Tuesday 5 November 2019
Intimidation in Public Life
In July 2017, the then Prime Minister commissioned the independent and respected Committee on Standards in Public Life to undertake a review into abuse and intimidation in elections. This followed concerning evidence from many parliamentary candidates—across the political spectrum—on their experiences during the 2017 general election.
For those in public life, it has become harder and harder to conduct any political discussion, on any issue, without it descending into tribalism and rancour. Social media and digital communication—which in themselves can and should be forces for good in our democracy—are being exploited and abused, often anonymously.
It is important to distinguish between strongly felt political debate on one hand, and unacceptable acts of abuse, hatred, intimidation and violence. British democracy has always been robust and oppositional. But a line is crossed when disagreement mutates into intimidation.
Left unchecked, abuse and intimidation will change our democracy and mean that the way Members interact with constituents will need to change. Increasing levels of threats directed at those in public life is a worrying trend that will require a co-ordinated and thorough response from Government, the relevant authorities, businesses and the public themselves to address.
As the general election campaign commences, I want to update the House on the actions that the Government have taken to tackle intimidation, and the steps that the Government are taking in this specific election.
We have worked with the Law Officers to publish new guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for the legal authorities on the laws on intimidation, and the wide range of areas in which intimidation can be prosecuted under existing laws. This has been complemented by guidance to the police from the National Police Chiefs Council.
The CPS guidance “Responding to intimidating behaviour: Information for Parliamentarians” can be found at:
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), CPS, College of Policing and Electoral Commission have also issued “Joint Guidance for Candidates in Elections” at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/candidate-or-agent, which is distributed by the Electoral Commission.
Supporting local councils
We have passed legislation to remove the requirements for candidates running for local government, parish council, and local mayoral elections, to have their addresses on their ballot papers.
We have written to local authority chief executives, to raise awareness about the sensitive interest provisions in the Localism Act 2011 which protect the personal addresses of councillors in England, ensuring that monitoring officers are aware of the guidance published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
New legislation to tackle intimidation
We have consulted on our internet safety strategy Green paper, and we published the world leading Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport-Home Office online harms White Paper in April 2019. This set out a range of legislative and non-legislative measures detailing how we will tackle online harms and set clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe. It established a Government-wide approach to online safety, delivering the digital charter’s ambitions of making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, whilst also leading the world in innovation-friendly regulation that supports the growth of the tech sector.
The White Paper set out the Government’s intention to introduce a new mandatory “duty of care”, which will require relevant companies to take reasonable steps to keep their users safe and tackle illegal and harmful activity on their services. It stated that the new regulatory framework will make clear companies’ responsibility to address the harm of “online abuse of public figures”. The White Paper also included ambitious measures to support education and awareness for all users and to promote the development and adoption of new safety technologies.
The Cabinet Office has undertaken a public consultation entitled “Protecting the Debate: Intimidation, Influence and Information”. From that we committed to legislate to introduce a new electoral offence, clarify the electoral offence of undue influence of a voter, and introduce a digital imprints regime.
We recognise the important arguments in favour of having a digital imprints regime in place as soon as possible, but it was not possible to legislate for and implement a regime in advance of a December election. Technical considerations would need to be addressed, for example to avoid the need for individual candidates and campaigners to publish their home addresses as part of an imprint. Moreover, for a digital imprints regime to work properly, political parties, campaigners and others would need to understand on what material they are required to include an imprint. Rushing into a new regime—that could have proved unworkable—could have led to significant issues, including confusion, unintentionally stifling democratic debate or to people unknowingly committing an offence.
The Government are committed to implementing a digital imprints regime as soon as they can but it must be a workable regime.
Defending democracy programme
On 22 July 2019, the Government announced the defending democracy programme that will help maintain the integrity of our democracy and electoral processes. This cross-Government programme, led by the Cabinet Office, has been set up to:
protect and secure UK democratic processes, systems and institutions from interference, including from cyber, personnel and physical threats;
strengthen the integrity of UK elections;
encourage respect for open, fair and safe democratic participation; and
promote fact-based and open discourse, including online.
Earlier this year, this Government committed to publishing a consultation on electoral integrity, which will look at measures to improve voters’ confidence in our democracy.
Protection of candidates
The parliamentary liaison and investigations team (PLAIT) and the Members security support team (MSSS) will continue to support Members once they become candidates after Dissolution. Personal security advice and guidance has been provided to all Members, and there is a package of security measures available for homes and constituency offices.
Local police forces are chiefly responsible for the security of candidates. As such, they have been briefed on their responsibilities regarding the delivery of protective security measures. The Home Secretary wrote to chief constables on 2 October 2019, and the Security Minister wrote to Police and Crime Commission, to ensure that they prioritised tackling the intimidation and abuse of Members and candidates.
Local police forces also have a dedicated point of contact for candidates who can be contacted for security advice. All urgent concerns, or contact outside of office hours, should be directed to police control rooms, who have been briefed to provide suitable guidance and support.
Recognising that intimidation can take a number of forms, the Cabinet Office will co-ordinate with the police, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and others to issue a package of security guidance, including how to report it. Following the Dissolution of Parliament, this guidance will be sent to all returning officers, to be issued to all candidates in every constituency.
The Cabinet Office, in its cross-Government co-ordination role, has set up an election cell which will meet regularly during the election campaign period and whose attendees include organisations responsible for the safety of candidates.
Advice to candidates regarding abuse online
Social media helps Members and candidates connect with the public and can and should be a force for good in our democracy. However, there have been worrying trends of abuse and threats directed towards Members of all parties, and particularly female and BAME Members. The Government believe this is completely unacceptable.
Illegal activity online should be treated in the same way as illegal activity offline, and reported to the police. Social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, have also developed guidance and dedicated mailboxes for reporting abuse and intimidation against candidates during an election. Today, the Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and I have written to social media companies asking them to work together during this election to provide clear advice to candidates in one place so candidates know what content breaches their terms and conditions, where to report suspected breaches and what they can expect once a report has been made. We have also asked that they work together to identify where abusive users towards candidates are migrating between platforms and to encourage more proactivity on this.
A copy of this letter has been placed in the House of Commons Library.
Democracy is a fundamental British value and one underpinned by respectful, vibrant and robust debate. But this freedom cannot be an excuse to cause harm, spread hatred or impose views upon others—a line is crossed when disagreement mutates into intimidation, violence or abuse.
Our politics will be the poorer if talented potential candidates—people who just want to stand to represent their peers and stand up for their areas—decide not to get involved out of fear for their or their loved ones safety. If fewer candidates put themselves forward, then voters will have less choice at the ballot box.
The Government will take all necessary steps to protect the debate, have put in place measures to support candidates with their safety for this election and have ambitious plans to tackle online and offline abuse of those in public life beyond.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Government recognise the role that audit plays in the effective functioning of the UK’s financial markets and broader economy.
To help meet our ambition that the UK should become the best place in the world to work and to grow a business, we must take forward reform of audit. This will include reforming audit, the audit regulator, and the audit market. Change would affect a large number and a wide variety of companies, firms, and interests; but it is clear that there is a need for truly long-lasting and effective change.
I want to see the UK leading the world in the next phase of improvement for corporate governance and audit. In the first quarter of next year—when I have considered Sir Donald Brydon’s recommendations—I intend to bring together all relevant elements of reform in order to take that forward.
I am already working to create the new audit, reporting and governance authority, to replace the Financial Reporting Council. I have started with appointing new leadership at the Financial Reporting Council, who are driving a new vision and culture for the regulator. They are now implementing those recommendations made in Sir John Kingman’s excellent report that are not contingent on legislative change.
Future reform will cover not just the function of the regulator, but also the purpose and function of the audit market, and audit itself. I intend to bring forward an ambitious and coherent programme of change that drives up quality, resilience and choice. It will include proposals on the function and oversight of audit committees and new internal control arrangements within businesses; on the responsibilities of boards and directors; on how both investors and regulators can better hold companies and their auditors to account; and to reduce the reliance on a few large audit firms for the provision of audit.
All of those factors must be and will be assessed and weighed together, so that the whole package is coherent and effective. As recognised by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, whose work on audit I welcome, some reform will require radical action in order to ensure that it is meaningful and enduring, and that it fully addresses the very real concerns that we all share with the current state of the market.
Cobham plc Merger
On 25 July 2019, the boards of Cobham plc and a subsidiary of funds managed by Advent International, a US private equity firm, announced that they had reached agreement on the terms of a recommended cash acquisition of Cobham for approximately £4 billion.
