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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
02 July 2018
Volume 644

Written Statements

Monday 2 July 2018

Treasury

Justice and Home Affairs Opt-in Decision

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The proposed EU directive on credit purchasers, credit servicers and the recovery of collateral contains, among other things, provisions on a new EU mechanism for out-of-court collateral enforcement. The directive is part of a broader package of EU measures designed to reduce the levels of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the EU, as NPLs decrease profitability of banks, often leaving them in a weak position from which to provide finance to the wider economy in support of growth and jobs.

The Government have decided that it is in the UK’s interest not to opt in to the Justice and Home Affairs obligations within this directive as the provisions introduce an unnecessary level of administration to the UK’s existing collateral enforcement mechanisms, which are sufficiently robust and fit for purpose.

The directive states that where member states establish collateral enforcement mechanisms “by means of appropriation”, the rights of creditors “shall be governed by the applicable laws in each member state”. The Government’s view is that this provision addresses situations in which conflicts of laws points arise, in which case it is an applicable law provision and therefore includes JHA content.

The directive similarly governs applicable law if a borrower and lender from two different EU member states cannot agree on the appointment of a valuer—with the appointment of the valuer falling on the court within one of those member states.

The Government remain supportive of the European Commission’s broader efforts to reduce levels of NPLs in the EU, supporting solutions that are proportionate and targeted.

[HCWS814]

Defence

Grant in Kind

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I have today laid before the House a departmental minute describing a package of equipment and infrastructure that the UK intends to provide to the Jordanian armed forces. The value of the package is estimated at £5,194,000.

The provision of equipment will be treated as a grant in kind. Following correspondence from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee in 2016, Departments which previously treated these payments as gifts have undertaken to notify the House of Commons of any such grant in kind of a value exceeding £300,000 and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from making the grant until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.

The grant in kind in this case comprises working and accommodation buildings, furniture and physical training equipment. The granting of this equipment will support the Jordanian defence and borders programme and is fundamental to the aims of the Government strategy for Jordan. Delivery of targeted areas of equipment and infrastructure support is an integral part of the approach in order to assist Jordan in developing the capability to protect its borders. The activity is in support of the National Security Council objectives and is funded through the conflict, security and stability fund administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.

Subject to completion of the departmental minute process, the equipment and infrastructure is expected to be delivered by the end of this financial year.

[HCWS812]

Education

Childcare Update

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I wish to update the House on two important changes the Government are making to childcare.

I have today laid a new statutory instrument, the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations and Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. This SI, which will come into force on 31 August 2018, makes important changes to improve the fairness of the childcare disqualification arrangements and extend 30 hours free childcare to children in foster care.

The childcare disqualification arrangements are an important part of the strong set of safeguards we have in place to ensure the safety and welfare of our children and young people. These arrangements apply exclusively to individuals working in childcare in schools and the private and voluntary sectors, up to and including reception classes, and in wraparound care for children up to the age of eight. These arrangements build on the safeguards provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) regime, which all schools and early years childcare providers must operate.

Under the arrangements, any individual who has committed an offence, or who is in breach of other criteria set out in legislation, is prohibited from working in these settings. The arrangements also include provision that disqualifies an individual from working in childcare because of an offence committed by someone who lives or works in their household, known as disqualification by association. This means that a member of staff is unable to work in childcare even though they themselves have not committed a relevant offence.

Disqualified individuals can obtain a waiver from Ofsted against their disqualification. Employers must suspend or redeploy the individual until a waiver is granted, as individuals who are disqualified cannot work in childcare without an Ofsted waiver. This provision has unfortunately been widely misunderstood and a number of individuals have been redeployed or suspended unnecessarily. Consequently, the disqualification by association provision is having a detrimental impact on employers and employees, as well as family life. It is also having a negative impact on the rehabilitation of offenders.

In response to widespread concerns about the disqualification by association provision, the Department for Education undertook a public consultation on options for its reform. We were most grateful for the near 450 responses received. The responses to the consultation largely reiterated the earlier concerns. The consultation strongly favoured reform, and the majority of respondents advocated the removal of disqualification by association in non-domestic settings.

Making new regulations enables us to address these concerns, by removing the disqualification by association where childcare is provided in non-domestic settings, where other safeguarding measures are well observed and followed. The disqualification by association provision will however continue to apply where childcare is provided in domestic settings, where it provides an important safeguard.

We are supporting the changes we are making with new statutory guidance. This will reinforce existing messages about the importance of employers undertaking safer recruitment checks and provide them with advice on how they can manage their workforce in the absence of the disqualification by association component of the arrangements. The Department for Education will also continue to provide a helpline and mailbox to employers and employees to help them with the arrangements.

