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Written Statements

Volume 627: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2017

Written Statements

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Contingent Liability: Microgeneration Certification Scheme

The microgeneration certification scheme (MCS) is a scheme that certifies products and installers of renewable technologies to provide assurance to consumers about the quality and standard of their installation.

My Department is going through the process of transferring the assets comprising the MCS to the MCS charitable foundation, as part of establishing the MCS as independent of Government. This will help contribute to a renewable technology market that is sustainable in the long term, and will limit the Government’s liabilities in relation to the scheme.

The operation of the MCS brings with it an existing contingent liability which has been previously covered under the annually disclosed overarching BEIS contingent liability for potential liabilities relating to claims from suppliers and third parties.

In relation to this, I wish to inform Parliament of a departmental minute which will be presented to Parliament today, giving notice of the Department retaining this contingent liability for which we would issue indemnity provisions to the MCS charitable foundation and the MCS service company. This contingent liability relates to the risk of potential complaints from affected parties regarding events which occurred during the period prior to the transfer, when BEIS held a position of responsibility for the MCS.

We believe it is appropriate to retain this existing contingent liability, even as we transfer the assets to the MCS charitable foundation. By offering this indemnity and enabling the transfer to proceed, the Department benefits from ceasing to take on further liabilities from the point of transfer onwards. The indemnity would be uncapped and last for a period of six years from the date of transfer.

We believe that the risk of any successful claim is low in relation to this contingent liability.

[HCWS82]

Product Recalls and Safety: Working Group

I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses, the report of the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety.

The report is a culmination of longer term, ongoing work on product safety and recalls. An independent review of the recall system was undertaken by Lynn Faulds Wood in 2015, with her review published in February 2016.

The Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety was established in October 2016 to build on the initial work by industry to implement the review. The Working Group was tasked with providing options to support a tangible improvement in the safety of white goods and the recalls system, working to a clearly defined timetable.

The Working Group is chaired by Neil Gibbins, former Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset and Chief Executive of the Institution of Fire Engineers. Its membership brings together product safety experts, the fire service and trading standards professionals to ensure that we utilise expertise in the relevant fields to identify necessary improvements to the system of product recalls and safety.

Key recommendations include:

a need for centralised technical and scientific resource capability to support decision making and co-ordination of activity of Local Authorities and the businesses that they regulate;

a detailed code of practice should be developed with input from all relevant stakeholders; this should be informed by behavioural insights research. This should set out expected good practice with regard to product safety corrective actions (including recalls);

full consideration should be given to establishing central capacity to co-ordinate product safety corrective actions at a central level;

systematic and sustainable ways to capture and share data and intelligence should be established and agreed by relevant parties—this should make use of existing systems used by trading standards and the fire service;

manufacturers and retailers should continue to work together and through standards-setting bodies to develop technological solutions to product marking and identification;

Primary authority provides a key mechanism for ensuring that businesses, local authority and BEIS expertise is shared to ensure the protection of consumers; and

the registration of appliances and other consumer goods with manufacturers by consumers should be encouraged to make corrective actions (including recalls) more effective.

Significant progress has already been made by the Working Group, supported by my officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in relation to the development of a code of practice on corrective action and product recalls, and a public consultation will be published shortly. Further work to promote the registration of appliances, understand consumer responses to safety information and recall communications is set out in the report as an important step towards a strengthened product safety framework.

We are also keen to see continued progress on work to promote the registration of appliances and understand consumer responses to safety information and recall communications. My Department has supported the behavioural insights work, which underpins the understanding of consumer behaviour. We have also enhanced the product recalls webpages on gov.uk to make it easier to access information about white goods subject to a recall on grounds of a fire safety risk and made links to the Register My Appliance website.

The Working Group recognised the important role that primary authority partnerships can play in achieving better safety outcomes. My Department continues to champion and push forward the scheme. The legislative changes which we are bringing into effect in October will extend and simplify the scheme so that as many businesses as possible can access its benefits.

