Written statements

Government Ministers and a small number of other Members of the two Houses can make a written statement to one or both Houses.

Written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. They also reproduced in the next edition of the Daily Report and of Hansard in the relevant House.

Written statements made before 17 November 2014 were published only in Hansard:

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WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 18 July 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Government Response to Opposition Day Debate: Inequality and Social Mobility

My honourable Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing & Child Maintenance (Will Quince MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Following the recent Opposition Day Debate on 12 June, I am setting out the approach this Government is taking to tackling inequality and improving social mobility.

This Government is leading the way in creating opportunity so every person growing up in Britain has the chance to build a bright future for themselves and their families – no matter what their background. Employment has risen in every UK region under this Government, as wages outstrip inflation, the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed since 2011 and the proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds in education or apprenticeships is at its highest ever – that is social mobility in action.

Our record on employment is vital to our approach, and one of which we are rightly proud. There are now over 3.6 million more people in work compared with 2010. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since the 1970s having fallen by more than half since 2010. This isn’t just a London or a South East success story – over 60% of the employment growth since 2010 has occurred in other parts of the UK. We are working across Government and with businesses to ensure everyone has the chance to gain the skills and high quality jobs they need to compete in a dynamic, global market place.

Around three-quarters of the growth in employment since 2010 has been in full-time work, which we know substantially reduces the risk of poverty. Wages have consistently outpaced inflation for 15 months - in fact they are growing at their fastest rate for a decade. The growth in employment rates has overwhelmingly benefited the poorest 20% of households, and household income inequality is also lower than it was in 2010.

Behind these statistics are people whose mental health and wellbeing are improved by moving into work and having the dignity and security that it brings. There are 930,000 more disabled people in work today compared with five years ago, and 667,000 more children in working households compared with 2010. We know that children in households where all adults work are about 5 times less likely to be in relative poverty than a child in a household where nobody works.

We also know that children growing up in workless families are almost twice as likely as children in working families to fail at all stages of their education. Since 2011 we have narrowed the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers by around 13% at Key Stage 2, and 9.5% at Key Stage 4. We are supporting pupils to thrive at every stage, that’s why we introduced 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged 2 year-olds on top of the 15 hours’ free childcare offer for all three and four-year olds.

We are investing in our world-class education system; core funding for schools and high needs has risen from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £43.5 billion this year. We are investing £72m through our Opportunity Areas programme in 12 places in the country with weak social mobility and up to £24m through our Opportunity North East Programme, tackling the specific issues that are holding back young people in the North East. Through both these programmes we will improve educational outcomes for children and young people working in partnership with local partners. We have set a 10-year ambition to boost children’s early reading and communication skills. We are transforming technical education with investment of an extra half a billion pounds per year once T-Levels are fully rolled-out. Disadvantaged 18-year-olds are now entering full-time higher education at record rates, and we are providing coaching for young jobseekers to put them on track to succeed.

Supporting people on low income to progress in work is also key to our success in tackling inequality. Universal Credit removes the structural disincentives to move into work and to work more hours that were a part of the legacy benefits it replaces. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reported that Universal Credit is likely to help an extra 300,000 members of working families out of poverty, the majority of which include someone who works part-time. We want to build a clearer picture of how and why people progress in work, and what we can do to support them as they do that. We have started discussions with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry on how we can do this. We are going further with two national pilots on in-work progression; one will train work coaches to help those in work to decide when and how to switch jobs, to achieve that ambitious step up. The other will boost our capability for working with local businesses, by creating jobcentre specialists who encourage local employers to support progression and good-quality flexible working.

Childcare costs can affect parents’ decisions to take up paid work, increase their working hours, or remain in paid work. To overcome this barrier to employment we increased the level of support for childcare costs from 70 per cent in legacy benefits, to 85 per cent within Universal Credit. This is in addition to providing a significant package of childcare support to parents and carers, including our 30 hours offer for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds which has rolled out successfully, benefitting around 600,000 children in the first two years of delivery and introducing tax-free childcare worth up to £2,000 a year per child.

Our National Living Wage which is among the highest in the world, is expected to benefit over 1.7m people; and, with the increase to £8.21 from April this year, has increased a full-time worker’s annual pay by over £2,750 since 2016. We have taken action to reduce income inequality through the tax system too. Our tax changes will make basic rate tax payers over £1,200 better off from April, compared with 2010. Taken together, the most recent changes mean that a single person on the National Living Wage has, from April, taken home over £13,700 a year - £4,500 more than in 2009/10.

It is absolutely right that we continue to support those who need it and our welfare safety net remains one of the strongest in the world. This year we will spend over £95 billion on benefits for people of working age; and £52.7 to support disabled people and those with health conditions. In total, welfare spending in this financial year will be over £220 billion.

