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Written Statements

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2020

Written Statements

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UK Research and Development Roadmap

Today, the Government are publishing the “UK Research and Development Roadmap”.

The roadmap sets out the Government’s vision and ambition to bolster the UK’s world-class credentials in research and development.

The Government’s long-term objectives for R&D are clear: to be a science superpower and invest in the science and research that will deliver economic growth and societal benefits across the UK for decades to come and to build the foundations for the new industries of tomorrow.

This was supported by the unprecedented commitment at the March 2020 Budget to increase public investment in R&D to £22 billion by 2024-25. This followed the Queen’s Speech, where the Government committed to “making the UK a global science superpower that attracts brilliant people and businesses from across the world”.

Research and development will be critical to a swift economic and social recovery from the impacts of covid-19, for a greener, healthier and more resilient UK. Our goal is to further strengthen science, research and innovation across the UK, making them central to tackling the major challenges we face, including achieving net zero carbon emissions, building resilience to the impacts of climate change, closing the productivity gap and embracing the transformative potential of new technologies to improve the quality of life.

We can only make the most of the UK’s science superpower strengths by working with partners in government, academia, industry and charities across the UK. The roadmap marks the start of a conversation on what actions need to be taken and how to ensure our R&D system is fit for purpose now and for the future.

We are engaging with the devolved Administrations and other Departments to ensure this is a cross-government and UK-wide discussion and will be undertaking a broader programme of engagement in the run-up to the spending review this autumn.

The “UK Research and Development Roadmap” document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Education

Reform of Early Years Foundation Stage

I can confirm that the Department for Education has today published on www.gov.uk the Government’s response to the consultation on reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

The EYFS statutory framework sets the standards that all schools and early years providers must meet to ensure that children from birth to age five learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe.

Last October, the Government published a consultation on reforms of the EYFS, following a year-long pilot of the proposed reforms. The objectives of our reforms are twofold. First, we want to raise education standards in the early years through improving early years outcomes for all children, particularly disadvantaged children. Secondly, we want to reduce teacher workload so that teachers can spend more time interacting with and supporting children through rich curriculum activities.

The consultation received 2,452 responses prior to the deadline on 31 January 2020. The areas consulted on and the Government’s response to this are as follows:

Revisions to the educational programmes and Early Learning Goals: the EYFS specifies seven areas of learning, under which sit 17 Early Learning Goals (ELGs) that summarise the knowledge, skills and understanding that all children should demonstrate by the end of the academic year in which the child reaches age five. The framework also sets out high level educational programmes for each area of learning, summarising curriculum activities for all children from birth to five years old. The consultation indicated broad agreement that the proposed educational programmes support children’s overall learning and development with some suggested changes which were considered as part of the final proposals. The consultation also indicated broad agreement with the Early Learning Goals with some suggested areas for clarification which have been reflected in the final proposals.

Changes to the teacher assessment and moderation process at the end of the EYFS: we consulted on the proposal to remove the statutory requirement for local authorities to externally moderate EYFS Profile (EYFSP) judgements in 25% of schools each year. Although there was mixed support for this, with the common view from respondents being in favour of retaining moderation, we know from the EYFSP pilot evaluation findings that in the absence of external moderation and associated evidence gathering and paperwork, teachers found that their workload had been reduced, allowing them to focus on teaching. Government will therefore proceed with the proposal to remove statutory local authority moderation.

Removing the “exceeding” criteria from the EYFSP: the consultation indicated broad support for this proposal and our response confirms our intention to proceed with this proposal.

Changes to the safeguarding and welfare requirements as set out in the EYFS framework: we consulted on one minor change, namely to explicitly include “oral health” in the current requirement to “promote the good health of children” in the EYFS framework. The consultation indicated strong support for this proposal and the response confirms the Government’s intention to proceed.

We recognise the impact the covid-19 outbreak has had on the early years sector and schools, particularly in terms of the impact on children’s learning and development as a result of closures.

The EYFS reforms outlined in this response provide a strong basis to support children who may have missed critical months of early education.

Therefore, we will proceed with offering schools the opportunity to adopt the final reforms from September 2020 (the early adopter year), followed by statutory national implementation as planned from September 2021.

A copy of the Government’s response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Justice

Courts and Tribunals: Recovery and Modernisation

I am today setting out progress being made to recover the operations of our courts and tribunals in response to the pandemic. Responsibility for the courts and tribunals is shared with the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals, to whom I am very grateful for continued close collaboration in this endeavour.

Since March, the priority of the Government, working closely with the judiciary and others, has been to ensure the justice system continues to perform its vital role while keeping court and tribunal users safe in line with public health guidelines. To achieve this, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has rapidly expanded the use of technology to allow hearings to be conducted by phone and video and temporarily closed around half of its building to focus effort and resources more effectively. The most urgent cases have been prioritised by the judiciary to ensure public safety, protect the vulnerable and safeguard children.

As a result, our courts and tribunals in England and Wales have been able to sustain more activity than many other comparable jurisdictions internationally. Huge credit must go to the judges, magistrates, HMCTS staff, legal professionals and all those involved in proceedings for their work in the face of the extraordinary challenges posed by the pandemic.

Having responded effectively to the immediate crisis, HMCTS is now fully focused on recovering its operation to increase courts and tribunal capacity to deal both with normal workloads across jurisdictions and outstanding cases. The challenges of doing so are no less great, not least because of the constraints imposed by social distancing. But doing so is essential if we are to ensure that our justice system delivers for those it is there to serve.

