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
Cabinet Office
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Michael Gove (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office )
Commons

First meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee

The first meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place on 30 March 2020 by remote means.

The meeting will be co-chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič.

The agenda will include four items:

  1. Introduction and opening remarks from co-chairs

  2. UK/EU Updates on implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement

  3. Tasks and responsibilities of the Specialised Committees

  4. AOB

The UK Delegation will include:

● Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

● The Paymaster General, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP



This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS186
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Lord True (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office)
Lords

First meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee

My Rt Hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Michael Gove) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

The first meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place on 30 March 2020 by remote means.

The meeting will be co-chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič.

The agenda will include four items:

  1. Introduction and opening remarks from co-chairs

  2. UK/EU Updates on implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement

  3. Tasks and responsibilities of the Specialised Committees

  4. AOB

The UK Delegation will include:

● Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

● The Paymaster General, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP



This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS190
WS
Home Office
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Williams of Trafford (The Minister of State, Home Office)
Lords

Simplification of the Immigration Rules

My hon Friend the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Future Borders and Immigration (Kevin Foster) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

This government is committed to creating a firm and fair immigration system that prioritises the skills people have to offer, not where their passport comes from, and restores public trust by ensuring the immigration system truly works for this country.

The Immigration Rules form one of the foundations of our immigration system. So I am pleased today to publish our response to the Law Commission’s report and recommendations on simplifying the Immigration Rules. I am extremely grateful to the Law Commission for their detailed and constructive work.

The first recommendation from the Law Commission is we should overhaul the Immigration Rules, consolidating and streamlining, based on the principles they have identified. I am pleased to announce we accept this recommendation. Our aim is to complete this overhaul by January 2021.

Simplified rules will be at the heart of Britain’s new, global points-based immigration system.

For far too long, users have struggled to understand the confusing and complex Immigration Rules. They create barriers for employers who want to bring skilled workers to the UK; to colleges who want to encourage international students to come to the UK, and to the brightest and best migrants from around the world who want to make a contribution to the UK.

We will cut through the complexity and make the Rules clear, consistent and accessible, to encourage those who have the skills or talent to benefit the UK, and to crack down on illegal migration and remove those who abuse our hospitality by committing criminal offences.

In line with the Law Commission’s recommendations, I have already established a Simplification of the Rules Review Committee to look at the drafting and structure of the Rules. The Committee will ensure the simplification principles put in place now continue to apply in future, whilst providing ongoing support to continuously improve and adapt the Rules in our changing world.

The Law Commission made 41 recommendations for change. We accept 24 of the recommendations, and partially accept the other 17 recommendations. Where we have not fully accepted a recommendation that does not mean we disagree with the ambition behind the recommendations, it generally means we want to explore how it can be delivered in practice.

Simplification of the Immigration rules, the global points-based immigration system, and the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which will end free movement, will deliver the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in a generation.

The Government’s response has been published on gov.uk and can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/simplifying-the-immigration-rules-a-response.

A copy of the response will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS186
WS
Treasury
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Jesse Norman (The Financial Secretary to the Treasury)
Commons

Oil and Gas Decommissioning Relief Deeds

At Budget 2013, the government announced it would begin signing decommissioning relief deeds. These deeds represented a new contractual approach to provide oil and gas companies with certainty on the level of tax relief they will receive on future decommissioning costs.

Since October 2013, the government has entered into 96 decommissioning relief deeds.

Oil & Gas UK estimates that these deeds have so far unlocked approximately £8.1bn of capital, which can now be invested elsewhere.

The government committed to report to Parliament every year on progress with the decommissioning relief deeds. The report for financial year 2018-19 is provided below.

  1. Number of decommissioning relief agreements entered into: the government entered into 5 decommissioning relief agreements in 2018-19.
  2. Total number of decommissioning relief agreements in force at the end of that year: 92 decommissioning relief agreements were in force at the end of the year.
  3. Number of payments made under any decommissioning relief agreements during that year, and the amount of each payment: one payment was made under a decommissioning relief agreement in 2018-19, for £43.2m[1]. This was made in relation to the provision recognised by HM Treasury in 2015, as a result of a company defaulting on its decommissioning obligations.
  4. Total number of payments that have been made under any decommissioning relief agreements as at the end of that year, and the total amount of those payments: four payments have been made under any decommissioning relief agreement as at the end of the 2018-19 financial year, totalling £94.0m.
  5. Estimate of the maximum amount liable to be paid under any decommissioning relief agreements: the government has not made any changes to the tax regime that would generate a liability to be paid under any decommissioning relief agreements. HM Treasury’s 2019-20 accounts will recognise a provision of £285.9m in respect of decommissioning expenditure incurred as a result of a company defaulting on their decommissioning obligations[2]. The majority of this is expected to be realised over the next four years.

[1] This figure takes into account a revision made to a claim in 2017-18 that was reported in a previous Written Ministerial Statement (HCWS1435).

[2] This figure takes into account payments made subsequent to the financial year covered by this Written Ministerial Statement.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS184
WS
Treasury
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: John Glen (The Economic Secretary to the Treasury)
Commons

Financial Services Update

In preparation for leaving the European Union, HM Treasury made over 50 EU Exit Statutory Instruments under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to ensure the UK’s financial services regulatory regime stood ready for all scenarios at exit day. This included introducing a range of temporary permissions and transitional regimes to minimise any disruption to firms and consumers as we leave the EU.

The UK has now left the EU and entered a Transition Period, which will last until 31 December 2020. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (“EUWAA 2020”) delayed those parts of the EU Exit Statutory Instruments that would have come into force immediately before, on, or after exit day so they instead come into force at the end of the Transition Period. As a result of further secondary legislation made under the EUWAA 2020, the temporary permissions and transitional regimes will also now apply at the end of the Transition Period.

While, in general, the same laws and rules will apply at the end of the Transition Period, HM Treasury recognises it will be important, irrespective of the agreement that is reached between the EU and UK, for the regulators to have the flexibility to smooth any adjustments to the UK’s regulatory regime for financial services at the end of the Transition Period.

The department will therefore retain the regulators’ “Temporary Transitional Power” (TTP), which was introduced via the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, and shift its application such that it is available for use by the UK regulators for a period of two years from the end of the Transition Period.

The TTP will allow the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority to phase-in changes to UK regulatory requirements so that firms can adjust to the UK’s post-Transition Period regime in an orderly way, in line with the objectives already set by Parliament.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS183
WS
Treasury
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: John Glen (The Economic Secretary to the Treasury)
Commons

Pensions Update

The government is developing proposals to address the unlawful age discrimination identified by the Court of Appeal in the 2015 reforms to the Judicial and Firefighters’ pension schemes.

On 15 July 2019, the government announced it would take steps to remove this discrimination retrospectively (HCWS1725). It confirmed that this would apply to pension scheme members with relevant service across all those public service pension schemes that were introduced in 2014 and 2015, regardless of whether individuals had made a claim. This is a complex undertaking, and it is important to get it right.

Since February 2020 relevant pension schemes have been conducting technical discussions with member and employer representatives to seek initial views on the government’s high-level proposals for removing the discrimination.

I am grateful for the constructive engagement of trade unions, staff associations, public service employers and other stakeholders in these discussions. The government is considering the initial views of stakeholders and continuing to work through the details of the technical design elements of the proposals. Detailed proposals will be published later in the year and will be subject to public consultation. The government will welcome views on these proposals.

For the avoidance of doubt, members of public service pension schemes with relevant service will not need to make a claim in order for the eventual changes to apply to them.

I would like to reassure members that their pension entitlements are safe. The proposals the government is considering would allow relevant members to make a choice as to whether they accrued service in the legacy or reformed schemes for periods of relevant service, depending on what is better for them. The government will provide more detail later in the year, but if an individual’s pension circumstances change as a result, the government may also need to consider whether previous tax years back to 2015-16 should be re-opened in relation to their pension.

The government will also set out its proposal to remove the discrimination for future service in the forthcoming consultation.

In January 2019, the government announced a pause to the cost control mechanism in public service pension schemes, due to uncertainty about benefit entitlements arising from the McCloud judgment. Alongside its proposals for addressing discrimination, the government will also provide an update on the cost control mechanism.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS182
WS
Treasury
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Lord Agnew of Oulton (Minister of State)
Lords

Oil and Gas Decommissioning Relief Deeds

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treaury (Jesse Norman) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

At Budget 2013, the government announced it would begin signing decommissioning relief deeds. These deeds represented a new contractual approach to provide oil and gas companies with certainty on the level of tax relief they will receive on future decommissioning costs.

Since October 2013, the government has entered into 96 decommissioning relief deeds.

Oil & Gas UK estimates that these deeds have so far unlocked approximately £8.1bn of capital, which can now be invested elsewhere.

The government committed to report to Parliament every year on progress with the decommissioning relief deeds. The report for financial year 2018-19 is provided below.

  1. Number of decommissioning relief agreements entered into: the government entered into 5 decommissioning relief agreements in 2018-19.
  2. Total number of decommissioning relief agreements in force at the end of that year: 92 decommissioning relief agreements were in force at the end of the year.
  3. Number of payments made under any decommissioning relief agreements during that year, and the amount of each payment: one payment was made under a decommissioning relief agreement in 2018-19, for £43.2m[1]. This was made in relation to the provision recognised by HM Treasury in 2015, as a result of a company defaulting on its decommissioning obligations.
  4. Total number of payments that have been made under any decommissioning relief agreements as at the end of that year, and the total amount of those payments: four payments have been made under any decommissioning relief agreement as at the end of the 2018-19 financial year, totalling £94.0m.
  5. Estimate of the maximum amount liable to be paid under any decommissioning relief agreements: the government has not made any changes to the tax regime that would generate a liability to be paid under any decommissioning relief agreements. HM Treasury’s 2019-20 accounts will recognise a provision of £285.9m in respect of decommissioning expenditure incurred as a result of a company defaulting on their decommissioning obligations[2]. The majority of this is expected to be realised over the next four years.