We recognise that there is more to do to tackle poverty; and we have taken action to increase the incomes of the poorest in society. In the last Budget we announced a £4.5bn cash boost that will make a huge difference to the lives of working families and provide extra support for people moving onto UC. In particular, we have put an extra £1.7 billion a year into work allowances, increasing the amount that hard-working families can earn before the taper is applied. That is an extra £630 a year for 2.4 million families.

It is vital that we have evidence on the effects of poverty in order to tackle it, and in the run-up to the spending review we will examine what more can be done to address poverty, particularly child poverty, and to support social mobility. We are working with the Social Metrics Commission and other experts in the field to develop new experimental statistics to measure poverty, which will be published in 2020 and, in the long run, could help us to target support more effectively

The welfare system is not just about providing financial support. The most vulnerable in our society often face complex barriers to employment which can prevent them from moving on with their lives. So we are taking wider action to address barriers specific to different groups and ensure that Universal Credit works for all those with complex needs.

By supporting care leavers through their difficult transition into adulthood with a series of safeguards and easements, work coaches can have a real impact on a young person’s life chances. And around 135 prison work coaches based in resettlement prisons across Great Britain help prisoners gain employment on release, supporting with benefit claims pre-release.

We have a proud record when it comes to supporting victims of domestic abuse. Work search requirements can be suspended for up to 6 months under Universal Credit to enable them to stabilise their lives. By the end of the summer, we will have a domestic abuse and homelessness advocate in every jobcentre in England, who can build work coach capability in these areas, and make important links with organisations in the community.

In conclusion, work provides economic independence, pride in having a job; and improved wellbeing. Through record employment, investment in early years, education, and other public services, this Government is taking long-term steps to tackle poverty. It is the right approach and the only sustainable one.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1734
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 15 July 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Government’s Consultation on Measures to Reduce Health Related Job Loss

My honourable Friend, The Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work(Justin Tomlinson MP) has made the following Written Statement.

I would like to make the following statement on behalf of myself and Jackie Doyle Price MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention in the Department for Health and Social Care.

Today, my department, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, will publish a consultation on proposals to reduce health-related job loss.

As people live and work for longer, more employees are disabled or have long term health conditions. There are significant and well evidenced benefits for employers, individuals and government if health related job-loss can be reduced.

For employers, offering flexibility, early support and occupational health advice are the key to successful retention. Employers are best placed to take the early preventative measures that are most effective. There are large variations in employers’ capability and capacity to act with large firms five times more likely to provide occupational health when compared to small firms.

Each year more than 100,000 people leave their job following a period of sickness absence lasting at least four weeks. Survey evidence shows that 44% of people who had been off sick for a year then left employment altogether.

The proposals set out in this consultation include:

  • Amending the legal framework to encourage workplace modifications and early action to support individuals on sickness absence leave;
  • Reforming Statutory Sick Pay so that it is better enforced, more flexible and covers the lowest paid and potentially, rewards effective action with a new rebate;
  • Improving access to occupational health services with additional support for small employers including a potential subsidy;
  • Government to provide best practice advice and support for employers on managing health and disability in the workplace.

The evidence and views gathered during this consultation will be used to develop our proposals further and understand the impact of the changes on both employers and employees.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1719
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 15 July 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) 8th July 2019, Brussels

My honourable Friend The Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council took place on 8th July 2019 in Brussels. The Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union, Katrina Williams, represented the UK.

The Council approved the non-binding 2019 Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) to Member States, and endorsed the joint opinion of the Employment and Social Protection Committees, assessing the 2019 CSRs and the implementation of those from 2018. The Council also adopted Guidelines for the Employment Policies of the Member States 2019.

The Council debated the “economy of wellbeing” and “employment aspects of the strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy”.

The Council closed with employment and social policy updates by the Commission on the International Labour Organisation, G7 and G20.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1716
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 04 July 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Agenda of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) 8th July 2019, Brussels

My honourable Friend The Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will take place on 8th July 2019 in Brussels. The Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union, Katrina Williams, will represent the UK.

This extraordinary meeting of the Council is held to deal with the traditional “Spring Package” of items relating to the EU Semester, which exceptionally were not available in time for its meeting on 13th June. The Council is to approve non-binding Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) to Member States, and it will receive a joint opinion of the Employment and Social Protection Committees assessing the 2019 CSRs and the implementation of those from 2018. The Council will also adopt Guidelines for the Employment Policies of the Member States 2019, the substance of which is rolled-forward from last year’s guidelines.

Additionally, there will be policy debates on the “economy of wellbeing” and on “employment aspects of the strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy”.

Under other business, the Commission will provide information on international developments in the area of social and employment policy.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1689
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 04 July 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Walker v Innospec Supreme Court Judgment and Response to the Survivor Benefits Review

My honourable Friend The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions & Financial Inclusion (Guy Opperman MP) has made the following Written Statement.