As part of the Prime Minister’s plan for economic recovery, he announced yesterday that HMCTS will be receiving £142 million of additional capital funding this year to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms, building on the rapid progress made to keep the system running during the coronavirus pandemic. Of this £142 million, £105 million is allocated to improving the court and tribunal estate. This investment—along with £48 million already in the HMCTS budget—will see £153 million invested in improvements to court and tribunal buildings over the coming year, which is the biggest single investment in maintenance of the court estate for over 20 years.

Today, HMCTS has also published a progress update on its recovery plans for the short and medium terms. It is available at www.gov.uk/hmcts and includes the following work.

First, HMCTS is working to increase physical capacity to enable more cases to be heard. All courts and tribunal buildings are being reopened in line with wider advice on social distancing and public safety. Throughout April, over 150 of the 341 sites used for physical hearings were open to the public in response to the pandemic outbreak. As of the beginning of this week, 284 were open following detailed risk assessments and essential modifications to ensure they are safe. Nearly all locations will become operational throughout July, and a range of physical modifications are being made, such as the installation of screens where appropriate.

New criminal jury trials, which had been suspended since late March, were restarted in four Crown courts in the week beginning 18 May, following the implementation of particular measures to ensure the safety of all participants. As of this week, a total of 25 courts are holding trials again.

In addition, HMCTS is exploring options to stagger and extend the operating hours of courts and tribunals, including starting hearings at different times of day and weekend sittings, to manage the flow of people through our buildings and enable more cases to be heard safely. It is working closely with stakeholder groups in different jurisdictions to identify the areas that have the most impact in terms of increasing capacity. HMCTS is also actively locating other buildings from across England and Wales to use as court and tribunal locations or to support the expansion of existing sites. HMCTS is also actively locating other buildings, including new venues and former court buildings, to use as court and tribunal locations on a temporary basis. Ten sites have been identified across England and Wales and these will be confirmed and announced locally in due course.

Secondly, HMCTS is working to expand access to audio and video technology to support more and new types of hearings. There has been a significant increase in the use of such equipment over the last three months and, with the right IT solutions, many more hearings could take place. HMCTS has been rolling out the cloud video platform (CVP) to all criminal courts, and there are plans to provide this across other jurisdictions too. Throughout July, CVP will start to be made available to an increasing number of county courts. We will be rolling out further hardware to improve the quality of video hearings, and we will be finding new, increasingly efficient ways of organising video lists.

Thirdly, HMCTS is introducing a range of measures to make best use of judicial time, support court and tribunal staff and users and ensure the justice system is there for those that need it. It is supporting judges to list in ways that make full use of the space we can safely use and will support alternative dispute resolution for cases where it is appropriate. It is deploying laptops to staff to enhance flexible working to support case activity. In addition, HMCTS will review and implement measures to ensure all vulnerable users are supported effectively to ensure they can access services and participate fully in hearings.

These are all important measures to support the recovery of our courts and tribunals. But returning to pre-covid-19 activity will require sustained and long-term focus. Alongside these operational measures being introduced by HMCTS, the Government continue to keep under review options that will enable more hearings to take place while social distancing restrictions remain in place.

We will also make sure that we learn lessons from what has happened in our response to covid-19. The unprecedented nature of this public health emergency has required all parts of the justice system to adopt new ways of working without the preparation that would normally take place, and under conditions that have not previously been tested. While some changes will be time- limited and will stop with the end of the pandemic, others may be valuable in the longer term. We will therefore listen to feedback from judges, staff, practitioners and users to improve the way we work in the short term, and gather data and other evidence to support continuous improvement. We will also evaluate and review the measures put in place to respond to covid-19, so that we can learn lessons and make well-informed decisions about which should be adopted and/or adapted in the longer term.

Implementation of the courts and tribunals reform programme has continued throughout the pandemic response and new digital services to the public have worked normally. The lessons learned will help inform the next phases of modernisation, building on the existing principles and plans.

I will place a copy of “Covid-19: Overview of HMCTS response” in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

Restoration and Renewal Programme: Strategic Review Submissions

Following the announcement of its intention to conduct a strategic review of the restoration and renewal programme, today the sponsor body invites Members of the House and their staff to submit their views to inform our review.

Members and Members' staff are invited to give their views on the following questions:

How should developments since the previous conclusions were drawn by the joint committee on the Palace of Westminster in 2016—political, economic, commercial, social, technological, environmental or other—affect how the Houses of Parliament are restored and renewed?

In the interests of affordability and value for money, what compromises could be acceptable during the works, for example in relation to accommodation, location, disturbance, ways of working, facilities and general working environment?

What balance should be struck between spending the minimum required to prevent a catastrophic failure from flood and fire and taking the opportunity to renew Parliament for the future, for example by improving accessibility or making any other improvements or enhancements to the palace?

Are there any other matters which you think the review should take into account?

Submissions can be emailed to strategicreview@r-r.org.uk. The deadline for submissions is 7 August. Further information is available on the intranet.

In line with the sponsor body's statutory obligations, views are also being sought from parliamentary staff and members of the public. The review is expected to conclude in the autumn and its findings will be considered by the sponsor body board and the Commissions of both Houses in the first instance.

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