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Written Statements

Volume 698: debated on Monday 28 June 2021

Written Statements

Monday 28 June 2021

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Events Research Programme

On 25 June, the Government published a report on the first phase of its groundbreaking and science-led events research programme (ERP) which is furthering our understanding of how the risk of covid-19 transmission can be reduced at large events.

The study gathered data on behaviour, movement, ventilation and testing and has shown that with mitigating factors, such as social distancing at pinch points, face coverings and staggered entry and exit times, events can be conducted more safely at increased capacities, while maintaining a lower risk of transmission.

The ERP was commissioned by the Prime Minister in February 2021 as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The aim of the review was to build an evidence base to inform how the public could return as safely as possible to attend events such as sport, theatre, live music and business events by conducting pilots across a range of settings and sectors. These have been run in a structured, scientifically and ethically robust way to enable events in the programme to happen at a scale not previously tested since the start of the pandemic.

Phase 1 of the programme involved a total of 58,000 participants at venues across the country including Liverpool, Sheffield and London. It was supported by event organisers, local authority and public health teams, national and local government officials and nine scientific research teams from five UK universities. The work was overseen by an independently-chaired science and ethics board.

The findings in this report will help to inform both Government and industry on how they can seek to mitigate covid-19 transmission risk ahead of step 4 of the roadmap.

A full copy of the report can be found on A copy of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Events Research Programme: Compensation for Event Organisers

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of all members of this House to bring to their attention the departmental minute issued today that provides the House with notice of a series of small contingent liabilities created by my Department. This is in relation to a policy to compensate event organisers participating in phase 3 of the events research programme in the event of their cancellation if public health concerns were to give rise.

The world-leading events research programme conducted 14 pilot events across two phases since April to inform decisions around the safe removal of social distancing at step 4 of the road map up to 20 June 2021. Following the delay to step 4, the Government will now run a third phase. This will provide the opportunity to gather and generate stronger data that consolidates our evidence base in order to safely get spectators back to events when restrictions are able to lift, including trialling the practical use of certification at a range of events.

The Government will provide compensation on a discretionary basis to event organisers should a pilot event be cancelled due to public health reasons.

This compensation will be capped at £300,000 per event and will cover costs incurred in relation to participation in the programme only (e.g. admission of spectators), recognising the fact that these events would have taken place in line with road map restrictions should the programme not exist. For events that have been put on specifically as part of the programme (i.e. would not otherwise have gone ahead), the Government will compensate organisers in full should an event be cancelled, but this will also be capped at £300,000.

The Government do not intend to cancel any event in the programme, however public safety comes first and therefore it is prudent to provide this assurance to the organisers assisting the Government in reopening the economy.

A copy of the departmental minute is being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Housing, Communities and Local Government

Tourism in England: Temporary Campsite Capacity

As England opens up and more Britons seek to go on holiday there over the summer, the Government want to support domestic tourism. To do this, we will encourage greater temporary campsite capacity over the summer through updated guidance.

Last year the Government introduced a temporary permitted development right which allows for the temporary use of land as a commercial campsite for up to 56 days, without the need to apply for planning permission. This allows businesses across the tourism and hospitality sectors to establish temporary “pop-up” campsites on their land to meet additional demand. We would like to see more of these businesses taking advantage of this opportunity over the summer, so we will encourage local planning authorities to take a flexible and proportionate approach to the enforcement of planning controls, including restrictions through planning conditions on existing campsites, which may limit the temporary extension of commercial campsites for leisure use over this holiday season. This builds on my previous statement made to the House on 14 July 2020.

Paragraph 58 of the national planning policy framework already emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.

The purpose of this written ministerial statement, which comes into effect immediately, is therefore to make clear that, in considering the exercise of their discretion over enforcement, local planning authorities should take a positive approach to their engagement with commercial campsites for leisure use to ensure planning controls are not a barrier to local tourism and hospitality’s economic recovery.

