Wednesday 21 July 2021
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Industrial Development Act : Coronavirus-related Assistance
I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. Members to bring to their attention spend under the Industrial Development Act 1982. In addition to the obligation to report on spend under the Industrial Development Act annually, the Coronavirus Act 2020 created a new quarterly reporting requirement for spend which has been designated as coronavirus-related under the Coronavirus Act. This statement fulfils that purpose.
The statement also includes a report of the movement in contingent liability during the quarter. Hon. Members will wish to note that measures such as local authority grants, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and tax measures such as the suspension of business rates are not provided under the Industrial Development Act 1982 and hence are not included below.
This report covers the first quarter of 2021, from 1 January to 31 March 2021, in accordance with the Coronavirus Act.
The written ministerial statement covering the fourth quarter of 2020 was published on 17 May 2021.
Spend under the Coronavirus Act 2020
Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, there is a requirement to lay before Parliament details of the amount of assistance designated as coronavirus related provided in each relevant quarter. In the period from 1 January to 31 March 2021, the following expenditures were incurred:
Actual expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 1 January to 31 March 2021 £1,058,687,252 All expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 25 March 2020 £2,699,037,690
Actual expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 1 January to 31 March 2021
All expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 25 March 2020
Expenditure by Department
Actual expenditure of assistance from 1 January to 31 March 2021 provided by:
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy £968,013,744 Department for Transport £86,925,000 Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs £3,748,507
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Department for Transport
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Contingent liability under the Coronavirus Act 2020
Contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 1 January to 31 March 2021 £5,666,529,651 All contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 25March 2020 £66,855,181,895
Contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 1 January to 31 March 2021
All contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 25March 2020
Indemnification to UNFCCC: Notification to Parliament
I am writing to notify Parliament of a contingent liability that will be created when the Government sign the host country agreement for hosting the 26th session of the conference of the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), known as COP26.
The host country agreement (HCA) will be signed in October 2021, ahead of the conference taking place in Glasgow in November. The HCA includes a standard liability clause, which commits the host country to indemnify the UN or its personnel against any successful claim in respect of the conference.
To mitigate against HMG being liable for covering incidents outside of our control, we have asked the UNFCCC to take out an insurance policy to cover claims arising from misconduct or negligence on the part of UNFCCC or its personnel, which they are willing to do and have done for previous COPs.
We believe it is appropriate to provide this indemnity to the UN as it is a mandatory requirement for host countries of COP. Although the liability is technically uncapped, my officials have reviewed incidents at previous COPs, and have assessed that the risk of the indemnity being called upon is low.
Senior Salaries Review Body Report
I am today announcing the Government's decision on pay for the senior civil service, senior military, senior managers in the NHS and the judiciary.
The Government recognises that public sector workers play a vital role in the running of our public services, including in their remarkable commitment to keeping the public safe in the continuing fight against covid-19.
The Government received the senior salary review body’s report on 2021 pay for the senior civil service, senior military, senior managers in the NHS, and the judiciary on 28 June 2021. This will be presented to Parliament and published on gov.uk.
The Government welcomes the senior salary review body’s report and is grateful to the Chair and members for their valuable advice, observations and strategic recommendations outlined within it.
As set out at the spending review (2020), there will be a pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22. This is in order to ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, as the private sector was significantly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, suppressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, whilst the public sector was largely shielded from these effects. This approach will protect public sector jobs and investment in public services, prioritising the lowest paid, with those earning less than £24,000 (full time equivalent) receiving a minimum £250 increase. The pause ensures we can get the public finances back onto a sustainable path after unprecedented government spending on the response to covid-19.
In line with this, the senior salary review body was not asked to make any recommendations for consolidated pay increases for its remit group this year.
This is the first year the senior salary review body’s remit group has been expanded to include all very senior managers (VSMs) within the NHS and executive senior managers (ESMs) within the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) arms-length bodies. They were asked to make observations on the current levels of pay for this group to use as a baseline for future years. The Government are pleased that the senior salary review body agrees that existing pay levels are appropriate and that their observations broadly reflect existing themes within the development of a new pay framework for VSMs within the NHS.
The senior salary review body made no specific pay recommendations for the 2021-22 pay year for the senior civil service and judiciary and made two recommendations for the senior military.
The Government accept the senior salary review body’s recommendation to change the annual incremental progression date for senior military officers from 1 April to the anniversary of the date of promotion for senior military officers of 2-star rank and above.
The Government accept the senior salary review body's recommendation to maintain the current pay differentials for senior medical and dental officers.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Loot Box Call for Evidence: Government Response
I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to the loot box call for evidence. The call for evidence received over 30,000 responses which clearly reflects the immense amount of interest in the issue.
The Government take concerns about potential harms relating to loot boxes in video games seriously. That is why we are continuing to thoroughly evaluate the evidence received to determine solutions that are both robust and proportionate in response to the issues identified from the evidence received. This will be set out in the Government response which will be published in the coming months.
Ensuring that video game players are protected is also a responsibility that the Government share jointly with the games industry. In recent months, we have continued to engage heavily with many in the industry about loot box concerns to determine the most effective solutions to issues identified from the evidence. This includes holding a ministerial roundtable with a number of games companies. Following the call for evidence we commissioned an external rapid evidence review and we are evaluating the findings of this alongside the evidence received from responses.
The 31st report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) is being published today. Its recommendations cover the remit issued in December 2020, regarding the pay award for teachers that is due to be implemented from September 2021. The report will be presented to Parliament and published on gov.uk.
The Government recognise that public sector workers play a vital role in the running of our public services, including in their remarkable commitment to keeping the public safe in the continuing fight against covid-19.1 am extremely grateful to all teachers and leaders for the dedication they have shown in enabling schools to remain open and supporting pupils with remote education throughout the pandemic, to ensure pupils get the best possible education.
The Government values the independent expertise and insight of the STRB and takes on board the useful advice and principles set out in response to the Government recommendations outlined in the report.
As set out at the spending review (2020), there will be a pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22. This is in order to ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, as the private sector was significantly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, whilst the public sector was largely shielded from these effects. This approach will protect public sector jobs and investment in public services, prioritising the lowest paid, with those earning less than £24,000 (full time equivalent) receiving a minimum £250 increase. The pause ensures we can get the public finances back onto a sustainable path after unprecedented Government spending on the response to covid-19.
My remit letter to the STRB welcomed views on uplifts for those unqualified teachers, earning below £24,000 (full time equivalent).
The STRB has recommended a pay award of £250 for all teachers earning less than £24,000, or the recommended equivalent value for teachers in the London pay areas. Their report outlines recommendations for how to implement this, including adjustments for London.
