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Written Statements

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 9 June 2022

Written Statements

Thursday 9 June 2022

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Storm Arwen Review: Final Report

The Energy Emergencies Executive Committee Storm Arwen review was commissioned in December 2021 by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, due to unacceptable levels of power disruption following Storm Arwen. The interim report was published in February 2022, and the final report has now been completed and published on gov.uk.

The review has been a joint endeavour between Government, industry and the regulator (Ofgem) with the aim of identifying lessons to be learned and actions to take forward. These actions will drive improvements to Great Britain’s electricity network resilience to severe weather events. The actions recommended by this review address concerns under the three pillars of system resilience, consumer protection and additional support.

The majority address improvements to be made across all electricity distribution network operators regardless of their impact during this particular storm. Lessons from subsequent storms that hit the UK in February 2022 have also been incorporated and reflected as part of this final report. While improvements will be made, no electricity system can be totally immune from disruption.

The Energy Emergencies Executive Committee will be responsible for the implementation of these actions, in collaboration with other partners as appropriate, alongside my Department which will ensure the delivery and implementation of the actions recommended.

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Cabinet Office

Transforming for a Digital Future: 2022-25 Roadmap

Later today, I will publish “Transforming for a Digital Future: Government’s 2022-25 Roadmap for Digital and Data”, which sets out an ambitious plan to ensure that, by 2025, we deliver a transformed, more efficient digital Government that provides better outcomes for everyone. I have requested that a copy of the full text be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses in Parliament.

The importance of digital and data

Digital and data are key to unlocking many of this Government’s priorities, from generating efficiencies to net zero and levelling up. Better digital systems and access to data will allow smaller teams across Government to work faster, make better decisions, and deliver better policies. Modern technology will minimise waste and reduce our reliance on paper-based forms. A more digitally skilled civil service, working across the UK, will ensure that citizens get access to the same great services no matter where they live.

The opportunity

The Government have some excellent digital services and examples of digital transformation, but we still need to harness the full potential of digital transformation at scale. Many services are in need of improvement to deliver the right outcomes, our technology is in need of refreshing to give value for money, we have significant and persistent gaps in skills and expertise, and our business systems are in need of reform to keep pace with the digital age.

If we maintain the current course, we will miss opportunities to deliver the experiences and outcomes that citizens expect and we have committed to deliver, we will see talented digital and data professionals choosing to work elsewhere, and we will miss out on efficiency savings.

Cross-Government support and collaboration

This road map has been collectively agreed by the Cabinet Economic and Domestic Implementation Committee.

The road map is the result of an unprecedented level of collaboration from digital leaders across Government. The Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) in the Cabinet Office has worked with representatives from Departments to develop the road map, including regular engagement with the permanent secretary-level Digital and Data Board.

CDDO will continue to work closely with Departments to support and monitor progress against the road map . Each mission has a senior civil servant “executive sponsor” who will act as an advocate for that mission and support work to progress against the specific commitments.

As a result, I am confident that there is sufficient support and momentum behind this road map to ensure we will meet all of the commitments it sets out by 2025.

What we will deliver by 2025

The road map sets out a bold vision for change which is supported by a set of clear, feasible and measurable commitments that Departments have collectively agreed to deliver between now and 2025.

By 2025 the most frequently used critical services will have great user experience and incorporate efficient processes that reduce their cost to run. We will provide a single, efficient and accessible digital identity process for citizens, and ensure that data which is central to priority Government objectives will be safely shared and used to improve policy and service delivery. We will build digital technology in a consistent way, improving the quality of what we build and our speed to deployment. We will be an employer of choice for digital talent, with highly skilled teams and leaders, and have funding structures and delivery approaches that enable and incentivise modern, efficient and user-centric investment and high-quality services.

The pace of technological change and the growing expectations of citizens and businesses mean we must renew our focus and go further than ever before to realise the opportunities presented by digital transformation. I am confident that, by fulfilling the commitments set out in the road map, we will be able to do exactly that.

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Health and Social Care

Smokefree 2030: Independent Review

In 2019, this Government set the bold ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030—reducing smoking rates to 5% or less.

