Monday 4 September 2023
Business and Trade
Retained EU Law Update
I am pleased to be able to update the House on progress regarding the usage of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act, with further revocations of Retained EU Law being tabled today in the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 (Revocation and Sunset Disapplication) Regulations 2023.
These 93 revocations continue the work already undertaken in schedule 1 of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act in tidying and bringing further clarity to the statute book. This wave of revocations focuses on legislation that is redundant and therefore does not reflect policy change; however, it is a crucial exercise to tidy up the statute book and make sure that law is accurate and understandable.
Indeed, one of the key purposes of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act was to bring legislative clarity. Retained EU law is an aberration on the statute book which can cause unnecessary complication and confusion. It is the duty of all responsible Governments to make our law as clear and accessible as possible, and therefore we must continue to identify retained EU law that is redundant or inoperable and ensure its removal from the statute book. This SI is another step forward in this work.
However, let me be clear: simply tidying the statute book is not the limit of this Government’s ambition on retained EU law.
The steps the Government have already taken are a down payment on our plans to reform REUL and reduce the overall regulatory burden. Over the past few months we have already set out ambitious reform plans, such as reforms to reduce disproportionate EU-derived working time reporting requirements that could save businesses around £1 billion a year; and streamlining the 400-page EU-derived rulebook for wine, which is overly complex and bureaucratic, to name only two examples. Announcements to make clear the requirements on businesses and improve the lives of our citizens through improving consumer transparency, as well as on transport and travel, and on how the Government work with regulators to ensure they are playing their part in this effort, are all planned for the coming months.
We will continue to use the powers in the REUL Act between now and June 2026 to reform and replace unnecessary regulations, providing regular updates to Parliament on our progress as set out in the Act itself. This reform programme is a crucial part of the Government’s agenda and I can assure the House that this is only the beginning. I will of course provide further updates on reforms in due course.
The SI also contains a small number of preservations from the original schedule, as after further analysis of the legislation on the schedule, Departments have identified four pieces of retained EU law that it is necessary to preserve.
Furthermore, the Northern Ireland Civil Service has identified three pieces of legislation which must be preserved for Northern Ireland only. All three pieces relate to information provision and promotion measures concerning agricultural products implemented in the internal market and in third countries. These must be preserved for Northern Ireland only because their revocation represents a policy change that would require agreement by Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive which cannot be granted in the ongoing absence of that Executive.
A line-by-line explanation, providing further information on all pieces of REUL being revoked, has been deposited in the House Library and is available on gov.uk.
Border Target Operating Model
The Minister of State, Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, has today made the following statement:
On 29 August 2023, the Government published the final border target operating model and confirmed our approach to border controls for goods imported into Great Britain. These controls will be progressively introduced from the end of January 2024 to better protect the UK against biosecurity threats and create a world-class border system.
The publication follows extensive engagement with stakeholders on the draft we published in April 2023. In response to this feedback, we have revised the timeline for the introduction of sanitary and phytosanitary controls, and have postponed the first implementation milestone by three months to give businesses sufficient time to prepare.
Bearing in mind our commitment on inflation, we have worked to ensure that the border target operating model does not impact costs for consumers. Our analysis indicates that, at most, the impact of the new model on annual consumer food price inflation will be less than 0.2% in total over a three-year period.
The border target operating model sets out the improved rules and processes that will apply to the import of goods into Great Britain. We have worked with the devolved Administrations to agree this approach, ensuring that a coherent model is introduced across the United Kingdom.
Our border controls on goods will include safety and security controls for EU goods, and sanitary and phytosanitary checks. This approach will reduce the risk of importing harmful diseases, including zoonotic diseases which are responsible for a majority of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans (including those with pandemic potential).
While the costs of new disease outbreaks cannot be quantified directly, previous outbreaks have had severe agricultural and economic impacts. Our new approach will fulfil the UK’s domestic and international obligations and uphold our reputation for the high regulatory standards that underpin our agrifood trading relationships.
The border target operating model will implement controls through three major milestones:
31 January 2024: The introduction of health certification on imports of medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU.
