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Written Statements

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 20 July 2022

Written Statements

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Coronavirus-related Spend

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 2022, from 1 January to 31 March 2022, in accordance with the Coronavirus Act.

The written ministerial statement covering the fourth quarter of 2021 was published on 29 June 2022.

This is the final quarterly report on coronavirus expenditure under the Industrial Development Act 1982. This is in line with the reporting requirements under Section 75 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Spend under the Coronavirus Act2020

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 2022, the following expenditures were incurred:

Actual expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 1

January to 31 March 2022

£277,208,581

Actual expenditure of assistance provided by Her Majesty’s Government from 25

March 2020

£4,102,510,707

Expenditure by Department

Actual expenditure of assistance from 1 January to 31 March 2022 provided by:

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

£237,216,907

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

£6,075

Department for Transport

£39,991,674

Contingent liability under the Coronavirus Act 2020

Contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 1 January to 31 March 2022

£9,228,141,179

All contingent liability of assistance provided by the Secretary of State from 25 March 2020

£83,769,317,646

[HCWS252]

Contingent Liability: Recovery Loan Scheme

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members to bring to their attention the details of the extension to the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS).

RLS is facilitated by the Government-owned British Business Bank and delivered through its delivery partners. Under the extension, lenders will offer facilities of up to £2 million to support businesses that would otherwise be unable to access the finance they need, or would only be able to do so at a higher rate of interest. There will be a £6 billion cap on the aggregate value of loans provided through the scheme for the first two years.

The extension covers the period from 1 August 2022 to 30 June 2024. Under the extension, the following changes will come into force:

The maximum amount of external finance available will be £2 million per business in Great Britain; for businesses in scope of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the maximum amount will be £1 million per business.

The requirement for businesses to certify that they have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic will no longer apply. To lend through the scheme, lenders will be required to certify that they would not have been able to offer a facility to the business on their normal commercial terms, or that they would have only been able to do so at a higher interest rate.

Personal guarantees will be permitted, but not required, for facilities under £250,000—as has been the case to date for facilities above £250,000. This brings the scheme in line with standard commercial practice in business lending. Principal private residences may not be used as security under any circumstances.

Otherwise, scheme parameters are unchanged. As previously:

The minimum facility size will be £25,001 for loans and overdrafts and £1,000 for asset and invoice finance.

Businesses will be required to meet the costs of interest payments and any fees from the outset.

Businesses who have made use of the previous coronavirus loan schemes will be able to access the scheme.

Given the above, the maximum contingent liability for lending up to the £6 billion cap on the scheme is £4.2 billion.

I will be laying a Departmental Minute today containing a description of the liability undertaken.

[HCWS240]

Departmental Update

BEIS has been committed to improving the business environment and delivering upon the pillars of the plan for growth. We have a plan to secure more domestic energy, support people with the cost of living now, grow the economy and raise wages by reindustrialising our industrial heartlands and unleashing innovation, and accelerate great British science. At the same time, we recognise the power of the private sector and have taken steps to boost enterprise by making the UK the best place in the world to start, grow and invest in a business.

We have seen a significant increase in the global wholesale price of gas as a result of covid-19 aftershocks coupled with Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, which has led to pressure on business and family budgets.

Tackling the cost of living to help families keep more of their own money:

Raising the national minimum wage and national living wage, giving a full-time worker a £1,000 a year pay rise. Uprating the national living wage has provided a pay-rise for about 2.5 million UK workers. This included the largest ever uplift of a £1,000 a year pay rise for full time workers aged 23 and over.

Helping now with the cost of living by ensuring families receive at least £400 of their electricity bills this winter. Our energy bills support scheme grant payment will take £400 off family electricity bills.

Increasing support this winter with at least £250 additional support for most vulnerable. The warm home discount (£150), winter fuel payments (between £100 and £300) and cold weather payments (£25/week), which ensure that the most vulnerable can heat their homes over the colder months.

Protecting the energy price cap, insulating families from the significant increase in wholesale gas prices. The energy price cap also currently shields 22 million consumers from being overcharged by suppliers. The cap will remain in place until at least the end of this year, ensuring consumers pay a fair price for their energy.

Shielding the public from rip-offs and boosting competition. Draft legislation will be published this autumn to give the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) enhanced powers to tackle bad business practices, including making it illegal to pay someone to write or host a fake review and making it easier for consumers to opt out of subscriptions.

Pioneering British science to cure cancers and develop technologies so people have better lives:

Establishing the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) to improve people’s lives through state-of-the-art technologies. ARIA will support high-risk, high-reward research and projects which support transformative change, including securing £800 million (by 2025/26) at the spending review, agreeing key principles with devolved authorities and setting out ARIA’s independence.

Securing biggest ever research and development budget. We have secured £39.8 billion of R&D investment supporting our commitment to ensure total R&D investment reaches 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Strengthening the UK vaccine ecosystem to ensure resilience against covid-19 and other future health emergencies. The Vaccine Taskforce has already invested over £395 million in UK manufacturing infrastructure and skills. We have ambitious plans to invest more alongside industry to secure our domestic vaccine resilience. Areas of focus include mRNA capability and investments which will strengthen the resilience of the UK’s vaccine supply chains.

Developing cures for disease, diagnostics and other life-saving research. With DHSC we are committing up to £200 million to healthcare research, diagnostics and manufacturing, building on our world leading covid-19 vaccination programme.

Setting out our visions for the UK to be a global hub for innovation by 2035. We will do this by working with private business, reforming our existing R&D institutions and supporting seven technology families from quantum computing to artificial intelligence.

Building a world-leading UK space sector. We have published the national space strategy backed by £1.75 billion and aligned civil and defence policy for the first time. Through our part owned OneWeb satellite system, we have seen the launch of multiple waves of UK satellites. We also invested £20 million in specialised technology to support the James Webb telescope launch, marking a significant step in space discovery and our understanding of the universe.

Boosting British manufacturing and reindustrialising our former heartlands to drive long-term growth:

Delivered two gigafactories, bringing back manufacturing to Britain. We have announced funding for two major gigafactories in the UK using the automotive transformation fund. Envision AESC based in Sunderland and Britishvolt in Blyth, Northumberland, will have a total capacity of over 40GWh, create over 3,500 direct jobs, as well as 1,000s more in the supply chain and will see over £2 billion of private sector investment in the region. We have also helped secure Ford’s investment of £230 million in production of electric vehicle components at Halewood.

New support for energy intensive industry to protect it for the future. We have announced a three-year extension to EII compensation scheme in the British energy security strategy and more than doubling the budget. This goes alongside our consultation on “other” energy support measures to reduce electricity prices to improve competitiveness for these industries.

Commenced the National Security and Investment Act protecting British industry from hostile activity. This gives the Government greater powers to protect our national security by screening and, if necessary, intervening in investments and other acquisitions of control over sensitive entities and assets in the UK economy.

Taken significant steps to begin to compensate postmasters who have suffered as a result of the appalling Horizon IT failings. This has included announcing that Government will provide funding for interim compensation payments of up to £100k ahead of full funding for eligible postmasters whose Horizon-related convictions have been quashed. We have also announced £19.5 million interim compensation for the “GLO” group of postmasters who exposed the Horizon scandal—to be followed as soon as possible by final compensation.

Securing Britain’s energy to ensure more cleaner, cheaper energy is generated in this country:

Accelerating domestic energy independence through the British energy security strategy (BESS). The BESS and the Energy Security Bill includes support for household energy affordability and efficiency, new and ambitious commitments on nuclear and renewable energy, and setting out the role of the North sea in our low-carbon transition, including delivering our £1 billion commitment to carbon capture and storage clusters by 2030.

