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Written Statements

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

Written Statements

Thursday 14 December 2023

Cabinet Office

Government Transparency and Accountability

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the press and the public to hold public bodies to account.

Transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way. The Government will continue to look at how the range of information published by the Government can be improved and made as useful as possible. The following subject areas include documents and information that the Government are due to publish.

Transparency on Ministers, Special Advisers and Senior Civil Servants

Departments publish details of their Ministers’, special advisers’ and senior civil servants’ meetings, gifts, hospitality and travel on a quarterly basis. To support these publications, the Cabinet Office provides guidance to Departments on how this data should be prepared and released.

As part of the Government response to reports by the Boardman review, the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on strengthening ethics and integrity in central Government, and in line with its commitment to transparency, the Cabinet Office will be publishing online, for the first time, a substantial update to this guidance.

The updated guidance will clarify and expand on a number of requirements, such as strengthening meeting purpose descriptions, expanding the number of senior civil servants required to publish details of their meetings and setting a target, for the first time, to publish within 90 days of the end of a given quarter.

The updated guidance will be published on, and take effect from January 2024 onwards. Publishing the guidance online is also intended to aid public understanding of this data.

Departments will also be publishing, today, routine data on Ministers’, special advisers’ and senior civil servants’ meetings, gifts, hospitality and travel for the period of July to September 2023. The data covers the returns for the Prime Minister, the Leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and the Government Chief Whip, as well as the Cabinet Office.

List of Ministers’ interests

An updated list of Ministers’ interests for all Departments is also being published today by the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ interests.

Freedom of information

The Cabinet Office has published technical guidance which it has issued to freedom of information practitioners across central Government on the approach to be taken when a requestor asks for disclosure in a spreadsheet format. Any disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act needs to comply with the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 by ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to safeguard against inappropriate disclosure of personal data, such as that released inadvertently by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The guidance, which is on, is in addition to that given on the “Means of Communication” in the FOI code of practice, and will be revised in due course.

Prompt payment data

Government Departments have a target to pay 90% of the valid and undisputed invoices received from private sector suppliers within five working days and 100% within 30 calendar days. Departments are required to report their performance against these targets on a quarterly basis. In Q1 and Q2 of the 2023-24 financial year, this Department paid 81% and 82% respectively of the valid and undisputed invoices it received from private sector suppliers within five working days and 95% and 93% respectively within 30 calendar days.

There are active measures in place to improve results and in Q3 to date we have seen some improvements. New data will be published on next year and I have written to officials in the Department reminding them of the importance of prompt payment especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.



VAT Treatment of Fund Management

I am today publishing the Government’s response to the consultation on the VAT treatment of fund management services that was launched in December 2022 and closed on 3 February 2023.

The consultation set out how the Government intended to achieve the twin aims of: (i) improving policy clarity and certainty for all stakeholders on the application of the VAT exemption for fund management services; and (ii) removing reliance on retained EU law.

The Government have fully considered the consultation responses and the outcomes of additional stakeholder discussions.

The response document sets out that businesses will not be able to rely on direct effect of EU law after 31 December 2023 when the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 comes into effect. The VAT exemption for the management services of those funds listed under items 9 and 10 of group 5 in schedule 9 to the VAT Act 1994 will remain in place. This approach is in line with respondents’ views, and meets the stated aims of providing clarity, certainty and simplicity.

His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will issue updated guidance to reflect this change in the coming months. The Government will continue engaging with interested businesses.

The Government thank respondents to this consultation for taking the time to share their views.

The consultation response can be found at


Money Laundering Regulations: Politically Exposed Persons

My noble Friend Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the Treasury Minister in the House of Lords, has today made the following written ministerial statement.

Today the Government have laid the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/1371), a statutory instrument to amend the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (“the regulations”) in relation to the treatment of politically exposed persons (PEPs) who are entrusted with prominent public functions by the UK (known as “domestic PEPs”).

The amendment makes clear that under the regulations the starting point for banks and other regulated firms in their treatment of domestic PEPs, or a family member or known close associate of a domestic PEP, must be to treat them as inherently lower risk than non-domestic PEPs. Accordingly, regulated firms must apply a lower level of enhanced due diligence to domestic PEPs compared to non-domestic PEPs, unless other risk factors are present.

The Government are making this change in order to ensure that banks and other regulated firms take a proportionate and risk-based approach to the treatment of domestic PEPs, in line with the Government’s broader approach to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) controls. While the new requirements have featured for some time in Financial Conduct Authority guidance on the treatment of PEPs, legitimate concerns continue to be raised that a number of holders of prominent public positions have encountered problems accessing financial services due to their status as politically exposed persons under the regulations, as have their family members. Often, this takes the form of potentially disproportionate or overly frequent requests for information about personal financial matters and affects both PEPs themselves and family members or close associates. The Government are fully committed to tackling money laundering, terrorist financing and corruption, but they will always work to ensure this is done in a proportionate, risk-based way that avoids undue burdens on law-abiding citizens.