30 April 2024: The introduction of documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks on medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU. At this point, imports of sanitary and phytosanitary goods from the rest of the world will begin to benefit from the new risk-based model.
31 October 2024: Safety and security declarations for EU imports will come into force from 31 October 2024. Alongside this, we will introduce a reduced dataset for imports and use of the UK single trade window will remove duplication where possible across different pre-arrival datasets.
At west coast ports, businesses will face new checks and controls when moving Irish goods (i.e. any goods other than qualifying Northern Ireland goods) from Irish ports directly to Great Britain. The border target operating model sets out information on these new controls, which we will introduce from 31 January 2024. The date for the commencement of physical checks for nonqualifying goods moving from the island of Ireland will be confirmed in Autumn 2023. In line with the Windsor framework, we will ensure that Northern Ireland businesses have unfettered access when moving qualifying goods to their most important market in Great Britain.
We will continue to work with businesses and ports to prepare for the implementation of new controls.
Copies of the border target operating model were deposited in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament over summer recess and remain available to Members.
Culture, Media and Sport
On 16 August, the British Museum announced that it is undertaking an independent review of security after items from the collection were found to be missing, stolen or damaged.
The review will be led by a former trustee of the museum, Sir Nigel Boardman, and Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of British Transport Police. The review will investigate the incident and provide recommendations regarding future security arrangements at the museum, in addition to supporting efforts to recover all missing collection items.
The matter is also currently under investigation by the economic crime command of the Metropolitan Police. The British Museum is working with the Met to support their investigations.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is closely monitoring the situation at the British Museum, and engaging directly with the British Museum on this issue.
I have spoken with the chair of the British Museum on a number of occasions and have sought assurances on the immediate measures that have been put in place to increase security at the museum and details of the scope and timetable for their review, which is being conducted under new leadership. My Department and I will continue to work closely with the British Museum and the wider museums sector to ensure that lessons are learned from this incident and that those lessons are shared once the independent review is complete.
The Department will provide any further material updates to the House if necessary, although the ongoing police investigation may limit the details that can be made available to both the Department and the public at this juncture.
Energy Security and Net Zero
Energy Charter Treaty: Review of UK Membership
On 30 August 2023, the UK announced it is reviewing its membership of the energy charter treaty (ECT) and will make a further decision if modernisation has not been adopted by November 2023.
The ECT is a multilateral agreement with 51 contracting parties, covering energy co-operation on trade, investment, transit, and energy efficiency. The ECT was signed in 1994 to promote international co-operation in the energy sector in eastern Europe and central Asia, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, with a particular focus on investment in fossil fuels.
The UK has been a strong advocate for modernising the ECT, recognising that the existing treaty is not aligned with modern energy priorities, international treaty practice and commitments on climate change. The UK and other contracting parties spent two years negotiating a modernised ECT and amendments were agreed in principle on 24 June 2022.
If adopted, the modernised treaty would have a stronger focus on promoting clean, affordable energy, including technologies like carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen and other renewables. Modernised terms would also strengthen the UK Government’s sovereign right to change their energy system to reach net zero.
The decision to adopt the modernised ECT was paused in November 2022. This followed several EU member states, including France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands announcing plans to withdraw, leading to an impasse on modernisation. In July 2023, the EU Commission called for a co-ordinated EU withdrawal. The EU is seeking a bloc-wide position this autumn, but upcoming European Parliament elections in 2024 raise the prospect of prolonged uncertainty.
The UK’s preference has been to modernise the ECT, but we must now prepare for the possibility that this will not be achieved. The UK is reviewing its membership, recognising its long-standing position that the unmodernised ECT is out of step with modern treaty practice and the UK’s energy priorities. This reflects our unwavering focus on energy security and net zero. The review will conclude by November and will carefully consider the views of stakeholders in business, civil society and Parliament to inform the UK’s approach.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Gibraltar Loan Guarantee
I am writing to provide an update on the UK loan guarantee to Gibraltar, regarding which the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), made a written ministerial statement to Parliament on 19 November 2020—HCWS588.
