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Written Statements

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 18 April 2017

Written Statements

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Register of Beneficial Owners of Overseas Companies and Other Legal Entities

My noble Friend Lord Prior of Brampton has made the following statement:

On 5 April, we published a call for evidence seeking views on a new register that will show who owns and controls overseas companies and other legal entities that own UK property or participate in UK Government procurement.

The intention to create this register was announced at the International Anti-Corruption summit held in the UK last May. In providing greater transparency, the register will play a vital role in helping to combat corruption and money laundering. Greater transparency will also enhance the UK’s reputation as an open and stable place to invest.

Last year the UK became the first country in the G20 to introduce a register of UK company beneficial ownership. The new register will impose similar requirements on overseas entities that choose to invest in property in the UK or bid to provide central Government contracts here. The creation of this register will ensure that the UK continues to be at the forefront of the corporate transparency and anti-corruption agenda.


Communities and Local Government

Troubled Families

As required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, section 3(1) and (11), my Department published the first annual report on Tuesday 4 April, setting out how the current Troubled Families programme (2015-2020) has been supporting the most disadvantaged families. We will lay this report on 24 April 2017 when both Houses have returned from recess.

This notice details what the report will cover, for the period up to end of March 2017, as well as for the next financial year, including setting out which families are eligible for the programme and how the progress of families supported will be measured.

Families classed as ‘relevant households’ on the programme, as defined by section 3 of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, have at least two of the following problems:

Parents or children involved in crime or anti-social behaviour.

Children who are not attending school regularly.

Children who need help; that is children of all ages, who need help, are identified as in need or are subject to a child protection plan.

Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion or young people at risk of worklessness.

Families affected by domestic violence or abuse.

Parents or children with a range of physical and mental health problems.

The rationale for these eligibility criteria and how local authorities should identify families using a range of indicators, suggested referral routes and information sources was set out in the “Financial framework for the expanded Troubled Families programme: April 2015 onwards” published on 5 March 2015. The financial framework also sets out how the progress of families supported will be measured.

‘Supporting disadvantaged families, Troubled Families programme 2015-2020: progress so far’ sets out how the programme is changing the way councils work to be more effective in supporting those in need, including through a whole family approach and co-ordinated practical support. It also includes considerations for the next phase of the programme including which families are eligible for support, and how their progress will be measured.

The programme will continue support for disadvantaged families with complex problems and will work with up to 400,000 families by 2020.

The next phase of the Troubled Families programme supports the Government’s paper, “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”. This sets out new evidence on the multiple and overlapping disadvantages experienced by workless families - including parental conflict and problem debt.

As part of the next phase of the programme, the Government will be conducting a review of the current payment-by-results funding model. This is to make sure that this model continues to help the programme meet its objectives, and to strengthen the programme’s funding requirements.



Schools Capital Allocations

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System (Lord Nash) made the following written statement on 3 April 2017.

Today, I am announcing £2.4 billion of capital funding to create new school places needed by September 2020 and to maintain and improve the condition of school buildings. This forms part of our wider plan to invest more than £24 billion in the school estate by 2021.

We want to build a country that works for everyone—and that means providing a good school place for every child, one that offers them the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Investing in our school buildings and creating a sufficient amount of school places are key parts of the Government’s plan to ensure that every child has the opportunity of a place at a good school, whatever their background.

We are committed to investing £7 billion in this Parliament to create new school places. Together with our further investment in free schools we expect this to deliver 600,000 new school places over the course of the Parliament. We have already announced £4.8 billion of funding to local authorities for 2015-19, and today we are announcing a further £980 million for 2019-20, taking total investment so far through this Parliament to £5.8 billion. In doing so, we continue to recognise that good investment decisions require certainty. Announcing allocations for 2019-20 today means local authorities can plan years ahead with confidence, and make good strategic investment decisions to ensure they deliver good school places for every child who needs one.

Alongside this new funding we are publishing data from the 2016 School Capacity Survey, which highlights the progress made by local authorities to date in providing new school places using our previous investment. By May 2016, our investment had already helped to create nearly 735,000 additional school places since 2010, with 136,000 delivered in 2015-16 alone.