In particular, unless legal obligations dictate otherwise, local authorities should not seek to undertake enforcement action against potential breaches of planning control in relation to temporary commercial campsites for leisure use which do not have an adverse impact on amenity, public health and safety or the environment.

This statement does not apply to other forms of campsites, including those for domestic use, and this statement does not stop local authorities taking appropriate action where there are significant adverse impacts on amenity, public health and safety or the environment. This position should not stop enforcement action against unauthorised encampments (such as tents or caravans) on land which the occupiers do not have permission of the landowner to camp upon, nor for non-commercial activity such as a personal dwelling.

Furthermore, this statement does not remove the legal requirement for campsite licenses under section 269 of the Public Health Act 1936. The Government will work with local authorities to facilitate a quick licensing process this summer, and authorities are encouraged to expedite new applications for licences to provide certainty for applicants.

This written ministerial statement only covers England and expires on 31 October 2021.


International Trade

UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement

Today, the Government will launch negotiations with Singapore towards a bilateral digital trade agreement, the UK-Singapore digital economy agreement (DEA).

Singapore and the UK are both global leaders in the digital economy, and our bilateral trade was worth £17 billion in 2019, with 70% of services exports digitally delivered.

This new, ambitious agreement will aim to remove barriers to digital trade and enable UK exporters to expand into high-tech markets. It is part of the Government’s strategy to place the UK at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements with dynamic countries, and to enhance our status as a global hub for services and digital trade.

The UK is the first European country to start negotiations on a digital trade agreement. This is an opportunity for the UK to take the lead in shaping these agreements, and grow our influence on global rules in areas of UK strength such as digital and services. It reflects how the UK is becoming more flexible, more nimble and less defensive in our approach to trade.

The UK is already one of the world’s biggest exporters of services, with remotely delivered services exports worth £207 billion in 2019 alone. International digital trade is now a key driver of productivity and business growth in the UK. It allows British businesses to reach a wider consumer base by selling online, to trade more efficiently and cost-effectively by streamlining shipping, logistics and other trading processes, and to connect and grow their workforce across different regions of the world—sharing the benefits of prosperity.

The DEA can expand the UK’s access to Singapore’s digital economy—worth an estimated £9.4 billion in 2019. Negotiations will focus on:

Securing open digital markets for exporters, allowing them to expand into new markets and sell traditional products in new ways.

Ensuring free and trusted cross-border data flows, while upholding high standards of personal data protection.

Cutting red tape for UK businesses by promoting digital trading systems such as digital customs and border procedures that will save time and money when exporting.

Upholding online consumer rights and protecting businesses’ valuable intellectual property, like source code and cryptography.

Deepening our co-operation on future growth sectors such as FinTech and LawTech, while working with Singapore to strengthen our collective cybersecurity capabilities and keep our countries safe.

Strengthening our trading relationship with Singapore is also part of the Government’s wider trade strategy, which aims to deepen links with one of the fastest growing regions of the world, partnering with countries who believe in free and fair trade.

The DEA can create new opportunities as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region for tech, high-end services, and digital trade, ultimately supporting and creating high-value jobs across the United Kingdom and helping the country build back better from covid.



Probation Reform

This Government are committed to cutting crime, by improving how we protect the public from serious offenders and by tackling repeat offending. On 26 June we took a key step forward in delivering those aims with the launch of a new unified probation service for England and Wales. The additional investment of an extra £155 million both last year and this year has been key to making these changes happen.

The new service brings together staff from the previous National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). It will strengthen public protection by bringing together management of offenders of all levels of risk into one organisation. It will deliver visible punishment and reparation to communities through an overhauled approach to unpaid work. And it will strengthen rehabilitation by delivering improved better accredited programmes and other rehabilitative interventions, alongside commissioning specialist services from other organisations. New national standards for probation will set out expectations for how offenders are managed in order to reduce repeat offending and to ensure the public are protected.