Today, Dr Javed Khan OBE published his independent review on Smokefree 2030, providing this Government with a wide range of recommendations for how we can achieve this ambition.

Tragically, smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death across the country. There are still almost 6 million smokers in England—and two out of three will die from smoking unless they quit.

Although smoking rates have fallen, we know that they are currently not falling fast enough.

The Government are committed to levelling up society and extending the same chances in life to all people and all parts of our country. However, smoking is one of the largest drivers of health disparities and rates vary substantially across different parts of the country. As stated by Dr Khan in his independent review, at its most extreme, smoking prevalence is 4.5 times higher in Burnley than in Exeter.

Smoking is a significant drain on the household finances of our most disadvantaged families. In Halton in Cheshire, smokers spend an estimated £3,551 a year on tobacco, nearly 15% of their income. Reducing smoking presents a huge economic opportunity in higher disposable income and higher labour productivity.

Smoking is particularly high amongst certain populations, and one third of all cigarettes smoked in England are smoked by people with a mental health condition. Nearly 10% of mothers smoke at the time of giving birth, increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by over three times compared to mothers who do not smoke. Further, the risk of stillbirth is increased by at least 60% if the father smokes. Smoking is also known to increase the risk of miscarriage.

Behind all of these statistics are individuals, families and communities who are suffering from the harms of tobacco. This Government are committed to doing more to help smokers to quit and stop people from taking up this deadly addiction. We also know that most smokers want to quit.

For these reasons, we asked Dr Khan to undertake this independent review to help the Government reduce the devastation that smoking causes in our communities. There are a number of recommendations in Dr Khan’s independent review. The Government will now consider their response.

There is a call for greater investment—from local authority-led stop smoking services, through to improved data and evidence. The Government are already investing funding through the public health grant, but we will examine where we can go further.

There is a call to offer vaping as a substitute for smoking. Vaping is far less harmful than smoking and is an effective quitting device. It is recognised that there is much more Government can do to tackle the myths and misconceptions that surround vaping. We have worked with the MHRA to provide guidance to support bringing e-cigarettes to market as licensed therapies and this Government will take forward a range of work on vaping as a substitute for smoking in due course.

Dr Khan also calls for the NHS to prioritise further action to stop people from smoking. Smoking costs the NHS £2.5 billion every year. The benefits of focusing on preventing smoking-related illnesses, rather than treating them, are clear for patients and the NHS themselves.

This Government are determined to address the challenges raised in the independent review and to meet the Smokefree 2030 target. We know that more action needs to be taken to protect our people from this dangerous addiction.

The Department will now carefully consider the recommendations set out in this independent review. The independent review will help to inform our upcoming White Paper on health disparities, which we plan to publish this summer. To complement this, the Department will also be publishing a new tobacco control plan in due course.

We would like to thank Dr Khan for his far-reaching work on the independent review, and for his clear and challenging recommendations.

A copy of the independent Khan review will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Medical Examiners

It is our intention to work towards commencing implementation plans for the statutory medical examiner system from April 2023, recognising the need for all relevant Government Departments to be ready and aligned to enable successful implementation. The statutory medical examiner system will be centrally funded in England. This follows the required amendment to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which has now been made through the Health and Care Act 2022, to host medical examiners in England in NHS bodies rather than local health authorities.

The National Medical Examiner has published the report for year 2021 which sets out the non-statutory medical examiner system progress to date. The medical examiner system will introduce an additional layer of scrutiny of the cause of death by the medical practitioner, improving the quality and accuracy of the medical certificate of cause of death and thereby informing the national data on mortality and patient safety. The medical examiner system will increase transparency and facilitate discussions with the bereaved about any concerns they may have, providing new levels of scrutiny to improve detection of criminal activity or poor practice.

After the statutory medical examiner system has been introduced, all non-coronial deaths will be scrutinised by a medical examiner, for both burials and cremations.

