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Written Statements

Volume 716: debated on Thursday 16 June 2022

Written Statements

Thursday 16 June 2022

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

National Security and Investment Annual Report 2022

I am today laying before Parliament the first annual report under the National Security and Investment Act 2021. I will place copies in the Libraries of both Houses and the report will also be published on gov.uk.

The National Security and Investment Act 2021 protects the UK from risks to national security arising from acquisitions of control of entities and assets. In doing so it also maintains the UK’s status as an attractive place to invest. The system is predictable, enabling businesses involved in acquisitions to have certainty when engaging with it and it provides clear and efficient clearance processes for relevant acquisitions to be assessed, for remedies to be applied if necessary.

The new National Security and Investment (NSI) system commenced on 4 January 2022. The Act requires me to report on the system each year after 31 March.

I am pleased to lay the first NSI Act annual report before the House today. This fulfils my requirements under section 61 of the Act for this year.

The report shows that the system has started strongly. As of 31 March, the Investment Security Unit received 222 notifications and accepted 201 of them. To that date I had issued 17 call-in notices. Of those notifications that were cleared without any further action, all were cleared within the statutory 30 working-day limit. I had not imposed any final orders (the means by which I can impose conditions on, block, or unwind an acquisition) by 31 March in relation to the 17 call-in notices issued, though the full national security assessment process was still ongoing for many of them.

Because the data covers only the first three months of the Act’s operation, we cannot draw long-term conclusions or observe patterns with accuracy. However, the system is operating well and, extrapolating out, volumes at each stage are within the estimates provided by the impact assessment.

We brought forward the reforms in the NSI Act to protect national security while keeping the UK open to investment. The early data is encouraging and shows that these objectives can be complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Those who wish us harm should be in no doubt that we will always act to protect the UK’s national security interests. Equally, the Government’s ambition is for the UK to be the best place in the world to invest and to start and grow a business, so I hope that business leaders and investors will take confidence from this report.

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Treasury

United Kingdom Debt Management Office: Business Plan

The United Kingdom Debt Management Office (DMO) has today published its business plan for the financial year 2022-23. Copies have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the DMO’s website, www.dmo.gov.uk.

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Defence

UK Air Defence Support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

After the attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) oil production facilities on 14 September 2019, the UK has worked with Saudi Arabia and international partners to help defend critical infrastructure and support the territorial integrity of the kingdom. The UK deployed two Giraffe radars in February 2020 to help mitigate the continued aerial threats that the kingdom has faced. The deployment was purely defensive in nature. It was necessary to repatriate these radars in December 2021, but the threat to Saudi Arabia has not abated and the requirement to support KSA remains.

The Ministry of Defence has conducted a phased follow-on deployment of air defence equipment to Saudi Arabia. The deployment comprises a small number of high-velocity missile (self-propelled) systems and associated personnel. As with the Giraffe radars, this is a purely defensive capability, and is being deployed solely to support KSA efforts to defend itself from persistent aerial threats to its territorial integrity.

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Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

UK-EEA EFTA Separation Agreement: Joint Committee Meeting

The UK-EEA EFTA separation agreement, which was agreed with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, and signed on 28 January 2020, covers citizens’ rights and separation provisions. The separation agreement established a Joint Committee whose primary role is to supervise and facilitate the implementation and application of the separation agreement, with the power to make decisions. The Joint Committee has a rotating chair which is currently held by Liechtenstein.

The third meeting of the Joint Committee took place on 8 June 2022 in London, and focused on citizens’ rights. Each of the parties to the agreement gave an update on the implementation and application of the citizens’ rights provisions, and reiterated their commitment to ensuring continued correct implementation and application. The Independent Monitoring Authority and the EFTA Surveillance Authority also attended to give updates on their monitoring and complaints handling functions as required by the separation agreement, and to discuss their annual reports for 2021.

The Joint Committee adopted a decision to amend part I of annex I of the separation agreement to reflect decisions taken by the EU’s Administrative Commission for the Coordination of Social Security Systems. These decisions relate to the interpretation of the relevant social security co-ordination provisions, including on data processing and data exchange. They do not impact the rights provided for in the separation agreement. Copies of this decision have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Joint Committee will meet at least annually, with Norway holding the next rotating chair. The next meeting is expected to take place in 2023. I commit to continuing to update Parliament following future meetings of the Joint Committee where decisions are taken.