I am grateful for the hard work and professionalism of probation staff in supporting the transition to the new service, as a result of which we have successfully transferred nearly 8,000 staff and nearly 200 buildings to the new organisation and rolled out IT equipment for staff transferring.

Investment of £195 million has now been awarded to 26 organisations across England and Wales to provide those specialist services, addressing needs relating to accommodation, education, training and employment, services which help offenders with personal issues such as mental health problems and women’s services.

Having completed the transition to the new organisation, my priority is now to deliver improvements in the services probation delivers. Key work to do so includes improving sentence management by recruiting a record 1,000 new trainees last year and a further 1,500 officers this financial year to supervise offenders and help cut crime. This will reduce the average case load size for probation officers so that the public can be better protected.

Other key work includes ensuring more support for victims of crime by extending and enhancing the service offered to victims. Creating a new framework for unpaid work placements will increase the value they bring to society, by cleaning up the environment and supporting communities, giving back to the communities they live in through litter picking, clearing fly tipping, removing graffiti and maintaining public spaces.

Further investment in digital services will help modernise the service, speeding up processes and helping to underpin and reinforce excellent standards of practice. I will improve support for offenders for issues like education, substance misuse and mental health issues to reduce the risk of them reoffending. Securing additional rehabilitative services to build on the contracts already implemented will help cut crime.

It is particularly impressive that we have been able to ensure readiness for transition, given the pressures faced as a result of the global pandemic. Unification represents an example of excellent delivery—a major, very complex Government project delivered on time, to budget against unprecedented global challenges and we are proud of the scale of that achievement. Our progress in delivering these crucial reforms will ensure a joined-up and improved probation service that is able to make a significant contribution to this Government’s mission to cut crime. We are determined that the probation service will simultaneously offer more support to those turning their backs on crime, while using every available tool to protect the public from those who are intent on continuing to commit crime.



Spaceflight Regulator: Environmental Objectives

On Friday 25 June, I published the Government’s response to the consultation on environmental objectives and guidance that the Government are setting for the regulator when exercising its spaceflight functions under the Space Industry Act 2018.

This Government are committed to growing the space industry in the UK and cementing our leading role in this sector by unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight across the UK. The Government’s ambitious support for safe and sustainable spaceflight activities will drive research, innovation and entrepreneurship, exploiting the unique environment of space. The environmental objectives and guidance, along with the space industry regulations, and other instruments covering accident investigation and appeals, will pave the way for a new licensing regime for commercial spaceflight activities from UK. This will feed into our emerging national space strategy as we develop our priorities for levelling up the UK and promote the growth of this thriving sector in the long term.

The environmental objectives demonstrate the importance this Government attach to balancing the mitigation of potentially negative environmental impacts of spaceflight activities with enhancing the strong contributions that commercial spaceflight can make to both the economy and our local and global efforts to monitor the environment. The objectives and guidance build on the Space Industry Act 2018 requirements for applicants for a launch or spaceport licence to submit an assessment of environmental effects as part of their application. The objectives and guidance set out clearly how the Government expect the spaceflight regulator will take account of these assessments when deciding licence applications and setting licence conditions.

The Government welcome the thoughtful and detailed responses received to the consultation from industry, environmental professional bodies and other stakeholders. The response I am sharing today sets out the ways we have adjusted the draft guidance to reflect the suggestions and recommendations made through the consultation process. We believe that this collaborative approach will not only strengthen the licensing regime we are implementing, but also demonstrate the Government’s ongoing commitment to growing this exciting sector whilst ensuring that the most significant environmental impacts are mitigated and that growth of this sector is consistent with the Government’s wider sustainable development goals.

Next steps

My Department has worked closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency and Civil Aviation Authority to legislate for a wide range of new commercial spaceflight technologies, including traditional vertically launched vehicles, air-launched vehicles and sub-orbital spaceplanes and balloons. The Government’s aim is to have in place all the necessary secondary legislation and supporting guidance before the summer recess to enable the regulator to begin receiving and assessing applications.