The STRB has also recommended that advisory pay points are reintroduced on the unqualified teacher pay range, as was the case for classroom teachers on the main pay range and upper pay range last year.
I am today confirming my proposed response is to accept these recommendations in full.
A full list of the recommendations and my proposed approach for implementation can be found online at: Written statements - Written questions, answers and statements - UK Parliament
I would like to reiterate that the £250 award should be paid to all eligible teachers, whether located on a published pay point or not, and that the pause on pay will apply to headline pay uplifts only. Teachers earning below the maximum of their pay range may be eligible for performance- related pay progression and teachers can also continue to apply for promotion. Academies, as usual, have the freedom to set their own pay policies.
Finally, this pay award will be affordable within school budgets due to this Government's three-year investment package announced at the 2019 spending round. We are increasing core schools funding by £2.2 billion in the 2021-22 financial year, compared to 2020-21—the second year of the three year school funding settlement from the 2019 spending round—and will increase it by a further £2.4 billion, to £52.2 billion in 2022-23 overall. As previously set out, the funding schools have previously received through the teachers’ pay and pension grants will be part of schools’ core funding allocations as determined by the schools national funding formula from 2021-22, and there will be no increase to these grants in respect of this year’s pay award.
My officials will write to all of the statutory consultees of the STRB to invite them to contribute to a consultation on the Government’s response to these recommendations and on a revised school teachers’ pay and conditions document and pay order. The consultation will last for eight weeks.
Health and Social Care
Reports on Seclusion and Restrictive Practice for People with Autism, Mental Health Conditions and Learning Disabilities
Today we have published two formal responses to independent reports that the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care commissioned to address and reduce the use of restrictive practice in the care of people with a learning disability or autistic people. The first response is to the recommendations made by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in its report “Out of Sight - who cares?” published on 22 October 2020. The second response is to the independent interim report by Baroness Hollins reviewing the care and treatment of people with a learning disability or autistic people in long term segregation. A copy of these responses will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
We welcome these reports and strongly support their recommendations. It is our priority to ensure that the rights of people with a learning disability or autistic people are protected and that where needed they receive high-quality care in the least restrictive settings possible.
We have carefully considered these recommendations and are accepting in full or in principle the vast majority, including:
Developing a pilot for a senior intervenor role, which will be focused on reducing the length of time people with a learning disability or autistic people remain unnecessarily in inpatient care in segregation. The pilot will be funded as part of a wider package of £31 million to support learning disability and autism services, to address the diagnostic backlog as a result of the pandemic, and support intervention to prevent children and young people with learning disability, autism or both escalating into crisis.
Working with the Royal College of Psychiatrists to define good practice with respect to admission and discharge protocols, including the development of a clinical contract for admissions.
Supporting the continuation of an independent review process which provides necessary scrutiny in the care and treatment of people who are subject to segregation. The reviews, chaired by independent experts, are aimed at developing bespoke recommendations, offering advice on implementing person-centred care plans and, where appropriate, moving the individual to less restrictive settings.
Working with the CQC to ensure more transparent reporting about the use of restrictive interventions in order to improve practice and minimise all types of force used on patients so that it is genuinely only ever used as a last resort.
Our goal is to ensure that care for people with a learning disability and autistic people is therapeutic and beneficial and that the presumption is always that, individuals can be supported to live fulfilling lives in the community. We remain committed to delivering on the Government’s manifesto commitment to improve how people with a learning disability and autistic people are treated in law and to make it easier for them to be discharged from hospital. The steps we are taking in responding to these recommendations support this commitment and are part of our wider work on Building the Right Support and the Mental Health Act White Paper.
National Strategy for Autistic Children, Young People and Adults 2021 to 2026
Today I am announcing the publication of “the national strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026”. The strategy is aimed at significantly improving the lives of autistic people in England.
This strategy builds on improvements made over the decade since the inception of the Autism Act in 2009. The Autism Act was enacted to tackle the multiple disadvantages that autistic people face. It is estimated that around 560,000 people in England are autistic and that autistic people die on average 16 years earlier than the general population. They experience poorer overall health outcomes and face substantial health inequalities in comparison to non-autistic people.
Since the Act’s introduction, there have been two strategies, which have resulted in improved availability of services for autistic people, including diagnostic services, and significantly improved public awareness of what autism is. I want to pay particular tribute to our late colleague my right hon. Friend Dame Cheryl Gillan DBE MP, who was so instrumental in bringing forward this Act in 2009. She worked tirelessly to improve autistic people’s and their families’ access to services through her role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on autism (APPGA).
Today, I am delighted to announce the publication of the third iteration of the autism strategy, which sets out our vision for how we will make further progress on improving the lives of autistic people over the next five years. We have worked with the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), who is the Minister responsible for children and families, on this new strategy, which extends to children and young people for the first time. This is in recognition of the importance of supporting autistic people throughout their lives, from the early years of childhood and through adulthood.
We have also worked in partnership with other Government Departments to ensure the strategy addresses the wide range of issues that affect autistic people's whole lives.
The focus of this new strategy and the actions we are committing to have been informed by evidence including our national call for evidence undertaken in 2019, which received 2,745 responses from autistic people, their families and unpaid carers as well as organisations. We also involved self-advocates and family members in the development of the new strategy through our autism strategy executive group. In addition, the strategy was informed by the APPGA’s “The Autism Act, Ten Years On” report and independent research we commissioned about the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on autistic people, both of which involved autistic people and their families. I know the pandemic has created new challenges and exacerbated problems many autistic people already faced, including higher levels of loneliness and social isolation.
Today we also publish our response to the CQC’s “Out of sight - who cares?” report and our response to Baroness Hollins’ and the independent Oversight Panel’s recommendations regarding independent reviews for people with a learning disability and autistic people detained in long-term segregation.
The new autism strategy is supported by an implementation plan for 2021 to 2022, which sets out actions we will take forward in the first year of the strategy. We will publish further implementation plans for subsequent years of the strategy, in line with future spending review rounds. The strategy sets out our vision for what we want autistic people’s and their families’ lives to be like in 2026 across six priority areas, and the specific steps we, local government, the NHS and others will take to this end in this first year:
Improving understanding and acceptance of autism within society. To ensure that autistic people can take part in their communities without fear or judgment, just like everyone else, we are funding the development of and will test an autism public understanding initiative.
Improving autistic children’s and young people’s access to education, and supporting positive transitions into adulthood. To enable children and young people to access the right support, we are providing funding to train education staff in autism, and we are strengthening and promoting pathways to employment, such as supported internships, traineeships and apprenticeships.