[1] This figure takes into account a revision made to a claim in 2017-18 that was reported in a previous Written Ministerial Statement (HCWS1435).

[2] This figure takes into account payments made subsequent to the financial year covered by this Written Ministerial Statement.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS189
WS
Treasury
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Lord Agnew of Oulton (Minister of State)
Lords

Financial Services Update

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In preparation for leaving the European Union, HM Treasury made over 50 EU Exit Statutory Instruments under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to ensure the UK’s financial services regulatory regime stood ready for all scenarios at exit day. This included introducing a range of temporary permissions and transitional regimes to minimise any disruption to firms and consumers as we leave the EU.

The UK has now left the EU and entered a Transition Period, which will last until 31 December 2020. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (“EUWAA 2020”) delayed those parts of the EU Exit Statutory Instruments that would have come into force immediately before, on, or after exit day so they instead come into force at the end of the Transition Period. As a result of further secondary legislation made under the EUWAA 2020, the temporary permissions and transitional regimes will also now apply at the end of the Transition Period.

While, in general, the same laws and rules will apply at the end of the Transition Period, HM Treasury recognises it will be important, irrespective of the agreement that is reached between the EU and UK, for the regulators to have the flexibility to smooth any adjustments to the UK’s regulatory regime for financial services at the end of the Transition Period.

The department will therefore retain the regulators’ “Temporary Transitional Power” (TTP), which was introduced via the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, and shift its application such that it is available for use by the UK regulators for a period of two years from the end of the Transition Period.

The TTP will allow the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority to phase-in changes to UK regulatory requirements so that firms can adjust to the UK’s post-Transition Period regime in an orderly way, in line with the objectives already set by Parliament.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS188
WS
Treasury
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Lord Agnew of Oulton (Minister of State)
Lords

Pensions Update

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The government is developing proposals to address the unlawful age discrimination identified by the Court of Appeal in the 2015 reforms to the Judicial and Firefighters’ pension schemes.

On 15 July 2019, the government announced it would take steps to remove this discrimination retrospectively (HCWS1725). It confirmed that this would apply to pension scheme members with relevant service across all those public service pension schemes that were introduced in 2014 and 2015, regardless of whether individuals had made a claim. This is a complex undertaking, and it is important to get it right.

Since February 2020 relevant pension schemes have been conducting technical discussions with member and employer representatives to seek initial views on the government’s high-level proposals for removing the discrimination.

I am grateful for the constructive engagement of trade unions, staff associations, public service employers and other stakeholders in these discussions. The government is considering the initial views of stakeholders and continuing to work through the details of the technical design elements of the proposals. Detailed proposals will be published later in the year and will be subject to public consultation. The government will welcome views on these proposals.

For the avoidance of doubt, members of public service pension schemes with relevant service will not need to make a claim in order for the eventual changes to apply to them.

I would like to reassure members that their pension entitlements are safe. The proposals the government is considering would allow relevant members to make a choice as to whether they accrued service in the legacy or reformed schemes for periods of relevant service, depending on what is better for them. The government will provide more detail later in the year, but if an individual’s pension circumstances change as a result, the government may also need to consider whether previous tax years back to 2015-16 should be re-opened in relation to their pension.

The government will also set out its proposal to remove the discrimination for future service in the forthcoming consultation.

In January 2019, the government announced a pause to the cost control mechanism in public service pension schemes, due to uncertainty about benefit entitlements arising from the McCloud judgment. Alongside its proposals for addressing discrimination, the government will also provide an update on the cost control mechanism.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS187
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Lord Keen of Elie (The Lords Spokesperson)
Lords

Tenth Annual Report of the UK’s National Preventive Mechanism

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland) has made the following Written Statement.

"The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which the UK ratified in December 2003, requires States Parties to establish a “National Preventive Mechanism” (NPM) to carry out visits to places of detention to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Government established the UK NPM in March 2009 (Hansard 31 March 2009, Vol. 490, Part No. 57, Column 56WS). The UK NPM is currently composed of 21 scrutiny bodies covering the whole of the UK.

Following previous practice, I have presented to Parliament the 10th NPM’s annual report (Command Paper CP 228). This report covers the period from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. I commend the important work that the NPM has carried out over this period and the NPM’s independent role in safeguarding the human rights of detainees across the UK. I also note the NPM’s observations around prisons, children in detention, police custody, immigration detention and court custody. The Government is committed to making prisons places of safety and reform. We are investing an additional £2.75 billion to transform jails, with tough new security measures including x-ray body scanners, and creating 10,000 modern prison places to rehabilitate offenders. Our long-term ambition is to replace Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions with Secure Schools, putting education, healthcare and purposeful activity at the heart of young offender rehabilitation."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS185
WS
Home Office
Made on: 25 March 2020
Made by: Kevin Foster (The Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Future Borders and Immigration)
Commons

Simplification of the Immigration Rules

This government is committed to creating a firm and fair immigration system that prioritises the skills people have to offer, not where their passport comes from, and restores public trust by ensuring the immigration system truly works for this country.

The Immigration Rules form one of the foundations of our immigration system. So I am pleased today to publish our response to the Law Commission’s report and recommendations on simplifying the Immigration Rules. I am extremely grateful to the Law Commission for their detailed and constructive work.

The first recommendation from the Law Commission is we should overhaul the Immigration Rules, consolidating and streamlining, based on the principles they have identified. I am pleased to announce we accept this recommendation. Our aim is to complete this overhaul by January 2021.

Simplified rules will be at the heart of Britain’s new, global points-based immigration system.

For far too long, users have struggled to understand the confusing and complex Immigration Rules. They create barriers for employers who want to bring skilled workers to the UK; to colleges who want to encourage international students to come to the UK, and to the brightest and best migrants from around the world who want to make a contribution to the UK.

We will cut through the complexity and make the Rules clear, consistent and accessible, to encourage those who have the skills or talent to benefit the UK, and to crack down on illegal migration and remove those who abuse our hospitality by committing criminal offences.

In line with the Law Commission’s recommendations, I have already established a Simplification of the Rules Review Committee to look at the drafting and structure of the Rules. The Committee will ensure the simplification principles put in place now continue to apply in future, whilst providing ongoing support to continuously improve and adapt the Rules in our changing world.

The Law Commission made 41 recommendations for change. We accept 24 of the recommendations, and partially accept the other 17 recommendations. Where we have not fully accepted a recommendation that does not mean we disagree with the ambition behind the recommendations, it generally means we want to explore how it can be delivered in practice.

Simplification of the Immigration rules, the global points-based immigration system, and the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which will end free movement, will deliver the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in a generation.

The Government’s response has been published on gov.uk and can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/simplifying-the-immigration-rules-a-response.

A copy of the response will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS185
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Robert Buckland (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)
Commons

Tenth Annual Report of the UK’s National Preventive Mechanism

The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which the UK ratified in December 2003, requires States Parties to establish a “National Preventive Mechanism” (NPM) to carry out visits to places of detention to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Government established the UK NPM in March 2009 (Hansard 31 March 2009, Vol. 490, Part No. 57, Column 56WS). The UK NPM is currently composed of 21 scrutiny bodies covering the whole of the UK.

Following previous practice, I have presented to Parliament the 10th NPM’s annual report (Command Paper CP 228). This report covers the period from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. I commend the important work that the NPM has carried out over this period and the NPM’s independent role in safeguarding the human rights of detainees across the UK. I also note the NPM’s observations around prisons, children in detention, police custody, immigration detention and court custody. The Government is committed to making prisons places of safety and reform. We are investing an additional £2.75 billion to transform jails, with tough new security measures including x-ray body scanners, and creating 10,000 modern prison places to rehabilitate offenders. Our long-term ambition is to replace Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions with Secure Schools, putting education, healthcare and purposeful activity at the heart of young offender rehabilitation.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS181
WS
Treasury
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Rishi Sunak (The Chancellor of the Exchequer)
Commons

Notification of Contingent Liability

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England decided at its meeting ending on 19 March to ask for an expansion in the maximum limit of purchases that may be undertaken by the Asset Purchase Facility (APF). This will encompass up to £200 billion of further purchases of gilts and corporate bonds to support the economy through the disruption caused by Covid-19.

In light of the evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on the global and domestic economy, and conditions in the UK and international government bond markets, the MPC judged further asset purchases financed by the issuance of central bank reserves should be undertaken to enable the MPC to meet its statutory objectives. The MPC expects that purchases of corporate bonds will improve the availability of credit to UK companies and that further purchases of gilts will reduce borrowing costs, raise asset prices, affect expectations and confidence, and thereby support the economy. I have therefore authorised an increase in the total size of the APF of £200 billion. This will bring the maximum total size of the APF from £445 to £645 billion.

In line with the requirements in the MPC remit, the amendments to the APF that could affect the allocation of credit and pose risks to the Exchequer have been discussed with Treasury officials. The risk control framework previously agreed with the Treasury will remain in place, and HM Treasury will keep monitoring risks to public funds from the Facility through regular risk oversight meetings and enhanced information sharing with the Bank.

There will continue to be an opportunity for the Treasury to provide views to the MPC on the design of the schemes within the APF, as they affect the Government’s broader economic objectives and may pose risks to the Exchequer.

The Government will continue to indemnify the Bank and the APF from any losses arising out of, or in connection with, the facility. If the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.

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

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS180
WS
Treasury
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Lord Agnew of Oulton (Minister of State)
Lords

Notification of Contingent Liability

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Rishi Sunak) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England decided at its meeting ending on 19 March to ask for an expansion in the maximum limit of purchases that may be undertaken by the Asset Purchase Facility (APF). This will encompass up to £200 billion of further purchases of gilts and corporate bonds to support the economy through the disruption caused by Covid-19.