Alongside this investment in new school places, we are committing more than £10 billion over 2016-21 to maintain and improve the condition of the school estate. As part of this, I am today confirming allocations of £1.2 billion for local authorities, voluntary aided partnerships, multi-academy trusts and academy sponsors to invest in their own condition priorities, and a further £0.2 billion of devolved formula capital directly to schools in the financial year 2017-18. This allocation includes the Condition Improvement Fund which is providing funding of £466 million for 1,435 projects across 1,184 academies and sixth-form colleges. These projects will help to ensure that children across the country have access to a good school place, further supporting them to reach their full potential.

This funding will help improve the quality of school buildings across the country, targeting schools with the highest need. It can also help schools reduce their running costs, by replacing outdated facilities with buildings that are more efficient to run. So I want schools, local authorities and academy trusts to look carefully at how they can achieve the best value from this investment.

Details of today’s announcement will be published on the website, and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.



Contingent Liability Notification

I can today confirm that I have laid a Treasury Minute informing the House of the contingent liability that HM Treasury has taken on in authorising the sale of a portfolio of Bradford & Bingley loans acquired during the financial crisis under the last Labour Government.

This includes certain remote fundamental market-standard warranties which are capped at 100% of the final sale price. The maximum contingent liability arising from these remote warranties is capped at the total consideration received, giving a maximum contingent liability of £11.9 billion. These fundamental warranties are considered to be so remote that they do not meet the definition of a contingent liability requiring disclosure under International Financial Reporting Standards. However, they are disclosed as remote contingent liabilities under principles of parliamentary accountability.

Further market-standard time and valued capped warranties and indemnities confirming regulatory, legislative, and contractual compliance have been provided to the purchasers. The maximum contingent liability arising is approximately £0.79 billion.

I will update the House of any further changes to Bradford & Bingley as necessary.


UK Bilateral Loan to Ireland

HM Treasury has today provided a further report to Parliament in relation to the bilateral loan to Ireland as required under the Loans to Ireland Act 2010. The report relates to the period from 1 October 2016 to 31 March 2017.

A written statement on the previous statutory report regarding the loan to Ireland was issued to Parliament on 13 October 2016, Official Report, column 15WS.


Cabinet Office

Conduct Guidance for Elections (4 May)

On 4 May 2017, elections will take place to local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland, including for directly elected Mayors to seven combined authorities, and two local district councils in England.

As is normal ahead of elections, guidance has now been issued for civil servants in UK Government Departments and those working in arm’s length bodies on the principles that they should observe in relation to the conduct of Government business in the run up to the forthcoming elections.

The guidance sets out the need to maintain the political impartiality of the Civil Service, and the need to ensure that public resources are not used for party political purposes during this period. The period of sensitivity preceding these elections began on 13 April.

The guidance was published on 10 April, and copies have been placed in the Library of the House and at:



Service Complaints Ombudsman

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence in the House of Lords (Earl Howe) made the following written statement on 3 April 2017.

I am pleased to lay before Parliament today the service complaints ombudsman’s annual report for 2016 on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system.

This report is published by Nicola Williams, her first as service complaints ombudsman, and covers the first year of operation of the new service complaints system and the work of her office in 2016.

The new service complaints system was introduced on 1 January 2016. The system is shorter, seeks to promote greater confidence in the system and strengthens the oversight and accountability through the powers of the ombudsman. I am pleased that the report acknowledges the good work undertaken by each of the services in 2016 as they have implemented the new system. The ombudsman also reports on those areas where further work is required to improve the way in which complaints are handled, and makes 12 new recommendations.

The findings of the report and the recommendations made will now be considered in detail, and a formal response to the ombudsman will follow once that work is complete.


Northern Ireland

Political Update

Since the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March I have been engaged in talks with the political parties and the Irish Government, in accordance with the well-established three-stranded approach. These talks have had one clear purpose: to re-establish an inclusive, devolved Administration in line with the 1998 Belfast Agreement and its successors. Throughout this process the UK Government have played an active role in working with the parties and putting forward proposals to build consensus.

