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Written Statements

Volume 738: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2023

Written Statements

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Cabinet Office

Shared Services Connected Ltd: Sale of Cabinet Office Stake

I am pleased to announce that the Cabinet Office has exercised its option to sell its 25% stake in Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL) to its joint venture partner, Sopra Steria Group SA, which owns the remaining 75% stake. The sale is expected to complete in early November.

Sale of the stake will generate cash proceeds of £82.3 million payable on completion. Of the £57 million proceeds retained by the Cabinet Office, up to £45 million of the proceeds will be reinvested into accelerating programmes that increase cross-Government productivity. This will include a particular emphasis on digital capability across Government.

The change in ownership arrangements is expected to affect neither the management nor staff of SSCL. Sopra Steria has confirmed that SSCL will remain a key component of Sopra Steria’s UK family of businesses and that there will be no impact on services to customers.

Background and rationale

The SSCL joint venture was established in 2013 as part of a strategy to consolidate and transform the provision of shared business support services to central Government and the wider public sector. Founding customers included the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency.

Over the last 10 years, SSCL has successfully expanded its customer base to cover other public sector bodies including the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence, Metropolitan Police and the Construction Industry Training Board. Revenue has grown from £123 million in the year to 31 December 2014 to £292 million in the year to 31 December 2022.

It had always been envisaged that the Cabinet Office might one day sell its stake. When the joint venture was established, Sopra Steria granted the Cabinet Office a put option exercisable in 2022 and 2023.

The sale follows a review triggered by the approaching expiry of the put option. The Cabinet Office concluded that SSCL had been a successful joint venture delivering significant savings and value to the Government and the taxpayer, that the business was now well-established and that it was time for it to move to the next stage in its evolution. The sale price was based on an independent valuation advisory report and exceeds the Cabinet Office’s retention value. As at 31 March 2023, the carrying value of the stake and related put option in the Cabinet Office accounts was some £48.2 million.

Fiscal Impacts

The impact on the fiscal aggregates, in line with fiscal forecasting convention, are not discounted to present value. The net impact of the sale on a selection of fiscal metrics is summarised as follows:



Sale proceeds

£82.3 million

Hold valuation

The price achieved is above retention value

Public Sector Net Borrowing

The sale will generate cross-Government productivity savings and reduce future debt interest costs for Government, offset by the loss of dividends Government might otherwise have received from its shareholding

Public Sector Net Debt

Immediate reduction of £25.3 million—£82.3-£57 million

Public Sector Net Liabilities

Immediately improved by £34.1 million—£82.3-£48.2 million—less the extent to which the £57 million retained by the Cabinet Office is spent

Public Sector Net Financial Liabilities

Immediately improved by £34.1 million—£82.3-£48.2 million—less the extent to which the £57 million retained by the Cabinet Office is spent



Relationships, Sex and Health Education

Earlier this year, I wrote to schools to set out that schools can and should share curriculum materials with parents, in light of the current concerns in relation to materials used to teach relationships, sex and health education (RSHE).

Parents are among their children’s most important teachers. It is vital that they know what their children are being taught in relationships, sex and health education, and that they are reassured that the materials used by schools are thoughtful and appropriate.

Today, I have written to schools again to provide further information in the light of some important cases. This letter confirms that, where contractual clauses exist that seek to prevent schools sharing resources with parents at all, they are void and unenforceable. This is because they contradict the clear public policy interest in ensuring that parents are aware of what their children are being taught in relationships, sex and health education.

The letter is clear that, if faced with such clauses, schools should write to providers asking for those clauses to be withdrawn on the ground that they are unenforceable. In the event that providers refuse to withdraw the clauses, legislation allows schools to still share resources proportionately, for the purposes of explaining to parents what is being taught.

For example, it is best practice to do this via a “parent portal” or, if this is not possible, by a presentation. This is providing that access to the documents is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgment of the provider’s authorship and includes a statement, which parents agree to as a condition of access, that the content should not be copied or shared further except as authorised by copyright law. Where relevant and possible, IT systems should also be in place to prevent downloading.

Where parents cannot attend a presentation or they are unable to view materials via a “parent portal”, schools may provide copies of materials to parents to take home on request, providing parents agree to a similar statement that they will not copy the content or share it further except as authorised by copyright law.

The points made in both of my letters will be reflected in the updated statutory RSHE guidance, on which we will publicly consult. This additional content will help to further strengthen schools’ position, as they have a statutory duty to have regard to the RSHE guidance and can communicate this duty to their external providers.

We are clear that in all circumstances, parents have a right to see the materials being used to teach RSHE, which is why we have written to schools and parents today clarifying the legal position and reiterating that right.


Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Gaza: Humanitarian Situation and UK Humanitarian Efforts

Today I am updating the House on the UK’s response to the situation in Gaza.

The UK is committed to easing the desperate—and deteriorating—humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while standing alongside the people of Israel against the terrorist group Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced an additional £20 million in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza in response to the severe humanitarian crisis.

This assistance is in addition to the £10 million of aid announced by the Prime Minister last week and brings the total UK contribution to the occupied Palestinian territories since Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on 7 October to £30 million—doubling our existing aid commitment this year and making us one of the largest donors.

The funding will allow key UN agencies and trusted partners, including the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), a number of whom have presence in Gaza and Egypt, to provide essential relief items and services. The aid will respond to critical food, water, healthcare, shelter and protection needs for those affected by this severe humanitarian crisis. We are committed to ensuring UK aid is allocated to address the greatest needs.

The Prime Minister welcomed the limited opening of the Rafah crossing—it is important progress, and testament to the power of diplomacy. Sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access must be allowed so civilians can receive vital, lifesaving support, including food, water, shelter, and fuel as quickly and effectively as possible.

Civilians must be protected and we continue to stress to all the importance of humanitarian access. Hamas, who have no regard for Palestinian civilians, continue to indiscriminately terrorise the Israeli people and the region as a whole. We unequivocally support Israel’s right to self-defence. The UK has been clear that international humanitarian law must be followed and every effort made to avoid civilian casualties.

The UK is at the forefront of the global effort to help Palestinian people access the vital lifesaving support they need. We will consider further support depending on the changing humanitarian needs on the ground.

This support goes beyond funding alone and includes intensive diplomatic efforts to prevent regional escalation, back Israel’s security and support long-term solutions to the crisis in the middle east. The Prime Minister raised humanitarian support in his meetings with the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Palestinian Authority last week. During the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit, he spoke to counterparts in Egypt, Turkey and Qatar to work with them to push for agreement on ongoing humanitarian access to Gaza. Lord Ahmad has also spoken with the Foreign Ministers of Iraq, Tunisia, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and the Palestinian Authority. I am in regular contact with Development Ministers and our humanitarian partners to discuss response and co-ordination efforts.


Home Department

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: Appointed Person Report

Today I lay before Parliament the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 Appointed Person report covering England and Wales for the period 2022-23. The Appointed Person is independent of Government and scrutinises the circumstances and manner in which search and seizure powers conferred by the Act are exercised without prior judicial approval and where nothing is seized for more than 48 hours.

I am pleased that we are now able to publish the Appointed Person’s latest report. The report details that search and seizure powers were used in these circumstances on seven occasions.

The Appointed Person has confirmed in the report that he is satisfied that the criteria required for justifying the searches without prior judicial approval were met and that the powers of search were exercised appropriately. The Appointed Person has made no new recommendations for the period. This would indicate that the powers are being used reasonably and appropriately in accordance with the Act. We will continue to monitor the way that the powers have been used closely.

Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.


Director of Labour Market Enforcement: Publication of Interim Annual Strategy 2023-24

Alongside my hon. Friend the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business (Kevin Hollinrake), I am publishing today the Labour Market Enforcement Annual Strategy for 2023-24, submitted by the DLME Margaret Beels OBE. The strategy will be available on

The Director of Labour Market Enforcement’s role was created by the Immigration Act 2016 to bring better focus and strategic co-ordination to the enforcement of labour market legislation by the three enforcement bodies which are responsible for state enforcement of specific employment rights:

The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS);

His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs National Minimum and Living Wage enforcement team—HMRC NMW/NLW team; and

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Under section 2 of the Act, the Director of Labour Market Enforcement is required to prepare an annual labour market enforcement strategy, which assesses the scale and nature of non-compliance in the labour market and sets priorities for future enforcement by the three enforcement bodies and the allocation of resources needed to deliver those priorities. The annual strategy, once approved, is laid before Parliament.

The director is a statutory office-holder independent from Government, but accountable to the Department for Business and Trade’s Secretary of State and the Home Secretary.

In line with the obligations under the Act, Margaret Beels submitted this strategy for 2023-24 on 31 March 2023.

This strategy continues on from the 2022-23 strategy by using the same four themes to provide an assessment of the scale and nature of non-compliance and notes sectors where the risk level has changed. The strategy sets out the DLME’s desire to achieve improved cohesion and join-up between the DLME and the three state enforcement bodies through non-legislative measures, including suggestions of where the enforcement bodies and sponsor Departments should be focusing their efforts.

The Government’s view is that the enforcement bodies have been funded sufficiently to deliver the activities set out in the strategy.

The DLME carried out stakeholder engagement for the 2023-24 strategy with a call for evidence and also by engaging with the enforcement bodies prior to submission.

