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Written Statements

Volume 689: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2021

Written Statements

Wednesday 10 February 2021

Cabinet Office

National Fraud Initiative: Data Matching Purposes and Code of Data Matching Practice

The Cabinet Office is looking to consult on widening the national fraud initiative (NFI) data matching powers and updating the NFI code of data matching practice. The powers are embedded within the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The powers are:

to assist in the prevention and detection of crime (other than fraud);

to assist in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders;

to assist in prevention and detection of errors and inaccuracies; and

to assist in the recovery of debt owing to public bodies.

Currently, the NFI can only match the data it collects for the purposes of detecting and preventing fraud1. These proposals focus on increasing NFI’s operational efficiency and value for the public sector by widening those purposes. Early estimates suggest that by better utilising data already collected by NFI, supplemented by additional data collection where appropriate, enactment of these powers could deliver early efficiency savings (within the first three years) of at least £10 million a year to key public sector organisations. We would expect savings to be far greater over a longer period. Critically, research shows that there are clearly important wider outcomes for citizens overall: that the data matching powers would help

the police solve crimes other than fraud, or find offenders more efficiently than is currently the case;

local authorities and Government Departments to reduce debt owed to public bodies while adhering to the fairness in debt management principles; and

agencies or departments to reduce any errors that might exist in official data records, thereby helping to deliver more effective services or to ensure citizens receive the benefits they are entitled to.

Operating within a strong governance framework since 1996, the NFI already collects over 8,000 datasets, 300 million records of data from over 1,300 participant organisations2. To date it has already enabled participants to prevent and detect fraud and overpayments across the UK worth £1.9 billion through data matching. The powers were embedded into the Act in 2014 when the NFI transferred to the Cabinet Office and are not part of the current covid-19 emergency response or legislation. Our work to date shows that the powers will create longer term efficiency savings that will help public services. This aligns with the Cabinet Office role of creating efficiencies across Government and the Government’s manifesto commitment to improve the use of data in the process of government. We are committed to transparency on these proposals. Work to enact the powers was one of the five key objectives set out in the NFI strategic delivery plan 2018-2022. The results of this consultation will be instrumental in determining the way forward. The consultation documents are available on and will be open for responses until 10/03/2021.

1Data matching compares data to identify anomalies that might represent a fraud. The NFI is not permitted to identify patterns and trends in an individual’s characteristics or behaviour which suggest nothing more than the individual’s potential to commit fraud in the future.

2The NFI has both mandatory and voluntary participants. Participants include all local authorities, NHS trusts, police authorities, passenger transport executives (PTEs), fire and rescue services and combined authorities in the UK. Government Departments and private sector organisations can participate on a voluntary basis.



Spaceflight Regulator: Environmental Objectives

I am today publishing the consultation on the Government’s environmental objectives which the spaceflight regulator will take into account when exercising its spaceflight functions under the Space Industry Act 2018. We are also consulting on the associated guidance to the regulator on how the Government expect it to interpret these environmental objectives. Responses to the consultation are sought by Wednesday 24 March 2021.

This Government are committed to growing the space sector in the UK and cementing our leading role in this sector by unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight across the UK. Government and industry have set a target to grow the UK’s share of the global market to 10% by 2030. The UK space sector directly employs 41,900 people and contributes £5.7 billion to UK gross domestic product (GDP). The space sector will need another 30,000 people if it is to achieve its ambition to secure 10% of the world market by 2030. To support this, our spaceflight programme will enable commercial spaceports to be established in the UK that will facilitate a variety of spaceflight activities, including vertical and horizontal satellite launch and sub-orbital spaceflight. Growing the UK’s launch capability will help bring new jobs and economic benefits to communities and organisations right across the UK, as well as inspiring the next generation of space scientists and engineers. Harnessing the opportunities provided by commercial spaceflight will feed into our emerging national space strategy, the Government’s agenda to level up the UK, and global Britain.

Access to space and the use of space-based technology also brings many benefits to the environment, allowing us to, for example, observe weather patterns, monitor climate change, manage natural resources, and monitor for harmful activities such as illegal deforestation, fishing and animal poaching. The UK space sector has an established world-class satellite manufacturing capability and technical expertise, which already makes a significant contribution to global efforts to monitor and understand the Earth’s environment. For example, the 2018 British-built satellite Aeolus is used to revolutionise the accuracy of weather forecasting, providing benefits to all citizens on Earth.

The introduction of commercial spaceflight to the UK will have environmental implications at the global, national, regional and local level. The objectives and guidance recognise that to deliver the Government’s economic, social and environmental objectives, we need to balance mitigating the potentially negative environmental impacts of spaceflight activities with enhancing the strong contributions commercial spaceflight can make to both the economy and our local and global efforts to monitor the environment.

The Space Industry Act 2018 requires applicants for a spaceport or launch operator licence to submit an assessment of environmental effects (the assessment) as part of their licence application. The objectives and guidance that Government propose setting explain how the spaceflight regulator will take into account the assessment when deciding licence applications and setting licence conditions.

We have worked with environmental agencies, public bodies and Government Departments to ensure coherence with our national and international policies and obligations.

Our intention is to have these objectives in place by the time the secondary legislation and guidance—on which we consulted on 29 July 2020—comes into force this summer and the regulator begins receiving and assessing applications.