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Written Statements

Volume 652: debated on Friday 11 January 2019

Written Statements

Friday 11 January 2019

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Year of Green Action

We are committed to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

Friday 11 January marks the first anniversary of the publication of the 25-year environment plan. Over the last 12 months, we have reduced plastic waste by introducing one of the world’s strongest microbead bans, setting out plans to ban plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers and extending the 5p plastic bag charge, and overhauling our waste system with a comprehensive resources and waste strategy. We have laid our landmark Agriculture Bill before Parliament, transforming our farming system for the first time in 50 years to reward farmers for protecting and enhancing the environment. We have committed to a green Brexit with plans for the first Environment Bill in 20 years and a new environmental watchdog to hold Government to account. On the international stage the UK is at the forefront of combating the illegal wildlife trade. Our landmark Ivory Act put one of the world’s toughest bans on the sale of ivory into law and hosting the fourth and largest illegal wildlife trade conference in London in October has led to the UK and 64 other countries declaring significant political and practical commitments to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

The plan also announced a year of green action in 2019 to draw together targeted actions to make it easier for people to get involved in improving the natural world and spread the word about environmental issues. It will provide a focal point for organisations, individuals, communities and businesses to learn more about their environmental impact and take action to reduce it.

The year of green action is an opportunity for everyone to get involved and enthused about restoring nature, from gardeners to major transport network providers. With individuals, voluntary organisations and businesses all having a part to play; we would like to see industry leading the way in raising environmental standards as well.

The focus for activities in the year of green action will be on connecting with, protecting and enhancing nature. We will be promoting environmental action through partners, a dedicated website for showcasing partner activity, social media, and events throughout the year.

The 25-year plan puts children and young people at the heart of the year of green action and we want to see them playing an active part in decision making for their future. We are partnering with the charity Step Up To Serve, to help encourage environmental youth social action through their #iwill4nature campaign.

Civil servants will be encouraged to use some of their dedicated volunteering time for taking green action, working with partners on environmental projects.

Parliamentarians can play their part in the year of green action by promoting the messages of environmental sustainability.


Work and Pensions

Universal Credit

Universal credit is a vital reform. It overhauls a legacy system which trapped people out of work. As we move to the next stage, known as managed migration, it is vital that universal credit works for all.

To deliver this, the Government will seek powers for a pilot of managed migration so that the Department cannot issue any more migration notices once 10,000 people have been awarded universal credit through this process. This approach provides the opportunity for the Government to develop the best support for claimants.

This entails replacing the current regulations laid before the House with two separate statutory instruments.

The first is a negative statutory instrument to provide for the severe disability premium gateway. This prevents legacy claimants who are in receipt of the severe disability premium from moving naturally to universal credit and allows them to continue to claim legacy benefits until they are moved over as part of the managed migration process. We are committed to bringing this important extra protection into force on 16 January and this provision ensures that we will meet that commitment.

A second affirmative statutory instrument will contain the remaining regulations as laid on 5 November 2018. These deliver our commitment to provide the vital transitional protection for claimants who are moved by the Department, which is worth over £3 billion for claimants over 10 years. These also provide for transitional payments to those claimants who were previously in receipt of severe disability premium and have moved to UC before the gateway came into force.

In addition, we are including a new provision in this statutory instrument, which will mean that once 10,000 claimants have been moved onto universal credit as part of managed migration, no further migration notices can be issued. In this way the Government are legislating for “piloting powers” rather than the migration of all claimants. This is in line with suggestions from both the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Work and Pensions Select Committee. The Government will report on our findings from the pilot before bringing forward legislation to extend managed migration.

The pilot will begin—as planned—from July 2019 and does not affect the timeline for delivering universal credit, which will be completed in 2023.

The current legislation provides that, from 1 February, new claims to universal credit will support a maximum of two children, regardless of the date of birth of the children.

The Department has looked again carefully at this issue with particular focus on the families making a new claim whose children were all born prior to the implementation of the policy. We have concluded that including these families would not be right and therefore they will be entitled to support for any children born before 6 April 2017, the date that the policy was introduced. I am bringing forward the necessary legislation to enable this change.

The policy to provide support for a maximum of two children ensures that parents in receipt of benefits face the same financial choices when deciding to grow their family as those supporting themselves solely through work. Parents who support themselves solely through work would not usually see their wages increase simply because of the addition of a new child to their family. Exceptions are in place to support those who are not able to make decisions about the number of children in their family.