SI 2023/1371 fulfils the Government’s commitment set out in section 77 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 (“the Act”) to amend the regulations to make it clear that the starting point for AML/CTF-regulated firms when considering their treatment of domestic PEPs and their relations and close associates should be to treat them as inherently lower-risk than non-domestic PEPs.

Section 78 of the Act also committed the Financial Conduct Authority to conduct, and publish the conclusions of, a review into how financial institutions are following its guidance. This review will consider whether the FCA’s guidance on PEPs remains appropriate, and the FCA will be required to amend its guidance if the review finds it necessary to do so. If the FCA finds that the guidance is no longer appropriate, it will publish draft revised guidance for consultation, taking into account the Treasury’s amendment to the regulations, within the 12-month timeframe given for the review (i.e. by 29 June 2024). Given the strength of concern on this issue, the Government expect that the FCA will prioritise this important review over the coming months.

The Government would like to thank again those who have taken the time to raise these issues, and those who have engaged with the FCA’s review.



Land Environment Tactical Communication and Information Systems

The land environment tactical communication and information systems (LETacCIS) programme is a capability and business change programme that will deliver the land domain’s deployed digital backbone from formation headquarters to dismounted soldiers through the sustainment, evolution or replacement of CIS and associated applications.

The programme has made significant progress across the key projects which form the core of the “deployed digital ecosystem”:

Project TRINITY, which will deliver a deployable wide area networking “battlespace broadband” capability, is now on contract with BAE Systems (signed August 2023) and is on track to deliver from March 2026.

The multi-mode radio (MMR) project, which will deliver modern radios into the MOD’s tactical networks, providing increased interoperability with key allies, and boost communications capabilities of our deployed forces, began delivering equipment to training schools in October 2022—four months ahead of schedule—and is on track to complete full delivery into service by September 2024.

The land deployable gateway (LDGv2) project is on contract with GDMS (UK) from September 2023 to deliver an improved gateway solution for the land tactical environment, and is on track to begin delivery from September 2025.

The final major project within the ecosystem is the MORPHEUS project, which will deliver an advanced communications system to our troops on the frontline, particularly those operating in the land environment. The project’s aims are to:

Exploit modern technology to deliver a new, more capable baseline capability from which we can more rapidly evolve;

Enable easier and more effective interoperability, both with other UK systems, and with allies;

Lower the training burden on users, through more intuitive interfaces;

Avoid vendor lock-in, and use competition to drive VFM; and

Employ open architectures, to more easily integrate new technologies.

In order to enable an open data architecture approach—thus avoiding any potential for future vendor lock-in—the LETacCIS programme awarded an evolve to open (EvO) transition partner (TP) contract to General Dynamics Mission Systems (UK) in 2017 to deliver a lab tested design in December 2020. However, delivery against this timescale was not met.

We have been open that progress on the MORPHEUS project has fallen short of what was expected and since December 2020 we have been working closely with General Dynamics to agree the best way ahead. The MOD can today confirm that, as a result of these discussions, this contract has now been concluded. While commercial confidentiality precludes me from providing the House with specific details of the arrangements made, the Department can assure it that these arrangements have been verified by both HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office as representing the best value for money approach for the taxpayer. Overall, the MOD has reached a position where the deliverables are sufficient to enable the future of the MORPHEUS project and the next generation of tactical communications, a position reinforced by strong market engagement with suppliers.

In the meantime, the MOD will continue to work with General Dynamics to ensure it delivers the planned update to sustain the in-service Bowman system, ensuring that we continue to meet all our operational requirements. The update, alongside our own development efforts, will deliver new hardware and software, ensuring that troops on the frontline have a secure communications system, enabling them to effectively communicate across the battlespace. While workforce matters are for General Dynamics to comment on, this update will ensure a sustained workload at the Oakdale site for some time to come.

Several valuable lessons have been learned through the evolve to open contract. An internal lessons learned review has taken place, but the MOD has also commissioned the Cabinet Office’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority to conduct an independent review of the MORPHEUS project, with the aim of understanding where the Department can improve in future projects. This independent review will commence next year and a summary of the report will be placed in the Library of the House upon conclusion.

The Department is now proactively reconsidering the requirements that the MORPHEUS project is due to deliver, which we expect to conclude in the spring. This will ensure that UK armed forces have what is required as part of the next generation of tactical communications, recognising the advancement of technologies since the MORPHEUS project was initially conceived.

Following analysis of the requirements, we will engage with industry on a renewed basis, incorporating the lessons learned from this procurement, and move towards delivering the next generation of tactical communications systems, for the benefit of the whole of defence.



Advanced British Standard: Consultation

In October 2023 we announced our intention to create a new qualification framework: the advanced British standard (ABS). Today, we are announcing a 14-week consultation on this new qualification framework.

There are several key principles underpinning the development of the ABS, including ending the artificial divide between academic and technical study, building on the best of A-levels and T-levels, extending the study of English and maths to all students, increasing the number of hours students spend with a teacher and following the evidence on studying a breadth of subjects. This will bring us closer in line with what other high-performing countries offer their students and support the growth of our economy.

