Thursday 11 March 2021
Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body
Restoration and Renewal Programme: Strategic Review Publication
In May 2020 the sponsor body established a strategic review of the restoration and renewal programme.
The purpose of the review was to consider whether anything had changed so significantly as to warrant a change in the strategy for the restoration and renewal programme. Such reviews are a pillar of established best practice for major projects.
The sponsor body invited views from Members, Members’ staff, parliamentary staff and members of the public. The sponsor body also consulted with the Commissions of both Houses, as well as relevant parliamentary Committees on the draft strategic review recommendations.
The sponsor body’s strategic review was completed in late 2020, and in the early part of 2021 has been going through a period of engagement with the Commissions of both Houses of Parliament. It has been published today.
The review has considered all the evidence available, including previous investigations and reports and new evidence from surveys and submissions to the review. It recommends new approaches to completing the restoration while minimising costs—and provides a clear direction for the next stages of the work.
The review recommends the adoption of a set of “essential” and “stretch” objectives, to be endorsed by the Commissions of both Houses. The essential objectives will form the core deliverables for the programme, to inform a “do essential” option in the detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan. The stretch objectives will offer greater ambition.
The review found that by approaching the restoration in a new way, with a phased approach to the delivery of the works to the Palace of Westminster, the time Members and staff would spend in temporary accommodation could be kept to a minimum. While the detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan will set out specific timescales, the period during which works are taking place in the Palace of Westminster should be thought of in terms of years and not months.
The review found that Parliament’s northern estate, within the secure perimeter, is the best place for temporarily locating MPs. Specific plans for these arrangements will be drawn up in collaboration with Parliament’s in-house team, respecting recent decisions from the House of Commons Commission regarding the sequencing of works on the northern estate and in line with the developing parliamentary masterplan.
Members of the House of Lords will be located in temporary accommodation at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, and proposals for this will have at their heart an objective to minimise costs.
The full text and recommendations of the strategic review can be viewed on the restoration and renewal website: www.restorationandrenewal.uk/resources/ reports/strategic-review
The public want to see this UNESCO world heritage site, in which they have told us they take great pride, protected from damage and decay, and at the same time want to see that money is spent well. Restoring Parliament will create thousands of jobs and apprenticeships in towns, cities and communities across the UK, from engineering and high-tech design to traditional crafts such as carpentry and stonemasonry.
The detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan will be focused on delivering value for money and will be informed by around 100 surveys and investigations of the Palace of Westminster.
The review sets out clear proposed objectives for the restoration and the need for clearer governance and closer working with Parliament. Supported by the Delivery Authority, the sponsor body will continue to develop the detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan that will for the first time give an accurate sense of the costs, timescales and full detail of the work needed. The detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan will be put before both Houses for a decision before the parliamentary building works can commence.
EU-Great Britain Import Controls
On 31 December last year, the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union. This was the biggest change in the UK’s trading relationships for decades. The Government have always been clear that this meant change for business and for citizens, including new processes and requirements.
The first phase of such changes came in on 1 January. The Government have put in place the staffing, infrastructure, and IT to deal with the situation. Thanks to the hard work of traders and hauliers, we have not seen anything like the generalised disruption at our ports which many predicted, and supply chains have shown themselves to be robust.
However, the Government recognise the scale and significance of the challenges businesses have been facing in adjusting to the new requirements, at the same time as dealing with the impacts of covid-19.
Last June, we announced a timetable for the phased introduction of controls on imports from the EU into Great Britain, to ensure businesses could prepare in a phased way. This timetable was based on the impacts of the first wave of covid-19. We know now that the disruption caused by covid-19 has lasted longer and has been deeper than we anticipated. Accordingly, the Government have reviewed these timeframes.
Although we recognise that many in the border industry and many businesses have been investing time and energy to be ready on time, and indeed we in Government were confident of being ready on time, we have listened to businesses that have made a strong case that they need more time to prepare. In reviewing the timeframes, we have given strong weight to the disruption which has been caused, and is still being caused, by covid-19, and the need to ensure that the economy can recover fully.