Supporting more autistic people into employment. We will continue with our efforts to make Jobcentres more autism-inclusive, improve employer awareness, and promote better access to employment support programmes for autistic people.
Tackling health and care inequalities for autistic people. To tackle these inequalities, we are investing £13 million to begin reducing diagnosis waiting times for children and young people, as well as adults, in line with the NHS long-term plan and the mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan.
Building the right support in the community and supporting people in in-patient care. To make progress towards our targets of reducing the number of autistic people and people with a learning disability in in-patient mental health settings, we will take a number of actions. We are proposing to change the detention criteria in the Mental Health Act 1983 to prevent autistic people without a co-occurring mental health condition from being detained for treatment under section 3 of the Act. In addition, we are investing £40 million to improve community support, over £18 million to drive improvements in the quality of in-patient care, and providing £21 million as part of the community discharge grant to speed up discharges.
Improving support within the criminal and youth justice systems. To improve autistic people’s experience with the criminal and youth justice systems, we will develop a training toolkit for frontline staff on neurodiversity and the additional support people might need. We will also take a number of steps to improve staff awareness and understanding of autism and improve people’s access to adjustments.
Over the next five years, we will work together to create a society that truly understands and includes autistic people in all aspects of life, one in which autistic people of all ages, backgrounds and across the country have equal opportunities to play a full part in their communities and to have better access to the services they need throughout their lives.
Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review Report: Government Response
The report of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review (IMMDS review) was published on 8 July 2020.
On 11 January, I updated the House on the Government’s progress in responding to the recommendations of the IMMDS review.
I am pleased to today announce to the House the publication of the Government’s full response to the IMMDS review. We have accepted four of the nine strategic recommendations in full, one in principle and two in part. We have also accepted 46 of the 50 actions for improvement in full or in principle, one in part and one remains under consideration. We do not accept two of the actions for improvement.
This response sets out an ambitious programme of change, which at its core is about improving patient safety by:
improving how the system listens to and responds to concerns raised by patients by putting patient voice at the centre of patient safety:
strengthening the evidence base on which decisions are made, including through making sure the right data is collected and used; and
improving the safety of medicines and devices, and embracing the new opportunities following the UK’s departure from the European Union to reform regulatory frameworks.
Recommendation 1: the Government should immediately issue a fulsome apology on behalf of the healthcare system to the families affected by Primodos, sodium valproate and pelvic mesh.
The Government accept recommendation 1.
In July 2020, the Government apologised in full on behalf of the healthcare system to all the families affected by the report for the time it has taken to listen and respond to their concerns. I salute their courage and persistence in coming forward to make these concerns heard; without their bravery, the review would not have been possible.
Listening to patients
The review was commissioned because the Government recognised and accepted that the system had taken too long to listen to patients. One of the key conclusions from the report was that “the system has not been listening as it should”. The Government recognised the need for effective patient engagement to rebuild trust and ensure that patient voice was embedded in work to develop the full Government response to the report. We were pleased to announce in January that we had accepted the second part of the report’s ninth recommendation, for the establishment of a patient reference group (“the group”).
The purpose of the group was to provide challenge, advice and scrutiny to the work to develop the Government’s response to the report’s recommendations. The group represented a diverse range of experiences, and members include individuals who have been affected by or have an interest in pelvic mesh, sodium valproate, and hormone pregnancy tests (HPTs), those who have been affected by or have an interest in other medicines or medical devices, and also those with a wider interest in patient safety. The group met regularly and worked closely with officials to discuss the report’s recommendations in great detail. I met with the group in June to listen to their feedback directly.
We are extremely grateful to the group for their insight and honesty. The Government response has undoubtedly been strengthened through listening to and learning from group members’ experiences, knowledge and expertise. I am very pleased that the final report of the patient reference group has been published alongside the Government response today.
Recommendation 2: the appointment of a patient safety commissioner who would be an independent public leader with a statutory responsibility. The commissioner would champion the value of listening to patients and promoting users’ perspectives in seeking improvements to patient safety around the use of medicines and medical devices.
The Government accept recommendation 2.
Patient safety is a top priority for the healthcare system; we want to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, and we must retain an absolute focus on achieving this goal.
As Members will know, the central recommendation in the report is for the establishment of an independent patient safety commissioner.
The Government have accepted this recommendation, and we have already legislated for a patient safety commissioner through the Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021 (MMD Act).
It is integral that patients are listened to in our healthcare system and the commissioner will help to make sure patient voices are heard, as envisaged in the report of the IMMDS review.
The core role of the commissioner will be to promote the safety of patients in the context of the use of medicines and medical devices and to promote the importance of the views of patients and other members of the public in relation to the safety of medicines and medical devices.
A public consultation is currently open seeking views on the proposed legislative details on the appointment and operation of the commissioner. The consultation closes on 5 August 2021. After the consultation has closed, responses will be carefully considered and reviewed, and will feed into the drafting of the regulations on the appointment and operation of the commissioner.
We plan to have the first patient safety commissioner in post in the first half of 2022.
Recommendation 3: a new independent Redress Agency for those harmed by medicines and medical devices should be created based on models operating effectively in other countries. The Redress Agency will administer decisions using a non-adversarial process with determinations based on avoidable harm looking at systemic failings, rather than blaming individuals.
The Government do not accept recommendation 3.
As set out in the January statement, we have no current plans for a redress agency, as set out in recommendation 3.
We do not believe it is necessary to create a new agency for redress as it is already possible for the Government and others to provide redress for specific issues where that is considered necessary. Neither do we believe that creating an agency would succeed in making products safer as the report suggests, or that grouping existing redress schemes through a single front door would add value for harmed patients.
Recommendation 4: separate schemes should be set up for each intervention—hormone pregnancy tests (HPTs), valproate and pelvic mesh—to meet the cost of providing additional care support to those who have experienced avoidable harm and are eligible to claim.
The Government do not accept recommendation 4.
While the Government are sympathetic to the experiences of those patients who gave evidence to the report, our priority is to improve the future safety of medicines and medical devices. This includes not just the products themselves but also ensuring they are used in line with the latest evidence of best practice—in ways that are both effective and safe for patients. This means we will continue to focus our work on direct support for future safety, improve how the system listens to patients, and support and monitor the safety of clinical practice where medicines and devices are concerned. The MMD Act delivers further on our commitments to patient safety, embedding reform through legislation and delivering an ambitious programme of improvements medicines and medical devices.
Recommendation 5: networks of specialist centres should be set up to provide comprehensive treatment, care and advice for those affected by implanted mesh; and separately for those adversely affected by medications taken during pregnancy.
The Government accept recommendation 5 in part.
The Government accept the first part of recommendation 5; specialist centres for those adversely affected by implanted mesh.