In light of the evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on the global and domestic economy, and conditions in the UK and international government bond markets, the MPC judged further asset purchases financed by the issuance of central bank reserves should be undertaken to enable the MPC to meet its statutory objectives. The MPC expects that purchases of corporate bonds will improve the availability of credit to UK companies and that further purchases of gilts will reduce borrowing costs, raise asset prices, affect expectations and confidence, and thereby support the economy. I have therefore authorised an increase in the total size of the APF of £200 billion. This will bring the maximum total size of the APF from £445 to £645 billion.

In line with the requirements in the MPC remit, the amendments to the APF that could affect the allocation of credit and pose risks to the Exchequer have been discussed with Treasury officials. The risk control framework previously agreed with the Treasury will remain in place, and HM Treasury will keep monitoring risks to public funds from the Facility through regular risk oversight meetings and enhanced information sharing with the Bank.

There will continue to be an opportunity for the Treasury to provide views to the MPC on the design of the schemes within the APF, as they affect the Government’s broader economic objectives and may pose risks to the Exchequer.

The Government will continue to indemnify the Bank and the APF from any losses arising out of, or in connection with, the facility. If the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.

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

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS184
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Lord True (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office)
Lords

Update: Strengthening Democracy

My Hon. Friend, the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (Chloe Smith) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

In the written statement of 19 March, ‘Postponement of electoral events’ (HCWS174 and HLWS169), the Government outlined its proposals for urgent electoral legislation to postpone forthcoming elections as part of the wider steps to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

Working to ensure the health and safety of the British public is the Government’s top priority. We still however have a responsibility to govern, plan for the future and ensure that where possible, essential Parliamentary business continues and legal obligations are met.

The House of Commons may debate the Government’s policy stance on UK Parliamentary boundaries on Friday 27 March, in light of the Private Members’ Bill tabled by the Hon. Member for Wellingborough (Peter Bone).

I believe clearly setting out the Government’s emerging policy position would provide clarity for Parliament, the public and electoral administrators. Given this policy area is of direct relevance to the Commons, it is important that the first Chamber is properly informed.

This is also pertinent because at present, the Government is legally required to give effect to the recommendations from the Boundary Commissions as set out in their 2018 reports - including reducing the number of constituencies to 600. In this statement I lay out the Government’s thinking on this matter.

Need for equal and updated boundaries

The Conservative Government committed, in its 2019 Manifesto, to delivering updated and equal UK Parliamentary boundaries with the essential aim of making sure that every vote counts the same - a cornerstone of democracy.

The last boundary review to be implemented in England was based on data from 2000; the last to be implemented in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland used data from 2001-2003. In effect, our current constituencies reflect how the UK population was at the beginning of the century. Today’s youngest voters have been born since then: this disregards significant changes in demographics, house building and geographical migration.

The Government has also taken into account representations from colleagues on all sides of the House, and from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

When Parliamentary time allows, the Government is minded to bring forward primary legislation to set the framework for future boundary reviews, including the next review due to begin in early 2021. Such provisions would cover the number of constituencies, the frequency of reviews, the boundary review process, and the process by which those recommendations are brought into legal effect.

Maintaining 650 seats

Legislation currently provides that, on implementation of the 2018 Boundary Review recommendations, the number of constituencies in the UK shall be 600. The Government is minded to instead make provision for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650. In doing so, we would also remove the statutory obligation to implement the 2018 Boundary Review recommendations and the statutory obligation on the Government to make arrangements to review the reduction in constituencies to 600 by 30 November 2020.

Under current legislation the Boundary Commissions are required to report on their next review by October 2023. In order to meet this deadline they would have to begin that review in early 2021. Without changes to primary legislation, there would be a legal obligation for the Boundary Commissions to undertake that review on the basis of 600 constituencies.

This is a change in policy from the position previously legislated for under the Coalition Government. Since that policy was established in the Coalition Agreement, the United Kingdom has now left the European Union. The UK Parliament will have a greater workload now we are taking back control and regaining our political and economic independence. It is therefore sensible for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650.

Electoral quota tolerance

The Boundary Commissions are generally required to propose constituencies whose electorates vary in size by no more than +/- 5% from the average (“the electoral quota”). The Government is not minded to amend this tolerance level which achieves equal and fair boundaries whilst allowing the Boundary Commissions the flexibility to take account of other factors, such as physical geographical features and local ties, subject to the overriding principle of equality in constituency size.

Equal representation

Updated and equal boundaries will ensure that every constituent nation in the United Kingdom has equal representation in the UK Parliament, and deliver parity of representation across the United Kingdom's constituencies.

Under the existing legislation, passed in 2011, there are four protected constituencies where the electoral quota tolerance does not apply on account of their unique geography: Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and two seats for the Isle of Wight. The Government is not minded to make changes to these protected constituencies, or to propose any more protected constituencies given the need to ensure equal representation.

Boundary review cycle

Under the current legislation, boundary reviews must take place every five years. As the Government also intends to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, future boundary reviews will inevitably be decoupled from the cycle of general elections. We need to strike a balance between regularly updated parliamentary constituencies and the disruption caused to local communities and their MPs by boundaries changing at every general election.

The Government is minded to consider that conducting boundary reviews every eight years strikes the right balance. An eight-year review cycle would generally allow for updated constituencies to be in place for two general elections before being reviewed in time for a third general election.

Implementing the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commissions

Currently, at the end of a boundary review, the Government lays the reports of the independent and impartial Boundary Commissions before Parliament. The recommendations contained in the reports are then brought into effect by way of an Order in Council that must be approved by Parliament by the affirmative procedure before it can be made.

The Government is minded to continue to provide that the reports are still laid before Parliament (by the Speaker who is Chair of the Boundary Commissions) but would change the means of bringing the Boundary Commissions’ recommendations into effect. The new recommended constituency boundaries will be brought into effect automatically by the Order in Council.

This change would provide certainty that the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commissions - developed through a robust and impartial process that is open to extensive consultation - would then be implemented without interference. Parliament, of course, would remain sovereign and can amend primary legislation as it sees fit.

Engagement with political parties

The Government is keen to establish the broad support of Parliament for such changes and will engage with the political parties represented in the UK Parliament on such proposals.

This will include engagement with the Parliamentary Parties Panel on the technical measures planned. These include provisions relating to the length of time the Boundary Commissions have to conduct their reviews within the boundary review cycle and the process involved in the reviews, such as public hearings and consultation. I hope there is scope for broad cross-party agreement on such improvements.

In due course, the Government hopes that such reforms will strengthen democratic accountability of Parliament to the British people.

I hope this provides clarity on the Government’s policy intent over this Parliament. Of course, as stated above, the Government’s immediate legislative priority will be taking the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of the British public.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS183
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Chloe Smith (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office)
Commons

Update: Strengthening Democracy

In the written statement of 19 March, ‘Postponement of electoral events’ (HCWS174 and HLWS169), the Government outlined its proposals for urgent electoral legislation to postpone forthcoming elections as part of the wider steps to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

Working to ensure the health and safety of the British public is the Government’s top priority. We still however have a responsibility to govern, plan for the future and ensure that where possible, essential Parliamentary business continues and legal obligations are met.

The House of Commons may debate the Government’s policy stance on UK Parliamentary boundaries on Friday 27 March, in light of the Private Members’ Bill tabled by the Hon. Member for Wellingborough (Peter Bone).

I believe clearly setting out the Government’s emerging policy position would provide clarity for Parliament, the public and electoral administrators. Given this policy area is of direct relevance to the Commons, it is important that the first Chamber is properly informed.

This is also pertinent because at present, the Government is legally required to give effect to the recommendations from the Boundary Commissions as set out in their 2018 reports - including reducing the number of constituencies to 600. In this statement I lay out the Government’s thinking on this matter.

Need for equal and updated boundaries

The Conservative Government committed, in its 2019 Manifesto, to delivering updated and equal UK Parliamentary boundaries with the essential aim of making sure that every vote counts the same - a cornerstone of democracy.

The last boundary review to be implemented in England was based on data from 2000; the last to be implemented in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland used data from 2001-2003. In effect, our current constituencies reflect how the UK population was at the beginning of the century. Today’s youngest voters have been born since then: this disregards significant changes in demographics, house building and geographical migration.

The Government has also taken into account representations from colleagues on all sides of the House, and from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

When Parliamentary time allows, the Government is minded to bring forward primary legislation to set the framework for future boundary reviews, including the next review due to begin in early 2021. Such provisions would cover the number of constituencies, the frequency of reviews, the boundary review process, and the process by which those recommendations are brought into legal effect.

Maintaining 650 seats

Legislation currently provides that, on implementation of the 2018 Boundary Review recommendations, the number of constituencies in the UK shall be 600. The Government is minded to instead make provision for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650. In doing so, we would also remove the statutory obligation to implement the 2018 Boundary Review recommendations and the statutory obligation on the Government to make arrangements to review the reduction in constituencies to 600 by 30 November 2020.

Under current legislation the Boundary Commissions are required to report on their next review by October 2023. In order to meet this deadline they would have to begin that review in early 2021. Without changes to primary legislation, there would be a legal obligation for the Boundary Commissions to undertake that review on the basis of 600 constituencies.

This is a change in policy from the position previously legislated for under the Coalition Government. Since that policy was established in the Coalition Agreement, the United Kingdom has now left the European Union. The UK Parliament will have a greater workload now we are taking back control and regaining our political and economic independence. It is therefore sensible for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650.

Electoral quota tolerance

The Boundary Commissions are generally required to propose constituencies whose electorates vary in size by no more than +/- 5% from the average (“the electoral quota”). The Government is not minded to amend this tolerance level which achieves equal and fair boundaries whilst allowing the Boundary Commissions the flexibility to take account of other factors, such as physical geographical features and local ties, subject to the overriding principle of equality in constituency size.

Equal representation

Updated and equal boundaries will ensure that every constituent nation in the United Kingdom has equal representation in the UK Parliament, and deliver parity of representation across the United Kingdom's constituencies.

Under the existing legislation, passed in 2011, there are four protected constituencies where the electoral quota tolerance does not apply on account of their unique geography: Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and two seats for the Isle of Wight. The Government is not minded to make changes to these protected constituencies, or to propose any more protected constituencies given the need to ensure equal representation.