Largest-ever renewable energy auction providing 11 GW of great British electricity, with wind power coming in cheaper than ever. Earlier this month, we secured a record 11 GW of renewable energy through the biggest contracts for difference round yet—enough to power around 12 million homes.

Rebuilding Britain’s proud nuclear sector. We have passed the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act 2022, which will unblock obstacles and cut costs. We are also investing in the sector through the £120 million Future Nuclear fund, £100 million for Sizewell C (in addition to driving forward negotiations), £120 million to develop small modular reactors. We have also established Great British Nuclear, a landmark moment in Britain’s nuclear history, to ensure we deliver multiple new projects this decade.

Securing strong domestic oil and gas extraction. We have given the UK’s oil and gas sector clarity about the role hydrocarbons will play in our energy need with an upcoming new licencing round, backed by the North sea transition deal we will ensure jobs are protected and technologies developed.

Kickstarted UK hydrogen industry with capital and revenue support as well as world-leading legislative framework. Over the last year, we published our hydrogen strategy and investor roadmap and launched a net zero hydrogen fund worth up to £240 million to nurture the UK’s world leading hydrogen economy. The Energy Security Bill also provides a legislative framework for our hydrogen business models.

Denying Britain’s enemies access to funding by ending Putin’s revenue streams. We also committed to end the use of Russian oil and coal power by the end of 2022 and are working with allies to support then away from use of expensive fossil fuels.

Backing other renewable technologies to build stronger domestic supply chain. We have provided a £60 million boost for floating offshore wind projects, supported entrepreneurs to find innovative ways to reduce expensive fossil fuel dependence through the energy entrepreneurs fund, and ringfenced £20 million per year for tidal stream electricity.

Worked with our colleagues across Government to deliver the UNFCC COP26 summit in Glasgow in November 2021 to move 90% of the global economy to net zero. This followed the publication of our heat and buildings and net zero strategies, which laid out a clear path to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy and achieve net zero by 2050. The summit was attended by 120 world leaders and over 40,000 registered participants. The resulting Glasgow climate pact increases the likelihood of delivering the Paris commitment 1.5 degree scenario.

Since publishing the “The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution in November 2020, we have landed £22 billion of inward investment into home-grown clean technologies, and estimate to have created around 68,000 green jobs.

[HCWS254]

Office for Nuclear Regulation Post-Implementation Review: Publication

Together with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Baroness Stedman-Scott), I am today laying in Parliament the post-implementation review of Part 3 of the Energy Act 2013. The review was commissioned in March 2021 by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kwasi Kwarteng), as required by Section 118 of the EA 2013—the Act that established the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the UK’s independent nuclear regulator. The review concluded in March 2022, and the full report has now been laid in Parliament. The full report, alongside the summary report and the joint Government response, will be published on www.gov.uk.

The review was led by an independent reviewer, supported by a dedicated review team from across the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Work and Pensions, as the Departments responsible for the policy and sponsorship of the ONR. Evidence was collected from documentary reviews, extensive discussion with the ONR and interviews with external stakeholders. I would like to thank all of those who contributed to the review.

The review found that the objectives of Part 3 of the EA 2013 are being met: the ONR is effectively delivering its regulatory purposes, enabling the safe and secure use and storage of nuclear materials at civil nuclear sites. The review noted that the ONR is seen domestically and internationally as a strong example of principles-based regulation and is respected for its technical ability and regulatory performance.

Having a strong and effective independent regulator is essential to ensuring that civil nuclear facilities and activities are safely and securely operated at all times. This includes robust regulation of the UK’s nuclear legacy, current generating fleet, new nuclear, transport of civil nuclear and radioactive materials, and civil nuclear safeguards.

There are 14 recommendations and 29 suggestions within the review. These support the Government’s strategic priorities, notably our commitment in the British energy security strategy to work with the nuclear regulators to understand the potential for any streamlining or removal of duplication from consenting and licensing. More generally, the recommendations support the ongoing improvement of the regulator’s approach to innovation, proportionality and consistency, and efficiency.

The Government and the ONR welcome the report. The findings will help to ensure the ONR remains a modern, transparent regulator delivering trusted outcomes and value. The findings are aligned with the Government’s public sector reform agenda, supporting effective relationships between public bodies and Government Departments in the interests of the citizens they serve.

An implementation plan has been agreed between DWP, BEIS, and the ONR. BEIS will complete a formal review of progress to be completed and published within 24 months of the review’s publication.

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Treasury

Finance Bill 2022-23: Draft Legislation and Tax Documents

In line with the tax policy making framework, the Government are publishing draft legislation ahead of potential inclusion in Finance Bill 2022-23. This allows for technical consultation and provides taxpayers with predictability over future tax policy changes. Alongside this, the Government are making announcements in a small number of technical areas of tax policy to support the operation of the tax system. Draft legislation is being published to seek stakeholder views at this stage. The final contents of Finance Bill 2022-23 will be a decision for the Chancellor at the next Budget. The Government are also publishing a number of tax-related consultations and summaries of responses to consultations which have already been conducted.

Publication of draft legislation

The Government are publishing draft legislation and associated documents, further to previous announcements, including at Budget or in “Tax Administration and Maintenance: Autumn 2021” [CP 577], published on 30 November 2021:

R&D tax relief reforms: The Government are publishing draft legislation which will amend the definition of qualifying expenditure to include data and cloud costs. These changes will ensure the reliefs support modern innovation. The draft legislation will also refocus the reliefs towards research & development (R&D) in the UK and implement measures to improve compliance. The Government will limit overseas spending on subcontracted R&D and externally provided workers, with some limited exceptions. These changes will ensure the reliefs provide better targeted support for innovation in the UK.

OECD pillar 2 reforms: The Government are publishing draft legislation and a summary of responses to the consultation on the implementation of pillar 2 in the UK. This builds on the historic agreement of 137 countries to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) two pillar solution to the tax challenges of a globalised and digital economy. Pillar 2 will ensure that multinational enterprises pay a minimum 15% rate of tax in each jurisdiction that they operate in.

Air passenger duty reform: The Government are publishing draft legislation which will implement reform to air passenger duty (APD), as announced at autumn Budget 2021. These reforms aim to bolster UK air connectivity through a 50% cut in domestic APD and further align the tax with UK environmental objectives by adding a new ultra-long-haul distance band.

Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme: The Government are publishing draft legislation which introduces new and temporary reliefs from the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) and 15% rate of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) where a corporate entity makes a dwelling available to Ukrainian refugees under the homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, as announced in a written ministerial statement on 31 March 2022.The payments individuals, community groups and businesses receive under this scheme will be exempt from either income tax or corporation tax. Therefore, it will ensure that those wishing to offer accommodation do not face any unfair obstacles or immediate tax burdens.

Pensions: Relief relating to net payment arrangements—The Government are publishing draft legislation which will provide the. basis for HMRC to make top-up payments directly to low-earning individuals saving in pension schemes using a net pay arrangement from 2024-25 onwards, as announced at autumn Budget 2021. These top-ups will help to better align outcomes with equivalent savers saving into pension schemes using relief at source.

Improving the administration of insurance premium tax (IPT): The Government are publishing draft legislation to improve the administration of IPT, as announced at tax administration and maintenance day 2021 (TAM Day 2021). This measure will provide HMRC with powers to make a statutory instrument to move insurance premium tax forms from secondary legislation into a public notice.