I would like to make the following statement on behalf of myself and my right honourable friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Supreme Court judgment in Walker v Innospec and others

The case concerned a challenge in the Supreme Court to paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 to the Equality Act 2010, which allows defined benefit occupational pension schemes to restrict access to survivors' benefits for survivors of a civil partnership or same sex marriage to benefits based on accruals from Dec 2005 onwards. The Secretary of State was joined as an interested party. The challenge was made under EU Directive 2000/78/EC (Directive establishing a General Framework for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation).

The judgment was issued on 12 July, with Mr Walker winning his appeal. The Supreme Court decided that the exception in Schedule 9 should be dis-applied and that Mr Walker’s husband is entitled on Mr Walker’s death to a spouse’s pension for the whole of Mr Walker’s service, provided they remain married (Mr Walker had accrued a pension from 1980 until 2003).

The Government respects the decision of the Supreme Court. It is now clear that same sex civil partners or spouses are entitled to survivor benefits in the same way as opposite sex spouses.

Impact of the judgment on public service pension schemes

Following the court ruling, the Government has decided that in public service schemes, surviving male same-sex and female same-sex spouses and civil partners of public service pension scheme members will, in the majority of cases, receive benefits equivalent to those received by widows of opposite sex marriages. The exception to this may be in specific schemes where, in the past, improvements in female members’ survivor benefits have led to increased contributions. Departments will consult on and take forward changes as soon as possible. Schemes will notify their members of changes and any actions they need to take.

All same-sex survivors of a public service pension scheme member will benefit from this change. How much they benefit by will be determined by a combination of factors, including when the deceased was employed, their pensionable earnings, the length of any pensionable service and the specific benefits of the scheme to which the deceased belonged.

Impact of the judgment on private pension schemes

Whilst the Government is responsible for public service pension schemes, private sector schemes are individually responsible for ensuring that they are compliant with the judgment.

It is therefore not for the Government to direct private sector schemes in this instance, and any action taken by the Government in respect of public service pension schemes should not be interpreted as the minimum requirement for private pension schemes in considering how they respond to this judgement. These schemes will need to take their own advice to ensure that they are legally compliant with the judgment going forward.

The Government’s response to the Review of Survivor Benefits in Occupational Pension Schemes

During passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 the Government committed to undertake a review of differences in survivor benefits in occupational pension schemes. A duty to conduct this review was duly enacted in section 16 the Act.

The review was conducted jointly by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Treasury (HMT), which are the Departments with policy responsibility for private and public service pension schemes respectively, and was published on 26 June 2014.

The review considered the differences in survivor benefits in occupational pension schemes between different categories of member and the costs and other effects of eliminating those differences by the equalisation of survivor benefits. The review investigated the differences between:

  • same sex survivor benefits and opposite sex survivor benefits provided to widows;
  • same sex survivor benefits and opposite sex survivor benefits provided to widowers; and
  • opposite sex survivor benefits provided to widows and opposite sex survivor benefits provided to widowers.

The review considered the extent to which same sex survivor benefits are provided in reliance on paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 to the Equality Act 2010 and the extent to which same sex survivor benefits and opposite sex survivor benefits are calculated by reference to different periods of pensionable service.

The review further considered survivor benefits provided to same sex civil partners and those provided to same sex married couples. The law treats same sex civil partners equally to same sex married couples for the purposes of survivor benefits in pension schemes because these relationships provide comparable rights and responsibilities. There is no significant difference between them. As such, any differences in the benefits provided to survivors of same sex civil partners when compared to same sex spouses would be difficult to justify. The review therefore gave no further consideration to differences between these two groups.

The Review demonstrated that there are a variety of differences in treatment in survivor benefits in occupational schemes in respect of rights built up in the past. These differences reflect the change in social attitudes over the last 60 years and the subsequent introduction of new forms of legal relationships. As new groups have been brought into survivor benefit provision, changes have generally been applied prospectively to benefits built up from the point of that change.

The Government supports equal treatment of survivors of all legal relationships, and Parliament provided that survivor benefits must be built up equally for all of these groups on accruals from 5th December 2005 (when the Civil Partnership Act 2005 came into force).

The Walker judgment has clearly changed the legal position relating to survivor benefits in respect of same sex unions, and the Government has acted; public service pension schemes will now implement changes to provide that survivors of registered same sex civil partnerships or same-sex marriage will be provided with benefits that replicate those provided to widows of opposite sex marriages, with the exception of specific schemes where survivor benefits depend on making the correct contributions. As was made clear earlier in this statement, private pension schemes must take advice and act accordingly in complying with the judgment.