Boundary review cycle

Under the current legislation, boundary reviews must take place every five years. As the Government also intends to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, future boundary reviews will inevitably be decoupled from the cycle of general elections. We need to strike a balance between regularly updated parliamentary constituencies and the disruption caused to local communities and their MPs by boundaries changing at every general election.

The Government is minded to consider that conducting boundary reviews every eight years strikes the right balance. An eight-year review cycle would generally allow for updated constituencies to be in place for two general elections before being reviewed in time for a third general election.

Implementing the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commissions

Currently, at the end of a boundary review, the Government lays the reports of the independent and impartial Boundary Commissions before Parliament. The recommendations contained in the reports are then brought into effect by way of an Order in Council that must be approved by Parliament by the affirmative procedure before it can be made.

The Government is minded to continue to provide that the reports are still laid before Parliament (by the Speaker who is Chair of the Boundary Commissions) but would change the means of bringing the Boundary Commissions’ recommendations into effect. The new recommended constituency boundaries will be brought into effect automatically by the Order in Council.

This change would provide certainty that the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commissions - developed through a robust and impartial process that is open to extensive consultation - would then be implemented without interference. Parliament, of course, would remain sovereign and can amend primary legislation as it sees fit.

Engagement with political parties

The Government is keen to establish the broad support of Parliament for such changes and will engage with the political parties represented in the UK Parliament on such proposals.

This will include engagement with the Parliamentary Parties Panel on the technical measures planned. These include provisions relating to the length of time the Boundary Commissions have to conduct their reviews within the boundary review cycle and the process involved in the reviews, such as public hearings and consultation. I hope there is scope for broad cross-party agreement on such improvements.

In due course, the Government hopes that such reforms will strengthen democratic accountability of Parliament to the British people.

I hope this provides clarity on the Government’s policy intent over this Parliament. Of course, as stated above, the Government’s immediate legislative priority will be taking the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of the British public.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS179
WS
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Barran (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
Lords

Media Matters

My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP, has made the following Statement:

On 22 January 2020, DCMS informed the House that my predecessor had issued a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) in respect of the acquisition by Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) of JPI Media Publications Ltd, and thus the i newspaper.

The PIIN triggered the requirement for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to report to me on jurisdictional and competition matters, and for Ofcom to report on the following media public interest consideration:

  • the need for, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable, a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market for newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom.

I received the CMA and Ofcom reports on by the deadline of 13 March and have today published these on the gov.uk website.

I accept the CMA’s findings that whilst it is, or may be, the case that a relevant merger situation has been created, the merger does not give rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition in any market.

I have also agreed with Ofcom that the merger does not raise concerns in relation to plurality of views in newspapers.

In light of this, and having considered representations submitted by interested parties in response to the PIIN, DCMS has written to the parties today confirming my decision not to refer the merger for a Phase 2 investigation.

The role of the Secretary of State in this process is quasi-judicial and procedures are in place to ensure that I act independently and have followed a process which is fair and impartial.

WS
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Oliver Dowden (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
Commons

Media Matters

On 22 January 2020, DCMS informed the House that my predecessor had issued a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) in respect of the acquisition by Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) of JPI Media Publications Ltd, and thus the i newspaper.

The PIIN triggered the requirement for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to report to me on jurisdictional and competition matters, and for Ofcom to report on the following media public interest consideration:

  • the need for, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable, a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market for newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom.

I received the CMA and Ofcom reports on by the deadline of 13 March and have today published these on the gov.uk website.

I accept the CMA’s findings that whilst it is, or may be, the case that a relevant merger situation has been created, the merger does not give rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition in any market.

I have also agreed with Ofcom that the merger does not raise concerns in relation to plurality of views in newspapers.

In light of this, and having considered representations submitted by interested parties in response to the PIIN, DCMS has written to the parties today confirming my decision not to refer the merger for a Phase 2 investigation.

The role of the Secretary of State in this process is quasi-judicial and procedures are in place to ensure that I act independently and have followed a process which is fair and impartial.

WS
Treasury
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: The Earl of Courtown (Treasury Spokesperson)
Lords

Contingencies Fund Bill

I have made a statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Contingencies Fund Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Goldie (Minister of State, Ministry of Defence)
Lords

Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations Annual Report 2019

My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey MP) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing the report of the Review of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations 2019.

The Review’s purpose was to assess and challenge the continuing requirement, efficiency and good governance of the thirteen RFCAs and, their Joint Committee, the Council of RFCAs. The Review was undertaken by MOD, and an independent Challenge Panel was appointed to assure its robustness and impartiality. The Review was conducted with the full participation of the RFCA community, and gathered evidence from a wide range of stakeholders across government, Defence and the RFCAs’ customers at the national and regional levels. I would like to thank all those who contributed to the Review.

The Review concluded that the functions of the RFCAs remain valued and necessary and the RFCAs should continue in their role of key partner to Defence – a point made clear by the wide range of beneficiaries of the RFCAs’ work. The Review makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the relationship between Defence and the RFCAs, ensuring the RFCAs are on a stable, sustainable footing to continue to deliver advocacy and support for Reserves and Cadets across the UK.

Defence is currently working with other government departments and the RFCAs to understand how best to implement the recommendations. This will be announced in due course.

The Report will be placed in the library of the House.

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Goldie (Minister of State ( Ministry of Defence))
Lords

RAF Battle Honours for Operations in Afghanistan

I am today announcing that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the award of Battle Honours to squadrons of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force for their participation in operations in Afghanistan during the period 7 October 2001 to 31 December 2014.

Battle Honours may be “awarded to commemorate any notable battle, action or engagement in which aircrew or Royal Air Force Regiment personnel played a memorable part”. There are two levels of Battle Honour within the Royal Air Force. The first is the award of a Battle Honour which recognises that a squadron played a notable and significant role in the campaign. The second, higher level confers the right to emblazon the Battle Honour on the Standard itself. Battle Honours with emblazonment are reserved for those squadrons which are involved in direct confrontation with an enemy and demonstrate gallantry and spirit under fire.

Six operational flying squadrons and nine Royal Air Force Regiment squadrons were awarded the highest honour of a Battle Honour with the right to emblazon. Battle Honours were approved for twenty-six operational flying squadrons for their participation in operations in Afghanistan.

A Battle Honour with the right to emblazon ‘AFGHANISTAN 2001-2014’ on their Squadron Standard is awarded to:

No. 7 Squadron RAF

No. 3 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 18 (Bomber) Squadron RAF

No. 15 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 27 Squadron RAF

No. 27 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 34 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 47 Squadron RAF

No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 78 Squadron RAF

No. 58 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 1 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 63 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. II Squadron RAF Regiment

A Battle Honour is awarded to:

No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron RAF

No. 30 Squadron RAF

No. II (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 31 Squadron RAF

No. 3 (Fighter) Squadron RAF

No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF

No. IV (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 39 Squadron RAF

No. V (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 51 Squadron RAF

No. 8 Squadron RAF

No. LXX Squadron RAF

No. IX (Bomber) Squadron RAF

No. 99 Squadron RAF

No. 10 Squadron RAF

No. 101 Squadron RAF

No. 12 (Bomber) Squadron RAF

No. 120 Squadron RAF

No. XIII Squadron RAF

No. 201 Squadron RAF

No. 14 Squadron RAF

No. 206 Squadron RAF

No. 23 Squadron RAF

No. 216 Squadron RAF

No. XXIV Squadron RAF

No. 617 Squadron RAF

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Goldie (Minister of State ( Ministry of Defence))
Lords

RAF Battle Honours for Operations Vulcan and Barras

I am today announcing that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the award of Battle Honours to squadrons of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, for their participation in Operation VULCAN (Bosnia) during the period August to September 1995 and Operation BARRAS (Sierra Leone) during the period August to September 2000.

Battle Honours may be “awarded to commemorate any notable battle, action or engagement in which aircrew or Royal Air Force Regiment personnel played a memorable part”. There are two levels of Battle Honour within the Royal Air Force. The first is the award of a Battle Honour which recognises that a squadron played a notable and significant role in the campaign. The second, higher level confers the right to emblazon the Battle Honour on the Standard itself. This ultimate accolade of Battle Honours with emblazonment is reserved for those squadrons which are involved in direct confrontation with an enemy and demonstrate gallantry and spirit under fire.

The highest honour of Battle Honour with the right to emblazon has been awarded to two squadrons for their participation on Operation VULCAN.

The highest honour of Battle Honour with the right to emblazon has been awarded to one squadron for their participation on Operation BARRAS.

A Battle Honour with the right to emblazon ‘BOSNIA 1995’ on their Squadron Standard is awarded to:

No. IV (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 6 Squadron RAF

A Battle Honour with the right to emblazon ‘SIERRA LEONE 2000’ on their Squadron Standard is awarded to:

No. 7 Squadron RAF

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Goldie (Minister of State ( Ministry of Defence))
Lords

RAF Battle Honours for Operation TELIC (Post War)

On the 10 October 2017, the Minister in the House of Lords made a Written Ministerial Statement announcing the award of Battle Honours to squadrons of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, for their participation in Operation TELIC Post-War Consolidation and Reconstruction Phase during the period 1 May 2003 – 22 May 2011.

I am today announcing that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the award of a Battle Honour to one further squadron of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force for their participation in Operation TELIC Post-War Consolidation and Reconstruction Phase during the period 1 May 2003 – 22 May 2011.

Battle Honours may be “awarded to commemorate any notable battle, action or engagement in which aircrew or Royal Air Force Regiment personnel played a memorable part”. There are two levels of Battle Honour within the Royal Air Force. The first is the award of a Battle Honour which recognises that a squadron played a notable and significant role in the campaign. The second, higher level confers the right to emblazon the Battle Honour on the Standard itself. This ultimate accolade is reserved for those squadrons which are involved in direct confrontation with an enemy and demonstrate gallantry and spirit under fire.