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, I asked the Working Group to consider whether there was any further work or recommendations for their report. The Working Group have completed that review and concluded that the original report remains valid and relevant. I publish that report today, with copies of the documents placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS74]

Cabinet Office

Conflict Stability and Security Fund

I wish to update the House on how the Government have been supporting our national security interests through conflict prevention, peace building, stabilisation, peacekeeping and conflict resolution using the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).

Details of the programmes funded by the CSSF and its impact so far are in the first annual report, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House. The publication of this first report reflects the Government’s commitment to transparency in the delivery of official development assistance. We will be updating gov.uk pages with more information on the CSSF and individual programmes.

The CSSF replaced the Conflict Pool in April 2015, as part of a new, more strategic approach to enhancing the delivery of our national security interests directed by the National Security Council (NSC).

As announced in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), CSSF funding has continued to increase and will be £1.162 billion in 2017-18. The CSSF is now one of the world’s largest mechanisms for addressing conflict and instability. Its programmes deliver against more than 40 cross-Government strategies set by the National Security Council (NSC). These help to secure the UK, promote peace and stability overseas and contribute directly to SDSR objectives.

Parliamentary accountability for taxpayers’ money spent via the CSSF is provided primarily through the Joint Committee for the National Security Strategy (JCNSS). The JCNSS concluded its first inquiry into the CSSF in February. We have responded to the inquiry report and are taking forward many of their recommendations. Further announcements on governance will be made in due course.

Meeting both our legal and policy gender commitments is central to the delivery of the CSSF. Last year the CSSF spent £214.5 million on programmes which addressed gender equality. For example the CSSF in the Democratic Republic of Congo supported the provision of free legal assistance to 269 victims of international war crimes, of which 179 were women, mostly victims of sexual violence.

In addition to supporting peace building activity, CSSF funding is strengthening the multilateral system, supporting the UN and other international organisations to develop more effective multilateral responses to instability. The CSSF funds our contributions (known as assessed costs) to the UN peacekeeping budget. We are the sixth biggest contributor, spending over £300 million in 2016-17. In addition, we have been using CSSF funds to help reform the UN and UN peacekeeping, co-ordinating outreach to member states to secure pledges of personnel for peace operations and to assist with the transition from pledges to deployments. In 2016-17 the CSSF provided a further £15 million to fund the doubling of the UK’s troop contribution to peacekeeping through two new deployments: 70 UK military personnel to support UNSOS in Somalia, which provides essential logistical support for the African Union Mission (AMISOM) that is combating the terrorist organisation Al Shabaab; and 370 UK military personnel to provide engineering and medical support to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

To address some of the JCNSS recommendations for the CSSF a rapid review is being undertaken of Cross-Whitehall Fund governance and structures.

Conflict Stability and Security Fund resources, FY 17-18

CSSF

2017-18 (millions)

Peacekeeping and Multilateral

391.7

Regional/Country Strategies

606.3

Security and Defence

150

Delivery support, including the Stabilisation Unit and National School of Government

14.5

Total

1162.5

[HCWS76]

Education

School Curriculum

In order to ensure our education system drives social mobility, it is imperative that the vast majority of pupils—whatever their background—have the opportunity to study the suite of academic subjects that make up the EBacc. These subjects—English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language—are the core of a rounded and well balanced education that should be the entitlement of the vast majority of pupils. According to the Russell Group, studying these subjects at A-level opens more doors to more degrees.

A recent study found that pupils in a set of 300 schools that increased their EBacc entry, from 8% to 48%, were more likely to achieve good English and maths GCSEs, more likely to take an A-level, or an equivalent level 3 qualification, and more likely to stay in post-16 education.

Since 2010, we have increased the opportunity for pupils to study this combination of GCSEs, with 40% of pupils now being entered for this combination of subjects at GCSE, up from 22% in 2010. However, there are still too few pupils studying these subjects, with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds disproportionately less likely to be studying these subjects.

