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Written Statements

Volume 738: debated on Monday 16 October 2023

Written Statements

Monday 16 October 2023


Advanced British Standard

The Prime Minister has announced that we will introduce the advanced British standard (ABS) for 16 to 19-year-olds. This will bring together the best of A-levels and T-levels to form a single, overarching qualification. The advanced British standard will remove the artificial choice between academic and technical education, placing them on an equal footing, presenting a clear offer to young people while ensuring that every student studies some form of maths and English to age 18.

Since 2010, we have transformed the education children receive. We have relentlessly focused on improving the quality of our knowledge-rich curriculum and qualifications and have put in place the measures to raise standards. Eighty-eight per cent of schools are now rated good or outstanding and, thanks to our phonics reforms, we now have the best primary readers in the western world. We have introduced T-levels as new, high-quality technical routes for young people and reformed apprenticeships to raise their quality and prestige.

We now need to ensure that our 16 to 19 education system is fit for the long term and aligns England with countries across the OECD in terms of teaching time, breadth of study and parity between technical and academic routes. For example, young people in OECD countries typically study seven subjects post-16 compared to students in England who study around three. Students in OECD countries also generally receive more teaching time and study maths and their native language up to 18. We will align with some of our international competitors by increasing teaching time and bringing academic and technical pathways together into a single qualification with full parity of esteem. Within this framework, students will be able to study predominantly technical—including an occupational specialist route—or academic components, or a blend of both.

This reform draws upon the consistent principles that have underpinned our successful reforms by using the best available evidence, investing in teaching quality, and developing a knowledge-rich and broad curriculum. We will build on the knowledge-rich content and depth of A-levels and the high-quality, employer-led occupational standards of T-levels. The introduction of bigger and smaller subjects—called majors and minors—will give students greater breadth, while still maintaining depth of study in the subjects they are most passionate about and require for progression to higher education and employment. Students will typically choose five subjects, or a minimum of four if they are focused on preparing for a specific technical occupation. Given that we know that time with a good teacher is the single most important factor in improving learning outcomes, we will also increase the number of taught hours by 15% for most 16 to 19 students which will particularly benefit disadvantaged students.

This reform will take time and extra funding to deliver, including extra funding for the additional taught hours the advanced British standard will involve. We are providing £600 million over the next two years to lay the groundwork for the ABS and invest in the teachers and institutions that will be vital to delivering it. This comprises:

c.£100 million each year, doubling the rates of the levelling-up premium and expanding it to cover all further education (FE) colleges, disproportionately benefiting disadvantaged students. All teachers who are in the first five years of their career, teaching key STEM and technical shortage subjects and working in disadvantaged schools and all FE colleges, will be paid up to £6,000 per year tax-free.

c.£150 million each year to support those students who need the most support such as those who do not currently achieve a good pass—above grade 4—in maths and English GCSE at age 16. We will also invest in English and maths for all post-16 apprentices who have not gained their level 2 qualification, uplifting the funding rates to match the adult education budget.

c.£60 million over the next two years to expedite evidence-based techniques for maths teaching, including in post-16.

£40 million to the Education Endowment Foundation to expand its post-16 work and embed evidence-based approaches in 16 to 19 teaching.

This is an ambitious, long-term reform programme which will take a decade to deliver in full and require careful development and partnership working with the sector. We will therefore consult extensively, and in detail, over the coming months on the design of the new qualification. The results of our consultation process will inform a White Paper, which we will publish next year setting out our plan for delivery.

Meanwhile, students preparing to take A-level and T-level exams over the coming years should not doubt the value of their qualifications and be confident that high quality pathways remain open to them. T-levels will be integral to the vocational route within the advanced British standard and more T-level courses will be rolled out.

The ABS will ensure that all young people receive an education that is of the highest quality and prepares them to enter the changing workplace where digital transformation, AI and net zero will drive productivity. We will raise the floor and extend the ladder of opportunity for everyone, providing more breadth, increased teaching time, and a greater focus on technical education.

That is how we will give our children the brighter future they deserve, by ensuring that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the modern economy.


Schools National Funding Formula: Correction of Error

Today I am confirming that the Department for Education has corrected an error in the notional allocations of the schools national funding formula (NFF) for 2024-25.