Collective money purchase pension scheme: As announced in a written ministerial statement on 21 February 2022, the Government always intended that certain payments made instead of a pension from a collective money purchase pension scheme in the process of winding up should not attract pensions tax charges. However, there are instances where the current legislation may not achieve the intended outcome. This draft legislation clarifies the tax legislation to ensure that a collective money purchase pension scheme that is in the process of winding up can make certain types of payments without attracting pension tax charges.

Relief on disposals of joint interests in land: The Government are publishing draft legislation to make changes to the legislation for capital gains tax roll-over relief and private residence relief to ensure that limited liability partnerships and Scottish partnerships which hold title to land are included, as announced at TAM Day 2021.

Transfer pricing documentation: Master File / Local File: As announced at TAM Day 2021, the Government are publishing draft legislation which will make it a requirement for large multinational businesses operating in the UK to keep and retain transfer pricing documentation in a prescribed and standardised format, set out in the OECD’s transfer pricing guidelines, giving businesses certainty on the appropriate format and documentation they need to keep.

Tax conditionality: licenses in Scotland and Northern Ireland: As announced at TAM Day 2021, this draft legislation will make licence renewal applications in Scotland and Northern Ireland for taxi and scrap metal licences conditional on completing a tax check with HMRC to ensure the applicant is appropriately registered for tax. This change applies for licence renewals from April 2023 and extends the approach already in place for licences issued in England and Wales.

Aggregates levy reform: As announced at TAM Day 2021, the Government are publishing draft legislation to make changes to aggregates levy exemptions, by replacing four exemptions for by-product aggregate arising from specific types of construction with one broader, more general exemption. It will also restrict an exemption so that aggregate extracted on a construction site specifically for construction use is taxed in the same way as other construction aggregate.

Government are also publishing draft legislation and associated documents in the following areas which have not been previously announced:

Soft drinks industry levy (SDIL): concentrates mixed with sugar when dispensed: The Government are publishing draft legislation which closes a minor loophole and will ensure that all soft drinks meeting the SDIL sugar content condition that are dispensed from fountain machines are within the scope of the levy.

Further tax provisions in connection with the dormant assets scheme: The dormant assets scheme is being expanded to include eligible assets from the pensions, insurance, investment and wealth management, and securities sectors. The Government have therefore published draft legislation to ensure that payments from an authorised reclaim fund are treated for the purposes of income tax as if they were from the pension asset that was initially transferred. It also ensures that where an asset has been transferred to an authorised reclaim fund and its owner was alive at the time of transfer but subsequently dies before the asset has been reclaimed, the owner will be treated for inheritance tax purposes as still owning the original asset.

Taxation of lump sum exit scheme payments: As announced in the lump sum exit scheme (LSES) consultation response, this draft legislation provides clarity that LSES payments will be treated as capital in nature and will be subject to capital gains tax, or corporation tax in the case of incorporated entities.

Chargeable gains: Separating spouses and civil partners: The Government are publishing draft legislation which provides that the transfer of assets between spouses and civil partners that are separating are made on a no gain/no loss for up to three full tax years after the parties cease to live together. This follows on from a recommendation by the Office of Tax Simplification.

Changes to the qualifying asset holding companies rules: The Government are publishing draft legislation which intends to make limited changes to its qualifying asset holding companies regime, which went live in April 2022. These changes will ensure that the regime is available to a broader range of investment structures, consistent with the original policy rationale and subject to safeguards. It is intended that the existing anti-fragmentation rule in paragraph 4 of schedule 2, Finance Act 2022 will be extended with effect from today so that it also applies where interests are held through one or more QAHCs as well as directly in the company concerned.

Approval regime for aerodromes not customs and excise designated: The Government are publishing draft legislation which makes an amendment to establish an approval regime for aerodromes that handle international flights, and which are not customs and excise designated airports. This will facilitate a fairer system which will strengthen both aerodrome operator accountability and border control provisions.

The Government are also announcing the following measure which will take immediate effect from today and publishing draft legislation:

Double taxation relief: time limit for claims: Legislation will be introduced to restrict certain claims for double taxation relief. No extended time limit claims will be allowed in relation to amounts calculated by reference to the foreign nominal rate of tax, unless the relevant accounting period is under enquiry, or there has been an actual adjustment of UK or foreign tax within the last six years. This change will only affect certain double taxation relief claims in relation to distributions received by UK companies in previous years and will protect tax revenue in respect of such distributions.

All draft legislation is accompanied by a tax information and impact note (TIIN), an explanatory note (EN) and, where applicable, a summary of consultation responses document.

Other publications

The Government are also publishing the following consultations:

Improving the data HMRC collects: Under the current system, HMRC collects data from taxpayers and employers via tax returns to administer the tax system and inform Government decision making. The Government are consulting on a number of options for additional data for HMRC to collect, use, and safely share across Government, and how this can be done in a way that minimises any extra burden for customers. This will help ensure the information the Government hold is more accurate, bring direct benefits to businesses and taxpayers, provide better insights for policymaking and support Government aim to build a trusted, modern tax administration system.

Digitalising Business Rates: Connecting business rates and tax data: The way that the business rates system currently operates makes it difficult for the Government to precisely target support when responding to the needs of businesses. Digitalising Business Rates (DBR) aims to join together business rates data held across different parts of Government—billing authorities, the VOA and HMRC—with tax data. By bringing together businesses’ property data and tax information in one place, the Government will be better able to design and apply reliefs to support businesses that are most in need, rather than having to rely on property information in isolation. This consultation lays out and seeks views on options for the policy and IT design for the DBR project.

The Government are also publishing summaries of responses to the following discussion documents and consultations:

“Preventing and collecting international tax debt”

“Helping Taxpayers Get Offshore Tax Right”

“IFRS 17 (new international accounting standard for insurance contracts)”

“ITSA registration for the self-employed and landlords”

“OECD Model Rules for Digital Platforms (MRDP)”

All publications can be found on the gov.uk website. The Government’s tax consultation tracker has also been updated.

Update on previously announced policy

At autumn Budget 2021, the Government plans for alcohol duty reform were announced and a consultation on the detail of those planned reforms was published. The consultation closed on 30 January 2022. The Government are considering the feedback received and will respond in the autumn.

[HCWS256]

Contingent Liability: UK Infrastructure Bank

It is normal practice when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability in excess of £300,000, and for which there is no statutory authority, for the Minister concerned:

To present a departmental minute to Parliament, giving particulars of the liability created and explaining the circumstances; and

To refrain from incurring the liability until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.

I am writing to notify Parliament of a contingent liability that the Treasury intends to create related to the final stage of the establishment of the UK Infrastructure Bank as a publicly owned company with operational independence.

As set out in the UKIB policy design document published at Budget 2021, in UKIB’s framework document and most recently in UKIB’s strategic plan published last month, the ambition is for UKIB to offer sovereign equivalent guarantees to support and enable private and public investment in infrastructure, with core objectives to help tackle climate change and support regional and local economic growth.

UKIB will be able to deploy these guarantees flexibly up to an overall limit of £10 billion, which is capped at £2.5 billion in any given year.

UKIB will manage its capital position through its economic capital framework with an appropriate buffer, as well as through the institution’s wider liquidity and operational risk management. The Government’s expectation is that the default position is for UKIB to meet any calls on its guarantees from its existing funded financial capacity.