Following careful consideration of the Review’s findings, the Government has concluded that, aside from those changes brought about by the Supreme Court judgment, it will not make any further retrospective changes to the existing provisions in respect of occupational pension schemes to equalise survivor benefits. While this means that the differences in survivor benefits for accruals in past periods will remain for some, these will work their way out of the system in time.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1690
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 25 June 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Cross-Government Approach to Disability

My honourable Friend the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Today I am pleased to launch a new cross-government approach on disability which is guided by a vision that recognises the contributions that disabled people make and where disabled people can participate fully in society. To drive forward this approach, government will establish a new cross-departmental team in the Cabinet Office, recognising that disabled people face barriers across a wide range of aspects of their lives and coordinated cross-government action is therefore vital.

To inform this new approach, government is committed to strengthening the evidence base on disability and to improve engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations, in line with relevant recommendations from the United Nations.

The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health and Social Care will consult on how employers can best support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to stay and thrive in work. This will include measures to reform Statutory Sick Pay so that it is better enforced, more flexible and covers the lowest paid employees as well as improved quality, cost effectiveness and capacity in the private sector occupational health market.

Alongside this, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will consult on raising mandatory accessibility standards for all new homes in Autumn. The Department for Work and Pensions will also in the coming months bring forward a Green Paper on health and disability support, to enable a conversation about building a welfare system for the future that is an ally of disabled people. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will also be setting out plans to work with departments, regulators and stakeholders to improve consumer outcomes for disabled people through developing metrics to compare how well companies deliver for disabled customers in essential markets.

The team will work closely with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and charities to take forward this new approach to disability, with their views and experiences at the forefront of any new policy.

This written statement aligns with the Prime Minister’s written statement tabled today on Machinery of Government change for the Office for Disability Issues.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1651
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 20 June 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) 13th June 2019, Luxembourg

My honourable Friend the Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council took place on 13th June 2019 in Luxembourg. The Deputy Permanent Representative to the European Union, Katrina Williams, represented the UK.

The Council adopted Conclusions on: Closing the gender pay gap; implications for the safety and health of workers in the changing world of work; and the EU Council Auditors’ report on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).

The Council noted a progress report on the Directive on equal treatment and debated employment and social policy aspects of Country Specific Recommendations.

The Presidency gave updates on two current legislative proposals: a Regulation on European social statistics and Revision of the Regulations on the coordination of social security systems. The Council closed with information on events and initiatives in the broader field of employment and social policy.

In the margins of the meeting, Bratislava, Slovakia, was elected to host the new European Labour Authority.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1638
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 20 June 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19

My honourable Friend the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Later today the Office for Nuclear Regulation's Annual Report and Accounts for 2018-2019 will be published. Having consulted the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy who is accountable for nuclear security and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, I can confirm, in accordance with Schedule 7, Section 25(3) of the Energy Act 2013, that there have been no exclusions to the published document on the grounds of national security.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1639
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 10 June 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Agenda of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) 13th June 2019, Luxembourg

My honourable Friend The Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will take place on 13th June 2019 in Luxembourg. Kelly Tolhurst, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will represent the UK.

The Council will be provided with a progress report on the Directive on equal treatment. Conclusions will be presented to the Council for adoption on: Closing the gender pay gap; implications for the safety and health of workers in the changing world of work; and the EU Council Auditors’ report on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).

Under the agenda item on the European Semester agenda item there will be a high level policy debate on the employment and social policy aspects of Country Specific Recommendations.

Under other business, the Presidency will give updates on current legislative proposals: a Regulation on European social statistics and Revision of the Regulations on the coordination of social security systems. Information will also be provided on Presidency conferences, Gender balance on company Boards and the work programme of the incoming Finnish Presidency. The Maltese delegation will provide additional information on the Outcome of the EU-Arab high-level meeting on disability Rights and Prioritising gender budgeting in the future Multiannual Financial Framework.

In the margins of the meeting, representatives of the Government of each Member State will make a decision on which Member State will host the European Labour Authority.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1608
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 09 May 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Labour Market Policy Update

My Right Honourable Friend The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Conditionality and sanctions are an important part of the welfare system, motivating claimants to engage with the support on offer to look for work while ensuring the system is fair to the taxpayer.

Sanctions must be proportionate, particularly for the most vulnerable. The level of a sanction depends on the severity of the claimant’s failure to comply with their work-related requirements. Sanctions escalate for subsequent failures, carrying greater penalties. Under current policy, a claimant on Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance may receive a three-year sanction the third or subsequent time they have failed to comply with a work-related requirement.

Three-year sanctions are rarely used, but I believe that they are counter-productive and ultimately undermine our goal of supporting people into work.

I have reviewed my Department’s internal data, which shows that a six-month sanction already provides a significant incentive for claimants to engage with the labour market regime. I agree with the Work and Pensions Select Committee that a three-year sanction is unnecessarily long and I feel that the additional incentive provided by a three-year sanction can be outweighed by the unintended impacts to the claimant due to the additional duration. For these reasons, I have now decided to remove three year sanctions and reduce the maximum sanction length to six months by the end of the year.