Much progress has been made to establish the specialist mesh services, led by NHS England and Improvement. These services became operational on 1 April 2021, and there are now eight specialist centres in operation across England. Good progress is being made towards the establishment of a ninth regional service with a south-west provider, to ensure patients across the country can access these vital services. It is important that women have choice over their surgeon where possible and I am happy to confirm that when patients request treatment for mesh complications, they can exercise patient choice and be referred to another centre if they wish.
The report of the IMMDS review highlights the importance of the specialist services working together and re-enforces the need for the commissioned mesh services to network across providers to ensure each service provides comprehensive treatment, care and advice services. I am pleased to confirm that the providers of specialised services for women with complications of mesh will meet annually from 2021 at a clinical summit to discuss data and outcomes.
Recognising the need for enhanced data collection on pelvic mesh, the Government in 2018 announced the provision of £1.1 million for the development of a comprehensive database of urogynaecological procedures, including vaginal mesh, to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. I can update the House that the pelvic floor information system has started to receive live data, including historical data from July 2017 onwards, with an initial focus on supporting specialist services to report every pelvic floor and comparative procedure to this national database.
The report of the IMMDS review also recommends that the information system is accompanied by a retro-spective audit of mesh procedures, and by the development of a patient reported outcome measure (PROM) or patient reported experience measure (PREM). I am pleased to announce to the House today that the Government accept both these recommendations. NHS Digital has been commissioned to scope and deliver the retrospective audit. Subject to receiving high quality research bids, a new validated PROM for pelvic mesh procedures will be commissioned through the National Institute of Health Research in 2022. Additionally, earlier this year a £440,000 research study into “Experiences of Urogynaecological Services” was commissioned by the NIHR to feed into this vital work to develop a new PROM.
The Government do not accept the second part of recommendation 5, specialist centres for those adversely affected by medications taken during pregnancy.
We recognise the underlying issue that there is a need to improve the care and support for the individuals and families affected by a range of medicines used in pregnancy, including valproate exposure. However, our view is that a network of new specialist centres is not the most effective way forward. We will instead take forward work to improve the care pathways for children and families affected by medicines in pregnancy, within existing services. This will include strengthening care pathways and tackling the variation in access to services across NHS regions.
Currently, services for all children with neuro-developmental disorders are primarily managed by multidisciplinary teams within child development centres, which are commissioned locally. These are then supported by regional clinical networks, and specialised neuroscience centres. A limited number of specialist centres focused only on those affected by medications in pregnancy would not be able to provide the whole range of services that patients need, for example coordinating provision across local health, education and social care systems. It is important that patients who need ongoing care can access services as conveniently as possible, and many of these services are better delivered at a local level. Additionally, a new network of specialist centres could divert clinical expertise and potentially result in a reduced service for all the patient groups involved.
We will also continue work to improve the safety of medicines in pregnancy more widely, and to ensure that valproate is only prescribed where clinically appropriate.
The report of the IMMDS review discusses sodium valproate (valproate) in much detail and contains a number of actions for improvement related to valproate. For this reason, we have dedicated a chapter in the Government response to valproate.
The January statement updated on the significant work underway to ensure valproate is only used where clinically appropriate, and to improve patient safety for women and girls for whom there is no alternative medicine. The Government do not however support calls to eliminate the use of valproate completely; for some women, it is the only drug which is able to control their epilepsy, and it is vital that women are able to access effective treatments.
I am pleased to update the House that much progress continues to be made. The first report from the valproate registry was published on 11 February 2021, and a second is planned for September 2021. The first report presents an important step to improving our ability to monitor implementation and compliance with the pregnancy prevention programme. There are plans to extend the registry to the whole of the UK and to expand it to include other anti-epileptic drugs later this year, as recommended by the report. As recommended by the report, NHS England and Improvement have recently sent a letter to all women of childbearing age who are prescribed valproate, including important safety reminders in relation to contraception, pregnancy and regular prescribing reviews.
I have also heard from patients that measures to reduce valproate prescribing and support women to make informed choices must be holistic and wide-ranging. I am pleased to announce that the MHRA is planning to consult on an amendment to the human medicines regulations which would require pharmacists to supply sodium valproate in the manufacturers original pack with a patient informational leaflet. This will ensure that prescriptions for valproate are dispensed with a patient information leaflet and information on risk minimisation measures.
Recommendation 6: the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) needs substantial revision particularly in relation to adverse event reporting and medical device regulation. It needs to ensure that it engages more with patients and their outcomes. It needs to raise awareness of its public protection roles and to ensure that patients have an integral role in its work.
The Government accept recommendation 6.
In the January statement the Government announced that the MHRA initiated a substantial programme of work to improve how it listens and responds to patients and the public, to develop a more responsive system for reporting adverse incidents, and to strengthen the evidence to support timely and robust decisions that protect patient safety.
This is set out in detail in the MHRA’s corporate delivery plan for 2021 to 2023, “Putting patients first—a new era for our Agency”, which was published on 4 July. This sets out the MHRA’s future plans, which centre on: putting patients first; becoming a truly world-leading, enabling regulator; and protecting public health through excellence in regulation and science.
A key strand of this work is improving how the MHRA engages with patients, and ensures patients have an integral role in its work. In May this year, the MHRA published its draft “Patient and Public Involvement Strategy” for public consultation. This sets out how the Agency will deliver a step change in its involvement and engagement with patients. Following the consultation, the MHRA will publish the final strategy later this year.
I am pleased to confirm to the House that the MHRA’s newly appointed chief safety officer will lead the MHRA’s ongoing implementation of the recommendations from the report. This will help to ensure that the MHRA continues delivering on their commitment to keep patients safe. The postholder will oversee the development of a revitalised approach to vigilance of both medicines and medical devices.
Recommendation 7: a central patient-identifiable database should be created by collecting key details of the implantation of all devices at the time of the operation. This can then be linked to specifically created registers to research and audit the outcomes both in terms of the device safety and patient reported outcomes measures.
The Government accept recommendation 7.
The Government have legislated for a patient identifiable database in the MMD Act, which creates a power for the Secretary of State to regulate for the establishment of a UK-wide medical device information system (MDIS).
The report of the IMMDS review rightly identifies the need for the healthcare system to centralise and standardise the collection, retention and analysis of data for monitoring the safety and effectiveness of implantable medical devices. In order to close the gap identified in the collection and analysis of this data, it is essential that the UK has a comprehensive system to ensure that implantable devices are effectively monitored and any issues affecting patient safety are responded to appropriately. As required by the MMD Act, the Government are planning to hold public consultation on the MDIS regulations. Formal public consultation on the MDIS regulations will begin later this year with the aim of laying the regulations in 2022.