On 17 September, following advice from relevant Government Departments and agencies, I initiated a public interest intervention under the Enterprise Act 2002 into this merger on the grounds of national security. I required that the Competition and Markets Authority investigate the merger and provide me with a report on the transaction by 29 October, which it has done. The Secretary of State for Defence has also written to me about the national security implications of the merger and the discussions which have taken place with the parties to propose undertakings to address those implications. I am grateful for the advice I have received and the constructive engagement from the parties.
The decision on how to proceed in this case requires further full and proper consideration of the issues. Having received these reports, I will therefore have further discussions with my ministerial colleagues and the parties to the transaction to inform the decision-making process. I will update the House in due course so that hon. Members can scrutinise the Government’s decision. The full legal process will continue to be followed throughout the general election period.
Work of the Department
I would like to update the house on some of the key achievements of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy since it was created in July 2016.
Leading the world in tackling climate change
Achieving net zero carbon emissions is a key departmental priority and we have set out actions we are taking across the economy to accomplish this.
We committed to set a legally binding target to end the UK’s contribution to climate change to net zero by 2050.
We have set out further actions we are taking across the economy to achieve net zero by 2050. These include adding around 6GW of clean energy to the grid by 2025 through the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme, enough to power over 7 million homes at record low costs.
We announced £200 million of initial funding for a programme which aims to design and build a nuclear fusion plant by 2040, looking to exploit the potential for clean, safe and inexhaustible power.
We announced £27.8 million of Government funding to advance carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies in the UK, a crucial step towards the UK’s net zero emissions.
We announced investment of up to £1 billion over five years to boost the production of key green technologies in the motor industry, including batteries, electric motors, power electronics and hydrogen fuel cells. This is in addition to £400 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
The UK was nominated to host the COP26 UN climate talks next year in partnership with Italy, recognition by world leaders of our strong global on climate issues.
UK emissions in 2019 were 42% lower than in 1990, while growing the economy by 72%. The UK has delivered fastest decarbonisation in G20 since 2000 according to PWC.
The UK’s fifth carbon budget was passed into law, equivalent to a 57% reduction on 1990 levels by 2032.
We committed £5.8 billion of international climate finance from 2016 to 2021, placing us among the world’s leading providers of climate finance, in addition to the £3.87 billion we provided from 2011 to 2016. The Prime Minister later announced the doubling of international climate finance spend to £11.6 billion.
Our international climate finance programmes are delivering real results on the ground and are catalysing wider change.
Among others, we have built the market for concentrated solar power (CSP) in developing countries.
We have contributed £720 million to the green climate fund, financing projects and programmes in a range of developing countries.
We published the Clean Growth Strategy: Leading the way to a low carbon future policy paper. This set out the strategy for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy through the 2020s, benefiting the economy while meeting commitments to tackle climate change.
We held the UK’s first green GB week in 2018, a week to celebrate clean growth and raise awareness regarding how the public and businesses can tackle climate change.
We launched the smart export guarantee consultation which proposed that large electricity suppliers must offer small scale generators a price per kWh for the electricity they export to the grid. The scheme came into force in June 2019.
We are taking action to make sure the UK’s energy system has adequate capacity and is diverse and reliable.
We gave the go-ahead agreement to proceed with the first nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point C to ensure future low-carbon energy security. Hinkley will provide 7% of Britain’s electricity needs for 60 years. UK-based businesses will benefit from more than 60% of the £18 billion value of the project, and 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships will be created.
We continued to support the capacity market auctions. The capacity market aims to ensure security of electricity supply by providing a payment for reliable sources of capacity, alongside electricity revenues, to ensure the delivery of electricity when needed.
The Department’s ambition is for the UK to have the lowest energy costs in Europe, for both households and businesses.
The Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill put a requirement on the independent regulator, Ofgem, to cap energy tariffs until 2020. It came into force in January 2019, saving customers on default tariffs around £76 on average and as much as £120 on the most expensive tariffs.
As of March 2019, there were over 14.3 million meters operating under the smart meter programme.
Making the UK the best place to work and grow a business
The Secretary of State has set out her ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work and grow a business. Creating fairer, inclusive workplaces and unlocking enterprise by cutting the burdens on businesses are two sides of the same coin and both equally important.
We announced that the British Business Bank would expand its venture capital and debt support programmes. A total of 82,000 smaller businesses have been supported by the British Business Bank.
The Brydon review examined the quality and effectiveness of the audit market and looked at what audits should be in the future. It addressed the audit expectation gap: the difference between what people think an audit does and what it actually does. It will also look at the scope of an audit, any changes that may need to be made to it and how it can better serve the public interest.
We consulted on the competition and markets authority’s far-reaching and ambitious recommendations to improve quality, resilience and competition in the statutory audit market. We are committed to acting on the CMA’s findings and will respond as soon as possible.
We established the Office for Product Safety and Standards to enhance consumer protections.
We published the Consumer Green Paper, aimed at responding to the challenges and opportunities of modern consumer markets via a regulatory and competition framework. This was followed by consultation and engagement on the Green Paper.
We carried out a Smart Data Review and proposed a set of measures to ensure consumers’ data is handled with the security they expect, while enabling them to continue to have access to the best deals available.
The Government asked Matthew Taylor to conduct an independent review of employment practices in the modern economy, which was published in July 2017.
We responded to this review with the good work plan. The plan set out proposals to ensure workers know their rights and receive the benefits they are entitled to, and that action is taken against employers who breach those rights. Proposals include:
First-day entitlements to holiday and sick pay;
A new right to payslips for all workers, including casual and zero-hour workers; and
A right for all workers to request a more stable contract, providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts.
As of 1 April 2019 the national minimum wage (NMW) was £7.70, and the national living wage (NLW) was £8.21. The annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker have increased by over £2,750 since the introduction of the NLW in April 2016. An estimated 1.8 million workers are expected to benefit from this above inflation increase. By 2020, almost 3 million low wage workers are expected to benefit directly from the NLW, with up to 6 million in total potentially seeing their pay rise as a result of a ripple effect up the earnings distribution.
The Parental Bereavement Act entitles parents who lose a child under the age of 18 to two weeks paid leave, supporting those affected by the tragedy of childhood mortality.
The Department consulted on a number of key employment issues. These include measures to boost workplace participation and to tackle employers misusing flexible working arrangements.
We announced a Tipping Bill, reaffirming our commitment to delivering employment rights reform to ensure our employment practices keep pace with modern ways of working.
Solving the grand challenges facing our society
Our industrial strategy is built to ensure we focus our efforts and resources on solving the grand challenges facing our society. Through this we will increase productivity and improve lives, as well as helping to make the UK a science superpower.
The “Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future” White Paper set out the Government’s long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK, provide more opportunities for young people to find high-quality, high-skilled work, and spread jobs, prosperity and opportunity around the whole country.
We launched four grand challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future:
Growing the artificial intelligence (Al) and data driven economy
Future of Mobility
We are pursuing five individual missions related to these grand challenges. Each of the missions focuses on a specific problem, bringing government, businesses and organisations across the country together to make a real difference to people’s lives.
We agreed 11 sector deals, partnerships between the Government and industry to create significant opportunities to maximise the potential of each sector. Each deal will substantially boost the sector’s productivity, through greater investment in innovation and skills
The Space Industry Act created a regulatory framework for the expansion of commercial space activities and the development of the UK space port. It will enable the first commercial space launch from UK soil in history, creating the potential for hundreds of highly-skilled jobs and bringing in billions of pounds for the economy
We launched the AI package for 200 UK doctoral studentships in AI and related disciplines which could help diagnose diseases like cancer earlier and make industries, including aviation and automotive, more sustainable.
The “Future of mobility: urban strategy” outlined the Government’s approach to maximising the benefits from transport innovation in cities and towns, therefore improving choice and the operation of the transport system. The strategy aims to make transport safer, more affordable and accessible to all.
We launched the West Midlands and Greater Manchester local industrial strategies, working with local leaders to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout these regions. Local industrial strategies will allow places to make the most of their distinctive strengths, helping to inform local choices, prioritise local action and, where appropriate, help to inform decisions at the national level.
We announced funding for strategic priorities fund (SPF) wave 2 programmes on healthy ageing, clean air and productivity. These will help us to fulfil our goal of improving lives and increasing productivity through high-quality research and innovation. Programmes include research into care robots that could make caring responsibilities easier; digitising museum exhibits so they can be seen in peoples’ homes, libraries and schools; research into teenage mental health issues and closing the productivity gap with investment in super computers and a new productivity institute. The SPF Wave 2 total programme funding allocation is £496.8 million.
We set out plans to rewrite the regulation rulebook to ensure the UK leads the tech revolution and empowers consumers. The “Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution White Paper” outlined how the Government will transform the UK’s regulatory system to free up businesses and innovators to test their ideas, make use of the latest technologies and get their products to market quicker, keeping the UK at the forefront of innovation.
