Thursday 17 September 2020
Legal Protections for Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans
Today, I am announcing the publication of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) analysis and response to the 2019 public consultation on “Legal Protections for Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans serving in operations outside the United Kingdom”. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House and will be published on gov.uk.
There were over 4,200 responses to the consultation, with approximately 3,750 of respondents identifying as being a current serving member of the armed forces, or a veteran, or a relative of either. We also received approximately 20 responses from legal firms, interest groups and NGOs.
The analysis and response includes statistical data and identifies the key themes drawn from the textual comments provided by respondents. A MOD response has been provided for each question set to explain how we have reflected on these key themes, and also against the more general points made by respondents (points not directly linked to the questions and measures in the consultation). While the responses to the consultation proposals were overwhelmingly supportive, in order to ensure a balanced analysis, we have also referenced where respondents either did not support or expressed concerns about the proposed measures.
The analysis of the responses helped to guide our thinking and to shape the legal protections measures that we introduced on 18 March 2020 in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, to deliver our manifesto commitment to legislate to prevent vexatious claims being brought against the armed forces. I look forward to discussing this vitally important issue with the House on Second Reading of the Bill.
The attachment can be viewed online at:
Manchester Arena Inquiry Terms of Reference: Amendment
On 22 October 2019 I announced an independent public inquiry to investigate the deaths of the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack, and the terms of reference for that inquiry.
I have now received a request from the inquiry’s chair, Sir John Saunders, to make a small addition to the terms of reference. The additional text was not explicitly included in the original terms of reference due to the risk of prejudicing a future trial. That trial has now completed and therefore I have agreed that it is in the public interest that the terms of reference should more fully reflect the scope of the inquiry’s investigations.
Therefore the following text will be added to section 1 (ii): “whether Prevent referrals should have been made in respect of Salman Abedi and/or any of his family members”.
The updated terms of reference can be found on the inquiry’s website at www.manchesterarenainquiry.org.uk.
I would like to thank Sir John Saunders for his continued work, and I pay tribute to the strength and courage of all those who will be sharing their experiences to ensure the inquiry can deliver its vital work.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
On 18 July, as part of the Government’s “Everyone In” initiative, we launched the next steps accommodation programme to support local authorities and their partners to prevent the nearly 15,000 people accommodated during the pandemic from returning to the streets. There are two parts to this funding: £105 million to pay for short-term and immediate accommodation and support; and £161 million to deliver 3,300 units of longer-term move-on accommodation this year—part of the £433 million total.
Today I have announced the allocations for the short-term aspect of this funding. 274 councils across England will be receiving £91.5 million to provide short-term and immediate accommodation and support to help vulnerable people to move on into sustainable accommodation. This funding will enable councils and providers to support individuals into the private rented sector, facilitate reconnections with friends and family, or maintain or extend emergency accommodation where necessary on a short-term basis, including where additional provision is required over the winter. Additionally, this funding will allow local areas to provide support for those with complex needs. We will continue to work with local authorities to allocate the remaining £13.5 million funding to enable them to tackle new or emerging challenges.
For the longer-term aspect of the fund, we are progressing our assessment of bids. This includes conducting due diligence regarding proposals and undertaking further negotiations where required to make proposals viable. Details on successful bids will be announced in due course. This allocation is part of a broader £433 million funding package which will provide 6,000 homes for rough sleepers over the course of the Parliament, the largest ever investment in accommodation of this kind.
Taken together, this funding will provide immediate reassurance to those housed as part of our “Everyone In” campaign and give longer-term assurance of more move-on accommodation—ensuring as few people as possible return to the streets.
Today’s announcement is on top of the £112 million rough sleeping initiative funding provided to councils earlier this year. We have also provided £3.7 billion to help councils to manage the impacts of covid-19, including supporting homeless people and a further £3.2 million in emergency funding for local authorities to support vulnerable rough sleepers as part of a total package of almost £28 billion of support to councils, communities and businesses since March. An additional £23 million will be provided so that vulnerable individuals experiencing rough sleeping, including those currently in emergency accommodation as a response to covid-19, can access the specialist help they need for substance dependency issues. This funding, together with our pledge to enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act fully, demonstrates our commitment to making the most of this opportunity to transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society, and to ending rough sleeping for good.
Work and Pensions
Disability Benefits Operational Update
I would like to update the House on the Department’s plans to implement the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v. MM, known as MM1, into the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment process.
The Supreme Court judgment concerned the definition of “social support”, when engaging with other people face to face, in activity 9 of the PIP regulations, and how far in advance that support can be provided.
I set out to the House on 23 July 2019 that we would carefully consider the full judgment before updating the House on our implementation plans. We have worked hard to implement the judgment quickly, but given the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on our staff resources and services, this has taken longer than we would have liked. We have also consulted Mind, the mental health charity, which intervened in the Supreme Court case.
We have now made the necessary changes to the way PIP activity 9 is assessed and these are reflected in revisions to the PIP assessment guidance (PIPAG) published today on gov.uk at: https://www.gov.uk/government/ publications/personal-independence-payment-assessment-guide-for-assessment-providers/pip-assessment-guide-part-2-the-assessment-criteria.
Despite the challenges, all DWP staff and healthcare professionals working for our assessment providers have been trained to apply the judgment. DWP will be applying the changes to all decisions from today. A FAQ will be deposited in the Library of the House.
On 23 July 2019, I also confirmed that the Department would be undertaking an administrative exercise to check whether claimants are entitled to more PIP as a result of the judgment. This is a complicated exercise and we are still planning our approach. This will be a substantial undertaking and will take some time.
I also want to update the House on the administration of severe disability premium transitional payments (SDP).
On 22 July 2019, we laid legislation to provide additional financial support for former SDP recipients who had moved to universal credit on account of a change of circumstances. As at 17 January 2020, we had already paid over 15,000 people, totalling more than £51.5 million.
The Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 provide for the conversion of these transitional payments into transitional elements. This means that payments will be made through the UC system rather than manually, and all transitional protection will be subject to the same rules.
I will be signing a determination setting the conversion day to 8 October 2020 and will place a copy in the Library. This is when the UC system will have capacity to convert SDP transitional payments to transitional elements.
1Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Appellant) v MM (Respondent)(Scotland) 18 July 2019 https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2017-0215-judgment.pdf.