In 2020, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar sought financial support from the UK Government in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic had a major impact on all of the overseas territories, including Gibraltar, where it impacted around 60% of its economy. The pandemic gave rise to the enforced closure of a large measure of the economic activity in Gibraltar, and the Government of Gibraltar instituted a financial support package broadly similar to that in the UK.
The UK Government made it clear at the outset of the covid-19 pandemic that we expected the overseas territories to make full use of their financial resources in order to address the needs of their people, but that we would consider requests for further support on a case-by-case basis, to complement comprehensive local responses. Following discussions with the Chief Minister, the UK Government agreed to provide a loan guarantee to Gibraltar for a lending facility of up to £500 million. This was to provide resilience to the Government of Gibraltar’s finances.
This initial loan and UK loan guarantee was for a period of three years. The existing loan facility, under which the Government of Gibraltar have drawn down £425 million to date, expires in December 2023. The Chief Minister has requested an extension of the loan guarantee, and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and HM Treasury officials have worked with Gibraltar’s Financial Secretary to complete a contingent liability checklist. The checklist confirms the Government of Gibraltar’s capacity to meet any debt repayments and thereby reassure the UK Government about the financial liability of extending this guarantee. Based on this checklist, the guarantee will be extended for a further three years by FCDO and HMT Ministers.
A departmental minute has been laid in the House of Commons providing more detail on this contingent liability.
Recognition of Professional Qualifications: Switzerland Agreement
The Government have today laid the following statement as an Un-numbered Act Paper, pursuant to section 21(2) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010:
On 14 June 2023, the UK and Switzerland signed an agreement that provides for recognition of professional qualifications obtained in the other country.
The intention is for this agreement to enter into force on 1 January 2025, following the completion of domestic processes by both parties.
The Government laid this agreement in Parliament on 20 June 2023 under Command Paper CP 869, accompanied by an explanatory memorandum.
In accordance with section 21 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG), I wish to inform the House that the 21 sitting day period that relates to this agreement pursuant to section 20(1) CRaG is to be extended. The 21 sitting day period is to be extended by four sitting days, meaning that the sitting period for this agreement will end on 13 September 2023.
This extension follows a request from the House of Lords International Agreements Committee for further time to consider the agreement. The Government believe that 21 sitting days provides sufficient opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise treaties laid under CRaG. In this instance, the agreement was laid on 20 June 2023, with the 21 sitting day period concluding over 11 weeks later, on 6 September 2023. In this instance, the Government recognise the specific circumstances of the Committee’s request, which includes that this extension will not affect the timeline for entry into force of this agreement, and are content to accommodate it.
Health and Social Care
Autumn Vaccination Update
On 8 August 2023, the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published advice on who should be offered a covid-19 booster vaccine in autumn 2023. The Government accepted this advice.
Covid-19 Booster Vaccine Eligibility
Those eligible are:
Residents in a care home for older adults
All adults aged 65 years and over;
Persons aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group;
Frontline health and social care workers;
Persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression;
Persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults.
More detail on eligibility criteria can be found in the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Green book.
Autumn Vaccine Campaign Timings
On 30 August, the Government announced that this year’s autumn flu and covid-19 vaccine programmes will start earlier than planned as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new covid-19 variant, which was first announced in the UK on Friday 18 August.
While this variant is not currently classified as a variant of concern, advice from UKHSA suggests that speeding up the autumn vaccine programme will deliver greater protection, supporting those at greatest risk of severe illness and reducing the potential impact on the NHS. There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time.
The annual flu vaccine will be made available to these groups at the same time wherever possible, to ensure they are protected ahead of winter.
The vaccination campaign was previously due to commence in early October 2023. Vaccinations are now set to start on 11 September, with adult care home residents and those most at risk to receive vaccines first. NHS England has announced full details of the accelerated roll-out, and those who fall into higher-risk groups are being encouraged to take up the jab as soon as they are invited.