We committed to increase investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. The Government are increasing spending on R and D by £7 billion over 5 years by 2021-22. This will be the largest increase in nearly 40 years. Within this funding we have:
Allocated £1.7 billion to the industrial strategy challenge fund (ISCF) over two waves of investment; £1billion was announced for wave 1 in Budget 2017, and a further £725 million announced in the industrial strategy White Paper. These challenges have been developed to align with the four grand challenges set out in the White Paper. We have announced nine challenges under the third wave of the ISCF.
Announced investment of £118 million to attract highly skilled researchers to the UK through a new Ernest Rutherford Fund, providing fellowships for early-career and senior researchers.
Committed £900 million to the UK research partnership investment fund over 2012-2021, which will lever double from private sources into R and D collaborations between universities, business and charities.
Committed to developing the UK’s national space capabilities, including:
£1million, matched by industry, for innovative new business ideas that could benefit from a flight to the international space station. These could be anything from medicines and innovative materials developed in the low gravity environment, to space-flown consumer products.
£20 million is being invested to predict severe space weather events by improving systems at the met office space weather operations centre and building the UK’s knowledge on how to forecast and better prepare for space weather.
To support R and D we have also within this funding we have:
Published “Higher Education: Success as a Knowledge Economy” (White Paper, 2016). This document set out a range of reforms to the higher education and research system, aiming to boost competition and choice in higher education, and strengthen the way the sector is regulated, and research is funded.
Passed the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, bringing together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and research functions of HEFCE into a single, strategic agency called UK Research And Innovation (UKRI) to encourage collaborative research across the sciences, and closer co-operation between researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs. UKRI was formally launched in April 2018.
Getting businesses ready for Brexit and the opportunities beyond
Preparing for all scenarios and delivering a Brexit that works for business has been the Government and the Department’s immediate focus.
As part of the Government campaign to ensure people and businesses are ready for Brexit, the Secretary of State hosted nine business roundtables, including five regional events, and visited businesses across the UK, in locations including Belfast, Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester. Businesses participating in the roundtables included Tate and Lyle Sugars, JCB, Tesco, Unilever, Laing O’Rourke, Scottish Power and Diageo.
We ran a “Get Ready for Brexit” roadshow, with 30 events over six weeks across the UK, where 3,132 attendees received tailored advice and support on preparing for Brexit. We also produced an online version of the roadshow, which has attracted nearly 6,000 viewers.
The Department launched the business readiness fund to help business representative organisations (BROs) and trade associations to support businesses to be ready for EU Exit. Initially launched as a £10 million fund, a further £5 million has been made available due to the fund’s popularity. So far over £10 million in grants has been issued to support 124 BROs.
We published 28 of the Government’s 106 technical notices to help the public prepare for Brexit, including Horizon 2020, state aid, workplace rights, nuclear research, mergers and trading goods.
The Nuclear Safeguards Act made provisions for nuclear safeguards after the UK leaves Euratom, ensuring the UK meets its international commitments.
Euratom Exit Strategy
The Government have further advanced its preparations for the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom and the European Union.
As made clear in previous statements on the topic, the UK has concluded all replacement international agreements required to ensure continuity for civil nuclear trade for when Euratom arrangements no longer apply to the UK and confirmed the operability of an existing bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement (NCA) with Japan.
Further to this, the UK and the Government of Japan held formal negotiations on the text of an amending protocol to the existing bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement (NCA) on 4 June. This amending protocol is not essential for the operability of the NCA or for our continued trade and co-operation with Japan but completes the formal legal process to amend the NCA on a permanent basis. Negotiations on the amending protocol continue.
Implementation guidelines for nuclear operators were published on 27 June outlining future reporting requirements on operators related to nuclear co-operation agreements. These requirements will allow the UK to comply with its NCAs with Australia, Canada, Japan and the US, following withdrawal from Euratom.
The UK also continued to make progress in implementing its new domestic safeguards regime. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) remains in a state of readiness to deliver a state system of accounting for and control of nuclear material (SSAC) that enables the UK to meet its international safeguards obligations when Euratom arrangements no longer apply.
The former Secretary of State prescribed the forms required by UK industry to notify UK regulators of the import of sealed radioactive sources from EU member states as well as the forms required by UK industry and UK regulators to apply for, authorise, and notify trans-frontier shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel. The use of these forms will only be required from exit day in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. A statement notifying Parliament of the use of the sub-delegated powers exercised to create these forms can be found in the report accompanying this statement.
Overall the Government have continued to work closely with industry to address the issues that may affect the civil nuclear sector in any exit scenario and remains committed to regular engagement with industry, civil society, academia, trade unions, and other interested stakeholders.
Today I will be depositing a report in the Libraries of both Houses that sets out further details on the overall progress on the Government’s implementation of its Euratom exit strategy, including domestic operational readiness, legislation and international agreements. The report covers the three-month reporting period from 26 March to 26 June 2019 and is the fourth and final statutory report under section 3(4) of the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018.
Business Productivity Review
The UK has some of the world’s most productive businesses and has a strong business environment upon which we can build. Despite this, the UK has a long-standing productivity gap with international competitors. That is why we launched the joint Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury, business productivity review to understand the decisions and actions taken by businesses that affect their own productivity.
The potential prize is significant. The Bank of England estimates that if UK firms could move along the productivity distribution into the next quartile, then this could see a boost to UK GDP by around £270 billion in today’s prices.
To inform the review we launched a call for evidence in May 2018 and received more than 140 written responses. Meetings were held with 3,000 business leaders and we also engaged with sector trade bodies and membership organisations that jointly represent over 500,000 businesses across the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The business productivity review we are publishing today identifies best practice used by our leading businesses and sets out ten key actions that will support businesses to become more productive these include:
£20 million to strengthen local England peer to peer networks in England focused on business improvement so that thousands of business leaders can share expertise on leadership, business development and technology adoption.
£11 million to create a small business leadership programme in England to provide small business leaders with leadership training, building on existing world-class training programmes: such as Be The Business’ productivity through people, Lancaster University’s LEAD and Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses programme.
£25 million through the knowledge transfer partnerships to allow over 200 more UK based businesses per year to access the skills and talent to improve their business performance and productivity by improving how well they are managed. Today we are announcing that there will be a dedicated management KTP round which will be open on 12 December 2019 and closes on 19 February 2020.
Work with trade bodies, sector councils and Be The Business to ensure small businesses have access to business mentors from the UK’s leading and inspiring businesses.
Development of the evidence base on productivity, including through the recently announced productivity institute and the BEIS business support evaluation framework.
Work with the behavioural insights team to improve messaging to businesses, and work with trusted intermediaries—e.g. banks, accountants, trade bodies—to support small businesses to take action.
Improve the customer experience for businesses accessing online Government information and services for growth domestically and internationally.
Work with the private sector, such as Be The Business, to ensure businesses have access to clear advice and the tools they need to help them both understand and improve their productivity.
Adrian Smith Review
I am pleased to announce that I have today published the report “Changes and Choices”, co-authored by Professor Sir Adrian Smith and Professor Graeme Reid. This report, which I commissioned in March of this year, provides independent advice on the design of UK funding schemes for international collaboration, innovation and curiosity-driven blue-skies research.1 In the course of producing the report, Sir Adrian and Professor Reid issued a call for evidence and engaged in discussions with the research and innovation community across the UK. I would like to place on record my thanks to Sir Adrian and Professor Reid, as well as to all of those who engaged with them to ensure that the UK continues to be a global leader in science, research and innovation.
The UK’s world-leading science, research and innovation sector delivers real economic and social benefits for communities across the country. International collaboration allows us to work at greater scale than the UK could alone—for example to meaningfully tackle global challenges, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, cancer, and the future ageing society. In the Withdrawal Agreement Bill debate on 22 October, the Prime Minister confirmed that “we will protect, preserve and enhance” [Hansard, col.837] co-operation with European science and research funding programmes.
Sir Adrian and Professor Reid highlight the importance of stabilising and building on the UK capability built up through our international partnerships to date. This Government have participated in negotiations with European partners in a positive spirit as Horizon Europe takes shape—and intends to consider association to Horizon Europe provided the programme is open to third country association and offers value for money to the UK. Any decision about associating to the programme will need to take place after both the Horizon Europe proposal and the multiannual financial framework discussions have been completed in Council.