It is important that sanctions remain proportionate to ensure they promote the best outcomes. For this reason, the Department is currently carrying out a further evaluation into the effectiveness of UC sanctions at supporting claimants to search for work. I will consider what other improvements can be made following this and inform the House in due course.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1545
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 24 April 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Social Security Benefits Uprating Order 2019 – Lords Debate Corrections

I would like to correct the following points I made during the Social Security Benefits Up-rating 2019/20 debate on 5 March 2019 and apologise to the House for these inadvertent errors:

  • I said that “The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2019 reflects the Government’s continuing commitment to: increase the basic and full rate of the new state pensions by the triple lock.” I should have said that “The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2019 reflects the Government’s continuing commitment to: increase the basic State Pension and the full rate of the new State Pension by the triple lock.”
  • I said that “The triple lock on the state pension will provide an extra £3.6 billion for pensioners.” I should have said that “The triple lock on the state pension will provide an extra £3.06 billion for pensioners.”

The transcript to the original debate can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2019-03-05/debates/9CE6BC91-2176-4AFD-A7BC-1F7F70AE7320/SocialSecurityBenefitsUp-RatingOrder2019

WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 23 April 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) Corporate Plan 19/20

My honourable Friend The Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Later today I will lay before this House the Office for Nuclear Regulation Corporate Plan 2019/20. This document will also be published on the ONR website.

I can confirm, in accordance with Schedule 7, Section 25(3) of the Energy Act 2013, that there have been no exclusions to the published documents on the grounds of national security.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1513
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 04 April 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Government Response to the Pensions Dashboards Consultation

My Right Honourable Friend The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Rt hon Amber Rudd MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Later today I will publish the Government’s Response to the consultation on the Pensions Dashboard CP75.

Pensions dashboards will revolutionise retirement planning. They will enable people to access their pension information in a single place online, in a clear and simple form, whether that is on a laptop or tablet, and from their own home. Putting individuals in control of their data, pensions dashboards will bring together all pensions information from multiple sources, which can then be accessed at a time of their choosing.

This Government’s pensions reforms have transformed Britain’s retirement savings culture. More than 10 million people have benefitted from our revolutionary policy of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions.

On 3 December 2018 the department published a consultation Pensions Dashboards: working together for the consumer. The Government’s response to the pensions dashboards consultation outlines how the Government will facilitate the pensions industry to deliver this project.

Both the quantity and quality of the 125 responses received were helpful in informing the approach we set out. The responses we received were largely positive in nature.

The result of this feedback is that Government will facilitate the delivery of pensions dashboards as a key priority. We expect to see to see initial industry dashboards developed and tested from this year.

Government remains committed to ensuring the individual is in control of their data and is conscious of the need for pace in order to deliver dashboards. Our priority is to ensure that information is presented securely, in a clear and simple format to support consumers with their retirement planning. The response to the consultation on dashboards includes:

  • a commitment to bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity to compel all pension providers to make consumers’ data available to them through a dashboard;
  • an expectation that the majority of schemes will be ready to ‘go live’ with their data within a three to four year window;
  • confirmation that State Pension information will be included as soon as possible; and
  • that dashboards will help to reconnect people with ‘lost’ pension pots, benefitting savers and providers.

A crucial entity in taking this forward will be the industry delivery group; made up of stakeholders from across the industry, consumer groups, regulators and government who will be accountable to the Single Financial Guidance Body board. We anticipate the delivery group should be fully operational by the end of the summer. The priorities for the delivery group in 2019 are to create a clear strategy for delivering the digital architecture, design a robust governance and security framework and to work with industry on their readiness to provide data via dashboards.

It is my firm belief that the pensions industry is best placed to develop and deliver dashboards. However, there is a role for Government in facilitating industry’s delivery of dashboards which work for consumers and put people in control of their data.

Pensions dashboards can be an enabler for a real step-change across the sector to modernise the way it communicates with its members. They also provide an opportunity to build trust with consumers, ensuring they can access their pensions information in a convenient way.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1493
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 21 March 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) 15th March 2019, Brussels

My honourable Friend, The Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council took place on 15th March 2019 in Brussels. I represented the UK.

The Council agreed a partial General Approach Regulation on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF).

The Council debated the social dimension of Europe post 2020 and the European Semester. As part of the Semester agenda item, the Council adopted the Joint Employment Report for 2019, along with conclusions on the 2019 Annual Growth Survey.

There were a number of progress reports and information items during the Council. The Presidency gave updates on six current legislative proposals: Regulation establishing a European Labour Authority; Revision of the Regulations on the coordination of social security systems; Revision of the Directive on carcinogens and mutagens (third batch); and Directives on work-life balance, on accessibility requirements for products and services and on transparent and predictable working conditions.