These allocations were originally published, and notified to the House, on 17 July 2023. However, the Department has subsequently uncovered an error made by officials during the initial calculations of the NFF. Specifically, there was an error processing forecast pupil numbers, which meant that the overall cost of the core schools budget in 2024-25 would be 0.62% greater than allocated. The Department therefore issued new NFF allocations on 6th October 2023 to correct that error. The Department rectified this error as quickly as possible and—because the republication of the NFF allocations took place during parliamentary recess—I am now providing this statement at the earliest opportunity.

The Department has apologised for this error in writing to both the Chair of the Select Committee on Education and the Secretary of State. The Education Secretary has asked the permanent secretary to conduct a formal review of the quality assurance process surrounding the calculation of the NFF, with external and independent scrutiny. Peter Wyman CBE will lead this review. Improvements have already been identified to ensure that similar mistakes are not repeated.

The Government are continuing to deliver, in full, the core schools budget, which includes funding for mainstream schools and funding for high needs. It will remain at £59.6 billion in 2024-25, the highest ever in history in real terms. This is a percentage increase of 3.2% compared to 2023-24.

Through the schools NFF, average funding is £5,300 per primary school pupil and £6,830 per secondary school pupil in 2024-25, up from £5,200 and £6,720 respectively in 2023-24.

Schools have not yet received their 2024-25 funding and so the correction of this error does not mean adjusting any funding that schools have already received. Likewise, the error will not impact on the publication of the dedicated schools grant (DSG) in December, or when schools will receive their final allocations for 2024-25. The 2024-25 high needs NFF allocations (which fund provision for children with complex SEND) are also unaffected by this error, as are other funding streams outside the NFF, including the teachers’ pay additional grant (TPAG) announced in the summer.

I would also like to clarify that the recalculation of the NFF for 2024-25 does not affect the affordability of the 2023 teachers’ pay award. There has been no change to the funding that was promised as part of the pay settlement in July, and which the unions agreed meant that the pay award is properly funded.

I recognise that the correction of the NFF error will be difficult for local authorities and frustrating for some school leaders, which is why the Department has rectified the error as quickly as possible. The Department are working closely with school stakeholders, including unions, to communicate this change and support schools and local authorities.

The following key documents that have been updated and replaced with new versions on 6th October 2023 are:

The policy document for the 2024-25 NFF, which is published at:'>

The “national funding formula: summary table”, and the “impact of the schools NFF” allocation tables, which are published at:'>


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Support for Farming

This Government are committed to backing British farmers, who produce some of the highest quality food in the world, contribute billions to our economy and are the custodians of our countryside.

We plan to replace the basic payment scheme in England with delinked payments in 2024, making things much simpler for both farmers and the Rural Payments Agency—building on the simplifications we have already made to existing schemes. Delinking will free up farmers to focus on running their business and delivering the public goods that can be rewarded under the environmental land management schemes.

On 18 September we opened the sustainable farming incentive 2023 (SFI) to applications. As of 12 October, we have received over 14,000 expressions of interest—equivalent to more than one in eight farmers—with the first groups of farmers already implementing their SFI agreements, and many more due to start in the coming days and weeks.

We have also seen farmers continue to show their interest in other environmental land management schemes, such as landscape recovery, where we have received a significant number of high-quality applications that are now being carefully considered. With 7,881 mid-tier and 1,030 higher-tier countryside stewardship applications in this year’s round, we have also seen sustained interest in the countryside stewardship offer, following a two-week extension of the application window in response to a challenging harvest. There are now over 33,000 countryside stewardship agreements in place across England in September 2023—a 94% increase since 2020. We are now spending £688 million on rewarding farmers for environmental, climate and animal welfare outcomes this financial year, as part of the wider £2.4 billion that we are committed to spend supporting farmers every year of this Parliament.

To ensure that farmers are treated fairly, we are developing new legislation to improve supply chain fairness in the dairy and pig sectors, with further reviews into fairness in egg and horticulture supply chains due to launch in October and December respectively. To support long-term decision making, the Government also intend to publish their response to the independent review into labour shortages in the food supply chain later this autumn, as planned.