This Government are committed to ensuring that the UK continues to be a global science superpower. That is why we have committed to increasing R&D investment to at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027 and have announced our intention to significantly boost R&D funding to provide greater long-term certainty to the scientific community and accelerate our ambition to reach the 2.4% target. In this context, I welcome Sir Adrian and Professor Reid’s recommendation that the Government should set out a new vision for international collaboration. The report will help inform our ongoing ambition to deliver wide-ranging and effective research and innovation collaborations with partners around the world.
1Adrian Smith Review: [Hansard HCWS1449]
A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Brussels on 8 November 2019. The UK will be represented by Mark Bowman (Director General, International Finance, HM Treasury). The Council will discuss the following:
The Council will be invited to agree the directive on general arrangements for excise duty (recast); the regulation on administrative co-operation of the content of electronic registers; and amendments to the directive on the structures of excise duty on alcohol.
VAT data from payment service providers
The Council will be invited to agree a general approach on amendments to the directive on the common system of VAT with regards to requirements for payment service providers; and the regulation on administrative cooperation in the field of VAT concerning measures to combat VAT fraud.
VAT treatment for small enterprises
The Council will be invited to agree amendments to the directive on the common system of VAT in regards to the special scheme for small enterprises.
Current financial services legislative proposals
The Finnish presidency will provide an update on current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.
European Central Bank—executive board member
The Council will be invited to adopt a recommendation to the European Council on the appointment of a new member of the executive board of the European Central Bank.
The Council will be updated on the current state of play of digital taxation and will discuss the way forward.
European Fiscal Board report
The Council will be presented with the 2019 annual report of the European Fiscal Board.
EU statistical package
The Council will be invited to adopt Council conclusions on the EU statistical package and to review progress achieved.
The Council will be invited to adopt Council conclusions on climate finance for the COP25 climate summit.
Follow-up to international meetings
The presidency and Commission will inform the Council of the main outcomes of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors and the IMF and World Bank annual meetings held in October 2019.
As an AOB, the presidency will inform the Council about a joint statement on stable coins to be agreed at December ECOFIN.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
British Indian Ocean Territory
My noble Friend, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon), has made the following written ministerial statement:
The United Kingdom is aware of the proceedings brought by Mauritius against the Maldives under the UN convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS). The UK is not a party to these proceedings, which can have no effect for the UK or for maritime delimitation between the UK (in respect of the British Indian Ocean Territory) and the Republic of the Maldives.
The UK has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814. Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the BIOT and the UK does not recognise its claim.
As we have made clear previously, we were disappointed that the sovereignty dispute over the BIOT was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). By agreeing to answer the questions put to it by the General Assembly on behalf of Mauritius, the Court has enabled Mauritius to circumvent the basic principle that the Court should not consider a bilateral dispute without the consent of both states concerned. This sets a precedent which will potentially have wide implications for other states with bilateral disputes.
Despite these clear reservations, the UK participated fully in the advisory proceedings in good faith. We have also made known our views on the content of the opinion, including its insufficient regard to some material facts and significant legal issues. These included the 2015 binding UNCLOS arbitral tribunal award, which held the 1965 agreement between Mauritius and the United Kingdom, in which Mauritius agreed to detachment of the BIOT in return for benefits including the United Kingdom commitment to cede the territory when no longer needed for defence purposes, was legally binding. The opinion also gave insufficient regard to the reaffirmation by Mauritius, after independence, of the 1965 agreement.
In any event, what is undisputed is that the opinion is advisory and not legally binding. Moreover, the Court itself recognised that its opinion is without prejudice to the sovereignty dispute over the BIOT between the UK and Mauritius.
As the dispute over the BIOT is a sovereignty dispute, the General Assembly is not the appropriate forum to resolve such disputes. General Assembly resolution 73/295, adopted following the ICJ’s advisory opinion, cannot and does not create any legal obligations for the member states. Nor can or does General Assembly resolution 73/295 create legal obligations for other international actors such as a special chamber of the international tribunal for the law of the sea. Neither the non-binding advisory opinion nor the non-binding General Assembly resolution alter the legal situation, that of a sovereignty dispute over the BIOT between the UK and Mauritius.
A fundamental principle of international law and the international legal order is the principle of consent. It follows that the special chamber is not in a position to pronounce itself on the sovereignty dispute between the UK and Mauritius without the consent of the UK to resolve the sovereignty dispute before the special chamber.
The UK remains committed to implementing the 2015 UNCLOS arbitral tribunal award and seeking direct, bilateral dialogue with Mauritius.
Work of the Department
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) uses its global platform to promote a truly global Britain and support the UK’s values and interests—from helping victims of forced marriage to championing media freedom to securing market access for British companies.
Its 270 diplomatic posts are invaluable assets in 169 countries and territories. Its leadership within nine multilateral organisations shapes global agendas and sets global standards. It supports 31 Government partners, including Department for International Development, Department for International Trade and the British Council.
It is also a diplomatic network with ambitions to expand influence. By the end of 2020, the UK’s diplomatic network will have opened 12 new diplomatic missions across the globe since 2018, recruited 1,000 more staff members and boast more sovereign missions than any other European country.
The Department has also provided extensive support to the Government’s efforts to prepare for Brexit. This has included contingency planning for a “no-deal” situation, engagement to influence the EU on negotiation priorities and an extension to article 50, providing support to UK nationals living in and travelling to the EU, and planning for the UK’s future partnership with the EU.
Since the strategic defence and security review in 2015, this Department has made significant achievements in the following priority areas.
Protecting our people
Safeguarding our national security by countering terrorism, extremism, weapons proliferation, and other state and non-state threats in co-operation with allies and partners. Assisting British people living, travelling and working around the world in times of need.
In 2018-19, the Department provided invaluable assistance to over 22,000 British people around the world, and ongoing support to 7,700 existing cases. We responded to 14 major incidents overseas, from terrorist attacks and natural disasters to high profile political and security issues.
This year, the Department partnered with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of
Transport to carry out HMG’s biggest peacetime repatriation operation of more than 150,000 people following the insolvency of Thomas Cook. In 2017, 85,000 passengers were returned to the UK after the collapse of Monarch.
The Department played a vital role in the response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The response involved 138 substantive updates made to travel advice for affected countries during the crisis, liaising with 14 foreign missions to answer queries on their nationals affected by the hurricanes, answering over 3,800 calls to the crisis hotline and deploying 82 FCO staff to provide support to 11 different countries in the region.
Projecting our global influence
Projecting and promoting the values and influence of a global Britain, strengthening our partnerships and the rules based international system. Supporting good governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights; preventing and resolving conflict; and building stability overseas.
In 2018, the Department helped to ensure a robust international response to the use of chemical weapons, following the attempted murder of a Russian dissident and his daughter in Salisbury using a chemical nerve agent. As a result, 28 countries and NATO expelled 130 Russian undeclared intelligence officers.
The UK is proud to have helped train almost 3,000 volunteers for the white helmets (a volunteer humanitarian organisation operating in Syria and Turkey) who have saved over 115,000 lives through their emergency rescue services in Syria. Through post in Geneva and in New York, the Department has worked to pressure the regime and its backers to end the fighting in north west Syria, and has supported efforts towards greater accountability for those who have attacked unarmed civilians, schools and hospitals. The Department has continued its strong deterrence messaging against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, including through support for the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons and the targeted and proportionate military response to the chemical weapons attack in Douma in April 2018.
UK climate change diplomacy led by the Department helped achieve an historic international agreement to tackle climate change in Paris in December 2015. For the first time ever, 195 countries agreed to act together to combat global warming and reduce carbon emissions. In 2020, alongside Italy, the UK will host the United Nations framework convention on climate change conference of the parties, a clear signal of the UK’s global leadership on climate change and commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions to zero by 2050.
The UK has been a global leader in the international fight against the ivory trade, legislating to introduce the toughest ivory ban in Europe and help bring an end to the poaching of elephants. In 2018, the FCO-organised illegal wildlife trade conference was attended by 1,300 participants, and resulted in significant, ongoing pledges by several countries.
Promoting our prosperity
Promoting our prosperity by opening markets, driving economic reform, championing British business, and supporting free trade and sustainable global growth.
In calendar year 2018, the Department continued to play a unique role within the Government’s cross-departmental conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF) and make a critical contribution to the CSSF’s work to tackle instability and prevent conflicts that threaten UK interests. The Department both delivered the majority of CSSF programmes and co-ordinated wider cross-Government efforts at the country and regional level, drawing on its deep foreign policy expertise. For example, in Ukraine FCO-led CSSF programmes have strengthened peacebuilding and resilience of conflict-affected communities, assisting more than 111,000 internally displaced peoples and supporting increased capacity in key Government ministries.
The Department has led on negotiations on Gibraltar, delivering an extensive set of agreements, as well as EU exit preparations on the other overseas territories. The Department has also supported the negotiation of arrangements for the sovereign base areas on Cyprus, and prepared for the implications of EU exit on UK sanctions policy.