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Home Department

Serious Violence Duty: Draft Statutory Guidance Consultation

The Government are today announcing the publication of a consultation on the draft statutory guidance on the serious violence duty (the duty) which will be issued by the Secretary of State as statutory guidance under chapter 1 of part 2 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 to support specified authorities and organisation exercising functions in relation to the duty.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 introduced the duty to ensure specified authorities, being police, fire and rescue authorities, local authorities, specified health authorities and criminal justice agencies and organisations work collaboratively, to share data and information, understand the causes and consequences of serious violence, focusing on prevention and early intervention, and put in place plans informed by evidence to prevent and reduce serious violence. In addition, section 6(1) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has been amended to ensure that serious violence is an explicit priority for community safety partnerships and that a strategy is in place to explicitly tackle serious violence.

The duty is a key part of the Government’s programme of work to reduce serious violence and put an end to the tragedies afflicting our communities. It is very important we work together, across Government, statutory, private, and voluntary sectors to deliver this crucial change. The Government have made £130 million available this financial year, 2022-23, to tackle serious violence, including murder and knife crime.

This Government committed to update and formally consult on the draft statutory guidance published in May 2021 on before the duty’s implementation. Officials have revised the guidance by engaging with other government departments, stakeholders and wider partners. Government amendments are also reflected in the new draft, and these:

provide clarity that the definition of violence for the purpose of the duty includes domestic abuse and sexual violence,

exclude patient information and in addition health or social care authorities cannot share personal information under the data sharing provisions in respect of the duty,

restrict data requests from local policing bodies, PCCs, and in London the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Common Council of the City of London as police authority, to information already held by an authority to whom the request is made,

require that the Secretary of State lays a copy of the final statutory guidance for the serious violence duty in Parliament,

clarify on the face of the legislation that specified authorities must publish a strategy and that regulations will provide further detail about the publication or dissemination of a strategy.

Specific guidance is included for authorities operating in Wales, to reflect the distinct Welsh legislative and operational context as well as additional content on housing and homelessness. The outline policy for secondary legislation on the publication and dissemination of local partnerships serious violence strategies and local policing bodies’ discretionary role to support the development and implementation of the local serious violence strategy is included.

The consultation, which launches today, 9 June, will run for a period of six weeks, closing on 21 July. Once the response to the consultation along with a final version of the guidance have been published, the duty and associated secondary legislation will be commenced to enable local partnerships to work towards publication and dissemination of their serious violence strategies.

A copy of this consultation and the draft statutory guidance will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and also made available on gov.uk.

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Justice

Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme Review: Supplementary Consultation

Today I have laid before Parliament a public consultation on one of the eligibility rules of the statutory criminal injuries compensation scheme 2012 (the scheme). This follows the criminal injuries compensation review 2020 in which we consulted on proposals to improve the experience of victims applying for compensation, by making the scheme simpler and easier to navigate.

The statutory scheme exists to compensate victims of violent crime in Great Britain, to recognise, through compensation, the injuries and harm they experienced. The so-called unspent convictions rule has been an eligibility requirement since the first statutory scheme came into force in 1996. The 2012 scheme sets out the circumstances in which an award will be withheld or reduced where the applicant has an unspent conviction. In the 2012 scheme an exclusion was introduced which means that an applicant is not eligible if they have an unspent conviction that resulted in a custodial or community sentence. The rationale for this is to prevent individuals who have committed serious illegal acts benefiting from state-funded compensation, to reflect the degree of harm done to others and the cost to society of offending behaviour.

Since 2012 there have been varying calls for abolition of the rule or reform of it to reintroduce discretion, particularly in relation to certain victim groups or specific circumstances such as compulsion or childhood trauma. As part of our review of the scheme leading up to the 2020 consultation, options for reform were carefully explored and in the consultation our conclusions for proposing no change to the rule were explained.

In July 2021 the Supreme Court determined that the rule in the 2012 scheme is lawful and proportionate, and stated that the exclusionary approach is an acceptable one and has the advantage of leading to consistency and clarity. The Supreme Court also noted that the legislator is entitled to adopt a scheme with clearly defined rules for determining entitlement to publicly-funded compensation. However, in a separate case the High Court found that the Government had not met a legitimate expectation to consult on reform of the unspent convictions rule. This was because the 2020 consultation did not ask a specific question on whether it should be revised in line with a recommendation made by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2018. As required by the High Court we are publishing this supplementary consultation to invite views on reform of the rule.