As with previous reports, these recommendations are not formal Government policy. We have worked with the director, their office, and the enforcement bodies to understand the recommendations, and will carefully consider them moving forward.


Investigatory Arrangements following Police Use of Force and Police Driving-related Incidents: Terms

Police officers across England and Wales do an incredibly difficult job, in some instances having to make life or death decisions in a split second to keep us safe. It is vital that the public and officers have clarity and confidence in the accountability system relating to police use of force and police driving, including the efficacy of investigations.

Successive Governments have referred to the need to consider the balance between ensuring the police can do their job to keep the public safe, while ensuring operational guidelines are complied with and officers act within the law.

On 24 September I announced a Home Office-led review to assess the existing legal frameworks and guidance on practice that underpin police use of force and police driving, and the framework for investigation of any incidents that may occur. It will examine:

Whether use of force or police driving frameworks provide clear, understandable and well understood guidance for officers;

Whether a lack of clarity or the frameworks themselves in any way inhibit or prevent the police from carrying out their role to protect life;

Whether they serve to maintain public confidence in the police, in particular for those impacted by police use of force;

How the UK meets its obligation to independently investigate situations where a death or serious injury (DSI) results from an incident involving law enforcement;

Whether necessary lessons have previously been understood and acted upon after historic incidents; and

Whether individuals are held to account appropriately.

I am pleased to announce that today we will publish the terms of reference for the review on A copy of the terms of reference will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

These make it clear that the review will not consider live or ongoing investigations or proceedings. The need to ensure it does not in any way prejudice or interfere with ongoing or concluded investigations or proceedings is paramount. To that end, the Home Office will keep under consideration any potential effect of the review on such investigations or proceedings.

The review will be co-ordinated by the Home Office, reporting to me and working with other Government Departments such as the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office. It will aim to provide findings to me by the end of year.


Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Building Safety: Second Staircases

This Government are committed to ensuring that people can be confident that our buildings are safe. The Building Safety Act set up a new, robust regime, with a new Building Safety Regulator at its heart. In recent years, we have also changed statutory guidance on fire safety, with new measures including:

a ban on combustible materials for residential buildings, hotels, hospitals and student accommodation above 18m, and additional guidance for residential buildings between 11m-18m;

a lower threshold for the provision of sprinklers in new blocks of flats from 30m to 11 m;

a requirement for wayfinding signage for firefighters in residential buildings above 11m;

requirements for residential buildings over 18m to have an Evacuation Alert System, and for new residential buildings over 11m to include a Secure Information Box (SIB).

We must never be complacent in our approach to safety. In July, I confirmed that I intend to introduce new guidance requiring second staircases in new residential buildings in England above 18m. This not only reflects the views of experts including the National Fire Chiefs Council and Royal Institute of British Architects, but also brings us into line with countries—including Hong Kong and the UAE—in having a reasonable threshold for requiring second staircases.

I can now announce the intended transitional arrangements that will accompany this change to Approved Document B. From the date when we publish and confirm those changes to Approved Document B formally, developers will have 30 months during which new building regulations applications can conform to either the guidance as it exists today, or to the updated guidance requiring second staircases. When those 30 months have elapsed, all applications will need to conform to the new guidance.

Any approved applications that do not follow the new guidance will have 18 months for construction to get underway in earnest. If it does not, they will have to submit a new building regulations application, following the new guidance. Sufficient progress for this purpose will match the definition set out in the Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023, and will therefore be when the pouring of concrete for either the permanent placement of trench, pad or raft foundations or for the permanent placement of piling has started.

With these transitional arrangements, we will ensure that projects that already have planning permission with a single staircase, the safety of which will have been considered as part of that application, can continue without further delay if they choose. It means that, for some years yet, we will continue to see 18m plus buildings with single staircases coming to the market. I want to be absolutely clear that existing and upcoming single-staircase buildings are not inherently unsafe. They will not later need to have a second staircase added when built in accordance with relevant standards, well-maintained and properly managed. I expect lenders, managing agents, insurers, and others to behave accordingly, and not to impose onerous additional requirements, hurdles or criteria on single-staircase buildings in lending, pricing, management or any other respect.

Those who live in new buildings over 18m can be reassured that those buildings are already subject to the additional scrutiny of the new, enhanced building safety regime. Their fire safety arrangements are scrutinised in detail at the new building control gateways and planning gateway one.

I realise that developers and the wider market are waiting for the design details that will go into Approved Document B. The Building Safety Regulator is working to agree these rapidly, and I will make a further announcement soon. In the meantime, I am confident that this announcement of the intended transitional arrangements will give the market confidence to continue building the high-quality homes that this country needs.