Research suggests that lower participation from disadvantaged pupils in these core academic subjects can negatively affect social mobility. Yet overall, disadvantaged pupils remain half as likely to be entered for the EBacc subjects as their non-disadvantaged peers, and the gap in EBacc subject entry persists even among the most academically able disadvantaged pupils.

There is no doubt that studying the EBacc subjects up to the age of 16 is right for the vast majority of pupils. As a Government we are committed to unlocking the potential of all pupils regardless of their background and this is why, as set out in our manifesto, we would like to see 90% of year 10 pupils starting to study GCSEs in the EBacc combination of subjects by 2025.

Through our consultation on implementing the EBacc, we sought to understand the barriers schools face in increasing EBacc entry. Having carefully considered the consultation responses, it is my view that we need an approach that is both pragmatic, stretching, and one that takes into account the challenge involved in meeting this ambition.

While some schools are already responding to this challenge by significantly increasing the number of pupils studying the EBacc suite of GCSEs, some schools have more to do to reach our ambition. It will take time to build the right capacity across the whole school system and ensure that schools have access to high quality staff in EBacc subjects, so that all pupils have the best chance of success in their studies.

Taking this all into account it is our ambition that 75% of year 10 pupils in state-funded mainstream schools will start to study GCSEs in the EBacc combination of subjects by September 2022. This will mark an important milestone in driving towards the Government’s ambition that the vast majority of pupils—irrespective of background—have access to this core academic suite of GCSEs, which is central to a broad and balanced curriculum.

The Government response being published today considers and responds to the issues raised in consultation responses, and outlines the steps we will take to support schools to deliver the EBacc subjects to the vast majority of pupils.

Copies of the Government’s response document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS73]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Health

Today I am updating the House on the implementation of the Government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB (bTB) in England.

The Government’s comprehensive bTB strategy includes one of the most rigorous cattle surveillance programmes in the world, strong movement controls, a focus on good biosecurity, and badger control where TB is rife.

We are making good progress. The Government have this week applied for official TB-free status for the low risk area of the England—more than half the country—two years ahead of schedule, which will bring trade benefits for farmers in these areas.

Further measures I am outlining today will help us eradicate the disease from the rest of England more quickly and more effectively.

A consultation begins today on proposals to catch disease in herds as early as possible, by introducing a simpler, more risk-based TB testing regime in the high risk area with six-monthly routine surveillance tests. Lower risk herds where owners can demonstrate good biosecurity will be subject to less frequent testing. We are proposing some adjustments to the compensation system to improve incentives for farmers to reduce disease risks on their farms. Also included is a proposal to allow farmers to retain in-calf TB test positive cattle for up to 60 days, subject to biosecurity controls.

I can also confirm that we are now confident that supplies of BCG vaccine are sufficient to allow us to resume the badger edge vaccination scheme. This will help protect healthy badgers and stop disease spreading to new parts of the country. Private groups intending to run vaccination schemes will be able to apply for grants later this year for projects to run next summer.

We are also publishing responses to a consultation on supplementary badger control, and its licensing guidance, outlining plans to make sure disease control benefits in areas that have completed intensive culling are maintained while the disease is still present in England.

We are determined to implement all available measures necessary to eradicate this devastating disease as quickly as possible to create resilient and successful dairy and beef industries.

Copies of the cattle controls consultation and the badger control summary of consultation responses have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS75]

Exiting the European Union

EU Opt-in Decision: Civil Justice Co-operation Regulations

My right hon. Friend Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:

On 9 June 2017, the Government opted in to a proposal to change the updating mechanism of three civil judicial co-operation regulations from the comitology procedure to the post-Lisbon treaty delegated and implementing Act procedure. These are technical adjustments that are part of a wider effort to modernise legislation, which the UK supports.

The relevant regulations are the 2001 regulation on taking evidence in other member states to allow for a court in one member state to request to take evidence to another; the 2004 regulation that created that European enforcement order; and the 2007 regulation on service of documents to allow the service of judicial documents from one member state to another.