The Government are also committed to supporting farmers to realise their contribution to the rural economy. Together with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, we will shortly publish a review of permitted development rights on farms. We are working to grant funding for farmers to invest in the productivity of their businesses and, for the first time, barn-top solar by the end of this year.

We recognise both the pressures facing smaller abattoirs and the opportunities available to them, so we will be launching a smaller abattoir fund by the end of 2023, providing financing for capital investments to support productivity, improved animal welfare and adding value to primary products.

To continue our progress, we will maintain engagement with the agricultural sector and provide practical opportunities for farmers that maintain our food security and also deliver on our environmental ambitions.


Global Biodiversity Framework and Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures

Last December, the world came together at the convention of biodiversity in Montreal, Canada, to agree the global biodiversity framework, with a priority objective to halt and reverse nature loss globally by 2030. Key to securing the agreement was the commitment to establish a GBF fund to be administered by the Global Environment Facility particularly to help the Global South in achieving this objective.

The United Kingdom announced that it would provide £10 million to the GBF fund during the GEF assembly in August, adding to the Canadian Government commitment. I am delighted that Germany became the third country to commit to this new fund during the UN General Assembly. As a consequence, the fund can now be operationalised and I expect the GEF to start funding projects next year.

Other significant progress was made on GBF implementation and our blue planet fund and ocean objectives during UN General Assembly and New York climate week. This included: the UK signing the ocean conservation pledge, building on our existing commitments to protect at least 30% of our own marine area by 2030; and announcements of funding for some key initiatives including £120,000 in funding to Plymouth Marine Laboratory, as the secretariat for the Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability (OARS) programme and £2.5 million to tackle illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by funding the Joint Analytical Cell, which provides much-needed intelligence for countries around the world on protecting fisheries. We have also welcomed Costa Rica, Panama and Peru to the Global Plastic Action Partnership to reduce plastic pollution, particularly in the marine environment.

Working with countries around the world is vital in making progress on the GBF. That is particularly true of working with the Commonwealth of Nations. I chaired the first ever meeting of Commonwealth Environment and Climate Ministers, alongside its Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, which explored ways to strengthen collaboration to tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, ocean degradation and the energy transition.

Key to making progress on GBF implementation is bringing in private finance. Building on our 10-point plan for financing biodiversity, earlier this year we established a global initiative with France on biodiversity credits to accelerate high integrity investment that delivers for nature. At UNGA, the independent co-chairs Dame Amelia Fawcett and Sylvie Goulard of the international advisory panel met panel members in person for the first time and shared the work undertaken so far.

Further to this, the UK has been instrumental in supporting the global, market-led Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures. The TNFD framework has been designed by 40 private sector institutions representing over $20 trillion of assets under management. The aim of the TNFD is to generate decision-grade natural capital reporting data that can facilitate the alignment of global financial flows in support of improving nature. The panel launched its recommendations on 18 September at the New York stock exchange and again in London on 25 September. The UK Government have been instrumental in providing catalytic funding and political support to the TNFD since 2019. I welcome the commitment from GSK to use this framework from 2025 and hope that many more companies and institutions will start. Now that the recommendations have been launched, the UK Government will explore how best to incorporate it into UK policy in a manner that is coherent with global sustainability reporting in general, and nature themed standards development in particular.


Roadmap for Rural Communities

Earlier this year, with the publication of “Unleashing Rural Opportunity”, the Government set out their roadmap for rural communities, including a range of measures across four priorities for rural areas: growing the economy, connectivity, homes energy, and rural communities.

On 1 October, I announced further measures to boost broadband connectivity, transport and the supply of affordable homes in rural areas.

The measures I announced include:

A consultation on reviewing and updating the broadband universal service obligation which already gives homeowners and businesses the legal right to request an affordable, decent broadband connection.

A consultation on further proposals to improve broadband provision for very hard to reach premises, which are unlikely to receive a gigabit-capable connection via either a commercial or Government funded intervention. This will ensure communities with the most limited connectivity experience a step-change in their digital connectivity as soon as possible, fuelling the economy and supporting jobs growth for decades to come.

A statement from Homes England setting out its work to support rural communities and families by enabling the delivery of good quality, affordable homes. The statement includes case studies of successful rural housing schemes currently operating within Cornwall and the Yorkshire Dales.

