Monday 4 July 2022
Depositing Framework Documents in the House Libraries
Framework documents constitute a core constitutional document of arm’s length bodies, and it is imperative that accounting officers, board members and senior officials are familiar with them, ensure they are kept up to date and use them as guide to govern the collaborative relationship between the arm’s length body, the sponsor Department and the rest of Government. It is also important for the purposes of scrutiny that Parliament is familiar with these documents, and has ready access to them as they are agreed and updated.
It has long been a requirement under the rules as set out in Managing Public Money for framework documents to be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. In order for the Libraries to receive documents for deposit a ministerial commitment to deposit must be made in the House. To facilitate transparency and ease the process of ensuring these important governance documents are made available to Parliament I am making a commitment on behalf of Government that all framework documents of all central Government arm’s length bodies and public corporations shall be placed in the Library. This commitment should allow Departments to meet their obligations to Parliament more easily and promptly.
I have also asked the Treasury Officer of Accounts to write to all accounting officers to ensure that all existing framework documents have been properly deposited. The public will continue to be able to access these documents via www.gov.uk or the relevant body’s website.
In addition to framework documents transparency is served by Parliament having the opportunity to scrutinise the summaries of accounting officer assessments of major projects. I also make a commitment on behalf of Government that copies of summary accounting officer assessments for projects on the Government Major Projects Portfolio should be deposited in the Library of the House of Commons in line with existing HMT guidance.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Network and Information Systems Regulations 2018: Second Post-Implementation Review
Today I am publishing the statutory post- implementation review of the Network and Information Systems Regulations 2018 on the Government’s website. This is the second review of the regulations since their implementation.
The regulations came into force in May 2018. The objective of the regulations is to improve the security of network and information systems which are critical to the provision of essential services and digital services which, if disrupted, could cause significant economic and social harm to people, businesses, and critical national infrastructure.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has assessed the impact, costs and benefits of the regulations, how effective the regulations have been in achieving the original objectives, and whether those objectives remain appropriate for the UK four years on.
The review is clear that the regulations have acted as an accelerator for improvements to the security of regulated organisations. Regulated organisations have shown an increase in the prioritisation of cyber security at senior level, increased investment in cyber security from boards, the introduction or improvement of cyber security policies, improved incident response management, and a greater awareness of aggregate risks.
The review concludes that the regulations are an effective tool to drive good cyber security behaviours. As such, it recommends that the Government retain the regulations to continue to incentivise organisations in scope to make security improvements.
The report also makes recommendations for changes to strengthen and future-proof the regulatory framework, so that it can adapt effectively to the rapidly evolving landscape. These changes were included in my Department’s public consultation on proposals for cyber security-related legislation in January this year. The outcomes of this consultation will be published later this year.
The next statutory post-implementation review of the regulations will be carried out in the next five years.
Early Years; Early Education and Childcare
This Government are committed to ensuring that families can access high quality and flexible childcare and early education that helps children to leam in their earliest years, provides enriching experiences around school hours and supports families and the economy by enabling parents to work.
With the cost of living rising, we want as many families as possible to benefit from the childcare support they are entitled to, saving them money, and helping to give children the best start in life.
This Government have extended access to early education and childcare to millions of children and parents over the past decade. We invest a significant amount of funding in early education and childcare, including over £3.5 billion in each of the past three years on early education entitlements for two, three and four-year-olds.
We have also introduced tax-free childcare, which provides working parents with support of up to £2,000 a year to help with childcare costs for children under 12, or £4,000 for disabled children under 17, and Universal Credit, where parents can claim back up to 85% of eligible childcare costs, compared to 70% under tax credits.
The Government have today announced plans to improve the cost, choice and availability of childcare that will benefit families and give childcare providers more flexibility and autonomy to make decisions about their settings and needs of children.
We will support more people to become childminders, which are generally the most affordable and flexible form of childcare, by:
Reducing the upfront costs of becoming a childminder via financial support.
Allowing childminders to spend more of their time working from a greater range of locations.
Clarifying flexibilities in childminders’ ratios when looking after their own children, or siblings of other children.
Working with Ofsted to reduce inspection for childminders.
Publishing a slimmed down, childminder specific Early Years Foundation Stage framework.
Encouraging the growth of Childminder Agencies—stimulating competition and driving down costs while providing parents with more options for care.
We will also streamline the Ofsted registration process for providers. More providers registering would mean that parents have a wider choice of providers on which to use these schemes, to pay for childcare that supports their working lives.
With safety and quality at the heart, as a first step, today I am also confirming the publication of two consultations:
Childcare ratios and supervision while eating consultation.
We are consulting on proposed changes to the current statutory minimum early years staff: child ratios in England for two-year-olds from 1:4 to 1:5; and clarifying flexibilities in childminders’ ratios when looking after their own children, or siblings of other children.
These proposals hand greater flexibility and autonomy to providers to exercise professional judgement in their staffing decisions, according to the needs of their children. This change would bring minimum requirements into line with those in Scotland.
As we continue this journey, there will be opportunities to explore further reform to statutory staffing requirements, and this document invites early views on some potential additional options.