We are therefore announcing today a clear revised timetable for the introduction of controls, as follows:
Pre-notification requirements for products of animal origin (POAO), certain animal by-products (ABP), and high-risk food not of animal origin (HRFNAO) will not be required until 1 October 2021. Export health certificate requirements for POAO and certain ABP will come into force on the same date.
Customs import declarations will still be required, but the option to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months after the goods have been imported, has been extended to 1 January 2022.
Safety and security declarations for imports will not be required until 1 January 2022.
Physical sanitary and phytosanitary checks for POAO, certain ABP, and HRFNAO will not be required until 1 January 2022. At that point they will take place at border control posts.
Physical SPS checks on high-risk plants will take place at border control posts, rather than at the place of destination as now, from 1 January 2022.
Pre-notification requirements and documentary checks, including phytosanitary certificates will be required for low-risk plants and plant products, and will be introduced from 1 January 2022.
From March 2022, checks at border control posts will take place on live animals and low-risk plants and plant products.
Traders moving controlled goods into Great Britain will continue to be ineligible for the deferred customs declaration approach. They will therefore be required to complete a full customs declaration when the goods enter Great Britain.
Controls and checks on sanitary and phytosanitary goods are of course a devolved matter and we continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations on their implementation, in particular with the Welsh Government on their timetable for completing supporting border control post infrastructure in Wales.
We will continue to engage extensively with businesses to support them to adjust to the new requirements already in place and to prepare for the new requirements set out above so that they can continue to trade successfully under the new arrangements.
Health and Social Care
Independent Investigation into East Kent Maternity Services Trust: Terms of Reference
On 13 February 2020 I confirmed in Parliament that, following concerns raised about the quality and outcomes of maternity and neonatal care, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) have commissioned Dr Bill Kirkup CBE to undertake an independent review into maternity and neonatal services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (the trust).
The review will be known as the “Independent Investigation into East Kent Maternity Services” (the independent investigation).
We take the patient safety concerns at East Kent maternity services very seriously. The independent investigation will provide an independent assessment of what has happened with East Kent Maternity and Neonatal Services and identify lessons and conclusions.
The terms of reference have been finalised now the views of the families affected have been taken into account and are published today on the independent investigation (Independent Investigation into East Kent Maternity Services: https://iiekms.org.uk/) and NHSE website (www. england.nhs.uk/publication/independent-investigation-into-east-kent-maternity-services-terms-of-reference). The terms of reference include the scope and arrangements that are to be put in place to support its functions and confirm the independent investigation will examine maternity and neonatal services in East Kent, in the period since 2009, when the trust came into being, until 2020. The terms of reference include the scope and arrangements that are to be put in place and confirm the independent investigation will examine maternity and neonatal services in East Kent, in the period since 2009, when the trust came into being, until 2020.
The independent investigation will draw conclusions as to the adequacy of the actions taken at the time by the trust and the wider system and will produce a report to be disclosed first to the affected families and then to NHSEI as the commissioning organisation, and then to the Department of Health and Social Care prior to publication.
The work of the independent investigation is expected to complete by the autumn of 2022 and arrangements will be made for the final report to be presented to the Secretary of State; Ministers will subsequently publish the report to Parliament, and a response will be provided in due course.
A copy of the terms of reference will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
I have undertaken to provide the House with a monthly building safety update.
On 10 February I announced my five-point plan to bring an end to unsafe cladding:
1. The Government will pay for the removal of unsafe cladding for leaseholders in all residential buildings 18 metres and over (six storeys) in England
2. Generous finance scheme to provide reassurance for leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres (four to six storeys), ensuring they never pay more than £50 a month for cladding removal
3. An industry levy and tax to ensure developers play their part
4. A world-class new safety regime to ensure a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again
5. Providing confidence to this part of the housing market including lenders and surveyors
We have committed an unprecedented £5 billion investment in building safety. This will ensure taxpayer funding is targeted at the highest-risk buildings in line with long-standing independent expert advice.
Today we have published the February 2021 data release on the remediation of unsafe cladding and the monthly building safety fund registration statistics.