The Government submitted the explanatory memorandum on the Commission alignment proposals (COM(2016) 798 and COM(2016) 799) on 13 February 2017. The substance and effect of these three regulations will not change, but become subject to the same updating procedures as apply to other, post-Lisbon regulations (a committee composed of representatives from all EU countries providing a formal opinion, usually in the form of a vote, on the Commission’s proposed measures). The underlying treaty base (now article 81 TFEU) and the relevant regulations were subject to the UK’s justice and home affairs opt-in.

These technical changes protect the UK’s position in relation to three important procedural instruments in the area of civil judicial co-operation and demonstrate the UK’s commitment to abiding by its rights and obligations until exit negotiations are concluded.

[HCWS83]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Services

FCO Services operates as a trading fund of the FCO. Pursuant to section 4(6) of the Government Trading Funds Act 1973 (as amended by the Government Trading Act 1990), I hereby lay copies of FCO Services’ Annual Report and Accounts 2016-2017 before the House.

The report has been endorsed by the FCO Services Board and the FCO Services Audit and Risk Assurance Committee (on which sits the lead National Audit Office auditor and the head of FCO Internal Audit). It has also been examined by the FCO Partnership Board.

On 3 July 2017, the Comptroller and Auditor General formally signed off the report and accounts.

For the reasons above, and upon my own examination, I am satisfied that the annual report and accounts represent a true and fair account of FCO Services’ performance.

[HCWS72]

Health

NHS Transformation: Investment

This Government are backing the NHS’s own plan for the future, the Five Year Forward View, and funding it with an additional £8 billion a year in real terms by the end of the Parliament. Delivering that vision relies on health and care organisations working together at a local level, which the NHS is taking forward through sustainability and transformation partnerships. These are clinically led, locally driven—and can deliver real improvements for patients. The independent King’s Fund has called STPs “the right approach for improving care and meeting the needs of an ageing population”.

In the spring Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced an additional £325 million of capital funding to invest in local areas who have come together and developed robust plans.

Today, I announce the provisional allocation of this first tranche of capital funding. From a large number of proposals, 25 schemes have been selected in total from across the 15 STP areas as follows:

Greater Manchester

Lancashire and South Cumbria

Dorset

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland

Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire and Luton

Derbyshire

West, North and East Cumbria

Nottinghamshire

Suffolk and North East Essex

Herefordshire and Worcestershire

South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw

Mid and South Essex

Norfolk and Waveney

Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West

North East London

Further detail on the schemes that will receive funding is available as an online attachment.

In order to qualify for this first tranche of funding, these areas were all judged to be sufficiently advanced on the basis of the STP assessment data (that NHS England will publish on Friday). This data allows patients, managers and the public to see how their STP area is performing across three themes: hospital performance, patient-focused change, and transformation. Each theme is underpinned by key metrics, such as performance in emergency and elective care, safety and leadership. It is a mechanism by which organisations, patients and the public can hold their STP to account.

The quality and diversity of proposals put forward show that the NHS is working innovatively to identify opportunities for transformation in the delivery of health services across their local footprint. The Government are fully committed to supporting this process and the schemes selected for funding will make a substantial difference to the performance of local health systems.

Final confirmation of this funding will be subject to the successful approval of business cases. Organisations receiving funding will also be required to demonstrate that their proposals form part of a robust capital and estates strategy which maximises all opportunities for generating receipts from surplus land disposals within their STP area. We will also expect them to agree a clear delivery plan for generating these receipts. This process will be supported by a central team of strategic estates advisers

The Government remain committed to considering a further round of local proposals for funding in the autumn Budget, subject to the same rigorous value for money tests. In considering these bids we will look to STPs to demonstrate further progress on generating funding from disposals receipts and other sources of finance.

Attachments can be viewed at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statements/Commons/2017-07-19/HCWS71/.

[HCWS71]

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

On Wednesday 12 July, Ministers at the Department of Health were informed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) about an issue identified during a routine inspection of Bio Products Laboratory (BPL). The MHRA provided confirmation on Monday of this week that, in light of all of the information currently available, their assessment is that no patients have been harmed and none put at additional risk of harm due to the issue.