In 2018-19, FCO-delivered prosperity fund programmes, worth a combined £850 million from now until 2023, began to deliver expertise and assistance in sectors and countries where there is high potential to support the inclusive economic growth needed to reduce poverty. Programmes initiated included a £45 million global anti-corruption programme, and £34 million ASEAN economic reform and low carbon programmes. The prosperity fund programme promotes economic reforms and remove barriers to trade, reform key sectors such as infrastructure, energy, financial services, future cities, education and healthcare, and tackle corruption.
In 2018, BAE Systems (BAES) won the tender to design and build nine future frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. It followed the Department playing an important role supporting the cross-Whitehall effort, and leading the campaign’s co-ordination in Australia. This outcome is a significant export boost for the UK as we prepare to leave the EU. It will secure around £2 billion of direct exports through British designed and manufactured components like engines (Rolls Royce) and Sonars (Thales UK and Ultra). It also opens doors to UK SMEs and secures approximately £10 billion worth of exports through the life of the programme. The whole of life sustainment win for BAES as a national shipbuilding enterprise partner is likely to generate another £40 billion.
In 2018, the Department hosted the largest ever Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, with 46 Heads of Government and 49 Foreign Ministers. As chair-in-office, the Department has since been working to strengthen the Commonwealth with delivery of ambitious commitments on prosperity, security, fairness and sustainability with a focus on supporting small island states. Moreover, the Department has achieved Foreign Ministers’ agreement to reforms that will improve the governance of the Commonwealth secretariat.
Foreign Affairs Council
The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will take place in Brussels on 11 November. It will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini.
The FAC will discuss current affairs, Afghanistan and Iran. There will also be a ministerial lunch with Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok.
HRVP Mogherini will raise Venezuela. She will reflect on two international meetings held in Brussels in October. First, the international contact group meeting held on 28 October. Secondly, the international solidarity conference on the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis which took place on 28-29 October.
HRVP Mogherini will brief Ministers on the follow-up to the October FAC and European Council conclusions on Turkey’s actions in north-east Syria and Turkish hydrocarbons exploration activity. We expect the Council to adopt a framework for a sanctions regime on the latter.
HRVP Mogherini will also provide an update on the conflict in Libya and preparations for the leader-level conference which Chancellor Merkel will host in Berlin later this year.
Due to time constraints, the discussion on Afghanistan at the October FAC was postponed to November. Ahead of the publication of the recent presidential election results, Ministers will focus on the political situation in Afghanistan. They will review prospects for peace, in light of recent Afghan and US-led peace efforts. The UK will underline the importance of completing the electoral process in an impartial, efficient and transparent manner, and highlight the importance of momentum in the peace process.
Ministers will discuss the EU’s approach to Iran and Gulf regional security. Ministers will focus in particular on the importance of preserving the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPoA) and the need for a diplomatic solution to de-escalate tensions in the region. Along with our French and German partners, the UK will highlight the importance of Iran returning to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA. All parties need to engage in comprehensive negotiations without prejudice to the JCPoA itself—to address Iran’s nuclear activities after 2025 as well as regional security.
Ministerial lunch with Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok
Ministers will discuss recent progress in Sudan with Prime Minister Hamdok. The UK will continue to urge the EU to be ambitious in the level of support they provide to Sudan throughout the political transition. This should be proportionate to needs and include assistance focused on economic and social stability, the peace process, human rights, and democracy and governance.
The Council is expected to adopt a number of measures, including: a framework sanctions regime in response to Turkish hydrocarbon explorations around Cyprus; the annual review of the Venezuela sanctions regime; and authorisation to open negotiations with Somalia on the status of the EU’s training mission for the Somali security forces.
Health and Social Care
Learning Disability and Autism Training
The Government have made improving the care and treatment of autistic people and people with learning disabilities a priority. Society is rightly judged on the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens.
Health and social care professionals have a crucial role to play in helping people with learning disabilities and autistic people lead longer, heathier and happier lives. We know there is good practice out there and excellent examples of staff working incredibly hard and supporting individuals and their families to receive the best possible care. However, staff can often lack the training or experience to deliver effective and compassionate care, resulting in significant health inequalities for people with learning disabilities and autistic people and poorer health outcomes.
In February this year, my Department published a public consultation to obtain views on how best to ensure that staff working in health and social care receive the right training to understand the needs of people with learning disabilities and autistic people and develop the skills to provide the most effective care and support. The consultation ran for 10 weeks, closing on 26 April 2019.
I am pleased to say there was an excellent response to the consultation. We received over 5,000 responses from a range of key stakeholders as well as individual members of the public and I am grateful to those who took the time to respond to the consultation. I am also pleased to confirm that the overwhelming majority of responses were supportive of the principle of mandatory training.
Today, we are publishing the Government response to the consultation, confirming our intention to introduce mandatory learning disability and autism training. A copy of the response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Our vision is that in future all professionals will, before starting their career or through continuing professional development, undertake training which covers a “common core curriculum” for learning disability and autism so that we can be confident there is consistency across education and training curricula.
We are committing to work with all professional bodies and the devolved Administrations to agree a common core curriculum based on the core capability frameworks for supporting people with a learning disability and autistic people. We recognise that it will take time to ensure that all training is aligned with the frameworks; with periodic updates to syllabuses and training requirements, but we will work with the regulators to ensure the closest possible alignment at the earliest opportunity.
Like everybody across the House, I have been moved by the personal stories about how care and treatment has been experienced by people with learning disabilities and autistic people, which in some cases has resulted in the worst possible outcomes. Cases like that of Oliver McGowan, whose story captures why learning disability and autism training is so important. I can announce that we will be developing a high-quality training package that will be named in Oliver’s memory.
I am also pleased to confirm that we are committing £1.4 million to develop and run a series of trials across both the NHS and social care setting, so that we better understand the impacts before implementation and a wider roll out.
To make the training mandatory we are proposing a number of actions, recognising that different approaches are required for different staff groups. Further detail on this, and the proposals above, is set out in the consultation response.
We need to ensure that those who work in health and social care understand the needs of people with learning disabilities and autistic people, how their needs can differ from the general population and for staff to be able to respond to those needs appropriately and positively. I believe the action we intend to take will do just that and ensure that everybody with autism or a learning disability receives the high-quality care they have a right to expect.
I am announcing today the conversion of the prisons and probation ombudsman (PPO) investigation of Brook House immigration removal centre to a statutory inquiry, in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005. This inquiry will investigate the mistreatment of detainees at Brook House immigration removal centre broadcast in the BBC Panorama programme “Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets” on 4 September 2017.
The Government take any allegation of mistreatment, and the welfare of immigration detainees, very seriously, and I want to establish the facts of what took place at Brook House and ensure that lessons are learnt to prevent these shocking events happening again.
Sue McAllister, the prisons and probation ombudsman, had appointed Kate Eves to lead their special investigation into Brook House. Following conversion of the special investigation into an inquiry, Sue McAllister, as ombudsman, was automatically appointed as the chair. However, to ensure continuity with their investigation I have agreed that Sue McAllister will recuse herself and Kate Eves will take up the position of inquiry chair. Kate Eves is an experienced and highly qualified investigator within custodial environments.
I have consulted with both Sue McAllister and with Kate Eves to confirm that the inquiry will have a similar scope to the PPO special investigation.
From today, the inquiry will have statutory powers to compel witnesses and establish the truth of what took place at Brook House.
I wish Kate Eves and all at the inquiry every success in taking forward this important piece of work.
The inquiry’s terms of reference are set out below:
To investigate into and report on the decisions, actions and circumstances surrounding the mistreatment of detainees broadcast in the BBC Panorama programme “Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets” on 4 September 2017.
To reach conclusions with regard to the treatment of detainees where there is credible evidence of mistreatment contrary to article 3 ECHR; and then make any such recommendations as may seem appropriate. In particular the inquiry will investigate:
The treatment of complainants, including identifying whether there has been mistreatment and identifying responsibility for any mistreatment.
Whether methods, policies, practices and management arrangements (both of the Home Office and its contractors) caused or contributed to any identified mistreatment.
Whether any changes to these methods, policies, practices and management arrangements would help to prevent a recurrence of any identified mistreatment.
Whether any clinical care issues caused or contributed to any identified mistreatment.
Whether any changes to clinical care would help to prevent a recurrence of any identified mistreatment.
The adequacy of the complaints and monitoring mechanisms provided by Home Office immigration enforcement and external bodies (including, but not limited to, the centre’s independent monitoring board and statutory role of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons) in respect of any identified mistreatment.