The Council closed with information on events and initiatives in the broader field of employment and social policy.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1432
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 18 March 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Collective Defined Contribution Pension Schemes

My Right Honourable Friend, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Today the Government publishes our response to the consultation on Delivering Collective Defined Contribution Schemes.

The UK has a world-class occupational pension system. But there is always opportunity for further innovation and improvement to ensure pensions work for their members, who deserve security in retirement. The Government believes that Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) pension schemes can be a key part of this.

CDC schemes are a new type of pension scheme. In a CDC scheme, like Defined Contribution (DC), contributions are paid into a fund. Unlike DC, these funds are pooled, and at retirement, individual members receive a regular pension income from the fund. This income will be based on the value of their contributions and savers will save towards a ‘target’ benefit whose value will depend on the fund’s performance.

The CDC approach increases investment leverage for savers, and helps members secure a regular income in retirement at lower cost. For employers, CDC, like DC, provides stability and predictability in their obligations to the pension scheme. Therefore, CDC helps improve retirement outcomes for members whilst also benefitting employers.

In that spirit, Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union have proposed a CDC pension scheme in the belief that this will be advantageous to both the employees and the business. This is a start and will provide a firm footing for further innovation in pensions.

We set out our proposed approach for providing for CDC schemes in our consultation document Delivering Collective Defined Contribution Pension Schemes, including requirements for CDC schemes to operate with systems and approaches that ensure sustainability, transparency and effective communication. Intergenerational fairness must be at the heart of CDC schemes. All this will be underpinned by a requirement for CDC schemes to be authorised by the Pensions Regulator. Government is grateful for the constructive comments and broad support our proposals received. Also, many responses, from trade unions, master trusts, and other pension providers, expressed a desire to see more people benefiting from the advantages that CDC can bring. They urged us, in time, to extend CDC to other parts of the pensions market.

Pension reforms in recent years have transformed pension saving in this country, whether it is auto-enrolment or the new state pension. The creation of CDC schemes is part of an ambitious reform of private pensions schemes, the pensions regulator and the way that savers interact with their savings through improved information and guidance. This means people can prepare for retirement with confidence. We will provide more options for employers to ensure that scheme members can adequately save for retirement and to better protect their income in later life.

As part of these reforms we intend to bring forward legislation to facilitate single and associated employer CDC provision as soon as Parliamentary time allows, and consider further what other provision would be appropriate for the future.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1422
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Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 12 March 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Agenda of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) 15th March 2019, Brussels

My honourable Friend, The Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will take place on 15th March 2019 in Brussels. I plan to represent the UK.

The Council will be invited to agree a partial General Approach on a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council that continues the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF).

Under the European Semester agenda item, the Council will adopt the Joint Employment Report for 2019, along with conclusions on the 2019 Annual Growth Survey, and the Commission will present its Country Reports for 2019. The Romanian Presidency has chosen the social dimension of Europe post 2020 as the theme for debate.

Under other business, the Presidency will give updates on six current legislative proposals: a Regulation establishing a European Labour Authority; Revision of the Regulations on the coordination of social security systems; Revision of the Directive on carcinogens and mutagens (third batch); and Directives on work-life balance, on accessibility requirements for products and services and on transparent and predictable working conditions.

The Presidency will also provide information on its recent conference on an EU Framework on National Strategies for Roma Inclusion. The Commission will present information on the Tripartite Social Summit which will take place on 20th March, and the Chairs of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee will present the committees’ Work Programmes for 2019.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1400
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 12 March 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Universal Credit

My Right Honourable Friend, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP) has made the following Written Statement.

Universal Credit is a vital reform. It overhauls a legacy system which trapped people out of work. The next stage, managed migration will move claimants of legacy benefits on to Universal Credit without a change of circumstances. As we have previously committed, the Department will pilot this approach, following the passing of an affirmative Statutory Instrument, from July 2019; starting with small numbers with no more than 10,000 claimants. This is expected to take around 12 months. We will report on our findings to Parliament and bring forward legislation for the wider roll out of managed migration. We will, as planned, complete full roll out of Universal Credit by the end of 2023.

I am updating Parliament to announce that we have selected Harrogate in North Yorkshire to be our initial site for the managed migration pilot.

Harrogate has a mix of benefit claimants with a varying range of needs, in both rural and urban areas. Harrogate has also had Universal Credit since 2016 which is earlier than many other places. In that respect it does very much reflect the situation we will face across the country as we begin the broader process of moving people from the old system to the new Universal Credit system. This means the lessons we learn here will be directly applicable to places that start moving claimants from the old system to the new system in 2020 and beyond who will have started with UC in 2017 and 2018.

We will take a careful approach to delivering managed migration. Claimants will be informed of their move in advance, receive full information and support from the department to move, including through home visits where appropriate.

We do not intend to stop anyone’s benefit during the pilot. In the pilot phase, our intention is to learn how to effectively assist people onto Universal Credit and to develop processes to deliver that help. This is particularly important for vulnerable and hard-to-reach claimants, who the department will help to move across to the new system.