To maximise the impact of UKIB’s guarantees and promote crowding in of private investment, it is important to allow UKIB to rely on the UK Government’s credit rating. To ensure UKIB can utilise this credit rating, HMT intends to provide backing to UKIB such that rating agencies would consider it to have a sovereign credit rating. This backing will create a new contingent liability from HMT to UKIB.

UK Government Investments contingent liability central capability has been consulted as part of establishing the structure of the new scheme.

UKIB will report to Parliament through its annual reports and accounts on any guarantees entered into, providing details on the amount of actual or contingent liabilities.

Authority for any expenditure required under this liability will be sought through the normal procedure.

A departmental minute has been laid in the House of Commons providing detail on this contingent liability.

[HCWS255]

Defence

Service Complaints Ombudsman’s 2021 Service Complaints System Report: Formal Response

I am pleased to place in the Library of the House today the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) formal response to the service complaints ombudsman for the armed force’s annual report for 2021 on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system.

The ombudsman’s report assessed the service complaints system and the work of her office in 2021. The response sets out the MOD’S comments and approach to each of the ombudsman’s recommendations and includes a summary of our position on recommendations that remain open from previous annual reports.

The MOD values the strong independent oversight that the ombudsman brings to the service complaints system, and remains committed to having a system in which our personnel can have confidence.

The attachment can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2022-07-20/HCWS251/.

[HCWS251]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Independent Review of Destination Management Organisations: Government Response

The Government are today publishing their formal response to the independent review of Destination Management Organisations (DMO) which was undertaken by Nick de Bois (Chair of the VisitEngland Advisory Board) and published in September 2021. The DMO review was commissioned in March 2021 by the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), and myself as the current Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society.

The DMO review is an important component of the UK Government’s post-covid tourism recovery plan, which can be summarised as securing a swift recovery to pre-pandemic tourism volumes and visitor expenditure before building back better towards a more productive, innovative, resilient, sustainable and inclusive visitor economy, with the benefits of tourism spread across every nation and region of the UK.

England’s DMOs have an important role to play both in the recovery of the sector from covid-19 and achieving the Government’s Levelling Up objectives. Their role is not only to market and promote England’s unique, amazing and varied visitor offer, but also to work with local businesses as they recover, to attract new investment, and to help England deliver a more sustainable, data-driven, resilient and accessible industry. For this to happen, DMOs need to be at their best, and we need to address long-running concerns about the structure, funding models and fragmentation of England’s DMO landscape.

Mr de Bois was given the task of surveying the DMO landscape in England—tourism being a devolved responsibility within the UK. He was asked to evaluate the current system, with a view to making recommendations on whether there may be a more efficient and effective model for supporting English tourism at a local and regional level and delivering the government’s policy agenda.

Mr de Bois submitted his report last summer, and we published it in September 2021. This response addresses Mr de Bois’ recommendations and outlines the actions that are going to be taken forward in the current spending review. The DMO review made 12 recommendations in total, six of which are directed at the Government, four at DMOs themselves, and one each for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and local authorities. I am pleased to say that we will be accepting the majority of his recommendations.

A new accreditation system will be introduced over the 2022-23 financial year, with VisitEngland receiving new funding for implementation. By creating a new ‘national portfolio’ of accredited, high-performing Local Visitor Economy Partnerships we will reduce fragmentation and bring coherence to the current DMO landscape. It will make it clearer to public and private actors who to engage with in order to support the regional visitor economy—as well as to prospective visitors looking for information about English destinations. We are proposing to change the name of DMOs to Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEPs), to capture the wider strategic focus on the visitor economy and the breadth of activity and relationships they will establish to support the local visitor economy.

The Government also commit to a pilot of Mr de Bois’ recommendation of a tiering model including multi-year core funding in a region of England. That will give one top tier LVEP, or collection of LVEPs—known as a Destination Development Partnership— a firm foundation to engage in a wide range of destination management type activities as well as prompt increased private sector investment. The response sets out the criteria upon which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and VisitEngland will decide where the pilot is run.

A targeted pilot will ensure we support those areas with most potential to develop their visitor economies, help achieve the Government’s Levelling Up objectives and align with the devolution commitments set out in the Levelling Up White Paper. A pilot will allow the Government to collect evidence to understand how effective the proposed model can be, and to support any future funding considerations.

Up to £4.05 million—£1.35 million per year—has been allocated towards the DMO review implementation. The ambition is for a successful pilot to enable roll out of the multi-year funding nationally, however this is subject to future spending rounds and therefore, not guaranteed.

I will place a copy of the Government response in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS243]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Reservoir Safety: Reforming the Safety Regime and Modernising Legislation for England

Reservoirs play a vital role in safeguarding our water supply, by storing water that falls in the wetter part of the year, to ensure continuity of supply when it is dry. But storing large volumes of water is not without risk—in August 2019 parts of the spillway at Toddbrook reservoir collapsed following significant heavy rainfall and around 1,500 local people were temporarily evacuated while the reservoir was made safe. More than 17,000 were potentially at risk of flooding from the reservoir dam being breached. Fortunately, incidents such as this are very rare. We have a strong record of reservoir safety and compliance with our safety regulations is good.

We cannot however be complacent. The number of reservoirs in England is growing by an average of 15 to 20 per year, adding resource pressures for already stretched panels of engineers. Reservoir assets are ageing, which increases risks where investment is limited. In addition, the more extreme periods of drier and wetter weather expected as a result of climate change will place increasing stresses on reservoir infrastructure.

Following Toddbrook, Professor David Balmforth’s independent review considered whether the regulation of reservoirs, which protects more than 2.2 million households and properties in England, remains effective and robust in securing the ongoing safety of this critical infrastructure. The review identified common examples of poor practice in the work of reservoir safety engineers and concluded that the Reservoirs Act 1975 does not effectively support modern, risk-based safety practices. It recommended:

a new risk/hazard based safety regime, where safety requirements are proportionate to risks;

improving safety management practice by reservoir owners;

improving inspection and supervision by reservoir engineers; and

strengthening the regulator’s role.

I am therefore confirming today that the Government have accepted Professor Balmforth’s recommendations and will carry out reform of the reservoir safety regime and modernisation of the Reservoirs Act 1975. DEFRA and the regulator—the Environment Agency—will commence a programme of work now, with a view to consultation in 2023-24. Once the consultation has concluded, the Government will then work to develop legislative proposals. The Government would then legislate when parliamentary time allows.

The Government considers that the review has made a strong case for improving safety practice, strengthening roles and responsibilities for owners, engineers, and the regulator, and for modernising the legal framework.

The following principles will be applied to shape and guide the reforms. We will aim to:

Reduce risk to life as low as reasonably practical.

Take early action to address risks where possible.

Fairly apportion costs for risk management with reservoir owners.

Take a proportionate, risk-based and customer-friendly approach.

The Government have been considering whether small raised reservoirs, which are between 10,000m3 and 25,000m3 in volume and are currently unregulated, should be brought under the scope of the Reservoirs Act 1975. We are minded that, subject to a consultation, such reservoirs should be regulated in future and will develop proposals as part of the reform of the safety regime. Research suggests that there are around 500 small raised reservoirs which pose risks for local communities if the structures were to fail. At least five incidents a year occur where emergency measures are needed to prevent dams and embankments from breaching or failing which indicates a strong need to regulate such reservoirs to ensure public safety. During 2022-23 the Environment Agency plans to introduce a free registration scheme for owners of small raised reservoirs, which will collect data about these reservoirs and help inform a proportionate approach to regulation.