In addition to the twenty-seven Battle Honours and eight Battle Honours with the right to emblazon previously approved for squadron’s participation on Operation TELIC, one further operational flying squadron has been approved for the award of a Battle Honour.

A Battle Honour Is awarded to:

No. 78 Squadron RAF

WS
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Lord Callanan (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility))
Lords

Departmental Contingent Liability Notification (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme)

My Right Honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Alok Sharma) has today made the following statement:

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of Honourable and Right Honourable Members to bring to their attention the details of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 11 March 2020.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be facilitated by the Government-owned British Business Bank and delivered through its delivery partners. Lenders will offer loans of up to £5 million to support small and medium sized businesses with a turnover up to £45 million that are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. There will be no limit on the number and aggregate value of loans that can be made under the scheme.

The scheme is based on the British Business Bank’s existing Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, is available on a temporary basis and can be extended as required. The key parameters of the scheme are as follows:

  • The percentage of the remaining balance of each loan that is guaranteed by the Government will be increased to 80 per cent (currently 75 per cent of each EFG loan is guaranteed);

  • A cap on gross Government liability at the level of the lender’s whole CBILS portfolio of 75 per cent of losses (currently the Government’s gross liability is capped at 20 per cent of losses across the lender’s whole EFG portfolio);

  • A government grant (the 'business interruption payment') will be provided for the benefit of businesses, equal to the fees and interest incurred on the facility for the first twelve months. The maximum grant payable is capped at a level that will allow a significant majority of businesses to be compensated in full. A lower cap applies to businesses in some sectors;

  • The lender must establish that the SME has a viable business proposition assessed according to its normal commercial lending criteria. However, where there are some concerns over the short-term business performance due to Covid-19 impacts, provided the lender reasonably believes that the finance will help the business to ‘trade out’ of any short-term cashflow difficulty, then the business is considered eligible for the scheme; and

  • Subject to the lender’s policy, businesses can access CBILS loans up to a value of £250,000 without the lender undertaking an assessment of their security position (currently, only businesses that have been assessed by the lender as having insufficient security can access EFG loans).

The new scheme was launched on 23 March, will run for an initial period of six months, and will be extended as required. The Government will be subject to a greater contingent liability than is the case for the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, and I will be laying a Departmental Minute today containing a description of the liability undertaken.

For more information on this and other support for business, please go to https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: James Heappey (Minister of State for the Armed Forces)
Commons

RAF Battle Honours for Operation TELIC (Post War)

My noble Friend the Minister in the House of Lords (The Rt Hon Baroness Goldie DL) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On the 10 October 2017, the Minister in the House of Lords made a Written Ministerial Statement announcing the award of Battle Honours to squadrons of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, for their participation in Operation TELIC Post-War Consolidation and Reconstruction Phase during the period 1 May 2003 – 22 May 2011.

I am today announcing that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the award of a Battle Honour to one further squadron of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force for their participation in Operation TELIC Post-War Consolidation and Reconstruction Phase during the period 1 May 2003 – 22 May 2011.

Battle Honours may be “awarded to commemorate any notable battle, action or engagement in which aircrew or Royal Air Force Regiment personnel played a memorable part”. There are two levels of Battle Honour within the Royal Air Force. The first is the award of a Battle Honour which recognises that a squadron played a notable and significant role in the campaign. The second, higher level confers the right to emblazon the Battle Honour on the Standard itself. This ultimate accolade is reserved for those squadrons which are involved in direct confrontation with an enemy and demonstrate gallantry and spirit under fire.

In addition to the twenty-seven Battle Honours and eight Battle Honours with the right to emblazon previously approved for squadron’s participation on Operation TELIC, one further operational flying squadron has been approved for the award of a Battle Honour.

A Battle Honour Is awarded to:

No. 78 Squadron RAF

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: James Heappey (Minister for the Armed Forces)
Commons

RAF Battle Honours for Operations Vulcan and Barras

My noble Friend the Minister in the House of Lords (The Rt Hon Baroness Goldie DL) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the award of Battle Honours to squadrons of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, for their participation in Operation VULCAN (Bosnia) during the period August to September 1995 and Operation BARRAS (Sierra Leone) during the period August to September 2000.

Battle Honours may be “awarded to commemorate any notable battle, action or engagement in which aircrew or Royal Air Force Regiment personnel played a memorable part”. There are two levels of Battle Honour within the Royal Air Force. The first is the award of a Battle Honour which recognises that a squadron played a notable and significant role in the campaign. The second, higher level confers the right to emblazon the Battle Honour on the Standard itself. This ultimate accolade of Battle Honours with emblazonment is reserved for those squadrons which are involved in direct confrontation with an enemy and demonstrate gallantry and spirit under fire.

The highest honour of Battle Honour with the right to emblazon has been awarded to two squadrons for their participation on Operation VULCAN.

The highest honour of Battle Honour with the right to emblazon has been awarded to one squadron for their participation on Operation BARRAS.

A Battle Honour with the right to emblazon ‘BOSNIA 1995’ on their Squadron Standard is awarded to:

No. IV (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 6 Squadron RAF

A Battle Honour with the right to emblazon ‘SIERRA LEONE 2000’ on their Squadron Standard is awarded to:

No.7 Squadron RAF



WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: James Heappey (Minister for the Armed Forces)
Commons

RAF Battle Honours for Operations in Afghanistan

My noble Friend the Minister in the House of Lords (The Rt Hon Baroness Goldie DL) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing that Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the award of Battle Honours to squadrons of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force for their participation in operations in Afghanistan during the period 7 October 2001 to 31 December 2014.

Battle Honours may be “awarded to commemorate any notable battle, action or engagement in which aircrew or Royal Air Force Regiment personnel played a memorable part”. There are two levels of Battle Honour within the Royal Air Force. The first is the award of a Battle Honour which recognises that a squadron played a notable and significant role in the campaign. The second, higher level confers the right to emblazon the Battle Honour on the Standard itself. Battle Honours with emblazonment are reserved for those squadrons which are involved in direct confrontation with an enemy and demonstrate gallantry and spirit under fire.

Six operational flying squadrons and nine Royal Air Force Regiment squadrons were awarded the highest honour of a Battle Honour with the right to emblazon. Battle Honours were approved for twenty-six operational flying squadrons for their participation in operations in Afghanistan.

A Battle Honour with the right to emblazon ‘AFGHANISTAN 2001-2014’ on their Squadron Standard is awarded to:

No. 7 Squadron RAF

No. 3 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 18 (Bomber) Squadron RAF

No. 15 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 27 Squadron RAF

No. 27 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 34 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 47 Squadron RAF

No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 78 Squadron RAF

No. 58 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 1 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. 63 Squadron RAF Regiment

No. II Squadron RAF Regiment

A Battle Honour is awarded to:

No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron RAF

No. 30 Squadron RAF

No. II (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 31 Squadron RAF

No. 3 (Fighter) Squadron RAF

No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF

No. IV (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 39 Squadron RAF

No. V (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF

No. 51 Squadron RAF

No. 8 Squadron RAF

No. LXX Squadron RAF

No. IX (Bomber) Squadron RAF

No. 99 Squadron RAF

No. 10 Squadron RAF

No. 101 Squadron RAF

No. 12 (Bomber) Squadron RAF

No. 120 Squadron RAF

No. XIII Squadron RAF

No. 201 Squadron RAF

No. 14 Squadron RAF

No. 206 Squadron RAF

No. 23 Squadron RAF

No. 216 Squadron RAF

No. XXIV Squadron RAF

No. 617 Squadron RAF

WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: James Heappey (Minister for the Armed Forces)
Commons

Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations Annual Report 2019

I am today publishing the report of the Review of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations 2019.

The Review’s purpose was to assess and challenge the continuing requirement, efficiency and good governance of the thirteen RFCAs and, their Joint Committee, the Council of RFCAs. The Review was undertaken by MOD, and an independent Challenge Panel was appointed to assure its robustness and impartiality. The Review was conducted with the full participation of the RFCA community, and gathered evidence from a wide range of stakeholders across government, Defence and the RFCAs’ customers at the national and regional levels. I would like to thank all those who contributed to the Review.

The Review concluded that the functions of the RFCAs remain valued and necessary and the RFCAs should continue in their role of key partner to Defence – a point made clear by the wide range of beneficiaries of the RFCAs’ work. The Review makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the relationship between Defence and the RFCAs, ensuring the RFCAs are on a stable, sustainable footing to continue to deliver advocacy and support for Reserves and Cadets across the UK.

Defence is currently working with other Government Departments and the RFCAs to understand how best to implement the recommendations. This will be announced in due course.

The Report will be placed in the library of the House.

WS
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 24 March 2020
Made by: Alok Sharma (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Commons

Departmental Contingent Liability Notification (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme)

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of Honourable and Right Honourable Members to bring to their attention the details of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 11 March 2020.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be facilitated by the Government-owned British Business Bank and delivered through its delivery partners. Lenders will offer loans of up to £5 million to support small and medium sized businesses with a turnover up to £45 million that are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. There will be no limit on the number and aggregate value of loans that can be made under the scheme.

The scheme is based on the British Business Bank’s existing Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, is available on a temporary basis and can be extended as required. The key parameters of the scheme are as follows:

  • The percentage of the remaining balance of each loan that is guaranteed by the Government will be increased to 80 per cent (currently 75 per cent of each EFG loan is guaranteed);

  • A cap on gross Government liability at the level of the lender’s whole CBILS portfolio of 75 per cent of losses (currently the Government’s gross liability is capped at 20 per cent of losses across the lender’s whole EFG portfolio);

  • A government grant (the 'business interruption payment') will be provided for the benefit of businesses, equal to the fees and interest incurred on the facility for the first twelve months. The maximum grant payable is capped at a level that will allow a significant majority of businesses to be compensated in full. A lower cap applies to businesses in some sectors;

  • The lender must establish that the SME has a viable business proposition assessed according to its normal commercial lending criteria. However, where there are some concerns over the short-term business performance due to Covid-19 impacts, provided the lender reasonably believes that the finance will help the business to ‘trade out’ of any short-term cashflow difficulty, then the business is considered eligible for the scheme; and

  • Subject to the lender’s policy, businesses can access CBILS loans up to a value of £250,000 without the lender undertaking an assessment of their security position (currently, only businesses that have been assessed by the lender as having insufficient security can access EFG loans).