Managed migration will open up the world of work for thousands and deliver financial support for those whose circumstances have not changed. The process will eventually provide over £3 billion total transitional protection for 1.1 million families. Transitional protection will be available and we will help people who need it access discretionary payments which could be used, for example, to pay the equivalent of the two-week run on. Eligible claimants who received the Severe Disability Premium under the legacy system will receive transitional payments as a result of the regulations bringing them into effect.

The department is working with stakeholders to develop our approach to managed migration, with support for the most vulnerable in at the forefront of our minds. We will continue to do this as we deliver.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1399
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Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 05 March 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Health and Disability Announcement

My Right Honourable Friend The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP) has made the following Written Statement.

I would like to update hon. Members on the speech I will be delivering at Scope this afternoon.

This Government has a clear ambition to support people with health conditions and disabilities into work, where they can, and to live independently. We have already made significant progress but we need to continue to make improvements to better support people with health conditions and disabled people. I am pleased to set out today a number of measures we will implement to make improvements now and in the future to support disabled people and those with health conditions to achieve their aspirations.

We will improve and simplify the customer experience by no longer undertaking regular reviews of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) awards for claimants at or above State Pension age unless they tell us their needs have changed.

We will also be transforming the delivery of assessment services. I have established the Health Transformation Programme to undertake the significant task of transitioning the currently separate Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (UC), and the PIP assessment services into one unified, integrated service from 2021. To support this, we are developing a single digital platform. An integrated approach will allow for a more joined-up claimant experience across these benefits, which takes account of the multiple interactions an individual may have with DWP. We hope that developing our own digital platform will also enable a greater range of assessment providers to compete to help us deliver this important service in the future.

To enable an integrated service, we are extending the contract for the Health and Disability Assessment Service (HDAS), which includes the delivery of the WCA, and aligning it to the duration of the extended PIP contracts. This will allow for a safe and stable service now, and as we transition to the new integrated service.

This strategic transformation will also open up new opportunities to improve our functional assessments in the future. For example, we will test whether it is beneficial to claimants requiring face-to-face assessments to offer a single assessment for UC and PIP to capture all the information required for both claims in one appointment, reducing the need for claimants of both benefits to attend multiple appointments.

My Department will be testing how we increase engagement and build a trusted and strong relationship between work coaches and claimants awaiting an assessment in Universal Credit, and those found to have Limited Capability for Work. Last month, in response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee report on benefits sanctions, the Department agreed to carry out a small test where work coaches start from a point of no conditionality and scale up where appropriate, focusing on what claimants can do. This contrasts with the current approach, which starts at full conditionality and then tailors down accordingly. The Minister for Employment is taking this forward.

We will also be exploring whether we can enhance the mandatory reconsideration process to gather further evidence from claimants and make more accurate decisions sooner.

These improvements will make significant progress in better supporting those with health conditions and disabilities, but this is only the start, we can, and should, go further.

My ambition is to continue this important conversation around the future of support and I will, alongside the Minister for Disabled People, be regularly engaging with stakeholders to enable on-going conversations on the future of the health and disability agenda. This includes exploring how the welfare system can better meet the needs of claimants with disabilities and health conditions.

I am also committing to looking at whether the incentives we provide for and the expectations we have of employers are right. We will consult on proposals to encourage and support employers to play their part in helping disabled people and people with health conditions get into work and remain in work, and to improve access to occupational health. We will be seeking stakeholder input, and that of employers and other partners, in to how we make a real difference to the working lives of people with health conditions and disabilities.

In 2017 we made a manifesto commitment to see 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027. In the coming months I want to review this commitment to see if we can make it even more ambitious.

We constantly reflect on how we can improve and know that improvements come from listening to people and adapting. As such, we plan to commission independent research to understand the needs of disabled people to live independent lives and how health and disability benefits can better support them.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1376
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Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 21 February 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Employment and Support Allowance

My honourable Friend, the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work(Sarah Newton MP) has made the following Written Statement.

This Written Statement is a fifth update to the House on progress in reviewing and, where necessary, correcting past Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) underpayments and paying arrears following conversion from previous incapacity benefits.

Since my last update to the House in October 2018 we have made significant progress. Due to the complex nature of these cases they take considerably longer than the average ESA case to complete. To ensure we make rapid and accurate progress we have therefore increased the number of staff working on putting these cases right from around 400 to approximately 1,200. This additional resource has led to a substantial increase in the number of cases that we have reviewed, corrected and paid arrears where due.

We have made good progress and by 11 February had:

  • started 310,000 claimants on the reassessment journey;
  • paid arrears of over £328 million to 58,000 people; and,
  • completed action on 207,000 cases 1.