Vaccines to be Used as Part of Autumn Booster Vaccination Campaign
The JCVI advice on which vaccines should be used as part of this autumn’s booster vaccination campaign was also published on 30 August. The Government have accepted this advice, and I am informed that all four parts of the UK intend to follow the JCVI’s advice. The JCVI has advised the following products for use in the autumn campaign:
Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA bivalent BA.4-5 or monovalent XBB (subject to licensure)
Moderna mRNA bivalent BA.4-5 or monovalent XBB (subject to licensure)
Sanofi/GSK monovalent (beta variant)
The vaccine offered will depend on a person’s age and local supply considerations. Children under 12 years of age will be offered a paediatric (5-11 years) or infant (6 months to 4 years) formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA monovalent XBB vaccine (subject to licensure).
Those eligible for vaccination are encouraged to take up the offer of the vaccine as soon as they are called to ensure they head into winter with the best protection.
Notification of liabilities
I am now updating the House on the liabilities the Government has taken on in relation to further vaccine deployment via this statement and accompanying departmental minute laid in Parliament containing a description of the liability undertaken. The agreement to provide indemnity with deployment of further doses increases the contingent liability of the covid-19 vaccination programme.
I will update the House in a similar manner, as appropriate, as and when any future deployment decisions impact the contingent liability of the covid-19 vaccination programme.
I would like to inform the House of several updates from the Department of Health and Social Care over the summer recess.
Cutting waiting times across the United Kingdom
I have offered to work with the devolved Administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to share lessons on how we are tackling the elective waiting list across the UK, including on where our approaches differ. For example, in England we allow patients a choice of provider—NHS or independent sector—provided they meet NHS costs and standards. I am open to considering any request from Ministers in the devolved Administrations to extend this choice to patients across the UK who are waiting for lengthy periods, building on current arrangements for UK-wide healthcare. I also believe we need to ensure that health data is made more comparable across the UK, and welcome the support of the devolved Administrations in doing so.
Major conditions strategy interim report
As the House is aware, in January I announced my intention for the Department to develop and publish a major conditions strategy. On 14 August, I set out the next steps for this work through the publication of our interim report. This report makes our case for change based on the assets and capabilities of our health and care system, and the needs of the public. It is rooted in a clear understanding of the key areas where making strategic choices over the next five years will deliver real value for the people we serve.
We will continue to work with patients and partners across the health and care system, building on our existing engagement and our call for evidence, and we expect to publish our major conditions strategy early next year.
Mandating quit information messages inside tobacco packs
Earlier this year, the Government announced a series of measures to help the country achieve becoming smoke-free by 2030. This included consulting on introducing mandatory inserts inside tobacco packs to encourage more smokers to quit. On 14 August, we launched a consultation to seek views on the introduction and design of tobacco pack inserts. Inserts provide information on the health and financial benefits of quitting, along with advice on how to quit.
Smoking remains the single leading preventable cause of illness and mortality in the UK. The draft impact assessment published alongside the consultation estimates that the inserts could lead to an additional 30,000 smokers quitting, delivering health benefits worth £1.6 billion.
Expanding capacity to support A&E
Further to our delivery plan to recover urgent and emergency care services and the record funding allocated to the NHS, I am pleased to update the House that £250 million of capital funding has been targeted to support urgent and emergency care capacity this winter.
Thirty schemes across England have received funding to create 900 beds to relieve pressure on A&E and to develop urgent treatment centres and same-day emergency care services that can avoid the need for overnight admission.
Modernising cancer waiting time standards
Following a consultation last year, clinical experts in NHS England recommended modernising and simplifying cancer waiting time standards to focus on three outcome-based standards. These standards will give clinicians greater flexibility to adopt new technologies such as remote image review and AI, and avoid disincentivising modern working practices such as one-stop shops and straight-to-test. I support these changes and will amend the relevant statutory regulations in due course.