The reform programme will be taken forward collaboratively, with owners and engineers being involved in shaping the details. It will include:

Reforms that can be done through existing powers, secondary legislation, guidance, training and codes of practice during 2022-23 and 2023-24, including:

improving enforcement options and flexibility using civil sanctions;

introducing review of engineers’ reports by the Environment Agency;

developing proposals for a proportionate charging scheme to improve recovery of regulatory costs; and

introducing a free registration scheme for owners of small raised reservoirs during 2022-23.

Preparing for modernising the Reservoirs Act 1975 with a view to consulting on proposals during 2023-24, including:

developing a new risk/hazard classification and how it could operate;

developing proposals to make the future supply of reservoir engineers more sustainable;

developing proposals for regulating small raised reservoirs within the new safety regime, for consultation.

This will build on actions that have already been taken to strengthen reservoir safety, for example:

a ministerial direction in April 2021 requiring reservoir owners to prepare on site emergency flood plans for all their large raised reservoirs. Owners were given a year to do this and the Environment Agency report that 94% of registered reservoirs now have plans certified by reservoir engineers;

guidance issued to reservoir owners about having inspection information packs for their reservoirs;

guidance developed in collaboration with engineers and issued by the Environment Agency to improve spillway inspection and management; and

the Institution of Civil Engineers, at my request, is carrying out research to improve the future supply of engineers.

The reform programme will be spread over several years so that changes can be managed alongside ongoing reservoir safety management in a proportionate and reasonable way. The Welsh Government and the other UK Administrations will be kept informed and involved with the development of the safety regime because the Reservoirs Act covers England and Wales, and reservoir engineers work across the UK. The Reservoirs Act 1975 as amended by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 will remain in force until legislative changes are made.

The Government’s planned actions in response to individual recommendations in the review are summarised in Table 1 below.

Our reforms will bring the reservoir safety regime for England into line with other high risk sectors such as the nuclear industry and rail. It will lead to a modernised safety regime that protects the lives and livelihoods of those living downstream of reservoirs, while preserving the important role of these crucial assets in safeguarding our water supply in a changing climate.

Table 1 Summary of Reservoir Safety Review Recommendations and Actions

Consultation on proposed reforms is anticipated in 2023-24.

Short Description of Recommendation

Proposed Actions for 2022-23 and 2023-24

1. Divide high riskreservoirs into three hazard classes:

(a) More frequent inspection to be required for high hazard.

(b) Thresholds between classes to be determined by EA in consultation.

(c) Government should review threshold for high risk designation.

Accept in principle and prepare for consultation by researching and developing an improved hazard classification.

DEFRA lead

2. Strengthen EA regulation:

(a) EA to raise awareness of duties and responsibilities.

(b) EA to support owners in developing their

Capacity.

(c) EA to charge for regulation—and incentivise good behaviours.

(d) EA to adjudicate disputes between engineers and owners.

Accept and begin to develop business case and options for introducing a proportionate charging scheme.

EA lead

3. Introduce Reservoir Safety Management Plans (RSMPs) reflecting class:

(a) Owners should prepare RSMPs reflecting hazard class.

(b) RSMPs should be kept as prescribed form of record.

(c) Supervising engineer to review and certify annually.

(d) Owners to ensure competent staff—certified for higher hazard class.

EA to produce guidance.

Accept in principle and prepare for consultation, by developing proposals for prescribed, risk-based RSMPs.

DEFRA and EA joint lead

4. Strengthen Supervising Engineer (SE) role:

(a) SEs to engage in surveillance, review records, check RSMP delivery.

(b) SEs to certify compliance with RSMP and approve RSMP for next year.

Accept principle of improved SE practice and develop guidance and training.

EA lead

5. Strengthen Inspecting Engineer (IE) role:

(a) IEs to identify potential failure modes as part of inspections.

(b) IEs to require precautionary interim measures quickly if concerned.

(c) IEs to produce risk assessment for higher hazard classes.

(d) Clear timescales to be attached to MIOS.

(e) Precautionary measures to be ALARP[1] if they compromise operation.

Accept and begin to develop improved good practice guidance for IEs.

EA lead

6. Improve management of Measures in the Interest of Safety (MIOS):

(a) MIOS to be clearly indicated in IE reports.

(b) Owner to appoint construction engineer for MIOS within 14 days.

(c) Urgent MIOS to be completed asap and by specified completion date.

(d) Certification issued on completion of MIOS to provide details.

(e) RSMP amendments to be specified with required dates.

Accept and begin to develop improved good practice guidance for MIOS.

EA lead

7. Improve supply of future panel engineers:

(Especially in light of small number of current engineers and ageing profile.)

Accept and continue existing work to explore options for implementing with Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

DEFRA lead

8. Support career progression for panel engineers:

(a) Revise designation of panels to introduce more responsibility tiers.

(b) ICE to provide more support with training, mentoring, guidance.

Accept in principle and plan how to take forward following advice from ICE.

DEFRA lead

9. Better knowledge sharing and learning for panel engineers:

(a) EA to provide more access to learning for engineers.

(b) EA to ensure lessons from incidents are more comprehensive.

(c) EA to introduce reporting of near misses and anonymous reporting.

(d) EA to update guidance for SEs, IEs and for risk assessments.

Accept and begin developing guidance and other best practice sharing mechanisms.

DEFRA and EA joint lead

10. Introduce risk assessments and manage reservoirs so risk is reduced to ‘ALARP’:

(a) Owners to manage risks to ALARP based on a risk assessment.

(b) Risk assessment to be based on good practice—and informs RSMP.

(c) MIOS should ensure risks are both tolerable and ALARP.

(d) If risk cannot be reduced to tolerable levels, decommission.

Accept in principle and prepare for consultation by developing proposals for risk assessments.

DEFRA lead

11. Strengthen EA duties and powers:

(a) EA and Defra to produce—commission a code of practice.

(b) Expand EA duties to allow them to assure owners duties are fulfilled.

(c) Expand EA duties to allow them to assure SE and IE reports and RSMPs.

(d) Expand EA powers to challenge SE and IE reports, RSMPs (etc).

(e) Expand EA duties to spot check owners’ activities.

Accept in principle and begin EA quality

assurance of panel engineer’s work.

DEFRA and EA joint lead

12. Strengthen EA enforcement:

(a) Full recovery of enforcement costs.

(b) Expand EA powers to include fines.

(c) Strengthen independence of EA regulator from role as operator.

Accept in principle and plan for consultation and implementation.

Develop business case and options for EA civil sanctions.

DEFRA and EA joint lead.

13. Climate change research:

(a) current and

(b) future programme of research

Accept and include in R&D programme.

EA lead

14. Publication of data and transparency reports by

(a) EA and

(b) Owners

Accept principle of data publication—EA to develop proposals.

EA lead

15. Review and update legislation and regulations

(includes concern that current legislation is outdated and inflexible for modern H&S practices)

Accept, engage with stakeholders, and develop programme of reform.

DEFRA lead

[HCWS246]

Improving Water Quality and Tackling Nutrient Pollution

Improving water quality is a Government priority. We are the first Government to take such substantial steps to restore our water environment, from setting in motion the largest water company infrastructure project ever to reduce discharges from storm overflows, to seeing the largest fines in history placed on water companies. We have provided new funding to the Environment Agency to increase farm inspections to at least 4,000 inspections a year by 2023, and we are launching future farming schemes that will reward farmers and land managers for actions to reduce run-off, such as introducing cover crops and buffering rivers. This is reinforced by our proposed Environment Act 2021 targets to reduce the key sources of river pollution.

