Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

Written Statements

Thursday 20 July 2023

Business and Trade

Departmental Update

I am pleased to provide the House with the following updates from the Department for Business and Trade today.

United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Services Exclusions) Regulations 2023 in accordance with section 18(10) of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

This statement is made in accordance with section 18(10)[1] of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (“the UKIM Act”). The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Services Exclusions) Regulations 2023 (“the regulations”) amend the list of services contained in schedule 2 to that Act to which the market access principles in part 2 of the UKIM Act do not apply.

The changes to the services exclusions under schedule 2 are being made following a public consultation held in February to May 2021. In line with section 18(8) of the UKIM Act, consent of the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland to the making of the regulations has been sought. If that consent is not given within one month of the request, the regulations may be made without that consent, in accordance with section 18(9).

One month has passed and I have not received consent from all the devolved Administrations, although Welsh Ministers have consented to the making of these regulations. These regulations are important to ensuring that the scope of application of the market access principles in part 2 of the UKIM Act better reflects how services are currently regulated across the UK. I therefore intend to proceed with making the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Services Exclusions) Regulations 2023. My officials have worked closely with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations throughout this process.

[1] Regulation 18(10) states that “if regulations are made in reliance on subsection (9), the Secretary of State must publish a statement explaining why the Secretary of State decided to make the regulations without the consent of the authority or authorities concerned.”

Canada trade negotiations update

The sixth round of UK-Canada free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations began on 26 June and concluded on 30 June. Similar to previous rounds, this was conducted in a hybrid fashion with some UK officials travelling to Ottawa for negotiations and others attending virtually.

Technical discussions were held across 26 policy areas over 78 separate sessions. They included detailed discussions on treaty text.

Both parties built on the momentum from agreeing in principle UK accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership in March 2023. The negotiations continue to reflect our shared ambition to secure progressive deal which strengthens our existing trading relationship, already worth over £24.8 billion in the year to Q3 2022.

The Government remain clear that any deal we sign will be in the best interests of the British people and the United Kingdom economy. We will not compromise on our high environmental, public health, animal welfare and food standards, and we will maintain our right to regulate in the public interest. We are also clear that during these negotiations, the national health service and the services it provides are not on the table.

The Government will continue to keep Parliament updated as these negotiations progress.

Contingencies Fund advance

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will reform the operations of Companies House by setting out new objectives for the Registrar of Companies, including additional powers to query and amend the register where it is suspected that there is fraud or error, as well as scope to proactively share intelligence on criminal activity across Government to combat economic crime. These provisions will help Companies House do more to tackle criminals, terrorists and corruption, strengthening the UK’s reputation as a place where legitimate business can thrive, whilst driving dirty money out of the country.

The legislation enables further investigation and enforcement activity to be undertaken against corporate entities. In readiness for this responsibility we propose to ensure we have the right staff and systems in place to deliver the registrar’s new powers.

Parliamentary approval for additional resource of £1,100,000 and capital of £1,781,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the Department for Business and Trade. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £2,881,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

[HCWS990]

Cabinet Office

Departmental Update

The Minister of State, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, has today made the following statement:

I would like to update hon Members on the main items of business undertaken by my Department in advance of Summer Recess.

Strengthening ethics and integrity in central government

The Government are announcing today a wide-ranging programme of reform to strengthen ethics and integrity in central Government.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has today laid in Parliament the Government full response to the Upholding Standards in Public Life report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the report by Nigel Boardman into the development and use of supply chain finance (and associated schemes) related to Greensill Capital in Government, and the propriety of governance in light of Greensill report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

This statement follows the reforms announced to the House in the written ministerial statement “Government Transparency and Accountability” of 15 July 2022, and concludes the Government obligations under the motion passed by the House on 7 June 2022, Official Report, column 728.

The Government are also accepting the three recommendations of Adam Heppinstall KC to review conflicts of interests guidance, consider advice on handling potential conflicts between candidates and Ministers, and consider whether changes are needed to the relevant section of the governance code on public appointments.

In addition to their response to these recommendations, the Government are also delivering further reforms to the business appointment rules beyond the scope of these reports, to both improve the experience for applicants and ensure a more consistent, risk-based approach. As part of this work, the Government will also be integrating into legally binding agreements its other obligations on former office-holders and employees, namely the Radcliffe Rules on books and memoirs, and the rules on the return of, and access to, papers from time in office.

These reforms to the Government’s ethics and integrity framework sit alongside the ongoing obligation on all office-holders to uphold their relevant codes of conduct, including the Civil Service Code, the Special Adviser Code of Conduct, the Ministerial Code, and the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies.

Government transparency and accountability

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the press and the media to hold public bodies to account.

Transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.

The Government will continue to look at how the range of information published by the Government can be improved and made as useful as possible to the public, press and parliament. The following subject areas include documents and information that the Government is due to publish.

Ministerial transparency

The Government will today be publishing the list of ministerial responsibilities on gov.uk. Copies will also be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses in Parliament. The list includes details of ministerial Departments, the Ministers within each Department, their portfolio responsibilities and private offices and the Executive agencies within each Department.

Departments will also be publishing routine transparency data on Ministers’ gifts, hospitality, overseas travel and external meetings for the period of January to March 2023. This data covers the returns for the Prime Minister, Government Chief Whip and the Leaders of the House of Commons and the Lords, as well as the Cabinet Office. Government previously published this data on 30 March, for the period of October to December 2022.

Transparency on special advisers

Special advisers are a critical part of the team supporting Ministers. They add a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to Ministers while reinforcing the impartiality of the permanent civil service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support.

Special advisers are temporary civil servants, and their costs are met by the Government Department in which they are based. Each year, the Cabinet Office publishes a report on the cost and number of special advisers across Government. Today, the Cabinet Office will be laying and publishing its report for the previous financial year, April 2022 to March 2023, which also contains a list of special advisers in post as of the end of the reporting period.