The publication of “Future of Transport: Helping local authorities to unlock the benefits of technology and innovation in rural transport” to help rural local authorities, their communities, and other stakeholders to harness transport innovation, helping to improve access to services, tackle isolation and increase access to jobs in rural and remote areas.

Whether through improved connectivity, housing or transport we are championing rural communities as we seek to grow our economy, so that every part of our country gets the support and opportunity to thrive.


Water Companies

The price review is an independent, five-yearly process run by the economic regulator, Ofwat, to determine investment plans for water companies and customer bills over the next five years—in this case, from 2025 to 2030. This will include assessing future investment in enhancing the resilience of our water supplies, environmental improvements and customer support.

Following Ofwat’s timeline, I can inform the House that by Monday 2 October all water companies had submitted draft business plans for the 2024 price review (PR24) and published them on their websites.

The draft water company business plans submitted are the opening position in an independent regulatory process stretching to the end of 2024. I expect Ofwat and the Environment Agency now to look closely at the plans and ensure that they meet legal requirements and give customers the best value for their money. We do not allow water companies to charge consumers twice for investment that should already have happened, and through the PR24 process Ofwat will scrutinise business plans to ensure this does not occur.

Following this scrutiny process, Ofwat’s decision on total investment and consumer bills will be finalised in December 2024.

This builds on Ofwat’s announcement on 26 September that, following its assessment of water company performance against targets set for 2022-23, under-performance by the majority of companies means £114 million will be returned to customers next year.

I am also taking this opportunity to update the House on recent developments pertaining to the Government’s actions to reduce discharges from storm overflows.

On Friday 15 September the High Court ruled in favour of the Government’s storm overflows discharge reduction plan, following challenges brought by WildFish and others. All claims were dismissed, meaning the Government won on all grounds considered by the High Court. The judgment supports the Government’s position that the targets under the Government’s plan goes substantially further than existing legislation to tackle the use of storm overflows.

The Government welcome the High Court’s decision and have always been clear that we will go further and faster to tackle the issue of storm overflows wherever possible.

That is why on Monday 25 September, following consultation, the Government published an expanded “Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan”, extending the targets of the plan to coastal and estuarine storm overflows. We have also expanded the list of storm overflows that are prioritised for early improvement, to include both marine protected areas and shellfish water protected areas.

The targets outlined in the expanded storm overflows discharge reduction plan provide an achievable, credible route to tackling sewage and delivering the improvements that customers expect without disproportionately impacting consumer bills.

Furthermore, recognising public calls for action to tackle plastic pollution in waterways, on Saturday 14 October the Government also launched a public consultation on a proposed ban of wet wipes containing plastic. This will help tackle wet wipes containing plastic breaking down into microplastics over time, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. The consultation delivers on DEFRA’s commitments set out in our “Plan for Water”.


Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee: Twelfth Meeting

The Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee met on 28 September 2023, with UK and EU delegates joining by video conference. The meeting was co-chaired at alternate level by me and the Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission, John Watson. A joint statement was agreed and published on

The Committee made two declarations:

The European Union made a declaration pursuant to Article 23(4)(a) of Decision No 1/2023 of the Joint Committee declaring that the EU is satisfied with the implementation by the United Kingdom of Article 5 of Decision No 6/2020 of the Joint Committee.

The United Kingdom made a declaration pursuant to Article 23(4)(b) of Decision No 1/2023 of the Joint Committee declaring that all importers wishing to operate under Article 7(1 )(a)(ii) and Article 7(1)(b)(ii) of Decision No 1/2023 have been granted authorisations in accordance with Articles 9 and 11 of, and Annex III to, Decision No 1/2023.

The Committee also received an update on the work of the Withdrawal Agreement specialised committees that had met since the last meeting on 3 July 2023.

The Committee adopted the decision:

On adding two newly adopted Union acts to the Framework on Moldova and Ukraine trade liberalising measures.


Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction Agreement: Update

The agreement under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, known as the BBNJ agreement, will be laid before Parliament today. In line with the process for international treaties in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, the agreement will be scrutinised for at least 21 sitting days. An explanatory memorandum setting out the key provisions of the agreement will accompany the text.