The new scheme was launched on 23 March, will run for an initial period of six months, and will be extended as required. The Government will be subject to a greater contingent liability than is the case for the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, and I will be laying a Departmental Minute today containing a description of the liability undertaken.

For more information on this and other support for business, please go to https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/

WS
Department for Transport
Made on: 23 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State)
Lords

Rail Update

My Right Honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps), has made the following Ministerial Statement.

In these uncertain times, the railway has a vital role to play in ensuring Britain’s key workers can travel and vital supplies are kept moving. My absolute focus is on making sure services continue so that journeys that are vital in tackling this crisis can continue to take place, so today, to make sure our railways stay open, we are providing train operators on franchises let by my Department the opportunity to temporarily transition onto Emergency Measures Agreements.

These agreements will suspend the normal financial mechanisms of franchise agreements, transferring all revenue and cost risk to the government. Operators will continue to run day-to-day services for a small, pre-determined management fee. Companies entering into these agreements will see a temporary suspension of their existing franchise agreement’s financial mechanisms for an initial period of six months, with options for further extension or earlier cancellation as agreed.

Today’s offer will provide greater flexibility to the train operators and the government and make sure the railway can continue to react quickly to changing circumstances and play its part in serving the national interest. It will ensure vital services continue to operate for key workers who are keeping the nation running and that we are able to reinstate a normal service quickly when the situation improves.

In the longer term these agreements will also minimise disruption to the rail sector. The railways have already seen up to a 70% drop in passenger numbers, with rail fares revenue reducing as people increasingly work from home and adopt social distancing, and total ticket sales down by two-thirds from the equivalent date in 2019. Suspending the usual financial mechanisms will not only guarantee that services can be sustained over this difficult period, it will also provide certainty for staff working on the railways, many of whom are working hard every day in difficult conditions to make sure we keep the railway running.

This is not a new model, it is a temporary solution, taking the steps necessary to protect services now in a cost-efficient way, and ensuring current events have as little impact as possible on the railway in the longer term. Allowing operators to enter insolvency would cause significantly more disruption to passengers and higher costs to the taxpayer.

Fees will be set at a maximum of 2 per cent of the cost base of the franchise before the Covid-19 pandemic began, intended to incentivise operators to meet reliability, punctuality and other targets. The maximum fee attainable will be far less than recent profits earned by train operators. In the event that an operator does not wish to accept an Emergency Measures Agreement, the Government’s Operator of Last Resort stands ready to step in.

Alongside our focus on keeping the railways open to support key workers, we recognise there will be many who have heeded Government advice and chosen not to travel. We don’t want people to lose money for doing the right thing, so I am also announcing today that passengers will be able to get refunds for Advance tickets they aren’t able to use while the government advises against non-essential travel.

We have agreed with all the train operators that passengers who have already purchased an Advance ticket will be eligible for a refund without any charge. Those holding a season ticket that they no longer wish to use will also be eligible for a partial refund, determined by the amount of time remaining on the ticket. Ticket holders should contact their operator for further details.

Given the significant timetable changes that have put been in place we are also asking operators to use discretion to allow passengers with Advance tickets to travel on an alternative train at a similar time or date if their ticket is technically no longer valid as a result of cancellations, but they still wish to travel.

We are operating in extraordinary times, but today’s announcement will make sure key workers who depend on our railways are able to travel and carry on their vital roles, that hardworking commuters - who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, are not left out of pocket, and it will provide certainty to the industry’s staff who are still working hard every day to make sure the railway plays its part in tackling this crisis.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS175
WS
Department for Education
Made on: 23 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Berridge (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System)
Lords

Impact of Covid-19 on Summer Exams

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As I announced to the House on 18 March, in light of the unprecedented public health emergency the Government has taken the difficult decision to cancel all exams due to take place in schools and colleges in England this summer. We recognise that students have been working hard towards these exams, and this is not a decision we have taken lightly.

Our priority is to ensure that students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including starting university, college or sixth form, or an apprenticeship or a job in the autumn. For GCSE, A and AS level students we will also make sure they are awarded a grade which reflects their work. Our intention is that a grade will be awarded this summer, based on the best available evidence, including any non-exam assessment that students have already completed. There will also be an option, for students who do not feel this grade reflects their performance, to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity once schools are open again.

Ofqual will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students. The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead. To produce this, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly this will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in. Ofqual and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that it is as fair as possible. More information will be provided as soon as possible.

The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. We will also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, university representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.

We recognise that some students may nevertheless feel disappointed that they haven’t been able to sit their exams. If they do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal on that basis. In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity once schools are open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

There is a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications as well as other academic qualifications for which students were expecting to sit exams this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations and have differing assessment approaches – in many cases students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. We are encouraging these organisations to show the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged. Ofqual is working urgently with the sector to explore options, and we will work with them to provide more details shortly.

The Government will not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS176
WS
Department for Education
Made on: 23 March 2020
Made by: Gavin Williamson (The Secretary of State for Education)
Commons

Impact of Covid-19 on Summer Exams

As I announced to the House on 18 March, in light of the unprecedented public health emergency the Government has taken the difficult decision to cancel all exams due to take place in schools and colleges in England this summer. We recognise that students have been working hard towards these exams, and this is not a decision we have taken lightly.

Our priority is to ensure that students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including starting university, college or sixth form, or an apprenticeship or a job in the autumn. For GCSE, A and AS level students we will also make sure they are awarded a grade which reflects their work. Our intention is that a grade will be awarded this summer, based on the best available evidence, including any non-exam assessment that students have already completed. There will also be an option, for students who do not feel this grade reflects their performance, to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity once schools are open again.

Ofqual will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students. The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead. To produce this, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly this will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in. Ofqual and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that it is as fair as possible. More information will be provided as soon as possible.

The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. We will also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, university representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.

We recognise that some students may nevertheless feel disappointed that they haven’t been able to sit their exams. If they do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal on that basis. In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity once schools are open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

There is a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications as well as other academic qualifications for which students were expecting to sit exams this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations and have differing assessment approaches – in many cases students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. We are encouraging these organisations to show the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged. Ofqual is working urgently with the sector to explore options, and we will work with them to provide more details shortly.

The Government will not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS170
WS
Department for Transport
Made on: 23 March 2020
Made by: Grant Shapps (Secretary of State for Transport )
Commons

Rail Update

In these uncertain times, the railway has a vital role to play in ensuring Britain’s key workers can travel and vital supplies are kept moving. My absolute focus is on making sure services continue so that journeys that are vital in tackling this crisis can continue to take place, so today, to make sure our railways stay open, we are providing train operators on franchises let by my Department the opportunity to temporarily transition onto Emergency Measures Agreements.

These agreements will suspend the normal financial mechanisms of franchise agreements, transferring all revenue and cost risk to the government. Operators will continue to run day-to-day services for a small, pre-determined management fee. Companies entering into these agreements will see a temporary suspension of their existing franchise agreement’s financial mechanisms for an initial period of six months, with options for further extension or earlier cancellation as agreed.

Today’s offer will provide greater flexibility to the train operators and the government and make sure the railway can continue to react quickly to changing circumstances and play its part in serving the national interest. It will ensure vital services continue to operate for key workers who are keeping the nation running and that we are able to reinstate a normal service quickly when the situation improves.

In the longer term these agreements will also minimise disruption to the rail sector. The railways have already seen up to a 70% drop in passenger numbers, with rail fares revenue reducing as people increasingly work from home and adopt social distancing, and total ticket sales down by two-thirds from the equivalent date in 2019. Suspending the usual financial mechanisms will not only guarantee that services can be sustained over this difficult period, it will also provide certainty for staff working on the railways, many of whom are working hard every day in difficult conditions to make sure we keep the railway running.

This is not a new model, it is a temporary solution, taking the steps necessary to protect services now in a cost-efficient way, and ensuring current events have as little impact as possible on the railway in the longer term. Allowing operators to enter insolvency would cause significantly more disruption to passengers and higher costs to the taxpayer.

Fees will be set at a maximum of 2 per cent of the cost base of the franchise before the Covid-19 pandemic began, intended to incentivise operators to meet reliability, punctuality and other targets. The maximum fee attainable will be far less than recent profits earned by train operators. In the event that an operator does not wish to accept an Emergency Measures Agreement, the Government’s Operator of Last Resort stands ready to step in.

Alongside our focus on keeping the railways open to support key workers, we recognise there will be many who have heeded Government advice and chosen not to travel. We don’t want people to lose money for doing the right thing, so I am also announcing today that passengers will be able to get refunds for Advance tickets they aren’t able to use while the government advises against non-essential travel.

We have agreed with all the train operators that passengers who have already purchased an Advance ticket will be eligible for a refund without any charge. Those holding a season ticket that they no longer wish to use will also be eligible for a partial refund, determined by the amount of time remaining on the ticket. Ticket holders should contact their operator for further details.

Given the significant timetable changes that have put been in place we are also asking operators to use discretion to allow passengers with Advance tickets to travel on an alternative train at a similar time or date if their ticket is technically no longer valid as a result of cancellations, but they still wish to travel.

We are operating in extraordinary times, but today’s announcement will make sure key workers who depend on our railways are able to travel and carry on their vital roles, that hardworking commuters - who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, are not left out of pocket, and it will provide certainty to the industry’s staff who are still working hard every day to make sure the railway plays its part in tackling this crisis.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS171
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Chloe Smith (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office )
Commons

Postponement of electoral events

On Friday 13th March, the Prime Minister announced that the scheduled elections in May this year would be postponed by 12 months. The decision to postpone was taken following advice from the Government’s medical experts in relation to the response to the Covid-19 virus. Additional risks include to polling station safety, the possible demands on local authority electoral staff to support other key services, and the impracticality or potential impossibility of campaigning activity.