We are today launching a further package to tackle nutrient pollution, which is a significant problem for our freshwater habitats and estuaries. Increased levels of nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) can speed up the growth of certain plants, disrupting natural processes and devastating wildlife.

While we have taken substantial steps, this is taking time to make an impact on the ground and we must go further. At present some 27 catchments, and several of our internationally important water bodies and protected sites, are in unfavourable status due to nutrient pollution. In accordance with complex and bureaucratic EU-derived domestic legislation and case law, local planning authorities can only approve a plan or a project if they are certain it will have no negative effect on the site’s integrity. Natural England, in its statutory role as an adviser on the natural environment, has advised a total of 74 local planning authorities on the nutrient impacts of new plans and projects on protected sites where those protected sites are in unfavourable condition due to excess nutrients. They have issued tools and guidance on an approach called “nutrient neutrality” to mitigate the impact of nutrient pollution so that development can go ahead. However, there is still a gap in the ability of LPAs and developers to find mitigation quickly and effectively.

In order to drive down pollution from all development in the relevant catchments, we will be tabling an amendment to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. This will place a new statutory duty on water and sewerage companies in England to upgrade wastewater treatment works to the highest technically achievable limits by 2030 in nutrient neutrality areas. Water companies will be required to undertake these upgrades in a way that tackles the dominant nutrient(s) causing pollution at a protected site. We are also using feedback from the recent “call for evidence” to water companies to identify where these upgrades could be accelerated and delivered sooner. Our proposed Environment Act target to tackle wastewater pollution across the country will still see upgrades brought in elsewhere, on a slightly longer timeframe.

In the meantime, we know the impact of new housing is a small proportion of overall nutrient pollution, but mitigation requirements have a significant impact on overall house building. This amendment will improve water quality and in doing so will support house building to continue in areas affected by nutrient pollution. We want these improvements to be factored in for the purposes of a habitats regulation assessment.

Wastewater treatment upgrades will reduce a significant source of nutrient pollution, helping to recover these crucial habitats, which will thereby reduce the level of mitigation required by individual developers when legislation comes into force.

Supporting mitigation

Building on our initial package of support announced in March 2022, I will issue a ministerial direction to support Natural England to establish a nutrient mitigation scheme.

Natural England will develop the scheme, working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. DEFRA and DLUHC will provide funding to pump prime the scheme: this is intended to front-load investment in mitigation projects, including wetland and woodland creation. This will then be recouped through a simple payment mechanism where developers can purchase “nutrient credits” which will discharge the requirements to provide mitigation. Natural England will accredit mitigation delivered through the nutrient mitigation scheme, enabling LPAs to grant planning permission for developments which have secured the necessary nutrient credits. Wetlands and woodlands will also provide biodiversity enhancements to areas and promote public access to nature across England helping to deliver on our levelling up missions for pride in place and wellbeing.

Natural England will deliver the scheme by establishing an “accelerator unit”, with the support of DEFRA, DLUHC, the Environment Agency and Homes England. The previous announcement of £100,000 funding from DLUHC for affected areas will help support delivery of the scheme. We will open the scheme to all developers while ensuring that small and medium enterprises are prioritised, given the difficulties they can face in securing mitigations due to access to funds and skills. This scheme will not be a requirement but an option to discharge mitigation requirements more efficiently. We recognise that there are a number of private markets and local planning authority-led nutrient mitigation schemes that are already being established. Natural England will be working closely with these providers to ensure they do not crowd out private markets, and will ensure that the national scheme dovetails with these markets and provides additional support as needed. We will announce further details in the autumn when the scheme will launch, and in the meantime, Natural England will be in touch with local authorities and developers.

Our amendment will support the delivery of the tens of thousands of homes currently in the planning system, by significantly reducing the cost of mitigation requirements. The mitigation scheme will make delivering those requirements much easier for developers.

Longer term, we continue to progress proposals to reform the habitats regulations so that impacts on protected sites are tackled up front, focusing on what is best for bringing sites back into favourable status. Recovering our protected sites is critical to meeting the Government’s ambitious environment commitments, including our apex target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. Through this work we can improve water quality, biodiversity and our wider environment while also enabling sustainable development.

Planning

We understand the concerns that some local planning authorities have around the impact of nutrient neutrality on their ability to demonstrate they have a sufficient and deliverable housing land supply.

We will make clear in planning guidance that judgments on deliverability of sites should take account of strategic mitigation schemes and the accelerated timescale for the Natural England’s mitigation schemes and immediate benefits on mitigation burdens once legislation requiring water treatment upgrades comes into force. DLUHC will revise planning guidance over the summer to reflect that sites affected by nutrient pollution forming part of housing land supply calculations are capable of being considered deliverable for the purposes of housing land supply calculations, subject to relevant evidence to demonstrate deliverability. It will be for decision takers to make judgements about impacts on delivery timescales for individual schemes in line with the national planning policy framework.

The roll-out of advice in relation to nutrient pollution to additional catchments in March, and for those already caught by the issue, resulted in a number of planning permissions having been granted prior to the nutrient neutrality issue being raised, but where a post-permission approval is still required (reserved matters approval or discharges of conditions). I am aware of views that the habitats regulations assessment provisions do not apply to subsequent stages of outline approval, and while we know the following will be disappointing to the developers whose sites are affected, it is important to ensure there is clarity on how the assessment provisions should operate.

The habitats regulations assessment provisions apply to any consent, permission, or other authorisation, this may include post-permission approvals; reserved matters or discharges of conditions. It may be that habitats regulation assessment is required in situations including but not limited to:

where the environmental circumstances have materially changed as a matter of fact and degree (including where nutrient load or the conservation status of habitat site is now unfavourable) so that development that previously was lawfully screened out at the permission stage cannot now be screened out; or

development that previously was lawfully screened in but judged to pass an appropriate assessment cannot now do so because the mitigation (if any) secured is not adequate to enable the competent authority to be convinced of no adverse effect on integrity of the habitats site.

DLUHC will therefore also update the planning practice guidance on the application of the habitats regulations assessment in this regard, and consider any further additional revisions as necessary over the summer.

[HCWS258]

United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Exclusions from Market Access Principles: Single-Use Plastics

This statement is made in accordance with section 10(11) of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Exclusions from Market Access Principles: Single-Use Plastics) Regulations 2022 create an exclusion from the market access principles in Part 1 of the UKIM Act for legislation so far as it prohibits or restricts the supply of single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, stemmed cotton buds, plates, cutlery, chopsticks, balloon sticks and expanded and extruded polystyrene food and drinks containers, including cups.

This exclusion was requested by the Scottish Government through the resources and waste common framework, in line with the process for considering UKIM Act exclusions in common framework areas1. Under the Act, the Secretary of State is required to seek consent from the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. If that consent is not given within one month, the regulations may be made without consent.

Welsh Ministers and Scottish Ministers have consented to the making of these regulations and consent has been sought from the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. As this legislation is of a cross-cutting nature, the consent request requires referral to the Northern Ireland Executive as per Northern Ireland’s ministerial code. This has not been possible because of the ongoing absence of a First and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland, meaning the Executive cannot meet. My officials have, however, continued to engage at official level with the relevant Northern Ireland Departments in the development of this legislation and there has been engagement with the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA, and the Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons MLA, who have raised no objections to the approach.