There will be a new faster diagnosis standard of a maximum 28-day wait for communication of a definitive cancer/not cancer diagnosis for patients referred urgently or those identified by NHS cancer screening. The faster diagnosis standard, currently set at 75%, will be rising to be set at 80% in 2025-26. There will continue to be a maximum 62-day wait to first treatment from urgent GP referral, NHS cancer screening or consultant upgrade and a maximum 31-day wait from a decision to treat to any cancer treatment starting for all cancer patients. Where services have reduced their backlogs to manageable levels, focus should now be shifted back on to improving performance against the headline 62-day standard. Nationally, we are expecting to achieve 70% by March 2024.
Suicide prevention grant fund launch
On 25 August, we launched a £10 million suicide prevention grant fund to support voluntary sector organisations in helping to prevent suicide in England. Organisations can apply online for funding in 2023 to 2025.
The voluntary sector plays a crucial role in providing support to people experiencing suicidal thoughts or mental health crisis, as well as intervening early to prevent people reaching these points. This grant builds on the success of the fund from 2021-22 that supported over 100 voluntary sector organisations, helping to address demand after the covid-19 pandemic, support innovative ways to widen access to services and help identify those in need quicker.
Supporting efficiency in primary care
In our delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, we announced £240 million of support to help GP surgeries invest in new technology to end the 8 am phone line rush. I can now confirm that more than 1,000 practices in England have committed to making use of this funding to switch from analogue telephony systems to modern, easy-to-use digital telephony. We have also published new statistics on the increases in patient care staff in GP surgeries by constituency since March 2019.
Earlier this year, we published our ambitious NHS long-term workforce plan, which set out how we will invest in more staff and in reforming the way they work. We are now moving forward with our reform plans. We have launched a consultation on allowing pharmacy technicians to deliver more services and secondary legislation on dispensing in original packs has been laid before Parliament so that pharmacy staff will not need to spend time splitting boxes, snipping blisters and repackaging medicines in order to dispense the exact quantity prescribed. We have also launched a consultation on making better use of skilled dental professionals and improving access to dentistry, ahead of a dental recovery plan that is due to be announced shortly.
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: Reappointment of Chair
I am pleased to announce that Professor Owen Bowden-Jones has been re-appointed to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) both as a member and as its Chair. This reappointment is for a three-year term, which started on 1 January 2023. Professor Bowden-Jones is an experienced clinician who provides assessment and treatment for people experiencing harms from emerging problem drugs.
The ACMD was established under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and provides advice to Government on issues related to the harms of drugs. It also has a statutory role under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Long-term Plan for Housing and Nutrient Neutrality
Over the summer I have taken further decisive action to boost housing supply: first, through setting out this Government’s long-term plan for housing; and secondly, by unblocking housing stalled by nutrient neutrality rules, alongside my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary.
My plan builds on this Government’s strong housing record which has increased delivery, improved quality, and focused on safety. On delivery, despite a challenging global economic backdrop our approach has ensured we are on track to meet our manifesto target of delivering 1 million new homes in this Parliament. Since 2010, over 2.2 million new homes have been delivered and millions of people have moved into home ownership. Since 2010, we have delivered over 659,500 new affordable homes, including over 458,700 affordable homes for rent, of which over 166,300 homes for social rent. We have focused not just on supply but on quality, and there has been a significant reduction in the number of non-decent homes across all tenures.
Long-term plan for housing
On 24 July, I set out more detail on this Government’s ongoing commitment to housing supply and regeneration, including 10 principles which underpin my Department’s long-term plan for housing, as well as transformational plans to deliver a new era of regeneration, inner-city densification and the delivery of beautiful, safe, decent homes. This detail builds on our existing commitments to deliver one million new homes by the end of this Parliament and continue our progress towards achieving 300,000 new homes per year, whilst maintaining the protections that matter most to local people.
The 10 principles which form our long-term plan are: the regeneration and renaissance of the hearts of 20 of our towns and cities; supercharging Europe’s science capital; building beautiful, and making architecture great again; building great public services into the heart of every community; communities taking back control of their futures; greener homes, greener landscapes and green belt protection; a new deal for tenants and landlords; ensuring that every home is safe, decent and warm; liberating leaseholders; and extending ownership to a new generation.