We will shortly be bringing forward measures within the Coronavirus Bill to postpone the scheduled local and mayoral elections due to take place in England and the scheduled Police and Crime Commissioner elections due to take place in England and Wales on 7th May this year until the next ordinary day of election on 6th May 2021. Provisions will also be made to enable the postponement of other electoral events over the course of the year (such as by-elections) and to make necessary consequential amendments associated with the postponement of polls which may, for example, include measures relating to incumbent office holders, the nomination of candidates and election expenses. This includes the particular circumstances of new unitary councils in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire to ensure the new Buckinghamshire council goes live on 1st April 2020 and that the shadow unitary councils in Northamptonshire are established in May 2020. We understand the Warwick council tax referendum (and the proposed above-threshold tax increase) is not now taking place.

Where the May 2020 scheduled elections have been postponed, the term of current elected representatives will be extended to May 2021. For those elected in 2021 as a result of the postponement their term of office will be three years ending in 2024 rather than four years.

For recall petitions, the timing of a recall poll is prescribed in legislation and any alteration to enable postponement will require the measures being brought forward. The timing of Parliamentary by-elections are within the discretion of the political parties and Speaker and do not require a legislative remedy for postponement.

The Bill will be introduced in Parliament today, however we recognise that there will be a small number of polls between now and the date of Royal Assent which will not be covered by these provisions. We appreciate that this presents difficult and challenging circumstances for Returning Officers and others running polls, who are rightly statutorily independent and responsible for delivering polls. Running a poll in present times is likely to come with significant concerns about the wellbeing of those involved, which may be unfair to both staff and the public. As such it would be both reasonable and consistent with the national position to suspend any poll scheduled within this period, including those due to take place today, Thursday 19th March.

The Government will give its full support to Returning Officers and others running polls who make the decision to suspend their polls. We have consulted with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who have assured me that prosecution in these circumstances is highly unlikely.

Ensuring the health and safety of the public is our number one priority and I am grateful for the support of the electoral community in helping this effort. We appreciate all of the hard work of Returning Officers and others during these difficult and challenging circumstances.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS169
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Lord True (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office)
Lords

Postponement of electoral events

My Hon. Friend, the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (Chloe Smith) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

On Friday 13th March, the Prime Minister announced that the scheduled elections in May this year would be postponed by 12 months. The decision to postpone was taken following advice from the Government’s medical experts in relation to the response to the Covid-19 virus. Additional risks include to polling station safety, the possible demands on local authority electoral staff to support other key services, and the impracticality or potential impossibility of campaigning activity.

We will shortly be bringing forward measures within the Coronavirus Bill to postpone the scheduled local and mayoral elections due to take place in England and the scheduled Police and Crime Commissioner elections due to take place in England and Wales on 7th May this year until the next ordinary day of election on 6th May 2021. Provisions will also be made to enable the postponement of other electoral events over the course of the year (such as by-elections) and to make necessary consequential amendments associated with the postponement of polls which may, for example, include measures relating to incumbent office holders, the nomination of candidates and election expenses. This includes the particular circumstances of new unitary councils in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire to ensure the new Buckinghamshire council goes live on 1st April 2020 and that the shadow unitary councils in Northamptonshire are established in May 2020. We understand the Warwick council tax referendum (and the proposed above-threshold tax increase) is not now taking place.

Where the May 2020 scheduled elections have been postponed, the term of current elected representatives will be extended to May 2021. For those elected in 2021 as a result of the postponement their term of office will be three years ending in 2024 rather than four years.

For recall petitions, the timing of a recall poll is prescribed in legislation and any alteration to enable postponement will require the measures being brought forward. The timing of Parliamentary by-elections are within the discretion of the political parties and Speaker and do not require a legislative remedy for postponement.

The Bill will be introduced in Parliament today, however we recognise that there will be a small number of polls between now and the date of Royal Assent which will not be covered by these provisions. We appreciate that this presents difficult and challenging circumstances for Returning Officers and others running polls, who are rightly statutorily independent and responsible for delivering polls. Running a poll in present times is likely to come with significant concerns about the wellbeing of those involved, which may be unfair to both staff and the public. As such it would be both reasonable and consistent with the national position to suspend any poll scheduled within this period, including those due to take place today, Thursday 19th March.

The Government will give its full support to Returning Officers and others running polls who make the decision to suspend their polls. We have consulted with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who have assured me that prosecution in these circumstances is highly unlikely.

Ensuring the health and safety of the public is our number one priority and I am grateful for the support of the electoral community in helping this effort. We appreciate all of the hard work of Returning Officers and others during these difficult and challenging circumstances.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS174
WS
Home Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Williams of Trafford (The Minister of State, Home Office)
Lords

Report of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on the operation in 2018 of the Terrorism Acts

My rt hon Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has prepared a report on the operation in 2018 of the Terrorism Acts.

In accordance with section 36(5) of the Terrorism Act 2006, I am today laying this report before the House and copies will be available in the Vote Office. It will also be published on GOV.UK.

I am grateful to Mr Hall for his report. I will carefully consider its contents and the recommendations he makes and will respond formally in due course.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS173
WS
Home Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Williams of Trafford (The Minister of State, Home Office )
Lords

HM Government Transparency Report: Disruptive Powers 2018/19

My rt hon Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

I have today laid before the House the fourth iteration of the Government Transparency Report on the use of disruptive powers (CP 212). Copies of the Report will be made available in the Vote Office and online on gov.uk.

This Government remains committed to increasing the transparency of the work of our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and this next iteration of the Transparency Report is a key part of that commitment.

Publishing this Report ensures that the public are able to access, in one place, a guide to the range of powers used to combat threats to the security of the United Kingdom, the extent of their use and the safeguards and oversight in place to ensure they are used properly.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS172
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Lord True (Minister of State for the Cabinet Office)
Lords

The European (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks

My Rt Hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Michael Gove) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

I am today laying before Parliament a report, ‘The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 September 2019 to 25 December 2019". I am laying this report because it is a legal requirement under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for quarterly reports to be made to Parliament on the progress of the work to develop common frameworks. The report is available on Gov.uk and details the progress made between the UK Government and devolved administrations regarding the development of common frameworks. This report details progress made during the sixth 3-month reporting period, and sets out that no ‘freezing’ regulations have been brought forward under section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. A copy of the ‘The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 September 2019 to 25 December 2019’ report has been placed in the library of both Houses. The publication of the report reflects the Government’s continued commitment to transparency.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS171
WS
Home Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Priti Patel (The Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Commons

Report of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on the operation in 2018 of the Terrorism Acts

Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has prepared a report on the operation in 2018 of the Terrorism Acts.

In accordance with section 36(5) of the Terrorism Act 2006, I am today laying this report before the House and copies will be available in the Vote Office. It will also be published on GOV.UK.

I am grateful to Mr Hall for his report. I will carefully consider its contents and the recommendations he makes and will respond formally in due course.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS168
WS
Home Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Priti Patel (The Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Commons

HM Government Transparency Report: Disruptive Powers 2018/19

I have today laid before the House the fourth iteration of the Government Transparency Report on the use of disruptive powers (CP 212). Copies of the Report will be made available in the Vote Office and online on gov.uk.

This Government remains committed to increasing the transparency of the work of our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and this next iteration of the Transparency Report is a key part of that commitment.

Publishing this Report ensures that the public are able to access, in one place, a guide to the range of powers used to combat threats to the security of the United Kingdom, the extent of their use and the safeguards and oversight in place to ensure they are used properly.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS167
WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Goldie (Minister of State, Ministry of Defence)
Lords

Armed Forces Update

My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey MP) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A new order has been made under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable Reservists to be called into permanent service to support HM Forces in connection to the UK’s response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Defence is committed to assisting HMG by ensuring that there are effective and proportionate contingency plans in place to mitigate the potential impacts that the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak might have on the welfare, health and security of UK citizens and economic stability of the UK. Defence is taking prudent steps to ensure that we can provide support to other Government Departments when requested.

As part of this support, Reserve Forces will be on standby to deliver a range of Defence outputs such as (but not limited to): the reinforcement of Regular sub-units, liaison officer roles and the provision of specialist skills. A particularly important role may be the planned reinforcement of Regional Points of Command, to enable their 24/7 operation and resilience. We would also expect Reserves to be drawn upon to support the implementation of contingency plans developed by Other Government Departments.

The order shall take effect from the day on which it is made and shall cease to have effect 12 months from the date on which it is made.

WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: Michael Gove (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster)
Commons

The European (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks

I am today laying before Parliament a report, ‘The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 September 2019 to 25 December 2019". I am laying this report because it is a legal requirement under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for quarterly reports to be made to Parliament on the progress of the work to develop common frameworks. The report is available on Gov.uk and details the progress made between the UK Government and devolved administrations regarding the development of common frameworks. This report details progress made during the sixth 3-month reporting period, and sets out that no ‘freezing’ regulations have been brought forward under section 12 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. A copy of the ‘The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks: 26 September 2019 to 25 December 2019’ report has been placed in the library of both Houses. The publication of the report reflects the Government’s continued commitment to transparency.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS166
WS
Ministry of Defence
Made on: 19 March 2020
Made by: James Heappey (Minister for the Armed Forces)
Commons

Armed Forces Update

A new order has been made under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable Reservists to be called into permanent service to support HM Forces in connection to the UK’s response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Defence is committed to assisting HMG by ensuring that there are effective and proportionate contingency plans in place to mitigate the potential impacts that the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak might have on the welfare, health and security of UK citizens and economic stability of the UK. Defence is taking prudent steps to ensure that we can provide support to other Government Departments when requested.

As part of this support, Reserve Forces will be on standby to deliver a range of Defence outputs such as (but not limited to): the reinforcement of Regular sub-units, liaison officer roles and the provision of specialist skills. A particularly important role may be the planned reinforcement of Regional Points of Command, to enable their 24/7 operation and resilience. We would also expect Reserves to be drawn upon to support the implementation of contingency plans developed by Other Government Departments.