The consultation document sets out more detail on how the ABS will work, but there are substantial questions to be worked through. In particular, my Department is seeking views on:

The aims and purposes of the advanced British standard qualification framework. We are inviting views on proposals on what the ABS is trying to achieve.

How the ABS should be designed to achieve our aims: a model that has the highest aspirations for all. We are inviting views on proposals for what ABS study programmes will look like for different students and at different levels, for example an occupational route that will support students to move straight into work and more hours at level 2 to help students progress. We are also seeking views on how we can best design a system that provides all students with the right programme to achieve their full potential.

How assessment and awarding should be designed. We are seeking initial views on how best to design the assessment, grading and awarding of the ABS so it is clear for students, and gives employers and further/higher education providers the information they need.

How changes will affect 16-to-19 providers and how we ensure we are maximising the benefits for students and the wider system. We are seeking views on the challenges, opportunities and risks presented by the ABS, and on the action needed to ensure the quality of and confidence in existing qualifications while developing the ABS.

This consultation is an important part of the reform process as it is an early opportunity for all those with an interest in the ABS to provide their views. We intend to consider carefully all responses received to inform further policy development, and a White Paper in summer 2024. The consultation on the ABS will be available today on and will close on 20 March 2024.


Energy Security and Net Zero

Hydrogen Industry

In pursuit of our hydrogen ambitions, today I am announcing the 11 electrolytic (or “green”) hydrogen projects that have been successful in the first hydrogen allocation round (HAR1). This announcement has been made alongside the launch of the second hydrogen allocation round (HAR2) and a number of important new policy updates across hydrogen production, transport, storage and use. Together, these announcements set out the steps that the Government are taking to deliver a world-leading hydrogen economy and support high-quality jobs and investment across the UK.

The announcement of the 11 successful HAR1 projects marks the UK as a global leader in hydrogen, representing the largest number of commercial scale electrolytic production projects announced at once anywhere in Europe. We are committing over £2 billion of support to these projects through 15-year contracts, in addition to £91 million in up-front capital co-funding, unlocking substantial investment from industry:

£413 million of private capital will be invested by the projects up front between 2024 and 2026;

Over 700 jobs will be created during construction; and

We anticipate millions to be spent by offtakers, which are those businesses committing to convert their operations to using hydrogen, and buying the hydrogen produced. These include major employers and household names in consumer goods, and businesses such as distilleries and heavy transport hauliers.

HAR1 was the first of our planned annual electrolytic allocation rounds for the hydrogen production business model. The successful projects, which will all be operational by 2026, located across 11 sites in England, Scotland and Wales, represent 125 MW of hydrogen production capacity.

Low-carbon hydrogen will be crucial for ensuring energy security and achieving net zero. In the process it could help to transform our industrial heartlands, unlocking over 12,000 jobs and up to £11 billion in private investment by 2030 across the UK. It will be needed to decarbonise vital UK industrial sectors and heavy transport, as well as supporting resilience and security for our power system.

In addition to announcing the winners of HAR1, I am delighted to have launched the second hydrogen allocation round—HAR2—today, through which we will aim to award contracts of up to 875 MW, subject to affordability and value for money. Together HAR1 and HAR2 aim to deliver our ambition of having up to 1 GW of new electrolytic hydrogen production capacity being in operation or construction by 2025.

Today we have also published a hydrogen production delivery road map, which sets out how we expect the UK hydrogen production landscape to evolve to 2035. This road map contains further details on our proposal for annual hydrogen allocation rounds from 2025 to 2030 and sets out our ambitions to allocate up to 1.5 GW across HARs 3 and 4, subject to affordability and value for money. This clarity on future allocation rounds is what industry has been calling for and will help to bring forward long-term investment into low-carbon hydrogen production projects in the UK.

Hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure will be essential to the development of the UK hydrogen economy, providing the link between production and demand. As such, today the Government have also published a hydrogen transport and storage networks pathway, which sets out the next steps in our vision for the strategic development of UK hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure. Alongside this, I am setting out our intentions for the first allocation rounds of the hydrogen transport and storage business models, including for these rounds to open in 2024 and to allocate support for up to two storage projects at scale and associated regional pipeline infrastructure. This is a major step forward in the delivery of the critical hydrogen infrastructure we will need and builds on the legislative powers created in the Energy Act 2023.

I am also announcing that following consultation, and based on current evidence, the Government see potential strategic and economic value in supporting the blending of up to 20% hydrogen by volume into the GB gas distribution networks, in certain circumstances. Blending has the potential to stimulate an early hydrogen market through de-risking hydrogen production projects and reducing costs at a project level, as an offtaker of last resort, and at a system level.

The “Powering Up Britain: Energy Security Plan” announced our intention to consult in 2023 on the need and potential design options for market intervention to support hydrogen to power. I can today announce that this consultation has been published and is open for responses. The consultation outlines our minded-to position on intervention design of a potential hydrogen-to-power business model, and proposals to enable hydrogen-to-power plants to compete in the capacity market as soon as practical.

