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Written Statements

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 26 October 2023

Written Statements

Thursday 26 October 2023

Cabinet Office

Supporting our Veterans: Consultation

Since publishing the strategy for our veterans in 2018, the Government have made significant progress towards achieving our goal: making the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran.

Through actions committed to in the “Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan: 2022 to 2024” and other measures, this Government have demonstrated our dedication to this goal. For example, Op FORTITUDE—a new referral pathway to tackle veteran homelessness—has been created; an independent review of the experience of LGBT veterans impacted by the pre-2000 ban on serving has concluded; and I am proud to say that we have delivered on our promise to deliver the HM armed forces veteran card by the end of 2023.

If we want to continue adding meaningful value and ensure that veterans and their families face no disadvantage compared to their civilian peers, it is vital that we understand more about them, their aspirations, their challenges and their capabilities, as well as the economic and social landscape that they face upon leaving service so that we can be targeted in our support. To do so, there is a need to continue to improve our evidence base.

I am therefore publishing today a comprehensive consultation on veterans, allowing the Government to evaluate if the policies and structures in place support veterans and their families to succeed in society, the workplace and their personal lives post service.

The consultation will cover a range of policy areas, focusing on subjects such as employment, housing, finance, public perception and recognition of veterans.

The consultation seeks evidence UK-wide and is open to the public, including veterans themselves and their families. We strongly encourage academic experts, charities and other organisations with an interest in veterans’ issues to respond to this consultation. We are also keen to hear from businesses and employers of veterans. Competent authorities such as local authorities, NHS trusts, educational institutions—as well as other providers of services to veterans and their families—are encouraged to respond.

The outcome of this consultation will inform future policy supporting veterans and ultimately ensure that we can better serve those who have spent their lives in service to us.

The consultation is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/supporting-our-veterans-a-consultation

I have requested a copy of the consultation be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1095]

Defence

Reserves Roadmap

I would like to inform the House of the approach the Ministry of Defence is taking to modernise and transform the reserve forces.

Earlier this summer, the Ministry of Defence published the defence Command Paper refresh, “Defence’s response to a more contested and volatile world”. It made clear how the war in Ukraine has underscored the importance of reserves on and off the battlefield. It is has become plain that reserve forces will be an increasingly vital component of the UK armed forces. They make defence more capable and resilient while providing greater mass and access to specialist civilian capabilities that the regular forces cannot easily generate or sustain.

Defence reserve transformation will synergise the recommendations made in the Reserve Forces 2030 (RF30) and Haythornthwaite (HRAFI) reviews to ensure that activity is aligned and maximum impact can be achieved. This will move the implementation of RF30 recommendations into the area of transformation and take account of the strategic context within which the reserve forces operate, and the direction set in the integrated review refresh, the defence command plan refresh and future input to the national defence plan, in which they will undoubtedly feature.

To enhance the way reserves are utilised and supported, defence will take a more strategic top-down approach, to address policy and process frustrations, and tackle the cultural and resource issues reservists face. This will also improve the structures and mobilisation processes needed to generate second and third-echelon forces to reinforce and sustain warfighting capabilities, protect the homeland, and strengthen national resilience.

The Ministry of Defence has been considering reserves, in the context of the defence Command Paper refresh, and how to mainstream them in military capability and planning. These key activities include:

Specialists. A1* led study of specialist reserves was undertaken in summer 2023 that will provide clarity around the term specialist reserves, defining what makes a specialist, understanding how they are used, identifying barriers to their employment, and recommending solutions and mitigations.

Reserves Research. An academic report which determined ways to identify and measure utilisation, productivity, and efficiency, understand what influences perceptions of these, the positive and negative factors that affect the use of reservists, their relative importance and how their use can be increased.

Mobilisation. Defence is taking incremental steps to drive greater efficiency into the mobilisation process. A key part of this has been reviewing and suggesting amendments to mobilisation correspondence, in collaboration with MODLA and FLCs, to improve and standardise, where possible, the mobilisation process across defence.

Work on a reserves roadmap, updating RF30 in the light of MOD sponsored reviews and activity since 2021 and ongoing geopolitical events, will proceed at pace and I will update the House in due course.

[HCWS1097]

Home Department

Counter-Terrorism Disruptive Powers Report 2022

I have today laid before both Houses the Counter-Terrorism Disruptive Powers Report 2022 (CP 954). Copies of the report will be made available in the Vote Office and online at gov.uk.

It is important that there is transparency in the use of our national security tools. Publishing this report ensures that the public are able to access a guide to the range of powers used to combat terrorist threats to the United Kingdom, the extent of their use, and the safeguards and oversight in place to ensure that they are used properly.

[HCWS1096]

Justice

Andrew Malkinson Inquiry Announcement

In August 2023 I announced that the Ministry of Justice would establish a non-statutory independent inquiry into the issues raised by the miscarriage of justice suffered by Andrew Malkinson. Mr Malkinson deserves thorough answers as to how and why this miscarriage of justice took so long to uncover. An innocent man spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, while a rapist remained on the loose. It is essential that lessons from this case are learned in full.