For the purpose of the inquiry, the term “complainants” is used to refer to any individual who was detained at Brook House immigration removal centre during the period 1 April 2017 to 31 August 2017 where there is credible evidence of mistreatment of that individual.
“Mistreatment” is used to refer to treatment that is contrary to article 3 ECHR.
The inquiry should in particular include investigation in to the mistreatment of complainants known (in the recent Brook House litigation) as MA and BB.
The inquiry may wish to draw upon the evidence and findings of the previous special investigation in to the events at Brook House, conducted by the PPO, before it was converted to a statutory inquiry.
As a statutory inquiry, the inquiry will operate within the legal framework provided by the Inquiries Act 2005. As such, the procedure and conduct of the inquiry are to be directed by the chairman.
The inquiry should be undertaken with sufficient pace to enable resulting recommendations to be implemented as quickly and effectively as possible. It is expected, on the basis of current information, that the inquiry will make its best endeavours to complete work and produce a final report to the Home Secretary, setting out their findings of fact and recommendations, within 12 months.
The inquiry will have full access to all the material it seeks.
The inquiry will bear the legal expenses for any individuals designated as core participant status by the inquiry chairperson.
It is not part of the inquiry’s function to determine civil or criminal liability of named individuals or organisations. This should not, however, inhibit the inquiry from reaching findings of fact relevant to its terms of reference.
This Government are fully committed to protecting the public, and ensuring the police have the powers they need. As such, today I am announcing that I intend to review pre-charge bail legislation to ensure we have a system which more effectively prioritises the safety of victims and witnesses and the management of suspects.
Pre-charge bail enables the police to release a suspect from custody, usually subject to conditions, while officers continue their investigation or await charging decision. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 “the Act” introduced reforms to pre-charge bail to address legitimate concerns that suspects were spending too long under restrictive conditions with no oversight or redress.
Specifically, the Act introduced (in relation to pre-charge bail): a presumption against use unless necessary and proportionate; clear timescales, and senior police and judicial oversight of its use and extension.
Since 2017 the use of pre-charge bail has decreased, and the number of individuals released without bail, or “released under investigation”, has also increased.
Furthermore, the demands on the police service have also changed. Concerns have been raised that pre-charge bail is not consistently being used in instances where it may be necessary to effectively manage suspects and protect victims and witnesses.
The review will also look at how legislative frameworks around pre-charge bail can more effectively:
support the police in the timely management of investigations, whether released on bail or without bail (“released under investigation”);
respect the rights of suspects, victims and witnesses to timely decisions and updates;
support the timely progression of cases to courts; and
how existing rules may be made simpler and more flexible in design to support effective operational decisions
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Work of the Department
Boosting Home Ownership and Getting Britain Building.
Getting more much-needed homes built
Since 2010 we have delivered over 1.3 million homes.
In 2017, we published our ambitious housing White Paper, and set an ambition to increase the delivery of homes to 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s. In 2017-18 over 222,000 new homes were created, the highest number in all but one of the past 31 years.
There was a net increase of 232,800 in the number of domestic properties with a council tax band in England between March 2018 and March 2019.
We are also ensuring that people have access to high-quality, affordable homes, having delivered over 430,000 affordable homes since 2010.
In 2018, we launched a new national housing agency—Homes England—to increase the supply of new homes, bringing together money, expertise, planning and compulsory purchase powers.
We have invested in overcoming the barriers to building.
In 2017 we launched the £5 billion housing infrastructure fund, to provide infrastructure in areas where housing need is greatest. At Budget 2018 we increased the funding by another £500 million, taking it to £5.5 billion in total, which will potentially unlock up to 650,000 homes. Over £3 billion has now been allocated to housing infrastructure fund bids—25 forward funding projects and 110 marginal viability fund projects—to unlock up to 297,100 homes, with more expected to be allocated over the coming months.
In 2018 we launched the £1.3 billion land assembly fund to acquire land needing work, making it less risky for developers to invest in. We also launched the £630 million small sites fund to help public landowners or local authorities speed up getting the right infrastructure in place to support stalled small sites.
In total, the Government have provided financial support for housing of at least £44 billion since the start of this spending review period to 2022-23. This includes £15 billion allocated at Autumn Budget 2017.
We have released land from the public estate for 109,000 homes through the 2011 to 2015 public land for housing programme, exceeding its 100,000 target. We have launched a successor programme, which aims to identify and release land for 160,000 new homes.
Boosting home ownership
In total, we have helped over 566,000 households into home ownership since 2010 through Government-backed schemes including help to buy and right to buy. The number of first-time buyers is at an 11-year annual high and has increased by 84% between 2010 and 2018.
Since its introduction in 2013, the help to buy scheme has helped over 221,000 households to get on the property ladder. In August 2019 we closed a loophole in the scheme, giving people the freedom to reduce their monthly mortgage repayments. This has opened up the help to buy re-mortgage market for more lenders, giving customers more choice and potentially paving the way to more competitive deals.
At the Autumn Budget 2017, we introduced stamp duty land tax relief for first-time buyers, which will help over 95% of first-time buyers who pay the tax, benefiting a total of 401,900 households so far and it is expected to benefit over 1 million households in the first five years. To date, this has saved first-time buyers an estimated £955 million.
We have launched two pilots of voluntary right to buy—one in 2016 and one in 2018—giving thousands of housing association tenants the opportunity to buy their homes.
In 2019, we announced plans for a new national model for shared ownership, which will help thousands of lower earners to step on to the housing ladder.
Improving people’s experience of the housing market
In 2010 we scrapped home information packs, removing unnecessary regulation and making the process of selling homes easier and less costly.
In August 2018 we published the social housing Green Paper, which set our ambitions for a new, fairer deal for social housing residents, including making it easier for residents to progress into home ownership. The Green Paper was informed by conversations with over 1,000 social housing residents and 7,000 online submissions.
Since 2012, the social housing waiting list has dropped by 40%. The Localism Act 2011 has given local authorities the power to set their own qualification criteria for social housing and to set policies which are appropriate to their local area.
We are helping renters by:
Passing legislation banning unfair letting fees and capping tenancy deposits, which will bring an end to costly upfront payments and renewal fees. The Tenant Fees Act came into force on 1 June 2019 and is set to save tenants £240 million in the first year alone.
Empowering tenants to tackle bad landlords through the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
Ending the practice of evicting tenants with no clearly specified reason, by committing in April 2019 to repeal s.21 of the Housing Act 1988.
Cracking down on rogue landlords. Last year alone we introduced banning orders and a database of rogue landlords and agents, and we extended mandatory licensing to protect tenants from overcrowding and poor housing conditions in houses in multiple occupation.
We are helping leaseholders by:
Announcing a range of measures to cut out abusive practices within the leasehold market, including prohibiting the development of new build leasehold houses other than in exceptional circumstances and restricting ground rents in newly established leases of houses and flats to a peppercorn, zero financial value.
Reforming the planning system to ensure that the right homes are built in the right places
In 2012 we published the national planning policy framework, replacing over 1000 pages of individual policy statements. In 2018, we revised the national planning policy framework, implementing around 80 planning reforms whilst making it more streamlined and easier to use.
As of the end of September 2019, 301 of 338 local planning authorities (89%) have an adopted local plan. 152 of these local plans are up to date (45%). This compares to 58 (17%) local planning authorities that had an adopted local plan in May 2010.
We are now preparing an accelerated planning White Paper to speed up the planning system, including the potential for more fees to be refunded if councils take too long to decide on specific planning applications.
We have given communities more power to plan for their areas, by introducing neighbourhood planning in 2011. Since 2012 over 2,600 communities have started producing a neighbourhood plan.
We have introduced permitted development rights for change of use to residential; over 46,000 homes have been delivered in the three years to March 2018 through these.
In May 2019 we announced changes to permitted development rights, allowing thousands of homeowners to extend their properties quickly and easily without the need for a full planning application.
We have continued to protect the green belt and it is now larger than in 1997, when records began, if we disregard land re-classified as national park.
We have reformed the system of developer contributions, to support local authorities to better collect and spend contributions. Local authorities received £6 billion in developer contributions which go toward affordable housing and local infrastructure in 2016-17, a £2 billion increase in real terms than in 2011-12.
Improving Quality and Design of Housing
We recently launched our national design guide. The first-ever Government-backed national model design code will be published in the new year and will set out a clear model for promoting a better design and style of homes across the country, shaped by what local people want.
We launched the future homes standard consultation in October 2019, to ensure that every new home that’s built in this country from 2025 will have low or zero-carbon emissions and the highest levels of energy efficiency.
Diversifying the housing market
We are backing councils to build more homes by removing the housing revenue account borrowing cap in 2018, enabling them deliver around 10,000 homes a year by 2021-22.