Departments will also be publishing routine quarterly data on special advisers' gifts, hospitality and meetings with senior media figures.

Transparency on senior civil servants

The Cabinet Office is also, today, publishing details of all Cabinet Office senior civil servants who hold outside employment for 2022-23, which is paid or otherwise remunerated, and has been approved in line with the requirements of 4.3.4 of the civil service management code.

Routine quarterly data on senior officials’ hospitality, expenses and meetings, along with business appointment rules advice, will also be published by Departments today.

Public appointments order in council

Yesterday, His Majesty the King’s Privy Council approved a refresh of the public appointments Order in Council, which lists the public bodies regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The order was last updated in 2019.

As well as amending the schedule to reflect newly created, renamed or dissolved regulated public bodies since its last update, the changes take account of the machinery of government departmental changes announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year, and make an addition to the commissioner’s remit of the appointment of non-executive directors to the boards of ministerial Departments, in line with the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s recommendations.

[HCWS992]

Supporting Civil Service Impartiality through Due Diligence Guidance

This Government are committed to protecting free speech, the impartiality of the civil service and ensuring taxpayer money is not used to fund speakers who have expressed or supported extremist views.

I have instructed the Cabinet Office to review and update cross-civil service diversity network due diligence and impartiality guidance and the Cabinet Office guidance on learning and events in the Cabinet Office. I expect the guidance to be reissued in the early autumn but have withdrawn the current guidance until that review is complete.

Given that this guidance has been the subject of previous parliamentary interest I wished to inform the House.

Ministers and MPs on all sides of the House have an obligation to help support the impartiality of the civil service. I believe we also have a role in ensuring civil servants are provided with support so that they can be reassured that in organising taxpayer funded or supported events they have taken appropriate steps to prevent that impartiality being called into question.

For this reason guidance was developed to help avoid civil servants (acting on behalf of cross-Government diversity networks) or Cabinet Office officials issuing invitations to individuals or organisations who have expressed or supported extremist views being advertised as speakers at taxpayer funded or supported events, which might lead to the impartiality of the civil service being called into question or its reputation otherwise brought into disrepute.

It has become apparent that the issued guidance may have been adapted for utilisation in areas for which purpose it was not intended and may also be at risk of being misinterpreted by implementing bodies outside of the Cabinet Office. It is important that we protect civil service impartiality but not in a way that could result in adverse unintended consequences. I am equally committed to protecting free speech and I have considered the way in which the guidance has been implemented.

For that reason I have decided to withdraw the current guidance, review it and reissue it in the early autumn having ensured that the guidance strikes the right balance in the way it supports our civil service colleagues in protecting the service’s impartiality.

I remain committed to issuing guidance that protects both free speech and the impartiality of the civil service, whilst ensuring taxpayers are not funding speakers who have expressed or supported extremist views. These are not mutually exclusive goals. I will place any updated guidance in the House of Commons Library upon its issuance.

[HCWS991]

Defence

Military Support to Ukraine

I am pleased to provide the House with an update on our military support to Ukraine, including equipment and ammunition provided, deployed personnel, and our training programmes.

Since Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion the UK has donated significant quantities of military equipment, ammunitions and non-lethal aid to Ukraine to help defend its territory and expel Russian invaders. In total, the UK has spent £2.3 billion on our support between April 2022 and March 2023 and has been a leading international donor of military aid to Ukraine, second only to the United States.

Due to the urgent nature of Ukraine’s needs, and volume of support required, the UK has obtained equipment to aid it from multiple sources, including:

UK defence stocks;

Rapid procurement from defence industry in the UK and overseas;

Purchasing surplus equipment from foreign governments;

Co-ordinated international procurement through the UK- administered International Fund for Ukraine.[1]

In the interests of national security, the origins of some equipment or the procurement routes involved cannot be disclosed. I must also consider the impact on Ukraine of releasing such information. However, in the interests of as full a disclosure as possible, the quantities of equipment and supplies obtained via these sensitive routes have been combined with those from less sensitive sources and amalgamated to show the totality of equipment provided in the table below.

The data below was last provided to the House in this format on 21 July 2022.[2] As I noted then, the delivery and provision of aid is dynamic and fast moving, responding to the priority needs of the armed forces of Ukraine. While in a small number of areas (notably anti-structure munitions and small arms) we have delivered less than anticipated, we have exceeded plans in critical capability areas such as artillery, responding with agility to Ukraine’s priorities and developments on the battlefield. For example, we have delivered over 15 times the quantity of artillery ammunition originally planned (over 200,000 compared to plans of 16,000 shells a year ago).

This table covers confirmed deliveries up to 11 July 2023 (all figures are approximate, unless shown in bold typeface).

Major Capabilities

Weapons/ Launchers

Ammunition

Other Aid

Anti-air

100

>1,500

Anti-armour

100

>12,000*

Anti-structure

>2,500

Anti-personnel (including small arms, mortars, grenades)

4,000

5,000,000

Anti-ship

100

Artillery

120

200,000

Main Battle Tanks

14

>4,000

Communications

Long & short-range radios

1,750

Satellite communications kits

200

Electronic Warfare Systems

Jamming & anti-jamming electronic systems

300

Physical counters / Decoys

100

Equipment Support

Spare parts, tools, support kits

£4,000,000

Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems

Laser Designator

300

Optical (inc Uncrewed Aerial Systems)

200

Radar

10

Life Support

Rations

70,000

Medical supplies (pallets)

200

Clothing

65,000

Night vision devices / Thermal imaging

5,000

Sleeping

10,000

Mobility

Armoured and protected mobility vehicles

300

Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles

40

Helicopters

3

Soft skinned (inc logistics vehicles)

140

Personal Protective Equipment

Ballistic Vest

12,000

Helmet

80,000

* Includes single use weapons and unguided munitions.