Alongside developing regulations, I can announce that over £11 million has been set aside for a package of work in 2021-22, involving partners across the healthcare system to scope, test and cost options for MDIS and other medical devices patient safety workstreams.
Recommendation 8: transparency of payments made to clinicians needs to improve. The register of the General Medical Council (GMC) should be expanded to include a list of financial and non-pecuniary interests for all doctors, as well as doctors’ particular clinical interests and their recognised and accredited specialisms, in addition, there should be mandatory reporting for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries of payments made to teaching hospitals, research institutions and individual clinicians.
The Government accept recommendation 8 in principle.
The Government accept in principle the first part of recommendation 8, for greater transparency of doctors’ interests.
We agree that lists of doctors’ interests should be publicly available, but we do not think that the GMC register is the best place to hold this information. It is absolutely crucial that any published list of interests is meaningful and accessible to patients. Our approach is therefore for publications of interests to be held by healthcare providers at the local level, because patients know where healthcare professionals work, and are more likely to seek information from the organisation that provides their treatment and care. Additionally, at the local level healthcare providers can ensure patients have the necessary support to understand the relevant information
We also believe that it is not just doctors who must declare their interests, but rather all registered healthcare professionals. That is why we are going further than the recommendation, and we will make it a regulatory requirement that all registered healthcare professionals must declare their relevant interests. Registered healthcare professionals will be required to declare their relevant interests to their employer, contractor, or the organisation where they are providing services. All healthcare providers will be required to collect, monitor, and publish a list of their employees’ relevant interests. At the local level, healthcare providers must ensure that all declarations of interest are publicly available for patients to access, and providers can then ensure there is meaningful oversight of publications of interests.
These changes build on current NHS guidance, which states that all staff should declare interests and organisations should publish the interests of decision making on their website. These changes will also extend publication of declarations of interest to the private sector. We will continue to work with healthcare organisations across the NHS and independent sector, as well as regulators, to ensure there is appropriate implementation, governance, and enforcement of this approach.
The Government also accept in principle the second part of recommendation 8, for mandatory reporting of payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.
The Government agree that transparency of medicine and medical device industry payments to clinicians and organisations is an important part of ensuring patient confidence. As with doctors’ interests, it is important that this information is published and easily accessible for patients.
Regarding medicines, the Government have listened to stakeholder concerns that the existing industry scheme is voluntary, and that more could be done to achieve consistent transparency in reporting of payments. We have listened to concerns from patient groups and others that a mandatory scheme is needed. We are exploring options to expand and reinforce current industry schemes, including making reporting mandatory through legislation.
Regarding medical devices, we recognise that the sector does not have any formal scheme for reporting payments. We have listened to stakeholder concerns that the current situation means that that patients lack crucial information on a highly important area of clinical decision-making. We will work with the devices industry and other stakeholders on the options for introducing reporting of payments for the medical device sector, including making reporting mandatory through legislation.
Recommendation 9: the Government should immediately set up a taskforce to implement this review’s recommendations. Its first task should be to set out a timeline for their implementation.
The Government accept recommendation 9 in part.
As set out in the statement of 11 January, the Government have no plans to establish an independent taskforce to implement the report’s recommendations. As is convention with independent reports and inquiries, conclusions and recommendations are passed to Government for consideration.
The Government have considered the report’s recommendations carefully, and our response sets out an ambitious programme of change. We have accepted the majority of the report’s nine strategic recommendations and 50 actions for improvement.
The actions set out in this response are a combination of well-established programmes of work and new initiatives. The Government are committed to making rapid progress on all the areas set out in this response. To ensure that Parliament and patients can continue to hold the Government to account, we will publish an update on progress to implement the Government response in 12 months’ time.
The report of the IMMDS review is a powerful call to action, and we are determined to deliver meaningful change through the Government response.
I would like to once again thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) for commissioning this landmark review, and to thank Baroness Cumberlege and the review team for their diligence and dedication in conducting this review.
Above all, I would like to once again recognise and thank the women and their families, who fought to bring these issues to light and to have their stories heard.
The report highlights a stark inequality in the healthcare system. We cannot ignore the fact that the report of the IMMDS review is one of several independent reports and inquiries to have concluded that our healthcare system disproportionately fails to listen to women and keep them safe. This Government are determined to change this, not least through our work to develop the first ever women’s health strategy for England later this year.
I am depositing a copy of the Government response and the “Independent Report of the Patient Reference Group” in the Libraries of both Houses.
2021-22 Pay Review Body Recommendations
I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to both the 34th report of the NHS pay review body (NHSPRB) and to the 49th report of the review body on doctors’ and dentists’ renumeration (DDRB). I am grateful to both Chairs and the members of both review bodies for their reports.
At the 2020 spending review, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that pay uplifts in the public sector would be paused this year due to the challenging fiscal and economic context, but, given the unique impact of covid-19 on the health service, and despite the challenging economic context, the Chancellor committed to continue to provide for pay rises for over 1 million NHS workers.
It is within this context and after careful consideration of both reports that we have chosen to accept the recommendations of both PRBs for 2021-22. In doing so, we have committed to uplifting the salaries of staff within the remit groups by 3% on a consolidated basis. This is expected to be a real-terms increase and nurses will receive an average increase of around £1,000. Overall, the awards amount to a cost to the NHS of £1.9 billion for the “Agenda for Change” workforce and £0.3 billion for consultants.
This is not without its challenges given the economic and fiscal context.
This is an annual process and as is always the case, decisions about future awards will be considered in light of the fiscal context and ensuring awards are affordable and fair.
Investing in the NHS to ensure patients get the care they need as quickly as possible is also a key priority for this Government. We are delivering on our historic long-term settlement for the NHS, which will see NHS funding increase by £33.9 billion by 2023-24. To recognise the unprecedented pressure facing the NHS, the Government are providing £3 billion of additional funding to the NHS in 2021-22 to support its recovery from the impacts of covid.
The DDRB were asked not to make a pay recommendation for contractor general medical practitioners (GMPs), doctors and dentists in training or specialty and associate specialist doctors moving onto new contracts as those groups are within multi-year deals. For doctors and dentists in training the multi-year deal will mean all junior doctor pay scales will have increased by 8.2% by the end of the deal, and in addition circa £90 million is being invested to reform the contract, including to create a new, higher pay point to recognise the most experienced doctors in training.
The Government are also committed to delivering 50,000 more nurses in the NHS by the end of this Parliament and this pay award will help us to ensure we can continue to recruit and retain the nurses we need to reach this target. The number of NHS nurses currently employed in CCGs and NHS Trusts is at the highest recorded level in England, and the latest published NHS Digital provisional data for April 2021 shows 303,800 FTE nurses in NHS Trusts and CCGs, almost 9,000 FTE more than April 2020.
