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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
03 June 2020
Volume 676

Written Statements

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Treasury

Contingencies Fund Advance

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HM Revenue and Customs will incur new expenditure in connection with the Government’s response to the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £10,000,000,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in the main estimate 2020-21 for HM Revenue and Customs. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £10,000,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

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Stamp Duty Land Tax: Refund Window

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The past weeks have been an uncertain time for those buying and selling property. Since lockdown restrictions were implemented in March, more than 450,000 people have been unable to make progress with their plans to move house.

Following the publication of updated regulations on 13 May 2020, some of the restrictions initially placed on the housing market have now been lifted. The Government’s step-by-step plan is based on the latest guidance and is designed to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved in the process of buying or selling a home.

The Government recognise, however, that as a result of the restrictions placed on the housing market, some people have been unable to sell a previous main residence within the three-year window allowed in order to qualify for a refund of the 3% higher rates of SDLT.

In the vast majority of cases, the existing three-year window provides sufficient time for people in a wide variety of personal circumstances to sell a previous residence, and the three-year window for most taxpayers will not be changing.

But, in certain specific cases, an extension to the three-year window can now be granted by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs once a property is sold if an affected taxpayer was not able to make a sale within the three-year window due to exceptional circumstances outside their control.

Affected taxpayers must make a sale as soon as practicable once the exceptional impediment to sale ceases to apply, and this amendment applies to those whose refund window ended on or after 1 January 2020.

HMRC will set out operational guidance on the cases which will qualify for an extended refund window in due course. Taxpayers can write to HMRC setting out their individual circumstances and HMRC will make decisions to grant an extension on a case-by-case basis. HMRC will also closely monitor the number and type of applications for an extension, as a protection against cases of fraud and abuse.

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Coronavirus Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support Schemes

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Following my announcement last week, I am pleased to share more detail on the next steps for the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) and self-employment income support scheme (SEISS).

CJRS was launched to protect jobs and help employers through this unprecedented crisis. By midnight on 31 May more than 8 million jobs had been protected which would otherwise have been at risk. More than 1 million firms have benefited from this support.

I announced on 12 May that the CJRS would be extended until the end of October. This means the scheme will now be in place for a full eight months, giving businesses the vital support that they need during this unprecedented time. As we now begin to reopen the economy, it is right that state support is slowly reduced and the focus shifts to getting furloughed employees back to work.

From 1 July, employers will have the flexibility to bring back their furloughed employees for any amount of time and any shift pattern, giving businesses more flexibility to respond to demand as the economy reopens. Employers will be able to claim the furlough grant for the proportion of the employees’ normal hours they are not working. Employers must pay their employees for the hours they are working, subject to their employment contract, and will be required to report data on hours worked by an employee and the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period under the scheme for furloughed employees.

As a result, from 1 July, there will be no minimum furlough period; that is, no minimum amount of time that an employee can be on temporary leave. However, any furlough arrangement agreed between employer and employee and reported in a claim to HMRC must still cover a period of at least one week.

To enable this change on 1 July, the CJRS will be closed to new entrants on 30 June. This means employees furloughed for the first time must be placed on furlough on or before 10 June in order to access flexible furlough, in order for the three week minimum period to have been completed by 30 June. All employers planning to claim a grant from 1 July must have completed their first claim (for the period ending 30 June) by 31 July.

In June and July, nothing will change for employers and the Government will continue to pay 80% of people’s salaries. From August, the level of the grant will be slowly reduced and employers will be required to top up the Government payment to ensure employees receive 80% of their normal pay, up to a monthly cap of £2,500, throughout. In August, employers will be asked to pay employer NICs and pension contributions; in September employers will also pay 10% of wages to make up the 80% total, up to a cap of £2,500; in October, employers’ contribution will increase to employer NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages, up to a cap of £2,500.

An early assessment of CJRS claims suggest that around 40% of employers have not made a claim for employer NICs costs or employer pension contributions and so will be unaffected by the change in August if their employment patterns do not change.

Detailed guidance on these changes will be published on 12 June.

The SEISS opened on 13 May—days ahead of schedule—and eligible individuals will still be able to apply for the first grant until 13 July. By midnight on 31 May, 2.5 million self-employed individuals had already applied for grants, worth £7.2 billion in total.

The SEISS will be extended and eligible individuals could now qualify for a second and final grant.