Deployed personnel

We re-opened our defence section in April 2022, under the defence attaché, to better understand and support our Ukrainian partners with the most urgent requirements for their defence against Russia’s ongoing illegal and unprovoked invasion. This includes personnel to ensure the defence section can work in a safe and secure manner that does not unduly burden our hosts.

We continue our long-standing Operation Orbital, which before Russia’s invasion on the 24 February 2022 had delivered training to more than 22,000 armed forces of Ukraine personnel in Ukraine. It now includes defence medical personnel, who are delivering training and mentoring in Ukraine to the armed forces of Ukraine medical services.

For operational reasons, which the House will know well, we will not comment on the number of UK personnel in Ukraine, or their locations.

Training support

In addition to the capabilities listed and support in country, the UK has provided comprehensive support to ensure that Ukrainian personnel have the skills, knowledge and training required to safely and effectively operate the equipment and munitions provided. This includes technical, engineering and combat training for those who will maintain and operate the equipment on the battlefield, alongside technical manuals translated into Ukrainian. For example, we provided a comprehensive programme of Sea King training in the UK for 10 Ukrainian crews and associated engineers. Also, alongside the granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, Ukrainian tank crews undertook training in the UK to learn the specifics of operating Challenger 2 as well as combined arms training focused on ensuring the tanks could be used to the greatest effect as part of a complete armoured formation. Such training and support has been provided for a number of the major platforms and weapons systems provided.

Other UK-led specialist training for the armed forces of Ukraine has included medical, marine and chaplaincy training. In addition, the UK supports Ukraine’s ambition to fly fourth-generation combat aircraft as part of a modern, capable air force and is therefore working with F16-operating nations to deliver a training pipeline for Ukrainian fast jet pilots. The UK will be ready to commence initial training for the first intake of Ukrainian student pilots this summer.

The UK has also played a leading role in providing generalist training for Ukrainian personnel. This has included over 18,700 personnel who have undergone basic and junior leadership training since the programmes were established in June 2022. With support from international allies, the UK anticipates training up to 20,000 personnel this year. The training course, which is based on the UK’s basic infantry training, is delivered over a five-week period and includes weapons handling, trench and urban warfare, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the legal principles of armed conflict, giving Ukrainian volunteers the battlefield skills to defend their country from Russian aggression.

We will not stand by as the Kremlin persists in its disregard for the sovereignty of Ukraine and international law. The UK remains firm in its support of Ukraine’s right of self-defence in the face of Russian aggression.

[1] Since IFU-related aid is not solely funded by the UK, but co-funded by the IFU donors (currently UK, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Lithuania), that aid is not included in the table.

[2] https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written- statements/detail/2022-07-21/hcws259

[HCWS987]

Education

Schools Update

I have been working closely with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities on guidance for schools and colleges when a child is questioning their gender.

We have always said that this is about safety for children. It is a difficult and sensitive area and more information is needed about the long-term implications of a child acting as though they are the opposite sex. We also need to take care to understand how such actions affect other children in the school or college. These decisions must not be taken lightly or in haste.

It is vital that the guidance we publish gives clarity for schools and colleges and reassurance for parents. So we have made the decision to allow more time—to speak to teachers, parents, lawyers and other stakeholders —in order to ensure this guidance meets the high expectations that these groups rightly have for it.

In the meantime, schools and colleges should proceed with extreme caution. They should always involve parents in decisions relating to their child, and should not agree to any changes that they are not absolutely confident are in the best interests of that child and their peers. They should prioritise safeguarding by meeting their existing legal duties to protect single sex spaces and maintain safety and fairness in single sex sport.

I want to give reassurance of how seriously we are taking this issue, and will endeavour to keep the House updated ahead of any developments.

[HCWS983]

Treasury

Consultation on tax incentives for occupational health

The Government are consulting on the case for further support through the tax system to encourage greater employer provision of occupational health services, as a means of reducing labour market inactivity in the UK. The Government are also consulting separately on wider interventions to incentivise investment in and provision of occupational health and longer-term options to boost the workforce capacity to meet increased demand. Together these consultations will inform the Government approach to supporting occupational health provision and supporting individuals to remain and thrive in work.

The consultation is available on gov.uk.

[HCWS988]

Health and Social Care

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust: Independent Review

I wish to inform the House of the Government’s full response to the report of the independent review into the maternity and neonatal services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which will be published today on gov.uk.

NHS England commissioned Dr Bill Kirkup CBE in February 2022 to undertake this review following concerns about the quality and outcomes of care. This inquiry was published in October 2022 with five recommendations for the healthcare system.

I want once again to express my thanks for the role the families have played in this review. I remain deeply sorry for the harm and pain that have been a result of the failings of the trust to provide safe care and treatment.

The Government informed the House of their interim response on 7 March 2023, and the fuller response published today sets out in detail how each recommendation is being implemented.

This response has been informed by extensive engagement with stakeholders from across the healthcare system and voluntary sector as well as by the insight and views from those families I met with in June, for which I am grateful.

While the issues set out by Dr Kirkup were a result of an investigation into one trust, many will resonate across the wider system. That is why our response sets out the existing work that is already underway to drive forward system-wide improvements, such as the implementation of the three-year delivery plan that was published in March 2023 by NHS England. This plan is clear on how maternity and neonatal care will be made safer, more personalised, and more equitable for women, babies and families. It will be an important supporting role in the implementation of the East Kent recommendations, and we recognise there is more that we can do.

Today, I want to draw the attention of the House to the key new action we are taking that will create the conditions needed in order for the improvements to be successful and sustainable.

I will chair the new national oversight group to bring together the key people from the NHS and other organisations to look across maternity and neonatal improvement programmes and the implementation of recommendations from this and other maternity reviews. At a local level in East Kent, I will convene a local forum bringing together the NHS, the Care Quality Commission and Members of Parliament whose constituents have been affected to share information and updates. I am also pleased to announce that Dr Kirkup has been appointed to support Government action in relation to recommendations 2 and 3.