The proposed hydrogen village trial in Redcar cannot go ahead as designed, as the main source of hydrogen supply will not be available. As such, the Government are not in a position to provide support for the trial. The Government still plan to take a decision in 2026 on whether, and if so how, hydrogen will contribute to heating decarbonisation. We will assess evidence from the neighbourhood trial in Fife, as well as similar schemes across Europe, to take this decision.

Since publication of the UK hydrogen strategy in August 2021, the Government have published regular updates to the market to deliver clarity on the direction of hydrogen policy across the value chain, so that the Government, industry and investors can work together most effectively to build a world-leading hydrogen economy. Our hydrogen strategy delivery update sets out Government policy and funding progress so far and updates the UK hydrogen economy road map for the next decade to provide a detailed timeline on the steps that the Government are taking to deliver its vision.


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Fishing Negotiations 2024: UK-EU-Norway

I would like to make the following statement.

Conclusion of annual negotiations for 2024 fishing opportunities

The UK has reached agreement with the EU and Norway on catch opportunities for 2024 through the UK-EU-Norway trilateral and UK-EU bilateral negotiations. Across these negotiations, the UK secured agreement on over 80 total allowable catches (TACs), providing access to £700 million of UK fishing opportunities. Alongside the coastal state negotiations on stocks including mackerel, this brings the total UK fishing opportunities secured in 2024 to 750,000 tonnes, worth an estimated £970 million based on historic landing prices. This is an increase from £900 million in 2023 and an increase in total tonnes of fishing opportunities.

Further, since leaving the EU, the UK has a larger share of many of the TACs set at these negotiations. It is estimated that the UK might have received around 630,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities if we were still an EU member state, in comparison to the 750,000 tonnes actually received. That is an estimated increase of 120,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities for the UK fleet in 2024. The UK’s shares in these stocks will continue to increase until the end of the 5½ year adjustment period.

In these negotiations the UK Government worked closely with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to secure outcomes to improve the sustainable management of our fish stocks in support of the whole of the UK fishing industry.

UK-EU agreement

The UK has secured fishing opportunities of 130,000 tonnes, worth around £340 million based on historic landing prices, through agreement on around 70 TACs as well as agreement on arrangements for non-quota stocks. This is a decrease of around 10,000 tonnes compared to 2023, largely driven by declining scientific advice on sustainable catch levels in the Celtic and Irish Seas.

An initial estimate suggests that approximately 35% of UK-EU TACs were set to align with scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This is a slight increase on last year. The Government will publish early in 2024 a full assessment of the number of TACs set consistent with ICES advice across all annual negotiations.

For non-quota stocks (NQS), the UK and the EU agreed a roll-over of access arrangements for 2024 to ensure continued access to fish NQS in EU waters. UK fleet landings for these stocks are historically worth around £30 million a year. We also agreed to a roll-over of management measures for seabass and access arrangements for spurdog in the North Sea and albacore tuna.

Scientific advice for 2024 illustrates the declining health or vulnerable state of some stocks, particularly in the Celtic and Irish Seas. The UK and EU therefore made additional commitments to work together through the Specialised Committee on Fisheries to address the management challenges of certain stocks. This includes reviewing the effectiveness of measures to protect spurdog, and continuing to progress work on technical measures to support the recovery of depleted stocks in the Celtic and Irish Seas. For pollack in ICES areas 6 and 7, the UK and EU committed to work through the SCF to improve our understanding of the stock and the recreational fishery with a view to the introduction of limits where appropriate and where these are likely to be effective in reducing pressure on the stock.

UK-EU-Norway trilateral negotiations

The UK has also reached agreement with Norway and the EU on catch limits for 2024 for six jointly managed North Sea stocks, giving the UK fishing fleet access to opportunities worth around £360 million, based on historic landing prices.

The parties agreed increased TACs for the six stocks. Five of the six stocks were set in line with, or below, independent scientific advice from ICES. This included an approach to northern shelf cod that reflects the new status of the stock following new advice from ICES, and a modest increase in the TAC of 15% reflecting the increasing stock biomass. For two stocks, North Sea haddock and whiting, the parties agreed to take a more precautionary approach than the scientific advice given the extent of the advised potential increases.

The parties renewed their commitment to deliver long-term management plans for their shared stocks and have agreed to continue development in 2024 of more effective management measures for the North Sea herring fishery, focusing on stability for industry and sustainability. The parties also agreed to their shared ambition to move northern shelf anglerfish (monkfish) to a trilaterally-managed stock, and agreed to continue building on the work undertaken in 2023 on monitoring, control and surveillance of their shared stocks.

Multilateral ‘coastal states’ negotiations

The UK has agreed TACs at the level advised by ICES on the three widely distributed stocks we share with other coastal states in the North-East Atlantic: mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian spring spawning/atlanto/Scandian herring. The opportunities will be worth up to £270 million to the UK fleet in 2024.