The extension of the SEISS now means eligible individuals whose businesses are adversely affected by coronavirus will be able to claim a second and final taxable grant when the scheme reopens for applications in August. Individuals will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in another single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total. This is in line with changes to the CJRS as the economy reopens and the eligibility criteria remain the same for this final grant.

An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by coronavirus in this later phase.

Further guidance will be published on 12 June.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Voting Rights Treaty with Poland

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I can confirm that the Government reached a bilateral agreement with Poland on 29 May that will secure the right to stand in local elections for UK Nationals living in Poland, and Polish citizens living in the UK. This agreement builds on our close ties and reinforces our commitment to the future relationship between our two nations.

Citizens continue to be our priority following our departure from the EU. The UK pushed hard in negotiations to protect the right to stand and vote in local elections for UK Nationals living in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, but these rights were not included in the withdrawal agreement. Instead, we have secured bilateral arrangements with several individual member states. In addition to Poland, we signed voting rights treaties in 2019 with Spain, Portugal, and Luxembourg.

UK Nationals will be able to continue to vote, and in some cases stand, in local elections in member states where domestic legislation allows this, and where individuals meet the relevant requirements, for example on length of residency. These member states include: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

I will be laying a copy of the latest agreement in both Houses.

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Health and Social Care

Covid-19: Human Fertilisation and Embryology

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My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Innovation) (Lord Bethell) has made the following written statement:

We are today laying a negative solution statutory instrument, which will extend the statutory storage period for embryos and gametes from 10 years to 12 years in certain circumstances.

To support wider changes to the health service in responding to the pandemic, fertility treatment in the UK across the NHS and private sector was temporarily suspended on 23 March. While this suspension was lifted from 11 May, there may still be delays for some patients in accessing their fertility treatment, as clinics need to meet robust safety criteria in order to restart treatment.

In recognition of the potential impact this may have on those wishing to start a family, the Government committed to extending the current 10-year storage limit for embryos and gametes by two years, in certain circumstances, to enable sufficient time for all fertility treatment to resume and patients to make new arrangements without having to rush their decision-making.

The new statutory instrument allows anyone who currently has frozen their eggs, sperm and embryos to extend their storage for an additional two years, provided there is appropriate consent. Currently the storage period for embryos and gametes is limited to a maximum of 10 years, after which people must choose whether to undergo fertility treatment, or have their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos destroyed. People with medical conditions that have caused fertility problems can extend for longer, but this SI allows them two additional years before they need to provide supporting medical evidence.

The Government have recognised that the suspension of fertility services has been extremely worrying for patients, the announcement of this SI provides them with some much-needed reassurance and most importantly gives more time to try for their much longed for family and was welcomed by patient stakeholder groups.

Earlier in the year the Government launched a consultation for views on whether the current primary legislation to store their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos for 10 years should change. The consultation closed on 5 May. The Government will be making a separate set of decisions about the law in the light of the analysing the consultation responses and announcing those later in the year.

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Housing, Communities and Local Government

Rough Sleeping: COVID-19 Response

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government have worked closely with local authorities, charities and health providers to offer accommodation to as many rough sleepers as possible in order to help them stay safe during the pandemic.

We have asked all local authorities to provide information on the number of individuals they have accommodated. The information provided is management information, not official statistics, and local authorities continue to hold the most recent information.

This information submitted shows that since the start of the pandemic, local authorities have accommodated 14,610 people. This includes people coming in directly from the streets, people previously housed in shared night shelters and people who have become vulnerable to rough sleeping during the pandemic.

This is a truly remarkable achievement and has been possible because of an incredible effort by the Government, local authorities and charities.

In order to be transparent, we have today published the management information received from local authorities which provides a breakdown of this figure both inside and outside of London.

This number should not be compared to the official autumn annual snapshot of rough sleeping numbers because the data sets are not comparable. A significant proportion of the 15,000 people accommodated were not rough sleepers but have been housed in order to prevent any risk of them sleeping rough during the pandemic. The work local authorities have undertaken during the pandemic has assisted many who were sleeping rough or living in accommodation where they share sleeping spaces, for example in hostels or night shelters, where they would not be able to fully self-isolate. Local authorities have also housed those at risk of rough sleeping, or who have presented to local authorities as at risk of sleeping rough throughout this pandemic.

The Government have supported this vital work with £3.2 million emergency funding as an initial first step, followed by funding totalling £3.2 billion to local authorities to allow them to meet local need during the pandemic, including protecting the most vulnerable and rough sleepers.