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Home Department

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures: 1 December 2021 to 28 February 2022

Section 19(1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011 (the Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of her TPIM powers under the Act during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

TPIM notices in force (as of 28 February 2022)

2

Number of new TPIM notices served (during this period)

0

TPIM notices in respect of British citizens (as of 28 February 2022)

2

TPIM notices extended (during the reporting period)

0

TPIM notices revoked (during the reporting period)

1

TPIM notices expired (during reporting period)

1

TPIM notices revived (during the reporting period)

0

Variations made to measures specified in TPIM notices (during the reporting period)

0

Applications to vary measures specified in TPIM notices refused (during the reporting period)

0

The number of subjects relocated under TPIM legislation (during this the reporting period)

1

The TPIM Review Group (TRG) keeps every TPIM notice under regular and formal review. The first quarter TRG meetings were held on 12 and 13 April 2022. On 8 December 2021 one individual was charged with five breaches of the electronic communication device measure of the TPIM notice.

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Justice

Rape Cases: Progress Update and Measures to Improve Outcomes

Today the Government are announcing additional funding for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, publishing a progress report on the implementation of the rape review action plan and the next iteration of the criminal justice system (CJS) delivery data dashboard. These form an important part of our commitment to transform the criminal justice system response to rape, boost transparency and ensure victims get the support they deserve.

The Government are announcing:

An additional £6.6 million p.a. boost on a multi-year basis throughout this spending review period, for services supporting victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. £6 million is being provided directly to police and crime commissioners to increase community-based support in local areas and £0.6 million for training to support the recruitment of the 300 additional independent sexual violence advisors and independent domestic violence advisors over the next three years.

The publication of a progress report one year on from the publication of the end-to-end rape review action plan. This delivers on commitments in the rape review to be transparent and accountable to the public on how we are progressing work to improve the cross-system response to rape.

The third iteration of the criminal justice system delivery data dashboard, previously named the CJS scorecard. This publication includes additional Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) metrics and population adjustments.

Together, these products will contribute to this Government’s commitment to restore faith in the criminal justice system, pursue justice for victims, and build back safer.

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Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Private Rented Sector White Paper

The Government have today published their White Paper “A fairer private rented sector”.

The private rented sector currently offers the most expensive, least secure, and lowest-quality housing to a growing number of vulnerable people, including 1.3 million households with children and 382,000 households over 65. This is driving unacceptable outcomes and is holding back some of the most deprived parts of the country.

Many renters face a lack of security as they can be evicted without a reason at just two months’ notice (so called “no fault” section 21 evictions, under the Housing Act 1988). This means many tenants do not challenge their landlords or agents on standards. Renters also feel that they cannot put down roots in their local areas, which does nothing for community cohesion.

The system does not work for good landlords either, the majority of whom do right by their tenants and offer them a positive, secure living situation. They lack the ability to effectively tackle antisocial behaviour or deliberate and persistent non-payment of rent. Most landlords are trying to do the right thing but simply cannot access the information they need. Further, inadequate enforcement is allowing criminal landlords to thrive, which harms tenants and reputable landlords.

The A Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper builds on the vision in the Levelling Up White Paper and sets out our plans to fundamentally reform the private rented sector and level up housing quality in this country. It sets the strategic direction for the PRS for the first time in a generation and demonstrates our ambition and determination to give private renters a better deal.

The White Paper sets out a 12-point action plan of how we will deliver a fairer, more secure, higher quality private rented sector:

Safe and decent homes

The PRS has some of the worst housing of all tenures. We will improve this by:

Delivering on our levelling up housing mission and require privately rented homes to meet the decent homes standard for the first time. This will give renters safer and better value homes and the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities.

Accelerating quality improvements in the areas that need it most. We will run pilot schemes with a selection of local authorities to explore different ways of enforcing standards and work with landlords to speed up adoption of the decent homes standard.

Increased security and stability

For too long tenants have felt powerless and unable to challenge poor practice. We want to change this. We will rebalance the law to deliver a radically fairer deal for renters, while making sure that landlords can regain possession of their property when needed. We will achieve this by:

Delivering on our manifesto commitment to abolish section 21 “no fault” evictions and introducing a simpler, more secure tenancy structure. A tenancy will only end if the tenant ends it or if the landlord has a valid ground for possession, empowering tenants to challenge poor practice and reducing costs associated with unexpected moves.

Reforming grounds for possession to make sure that landlords have effective means to gain possession of their properties when necessary. We will expedite landlords’ ability to evict those who disrupt neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour and introduce new grounds for persistent arrears and sale of the property.

Improved dispute resolution

Tenants and landlords need structures in place that allow them to resolve disputes efficiently and fairly. We will deliver on this by:

Only allowing increases to rent once per year, ending the use of rent review clauses, and furthering tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the first-tier tribunal to support people to manage their costs and to remain in their homes.