Based on the progress made since October we believe we are on track to complete work on the majority of the original 320,000 cases by April 2019 (Phase 1). Unfortunately, some cases where the claimant sadly died prior to the exercise starting, are taking a significant period of time to resolve due to difficulties in identifying the next of kin or executors. There are around 20,000 deceased cases included in Phase 1 that require review. While we continue to progress this work, we expect that the Department will need until the end of 2019 to complete these cases.

Following our announcement in July 2018 that we will review and pay cases back to the date they were converted from incapacity benefits to ESA, we are reviewing a further 250,000 cases (Phase 2), as set out in October. Activity in respect of this group is due to start shortly, and we aim to complete Phase 2 by the end of this year.

The cases included in this exercise were largely converted between 2011 and 2014. Revised operational guidance was put in place in October 2014 after individual cases that had been incorrectly converted came to light. As part of our commitment to correct all cases affected by this error, we decided to undertake additional testing of cases converted in 2015. This testing has shown that the error rate did not improve as quickly as expected and we therefore believe that it is prudent to review around a further 30,000 cases, that were converted from 2015 onwards. This reflects our commitment to ensure all those who may have been affected are identified and paid the arrears they are due.

The Department is publishing an updated ad hoc statistical publication today setting out further detail on the progress it has made in processing cases, including an updated estimate on forecast expenditure and the numbers affected. This will be published on Gov.uk.

These updated forecasts will feed into the Spring Statement 2019. The Department now estimates that around 600,000 cases require review and that by the end of the exercise around 210,000 arrears payments will have been made. The increase, compared to our previous estimate of 180,000, is based on assumptions made using evidence we have gathered from the checking exercise to date. The data shows an increase in the proportion of cases in error among some groups of claimants. In addition, based on sample testing we have also included an assumption of the proportion of errors likely to be identified in the further 30,000 cases that have been added to the exercise.

An updated Frequently Asked Question guide will also be deposited in the House library for further information.

1Some of these cases which were originally completed prior to our announcement in July 2018 that we will review and pay cases back to the date they were converted from incapacity benefits to ESA, will require further action.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1348
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 11 February 2019
Made by: Baroness Buscombe (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Private Pensions Update

My Right Honourable Friend, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP) has made the following Written Statement.

I am pleased to announce today, two important steps to ensure millions of people have greater security in retirement.

A Stronger Pensions Regulator

Today, the Government has published its response to the consultation “Protecting Defined Benefit Pension Schemes – A Stronger Pensions Regulator”. This outlined its approach, as set out in the 2018 White Paper, to strengthen, clarify and streamline the Defined Benefit pension system.

The Government will introduce two new criminal offences to prevent and penalise mismanagement of pension schemes.

The first will target individuals who wilfully or recklessly mishandle pension schemes, endangering workers’ pensions, by such things as chronic mismanagement of a business; or allowing huge unsustainable deficits to build up; or taking huge investment risks; or a combination thereof. We will introduce a new custodial sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine for this offence. This brings the punishment in line with similar offences in financial services.

The second, which will attract an unlimited fine, will target individuals who fail to comply with a Contribution Notice, which is issued by The Pensions Regulator requiring a specified amount of money to be paid into the pension scheme by that individual. We will also introduce a new civil penalty of up to £1 million for this offence.

We have also provided an update on measures to strengthen the Regulator’s information gathering powers, such as enhancing their interview and inspection powers previously announced in the White Paper.

The changes will build on the robust system that is already in place to protect Defined Benefit pension schemes, further protecting individuals’ pensions and ensure greater clarity for employers.

The Government’s full response to the Consultation is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/protecting-defined-benefit-pension-schemes-a-stronger-pensions-regulator

10 million workers automatically enrolled into pensions

Today we announce the milestone of 10 million workers having been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension.

Automatic enrolment is transforming the savings culture of this country by normalising workplace pension saving. It is enabling millions of workers to look forward to a more secure future and a better retirement.

Between 2012 and 2017, the proportion of eligible employees saving in a workplace pension rose from 55 per cent to 84 per cent. The private sector has seen the largest increases over this period, with participation rates almost equalising among eligible men and women in 2017. The increase has also been particularly marked among younger workers and those with low earnings. Among eligible employees aged 22 to 29 years, participation increased from 35 per cent to 79 per cent; and 76 per cent of people earning £10-£20 thousand are now saving, a rise of 42 percentage points since 2012.

Employers’ support is key to the success of automatic enrolment. In the last two years, thousands of small and micro employers have enrolled eligible workers into a pension for the first time. Automatic enrolment is now business as usual.

In addition, we brought in the first of the planned increases in minimum contribution rates, in April 2018, raising the overall minimum contribution level to 5 per cent. From April 2019, the second planned increase, to a minimum 8 per cent, will enable many workers to save even more.

The government is committed to building on the 10 million milestone to support more workers, no matter what job, to save for a better retirement.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1319
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