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs)

The UK has continued to support the sustainable management of widely distributed and highly migratory stocks via Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in which it is a member. RFMO negotiations this year have provided notable sustainability gains, as well as around 2,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities for 2024, including in north Atlantic albacore tuna, eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna and north-west Atlantic cod.

UK-Norway and UK-Faroe Islands bilateral negotiations

Bilateral negotiations between the UK and Norway and the UK and the Faroe Islands on access arrangements and exchanges of fishing opportunities are ongoing.


Fisheries Management Plans

Today, as required by the Fisheries Act 2020, the joint fisheries statement, and the England environmental improvement plan 2023, the UK Government are publishing the first five fisheries management plans (FMPs). These make full use of our new post-Brexit freedoms, to establish world-class fisheries management.

FMPs set out policies to maintain or increase stocks to sustainable levels (or contribute to doing so). The plans cover king scallop, crab and lobster, whelk, bass and channel demersal non-quota species. The plans for scallop and bass have been developed jointly with the Welsh Government and apply to English and Welsh waters.

These plans include a combination of short-term actions that will be taken to protect stocks such as increasing minimum sizes, and longer-term approaches, such as proposals to manage levels of fishing. They use the latest scientific evidence, and we have worked closely with the commercial and recreational fishing sectors to ensure these plans support coastal communities. Where appropriate the plans also propose actions to reduce the effects of fishing on the marine environment, such as the effects of trawling on the seabed.

Following closure of a public consultation on the draft FMPs in October, we analysed the responses and have made a number of changes to the plans, including bringing forward plans for sustainable fishing levels in key fisheries, removing a proposal for a minimum conservation reference size for cuttlefish, streamlining regulations and addressing environmental risks.

As well as continuing to develop the next tranches of FMPs, our focus will now turn towards delivering and implementing the policies and measures within the FMPs, ensuring that we have a prosperous fishing sector for future generations while safeguarding, restoring and enhancing the marine environment on which industry and wider society depends.

Finally, we are publishing the summaries of consultation responses and Government response to the consultations on the fisheries management plans which will also be available on the website.


Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Overseas Territories Declaration and Joint Ministerial Council

The UK and the British overseas territories of Anguilla, Ascension, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, and Turks and Caicos Islands have agreed a joint declaration: “A Modern Partnership for a Stronger British Family”. The declaration sets out our united vision for our partnership with the British overseas territories (OTs), fit for the 21st century.

The agreed declaration sets out shared democratic values and respect for human rights which underpin the UK-OT partnership. The UK and OTs committed to: improve transparency and deepen bilateral partnerships; consult OTs on UK primary legislation that impacts them; and support OTs to take on more responsibility where they wish and are able to. Other commitments included: public sector capacity building, seeking improvements to UK financial support frameworks, and speaking with one voice at multilateral fora.

OTs’ elected leaders and representatives welcomed the declaration’s commitments to strengthen the relationship while ensuring that it is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the OTs. OT leaders and representatives also welcomed the commitment set out in the declaration for the UK to seek to develop bilateral compacts with each territory. The compacts will improve the transparency of responsibilities—of the elected Government, Governor and UK Government Departments—and set out mutual expectations to achieve shared priorities and objectives.

The negotiation of the declaration took place during the 11th meeting of the UK-Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) on 14 and 15 November 2023. The JMC was attended by elected leaders and representatives from Anguilla, Ascension, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena, the sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Tristan da Cunha and Turks and Caicos Islands. Discussions also covered publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership, on which I will update the House separately. The Foreign Secretary attended the plenary to welcome leaders and representatives from the OTs, and OT leaders also attended a private reception hosted by His Majesty the King.

A copy of the UK-OT declaration will be published on, and made available in the Library.


Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Elections Act 2022: Implementation

The Government are committed to ensuring that our democracy is secure, fair, modern and transparent. It is vital for the health of our democracy that the United Kingdom has an independent regulator that commands trust across the political spectrum and is fully accountable to Parliament.

That is why the Elections Act 2022 (“the Act”) made provision for a strategy and policy statement for the Electoral Commission. Following a period of consultation, the Government are today laying the final draft statement before Parliament for approval. The statement will strengthen the Electoral Commission’s accountability to the UK Parliament while respecting its operational independence.

The statement sets out the strategic and policy priorities of the UK Government and the roles and responsibilities of the Electoral Commission in enabling the UK Government to meet those priorities, including tackling issues such as voter fraud, improving the accessibility of elections, and improving participation. It also contains guidance relating to particular matters in respect of which the Electoral Commission has functions. If approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament, the Electoral Commission will have a duty to have regard to the statement when carrying out its functions.

Given the nature of the Electoral Commission’s work, it is right that the commission remains directly accountable to the UK Parliament via the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission (“the Speaker’s Committee”). The statement strengthens the Electoral Commission’s accountability to Parliament because the Act also gave the Speaker’s Committee new powers to examine the commission’s performance of its duty to have regard to the statement.