In line with section 10(7) of the UKIM Act, I have considered the importance of facilitating the access to the market within Great Britain of qualifying Northern Ireland goods. The supply of the items covered by this exclusion is banned in Scotland, and the UK Government and the Welsh Government have consulted on banning the supply of these items in England and in Wales in so far as it is not already banned there. The relevant EU directive (Article 5 of the Single-Use Plastic Directive) under Annex II of the NI protocol, once implemented in Northern Ireland, will have equivalent effect to the proposed and existing legislation in Scotland, England and Wales. As such, I do not consider there is a need to make additional or separate provision to maintain access to the market within Great Britain for these single-use plastic items.

I therefore intend to proceed with making the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Exclusions from Market Access Principles: Single-Use Plastics) Regulations 2022. I welcome the commitments and shared ambition across the UK to continue to work together to reduce plastic waste and tackle plastic pollution across the UK.

1 www.gov.uk/government/publications/process-for-considering-ukim-act-exclusions-in-common-framework-areas

[HCWS250]

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

FCDO Services Ministerial Targets 2022-23

My noble Friend the Minister for South and Central Asia, North Africa, United Nations and the Commonwealth (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon), has made the following written ministerial statement:

FCDO Services operates as a trading fund of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). I have set the following performance targets for 2022-2023:

An in-year surplus in excess of 0.0% before interest, tax and dividend;

Achievement of the return on capital employed (ROCE) of at least 6.5% (weighted average);

A productivity ratio of at least 82%, measuring actual billable hours versus available billable hours;

An in-year customer satisfaction rating average of at least 82;

An average Civil Service People Survey “Your Say” score for ‘Employee Engagement’ of at least 61%; and

An average Civil Service People Survey “Your Say” score for “My Manager” of at least 65%. FCDO Services will report to Parliament on its success against these targets through its annual report and accounts for 2022-2023.

FCDO Services is a trading fund of the FCDO. It provides a range of integrated, secure services worldwide to the FCDO and other UK Government Departments, supporting the delivery of Government agendas. Services include protective security, estates and construction, cloud computing, communications and monitoring, logistics, translation and interpreting. This is combined with a portfolio of global maintenance work. FCDO Services also manages the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping (UK NACE), helping protect UK assets from physical, electronic and cyber-attack.

[HCWS242]

Home Department

Immigration and Border Control

Today will see the publication of two documents supporting the Home Office’s strategy for the future border: “An Independent review of Border Force” (CP 700) and the “New Plan for Immigration: Legal Migration and Border Control” strategy statement (CP 706). These documents have been laid before both Houses today and will be made available on gov.uk.

The strategy statement sets out our ambition for transformational change for everyone using our systems and crossing the UK border. We will deliver a fully end-to-end digital customer experience which will bring benefits to all.

This is an ambitious plan in which we will continue to deliver a world-leading legal migration and border system. The plans we have set out in this strategy statement are essential for a streamlined, digital system which responds to customer needs and enhances the security of the UK. Our flagship permission to travel scheme will mean that it is easier for our friends to come to and contribute to the UK, but harder for those not using legal means to come here. We will be more easily able to tackle problems upstream and know more about those who use the system to come here.

I would like to thank Alexander Downer for his work in conducting the BF review and all those who have been involved. The recommendations in this report are our commitment to a package of reforms for Border Force so it can continue to respond to emerging threats, keep our border secure, and ease the passage of legitimate travellers and goods across our border in a world that is very different from when Border Force was formed a decade ago.

The publication of the strategy and report on the BF review is a pivotal step in achieving the vision for the future of the border which will increase public confidence that we are improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the UK border and making it more secure to tackle future challenges.

[HCWS257]

Changes to Immigration Rules

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.

The changes reflect amendments to the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme to allow children who are not applying with, or to join, their parent or legal guardian in the UK to qualify for a visa.

As the Government announced on 22 June 2022, these changes are designed to ensure, where a Ukrainian parent or legal guardian confirms it is their child’s best interests for the child to come to the UK without them, there is a route for them.

In these cases, the sponsor will need to give a greater commitment to support the child for three years or until the child turns 18 (so long as the sponsorship lasts at least six months), whichever is soonest. The local authority will conduct safeguarding checks and pre-approval of the sponsor before the visa application can be made, and there will need to be parental consent which, in line with the Ukrainian Government’s requirements, will need to be certified by an authority approved by the Ukrainian Government.

There have already been applications from children travelling without their parents. These applications were on hold while the Government carefully worked through the challenges around allowing children to travel without a parent. On 15 July the Home Office published a concession to the immigration rules to allow these cases to be prioritised once they have the necessary approval from the local authority.

We have also introduced an additional safeguarding requirement to ensure if a sponsor is not approved by the local authority under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, they cannot sponsor the same or another child under this scheme or the Ukraine family scheme.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme will be opened to new child applicants applying without their parents or legal guardians on 10 August.

[HCWS248]

Interception of Communications Code of Practice

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 provides a regulatory framework for the use of a number of covert investigatory powers, to ensure that the powers are used by public authorities in a lawful way in order to, for example, gather vital information on those who are suspected of the most serious crimes, including terrorism. The Act provides the necessary safeguards to protect individual privacy and our democratic freedoms while enabling our law enforcement and security agencies to protect the UK from serious harm.

The Act is accompanied by a set of codes of practice. These codes provide guidance for law enforcement agencies, the UK intelligence community and public authorities who exercise such powers. It sets out how the powers in primary legislation should be exercised. Under paragraph 5 of schedule 7 to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, the Secretary of State may from time to time revise the whole or part of a code.

I intend to launch a public consultation on amending the interception of communications code of practice to reflect HMG’s position on cloud service providers and the enterprise services they provide to customers, and the circumstances in which an intercepting authority should serve a warrant on either the cloud service provider or the enterprise customer.

I must be clear that the intention to amend the code is subject to the outcome of the consultation and we will consider any representations made as a result of the consultation. Further details will be published in the consultation response.

The public consultation will run between 20 July and 14 September, and my officials are also in the process of seeking input from the independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who oversees and monitors the operation of the legislation.

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

[HCWS249]

International Trade

Israel Trade Negotiation

On Wednesday 20 July 2022, the Department for International Trade launched negotiations for a new, upgraded free trade agreement with Israel.

In line with our commitments to scrutiny and transparency, the Department for International Trade has published, and placed in the Libraries of both Houses, more information on these negotiations. This includes:

The United Kingdom’s strategic case for a UK-Israel free trade agreement (FTA)

Our objectives for the negotiations

A summary of the United Kingdom’s public consultation on trade with Israel

A scoping assessment, providing a preliminary economic assessment of the impact of the agreement.

The United Kingdom’s negotiating objectives for the upgraded agreement, published today, were informed by our call for input, which requested views from consumers, businesses, and other interested stakeholders across the United Kingdom on their priorities for enhancing our existing trading relationship with Israel.

These negotiations follow our signing of the UK-Israel trade and partnership agreement on 18 February 2019.

A new and enhanced trade agreement with Israel is a key part of the United Kingdom’s strategy to secure advanced modern agreements with new international partners, and upgrade existing continuity agreements in order to better suit the UK economy.

Israel is an important trading partner for the United Kingdom, with trade worth £5 billion in 2021 despite the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic to global trade. As two of the most innovative and dynamic economies in the world—both in the top 15 of the global innovation index—we know that the opportunities of the future will come from sectors in which we both excel, such as technology, research and development, digital and data.