For salaried GMPs the minimum and maximum pay range set out in the model terms and conditions will be uplifted. As self-employed contractors to the NHS, it is for GMP practices to determine uplifts in pay for their employees.
Clinical excellence awards
The Government also acknowledge the DDRB’s comments on clinical excellence awards and their reasons for not recommending an increase in their value. With this in mind, we will progress our plans to reform these awards with a view to introducing new arrangements from 2022.
General dental practitioners
For general dental practitioners, there will be a 3% general uplift in the pay element of their contract backdated to April 2021.
The Government recognise the significant impact that the covid-19 pandemic has had on NHS dentistry, as discussed within the DDRB report. In response to these challenges, the Government have ensured that dentists receive their full contract value, minus deductions which are pre-agreed, in exchange for a reduced threshold of activity.
The seventh report of the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) was published today. The Body considered the pay and allowances for police officers up to and including the chief officer ranks in England and Wales. The Government appreciate and value the independent, expert advice and contribution that the PRRB makes and thanks the chair and members for their detailed considerations and observations.
We absolutely recognise the bravery, commitment and professionalism of our police who work night and day to keep us safe and we will continue to give them the resources, tools and powers they need to protect the public.
The Government recognise that public sector workers play a vital role in the running of our public services, including in their remarkable commitment to keeping the public safe in the continuing fight against covid-19.
As set out at the spending review 2020, there will be a pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22. This is in order to ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, as the private sector was significantly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, while the public sector was largely shielded from these effects. This approach will protect public sector jobs and investment in public services, prioritising the lowest paid, with those earning less than £24,000—full-time equivalent—receiving a minimum £250 increase. The pause ensures we can get the public finances back onto a sustainable path after unprecedented Government spending on the response to covid-19.
The PRRB recommended that the minimum rates for police constable degree apprentice starting pay and pay point 0 of the constable scale should be uplifted by £250, and that all officers with a basic salary above these minima but below £24,000—on a full-time equivalent basis—should receive a consolidated pay award of £250. The Government have accepted the PRRB’s recommendation in full.
The pay award will take effect from 1 September 2021. Officers who have not reached the top of their pay band will also continue to receive incremental progression pay worth at least 2% of salary, subject to satisfactory performance.
NCA Remuneration Review Body Report 2021
I am today announcing the Government’s decision on pay for the National Crime Agency (NCA) for 2021-22.
The Government recognise that public sector workers play a vital role in the running of our public services, including in their remarkable commitment to keeping the public safe in the continuing fight against covid-19.
The Government received the NCA Remuneration Review Body (NCARRB) report on 2021 pay for the NCA on 2 July. This will be laid before Parliament today (CP 467) and published on www.gov.uk.
I would like to thank the Chair and members of the Review Body for their work on gathering evidence from the NCA, the Home Office, HM Treasury and the trade unions, resulting in their detailed, comprehensive report. The Government value the independent expertise and insight of NCARRB and take on board the useful advice and principles set out in response to my remit letter of 14 January 2021.
As set out at the spending review 2020, there will be a pause to headline pay rises for the majority of public sector workforces in 2021-22. This is in order to ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, as the private sector was significantly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, supressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, while the public sector was largely shielded from these effects. This approach will protect public sector jobs and investment in public services, prioritising the lowest paid, with those earning less than £24,000—full time equivalent—receiving a minimum £250 increase. The pause ensures we can get the public finances back onto a sustainable path after unprecedented Government spending on the response to covid-19.
My remit letter informed NCARRB that I would not be seeking a recommendation for pay uplifts in the remit group for 2021-22, in the light of the public sector pay pause but invited views on areas including the operational context in which the agency is operating, its ongoing pay strategy and longer-term plans for its workforce. NCARRB was also invited to comment on how the £250 uplift is best implemented so as to avoid leapfrogging. The NCA has considered options to avoid leapfrogging, including the impacts on its pay strategy, and considers the most effective way to remediate this is by paying a percentage uplift to those who are at risk of being leap-frogged, which is applicable to those earning less than £24,000.
The Government accept the NCARRB observations in full and the awards will be fully funded within the NCA’s existing budget.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Building Safety Regime
Today marks the next major step on our path towards a robust, but proportionate, building safety regime. We seek a regime that delivers high standards of safety for people’s homes, particularly those which are high-rise and therefore somewhat higher risk while providing reassurance to leaseholders, residents and the market that the overwhelming majority of homes are safe.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy and subsequent independent review of building regulations led by Dame Judith Hackitt exposed serious issues in the regulatory system and construction of some high-rise buildings: developers cladding buildings in combustible materials that should never have been used; construction product manufacturers ignoring safety rules, gaming the system and rigging the results of safety tests; building owners failing to take responsibility for ensuring the safety of their residents; and the Government’s regulatory system lacking the strength and oversight to identify these failings and enforce standards.
That is why, as a Government, we have taken a safety first approach in our response to buildings that we know to be higher risk—those over 18 metres. We have:
Engaged Fire and Rescue Services to survey all buildings over 18 metres to assess their safety;
Targeted Government funding at the buildings we know to be at greatest risk if a fire spreads—those over 18 metres with unsafe cladding—investing over £5 billion to make those buildings safe as quickly as possible;
Banned the use of combustible materials in new buildings over 18 metres, providing industry with a clear standard for the construction of new builds;
Incentivised the installation of central alarm systems in high-rise buildings with a waking watch through our Waking Watch Relief Fund; and
Today, we have reached Second Reading of the Building Safety Bill, our landmark legislation that brings forward the biggest improvements in building safety in a generation. The Bill introduces an enhanced safety regime for higher-risk buildings, defined as those over 18 metres—or seven storeys—we have enshrined this scope on the face of the Bill.
The Fire Safety Act, which received Royal Assent in April will also ensure that the external walls of buildings are considered as part of routine fire risk assessments for all multi-occupied residential buildings.
We are making good progress in bringing those high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding up to an acceptable standard of safety:
Over 95% of buildings with “Grenfell type” cladding identified at the beginning of last year have been fully remediated or have workers on site. By the end of the year, I expect works to have started on all buildings barring a handful of cases where ACM cladding has only recently been identified or where remediation works are especially complex. This means around 16,000 homes have been fully remediated of unsafe ACM cladding—an increase of around 4000 since the end of last year.