The first and most important component of that plan is our programme of urban regeneration to densify our inner cities, unlocking benefits for the environment, productivity, and a renaissance in city culture which is already supporting regeneration in towns and cities across the country. As the next stage of this work, I announced ambitious programmes in a further three English cities, to deliver transformational change in Cambridge, inner London, and central Leeds.
Cambridge’s potential has been circumscribed by a lack of new space for laboratories and the new housing necessary to attract and retain talent. In Cambridge, we will therefore be taking action to unblock development and create a new urban quarter for the city. These ambitious plans will combine beautiful design with sustainability, delivering space for cutting-edge laboratories, new homes, and business. We are establishing a Cambridge Delivery Group, chaired by Peter Freeman and backed by £5 million of funding, to take immediate next steps. We recognise that water scarcity is a top priority to unblock growth in Cambridge and we will work with relevant partners, including the local authorities and industry, to identify and accelerate plans to address water constraints. To this end, we are investing £3 million into a pilot to support measures to improve the water efficiency of existing homes and commercial property across Cambridge, to help offset demands created by new developments.
The homes we need in London are not being delivered—just 21,000 new homes were started in the capital last year, a third of the 66,000 homes the Mayor identified in his own assessment of housing need in London. Housing need in the capital is likely to increase further and a failure to redevelop inner-city London will add to pressure on the suburbs. That is why we are planning to intervene, using all the arms of government to assemble land, provide infrastructure, set design principles, masterplan over many square miles and bring in ambitious private sector partners. Our ambition in London is a Docklands 2.0—taking in the regeneration of Thamesmead, Beckton and Silvertown to deliver up to 65,000 new homes. We will look at how we can ensure better transport connections from east to west to help crowd in local and private investment. We are also allowing the affordable homes programme to be directed towards regeneration, with up to £1 billion available in London alone.
We have also committed to working with local partners in Leeds to regenerate the city centre, identify the remaining barriers to delivery of housing across key sites, and support the development of the West Yorkshire mass transit system. We will provide additional revenue funding to accelerate this work.
I also announced the allocation of £800 million from the £1.5 billion brownfield, infrastructure and land fund to unlock 56,000 new homes on brownfield sites and enable us to take an infrastructure-first approach to developing our cities. £550 million of this funding will be overseen by Homes England, alongside landmark investments of £150 million for Greater Manchester and £100 million for the west midlands.
As well as our targeted, place-based interventions, I announced a number of reforms to the planning system that will speed up new developments, put power in the hands of local communities to build their own homes, and unlock planning decisions. Our additional funding package, totalling £37.5 million, includes the £24 million planning skills delivery fund, designed to clear existing backlogs and improve the skills of planners. A new “super squad” of specialists will support delivery of sites, including a trailblazer in Cambridge of £500,000. Alongside this, we are increasing the amount developers pay in planning fees for the first time since 2018 to support planning departments in local authorities across the country.
The Government’s commitment to development and regeneration in and around existing town and city centres is also guiding our consideration of the more than 26,000 responses we received to the consultation on updating the national planning policy Framework. The Government want to make it easier to progress such developments, and to that end I am clear that: development should proceed on sites that are adopted in a local plan with full input from the local community, unless there are strong reasons why it cannot; local councils should be open and pragmatic in agreeing changes to developments where conditions mean that the original plan may no longer be viable, rather than losing the development wholesale or seeing development mothballed; and better use should be made of small pockets of brownfield land by being more permissive, so more homes can be built more quickly, where and how it makes sense, giving more confidence and certainty to SME builders.
Later in the year, subject to completion of its passage through Parliament, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill will put in place our reforms to the planning system, and the Government will publish updates to the national planning policy Framework.
New development must keep local people in mind. We have established the Office for Place in Stoke-on-Trent, led by Nicholas Boys-Smith, to support councils to ensure that new places are created in accordance with the best design principles embodied in a simple design code supported by local people.