We are also consulting on supervision requirements while children are eating, to ensure the safety of every child across early years settings. Engagement with early years providers to date suggests that for many settings, adequate supervision while eating is already understood to mean that children are within sight and hearing of a member of staff. We believe that an explicit requirement in the Early Years Foundation Stage will reinforce this practice and ensure the safety of children in early years settings.
The Early Years National Funding Formula and Maintained Nursery School funding consultation.
We are consulting on updates to the funding formulae for the two-year-old and three and four-year-old early education entitlements in England, the scope of which will also include the distribution of supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools.
We are proposing to update and adjust the funding formulae used to distribute the Government’s investment in the early years entitlements—which deliver 15 or 30 hours a week of free, high quality, flexible childcare for eligible two, three and four-year-olds for 38 weeks a year—fairly and transparently to local authorities across England.
Many of the datasets which underpin these formulae, and which we use to reflect geographical cost variation, are not up to date. It is important that they remain current, to ensure the funding system can be fair, effective and responsive to changing levels of need across different areas, with targeted investment towards those areas where it will do the most good. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, we are therefore planning to update the formulae for the 2023-24 financial year and intend to continue to do so annually thereafter. We are also consulting on proposals to mainstream the early years elements of the teachers’ pay grant and the teachers’ pension employer contribution grant from 2023-24, bringing early years in line with schools and high needs.
The proposed update will result in some changes to local authority funding levels given costs and levels of need in certain areas will have changed relative to others. As such, we are also consulting on applying new year-to-year protections to local authority funding rates, to help local markets to manage changes better. The 2021 spending review settlement allows us to offer protections which means that all local authorities will see an increase in the hourly rate that the Government provide for 2023-24.
We are also consulting on proposals to reform maintained nursery school supplementary funding. Maintained nursery schools make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of some of our most disadvantaged children. As we have confirmed continuation of maintained nursery school supplementary funding throughout the spending review period, it is now right to examine the way in which this funding is distributed to LAs. We are therefore proposing to invest an additional £10 million into maintained nursery school supplementary funding from 2023-24 and are consulting on proposals to create a fairer distribution of the funding across all LAs with maintained nursery schools.
Taken together, our current and proposed reforms not only reflect the Government’s commitment to supporting as many families as possible with access to high quality, affordable childcare, but also provide the foundation for taking a renewed look into the childcare system.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Bishop of Truro's Recommendations: Independent Report
At the beginning of 2019, the former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), asked the Bishop of Truro to review what more the then FCO could do to address the persecution of Christians. The Bishop published a report in July 2019 setting out the gravity of the issue, as well as practical recommendations for an enhanced FCO response to the plight of persecuted Christians and people persecuted for holding other religious beliefs, other beliefs, or no religious belief at all.
Recognising that the persecution of people for their religion or belief is unacceptable and a significant international problem, the Government committed to implementing the recommendations of the Bishop’s review. His final recommendation was that an independent assessment of our progress in doing so should be carried out three years after the original report. I am pleased to publish that assessment today. We welcome and accept this expert review on progress and in line with the findings, accept their assessment for the need to continue to work to promote and strengthen freedom of religion or belief as a fundamental human right for all. We thank the reviewers for their important work. A copy of the report will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
I have seen first-hand how much work has gone in across the organisation to delivering the review recommendations. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon has worked closely with the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), to promote freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) internationally and to oversee progress on implementing the review recommendations. The independent assessment concludes that the majority of the recommendations are either at an advanced stage of delivery or in the process of being delivered, whilst noting that there is still more to do. The reviewers have also recognised where there have been constraints to delivery or an alternative approach has been taken.
I am encouraged by what has been achieved in recent years, in the face of many global challenges. We have led international efforts to increase collaboration to support those who are persecuted for what they believe. In March 2021, Lord Ahmad hosted a meeting at the UN Security Council to raise awareness of persecution of religious minorities in conflict zones. We used our G7 presidency to secure language on FoRB in the G7 communique for the first time, galvanising support for those suffering discrimination and persecution. The FoRB Special Envoy holds the Chair of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance this year, demonstrating UK global leadership on FoRB. We have sent a clear message that the international community will not turn a blind eye to serious and systematic violations of human rights through our global human rights sanctions regime. Religion for international engagement training is now available to all civil servants to enhance their understanding of the role of religion and belief in a wide variety of contexts, in order to deliver the UK’s international objectives more effectively.
Building on this work, we will continue to ensure that the changes we have made are embedded and to look for opportunities to make FoRB central to the FCDO’s wider human rights work. We will do this, working alongside others, to deliver real change for the good, protecting and promoting everyone’s right to freedom of religion or belief.
Our work on this important human rights issue will never be complete, and we will continue to champion global efforts on FoRB. As part of that, on 5-6 July this year, the UK will host an international ministerial conference on freedom of religion or belief. We look forward to welcoming partner countries and stakeholders from around the world to London.
Attachments can be view online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2022-07-04/HCWS174
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Building Regulations: Public Toilet Provision
Toilets, both in municipal and private sector locations, are an important facility for members of the public, in particular, women, those with children, older people and disabled people.