It is with a firm determination that we must learn the lessons from this inquiry, as well as those before it, to implement meaningful change to prevent further inquiries into failings in maternity and neonatal services across England being needed.

[HCWS981]

Home Department

Public Safety Updates

College of Policing Codes of Practice

The Government are today laying two important and significant codes of practice concerning the vetting of police officers and police information and records management. Both codes of practice have been drafted by the College of Policing following extensive public and stakeholder consultation. In accordance with my responsibilities under Section 39A of the Police Act 1996,1 have authorised both codes to be laid before Parliament.

The vetting code of practice 2023 replaces the previous 2017 code, strengthening the standards that forces are expected to adhere to when vetting their officers and staff. This work was completed at the request of the Home Secretary in response to the concerning findings of the His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection into vetting, counter-corruption and misogyny last year as well as recent high-profile cases of police misconduct and criminality.

Chief officers must have due regard to the code in discharging their functions to which the code relates. The revised code makes it clear that the expectation is on chief officers to ensure vetting standards are maintained within their force. The code includes clarification that an inability to hold minimum vetting clearance will result in dismissal proceedings, as well as emphasising that vetting clearance will be reviewed following the conclusion of misconduct proceedings which do not result in dismissal. It also sets the requirement for a full rationale to be recorded where vetting is granted with conditions, withdrawn or declined; ensuring that decision making is appropriately documented.

In addition to revising the vetting code of practice, the College of Policing is also in the process of updating the accompanying vetting authorised professional practice (APP), as well as overhauling the police code of ethics.

The code of practice for police information and records management replaces the existing code of practice for management of police information (2005), and details key principles for the management of all police information and records and reflects related legislative developments such as those relating to data protection. It will mean that a broader range of police records are retained by forces in the future, meaning there is less risk of losing important records for future scrutiny.

This code has been developed in response to recommendations made in the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) report and Bishop James Jones’s report titled “‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power’ A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated”, which highlighted that previously vital records relating to Hillsborough could have been destroyed and would not have been available to the HIP. The introduction of the code will mean that more police records will be retained than in the past, thereby addressing concerns expressed in both reports that the management of police records and information was variable and inconsistent.

The new code of practice is supported by complementary APP titled “Archiving of records in the public interest”, which provides specific guidance aimed at information management practitioners that defines the types of records that may be in the public interest and which forces should seek to preserve.

I am grateful to the college for its work in developing these codes and to the various organisations that provided input as part of their development or via consultation.

The codes have been laid before Parliament and are also available on the gov.uk website.

10-year drugs plan—First Annual Report

In December 2021 we published our landmark cross-Government drugs strategy, “From harm to hope”. Drug misuse costs society almost £22 billion a year and affects individuals, communities and drives crime. The strategy included over £3 billion of funding between 2022 and 2025 to break drug supply chains, deliver a world-class treatment and recovery system and achieve a generational shift in the demand for drugs. The delivery of the strategy is a whole-of-Government effort and I would like to thank the Ministers and Departments involved for their hard work and determination in delivering this collaborative effort.

In my capacity as the Combating Drugs Minister, I am pleased to announce the publication of our first annual report. The report sets out the good progress that has been made across Government during the first year of funding and delivery of the strategy in 2022-23, as well as the delivery challenges we have faced and how we have a plan to overcome them. It also sets out how we will measure our progress through our new national outcomes framework. This work lays the foundations for future success in tackling drugs over the lifecycle of the strategy.

In this first year, we have made excellent progress in disrupting drugs supply chains and tackling exploitative and violent drug distribution models. We have closed over 1,300 county lines and led nearly 3,000 major or moderate disruptions of organised crime groups supplying drugs in our communities, and made over 2,600 arrests. Our Project ADDER sites have supported nearly 26,000 arrests since January 2021, with just over 12,000 arrests in the last year.

We have continued to detect and seize drugs both at the UK border and inland, our latest published data on drugs seizures shows that, in the year ending March 2022, the quantity of cocaine seized by police and Border Force rose by over two thirds from the previous year to nearly 19 tonnes. This is the largest amount of cocaine seized in a single year on record. We are clear that we must maintain and build on the good progress made in tackling supply to date.

We are further building our treatment and recovery system, and to do this we have allocated additional funding of £96 million for 2022-23 and £155 million for 2023-24. We have recruited over 1,600 additional staff across the sector, upskilled staff and are ensuring there are clear pathways into treatment for those who need it, including for those in the criminal justice system to reduce the drug-related crime that blights our neighbourhoods. We have expanded the individual placement and support (IPS) scheme to 26 new areas to help people in recovery from drug dependence into employment, doubled the number of incentivised substance free living units in prisons and recruited staff to improve continuity of drug treatment for prison leavers.

We have established 106 combating drugs partnerships across England, each led by a senior responsible owner, to bring services together to drive multi-agency delivery of the strategy at a local level.

While we want to ensure that people who suffer from drug dependence are given the support they need to turn their lives around, we continue to do all that we can to deter people from taking drugs in the first place. We are ensuring that there is a zero-tolerance approach to drug misuse by law enforcement and that those who take drugs face the consequences, with an escalatory regime for those who continue to misuse drugs. We have launched five test and learn projects as part of our cross-Government innovation fund focused on reducing drug use.

These achievements are the first stages of a 10-year journey that demonstrates this Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling drug misuse, and I look forward to bringing future reports to this House.

The annual report has been laid before Parliament as a Command Paper (CP 906) and will be available on gov.uk.