We are looking at the rule afresh. The consultation poses broad questions about retaining the rule unchanged, which remains an option, and on the following potential reforms: introducing exemptions so that not all claims are automatically rejected on the basis of a specified unspent conviction; amending the terms of the rule to reduce the number of claims that are automatically rejected; and removing the exclusionary part of the rule so that no claims are automatically rejected.

After this second consultation we will decide whether or not to revise the rule and share our conclusions and proposals about reform of the scheme as a whole following our comprehensive review.

The consultation is available in full at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/criminal-injuries-compensation-scheme-review-supplementary-consultation. The consultation will close 5 August 2022.

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Transport

Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail: Public Consultation

Today, my department launches a public consultation on the primary legislative changes required to deliver structural reform of our railways. This follows publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail in May 2021, which heralded the start of the biggest transformation of Great Britain’s railways in three decades, and the announcement in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022 of the introduction of a transport Bill to Parliament which will modernise rail services, put passengers and freight customers first, deliver for taxpayers and combine the best of the public and private sectors.

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail highlighted the need for change. It was clear that our railways had become fragmented, the system was complicated, and passengers deserved better. This, alongside spiralling costs, delays to upgrades and commercial failures, pointed to a railway in need of fundamental reform. Getting this right means that we can ensure this historic industry delivers for its users, setting it on a more sustainable and secure footing. It also means delivering a stronger, more levelled up and increasingly green economy, of which the railways are a crucial part.

Many of the commitments set out in the plan for rail do not require legislation in order to be taken forward, and the Government are already working in close partnership with the rail industry to deliver rapid improvements for passengers and freight customers. For example, new flexible season tickets went on sale last summer and we continue to work with train operators to roll out digital ticketing to make journeys easier. We are also undertaking a comprehensive accessibility audit of stations across Great Britain, continuing to cut the costs and time of infrastructure work through Project SPEED and developing a 30-year whole industry strategic plan.

In addition to this, we have launched the Great British Railways Transition Team, under the leadership of Andrew Haines, to drive forward reforms and develop the model for a new arm’s-length body, Great British Railways, including its initial structure, leadership and people. GBRTT is focused on establishing a new, customer-focused industry culture, driving revenue recovery efforts and establishing an interim strategic freight unit to work collaboratively with the sector, ensuring an immediate focus on delivery of the Government’s ambitions for rail freight. GBRTT is also currently overseeing a competition for the location of a national headquarters for Great British Railways, to be based outside of London, in line with this Government’s commitment to levelling up.

However, primary legislation is required to deliver key elements of structural reform set out in the plan for rail. This includes providing Great British Railways with the powers and authority it needs to act as the single guiding mind for the railways, ending years of fragmentation. The consultation launched today seeks views of all those with an interest in our railways, to help shape these reforms.

The consultation is focused across three key areas as outlined below.

The first is on the establishment of Great British Railways, including its proposed functions and duties and how we propose to legislate and work with stakeholders to enable Great British Railways to become the single guiding mind for the railways.

The second is focused on how we will ensure clear accountabilities in the rail sector through a new governance framework, including the regulator’s role in providing independent scrutiny and challenge.

The third centres on reform of wider industry structures and processes that are needed to deliver transformation of the railways and a new industry culture, including a new passenger champion role for transport focus and proposals for open data sharing.

Great British Railways is key to delivering a customer-focused railway. The plans outlined in this consultation will deliver a rail system that is the backbone of a cleaner, greener public transport system, offering passengers and freight customers a better deal and greater value for money for taxpayers. The private sector has played an integral role in improving our railways over the past 25 years; these plans are designed to take the best of the private sector and fuse it with a single guiding mind that can drive benefits and efficiencies across the system as a whole.

I hope that all those with an interest in our railways will find the time to participate and share their views through this consultation. Sharing your views will help to ensure the legislative changes that we enact will deliver the vision set out in the plan for rail, securing our railways so that they are able to flourish into the future and as we approach their bicentenary in 2025.

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