BPL is responsible for the supply of a range of plasma products to the NHS and a range of other major health systems around the world. The company, in line with best practice, operates a three stage process to ensure the safety of its products:

1. Selection of healthy donors, with all donations tested and traceable to the donor.

2. Further safety tests of plasma in advance of the manufacturing process.

3. During the manufacturing process, all products are specially treated to inactivate viruses.

The MHRA informed Ministers that their inspection identified a problem with the computer software, which controls the stage one process set out above. Following the identification of the issue by the MHRA, a manual review was undertaken by the company to ensure that no inappropriate donations made it through this stage of the process due to the problems with the computer system. This manual review confirmed that no inappropriate samples had made it through to the next stage of the process, and a range of other risk mitigation steps were also implemented.

The MHRA have continued to provide progress updates to Ministers regularly since notification on 12 July.

On Monday of this week the MHRA confirmed to Ministers their assessment that the problem had been addressed through interim measures to provide the necessary assurance while long-term solutions are being implemented. In the opinion of the MHRA, due to the three stage process outlined above, and in light of all of the information currently available, no patients have been harmed and none put at additional risk of harm due to the issue.

The MHRA is continuing to undertake all necessary regulatory activities in order to ensure patient safety, and will continue to keep Ministers informed of this work.

Although there is no evidence of risk to patients in this case, in the interest of transparency, I wanted to update the House to this situation as quickly as possible with the relevant information. In the unlikely event of any changes, I will update the House accordingly.

[HCWS70]

Home Department

Fire and Rescue Authorities: England

In May 2016, this Government set out plans to create an independent inspectorate for fire and rescue authorities in England as part of our fire reform programme.

The response to the recent tragic Grenfell Tower fire showcased the very best of fire and rescue services. As the dreadful event unfolded, we saw the resounding bravery and skill of our firefighters and emergency responders.

An inspectorate will help support the continuous improvement of this critical public service and enable fire and rescue authorities to become even more effective, as it is only by identifying and understanding problems that action can be taken to overcome them.

I can today announce that this inspectorate will form part of a newly expanded Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary (HMIC). In order to preserve fire and rescue’s distinct identity, HMIC will re-brand as Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services.

I have recommended to Her Majesty that, following commencement of fire and rescue inspection provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, she appoint Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, as chief fire and rescue inspector, and for HMIC’s existing inspectors to be appointed fire and rescue inspectors. This will be in addition to their existing police inspection responsibilities.

A dedicated team will be appointed to carry out fire and rescue inspections which will include expertise drawn from the fire and rescue sector.

The new inspectorate will work alongside other institutional changes under way in the fire and rescue sector, namely the establishment of the National Fire Chiefs Council and the planned creation of a body with responsibility for setting professional standards for fire and rescue services.

HMIC has a strong track record in holding policing to the highest standards and identifying where action must be taken to improve behaviour and practice. I expect them to replicate this when inspecting fire and rescue authorities. This new inspectorate will provide a crucial assurance function to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of every authority in England and whether they are fulfilling their statutory obligations.

My officials, together with representatives from the fire and rescue sector, will work with the inspectorate over the coming months to develop a comprehensive inspection framework against which fire and rescue authorities will be inspected. The Secretary of State is required to agree both the inspection framework and programme. The first inspection will take place in early 2018 and every fire and rescue authority in England will be inspected thereafter with a report published on every inspection.

The provisions made by the Policing and Crime Act 2017 require the chief fire and rescue inspector for England to lay before Parliament an annual report on the inspections undertaken. This will include his assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities in England for the period in respect of which the report is prepared. The Home Secretary also has the ability to commission the inspectorate to inspect and report on any particular issue in addition to individual authority inspections.

[HCWS78]

Avon Fire and Rescue Service

On 2 February, the previous Minister for Policing and Fire announced an independent inspection, led by Dr Craig Baker, into a number of allegations made against Avon Fire and Rescue Authority. I am pleased to announce to Parliament that the inspection is now complete and the Government have today laid before the House and published the report and recommendations.