The inquiry’s terms of reference reflect the Government’s commitment to protecting the interests of justice and ensuring that lessons are learnt from Andrew Malkinson’s case. I asked that the inquiry covers the period from the date of the initial offence, Mr Malkinson’s criminal conviction, and subsequent journey to appeal. Today I am publishing the terms of reference and announcing the chair: Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro KC. I am pleased to confirm that HHJ Munro KC has agreed the terms of reference, which Mr Malkinson was also consulted on.

I will place a copy of the terms of reference for the inquiry in the Libraries of both Houses.

The inquiry’s investigations will now be a matter for the chair. As the sponsoring Department, the Ministry of Justice will provide support and ensure that the inquiry has the resources it needs to deliver answers to Mr Malkinson.

[HCWS1094]

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Working Arrangements: Local Government

I would like to update the House on the Government’s position regarding the small number of councils currently experimenting, or proposing to experiment, with the use of four-day working weeks within local government.

Local councils play a pivotal role in the delivery of core public services and in the regeneration of their communities. The sector has a deserved reputation for effectiveness in much of its delivery and in having improved its efficiency over the last decade. Local government’s continued ability to find new, more effective and efficient ways to discharge their responsibilities and to deliver high-quality services for their residents has been a vital part of our mission to repair the nation’s finances since 2010.

The reputation of local government, however, is being impacted by the ideological experimentation of a small number of councils that are attempting to suggest that the removal of 20% of their workforce’s productive capacity can, somehow, result in increased overall corporate output. Asking the taxpayer to shoulder the full-time expense for part-time hours by deleting 20% of the working week is not compatible with a council’s requirement to demonstrate value for money.

In normal circumstances, the Government of course respect the right of councils to make their own decisions on key issues. There are also times, however, when the Government deem it proportionate to step in to ensure that residents’ value for money is protected. The issue of the four-day working week is one of those times.

As a result, today I am publishing clear guidance setting out the Department’s expectations for local authorities in England that are considering adopting a four-day working week or that have done so already. This guidance makes it clear that the Government do not support a four-day working week and do not expect councils to adopt this arrangement. This guidance will support councils in discharging their duties and to ensure that they maintain their work to continuously improve and demonstrate best value.

The Government are being extremely clear that they do not support the adoption of the four-day working week within the local government sector. Local authorities that are considering adopting it should not do so. Those that have adopted it already should end this practice immediately. Those councils who continue to disregard this guidance are now on notice that the Government will take necessary steps in the coming months ahead to ensure that this practice is ended within local government.

A copy of the four-day working week guidance will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1099]

Transport

Motoring Executive Agency: Business Plans 2023-24

I am pleased to announce that shortly following Prorogation we will publish the 2023-24 business plans for the Department for Transport’s motoring agencies—the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA). This has been delayed by up to a month for data clarification.

[HCWS1100]

Merchant Shipping: International Obligations

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my noble Friend Baroness Vere of Norbiton, has made the following ministerial statement:

I am making this statement to fulfil obligations relating to the implementation of amendments to international merchant shipping requirements into UK domestic law. Where amendments to international instruments are being implemented in UK domestic legislation by way of ambulatory reference, the Secretary of State has undertaken to publish information on those amendments by way of a parliamentary statement to both Houses of Parliament in advance of those amendments taking effect in the UK.

Provision for ambulatory reference is included in certain domestic secondary legislation to enable amendments to international obligations which are referenced in the legislation to be given direct effect in UK domestic law. This has the effect that where the legislation refers to an international instrument, such as a provision in a convention or a code forming part of that convention, this reference will be ambulatory—i.e. it is a reference to the most up-to-date version of that provision or code in the international instrument. This use of ambulatory reference means that agreed amendments to international conventions and codes can be automatically implemented through the application of such an ambulatory reference provision in secondary legislation.

The development of an ambulatory reference approach in relation to international maritime instruments is a key step in ensuring that the UK keeps up to date with its international maritime obligations. Amendments to international maritime instruments, for which the power is used, generally relate to technical requirement. Implementation in this way is only possible where those amendments have been made in accordance with the amendment procedure set out in the international instrument to which the UK is a party.

This statement details three sets of amendments to international instruments which will enter into force in the UK by way of the ambulatory reference provisions in the relevant domestic regulations.

The first amendment relates to damage stability in cargo ships—specifically, the requirements for watertight doors. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), having noted inconsistencies in provisions for watertight doors in the mandatory requirements for cargo ship construction, agreed amendments to the relevant international instruments to align these requirements. The international convention for the safety of life at sea, 1974 (SOLAS), the main international instrument governing maritime safety, remains unchanged and all other relevant instruments are amended to better align with SOLAS. These amendments harmonise existing requirements rather than introduce new requirements.