The UK was one of the first countries to sign the BBNJ agreement when it opened for signature at the UN on 20 September 2023. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who signed for the UK, described it as

“a major victory for ocean protection and multilateral diplomacy.”

To date, it has attracted 82 signatures. 60 instruments of ratification are needed for the agreement to enter into force.

Primary legislation will be required before the UK can ratify the BBNJ agreement, to ensure compliance with obligations imposed by the agreement. In particular, obligations on notification of the collection and utilisation of marine genetic resources and associated digital sequence information, and for the conduct of environmental impact assessments for new activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The work to allow for ratification is being led by the ocean policy unit in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other Government Departments. Input is also being sought from science, research, innovation and industry stakeholders to ensure that UK implementation of the agreement is informed by expert advice. The views of UK civil society organisations are also being sought. Legislation is anticipated in the first session of a new parliament after a general election.

At the international level, UN General Assembly resolution 77/321 of 2 August 2023 welcomed the adoption of the agreement and called upon all states and regional economic integration organisations to consider signing and ratifying, approving, or accepting the agreement at the earliest possible date to allow its entry into force. It also requested the UN Secretary-General to strengthen the capacity of the division for ocean affairs and the law of the sea of the Office of Legal Affairs of the secretariat to undertake activities to promote a better understanding of the agreement, to prepare for the entry into force of the agreement and perform secretariat functions under the agreement until such time as the secretariat to be established under article 50 of the agreement commences its functions. The agreement was also placed on the General Assembly’s agenda for the current session to consider next steps.

The UK supports the establishment of a preparatory commission or similar body to take forward work to prepare for the implementation of the agreement and the first meeting of the conference of the parties once the agreement enters into force. We will continue to play a proactive role in this international work, working closely with others and, in particular, supporting the participation of developing countries in this process, and in their implementation of the agreement.


Health and Social Care

Stopping the Start: A Smokefree Generation

October 2023 the Prime Minister announced a bold and ambitious plan to create a “smokefree generation”, and the Government published the Command Paper “Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation”. This Command Paper sets out:

Plans to bring forward legislation to make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. In effect, this would mean that the age of sale of tobacco products will increase by one year each year, so that children turning 14 years old or younger this year will never be legally sold tobacco, phasing out tobacco over time and preventing future generations from ever taking up smoking.

A package to support current smokers to quit smoking, including by more than doubling funding for stop smoking services with £70 million additional funding per year, and £5 million this year and £15 million each year after for anti-smoking marketing campaigns.

Measures to tackle youth vaping. While the legal age of sale for vapes is 18, and will remain so, youth vaping has tripled in the last 3 years. The Government announced that they will consult on measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, including restricting flavours, regulating point-of-sale displays, regulating vape packaging, and restricting the sale of disposable vapes.

Plans to strengthen enforcement, including £30 million new funding each year for enforcement agencies.

Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death and one of the biggest drivers of health inequalities across the country. It is responsible for disability and death throughout the life course, from increasing stillbirths to asthma in children, to dementia, stroke and heart failure in older age. Smoking causes around one in four cancer deaths in the UK and leads to 64,000 deaths per year in England. It costs the country £17 billion per year and puts huge pressure on the NHS, with almost one hospital admission every minute attributable to smoking and up to 75,000 GP appointments each month taken up by smoking-related illness in England.

It is therefore imperative that we take action, and these changes amount to one of the most significant public health interventions by the Government in a generation.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement and the publication of the Command Paper, the government launched a formal consultation on 12 October 2023, “Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping”, to gather the strongest possible evidence on how best to implement these proposals. The consultation asks for views on three areas:

Creating a smokefree generation: the consultation gathers views on the smokefree generation policy and its scope to inform future legislation.

Tackling youth vaping: the consultation gathers views on several options to ensure we take the most appropriate action to tackle youth vaping while ensuring vapes continue to be available for current adult smokers to help them quit. The proposals in the consultation include restricting vape flavours, regulating point of sale displays of vapes, regulating packaging and presentation of vapes, and considering restricting the sale of disposable vapes. In addition, the consultation gathers views on the affordability of vapes and the role of a new duty on vapes.