Strengthening tenants’ ability to hold their landlord to account and introduce a new single ombudsman that all private landlords must join. This will provide fair, impartial, and binding resolution to many issues and be quicker, cheaper and less adversarial than the court system.

Working with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to target the areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings. We will also strengthen mediation and alternative dispute resolution to enable landlords and tenants to work together to reduce the risk of issues escalating.

Better compliance and robust enforcement

Landlords, tenants, and local authorities need access to the right information and, for local authorities, the right powers, to crack down on poor practice. We will deliver this by:

Introducing a new property portal to make sure that tenants, landlords and local authorities have the information they need. The portal will provide a single “front door” for landlords to understand their responsibilities, tenants will be able to access information about their landlord’s compliance and local councils will have access to better data to crack down on criminal landlords. We also intend to incorporate some of the functionality of the database of rogue landlords, mandating the entry of all eligible landlord offences and making them publicly visible (subject to consultation with the Information Commissioner’s Office).

Strengthening local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords by seeking to increase investigative powers and strengthening the fine regime for serious offences. We are also exploring a requirement for local councils to report on their housing enforcement activity and want to recognise those local councils that are doing a good job.

A positive renting experience

We want to improve the experience of everyone who rents in the private rented sector and will:

Legislate to make it illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits and explore if action is needed for other vulnerable groups, such as prison leavers. We will also improve support to landlords who let to people on benefits, which will reduce barriers for those on the lowest incomes.

Give tenants the right to request a pet in their property, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. We will also amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019 so landlords can request that their tenants buy pet insurance.

Work with industry experts to monitor the development of innovative market-led solutions to passport deposits. This will help tenants who struggle to raise a second deposit to move around the PRS more easily and support tenants to save for ownership.

We have already taken significant action to improve private renting, including significantly reducing the proportion of non-decent private rented homes, banning tenancy fees for tenancy agreements signed after 1 June 2019, and introducing pandemic emergency measures to ban bailiff evictions—these reforms will finish the job that we started in 201—and deliver a fairer private rented sector.

We have also today published the Government response to the 2019 consultation “A new deal for renting” that sets out how the new tenancy regime will work once section 21 evictions are abolished, the Government response to the “Considering the case for a Housing court: call for evidence”, and the Government response to the 2019 “Tenancy deposit reform: a call for evidence”. We will be depositing copies of these documents in the Library of the House.

We will deliver on these reforms in the forthcoming parliamentary Session, which will drive real change and make the private rented sector fit for the 21st century. These reforms will apply to England only.

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Transport

Aviation Industry Disruption

Over the half-term jubilee weekend, we saw disruption at UK airports with some passengers facing long queues and cancellations largely due to staff shortages at airports, airlines and ground handlers. These experiences, for too many consumers recently, have been unacceptable.

The Secretary of State and I have made it clear to the sector that they need to operate services that are offered for sale properly and according to schedule, or provide swift, appropriate compensation.

The aviation industry is privately owned, operated, and run. It is therefore responsible for making sure that it has enough staff to meet demand and to operate the flights offered for sale. It is important that the sector is a competitive, attractive market for workers. The Government have called upon the sector’s leadership to offer better packages and build a resilient workforce to meet demand.

Since earlier this year, the Government have worked across a number of different areas to help the industry alleviate the issues they have been facing. We are clear that consumers should not lose out. The Government are taking steps to boost consumer rights, including recently consulting on using our Brexit freedoms to enhance consumer protections. We have committed to publishing an aviation passenger charter to ensure consumers can access information about their rights all in one place.

We have sought ways to ease the burden of background checks carried out by industry. A statutory instrument was laid on 29 April to provide greater flexibility, enabling Ministers to take the decision to allow certain training to be undertaken while background checks were completed. Ministers have also agreed that HMRC employment history letters can be used as a suitable form of reference check—with safeguards in place. These temporary alleviations have helped to speed up recruitment times.

In partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority, the Government have written to the industry setting out five specific expectations we have for the aviation sector this summer:

Summer schedules must be reviewed to make sure they are deliverable.

Everyone from ground handlers to air traffic control must collaborate on resilience planning.

Passengers must be promptly informed of their consumer rights when things go wrong, and—if necessary—compensated in good time.

Disabled and less mobile passengers must be given assistance they require.

Safety and security must never be compromised.

I am chairing a strategic risk group with CEOs of the aviation sector, which will meet on a weekly basis going into the summer. This group will identify possible interventions to further improve the resilience of the sector, and will be used to hold the sector to account for delivering its schedules. Department for Transport Ministers and senior officials will continue to monitor the situation closely to make sure consumers do not lose out from any further disruption.

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