The first phase of talks, led by the parties, concluded without an agreement on 27 March. Following consultation with the parties and the Irish Government, I then invited the parties to a further phase of intensive roundtable talks to help resolve the key outstanding issues. The second phase of talks were paused shortly before Easter. All the parties were actively engaged and some further progress was made, including on the formation of an Executive and on legacy. There are, however, a defined number of outstanding issues where there is a lack of agreement between the parties particularly those surrounding culture and identity. Work also remains to be done to address issues of trust and confidence in Executive working. The Prime Minister has spoken to the leaders of the two main parties and I have been keeping her updated throughout.

While recent discussions have not resolved these matters, they have helped to distil them and identify possible areas for consensus. The parties will now have a final opportunity to reach agreement, building on the discussions which have taken place over the past six weeks. On 2 March, the people of Northern Ireland voted clearly for devolved government. The parties mandated by that election still have a duty to provide the government for which they campaigned. Discussions between the parties, and the UK and Irish Governments, will continue, in accordance with the three-stranded approach. The prospect of a forthcoming UK general election does not change this approach.

It remains my intention to introduce legislation into Parliament to address immediate requirements. I have already indicated that I will legislate to set this year’s regional rate to address the urgent need for rates bills to be issued by councils. In addition, I believe it is also right to introduce provisions that would enable an Executive to be formed in early May should agreement be reached. To have this legislation in force in time, I will be requesting that its progress through Parliament be fast-tracked.


Work and Pensions

Workless Families

On 4 April we published “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”, setting out this Government’s vision to improve outcomes for children who grow up in workless families and face multiple, associated disadvantages.

This Government are committed to creating a country that works for everyone. We want to create a fairer Britain where success is based on merit, not privilege, and where everyone has the chance to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

We have already made great steps in rebalancing society in favour of ordinary working people: the employment rate runs at a record high and unemployment is at the lowest rate for over a decade. There are now 590,000 fewer children in workless households compared to 2010.

However, despite this progress, for some families, worklessness, not employment, is the norm. In 2014-15 there were 1.8 million children in workless families across the United Kingdom, and in over eight out of 10 cases the child was in a long-term workless family. These families often face multiple disadvantages—for example, relationship distress is almost three times as prevalent in workless couple-parent families compared to when both parents are working.

New analysis shows what a profound impact worklessness and its associated multiple disadvantages can have on children’s emotional, behavioural and educational outcomes. Our ground-breaking research shows children in workless families are almost twice as likely to fail to reach the expected standard at all stages of their education. Evidence also shows how exposure to parental conflict can have long-term negative impacts on children’s early development. We must act now to break this cycle of disadvantage.

We are introducing four major new policies which will transform local services so that they can better support workless families:

The next phase of the Troubled Families programme, to place a greater emphasis on supporting parents with complex problems back into work;

A major programme to reduce stress and conflict in workless families;

Enhancing the role of Jobcentre Plus in working with local partners to tackle collectively the multiple disadvantages facing unemployed individuals in a better, more joined-up way; and

Greater support to help those with drug and alcohol dependencies into work, in response to recommendations from Dame Carol Black’s review of employment support for those with drug/alcohol dependencies.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government published the Troubled Families annual report on 4 April, which sets out more detail on the next phase of the programme and should be read in conjunction with “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”.

To track our collective progress in improving outcomes for disadvantaged families, we are introducing nine national indicators, as set out in our analysis and research pack. These will build on our two statutory indicators of parental worklessness and children’s educational attainment—for which the first annual report was published alongside “Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families”. I will lay this report formally in Parliament on 24 April.

We will break down our evidence to a local level, to enable local partners to understand and identify the needs of their community. We will continue to work with local agencies and partners on a range of tools, including our family evidence resource, to help them use our new evidence to commission and deliver effective interventions for workless families.

The analysis and evidence we have developed—in conjunction with leading academics and experts, as well as other Government Departments—takes us further than ever before in understanding the root causes of disadvantage.

The indicators and evidence base we are introducing form a framework for action—and in doing so, help to drive improvements in children and families’ lives, now and over time. By targeting services on the issues that prevent parents moving into work and cause instability in family life, Government, working with local authorities and other partners, can help workless families and their children overcome their problems and improve their lives.