The Government are also extending 30 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds to children in foster care. This is a key Government early years policy, and foster families should have access to the same support and opportunities that all families have.

This Government’s ambitions for children during and after being looked after are the same as for any other child: that they have access to good health and wellbeing, fulfil their educational potential, build and maintain lasting relationships and participate positively in society. The role of the foster parent is central to achieving those high ambitions for the children in their care. Fostering provides stability, a home and an alternative family. Children in foster care want to feel part of a family and have a normal family life. We need to support foster parents and local authorities in a way that achieves that. That includes foster parents being able to work outside their caring responsibilities, where it is right for the child.

The SI I have laid today enables us to realise those ambitions, by allowing children in foster care to receive 30 hours free childcare where the following criteria are met:

That accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan, placing the child at the centre of the process and decision making, and

that, in single parent families, the foster parent holds additional employment outside of their role as a foster parent; or

that in two parent families, both parents hold additional employment outside of their role as a foster parent.

The SI makes it clear that the eligibility of children in foster care will be determined by the responsible local authority.

We are supporting the changes with new statutory guidance and operational guidance. These will provide local authorities with detailed guidance on how they can discharge their duty to secure 30 hours free childcare for children in foster care, and ensure that the additional eligibility criteria are met.

Copies of the SI, our statutory and operational guidance documents, and the Government’s response to the consultation on changes to the childcare disqualification arrangements will be placed in the House Library.

[HCWS815]

Student Finance

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EU Students

I am today confirming that eligibility rules for students from the European Union, and their family members, who commence courses in England in the academic year starting in August 2019 will remain unchanged. EU nationals will remain eligible for home fee status, undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for the duration of their course under the current eligibility rules. This will provide certainty to providers and their prospective EU students.

EU students, staff and researchers make an important contribution to our universities. I want that contribution to continue and am confident—given the quality of our HE sector—that it will.

Tuition fees

I am also confirming that maximum tuition fees for the 2019-20 academic year in England will be maintained at the levels that apply in the 2018-19 academic year, the second year in succession that fees have been frozen. Freezing maximum fees at 2018-19 levels will save students up to £255 in 2019-20.

The Government consider each year what the maximum level of tuition fees should be and set a cap. I have listened to the views we have heard from young people, parents, and in Parliament and, on that that basis, have decided not to increase maximum tuition fees by inflation for the 2019-20 academic year. If the regulations setting maximum fees were not approved, providers would not be subject to maximum fees and would be free legally to charge higher fees.

The Government are committed to improving the terms on which they provide financial support to students. In addition to a freeze in fees for the second year running, the Government have increased the repayment threshold above which graduates are required to make repayments on their loans from £21,000 to £25,000 from tax year 2018-19, and rising by average earnings thereafter. This puts more money in the pockets of graduates, lowering monthly repayments for all borrowers earning above £21,000.

On 19 February, the Prime Minister launched a major review of post-18 education and funding to ensure we have a joined up education system that is accessible to all, provides value for money for both students and taxpayers, and encourages the development of the skills we need as a country.

Regulations

I am laying regulations setting maximum fees for the 2019-20 academic year before Parliament today.

Under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, these regulations set maximum fee limits for those registered providers who must abide by a fee limit condition as part of their registration with the new independent regulator, the Office for Students (OfS). These providers are known as approved (fee cap) providers.

The Act requires the OfS to impose a fee limit condition and without these regulations the new regulatory framework cannot be fully implemented. Providers can also register with the OfS in the approved category which will not be subject to maximum fees in regulations.

Both Houses will have the opportunity to debate these regulations under the affirmative procedure. These regulations do not set separate maximum fees for accelerated degrees, which are still under consideration. I expect to confirm further details on accelerated degrees in due course.

I also expect to lay regulations setting student support arrangements for 2019-20 early in 2019 which will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Maximum tuition fees and fee loans for approved (fee cap) providers in 2019-20

The maximum tuition fee for full-time courses will be £9,250 in 2019-20 for providers that are registered with the OfS in the approved (fee cap) category and have a current teaching excellence and student outcomes framework (TEF) award and an access and participation plan in place with the OfS. Lower maximum fee limits will apply for approved (fee cap) providers that do not have a TEF award or an OfS access and participation plan.

New students and eligible continuing students who started their full-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 will be able to apply for a fee loan to meet the full costs of their tuition up to a maximum of £9,250 in 2019-20 for full-time courses at approved (fee cap) providers.

The maximum tuition fee for students undertaking part-time courses at Approved (Fee Cap) providers that have a TEF award and have an OfS access and participation plan, will be £6,935 in 2019-20. Lower maximum fee limits will apply for Approved (Fee Cap) providers without a TEF award or an OfS access and participation plan.