We established the £4.5 billion home building fund in 2016 to get more homes built. This will provide £2.5 billion funding specifically for SMEs, custom builders and innovators, giving them the funding they need to compete in the market. The fund also provides £2 billion in long-term infrastructure funding to unlock between 160,000 and 200,000 homes by 2020-21, with an emphasis on developments on brownfield land.
We have supported the build to rent sector to deliver over 30,000 homes across the UK since 2012, with over 110,000 further such homes in the pipeline. The build to rent fund provided over £630 million of development finance for the supply of 6,000 new privately rented homes. The fund closed to new applications in 2015. The £3.5 billion private rented sector guarantee scheme finances new build rented properties, and as of October 2019, £1.75 billion in total has been approved for 9,050 homes.
In autumn 2017 we announced a further £8 billion in guarantees to support housebuilding, including purpose-built rented homes and SMEs; £4 billion has been allocated so far:
In April 2019, we launched the £1 billion ENABLE build programme to support SME housebuilders.
At spring Statement 2019, we announced £3 billion of guarantees to support affordable housing delivery. The invitation to tender to run the scheme opened in November 2019.
Levelling up across the country
We continue to decentralise power away from Whitehall and back into the hands of local councils, communities and individuals to act on local priorities. In the 2019 Queen’s Speech, we committed to publishing a devolution White Paper to unleash regional potential in England and enable decisions that affect local people to be made at a local level.
Eight metro mayors have been elected since 2017, most recently in North of Tyne in May 2019. Through a major programme of secondary legislation, we devolved significant new powers, including over transport, housing, skills and planning to the mayors and combined authorities. Mayors are growing local economies by working with local councils and businesses to create jobs, boost skills, build homes and improve connections.
We replaced top-down regional development agencies in 2012, following the establishment of local enterprise partnerships in 2011.
In 2014, we established the £12 billion local growth fund and have since funded three rounds of growth deals for local enterprise partnerships to support local areas, creating jobs, supporting businesses and encouraging growth.
We have agreed 26 bespoke city deals through two waves in 2012 and 2013. These deals devolved powers and opened up new and innovative ways of doing things to unlock growth and deliver jobs.
We have supported the creation of three mayoral development corporations at Old Oak, Stockport and Teesside, to drive regeneration and growth.
In March 2019, the Department announced two new housing communities in London, Old Oak Common and Brent Cross Cricklewood. The investment package totals £570 million and will create 20,000 new homes and new jobs opportunities in the area, whilst benefiting from new transport infrastructure.
Supporting our towns, high streets and coastal communities
In July 2019 the Prime Minister announced an expanded £3.6 billion towns fund. The Government have since announced an initial 100 places that Government have invited to enter into a town deal negotiation, and 100 places that are benefiting from the future high streets fund.
The Town Deal funding will enable communities to develop ambitious transformative plans, improving their economic growth prospects, transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. In October 2019, Government launched the #MyTown campaign to give people a say in how a new generation of town deals should transform the place they call home.
The high streets funding will empower local leaders to help transform their high streets and town centres as consumer habits change. In August 2019, we announced its expansion, meaning that an additional 50 towns will now benefit from £1 billion of available funding. Part of the fund will be used to support the regeneration of heritage high streets. We have also funded successful initiatives such as “love your local market” and the “great British high street awards”, and established the high streets task force to give high streets and town centres expert advice to adapt and thrive.
In November 2018 we launched the open doors pilot scheme, which has matched landlords struggling to find tenants for their empty high street properties in five locations around England with community groups looking for space.
We are supporting our coastal communities through our coastal communities fund which supports projects in the UK delivering sustainable growth and jobs. In September 2019 we announced a further five towns which will benefit from this funding. Since 2012, we have awarded grants to 369 projects across the UK, totalling over £229 million.
Unleashing regional potential
In 2016 we published the northern powerhouse strategy. Since then we have:
Invested £3.4 billion of local growth funding in the region to support locally determined projects across the north.
Seen record levels of investment in transport—over £13 billion between 2015-16 to 202-/21—and the creation of the first statutory, regional transport body outside of London, transport for the north.
Created the northern powerhouse investment fund, worth £400 million, to support SMEs to grow and scale up.
Boosted the international profile of the northern powerhouse through a commitment of £15million to support trade missions and £7 million for the northern powerhouse taskforce.
Improved education in the north, with £70 million for the northern powerhouse schools strategy.
Seen almost 50% of the north being covered by devolution, with metro mayors in place across the north.
In the autumn Budget 2018, the Government extended the transforming cities fund by another year, 2022-23, providing an extra £240 million available for six metro mayors for locally determined projects to improve transport connections. This builds on the initial transforming cities fund of £436 million in the northern powerhouse regions.
In 2017 we published the first midlands engine strategy which included an additional £392 million for midlands local enterprise partnerships to support local growth projects, bringing the total growth deal funding for the midlands to nearly £1.9 billion.
We have supported enhanced connectivity in the region with £25 million of funding for midlands connect to publish its first strategy in March 2017. Further transport support has included, in March 2019, the transforming cities fund with Derby and Nottingham receiving £7.2 million, Leicestershire receiving £7.8 million and Stoke on Trent receiving £5.6 million.
We are investing over £250 million through the midlands engine investment fund to support small businesses to start and grow.
Skills development is being supported in the region through a £20 million midlands engine skills challenge, delivering targeted support to the unemployed through work coaches, providing English language training to help more people access employment and empowering employers to help employees with mental health issues.
Three institutes of technology have been established at Aston University, Dudley College of Technology and the University of Lincoln.
The west midlands was selected to become the home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G testbed in September 2018. The £50 million trial of new high-speed connectivity will pave the way for rollout across the UK. This builds on the already active 5G testbed in Worcestershire, putting the midlands at the forefront of 5G developments.
Birmingham was selected to host the prestigious 2022 Commonwealth Games and in Budget 2018, £165 million was announced to support the games athletes village and unlock 5,000 homes.
Coventry was announced as UK city of culture 2021 and has been provided with £8.5 million for its plans to showcase the city.
In May 2017, the people of the west midlands combined authority (WMCA) elected their first mayor, Andy Street. Government have agreed a second devolution deal with the WMCA which included £6 million for a housing delivery taskforce, £5 million for a construction skills training scheme and £250 million from the transforming cities fund to be spent on local intra-city transport priorities.
In October 2019, following the £2 million already granted to the midlands to develop the Toton growth zone near Nottingham, we announced intent to establish a new locally led development corporation with the aims of delivering new houses, jobs and economic growth.
In November, alongside the Secretary of State for Wales, we announced the western gateway: a strategic partnership promoting and maximising economic growth across south Wales and the west of England to create jobs, boost prosperity and support the world-renowned universities and businesses of the region.
To represent a strong business voice and lead the project to success, Katherine Bennett, senior vice president of Airbus, is the first acting chair of the western gateway.
MHCLG is providing £400,000 start-up funding to kick-start the partnership.
Helping Vulnerable People
In 2018 we published our rough sleeping strategy, setting out our vision for halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it altogether.
We have allocated more than £1.2 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the spending review period to April 2020. This includes a flexible homelessness support grant of £617 million for homelessness services, £28 million of funding to pilot a housing first approach in three major regions of England and the rough sleeping initiative (RSI). The RSI began with a £30 million fund for 2018-2019 targeted at 83 local authorities with the highest levels of rough sleeping. The Government announced a further £46 million fund for the RSI for 2019/20. We expect this to provide 750 staff and 2,600 bed spaces this year.
These efforts are having an impact on rough sleeping levels: the 2018 annual rough sleeping statistics showed a decrease for the first time this decade, and a 19% reduction in those areas receiving additional funding and support under the rough sleeping initiative. And our recent impact evaluation of the rough sleeping initiative showed that the true impact was even greater with a 32% reduction in rough sleeping in these areas, compared to what it would have been had the initiative not been in place.
At the spending round in 2019 we announced £422 million offunding to help reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in 2020-21, which is an additional £54 million of funding compared with the previous year.
The Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in 2018, which will transform the culture of homelessness service delivery. For the first time, it placed new duties on local housing authorities to take reasonable steps to try to prevent and relieve a person’s homelessness.
Since 2011 we have delivered 34,000 units of supported housing for disabled, vulnerable and older people.
Supporting Local Government to deliver
high quality services with sustainable finances
Making public services better and more efficient
Between 2011 and 2016, we have provided almost £5 billion of council tax freeze grant funding to local authorities that froze their council tax level to help keep bills low.