Our existing agreement, which forms the basis of our current trading relationship, is outdated and not designed for a digital age. Originally signed in 1995 between Israel and the EU, it was developed before smartphones, artificial intelligence and the internet transformed our economies. While it allows tariff-free trade on 99% of UK goods exports by value, it currently contains scant provision for the United Kingdom’s thriving services sector. We intend to change this by putting services at the heart of a modern new agreement, which better benefits the UK economy. Upgrading our trade deal with Israel will help unlock a stronger, more advanced partnership. A new agreement could make it cheaper and easier for innovative UK services and tech companies to trade with Israel, benefiting sectors including finance, accountancy and legal. The new deal will play to our strengths, reflecting the realities of trading in the 21st century and allowing us to take advantage of future innovations.

Around 6,600 businesses from all four corners of the United Kingdom exported their goods to Israel in 2020. Of these firms, 5,600 were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The United Kingdom’s SMEs could be amongst the biggest winners from a new agreement with Israel, as we seek to make it easier to do business and focus on trade barriers that may have deterred them from previously entering this exciting marketplace.

The Government are determined that any agreement must work for consumers, producers, investors, and businesses alike. We remain committed to upholding our high environmental, labour, public health, food safety and animal welfare standards, alongside protecting the national health service.

The Government will continue to update and engage with key stakeholders, including Parliament and the devolved Administrations, throughout our negotiations with Israel.

[HCWS247]

Justice

Call for Evidence Response on SLAPPs

Today the Government are publishing their response to their Call for Evidence on SLAPPs—strategic lawsuits against public participation.

SLAPPs are a growing form of aggressive litigation which seek to intimidate, silence and harass an opponent via improper use of the judicial system. The invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns around the way foreign actors may be misusing the UK legal system to fund litigation against free speech in our country.

For this reason, I published a call for evidence on 17 March 2022 inviting views on potential measures for legislative, procedural and regulatory reform. We also ran stakeholder engagement roundtables in early May, inviting evidence from legal and media professionals, civil society organisations and academics, to develop a robust policy base for reform. The call for evidence closed on 19 May and received 120 responses, all of which have been individually analysed and assessed.

The evidence received throughout this process has been invaluable in exposing the extent of this problem and the measures necessary to effectively combat it.

To that end, we will legislate at the earliest opportunity to enable clearer identification of SLAPPs and introduce an early dismissal process, supported by a formal costs protection scheme. SLAPPs claims that would be subject to an early dismissal mechanism would have to satisfy a three-part test, requiring a court to be satisfied:

that a case relates to a public interest issue, for example investigating financial misconduct by a company or individual;

that it has some features of an abuse of process, for example sending a very large number of highly aggressive letters on a trivial matter; and

that it is without sufficient evidence of merit.

I do not rule out further reform, as SLAPPs are an evolving issue affecting different areas of domestic law, as well as jurisdictions around the world. Our approach must continue to develop in a way that counters the ever-expanding threats that SLAPPs present. At the same time, while we must protect the right to freedom of expression, we will also ensure that the right balance is struck between that and the right to reputation and privacy.

These reforms sit alongside our proposals for a Bill of Rights that will reinforce freedom of speech and freedom of expression. These reforms alongside the Bill of Rights represent an opportunity to put President Putin and his cronies on notice. We will not allow our courts to be abused to censor those brave enough to call out corruption. We will protect our free press, which is there precisely to hold the powerful to account. We will defend freedom of speech—the liberty that guards all our other freedoms in this country. Our reforms will further strengthen free speech so that those with blood on their hands and those with dirty money in their bank accounts are no longer free to hide in the shadows.

The response to the call for evidence is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation-slapps and a copy will be placed in the House Library.

[HCWS244]

Transport

Draft Renewable Transport Fuels Obligations (Amendment) Order 2022

I have today published the draft statutory instrument the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligations (Amendment) Order 2022 and accompanying explanatory memorandum.

Renewable transport fuels already make a substantial contribution towards meeting UK carbon budgets and will continue to play an important role in meeting the UK’s increasingly ambitious future carbon reduction targets. In 2019, the use of renewable fuel supplied under the RTFO saved approximately 5.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road.

This statutory instrument amends the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation Order 2007 (SI 2007/3072). The statutory instrument will help further increase the supply of renewable transport fuels by increasing the flexibility when determining eligibility of hydrogen and other renewable fuels of non-biological origin when produced from renewable energy. It also encourages the efficient use of biomethane as a transport fuel and the development of carbon capture and storage technology.

The statutory instrument is published in accordance with the procedure required by schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and agreed with Parliament. This is because it includes amendments to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007, parts of which were previously amended by SIs made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. The statutory instrument is being published in draft at least 28 days before being laid for affirmative debate.

The Department consulted on these proposals between March and April 2021 in the paper “Targeting net zero—Next steps for the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation”. The Government response to that consultation and associated cost benefit analysis are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/amending-the-renewable-transport-fuels-obligation-rtfo-to-increase-carbon-savings-on-land-air-and-at-sea.

[HCWS245]

Work and Pensions

DWP Estate

This Government are committed to helping people back into work, and to support this cross-Government effort, the Department for Work and Pensions has invested in the temporary expansion of its jobcentre network. This has enabled us to deliver for claimants, including through our comprehensive, multibillion-pound Plan for Jobs.

Plan for Jobs has delivered for claimants over the last two years through kickstart, sector-based work academies, job entry targeted support (JETS), Restart and the expansion of our youth hubs. Together, these programmes have helped people get into work and upskill, no matter where they live or the stage of their career.

Recently, our Way To Work scheme achieved the target of getting 500,000 people into work. Since January 31, over 520,000 intensive work search universal credit and jobseekers allowance claimants moved into work during the campaign as we mobilised our workforce and brought employers into jobcentres to see the talent on offer. Latest figures, up to June, show a record high of 29.6 million people are now on payroll in the UK.

Thanks to our Plan for Jobs and the Government’s responsive labour market policy throughout the pandemic, the unemployment level is at a near record low. The Department’s approach “Any Job, Better Job, Career” means work coaches are building on the strength of the labour market with a new focus on progression, helping claimants into better jobs and ensuring they are on a career path that is right for them.

We outlined on 17 March the Department’s strategy which will, over the next 10 years, reshape how, where and when it delivers its back of house services. Over the 10-year period the Department will transition to an estate that is smaller, greener, and better, making DWP more efficient for customers and our employees. By having a smaller footprint, this helps us to be greener. This type of bold modernisation can support efficiencies, create value for money, reduce fraud and error, build resilience and sustainability, and achieve improved customer outcomes and experience. As announced on 17 March, we took advantage of lease breaks in 2023 to improve the future delivery of DWP back of house services.

As part of this 10-year programme, we are now providing an update on another strand of this work, focusing on changes to some of our front of house sites, taking advantage of the lease breaks once again and leaving older lower-quality buildings whilst optimising opportunities presented from some of the temporary jobcentres opened during the pandemic.

We will do this in four ways:

consolidate services in some locations where there is another nearby which offers better accommodation for customers and staff;

look to close older and poorer premises and permanently relocate to the new temporary Jobcentre, making it an established site;

co-locate with key partners;

and in some cases, secure new premises.

The location of the new sites will be as close as possible to the existing offices in order to maintain physical presence in areas and minimise the impact on customers, while providing an improved office environment for customers and staff. This is not about reducing headcount or services offered, and we expect no jobs to be lost.

Details of some of these further site moves have been announced today. Letters are being sent to each MP with an affected site in their constituency explaining what it means for their local jobcentre and their constituents.

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