New students and eligible continuing students who started their part-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 will be able to apply for a fee loan of up to a maximum of £6,935 to meet the full costs of their tuition in 2019-20 for part-time courses at approved (fee cap) providers.

Maximum fee loans for approved providers in 2019-20

New students and eligible continuing students who started their full-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 and are undertaking courses at approved providers in 2019-20 will not be subject to maximum fees in regulations. They will however be able to apply for fee loans towards the costs of their tuition.

The maximum fee loan for new students and eligible continuing students who started their fulltime courses on or after 1 September 2012 will be £6,165 in 2019-20 for those undertaking fulltime courses at approved providers that have a current TEF award or £6,000 without a TEF award.

The maximum fee loan for new students and eligible continuing students who started their part-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 will be £4,625 in 2019-20 for part-time courses at approved providers that have a current TEF award or £4,500 without a TEF award.

[HCWS816]

Health and Social Care

GP Update

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NHS Digital recently identified a supplier defect in the processing of historical patient objections to the sharing of their confidential health data. An error occurred when 150,000 type 2 objections[1] set between March 2015 and June 2018 in GP practices running TPP’s system were not sent to NHS Digital. As a result, these objections were not upheld by NHS Digital in its data disseminations between April 2016, when the NHS Digital process for enabling them to be upheld was introduced, and 26 June 2018. This means that data for these patients has been used in clinical audit and research that helps drive improvements in outcomes for patients.

Since being informed of the error by TPP, NHS Digital acted swiftly and it has now been rectified. NHS Digital made the Department of Health and Social Care aware of the error on 28 June. NHS Digital manages the contract for GP systems of choice on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.

TPP has apologised unreservedly for its role in this matter and has committed to work with NHS Digital so that errors of this nature do not occur again. This will ensure that patients' wishes on how their data is used are always respected and acted upon.

NHS Digital will write to all TPP GP practices today to make sure that they are aware of the issue and can provide reassurance to any affected patients. NHS Digital will also write to every affected patient. Patients need to take no action and their objections are now being upheld.

There is not, and has never been, any risk to patient care as a result of this error. NHS Digital has made the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Data Guardian for Health and Care aware.

As part of our commitment to the secure and safe handling of health data, on 25 May 2018 the Government introduced the new national data opt-out. The national data opt-out replaces type 2 objections. This has simplified the process of registering an objection to data sharing for uses beyond an individual’s care. The new arrangements give patients direct control over setting their own preferences for the secondary use of their data and do not require the use of GP systems, and therefore will prevent a repeat of this kind of GP systems failure in the future.

The Government have the highest regard for data standards and are committed to ensuring patients can express a preference over how health data is shared for purposes beyond their own care.

[1] Where individuals did not want NHS Digital to share confidential patient information that they had collected from across the health and care service for purposes other than the individuals care, they could register this preference, known as a type 2 opt-out.

[HCWS813]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Housing Policy Update

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Since we published our Housing White Paper last year, we have been making significant progress in fixing the broken housing market, reforming our planning system and increasing housing supply to start to improve affordability, as well as taking steps to ensure that communities have the safe and high-quality homes they need to thrive.

Our new national planning policy framework—coming into force this summer following our consultation—will transform the planning system, and at of autumn Budget we set out £15 billion the new financial support for housing, taking our total investment to £44 billion over the next five years. Since 2010 we have delivered over a million new homes, and in 2016-17 we saw 217,350 new homes delivered—the highest number in all but one of the last 30 years.

Our new national housing agency, Homes England, is taking a more assertive approach to getting homes built. This has already started—for example in Burgess Hill, a site that is desperately needed for affordable housing but which sat undeveloped. Homes England has now stepped in, bought the land and is delivering the infrastructure. Today I am announcing a plan to build over 3,000 homes on the site.

But we need to go further, and in particular we recognise the housing market needs an injection of innovation and competition. Getting new players into the market and embracing modern methods of construction will allow us to build faster and drive up choice and quality for consumers.

To help do this, today I am announcing that the local authority accelerated construction programme is moving into its delivery phase. Through this fund, we are releasing £450 million to speed up delivery of homes on surplus local authority land and encouraging the use of modern methods of construction and SME builders. Homes England has started the process of funding negotiations with a number of local authorities to ensure their sites can deliver greater pace and innovation in house building.

But this is not just about the number of homes, it is also about ensuring we deliver the right homes in the right places, and building communities that people are happy to call home.