These data releases show we are continuing to make good progress on the remediation of unsafe cladding, with around 95% of all high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding identified by the beginning of last year now either remediated or started on site. Also, 100% of social sector buildings and 84% of private sector buildings have now started or completed remediation. Overall, 74% of all identified buildings have removed their ACM cladding, an increase of 17 since the end of January.
Our expectation is that unsafe ACM remediation should be completed as soon as possible and by the end of 2021 at the latest. Full details of our progress with cladding remediation can be found in the Department’s monthly building safety data release, which can be accessed here:
As at 11 March 2021, the building safety fund registration statistics show that 978 decisions have been made on the basis that sufficient supporting information has now been received. Of these, 624 registered buildings are proceeding with a full application and 354 have been shown to be ineligible. The total amount of funding allocated is £226.8 million (including social sector) correct at 05/03/2021. Full details can be accessed here:
I am also today informing the House of a change to the contingent liability for the provision of an indemnity for the joint inspection team (JIT), as was previously set out in my Department’s statements and associated departmental minutes, Official Report, 11 December 2018; Vol. 651, c. 9-10WS. and Official Report, 25 June 2019; Vol. 662, c. 28-29WS.
The purpose of the JIT has been to provide support to local authorities in making hazard assessments of high-rise residential buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material cladding and then to provide advice to local authorities on enforcement action. The change extends the cover provided by the indemnity to advice to local authorities on high-rise residential buildings with all other types of unsafe cladding too.
I am laying a departmental minute providing further detail of the change to the contingent liability.
Commercial Property: Rent Arrears
I am today informing the House that I have laid a statutory instrument that will extend the moratorium on commercial landlords’ right to forfeiture for the non-payment of rent (section 82, Coronavirus Act 2020). The moratorium that was due to expire on 31 March 2021 has been extended via statutory instrument by three months and will now expire on 30 June 2021, protecting businesses from eviction. This will protect employment as businesses reopen and many more individuals, including renters, can return to work.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice will also lay a statutory instrument to extend the restriction on the use of the commercial rent arrears process by landlords. This measure will increase the total number of days’ outstanding rent required for the commercial rent arrears process to be used to 457 days between 25 March and 23 June, and 554 days between 24 and 30 June. This measure will continue to provide protection to tenants of commercial leases with rent arrears accumulated during the coronavirus period, while protections from forfeiture for business tenancies are in place under the Coronavirus Act 2020.
Accompanying restrictions on the service of statutory demands and winding-up petitions, implemented through the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, are currently in place until 31 March. We are conscious of the impact of those measures not remaining in place while others are extended; the Government are therefore considering the future of these measures in the light of what has been announced today.
The Government had previously announced that the previous extension until 31 March 2021 would be the final extension to these measures. However, this was before the discovery of the new UK variant of covid-19 and the national restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on 4 January 2021. These restrictions have prevented many tenant businesses from being able to trade normally and have undermined negotiations regarding rent arrears and ongoing lease terms because tenants have lacked certainty regarding when they may be able to resume trading. This has necessitated the introduction of a further extension to give time for the current national restrictions to be relaxed and for tenants to be able to negotiate with their landlords with some certainty over their ability to trade and so pay rent and accumulated rent arrears, given some businesses will only reopen in June at the earliest under the Prime Minister’s road map.
We are aware of concerns that some tenants who could pay rent are refusing to do so, and of the potential impact of this on the commercial landlord and investment sectors, and on specific sectors who receive much of their income via rent, including the ports sector.
However, the Government are clear that this measure is not a rent holiday: where a tenant is unable to pay in full, landlords and tenants should be coming together to negotiate in good faith, using the principles set out in the voluntary code of practice we published in June. This recommends that those tenants who can pay in full should do so, those who cannot should pay what they can, and those landlords who are able to grant concessions should do so. This code of practice and approach was supported by a wide range of sector bodies representing tenants and landlords. The Government will be publishing further guidance to support this code and help facilitate negotiations between landlords and tenants shortly.