To speed up the delivery of new development, we launched a consultation on proposals to make plans simpler, faster to prepare and more accessible. We are also consulting on proposed changes to permitted development rights to turn more existing commercial, agricultural, and other businesses into new homes, as well as changes to farm development, and will consult again in the autumn on how permitted development rights can better be used to support existing homeowners to extend their homes.
On safety, I announced that 18 metres is the threshold the Government will introduce for second staircases to be included in new residential buildings. This decision will provide clarity to the sector and bring us in to line with other major countries and territories. It aligns with the expert view of several relevant professional bodies, including the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and the National Fire Chiefs Council. To minimise the impact of the change on the supply of new homes, we are working with industry and regulators to design transitional arrangements that will secure the viability of projects that are under way and avoid delays where there are other appropriate mitigations.
The measures announced as part of our long-term vision for housing comprise a balanced strategy that will empower local areas to deliver the right homes in the right places, promoting beauty in design and fostering real pride in place. This is central to the Government’s continued commitment to levelling up.
On 29 August, the Environment Secretary and I announced a plan to unblock housing stalled by nutrient neutrality rules, while at the same time protecting and restoring our precious natural environment.
At present, legacy EU laws on nutrient neutrality are blocking the delivery of new homes, including cases where planning permission has already been granted. This has affected home building of all types, from the redevelopment of empty spaces above high street shops, to affordable housing schemes, to new care homes and families building their own home. The block on building is hampering local economies and threatening to put SME local builders out of business. Nutrients entering our rivers are a real problem, but the contribution made by new homes is very small compared with that from other sources such as industry, agriculture and our existing housing stock.
The Government is therefore responding to calls from councils across the political divide who want to be able to get on with meeting housing need in their local areas, by tabling amendments to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill at Report stage in the House of Lords. These amendments make targeted and specific changes to the habitats regulations, alongside a wider package of environmental measures which will ensure housing development can proceed at the same time as water quality is improved as a result of these reforms. Agricultural and industrial development will continue to be dealt with by separate permitting and regulatory processes. The Government have taken this approach following consideration of the underlying causes of nutrient build-up in affected catchments and after listening to the concerns of local communities, local authorities and house builders, including in relation to the mitigation schemes currently used in some areas to facilitate development, which while positive are moving too slowly with no guarantee that demand can be met imminently. On that basis, the Government therefore believe making this targeted change is the right way to provide certainty and confidence such that much-needed housing can be built for families. Based on the average annual housing delivery in the catchment areas covered by nutrient neutrality between 2015-16 and 2017-18, which is the most recent three-year period unaffected by covid-19 and prior to the first nutrient neutrality guidance issued, the Government estimate that around 16,500 per year are currently affected by nutrient neutrality rules, which amounts to over 100,000 homes by the end of the decade.
Alongside this legislative intervention, the Government are taking more action to tackle the underlying sources of nutrient pollution, restoring nature, and leaving our environment in a better state than we found it. This will not lead to regression in environmental outcomes and our reform package will in fact improve the condition of these habitats sites.
We are significantly expanding investment in and evolving the nutrient mitigation scheme run by Natural England, doubling investment to £280 million to ensure it is sufficient to offset the very small amount of additional nutrient discharge attributable to up to 100,000 homes between now and 2030. Natural England will work with local authorities, the private sector and others to tackle nutrient pollution and work towards the long-term health and resilience of the river systems. The Government is clear that developers should continue to play their part in tackling nutrient pollution, which is why we are working with the Home Builders Federation to structure appropriate and fair contributions, which we both agree are needed.
The Government will then accelerate work on full site restoration through further work on new protected site strategies, which Natural England will draw up in partnership with local communities to set protected sites on the path to recovery in the most affected catchments with the highest housing demand. These bespoke plans will help identify the wider actions needed to restore habitats and species in specific areas.