To achieve this harmonisation, annex I of the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, 1973 (MARPOL) is amended to better align the requirements for watertight doors on oil tankers with the requirements of SOLAS. IMO Resolution MEPC.343(78) makes this amendment. This will enter into force in the UK on 1 January 2024 by way of the ambulatory reference provision in the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Regulations 2019.

Resolutions MEPC.345(78) and MSC.526(106) amend the international code for the construction and equipment of ships carrying dangerous chemicals in bulk (IBC code) to better align the requirements for watertight doors on chemical tankers with the requirements of SOLAS. The IBC code is a mandatory code under both SOLAS and MARPOL. This amendment, as made mandatory by MARPOL, will enter into force in the UK on 1 July 2024 by way of the ambulatory reference provision in the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk) Regulations 2018. The amendment as made mandatory by SOLAS will be implemented when new regulations—the draft Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Harmful Substances) Regulations 2024—are made but will not take effect until the international coming into force date of 1 July 2024.

Resolution MSC.492(104) amends the international code for the construction and equipment of ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk (IGC code) to better align the requirements for watertight doors on gas carriers with the requirements of SOLAS. The IGC code is a mandatory code under SOLAS. This amendment comes into force on 1 January 2024 and will be implemented when new regulations—the draft Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Harmful Substances) Regulations 2024—are made, making the requirement to comply with the IGC code ambulatory.

Resolution MSC.491(104) amends chapter III of annex I to the 1988 load line protocol in order to better align the requirements for watertight doors on all ships with the requirements of SOLAS. This amendment comes into force in the UK on 1 January 2024 by way of the ambulatory reference provision in the Merchant Shipping (International Load Line Convention) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.

The second amendment is also made by Resolution MSC.491(104) and makes a minor editorial correction to regulation 22(1 )(g) of chapter III of annex I of the 1988 load line protocol to remove an erroneous reference to “inlets” in a table setting out acceptable arrangements for scuppers and discharges. This amendment will enter into force on 1 January 2024 by way of the ambulatory reference provision in the Merchant Shipping (International Load Line Convention) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.

Thirdly, amendment is made to annex II of MARPOL, which makes provision for the prevention of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk by sea. Resolution MEPC.344(78) amends appendix I of annex II to update guidance used in the categorisation of liquid chemicals. This amendment subdivides the rating for inhalation toxicity to make it more relevant for shipboard operations, deletes an outdated rating for seafood tainting and reassigns the column to rate flammability flashpoint. This does not change current pollution categorisation of noxious liquid substances nor impact on any substances already classified in the IBC code. The amendment will enter into force in the UK on 1 November 2023 by way of the ambulatory reference provision in the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution from Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk) Regulations 2018.

Further information and guidance on all amendments referred to in this statement will be available on www.gov.uk.

[HCWS1098]

Work and Pensions

Personal Independence Payment

I would like to update the House on the Department’s progress in making backdated payments to personal independence payment claimants who are benefiting from the Supreme Court’s MM judgment.

The MM judgment concerns the definition of “social support” when engaging with other people face to face (and when “prompting” should be considered “social support”) in the PIP assessment, and how far in advance that social support can be provided.

On 20 September 2021, the Department started an administrative exercise, looking at PIP claims since 6 April 2016 to check whether claimants may be eligible for more support under PIP. This is a complex exercise. We have identified around 326,000 unique cases that we need to review.

Given the complexity of the exercise, we started at a relatively small scale, prioritising terminally ill and recently deceased claimants, testing our processes and communications with claimants, to ensure that they are effective before ramping up.

The Department has today published an ad hoc release of management information on the administrative exercise. As at 31 August 2023, we have reviewed around 79,000 cases against the MM judgment. This includes cases where claimants have previously been assessed as needing “prompting.” All reviews have been carried out by a case manager within the Department.

Around 14,000 arrears payments, totalling around £74 million, have been made. No one should have seen their PIP reduced because of this exercise.

We are monitoring closely the numbers of, and reasons for, revised awards and making regular quality checks to ensure that our decision making is accurate and fair.

We have listened to feedback and engaged with disability organisations to develop our processes and communications, being sensitive to claimants who need help to provide any further information we need to decide if they are affected.

Confident that reviews are achieving the right outcomes for claimants, we have completed upskilling additional staff available for this exercise and expect to complete the review of all cases available to the exercise by the end of 2025.

We are committed to making backdated payments to all claimants affected by this judgment as quickly as possible. So, as well as continuing to review claims affected by the definition of “social support”, we are also testing a more proportionate approach for claimants who might be affected by the timing element only.

We will be inviting around 284,000 claimants in this group to contact the Department, if they think their claim is affected by this judgment and they were not previously identified as needing help to engage with other people face to face because any help they received was in advance.

I believe that prioritising cases where claimants are more likely to be entitled to more support is the correct approach.

Further information on how the administrative exercise is being undertaken is set out in a “frequently asked questions” document. I will deposit a copy of this document in the Library.

The Department plans to publish a further update next year.

[HCWS1093]