Consultation on PACE Code A Changes

The Government are today launching a consultation on revisions to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice A. Our objective is to reflect the new powers introduced in the Public Order Act 2023. This includes extending suspicionless stop and search powers for protest-related offences and communicating a suspicionless stop and search authorisation. Separately, we will also update PACE Code A to introduce a new data collection requirement and amending the Serious Violence Reduction Order pilot start date.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) introduced a legislative framework for the powers of police officers in England and Wales to combat crime. PACE code A deals with the statutory provisions governing stop and search. These include the power to search a person or vehicle without first making an arrest and the necessity for the police to record every stop or encounter. While the suspicion-led powers introduced by the Public Order Bill are covered by existing provisions in PACE code A, PACE code A needs to be amended to implement the new suspicionless stop and search powers for protest-related offences introduced by the Public Order Act 2023.

Specifically, revisions to code A will introduce the following changes:

A new set of paragraphs which introduce suspicionless searches under section 11 of the Public Order Act 2023.

A clause on forces communicating the authorisation of suspicionless searches for protests where it is operationally beneficial to do so.

A clause on forces communicating the authorisation of suspicionless searches under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJPOA) 1994 where it is operationally beneficial to do so.

A new paragraph which introduces a data recording requirement.

Additional self-defined ethnic classification categories in annex B.

A change to the SVRO pilot start date in annex G clause 2 from “00:00 17 January 2023 to 23:59 on 17 July 2025” to “00:00 19 April 2023 to 23:59 on 19 October 2025”.

The consultation will run for 6 weeks and the Government will publish their response later this year.

The Home Office is launching a separate consultation on PACE codes of practice following Royal Assent of the National Security Act 2023 (NSA). That consultation also included amendments to PACE code A. It includes updates to govern the use of search powers created within the state threats prevention and investigation measures (STPIMs) regime, and an update to protect the identities of police officers involved in investigating offences under the NSA.

[HCWS986]

Justice

Domestic Homicide Sentencing Review by Clare Wade KC: Government Response

I am pleased to publish today the Government’s full response to the recommendations made by Clare Wade KC in the independent Domestic Homicide Sentencing Review. This builds on the interim response that was made alongside publication of the review in March this year and involves important legislative changes to the sentencing framework in England and Wales.

Murder is the most serious crime a person can commit, and we must ensure that in every case the sentence is commensurate with the severity of the crime. Everyone should feel safe in their own home and our sentencing framework must reflect the seriousness of violence and abuse which is committed by those closest to them.

Around a quarter of all homicides in England and Wales are classed as domestic; that is, they are committed by the partner, ex-partner or relative of the victim. Over the last 10 years, this represents an average of nearly 160 homicides per year, with almost 90 of these being committed by a partner or ex-partner.

In 2021, Clare Wade KC was commissioned to review sentencing in domestic homicide cases to establish whether current law and sentencing guidelines are fit for purpose and to identify options for reform. This followed concerns raised by a number of stakeholders including the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Victims Commissioner, and also by the parents of two young women, Poppy Devey Waterhouse and Ellie Gould, who were tragically murdered by their ex-boyfriends in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

The majority of domestic homicides are committed by men against women. Indeed, over 90% of the murder cases in our Initial Case Review were committed by men against their female partner or ex-partner. The review has found that in many of these cases the victim has been subjected to years of abuse before their death. The review has also found that many domestic homicides committed by men against women involve the use of excessive and gratuitous violence, referred to as “overkill”, and that these cases often take place at the end of a relationship, when the perpetrator perceives that they can no longer control the victim and effectively decides, “If I can’t have you then nobody can.” Where female perpetrators commit domestic homicide, it is often, though not exclusively, the case that they have been the victims of abuse and have killed their abuser.

The legislation that sets out our sentencing framework for murder is contained in schedule 21 to the Sentencing Act 2020. It was first introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 some 20 years ago and, although aggravating and mitigating factors can be applied at the discretion of judges, it does not include any specific consideration of the seriousness of domestic homicides and the abuse that often precedes these cases.

Over the last 20 years, our societal and legal understanding of domestic abuse has evolved. This Government created the criminal offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in the Serious Crime Act 2015, and introduced the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which introduced a legal definition of domestic abuse for the first time, and the new criminal offence of non-fatal strangulation. We are also delivering on our rape review action plan, the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the tackling domestic abuse strategy, and more than quadrupling funding for victim and witness support services by 2024-25, up from £41 million in 2009-10. Together, these transformative cross-Government programmes work to prevent abuse, support victims and pursue perpetrators, as well as to strengthen the system’s response to violence against women and girls.

The review has found that our sentencing framework for homicide does not yet fully reflect this increased seriousness that society now recognises in domestic cases, and that it does not adequately account for the extent of culpability arising from whether a perpetrator of homicide was also a perpetrator or victim of abuse before the killing.

This will change. Our response to the recommendations made in the review will mean that for the first time, the seriousness of domestic murders and the particular harms that arise in these cases will be recognised in our sentencing framework. The perpetrators in these cases must, and will, serve sentences that truly reflect the severity of these crimes.

We will introduce legislation to give domestic murders specialist consideration in the sentencing framework

Cases of domestic murder are rarely isolated incidents. They are often the culmination of years of abuse and in the majority of cases this abuse has been committed by the perpetrator of the murder, usually a man, against the victim, usually a woman. As announced in the interim response, for cases where an abusive partner or family member has killed their victim, the seriousness of the preceding controlling or coercive behaviour will now be recognised in statute as a statutory aggravating factor to murder. Practically, this will mean that judges must consider increasing the minimum custodial term for perpetrators who have exhibited this behaviour.

A minority of domestic murders, however, involve a victim of abuse who has snapped and killed their abuser. In most of these cases, the perpetrator of the killing and the victim of the abuse is a woman. The review recommends that, though murder is always wrong, a history of coercive or controlling behaviour by the victim of a murder against the perpetrator should be added to the statutory mitigating factors for murder. This means that a judge must consider decreasing a perpetrator’s minimum custodial term where they have been a victim of this behaviour.

I can announce today that we will introduce legislation to make this change as soon as possible, along with the statutory aggravating factor. This will ensure that the experience of abuse which precedes a murder and the impact this has on the perpetrator’s culpability will now be recognised in statute.

In addition to a history of controlling or coercive behaviour, the review identified other harms which are particularly prevalent in domestic murders and recommended that the seriousness of these should be recognised in statute. As announced in the interim response, “overkill” will be made a statutory aggravating factor to murder, recognising the intense distress this causes the families of victims, knowing that the body of their loved one was violated in such a way.

I can announce today that we will also be accepting the recommendation in the review to introduce another statutory aggravating factor to murder for cases where the killing takes place at the end of a relationship, or when the victim has expressed a desire to leave the relationship. Killing in this context is the final controlling act of an abusive partner, and the seriousness of this will now be recognised in statute, leading to increased sentences for these perpetrators.

We will propose that the Sentencing Council update its guidelines in light of both the review and the Government’s response to its recommendations.

The review makes a number of recommendations which relate to the offence of manslaughter and the sentencing guidelines. These recommendations fall under the remit of the independent Sentencing Council for England and Wales rather than the Government.

Today, I have written to the chair of the Sentencing Council to propose that sentencing guidelines are revised in light of the review and the Government response to its recommendations. The council has a statutory obligation to consider this request and has already resolved to set up a working group to consider the review and response in the round.

We will commission a review of the use of defences to murder in cases involving domestic abuse

We asked Clare Wade KC to consider the use of defences to murder by domestic abuse victims who kill their abuser. She was unable to conduct a full or detailed review of this, due to insufficient resource, resulting in her recommendation that a full and comprehensive review of the defences to murder be carried out.

The Government partially accept this recommendation as we believe that the use of, or obstacles to the use of, defences to murder in domestic abuse cases should be examined. However, we do not consider it necessary to extend a review to all possible defences to murder, as this would need to consider defences which have no real bearing on domestic homicide, which would add to the complexity and length of any review. The Government will be inviting the Law Commission to undertake this review.

Training and data

As well as these important changes to our sentencing framework, the review recognises the important role that improvements in training and the collection of data have in responding to domestic homicides.

In June, the Home Office launched the beta version of its new central library for all domestic homicide reviews. This will enable far greater analysis of patterns, trends and risk factors for domestic homicide and ensure that this data is accessible to the public. Ultimately, this will help to improve society’s understanding of the triggers and causes of domestic homicide and the ways that these horrible crimes can be prevented.

In terms of training, in April the Crown Prosecution Service published updated prosecution guidance on stalking and for cases involving controlling or coercive behaviour. It is also continuing to develop and roll out additional training on domestic abuse, controlling or coercive behaviour, stalking and the impact of trauma on victims, ensuring that this reflects our most up to date understanding of this behaviour.

We will launch a public consultation on further reform

In the interim announcement in March, the Government committed that in addition to responding to the review’s recommendations, we would seek views via a public consultation on whether there should be a starting point of 25 years for cases of murder where the perpetrator has controlled or coerced the victim before killing them. This was to ensure that all options for reform have been considered. It is for the same reason that I am announcing today that this consultation will be expanded to explore the sentencing starting point for murders committed with a knife or other weapon which was already at the scene. This is in recognition of concerns that have been raised regarding the difference between the 25-year starting point for murders involving the use of a weapon which has been taken to the scene with intent, and the baseline starting point of 15 years for murder which would apply if a knife or other weapon used was already at the scene. Of course, this is particularly relevant to domestic homicides given weapons are often picked up at the scene, for example a knife that the perpetrator knew would be in the kitchen, meaning that they did not have to plan to bring a weapon with them.

I am very grateful to Clare Wade KC for her work on this review. I would also like to pay tribute to Carole Gould and Julie Devey, whom I met recently and whose tireless campaigning after the tragic murder of their daughters, Ellie Gould and Poppy Devey Waterhouse, was instrumental in bringing about this review.

[HCWS980]

Leader of the House

State Opening of Parliament

I can confirm that the state opening of Parliament will take place on 7 November 2023.

As is usual, the current Session of Parliament will be prorogued ahead of the King’s Speech and this time will be used to enable logistical and security preparations for the state opening of Parliament. The likely date of prorogation will be confirmed in due course.

[HCWS982]

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Departmental Update

This statement updates the House on progress that has been made across the Department’s remit.

Update on the Intervention in the London Borough of Croydon

On 16 March 2023, the Minister for Local Government updated the House on the work of commissioners and improvement panels at three councils, including the London Borough of Croydon. Whilst acknowledging the significant steps that had already been taken by the council over recent months, given the depth of the historical challenges and the extent of improvement required, we were minded to move the existing improvement and assurance panel, chaired by Tony McArdle OBE, to a statutory footing.

This proposal followed the evidence provided in the improvement and assurance panel’s latest assessment that the council under the leadership of Mayor Perry has made good progress in laying the foundations for its recovery. At the same time, historic issues continue to be unearthed at Croydon and their potential impact on the council and the progress made to date cannot be underestimated, particularly given its continuing precarious financial position. I concluded that the authority was not meeting its best value duty—a requirement set out in the Local Government Act 1999 to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The intervention package proposed in March centred on the council continuing to make the necessary improvements to the satisfaction of the improvement and assurance panel, as it has done to date. The panel would be backed by statutory directions issued to the council requiring it to follow the instructions of the panel if they were not satisfied in the future with the progress being made.

I invited representations on our proposals from the council, and from members of the public, which I have now received and considered.

We received one representation from the chief executive of the council. The council supported the intervention and the proposal to move the existing improvement and assurance panel to a statutory footing, although requested some changes to the proposed intervention package to remove risk management and commercial governance as individual priority areas, citing notable progress in these areas. The representation also identified finance, housing and transformation as three pressing priorities which the council needs to address and which should be specifically covered by the proposed intervention package. It recognises the importance of the council continuing to lead its recovery and is committed to continue working positively with the panel moving forward.

Having carefully considered the representations received about the intervention, I am today confirming that the panel will now be placed on a statutory footing.

Best Value Intervention in the London Borough of Croydon

On balance, it is not necessary to identify risk management and commercial governance as individual priority areas at this stage and we have amended the intervention package accordingly. We expect the panel to continue to monitor the effectiveness of the council’s management arrangements.

The intervention package should focus on the three individual priority areas of finance, housing and transformation and we have amended the package to reflect this. On this basis, we have decided to make two new appointments to the improvement and assurance panel. Margaret Lee, Finance Lead, wrote to me on 12 March to tender her resignation for personal reasons. I accepted Ms Lee’s resignation with immediate effect and I would like to thank her for her excellent work in Croydon and wish her well for the future. Along with appointment of a new Finance Lead, we are also appointing a new panel member to lead on housing.

Brian Roberts OBE (Finance Lead) - Brian provided financial support to the commissioner team in Liverpool and was Finance Commissioner at Northamptonshire County Council. Brian is currently Chair of the CIPFA Financial Management and Governance Panel.

Pamela Leonce (Housing Lead) - Pamela is the CEO Founder at Stowhill Careers and has been an Executive Director with experience across the housing, health, social care and criminal justice sector.

This brings the panel membership to five, with Tony McArdle continuing to chair the panel and Jon Wilson and Phil Brookes continuing in their respective roles as leads in adult social care, and commercial and asset disposal. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tony, Jon and Phil for their ongoing work in driving forward the necessary improvements at Croydon and for agreeing to continue leading the Croydon improvement and assurance panel. We will appoint a new panel member for transformation in due course.

The statutory panel has been appointed until 20 July 2025, or until such earlier or later time as we determine. We are clear that the directions should operate for as long, and only as long, and only in the form, as necessary.

The panel will be asked to provide their next report within the next three months, with their initial views and an assessment of whether they require further support. I will review panel membership at this point to ensure that the panel continues to be fit for purpose for the council. Future reports will be provided every six months, or as agreed with the panel.

I want to be clear that the council will continue to lead its recovery but that the intervention package and appointment of the two new panel members will ensure momentum is both maintained and increased with the support and expertise of the panel. That is to say that decisions will continue to be made by the council; the intention being that the panel will only use their powers of instruction as a last resort if they are dissatisfied with the council’s improvement processes.

As with other interventions led by my Department, the council will be directed to meet the costs of the improvement and assurance panel. The fees paid to individuals are published in appointment letters which are available separately on gov.uk. I am assured this provides value for money given the expertise that is being brought, and the scale of the challenge in councils requiring statutory intervention.

Conclusion

The Government will continue to work closely with the political, business and cultural leadership of Croydon, to ensure the return of the council to sustainability for the long term. We wish to place on record again our thanks for the progress made to date and look forward to further advancement in the months ahead.

I have published the directions and explanatory memorandum associated with this announcement on gov.uk and will deposit copies in the Library of the House.

Election finance regulation

In December 2020, the Government uprated election spending limits for candidates at local government elections in England in line with historic inflation since 2014 (3 December 2020, Official Report, HCWS618). At that time, the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), announced the Government intention to review party and candidate spending limits for all other reserved polls with a view to uprating them in line with inflation since they were last set.

In September 2022, the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), wrote to the members of the Parliamentary Parties Panel in September 2022 to consult them on uprating spending limits and other sums in electoral legislation. This letter was also published on gov.uk.

The Government now intend to proceed with uprating reserved and excepted party and candidate spending limits to reflect changes in the value of money in the years since the respective limits were set. This is an important action as many of the absolute statutory spending limits have not been uprated since they were set over 20 years ago. Limits for UK parliamentary candidates were last uprated by the coalition Government seven years ago, in 2014. The lack of change in absolute terms impacts campaigning ability, given the increased costs of printing, postage and communication, which is vital for parties and candidates to engage with voters. There will be no change in real terms.

The Government also have a statutory duty under section 155 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to review specified sums in that Act, broadly relating to the reporting of donations and regulated transactions, and either uprate those sums to reflect changes in the value of money or where I, as Secretary of State, decide not to amend any of the specified sums make a statement to Parliament explaining why.

It has been more than a decade since these thresholds were last uprated by the last Labour Government in 2009, following their introduction in 2000. If these limits are not uprated the effect is to cut the thresholds in real terms. The principle of a threshold for publishing donations was established following the report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Neill Committee) on the funding of political parties in 1998 (Cm 4057), noting the need to balance privacy and transparency; the Labour Government’s response in 1999 (Cm 4413) agreed with this principle.

Therefore, the Government intend to uprate in line with inflation some of these thresholds for political parties, regulated donees, permitted participants at referendums and for unincorporated associations making political contributions, where they relate to the reporting of larger donations. The purpose of these reporting thresholds is to provide transparency around the granting of larger donations, balanced with the administrative burden such reporting may create for the recipient and with the privacy of smaller donors. Uprating these thresholds will ensure that balance is maintained in line with the original policy and legislative intent of Parliament when setting the thresholds. Again, there is no change in real terms.

However, the Government have decided not to uprate some of the specified sums. It is not the Government’s intention to uprate the sums specified in section 95(B)(6) and schedule 11, which relate to third-party campaigners. Given that some of these thresholds are within devolved competence, this is to avoid divergence of these thresholds and thereby risk undue complexity for campaigners. The Government will also not increase the £500 threshold replicated across the 2000 Act relating to the point at which a financial contribution is considered a regulated donation, and subject to permissibility checks. The Government do not consider this threshold to be inadequate. This approach will ensure that all checks on the permissibility of donations and donors remain as they do now, and reflects the stance the Government have taken to prevent foreign interference in elections.

None of these reforms costs taxpayers’ money. Indeed, in Britain, taxpayers do not have to bankroll political parties’ campaigning. Political parties have to raise money themselves, while following transparency and compliance rules laid out in law. Those who oppose party fundraising need to explain how many millions they want taxpayers to pay for state funding instead.

Finally, violence and intimidation cannot be tolerated and should have absolutely no place in our public life. The Elections Act 2022 provides for new measures to tackle intimidation in elections, building on the wider work to address intimidation in public life, as outlined in the written statement of 9 March 2021, Official Report, HCWS833.

No one should feel afraid to participate in our democracy. To provide clarity on the issue of whether security expenses fall to be regulated under electoral law, the Government intend to explicitly exempt reasonable security expenses from contributing to spending limits for political parties and candidates at reserved and excepted UK elections, to ensure that these limits are not a barrier to providing adequate security during election campaigns. Many parties and agents already take the view that money spent on the security of a candidate is clearly not money spent promoting such a candidate to the electorate; however, the Government believe there are merits in explicitly stating this in law to provide greater clarity.

The Government will further engage with the Parliamentary Parties Panel and the Electoral Commission on the technical implementation of these measures.

Taken together, the measures will support continued democratic engagement by political parties and candidates; facilitate continued freedom of political expression and association, whilst ensuring our elections remain free and fair.

Update on Government Action in Relation to Onshore Wind

The Government recognise the importance of taking into account the views of local communities in the appropriate siting of onshore windfarms, which is why the Conservative Government in 2016 bolstered the protections that existed in the planning system, helping to protect treasured landscapes and in particular national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt. And following action taken by the Conservative Government in 2016, applications for onshore wind are rightly decided at a local level. These planning changes were introduced by a Conservative majority Government. During the coalition Government, the Liberal Democrats blocked the proposals to give local people a greater say.

But the Government are conscious that there is a lack of clarity as to how to meet the test for community backing if there are objections, even where the rest of the community is supportive, and some projects are stalled as a result. The proposed site must also currently be designated in a development plan.

The Government are determined to address these issues, and therefore recently conducted a consultation on proposed changes to the national planning policy framework, including measures for onshore wind. The proposals aim to address local planning bottlenecks and would provide local authorities with greater flexibility when considering new onshore wind planning applications with local support. They included consulting on an approach where onshore wind is still decided at a local level and permission is predicated on demonstrating local support and satisfactorily addressing planning impacts identified by the local community. We also consulted on local authorities having more flexibility to demonstrate their support for areas suitable for onshore wind by allowing more routes to do this than just the local development plan.

The consultation period was open until 2 March 2023, during which we sought the views and opinions of stakeholders, experts, and the public. The responses we received demonstrated strong support for taking steps to enable more developments to proceed, and I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all those who participated in this vital process. I recognise the importance of these views and will set out our formal response to the consultation when we publish it in the autumn.

In the British energy security strategy, the Government also committed to develop local partnerships for onshore wind in England, enabling supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure to directly benefit from doing so.

Government are already doing work in this space and have recently published a consultation focused on how the current system of engagement between communities and developers for onshore wind, and the types of community benefit packages that are offered, can be improved. The consultation closed on 7 July. Government are now analysing the responses received and the response will be published in due course. Where there is demonstrable local support, onshore wind in the right places has the potential to create green jobs and foster economic growth in communities.

[HCWS985]

Science, Innovation and Technology

Consultation on Powers in Relation to UK-related Domain Name Registries

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) will be commencing sections 19-21 of the Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA 2010).

This legislation sets out the DSIT Secretary of State’s powers of intervention in the event when any UK-related domain name registry fails to address serious, relevant abuses of their domain names, posing significant risk to the UK electronic communications networks and its users.

It is important we undertake this work to ensure that the UK will continue to meet international best practice on governance of country code top-level domains in line with our key global trading partners and our future global trading commitments.

The UK’s internet registries work hard to tackle abuses of their domain names. These powers will provide additional certainty for UK users that appropriate procedures will continue to be in place to help address abuse of UK-related domain names.

DSIT will be setting out in secondary legislation a list of misuses and unfair uses of domain names that registries in scope must take action to mitigate and deal with, and also cover the registry’s arrangements for dealing with complaints in connection with the domain names in scope.

In order to understand the wide landscape of stakeholder views on UK-related domain names, a full public consultation has been published today and will run for six weeks.

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

[HCWS984]

Work and Pensions

Public Consultation on Occupational Health

Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, later today, I will publish a Command Paper launching the public consultation entitled “Occupational Health: Working Better.”

Tackling economic inactivity due to long-term sickness is a top priority for the Government. Increasing labour force participation supports the Prime Minister’s priorities of halving inflation and growing the economy. The Chancellor announced £2 billion at the spring Budget 2023 to support disabled people and people with health conditions to work. This consultation, together with the HM Treasury-led consultation to assess the case for further support through the tax system, represents a significant opportunity to work in partnership with employers to increase the coverage of occupational health provision.

Expert-led impartial advice, and interventions such as OH, can help employers provide appropriate and timely work-based support to manage their employees’ health conditions. However, OH coverage across Great Britain is currently at 45% of workers, which is substantially lower than international comparators.

This consultation brings together employers, the healthcare sector, and local communities by seeking their views on ways to increase OH coverage, specifically by exploring:

Voluntary standards and best-practice sharing, to help provide a simple and clear baseline for quality OH provision for all employers, particularly Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Best practice from other countries and other UK-based employer models that enable employers to provide support for their employees.

How we develop and support a multidisciplinary workforce in work and health, including expert OH workforce. This will build on our existing work with the OH sector and explore the opportunities this can offer businesses and providers.

Together, these consultations will inform potential policy options to support the success and prosperity of businesses, particularly SMEs and OH providers, to support individuals to remain and thrive in work, contributing to reducing labour market inactivity in the UK.

I invite employers, particularly SMEs, OH providers, healthcare professionals and non-healthcare professionals to respond to the consultation and share their views. A large print and Welsh version of the consultation are available. Further, a British Sign Language version will be made available.

[HCWS989]