The Government have taken a number of steps recently to support the increased provision of ‘Changing Places’ toilets for disabled people for whom standard accessible toilets are not suitable. Last year, the Government introduced 100% business rates relief for public toilets in England and Wales.
In October 2020, Government published a review: Toilet provision for men and women: call for evidence. This stemmed from evidence that shows that increasing numbers of publicly accessible toilets are being converted into ‘gender neutral’ facilities, causing problems for women and older people in particular.
‘Gender neutral’ facilities mean men and women share the same space for waiting and hand wash facilities; these should be contrasted with dedicated, self-contained ‘unisex’ toilets which maintain privacy for the single user (also known as ‘universal toilets’).
Such ‘gender neutral’ toilets place women at a significant disadvantage. While men can then use both cubicles and urinals, women can only use the former. The net effect is actually to reduce toilet provision for women. Women also need safe spaces given their particular biological, health and sanitary needs (for example, women who are menstruating, pregnant or at menopause, may need to use the toilet more often). Women are also likely to feel less comfortable using mixed sex facilities.
The review also asked for views on increasing the ratio of female toilets. Male toilets typically allow for a quicker transition of customers due to the use of urinals, yet insufficient female toilets are provided for a comparative number of cubicles to allow the same number of users to be served. This is not to disadvantage any sex - but greater ratios of female cubicles would help avoid queues inside and outside toilets.
The Government are also aware of broader concerns that women’s biological differences are being ‘erased’ in public life. It is important that women’s biological needs are respected and taken into account in the provision of facilities such as toilets. A high volume of responses were received to the call for evidence, all of which have been read and analysed.
The call for evidence analysis has been carefully considered, and research has been commissioned by my Department on the design of toilet facilities. Following on from this, in autumn 2022, the Department will launch a technical consultation on formal changes to the building regulations and approved guidance, informed by the call for evidence responses.
The Government are minded to take the following approach to rules and guidance in England, subject to further consultation and assessment of equality impacts:
Policy Goal Change to the building regulations and approved guidance To amend building regulations and guidance to ensure separate toilets for men and women continues to be provided, guidance to encourage the provision of a unisex toilet, where space allows Implementing a threshold approach i.e. above a certain number of toilet cubicles, require the provision of toilets for a range of users including separate male and female toilets, unisex toilets/ universal toilets, baby change, disabled Persons toilets, and changing places toilets. Where unisex toilets are provided, that privacy is ensured To set out the design of a unisex self-contained/ universal toilet cubicle with a sink which is designed to maximise privacy—informed by research underway and the call for evidence analysis. To announce the intent for greater provision of toilets to reduce queuing We will work with the British Standards Institution to develop the evidence base with a view thereafter to them updating their relevant codes of practice.
Change to the building regulations and approved guidance
To amend building regulations and guidance to ensure separate toilets for men and women continues to be provided,
guidance to encourage the provision of a unisex toilet, where space allows
Implementing a threshold approach i.e. above a certain number of toilet cubicles, require the provision of toilets for a range of users including separate male and female toilets, unisex toilets/ universal toilets, baby change, disabled Persons toilets, and changing places toilets.
Where unisex toilets are provided, that privacy is ensured
To set out the design of a unisex self-contained/ universal toilet cubicle with a sink which is designed to maximise privacy—informed by research underway and the call for evidence analysis.
To announce the intent for greater provision of toilets to reduce queuing
We will work with the British Standards Institution to develop the evidence base with a view thereafter to them updating their relevant codes of practice.
The technical review will ensure that the specific requirements of disabled users remain salient, and that access to and provision of toilets for disabled people will not be undermined by wider improvements to toilet provision more generally. The Department will be considering already commissioned research on the design of both disabled persons’ toilets and changing places toilets as part of this review.
Better customer toilet provision in commercial environments may encourage people to visit the premises. The Government will be undertaking a full regulatory impact assessment.
Such changes to building rules will also complement existing statutory provisions in education law for schools to provide sex-specific—or self-contained unisex—toilets for children.
We would also encourage Government bodies to consider how such principles can be adopted now in its own buildings, prior to formal changes in building regulations.
The Government believe the proposals that we are minded to adopt will have positive equality outcomes for women, older people, pregnant women, those with babies, people who come under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, and disabled people.
This common sense approach on protecting and improving toilet provision will ensure dignity, privacy, tolerance and respect for all, and further the cause of equality and inclusion by recognising the different needs of everyone in society.
Work and Pensions
Cost of Living Payments: Contingencies Fun Advance
The Department for Work and Pensions has obtained approval for an advance from the Contingencies Fund of £2,477,600,000. This will enable the Department to administer the first cost of living payments from 14 July, before the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill, which includes these measures, gains Royal Assent.
The amount covered by the advance is for the first cost of living payment to eligible means tested claimants, worth £326, provided for by the Social Security (Additional Payments) Act.
The payments will deliver immediate support to around 8 million low-income families at a time of increased costs of living.
Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £2,477,600,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in the main estimate for the Department for Work and Pensions. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £ 2,477,600,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.
The advance will be repaid at the earliest opportunity following Royal Assent of the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill.