housing landlords, a policy that has long been championed by bereaved families and survivors of the Grenfell tragedy. We published “The Charter for Social Housing Residents: Social Housing White Paper” after talking to thousands of residents across the country about their experiences. This set out a wide range of measures designed to drive up standards and fix a broken complaints system including by beefing up regulation of the sector, strengthening the Housing Ombudsman Service, and empowering residents to know and exercise their rights. We know we need to go even further than this to make sure that we are delivering for residents up and down the country, which is why one of our 12 missions set out in the Government’s “Levelling Up” White Paper is to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030.
Today I am announcing a package of measures which represent important steps forward. These measures are:
Social housing regulation legislation
A Resident Panel
Naming and Shaming
Social Housing Regulation Legislation
Social housing tenants deserve to be better informed by their landlords, treated with courtesy and respect and to have their problems quickly resolved. Unfortunately, this has not always been the experience of residents in social housing.
The upcoming legislation will enable a new, proactive approach to the regulation of social housing landlords on consumer issues such as safety, transparency and tenant engagement, with new enforcement powers to tackle failing landlords. It will support a strong new regulatory regime which will drive a significant change in landlord behaviour, ensuring landlords focus on the needs of their tenants and are held to account for their performance.
The upcoming legislation has three core objectives:
To introduce a new, proactive consumer regulation regime so providers of social housing can be effectively held to account for the services they provide to tenants.
To refine the existing economic regulatory regime to make sure social housing providers are well governed and financially viable, to protect homes and investment in new supply.
To strengthen the enforcement powers of the Regulator for Social Housing (“the Regulator”), enabling it to take robust action where landlords are in breach of the standards.
Further information on the sample draft clauses which have been published today can be found here.
The Resident Panel
It is vital that the voices of tenants who live in social housing are heard directly by the Government. That’s why we are announcing the formation of a Resident Panel. The panel will consist of 250 social housing tenants, who will discuss the measures the Government are taking to ensure social landlords provide their residents with a high-quality service and invite residents to help us improve them.
The panel will meet once every four months for the foreseeable future, with residents having the opportunity to inform policy thinking, through sharing their experiences and suggesting ways that the Government can continue to influence landlords to drive change.
Naming and Shaming
While there are many providers of social housing who provide high-quality accommodation and services to tenants, there are too many who fail to meet the standards expected of them. The Government will take a stronger stance on naming and shaming social housing landlords who fail to meet the standards expected of them, by:
publicising on social media where landlords have breached the Regulator’s consumer standards or where the Housing Ombudsman has made its most serious findings of severe maladministration against them;
engaging directly with these landlords where they have not self-referred to the Regulator. If a landlord finds they have breached a regulatory standard, they should let the Regulator know; those who fail to do so will be contacted by Ministers.
We know that too often tenants do not know who to turn to get help when they need it most.
That’s why we are publishing—and promoting—a factsheet to explain the role of the Housing Ombudsman Service and the Regulator. The factsheet reinforces the clear message in our communications campaign “Make Things Right”, which is encouraging residents to use their landlord’s complaints process and where necessary the Housing Ombudsman Service if they’re unhappy with the service from their social housing provider.
Both these organisations seek to improve the service delivered by social housing landlords, but there can be confusion about the respective roles of the two organisations, and where residents should go for support if needed.
The factsheet will outline the support on offer to residents, how landlords are held to account, and the changes that we are making to improve the services provided by the Housing Ombudsman Service and the Regulator of Social Housing.
Accessible Transport: Reference Wheelchair Report
The Government are committed to ensuring disabled passengers have the same access to transport as everyone else, with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier. We want disabled people to be able to travel confidently, easily and without extra cost.
Today, the Government are taking an important step to help fulfil their commitment in the inclusive transport strategy to review its use of the Reference Wheelchair standard.
The ISO Reference Wheelchair standard is the reference point for a range of vehicle and infrastructure designs used across the transport sector and referred to directly and indirectly in accessibility standards for public transport vehicles and infrastructure.
In 2021, the Government commissioned an assessment of the prevalence, dimensions and uses of wheeled mobility-aids in the United Kingdom in relation to the use of the Reference Wheelchair standard on land-based transport modes.
The findings of this assessment estimate that the current Reference Wheelchair standard accommodates 60% of wheelchairs, and 54% of wheeled mobility-aids. However, this does not necessarily mean that the current standards are inadequate, and there will be trade-offs between making transport more inclusive for all passengers by setting more stringent standards that accommodate larger wheelchairs, and the practicalities for transport operators to accommodate larger and more diverse mobility-aids within conventionally sized public transport vehicles.
However, these findings will be used to help form the broader evidence base to determine the design of future vehicles and transport infrastructure to meet mobility-aid users’ needs. In particular, we intend to use these findings to inform the forthcoming review of the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000, which we expect to conclude by the end of 2023.