Today I am announcing that we have launched a new Homes England programme to deliver the community housing fund. Community groups and local authorities in all parts of England outside London are now able to apply for capital and revenue funding to bring community-led housing schemes forward. Homes England has published a prospectus on its website at: www.gov.uk/topic/housing/funding-programmes.

Through this fund, housing will be delivered where the mainstream market is unable to deliver. The housing it helps provide will be tailored to meet specific local needs and will remain locally affordable in perpetuity. It will help sustain local communities and local economies and help raise the bar in design and construction standards. Now that it is launched, it will unlock a pipeline of thousands of new homes and help this innovative sector grow to make a substantial additional contribution to housing supply. A similar programme is being developed for London—delivered by the GLA—and an announcement on that will be made shortly.

We also want to protect the rights of tenants in the private rented sector and give them more security. That is why I am publishing today an eight-week consultation on overcoming the barriers to landlords offering longer tenancies to tenants in the private rented sector.

Longer tenancies will help tenants, particularly those with children, who are currently on short-term contracts and who are unable to plan for the future. Longer tenancies can benefit landlords too by helping to avoid the costs of finding new tenants. The aim is to collect views on what could be done to provide tenants with greater security while providing flexibility for landlords to regain their properties if their circumstances change. In the consultation, we propose a new model tenancy agreement of three years with a six-month break clause and options on how to implement the model which include legislation, financial incentives for landlords, and voluntary measures to encourage its use. Copies of the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available online.

Finally, for too long, the leasehold market has been left to evolve without much attention to who actually benefits. We are determined to reform the leasehold market to make it work for consumers. We have announced a programme of leasehold reform including a ban on new leasehold houses, restricting ground rents to a peppercorn and making enfranchisement easier, quicker and cheaper. We will bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity, but we want the industry to change in advance of legislation and have written to developers setting out our expectations.

Today I can also confirm that Government funding schemes for housing supply will no longer support the unjustified use of leasehold for new houses, wherever possible, and that we will hardwire this as a condition into any new schemes. In future, ground rents on new long leases in flats will be limited to a peppercorn.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http:// www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-07-02/HCWS818/.

[HCWS818]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Society Lotteries Consultation

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I wish to inform the House that on Friday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a consultation on proposals for changes to the sales and prize limits for society lotteries to help charities raise more money.

The consultation follows the DCMS Select Committee recommendation in March 2015 that the Department look at whether limits on sales and prizes should be raised. Society lotteries are now a fundamental part of the giving landscape, and alongside the National Lottery, play an important role in supporting good causes across Great Britain. We have taken expert advice from the Gambling Commission and we believe that the proposed package of reforms maintains the balance between allowing charities and others to increase their fundraising through lotteries while protecting the unique position of the National Lottery.

We have considered options and the case for change carefully. A vital concern in developing proposals has been to ensure there is no risk to National Lottery’s ability to raise funds for good causes. The Gambling Commission has advised that to date there is no evidence that society lotteries have had a detrimental effect on the National Lottery. The two currently offer distinct propositions to players, with the National Lottery raising large sums across the UK, characterised by life-changing prizes. Society lotteries offer smaller prizes, generally with their proceeds being returned to a specified good cause.

We are consulting on a range of options which seek to maintain the distinct nature of the two sectors but allow a degree of growth for society lotteries, the impact of which will be measured by the Gambling Commission.

Society lotteries have to return at least 20% of their sales to good causes. Currently they have a cap of £4 million of sales per draw and a maximum prize a society lottery can offer of £400,000. We are consulting on the following options:

Individual per draw sales limits

Retaining the current limit of £4 million;

Raising the limit to £5 million (Government’s preferred option);

Raising the limit to £10 million;

Reducing the limit to £2.5 million

Individual per draw prize limits

Retaining the current limit of £400,000;

Raising the limit to £500,000 (Government’s preferred option);

Raising the limit to £1 million;

Reducing the limit to £250,000

In addition we are consulting on annual sales.

Annual sales limits

Retaining the current limit of £10 million;

Raising the limit to £50 million;

Raising the limit to £100 million (Government’s preferred option)

The preferred set of proposals in the consultation document would raise the per draw limit to £5 million and the annual limit to £100 million. This would increase the amount of fundraising that can be done through society lotteries in a year ten-fold. It would also increase the maximum prize to £500,000.

The consultation also considers increasing the limits for small society lotteries, which do not require a Gambling Commission licence to operate and are instead registered with local authorities. Currently per draw proceeds are capped at £20,000 and annual proceeds are capped at £250,000. I am looking at options to increase the per draw limit to £30,000 or £40,000 and the annual limit to £400,000 or £500,000.

The consultation will run for 10 weeks and close on 7 September. Relevant documents have been published at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ consultation-on-society-lottery-reform

[HCWS817]