The inspection, which was the first of its kind, was established under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 (the “1999 Act”). The inspection considered the authority’s compliance with its “best value duty” under section 3 of the 1999 Act which requires the authority to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The report concluded that, in the lead inspector’s opinion, the authority is failing to comply with its duty under section 3 of the 1999 Act and makes a number of proposals for improvement in the areas of governance, leadership, culture and external scrutiny. The proposals include:

a review of the senior management board to ensure they have the necessary experience and capabilities to plan and deliver the transformational change required;

a de-layering exercise with regards to the senior management board with a focus on culture change and professionalism;

a review of the authority’s integrated risk management plan; and

the introduction of a programme board to drive change and support the senior management team.

The Government welcome this independent, comprehensive report and will work closely with Avon Fire and Rescue Authority, the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Local Government Association (LGA) to fully consider the inspector’s findings.

Public safety is a key Government priority and it is our ambition to build on the good progress fire and rescue services have already made to create a service that is more accountable, effective and professional than ever before. To support this, the Government have already announced:

an independent inspection regime for fire and rescue services in England;

the development of an independent professional standards body that will provide a coherent and comprehensive set of professional standards to drive improvements across the sector; and

a consultation on amendments to the fire and rescue national framework for England to include a requirement to discourage the practice of re-engaging senior officers post-retirement with an increase in take-home pay and pension benefits. The national framework is undergoing a complete revision and the new version will be published in early 2018.

I would like to thank Dr Baker and his team for the detailed report and recommendations and the professional manner in which they approached the inspection.

[HCWS79]

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures

Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

TPIM notices in force (as of 28 February 2017)

7

TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 28 February 2017)

6

TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)

0

TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)

0

TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)

0

Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)

7

Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)

1

The number of current subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (as of 28 February 2017)

7

The TPIM review group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The TRG met on 12, 13, 15 and 16 December 2016. The next TRG meetings took place on 6, 9, 13, 16 and 17 March 2017.

[HCWS80]

Justice

Justice Update

Probation services play a vital role in protecting communities and rehabilitating offenders. In delivering the sentences of the court, supervising offenders and helping them to address problems such as unemployment, homelessness and mental health issues, probation officers keep the public safe and prevent future victims of crime.

In 2014-15 the Government reformed the probation system to strengthen its focus on reducing reoffending and protecting communities, and much progress has been made in implementing these reforms. For the first time around 40,000 offenders a year released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months are entitled to statutory support from probation on release, and new through-the-gate services have been introduced to improve the resettlement of released prisoners in the community. We have established 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) to supervise low and medium-risk offenders, and a national probation service (NPS) dedicated to protecting the public from higher-risk offenders. Staff working in the probation system deserve enormous credit for their commitment and professionalism during this period of significant change.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the current delivery of some aspects of probation services must improve. It is inevitable that such fundamental reforms to a complex public service will take some time to bed down. In addition, since the contracts were negotiated the number of offenders sentenced to community orders has fallen, and there has been an increase in the proportion of offenders assessed as posing a higher risk of harm. The result is fewer offenders are being referred to CRCs, leading to falls in CRC income to significantly below the levels expected at the time of the competition. This has made it extremely challenging for CRCs to deliver the services outlined in their contracts. In turn the NPS has seen a growth in their caseload and increased demands on its staff. That is why we have been reviewing the probation system, and why we are now taking steps to improve services.

We have recently taken urgent action to adjust the payment mechanism within the CRC contracts so it better reflects the fixed nature of most of the costs that providers incur when delivering services to offenders. This additional investment, which will see projected payments to CRCs still being no higher than originally budgeted for at the time of the reforms, will make CRC income less sensitive to changes in demand and therefore more reflective of their actual cost structures. This increased certainty about future income will enable CRCs to focus on delivering critical operational services. We are also exploring with providers further improvements that could be made to the delivery of rehabilitative services, and we will set out at a later stage any further changes we will be making as a result.

