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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
02 November 2017
Volume 630

Written Statements

Thursday 2 November 2017

Treasury

National Insurance Contributions Bill

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The Government are announcing today that they will introduce the National Insurance Contributions (NICs) Bill in 2018. The measures it will implement will now take effect one year later, from April 2019. This includes the abolition of class 2 NICs, reforms to the NICs treatment of termination payments, and changes to the NICs treatment of sporting testimonials.

The Government have decided to implement a one-year delay to allow time to engage with interested parties and parliamentarians with concerns relating to the impact of the abolition of class 2 NICs on self-employed individuals with low profits. The Government have committed to abolishing class 2 NICs to simplify the system, so it is therefore right to take the time to ensure that there are no unintended consequences for the lowest paid.

[HCWS220]

Home Department

European Criminal Records Information System/EU Justice and Home Affairs IT Agency

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The Government have decided to opt in to a new EU proposal for a regulation to establish a centralised system for the identification of member states holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) (“the draft regulation”). This draft regulation aims to supplement and support the existing European criminal records information system (ECRIS) so that member states can more effectively obtain the EU-wide criminality history of TCNs.

ECRIS already allows for the exchange of criminal records information across the EU and establishes an EU-wide offending history for EU nationals. It supports effective criminal justice decisions which ensure that relevant public protection measures are considered. While ECRIS is well established in obtaining criminal records information in respect of EU nationals, it does not lend itself to efficient exchange with regard to TCNs. This is because member states must send requests to all member states individually in order to capture all EU criminality.

To address this, the new draft regulation will create a centralised identification system which will allow member states to make searches to identify the member state or states who hold conviction information on TCNs and envisages the existing ECRIS decentralised mechanism being relied upon to then request this information from the relevant member state(s). This draft regulation therefore will increase the efficiency of the process and help ensure that our law enforcement agencies have more information available to them when they encounter TCNs than they do at present.

Eu-LISA is an EU agency that manages certain justice and home affairs IT systems that the UK takes part in, including EURODAC (the EU’s system for storing the fingerprints of asylum seekers and certain illegal migrants) and the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II, which we take part in for police and judicial co-operation purposes and which allows the circulation of law enforcement alerts in real time across the EU).

The draft eu-LISA regulation would repeal and replace the current regulation governing the agency, making a number of changes. These include giving eu-LISA responsibility for managing the proposed ECRIS-TCN system (as well as a number of new measures that we do not take part in as they build on the border and immigration aspects of Schengen); making minor amendments to its governance; and other amendments around data quality and the interoperability of systems.

Because eu-LISA manages, or will manage, some systems that build on the Schengen aquis (for example, SIS II) and some that do not (EURODAC and the proposed ECRIS-TCN system), the draft regulation governing it engages both our justice and home affairs opt-in and our opt-out from measures building on the policing and judicial co-operation aspects of Schengen.

The Government believe it is in the national interest to continue participating in eu-LISA, as this will maximise our influence over how it operates the IT systems that we take part in and for which it is responsible. We have therefore decided to opt in to the draft eu-LISA regulation to the extent that it is not Schengen-building and not to opt out to the extent that it builds on the policing and judicial co-operation aspects of Schengen.

Until the UK leaves the EU it remains a full member, and the Government will continue to consider the application of the UK’s right to opt in to, or opt out of, forthcoming EU legislation in the area of justice and home affairs on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting our civil liberties, and enhancing our ability to control immigration.

[HCWS219]

Work and Pensions

Social Security

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Today I am publishing an updated version of the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment guide which provides guidance for health professionals carrying out PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Department routinely updates the guide to further clarify the policy intent and to bring it in line with legislative requirements.

PIP contributes to the extra costs faced by people with disabilities and health conditions. It is a modern, dynamic benefit that was introduced to replace the outdated disability living allowance (DLA) system. PIP is a fairer benefit, which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis. Under PIP, 29% of claimants are receiving the highest possible support, compared with just 15% under DLA.

The updated guidance will reflect binding case law following an upper tribunal judgment handed down on 9 March 2017 on how DWP considers a claimant to be carrying out an activity safely and whether they need supervision to do so. This will increase entitlement for a number of both new and existing claimants, largely those with conditions such as epilepsy, which affect consciousness. The Department estimates approximately 10,000 claims will benefit by £70 to £90 per week in 2022-23.

In the case of existing claimants the Department for Work and Pensions will undertake an exercise to go through all existing cases and identify anyone who may be entitled to more. We will then write to those people affected and all payments will be backdated to the date of the change in case law.

Alongside these changes, we have brought the guide in line with the Social Security (Personal Independent Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 and have made amendments to descriptors within activity 3 (managing therapy or monitoring a health condition) and mobility activity 1 (planning and following a journey) to reflect this. We are making these changes to clarify the original policy intent.

Also, following consultation with stakeholders, and to more clearly communicate existing case law, the guidance has also been changed to add clarity for health professionals around assessing claimants with sensory difficulties. These changes will ensure that the needs of those with sensory difficulties are properly taken into account within activity 9 (engaging with others face to face) and mobility activity 1 (planning and following a journey).

The Department has also made changes to mobility activity 1 to reflect the challenges that may be faced by those with sensory difficulties in the event of disruptions to a journey. Finally, activities 7 (communicating verbally) and 9 (engaging with others face to face) have now been clarified to reiterate the original policy intent that the two activities are not mutually exclusive, and these changes will benefit a number of affected individuals.

[HCWS218]