Despite many buildings’ owners failing to provide adequate basic information, almost 700 buildings, with estimated remediation costs of £2.5 billion are proceeding with a full application to the Building Safety Fund. We have already allocated £540 million which means owners of over 60,000 homes and properties within high-rise blocks are covered by Building Safety Fund applications and can be reassured that unsafe non-ACM cladding on their blocks will be replaced. All eligible applications currently made to the Building Safety Fund will proceed, and we are working with applicants to ensure work gets underway as soon as possible. For any buildings that may have missed the original registration deadline we will be reopening for registrations in the autumn. This will ensure we meet our commitment to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and over in England. We currently forecast that works of some form will be supported by the Building Safety Fund on over 1,000 high-rise buildings.
One hundred and ninety-one buildings are already benefiting from the £30 million Waking Watch Relief Fund. More buildings will benefit from the fund as final decisions are made on applications. Leaseholders are expected to save on average £137 per month, or over £1,600 a year, on waking watch costs.
It is right that we have taken a safety first approach and safety will always continue to be our priority and inform the decisions we make. However, it is also thankfully the case that fires in homes in England are extremely rare in all dwellings and I have become concerned to hear from leasehold residents feeling trapped in blocks of flats, particularly those lower than 18 metres in height. In many cases these residents have been held back from selling their homes and moving on with their lives because of excessive caution in the lending, surveying and fire risk assessment market. Understandably, this has caused some residents worry over safety and unnecessary costs due to a failure, on the part of many parties, to adequately explain the true nature of risk which statistics demonstrate is very low. I want to be clear—the vast majority of residents in all homes, including blocks of flats, should not feel unsafe in their homes. Residents need to be urgently reassured and the evidence presented clearly to them. And other market participants need to exercise their professional judgment and not perpetuate this climate of extreme caution.
Driven by these concerns for leasehold residents, earlier this year I asked a small group of experts on fire safety to consider the evidence and advise me on steps that should be taken to ensure that a more risk-proportionate approach is taken to fire safety in blocks of flats: an approach through which genuine life safety risks are tackled swiftly, and where all blocks of flats meet statutory requirements on life safety, but where excessive caution and unnecessary costs are avoided.
The experts I commissioned were:
Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
Sir Ken Knight, Chair of the Independent Expert Advisory Panel on building safety following the Grenfell Tower Fire
Ron Dobson, former London Fire Commissioner
Roy Wilsher, adviser on fire reform, former Chief Fire Officer
The key finding of this advice is clear—there is no evidence of systemic risk of fire in blocks of flats:
Dwelling fires are at an all-time low since comparable statistics started to be collected in 1981-82. This is despite the fact that, in 2020, people spent a significantly greater amount of time in their homes as a result of covid restrictions.
The vast majority of fires—91%—were in houses, bungalows, converted or low rise—three storeys or lower—flats or other properties, while only 9% were in blocks of flats of four storeys or more.
Very few fires spread from the room where they start. In 2019-20, 7% of fires spread beyond the room of origin in blocks of flats over four storeys, compared with 9% in blocks below four storeys and 14% in houses, bungalows, converted flats and other dwellings.
Any death in a fire is tragic, thankfully only a small proportion of fires resulted in a fire-related fatality in 2020: 176 people in total lost their lives in dwelling fires, down from 257 just a decade earlier, of which only 10 fatalities were in blocks of flats of four or more storeys. This is the lowest number of fatalities from fire since comparable statistics began to be collected 40 years ago. I thank the Fire and Rescue Services for all that they do to keep us safe.
On this basis, the expert advice, which I have published today on www.gov.uk, reaches five recommendations to correct the disproportionate reaction we have seen in some parts of the market:
EWS1 forms should not be a requirement on buildings below 18 metres.
In the small number of cases where there are known to be concerns these should be addressed primarily through risk management and mitigation.
There should be a clear route for residents/leaseholders to challenge costly remediation work and seek assurance that proposals are proportionate and cost effective.
Government should work with the shadow Building Safety Regulator to consider how to implement an audit process to check that fire risk assessments are following guidelines, not perpetuating the risk aversion we are witnessing, in some instances, at the present time.
Fire risk assessors, and lenders should not presume that there is significant risk to life unless there is evidence to support this. This would ensure that they respond only to the evidence and adopt a far more proportionate and balanced approach.
Having carefully considered these recommendations the Government will support and act upon them.
Delivering real change for leaseholders requires a concerted effort from all participants in the market including Government, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), lenders and fire experts, and we have been working intensively with these groups.
As a Government, we are clear that we support the expert advice and the position that EWS1s should not be needed for buildings less than 18 metres. This position is a significant step and one supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Institute of Fire Engineers.
Government will work with the Health and Safety Executive and others to explore ways to deliver an effective fire risk assessment audit process that ensures assessments are carried out in a risk-proportionate manner and do not recommend unnecessary and costly remediation works where they are not genuinely needed. We will also rapidly progress exploration of options to provide a clear route for residents and leaseholders to challenge costly remediation work.
It is crucial that all market participants show the necessary leadership to help end the nightmare that has impacted the lives of many leaseholders. I thank everyone for coming to the table and supporting the Government’s efforts.
I am pleased that all major lenders have welcomed this advice. HSBC UK, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and others have said that the expert advice, and our clear response, paves the way for EWS1 forms to no longer be required for buildings below 18 metres and will help further unlock the housing market. I hope and expect other lenders to follow suit swiftly. I am very grateful to these organisations for their constructive work with Government on this critical issue—I appreciate that it is a complex and some parties have further work to do, in which the Government will support them.
Through concerted, cross-market action I believe we can help open up the housing market, allowing thousands to buy, sell or re-mortgage their homes.
This work will be progressed alongside existing steps we are taking to ensure a proportionate response to risk. This includes:
Development of new more risk-proportionate guidelines for fire risk assessors, including PAS9980. The consolidated advice note, the product of the need for reliable safety information in the period following the Grenfell Tragedy will shortly be retired.
Launching a Government-backed professional indemnity insurance scheme for qualified professionals conducting external wall system assessments. This is aimed at supporting those qualified professionals to complete EWS1 forms, where genuinely needed, in a risk-proportionate manner and will help ensure that there is sufficient capacity in the market to allow EWS1 forms to be completed quickly, helping people to buy, sell and re-mortgage their homes. With the comfort Government backing provides, professionals must exercise their judgment in a proportionate manner and refrain from proposing works that are not strictly necessary to achieve an acceptable standard of fire safety—and risk management and mitigation should always be considered before costly remediation.
Working with the National Fire Chiefs Council to re-emphasise the scope of the simultaneous evacuation guidance, the temporary nature of waking watches and the alternative proportionate fire safety interventions to be considered before implementing a waking watch, particularly in buildings below 18 metres.