The statement has been subject to a statutory consultation and the enhanced parliamentary procedure. The statutory consultation took place between 22 August 2022 and 20 December 2022. In response, the Government made substantive amendments to the draft, including clarifying that the statement must be compatible with the foundational principle of the Electoral Commission’s operational independence. The Government’s response to the consultation and a revised draft statement were then laid before Parliament on 8 June 2023 for a 60-day period to invite representations from parliamentarians. This period ended on 14 September 2023.

The Government have considered carefully the representations received from parliamentarians. These representations reiterated views articulated during the statutory consultation, particularly concerning the impact the statement could have on the independence of the Electoral Commission.

After careful consideration, the Government have decided not to make any amendments to the draft statement of June 2023 and will proceed with laying the statement before Parliament unamended (save a few minor stylistic changes). This is because the Government had already made substantive revisions to the statement after the statutory consultation, to provide clarifications and reassurances relating to the operational independence of the Electoral Commission. Given that the representations largely reiterated views articulated during the consultation, the Government’s view is that the remaining objections are matters that cannot be satisfied by amending the statement without compromising significantly its original policy intent.

The Electoral Commission’s legal duty to have regard to the statement does not replace or undermine its other statutory duties, nor does it give the Government powers to direct its decision making. The statement is clear that the commission will remain operationally independent, with electoral commissioners and the commission’s executive leadership remaining responsible for determining the commission’s strategic priorities and how the commission discharges its functions.

Overall, it is the Government’s view that improving the Electoral Commission’s accountability to the UK Parliament will result in greater public confidence in its work.


Health and Social Care

Medical Examiner and Death Certification Reforms

I wish to update the House on the Government plan to introduce secondary legislation to reform death certification in England and Wales, from April 2024. Under the reforms, all deaths will become legally subject to either a medical examiner’s scrutiny or a coroner’s investigation. Medical examiners are senior medical doctors that independently scrutinise the causes of death. Since 2019, NHS trusts have appointed medical examiners to scrutinise most deaths in acute healthcare settings and some community settings on a non-statutory basis. From April 2024, it will become a requirement that all deaths in any health setting that are not referred to the coroner in the first instance are subject to medical examiner scrutiny.

The changes will mean that families will have greater transparency on the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one. Medical examiners will always offer a conversation to the bereaved, providing an opportunity for them to raise questions or concerns with a senior doctor not involved in the care of the deceased. This will help deter criminal activity, improve poor practice and ensure the right deaths are referred to coroners for further investigation.

The relevant primary legislation for these reforms was commenced on 1 October 2023 and today the Government are publishing three sets of draft regulations under powers in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 that will be laid shortly when parliamentary time allows. These will be published on

The introduction of medical examiners is part of a broader set of reforms to death certification, coronial and registration processes which will allow for the efficient flow of information between doctors, medical examiners, coroners and registrars in the new system. We are working closely with our partners in Government and the health service to ensure that the appropriate operational processes are in place to deliver these changes from April 2024.


Home Department

Provisional Police Grant 2024-25: England and Wales

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has today published the provisional police grant report (England and Wales) 2024-25. The report sets out the Home Secretary’s determination for 2024-25 of the aggregate amounts of grants that he proposes to pay under section 46(2) of the Police Act 1996. A copy of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Today, the Government have set out the provisional police funding settlement in Parliament for the forthcoming financial year. For 2024-25, overall funding for the policing system will rise by up to £842.9 million when compared to the restated 2023-24 police funding settlement, bringing the total settlement for 2024-25 up to £18.4 billion. Compared with 2019-20, this represents a total settlement increase of up to 30.7% in cash terms. For police and crime commissioners (PCCs), this means an increase of up to £922.2 million when compared to 2023-24 (if PCCs were to choose to take up the precept flexibility), taking total funding for PCCs to £16.4 billion. This funding settlement demonstrates that the Government remain committed to giving policing the resources it needs to keep the public safe.

For 2024-25, this Government are providing forces with an increase in Government grants of £624 million compared to the 2023-24 police funding settlement. This includes an additional £185 million, totalling £515 million when including funding provided in-year this financial year, to meet the costs of the pay award. The Home Office was only able to deliver this substantial funding increase by reprioritising funding from other programmes. We recognise the critical work carried out by our police officers on a daily basis, and the recent pay award rightly reflects the vital work they do to keep us all safe.

This settlement also confirms the additional grant funding as agreed at SR21 of £150 million and provides an additional £259 million to mitigate the impact of increased pension contributions. Furthermore, a one-off top-up payment of £26.8 million will be provided to forces for implementation costs, reducing the financial pressures forces are facing to deliver these changes. This boost in funding reflects the continued, unwavering commitment from this Government to maintain the 20,000 additional officers recruited nationally, and ensure policing has the resources and capabilities to reduce crime and keep the public safe from harm.

For 2024-25, the council tax referendum threshold for PCCs in England will be £13 for a band D property. This Government remain committed to ensuring the police are properly funded without placing an excessive burden on local taxpayers. When setting their budgets, PCCs should be mindful of the cost of living pressures that householders are facing.