Beyond this point, the Government’s current position is to support landlords and tenants to agree their own arrangements for paying or writing off commercial rent debts by 30 June. This is supported by the code of conduct published by the Government last year, setting out best practice for these negotiations. But if these discussions do not happen and there remains a significant risk to jobs, the Government are also prepared to take further steps.
We will therefore launch shortly a call for evidence on commercial rents to help monitor the overall progress of negotiations between tenants and landlords. The call for evidence will also set out potential steps that the Government could take after 30 June, ranging from a phased withdrawal of current protections to legislative options targeted at those businesses most impacted by covid-19. We would welcome a broad range of feedback to this call for evidence.
England, Northern Ireland and Wales are covered by the protection from forfeiture provisions in the Coronavirus Act. Section 82 relates to England and Wales, and the Welsh Government have announced an extension until 30 June 2021. Section 83 relates to Northern Ireland, who are also considering a similar extension. The Scottish Government shall be implementing similar measures under their separate legislation.
If a Member has any further inquiries by giving notice of a parliamentary question or by otherwise raising the matter in Parliament, the Department will be happy to provide a response.
Residential Property: Evictions
I wish to update the House on the measures taken to support renters following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the roadmap for national restrictions in England.
To support renters as we move towards the lifting of most restrictions in June, the Government announced yesterday that we will extend the ban on bailiff enforcement of evictions and the requirement for landlords to provide six months’ notice when seeking possession of residential property. These measures will be extended to 31 May, to continue to protect public health and minimise the effect on essential public services. Exemptions will continue to apply to both of these measures in the most serious circumstances.
Ensuring that renters remain protected until the end of May, while national restrictions remain in place, will align with the Government’s broader strategy for protecting public health and will continue to help reduce pressure on essential public services as we start to move out of lockdown.
The ban on bailiff enforcement
Legislation will be brought forward shortly to continue to prevent bailiffs from attending residential premises to enforce a writ or warrant of possession except in the most egregious circumstances.
I am grateful to landlords for their continued forbearance during this unprecedented time. It will remain important for landlords to be able to advance cases in the most serious circumstances, and therefore exemptions will remain for:
cases where the court is satisfied that the claim is against trespassers who are persons unknown;
cases where the court is satisfied that the order for possession was made wholly or partly on the grounds of antisocial behaviour, nuisance or false statements, domestic abuse in social tenancies or substantial rent arrears at least equivalent to six months’ rent; or
where the property is unoccupied and the court is satisfied that the order for possession was made wholly or partly on the grounds of death of the tenant.
These measures only apply to England and they are expected to end on 31 May 2021, as we transition out of emergency measures, subject to public health advice and progress of the national road map.
Longer notice periods
A landlord seeking to recover possession of residential property must give notice to the tenant before they start court proceedings. We know that many tenants will leave accommodation at the end of their notice period, before the case reaches court. The Government laid yesterday a statutory instrument to extend measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020 that require landlords to provide tenants with six months’ notice, except in the most serious circumstances. The statutory instrument applies to England only.
This means that most renters served notice during April and May will be able to stay in their homes until October and November, giving them time to find support or alternative accommodation.
Shorter notice periods will continue to apply for egregious cases, recognising the continuing effect these circumstances have on landlords and the broader community. These cases include antisocial behaviour (including rioting), false statement, in certain cases of domestic abuse in the social sector, rent arrears over six months, where the tenant has passed away or where the tenant does not have the right to rent under immigration law. This approach provides balance for both landlords and tenants during the ongoing risk of covid-19, by continuing to provide tenants with enhanced protections while allowing landlords access to justice quicker where proportionate.
The Government will consider the best approach to tapering down notice periods from 1 June, taking into account public health requirements, progress with the road map and the longer-term transition into our broader programme of reform.
Guidance and wider support measures
We will update our covid-19 renting guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities to ensure it reflects the latest information. We will also update our guidance to support landlords and tenants in the social and private rented sectors navigate the possessions process.
The Chancellor has also confirmed that financial support will remain in place, continuing to support renters in paying their living costs. This will include the support for businesses to pay staff salaries through the coronavirus job retention scheme and the boost to universal credit, both of which have been extended until September 2021.