We have also announced a further £433 million to provide 6,000 long-term, safe homes to support thousands of rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation move on to more sustainable accommodation.

The Government are now supporting local authorities on their next steps plans to ensure accommodation arrangements can continue to be managed safely to protect the most vulnerable, assessing individuals’ needs in order to ensure as few people as possible return to the streets. We have asked Dame Louise Casey to spearhead this work through a new covid-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce.

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Troubled Families Annual Report

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As required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, section 3(1), today my Department has published the fourth annual report, setting out how the Troubled Families Programme (2015-20) has been supporting our most disadvantaged families who face multiple and complex problems. We are laying this report today and will place a copy in the House of Commons Library. There has been a slight delay to the publication of the report, due on 31 March, as my Department focused on the emergency response to the covid-19 pandemic.

The Troubled Families Programme has been at the heart of our ambition to strengthen families and improve their futures since 2015. This year’s annual report details the programme’s performance for the period up to the end of March 2020, outlines the changes introduced for the 20-21 financial year to allow more families to be eligible for support, and clarifies how their progress towards outcomes will be measured. The report was drafted before the covid-19 pandemic so does not reflect the ongoing response from local government to support families during this unprecedented time.

Improving families’ lives: fourth annual report of the Troubled Families Programme 2019-20 details how the programme is driving a profound shift in the way that local services respond to entrenched problems and support our most disadvantaged families. Assigning a single key worker to each family, backed by multi-agency partners and co-ordinated data, this joined up “wrap-around” support works with whole families to tackle the range of issues they face.

Over the lifetime of the programme, local authorities have supported 350,105 families to achieve successful outcomes, including 30,000 adults who were helped into sustained employment, although the programme has worked with many more families. These families faced multiple and complex problems including a combination of crime, truancy, neglect, antisocial behaviour, domestic abuse, poor mental health, worklessness and financial exclusion. Every successful family outcome represents a family’s life changed for the better—a considerable achievement for the families and the local authorities supporting them.

Analysis to track family outcomes over time, and case study research, indicates that the programme delivered successful outcomes by intervening early to prevent escalation to children’s social care. Analysis found that for every £1 spent on the programme it delivers £2.28 of economic benefits (includes economic, social and fiscal benefits) and £1.51 of fiscal benefits (only budgetary impacts on services).

Analysis also suggests that the programme is reducing the probability of future interaction with the criminal justice system, and the severity of offending, for adults and juveniles who had been convicted or given a custodial sentence before they joined the programme.

The Troubled Families Programme has received new investment to extend the programme for an additional year. The additional Government funding of £165 million will enable the current programme to continue until the end of 2020-21.

The refreshed financial framework for 2020-21 was published on 14 May 2020 and sets out the expanded eligibility criteria and an explanation of the way in which local authorities should identify and support families using a range of indicators.

“Improving families’ lives: fourth annual report of the Troubled Families Programme 2019-2020” is accompanied by a range of publications that evaluate the programme’s progress which can be accessed at: www.gov.uk.

These are:

Analysis of national and local data sets: part five.

Staff Surveys—Troubled Families Co-ordinators: part four.

Staff Surveys—Troubled Families Keyworkers: part four.

Staff Surveys—Troubled Families Employment Advisors: part four.

Case Study Research: part four.

Family Survey additional analysis.

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Prime Minister

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

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The United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is as follows:

Sir Roger Gale MP (Leader)

Full Representatives

Substitute Members

Hannah Bardell MP

Lord Adonis

Richard Bacon MP

Tonia Antoniazzi MP

Duncan Baker MP

Lord Balfe

Stella Creasy MP

Saqib Bhatti MP

Earl of Dundee

Lord Blencathra

Baroness Eccles of Moulton

Chris Bryant MP

Dame Cheryl Gillan MP

Felicity Buchan MP

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

Sir Christopher Chope MP

John Howell MP

Theo Clarke MP

Ruth Jones MP

Geraint Davies MP

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Steve Double MP

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP

Mark Fletcher MP

Tony Lloyd MP

Lord Griffiths

Baroness Massey of Darwen

Joy Morrissey MP

Gagan Mohindra MP

Kate Osamor MP

Ian Paisley MP

Lord Russell of Liverpool

Virendra Sharma MP

Tommy Sheppard MP

Martin Vickers MP

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