In return for this significant investment, it is imperative that policing continues to deliver on driving forward improvements to productivity and identifying efficiencies where possible. The Government will continue to work with the sector to unlock the full range of opportunities and benefits of productivity and innovation to enable officers to have the tools to deliver on their core mission of keeping the public safe.

We therefore expect policing to approach the 2024-25 financial year with a focus on this Government’s key priorities:

Maintaining 20,000 additional officers (148,433 officers in total nationally) through to March 2025.

Continuing to deliver on the opportunities presented by new technology and innovation to deliver improvements in productivity and drive forward efficiencies, therefore maximising officer time and service to the public.

Improving the visibility of police officers and focusing on providing a targeted approach to tackling crime and antisocial behaviour to make neighbourhoods safer, which should be a priority for all forces.

Police uplift programme

Since 2019, this Government have invested over £2.7 billion additional funding into Government grants, to enable the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers. In March 2023, the Government, in partnership with policing, successfully delivered on their commitment, which is an extraordinary achievement. As a result, we now have more officers in England and Wales than the previous peak in 2010—and the most officers on record. It is vital that this continues throughout 2024-25 so that communities can receive the benefits of this investment. We are therefore allocating £425 million to the maintenance of additional officers for 2024-25, to be distributed as follows:

£67.2 million of the £425 million will be paid to the forces who volunteered to recruit additional officers agreed on 31 March 2023 as an “additional recruitment top-up grant”—providing financial certainty to those who chose to bolster officer numbers above targets.

£357.8 million will be ringfenced funding, which will be allocated via funding formula shares. PCCs will be able to access this funding, as in previous years, by demonstrating that they have maintained their officer numbers.

Efficiency and productivity

As the Home Office has reprioritised budgets to make significant investments in policing, it is the responsibility of police forces, like all public services, to ensure that they make best use of that investment. This includes reducing inefficiencies and maximising productivity, and in doing so ensuring that the money provided to policing represents value for money. Police forces have exceeded the efficiency target that was set out at the start of this spending review period and this work should continue, for example through ongoing collaboration with BlueLight Commercial, who estimate their work has supported the delivery of over £170 million-worth of cashable and efficiency savings.

The recently published policing productivity review has examined productivity in policing and developed a range of recommendations which, if fully implemented, could free up the equivalent of an estimated around 20,000 full-time police officers over the next five years. The Government are keen to work with the sector to unlock the full range of opportunities and benefits outlined in the review. We will publish a formal response in 2024 once we have fully considered the recommendations and engaged across Government and with key stakeholders in policing.

Investment in new technologies and innovation has the scope to unlock productivity at force level, support the policing of serious offenders and allow forces to provide increased support to the communities they serve. In 2023-24, the Home Office accelerated delivery in areas including automated redaction for text and multimedia files, and we began to explore the scope of robotic process automation to reduce the amount of time the police spend on tasks such as data cleansing, data entry and vetting checks. We have continued to invest in giving the public a choice in how they contact the police with increased digital contact, including the development of a public facing app. In 2024-25 we will maintain our investment via the National Police Chiefs’ Council chief scientific adviser for a biddable funding pot, to identify and support local innovation within forces with productivity benefits. We will also provide £11 million to support productivity with increased investment in innovative technology. The funding arrangements for specific programmes will be confirmed in due course.

National policing priorities

This settlement provides £1 billion for national policing priorities (as set out at tables 1 and 4) to ensure local policing bodies and forces have the resources and tools they need to address the evolving challenges of policing in the 21st century.

The Home Office is delivering a range of major law enforcement programmes, which will replace and improve essential national technology systems. This investment supports the modernisation of core national systems, enhancing the way forces communicate with each other and law enforcement partners to share data, intelligence, information and evidence. We are also improving the quality and the use of police data, providing national search capabilities and advanced analytics, and putting cutting-edge technology in the hands of specialist officers to tackle high-harm crime such as child sexual abuse.

Digital capabilities can transform the way forces prevent and detect crime, safeguard the public and operate more efficiently. The Home Office remains focused on driving innovation and accelerating the delivery of priority capabilities into policing. This includes the development of a “digital front counter” that uses technology and data to improve service to the public, reduce demand on policing and improve efficiencies.

In total in this settlement and across wider budgets, the Home Office will directly invest in excess of £200 million in flagship crime programmes that are helping to keep our streets safe. This will support violence reduction units to tackle violence in the worst-affected areas of the country, it will enable the police to continue to stamp out the scourge of county lines and it will help local areas to keep their neighbourhoods safe, including through the continuation of Project ADDER. But this is also about maximising the impact of our funding. By targeting investment in hotspot policing in those areas that are disproportionately impacted by both serious violence and antisocial behaviour, we can drive down crime and deliver increased value for money. We are also continuing to invest in a number of other priority areas for crime reduction, including but not limited to economic crime, modern slavery and violence against women and girls. Funding details for specific programmes will be confirmed to the usual timescales.