We have worked with councils on agreeing locally led proposals to establish new unitary councils and to merge district councils, saving millions annually. In 2018-19 we supported two new unitary councils in Dorset and three merged district councils in East Suffolk, West Suffolk and Somerset West Taunton.
In 2011, we launched the troubled families programme to support local areas over the long term to transform the way services worked with families with multiple high-cost and complex problems. In 2015 we launched the second troubled families programme. As of March 2019, it has funded areas to work with nearly 380,000 eligible families, with 172,000 families achieving significant and sustained progress against the problems identified when entering the programme.
In 2013 we introduced new legislation to allow councils across England to charge double the rate of council tax on homes left empty for two years or more, and therefore raising funds which can be used to keep the overall rate of council tax down.
Council tax in England is 6% lower in real terms than it was in 2010. This follows a doubling of council tax over from 1997 to 2010.
We have also taken steps to ensure local authorities and private operators provide adequate parking spaces and are fair to their customers. These include:
Amending the national planning policy framework and planning guidance to reduce restrictions on parking and help local authorities and householders rent out empty spaces in 2011;
Reducing over-zealous parking enforcement through the Deregulation Act 2015, and giving local residents, community groups, and businesses the ability to challenge parking policies in the same year;
Tackling rogue private parking operators through supporting Sir Greg Knight’s Private Members’ Bill, helping it to secure Royal Assent in March 2019; and
Proposing a new code of practice, to be developed by the British standards institution, to provide drivers with a 10-minute grace period after their tickets expire and crack down on intimidating and aggressive debt collection practices.
Improving local government sustainability
The 2019 spending round provides access to the largest year-on-year increase in local authority spending power since 2010. We expect core spending power to rise by £2.9 billion, from £46.2 billion to £49.1 billion in 2020-21. This includes an additional £1.5 billion to help local authorities to meet rising demand for adult social care. Average spending power per dwelling for the 10% most deprived authorities is around 16% more than for the least deprived 10% in 2019-20.
The total net revenue service expenditure by all local authorities in England is budgeted to be £96.2 billion in 2019-20. This is 3.8% higher than the £92.6 billion budgeted for 2018-19.
We have helped to drive the integration of health and social care services following the establishment of the better care fund, from a total of £5.3 billion in 2015-16 to a total of £7.8 billion in 2018-19.
In 2013 we introduced the business rates retention system, giving local authorities more control over money they raise locally. We have conducted a series of pilots for full business rate retention.
Since Budget 2016 the Government have introduced a range of business rates measures in England worth more than £13 billion over the next five years.
Uniting the Country
Building communities and great places
We have empowered communities by establishing a range of community rights in the Localism Act 2011, including the community right to bid to help protect local assets for community use and the community right to challenge to give communities a greater role in shaping and running local services.
We are ensuring that communities are heard through our £3.2 million communities fund which has supported 54 local authorities to shape and improve service delivery in partnership with community groups. As well as investing a £1.85 million endowment, from March 2016 to March 2019, to allow communities to buy their local pub.
In September 2019 the community infrastructure levy regulations came into force, helping local people see how every pound of property developers’ cash levied on new buildings is spent.
In July 2019 we published a communities framework to set out our renewed vision for building stronger communities and championing communities in every aspect of society.
Green spaces and parks
In 2018-19 we invested £15 million to improve parks through the local authority parks improvement fund, the future parks accelerator and pocket parks plus. In October 2019 we launched a further £1.35 million of funding to extend the pocket parks programme. Pocket parks is designed to create new pocket parks or renovate existing parks that have fallen into disrepair where it can be shown that physical changes could have a significant positive impact on the local community and address a specific local need. Through the 2018 programme, we funded 198 new and renovated parks across England.
We are continuing to invest in isolated communities and improve English language skills by committing to spend over £50 million in 2018-19 and 201-20 to support priorities set out in the integrated communities Green Paper and subsequent action plan. At the spending round 2019, we announced an additional £10 million of funding to continue the integration areas programme with a major focus on English language provision, building on the success of the first five integration areas announced in 2018.
We are supporting English local authorities to tackle the impacts of recent migration through our £102 million controlling migration fund. Funded activity includes supporting newcomers to learn English and understand local social and cultural expectations, caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and tackling rogue landlords.
Tackling hatred in all forms
We are committed to tackling all forms of hate crime as demonstrated through the hate crime action plan, this was refreshed in 2018. As part of the refresh, we have committed additional funding to continue to protect places of worship. We have committed over £1.5 million for projects to tackle racially and religiously motivated hatred.
We have committed to launching an anti-Muslim hatred working group and an antisemitism working group. Most recently, we have appointed an antisemitism advisor—Lord John Mann—and appointed the first advisor to take forward the Government’s commitment to work on a definition of Islamophobia.
In September 2019, the communities secretary committed £100,000 funding to stem the spread of anti-Semitic material online. The Secretary of State also wrote to all councils and universities encouraging them to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism as a matter of urgency.
We are honouring and remembering Holocaust victims by committing up to £75 million for a striking new national memorial and a state-of-the-art learning centre next to Parliament, to be matched by at least £25 million from private donations. Subject to planning permission, construction will begin in 2020.
Achievements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
The UK government has committed up to £1.6 billion for six city deals across Scotland and Wales and has committed to extending city deals to Northern Ireland. A funding commitment that has been matched by £1.4 billion from devolved Governments and a further £1.6 billion from other partners including local authorities, universities and the private sector.
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018: Section 4 Report
This statement is issued in accordance with section 4 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, “the NIEFEF Act”. Section 4 of the Act requires that I, as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, report on a quarterly basis on guidance issued under that section of the Act. It also requires me to report on how I plan to address the impact of the absence of Northern Ireland Ministers on human rights obligations within three months of the day the Act was passed.
The Act received Royal Assent on 1 November 2018. Following careful consideration of the sensitive issues section 4 deals with, and in consultation with the Northern Ireland civil service, guidance under section 4 was published on 17 December 2018.
The guidance made clear that it could not be used to change the law on abortion or same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The guidance also provided that all relevant Northern Ireland Departments should continue to have regard to all of their legal obligations, including the Human Rights Act 1998 and sections 24 and 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in exercising any relevant functions in relation to abortion and same sex marriage.
Three reports required under section 4 have been published as written ministerial statements to date, on 30 January 2019, 1 May 2019 and 4 September 2019.
Since the NIEFEF Act passed, the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (NI EF Act) has also passed, placing duties on the Government to make regulations to provide for same-sex marriages and opposite sex civil partnerships in Northern Ireland by 13 January 2020, and to change Northern Ireland’s abortion law, with regulations providing for a new regime to be in place by 31 March 2020. The relevant provisions came into force on 22 October 2019 given that the Northern Ireland Executive was not restored by 21 October 2019.
In respect of abortion, the coming into force of section 9(2) of the NI EF Act has meant that sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 have now been repealed in respect of Northern Ireland. A moratorium on all investigations and prosecutions brought under those sections has also come into effect, regardless of the date on which any offences took place, under section 9(3) of the Nl EF Act. Therefore the incompatibility with human rights identified in section 4(1)(a) of the NIEFEF Act no longer exists. The new legal framework for abortion in Northern Ireland will be set out in regulations to come into force by 31 March 2020.
The Government launched the consultation on the proposed new framework for post 31 March 2020, A legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland, on 4 November 2019. The consultation will run for six weeks, closing on Monday 16 December 2019.
The Government will keep its position on the initial guidance published under section 4 of the NIEFEF Act under review, in the light of the legal duties under sections 8 and 9 NIEF Act, and work towards making the regulations which will come into force by 13 January 2020 for same-sex marriage and opposite sex civil partnerships and 31 March 2020 for abortion.
Northern Powerhouse Rail Programme: Accommodation
I have today laid before Parliament a departmental minute describing a contingent liability raised as a result of a letter of comfort provided to Transport for the North.
Unfortunately, due to the need to secure value for money it is not possible to allow the required 14 days’ notice prior to the liability going live. A delay until after the general election on 12 December or until January when Parliament returns following Christmas recess is likely to result in higher costs.
The letter of comfort provided by the Department is in respect of a lease for office accommodation for Transport for the North. The accommodation is to support TfN’s work on the Northern Powerhouse Rail Programme and involves a taking seven-year lease of which five years remain (with no break clauses). TfN is concerned that if it no longer requires the space, it will not be able to cover any remaining commitments related to the lease from its core funding. The cost of the lease is £183,000 per annum and the maximum exposure, taking account of committed funding to April 2021 is £505,000. TfN proposes to cover these costs from NPR development funding. This is currently confirmed to 2021/22. TfN will actively seek to sublet the space if it is not required for their operations.
The Treasury approved this liability. I have also informed the Chairs of the Transport Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.