Latest indications are that the number of residential blocks between 11 metres and 18 metres in height are 61,000. Data from one major lender suggests that 7% of flats in buildings up to six storeys currently require an EWS1 assessment and in a majority of these cases EWS1s are found to already be held, leading to requests for an EWS1 form on approximately 5% of flats. Of these buildings, the vast majority do not need any remediation work at all. This is reinforced by initial results of surveys of medium rise blocks of flats indicating that the vast majority are free from serious safety risks associated with combustible cladding requiring remediation, and from any associated costs. If the market reacts as we would hope to the expert advice these numbers should reduce yet further and hundreds of thousands of leaseholders will be able to get on with buying, selling or re-mortgaging their homes. To reiterate, the Government see no reason why an EWS1 form, or equivalent, should be requested on buildings below 18 metres. For the very small number where works are required, the presumption in favour of mitigation should also reduce remediation costs.
It is my expectation that these actions will significantly ease the challenges faced by the vast majority of leaseholders looking to buy or sell flats in high-rise buildings and ensure that leaseholders do not face huge bills for unnecessary remediation works. In the very small minority of cases where remediation works are identified in 11 metre-18 metre buildings as part of the normal statutory requirement for buildings to have an up to date fire risk assessment, I can reaffirm that leaseholders will be protected from unaffordable costs by a generous financing scheme through which their monthly cladding repayment costs will not exceed £50.
On 12 October 2020 [HCWS502] I told the House that I had issued invitations under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 (“the 2007 Act”) to principal councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, and Somerset, including associated existing unitary councils, to submit proposals for moving to unitary local government in those areas. Councils in these areas had requested such invitations and had been developing ideas about restructuring local government in their areas for some time.
On 22 February 2021 I told the House [HCWS785] that I was launching a statutory consultation on all of the eight locally-led proposals for reorganising local government that I had received on 9 December in response to the invitation. These proposals were, four from councils in Cumbria, two from councils in North Yorkshire and two from councils in Somerset. In the case of each area there is a proposal made by the county council for a unitary authority covering the whole area. In the case of North Yorkshire and Somerset there is a proposal from district councils for two unitary authorities in each area. In Cumbria district councils have made three proposals, each of which involve establishing two unitary authorities.
When launching the consultation I made it clear that I welcomed views from any interested persons, including residents, in addition to the named consultees. The named consultees were the councils which made the proposals, other councils affected by the proposals, councils in neighbouring areas, public service providers, including health providers and the police, local enterprise partnerships, and certain other business, voluntary sector and educational bodies. The consultation closed on 19 April and I have received a total of 13,020 responses. I will be depositing a summary of the consultation responses in the libraries of Parliament.
The decisions on unitary proposals
I am now able to inform the House of my decisions as to which of the eight proposals, subject to parliamentary approval, are to be implemented. The 2007 Act provides that I may implement a proposal with or without modifications. I have decided that in each of the areas to make no such modifications.
In reaching my decision, I carefully considered each of the proposals. I assessed each proposal against the three criteria set out in the invitation sent to all the principal councils on 9 October. These criteria provide that for a proposal to be implemented, that proposal is likely to improve local government and service delivery across its area; commands a good deal of local support as assessed in the round overall across the whole area of the proposal; and any unitary councils to be established have a credible geography.
I have also had regard to all the representations I received, including those received through the consultation, and to all the relevant information available to me, including the results of the local poll that the Somerset district councils held during the period from 18 May to 4 June and the representations received about the poll and its conduct.
For Cumbria I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, the proposal for two unitary councils, an east unitary council covering the existing areas of Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland and a west unitary council covering the existing areas of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland. I considered that this proposal met all three of the criteria.
I also considered that the proposal for a single unitary council for the whole of Cumbria also met all three of the criteria. However, having regard to the size and geography of Cumbria, including the geographic barriers of lakes and mountains, and the rurality of its population, I have decided that it would be more appropriate to implement the east west unitary proposal, allowing for more localised decision making, which could be important given the geography of Cumbria.
I have decided not to implement the proposal for two unitary councils, one council comprising the existing areas of Barrow, South Lakeland and Lancaster City and the other council comprising the existing areas of Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and Eden. I considered that this proposal did not meet the improving local government and service delivery and credible geography criteria. I have also decided not to implement the proposal for two unitary councils, one council comprising the existing areas of Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden and the other council comprising the existing areas of Barrow, Copeland and South Lakeland. I considered that this proposal did not meet the credible geography criterion.
For North Yorkshire I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, the proposal for a single unitary council for the whole of the existing administrative county of North Yorkshire. I considered that this proposal strongly met all three of the criteria. I have also decided not to implement the proposal for two unitary councils, one council comprising the existing areas of Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and the current unitary of York, and the other council comprising the existing areas of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire. I considered that this proposal did not meet the improving local government and service delivery and credible geography criteria.
For Somerset I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, the proposal for a single unitary council for the whole of the existing administrative county of Somerset. I considered that this proposal met all three of the criteria, strongly meeting the improving local government and service delivery criterion. I have also decided not to implement the proposal for two unitary councils, one council comprising the existing areas of Mendip District and South Somerset and the other council comprising the existing areas of Sedgemoor and Somerset West & Taunton. I considered that this proposal did not meet the improving local government and service delivery and credible geography criteria.
I now intend to seek parliamentary approval for the necessary secondary legislation to implement my decisions. I intend to lay the draft structural changes order before Parliament around the turn of the year and they will include provisions for appropriate transitional arrangements, including for elections in May 2022 for the future unitary councils; for cancelling elections currently scheduled for May 2022 for existing councils, including those rescheduled from May 2021 as a result of the orders made earlier this year; and for the unitary councils to assume the full range of local authority responsibilities on 1 April 2023, when predecessor councils would be abolished.
Establishing these new unitary councils will be a significant step towards ensuring the people and businesses across Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset can in future have the sustainable high-quality local services they deserve. I expect all the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils and transforming local service delivery for the residents, businesses and local communities of these three areas.
I would like to reiterate that Government will not impose top-down Government solutions. We will continue, as I am now currently doing, to follow a locally-led approach where councils can develop proposals which have strong local support. However, restructuring is only one of the different ways that councils can streamline and make savings, and deliver strong leadership. This has been the Government’s consistent approach since 2010, when top-down restructuring was stopped through the Local Government Act 2010.
When considering reform, those in an area will know what is best, and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out in his speech on 15 July we remain committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK. We are open to devolution where there is strong local leadership, whether supported by two tier local government, unitary structures or various joint arrangements. Our plans for doing this and strengthening local accountable leadership will be set out in the forthcoming Levelling Up White Paper.