The Government will continue to provide essential support for counter-terrorism (CT) policing, ensuring it has the resources it needs to meet and deal with the threat of terrorism. CT police funding will continue to total at least £1 billion in 2024-25. This investment will support ongoing CT policing investigations to ensure the safety of our communities and includes funding for the CT operations centre. PCCs will be notified separately of force-level funding allocations for CT policing, which will not be made public for security reasons.

This settlement will support the police to fulfil their essential role in cutting crime and keeping people safe. I would like to express my continued gratitude and pay tribute to our dedicated police officers and staff for their exceptional dedication and unwavering bravery. I have set out in a separate document, available as an online attachment, the tables illustrating how we propose to allocate the police funding settlement between the different funding streams and between local policing bodies for 2024-25. These documents are intended to be read together.

Attachments can be viewed online at


Northern Ireland

Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery

Following the passage of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023, I am today establishing the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

I hereby give notice of the Northern Ireland Office’s intention to seek a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund. The Department requires an advance of £13,266,000 to meet the initial costs of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) on its full establishment. These costs were included in the Northern Ireland Office’s budget for 2023-24 so this does not represent additional spending. Accessing the Contingencies Fund will allow the ICRIR to undertake expenditure independently of the Department prior to parliamentary approval of changes to the Department’s ambit at supplementary estimate to recognise the full establishment of the ICRIR.

Parliamentary approval for resources of £4,650,000 and capital of £10,088,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Northern Ireland Office. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £13,266,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.


Science, Innovation and Technology

UK Data Infrastructure: Security and Resilience

Today, the Government have published the public consultation, “Protecting and enhancing the security and resilience of UK data infrastructure”. Data and its associated infrastructure and services are increasingly crucial to the UK’s economy, future growth and security, and are therefore strategically important at a national and global level—in 2022, the UK data economy represented 6.9% of GDP, and 76% of UK service exports worldwide are data-enabled.

The value of data means that the data infrastructure in which it is concentrated, and data centres in particular, are an attractive target to those with malign interests. Data infrastructure can also be vulnerable to disruption from other hazards, including climate events, such as extreme weather, which have the potential to interrupt the continuity of data-dependent services, causing impacts that could potentially be felt across the UK economy, public services and citizens’ day-to-day lives.

The Government propose to introduce a proportionate statutory framework, and complementary voluntary measures, to establish oversight of the security and resilience of UK data infrastructure. This would include regulatory requirements for operators of data centre services that we have identified as bearing risks that are particularly relevant to UK national interests and national security. The framework would ensure data centre operators have baseline mitigation measures in place, overseen by a new regulatory function. The consultation also seeks views on designating the parts of the data centre sector as critical national infrastructure. Views and evidence provided through consultation will inform design and decision making on whether to proceed, and how such measures would be designed and implemented. We particularly welcome input from data centre operators, cloud platform providers, managed service providers and other relevant market actors such as customers and suppliers, as well as independent or academic experts on data storage and processing.

A copy of the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and made available on The consultation will run until 22 February 2024.


Business and Trade

Trade Negotiations: Canada and Switzerland

The Department for Business and Trade continues to make good progress on its ambitious trade negotiations programme. This statement provides Parliament with an update on the UK’s respective trade negotiations with Canada and Switzerland.

Canada negotiations

The eighth round of UK-Canada free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations began on 27 November and concluded on 1 December. This round was held virtually, across all sessions.

Technical discussions were held across 24 policy areas over 60 separate sessions. They included detailed discussions on treaty text.

Both parties built on the momentum from agreeing in principle UK accession to CPTPP in March 2023. The negotiations continue to reflect our shared ambition to secure a progressive deal which strengthens our existing trading relationship, already worth over £24.8 billion in the year to Q3 2022.

Switzerland Negotiations

The third round of negotiations on a UK-Switzerland enhanced free trade agreement (FTA) took place from 27 November to 14 December.

During the round, which was held virtually, UK officials held technical, text-based discussions with their Swiss counterparts in a number of areas, such as procurement, investment, small-medium enterprises, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and animal welfare.

UK negotiators were able to make significant progress and agree draft treaty text across a number of areas. There were good discussions on services and investment, where the UK is working with the Swiss to provide long-term certainty and greater market access for UK-Swiss service suppliers, boosting bilateral trade in this area worth £23.7 billion.

In other chapters, negotiators used this round to greater explore differences to approaches and consider ways to address them, while delivering against negotiation objectives.

Overall, these discussions reflect the UK and Switzerland’s shared ambition to agree a modern, comprehensive agreement, building on the current UK-Swiss trade relationship.

Conversations are set to continue into round 4, scheduled for spring 2024, where the UK side expects to continue productive discussions.


The Government remain clear that any deal we sign, including with Canada and Switzerland will be in the best interests of the British people and the UK economy. We will not compromise on our high environmental and labour protections, public health, animal welfare and food standards, and we will maintain our right to regulate in the public interest. We are also clear that during these negotiations, the NHS, and the services it provides are not on the table. His Majesty’s Government will continue to work closely with Canada and Switzerland to ensure negotiations proceed at pace and take place on terms that are right for the UK.

The Government will continue to keep Parliament updated as these negotiations progress.