Enforcement: the consultation asks about introducing new powers for local authorities to issue on-the-spot fines—fixed penalty notices—to enforce age of sale legislation of tobacco products and vapes.

The consultation will be open for a total of eight weeks and will close on 6 December 2023.1 am pleased to say the consultation has received widespread support, and the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health have all given it their backing and agreed to a joint consultation.

Responses to the consultation will inform the measures that are taken forward and I will provide an update to the House on the response to the consultation in due course. Following consultation, we intend to introduce a Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.


No and Low-alcohol Alternatives: Labelling Guidance Consultation

This Government set out in the 2019 Green Paper, “Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s”, commitments to work with industry to deliver a significant increase in the availability of alcohol-free and low-alcohol products by 2025 and to review the evidence to consider increasing the alcohol-free descriptor threshold from 0.05% ABV up to 0.5% ABV, in line with some other countries in Europe. We remain committed to this goal, and I am proud to announce that on 28 September we launched a public consultation, “Updating labelling guidance for no and low-alcohol alternatives”.

Reducing the harms associated with excess alcohol consumption remains a priority for this Government. As of 2021, approximately 10 million, or one in five adults in England drank above the UK chief medical officer’s low-risk drinking levels, significantly increasing their risk of health problems.

Making alcohol-free and low-alcohol products more available will increase consumer choice. It will help to promote the options of lower-strength alternatives to consumers, and changing the alcohol-free descriptor threshold in non-statutory guidance could support further innovation in the sector. We are seeking views on this potential change, as well as a number of other potential changes to Department of Health and Social Care voluntary guidance on labelling of alcohol-free and low-alcohol products, to provide greater consistency for producers, retailers and hospitality, and clarity for consumers.

DHSC will consider which, if any, changes should be made to the guidance following the consultation to support its policy aim to reduce excess alcohol consumption and associated harm among people who regularly drink above the UK chief medical officer’s low-risk drinking guidelines.

I encourage all those with an interest—the alcohol industry, public health organisations, and consumers themselves—to share their views with us through responding to this important consultation.


Home Department

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures: 1 June 2023 to 31 August 2023

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 their 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 31 August 2023


Number of new TPIM notices served—during this period


TPIM notices in respect of British citizens—as of 31 August 2023


TPIM notices extended—during the reporting period


TPIM notices revoked—during the reporting period


TPIM notices expired—during 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. A TRG meeting was held on 10 August 2023.


Work and Pensions

Health and Disability Benefits: Functional Assessment Service Contracts

I would like to update the House on the outcome of the procurement of new health and disability benefit assessment contracts—the functional assessment service contracts—for the period 2024 to 2029. These important new contracts have been subject to a rigorous and competitive process in line with public contract regulations.

The health transformation programme is modernising health and disability benefit services and will create a more efficient service and a vastly improved claimant experience, reducing journey times and improving trust in our services and decisions. It is developing a new customer-focused health assessment service and transforming the entire personal independence payment service, over the longer term. It will play a crucial role in implementing the reforms set out in the health and disability White Paper published in March 2023. The functional assessment service contracts will play a key part in delivering the service transformation being driven by the health transformation programme.

The functional assessment service contracts will bring together all functional health assessment services within a geographic area under a single provider. They will provide the foundation for the new health assessment service, which will eventually replace the different services we and our assessment providers use to undertake health assessments across all benefits, including new IT and processes. The new health assessment service will be fully integrated with other systems, including the transformed PIP service, with the aim of creating a much-improved experience for people who apply for support. The new service is being developed on a small scale initially. The new contracts will provide the flexibility to gradually introduce the new health assessment service once fully developed, before it is rolled out nationally from 2029.

On 25 May 2023, I notified the House that the Department had informed successful bidders in geographic lots 1, 2, 4 and 5. We have now concluded the procurement in lot 3—south-west England—and I am pleased to be able to announce today that the successful bidder is Serco Ltd.

We will now work with providers to ensure the transition to the new contracts is as smooth as possible. To ensure adequate time to safely transition, the functional assessment service contracts will begin in September 2024 and we have extended current contracts to this point to ensure service continuity.

We will also work with the functional assessment service providers to deliver structural reform, removing the work capability assessment via a phased approach over the lifetime of the contracts, as announced in the health and disability White Paper in March 2023.