The amendments tabled in the House of Lords on 29 August also include measures that directly respond to points raised during passage and expand on the existing provisions which mandate water companies to improve their wastewater treatment works to the highest technically achievable limits by 2030. Those provisions alone will more than offset the nutrients expected from new housing developments by putting in place wider upgrades for the long term. These upgrades will benefit existing homes, not just new homes, providing an effective approach to reducing wastewater nutrient pollution. The new amendments further demonstrate our commitment to improving water quality by enabling catchment-based approaches to be taken, and making explicit on the face of the Bill that nature-based solutions may be used when upgrading wastewater treatment works.
Alongside these measures, we are going further to help farmers to grow food sustainably and protect the environment, increase productivity, and build a more circular economy for nutrients. We are opening a new £25 million nutrient management innovation fund, investing £200 million in slurry management infrastructure, and consulting this year on modernising our fertiliser product standards to drive the use of products based on organic and recycled nutrients. This autumn, we will also launch a River Wye action plan to address the unique nature of the river and how we will work with local farmers, house builders and Welsh Water to reduce nutrients at source.
All of this action is in addition to our new biodiversity net gain policy, which we have strengthened during the passage of the Bill, and builds on our ambitious “Plan for Water”, which sets out stronger regulation, tougher enforcement and more than £2 billion of accelerated investment from water companies.
UK Sustainable Aviation Fuel Industry: Government Support
Today the Government are committing to introduce a revenue certainty mechanism to support sustainable aviation fuel production in the UK. The intention is that this will be industry funded. I have published a plan that includes a timeline for how this mechanism can be delivered by the end of 2026, subject to parliamentary time. The Government have brought forward an amendment to the Energy Bill, which commits to consulting on options for a revenue certainty mechanism to further drive investment in SAF in the UK.
The Government recognise the strategic importance of a UK SAF industry and wants to see the UK capture its share of the global SAF market by playing a leading role in the development, production, and use of SAF. Building domestic SAF production capacity represents not only a significant economic opportunity, including by creating thousands of highly skilled jobs, but also a way to strengthen our energy security as we decarbonise aviation.
The UK Government’s SAF programme is already one of the most comprehensive in the world. Our policies provide strong market signals and incentives to drive the demand and supply of SAF from sustainable sources.
Demand for SAF will be driven by the UK SAF mandate, which will be introduced from 2025 and provide investors with a long-term signal of the vital role SAF will play in the UK. The mandate will set out a long-term trajectory for SAF uptake in the UK, requiring at least 10% of jet fuel to be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030. The scheme will provide an incentive for the production of SAF via price support from tradable certificates with a monetary value. The UK SAF mandate has strong sustainability requirements for the feedstocks and SAF pathways that can receive support. By mandating the use of SAF, we are not only delivering carbon savings using sustainable sources but also creating a UK market for SAF.
The Government want the demand for SAF to be met by a domestic SAF market. The Government’s £165 million advanced fuel fund is already providing investors with the reassurance to invest in the development of UK SAF production. It is also helping to deliver our ambition of having five commercial SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025. The Government is further encouraging UK investment in SAF projects through the work that the Department for Business and Trade is doing with international investors. The Office for Investment, a joint Department for Business and Trade and No. 10 unit, provides support to encourage investment in the Government's priority areas, including in the development of SAF projects.
Following the commitments to the SAF mandate and the advanced fuels fund, the Government explored a range of options to further support a thriving UK SAF industry. In October 2022, we commissioned Philip New to lead an independent evaluation into “Developing a UK SAF industry”. The report was published on 17 April 2023, alongside a Government response that recognised revenue certainty as a key barrier to investment. The Government response set out the Government’s commitment to work together with industry through the Jet Zero Council to consider the best way to support the aviation industry to decarbonise, including considering options for additional revenue certainty to help develop a UK SAF industry.
As a result of the work carried out by the Jet Zero Council and Philip New, the Government recognise that the UK SAF mandate will provide a significant level of price support but that it may not provide sufficient long-term revenue certainty to maximise investment in SAF production facilities. We are therefore committing to introducing a revenue certainty mechanism to provide further reassurance about future revenues and drive investment in SAF production in the UK.
The plans we have outlined today lay the road map to get us there.