In addition we are working with the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England to develop a joint protocol setting out how probation, health and treatment services should work together to support those serving community sentences in England. We will seek to implement the protocol in a number of test-bed areas this year, and have agreed with the Welsh Government that we will seek to establish a similar protocol in Wales. We are also providing additional funding to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation and supporting them to introduce a new framework for the inspection of probation services from April 2018. This will provide stronger scrutiny and increased transparency of the performance of probation by introducing annual inspection of CRCs and NPS areas and the publication of individual ratings for providers.

The Government remain wholeheartedly committed to reducing reoffending and protecting the public. The transforming rehabilitation reforms created a framework for more effective probation services and we intend to ensure they deliver the benefits of reduced reoffending. Over the coming months we will continue to work with providers to improve the delivery of probation services and we will make further statements in due course.

[HCWS81]

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Finances

When the Assembly dissolved in January, no budget had been set for the Northern Ireland Executive for the 2017-18 financial year. Since the end of March it has fallen to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance to allocate funding to Northern Ireland Departments under powers provided by section 59 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

This situation has led to understandable concern and uncertainty among businesses and those relying on public services alike. Since April I have therefore worked closely with the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS), in conjunction with the NICS board, to keep under review how to provide ongoing assurance around the budget in the absence of an Executive.

In the first instance this led, on 24 April, to my written statement to the House setting out an indicative budget position and set of departmental allocations. This sought to enable Permanent Secretaries to plan and prepare to take more detailed decisions on cash allocations.

Disappointingly, we remain without an Executive three months on. While progress has been made in discussions between the parties, resolution has not been reached. The parties have, however, made clear that they remain committed to engaging with each other to agree a basis on which an Executive can be formed. If an agreement is reached, I will move quickly to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow an Executive to meet at the next earliest opportunity.

While it is for the Northern Ireland parties to reach an agreed way forward, the UK Government remain committed to working with them and, as appropriate, the Irish Government to secure the restoration of devolved government as quickly as possible. I will maintain close contact with party leaders and the Irish Government over the coming weeks to seek to consolidate progress and encourage continuing discussions towards a deal.

While agreement remains possible, it is clear that an Executive will not be capable of being formed before the autumn. During that time pressures will continue to build, particularly in health and education services. And so as I set out in my written statement on 11 July, I consider it necessary to provide further clarity to support Northern Ireland Permanent Secretaries in addressing those pressures, maintaining public services and continuing to uphold the commitments arising from the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements.

With that in mind, I set out below adjusted indicative budget positions and departmental allocations for this year. These include resource and capital funding provided in the spring Budget by the Chancellor, as well as resource and capital funding expected to be available from budget transfers and updated forecasts, subject to final data and the usual HM Treasury approval processes.

The allocations do not include any of the financial support the UK Government would be prepared to make available to Northern Ireland following the agreement between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party. This Government recognise the unique challenges faced by Northern Ireland as a result of its distinct history and geographical position. However a restored Executive will need to agree how it wishes to allocate these funds to projects within the priority areas.

As previously, the allocations in the table showed in the attachment do not reflect input from UK Government Ministers on priorities nor do they constrain the future ability of an incoming Executive to adjust its priorities. And it remains for NI civil servants to allocate cash under s59 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. It is important to acknowledge, however, that as the year progresses the scope for significant changes will become more constrained.

This statement does not replace the ultimate need for a formal budget for Northern Ireland. The exercise of s59 powers cannot be sustained indefinitely. And though the advice I have received from the Head of the NICS is that we have not yet reached that critical point, it is approaching. It should be for a new Executive to make swift decisions on its budget to make use of the spending power available to it.

At the same time we will not forget our ultimate responsibility as a Government to uphold political stability and good governance in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, I reaffirm that the UK Government remain prepared to take forward legislation at Westminster to give authority for the expenditure of Northern Ireland departments should an Executive not be restored in the autumn. If resolution continues to prove intractable beyond that point, we will take further steps to provide the necessary political decision-making in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-07-19/HCWS77/.

[HCWS77]