The order shall take effect from the day on which it is made and shall cease to have effect 12 months from the date on which it is made.

WS
Treasury
Made on: 18 March 2020
Made by: Lord Agnew of Oulton (Minister of State)
Lords

Notification of a Contingent Liability

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Rishi Sunak) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In my oral statement yesterday I announced a new credit easing scheme called the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which is expected to become operational in the week commencing 23 March 2020. This scheme will be run by the Bank of England (The Bank) on behalf of HM Treasury. HM Treasury are extending a full indemnity for the CCFF, which will create a new contingent liability for the Government equal to the potential losses of the Facility.

The CCFF will be a credit easing scheme targeted at easing the disruption to cash flows of companies following Covid-19. The scheme will focus on purchasing newly issued Commercial Paper from eligible companies, which are non-financial companies that make a material contribution to the UK economy and are rated investment grade. The CCFF is unlimited in size.

HM Treasury will monitor risks to public funds from the Facility through regular meetings with the Bank. The Bank will manage the Facility in accordance with a stringent risk control framework agreement between HM Treasury and the Bank, which will be similar to existing frameworks such as that of the Asset Purchase Facility (APF).

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

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS169
WS
Treasury
Made on: 18 March 2020
Made by: Rishi Sunak (The Chancellor of the Exchequer)
Commons

Notification of a Contingent Liability

In my oral statement yesterday I announced a new credit easing scheme called the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which is expected to become operational in the week commencing 23 March 2020. This scheme will be run by the Bank of England (The Bank) on behalf of HM Treasury. HM Treasury are extending a full indemnity for the CCFF, which will create a new contingent liability for the Government equal to the potential losses of the Facility.

The CCFF will be a credit easing scheme targeted at easing the disruption to cash flows of companies following Covid-19. The scheme will focus on purchasing newly issued Commercial Paper from eligible companies, which are non-financial companies that make a material contribution to the UK economy and are rated investment grade. The CCFF is unlimited in size.

HM Treasury will monitor risks to public funds from the Facility through regular meetings with the Bank. The Bank will manage the Facility in accordance with a stringent risk control framework agreement between HM Treasury and the Bank, which will be similar to existing frameworks such as that of the Asset Purchase Facility (APF).

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

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS164
WS
Northern Ireland Office
Made on: 18 March 2020
Made by: Viscount Younger of Leckie (Government Spokesperson for Northern Ireland)
Lords

Addressing Northern Ireland Legacy Issues

My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Brandon Lewis) has today made the following statement:

Today the Government announced the introduction of legislation to provide greater certainty for service personnel and veterans who serve in armed conflicts overseas. Alongside this, we are setting out how we propose to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of reinvestigations into the Troubles in Northern Ireland that has failed victims and veterans alike - ensuring equal treatment of Northern Ireland veterans and those who served overseas.

We have heard from many across Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom that the current approach is not working well for anyone, and that it erodes confidence in public institutions that exist to support society as a whole. Discussions about how to change this have been ongoing for many years. The Stormont House Agreement in 2014 was an important milestone, but it did not stop the debate continuing.

Many families have waited too long to find out what happened to their loved ones, while those who defended the rule of law deserve certainty that there will be an end to repeated questions about what happened during their service. A better way to deal with the past is necessary, if we are to help the whole of society to effectively heal the wounds of the Troubles and become better reconciled with our difficult history.

In 2018, the Government carried out a public consultation on ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’, inviting views on proposals based on the Stormont House Agreement. The consultation attracted over 17,000 responses - summarised in the Government’s ‘Analysis of the consultation responses’, published in July 2019. We have carefully considered each and every one of these, and sought to identify a way forward that will deliver for all those affected by the legacy of the Troubles and enable all sides of the community to reconcile and prosper. It is clear that, while the principles underpinning the draft Bill as consulted on in 2018 remain, significant changes will be needed to obtain a broad consensus for the implementation of any legislation. We believe that the proposals set out below provide a framework for doing this.

It is the Government’s view that to best meet the needs of all victims and of wider society, we need to shift the focus of our approach to the past. While there must always be a route to justice, experience suggests that the likelihood of justice in most cases may now be small, and continues to decrease as time passes. Our view is that we should now therefore centre our attention on providing as much information as possible to families about what happened to their loved ones - while this is still possible.

Our proposals have therefore evolved to remain true to the principles of the Stormont House Agreement but with a greater emphasis on gathering information for families; moving at a faster pace to retrieve knowledge before it is lost; and doing more to help individuals and society to share and understand the tragic experiences of the past.

It is proposed that these measures should be carried out by one independent body to ensure the most efficient and joined-up approach, putting the needs of the individuals most affected at the heart of the process. This body will oversee and manage both the information recovery and investigative aspects of the legacy system, and provide every family with a report with information concerning the death of their loved one.

The Government wants information recovery and reconciliation to be at the heart of a revised legacy system that puts victims first. The Government is committed to the rule of law but given the considerable time that has elapsed since many of these incidents took place it is vital that we swiftly implement an effective information recovery mechanism before this information is lost forever.

The Government will ensure that the investigations which are necessary are effective and thorough, but quick, so we are able to move beyond the cycle of investigations that has, to date, undermined attempts to come to terms with the past. Only cases in which there is a realistic prospect of a prosecution as a result of new compelling evidence would proceed to a full police investigation and if necessary, prosecution. Cases which do not reach this threshold, or subsequently are not referred for prosecution, would be closed and no further investigations or prosecutions would be possible - though family reports would still be provided to the victims’ loved ones. Such an approach would give all participants the confidence and certainty to fully engage with the information recovery process.

The Government believes that this approach would deliver a fair, balanced, and proportionate system that is consistent with the principles of the Stormont House Agreement and deliver for all those who have been affected by the events of the past; striking a balance in enabling criminal investigations to proceed where necessary, while facilitating a swift transition to an effective information recovery mechanism before this information is lost forever.

The Government is committed to introducing legislation in line with our commitments in ‘New Decade, New Approach’, to move forward and deliver for all communities in Northern Ireland and beyond.

WS
Northern Ireland Office
Made on: 18 March 2020
Made by: Brandon Lewis (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)
Commons

Addressing Northern Ireland Legacy Issues

Today the Government announced the introduction of legislation to provide greater certainty for service personnel and veterans who serve in armed conflicts overseas. Alongside this, we are setting out how we propose to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of reinvestigations into the Troubles in Northern Ireland that has failed victims and veterans alike - ensuring equal treatment of Northern Ireland veterans and those who served overseas.

We have heard from many across Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom that the current approach is not working well for anyone, and that it erodes confidence in public institutions that exist to support society as a whole. Discussions about how to change this have been ongoing for many years. The Stormont House Agreement in 2014 was an important milestone, but it did not stop the debate continuing.

Many families have waited too long to find out what happened to their loved ones, while those who defended the rule of law deserve certainty that there will be an end to repeated questions about what happened during their service. A better way to deal with the past is necessary, if we are to help the whole of society to effectively heal the wounds of the Troubles and become better reconciled with our difficult history.

In 2018, the Government carried out a public consultation on ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’, inviting views on proposals based on the Stormont House Agreement. The consultation attracted over 17,000 responses - summarised in the Government’s ‘Analysis of the consultation responses’, published in July 2019. We have carefully considered each and every one of these, and sought to identify a way forward that will deliver for all those affected by the legacy of the Troubles and enable all sides of the community to reconcile and prosper. It is clear that, while the principles underpinning the draft Bill as consulted on in 2018 remain, significant changes will be needed to obtain a broad consensus for the implementation of any legislation. We believe that the proposals set out below provide a framework for doing this.

It is the Government’s view that to best meet the needs of all victims and of wider society, we need to shift the focus of our approach to the past. While there must always be a route to justice, experience suggests that the likelihood of justice in most cases may now be small, and continues to decrease as time passes. Our view is that we should now therefore centre our attention on providing as much information as possible to families about what happened to their loved ones - while this is still possible.

Our proposals have therefore evolved to remain true to the principles of the Stormont House Agreement but with a greater emphasis on gathering information for families; moving at a faster pace to retrieve knowledge before it is lost; and doing more to help individuals and society to share and understand the tragic experiences of the past.

It is proposed that these measures should be carried out by one independent body to ensure the most efficient and joined-up approach, putting the needs of the individuals most affected at the heart of the process. This body will oversee and manage both the information recovery and investigative aspects of the legacy system, and provide every family with a report with information concerning the death of their loved one.

The Government wants information recovery and reconciliation to be at the heart of a revised legacy system that puts victims first. The Government is committed to the rule of law but given the considerable time that has elapsed since many of these incidents took place it is vital that we swiftly implement an effective information recovery mechanism before this information is lost forever.

The Government will ensure that the investigations which are necessary are effective and thorough, but quick, so we are able to move beyond the cycle of investigations that has, to date, undermined attempts to come to terms with the past. Only cases in which there is a realistic prospect of a prosecution as a result of new compelling evidence would proceed to a full police investigation and if necessary, prosecution. Cases which do not reach this threshold, or subsequently are not referred for prosecution, would be closed and no further investigations or prosecutions would be possible - though family reports would still be provided to the victims’ loved ones. Such an approach would give all participants the confidence and certainty to fully engage with the information recovery process.

The Government believes that this approach would deliver a fair, balanced, and proportionate system that is consistent with the principles of the Stormont House Agreement and deliver for all those who have been affected by the events of the past; striking a balance in enabling criminal investigations to proceed where necessary, while facilitating a swift transition to an effective information recovery mechanism before this information is lost forever.

The Government is committed to introducing legislation in line with our commitments in ‘New Decade, New Approach’, to move forward and deliver for all communities in Northern Ireland and beyond.

WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 17 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Stedman-Scott (The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions)
Lords

Covid-19: DWP Update

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

We have been carefully considering what steps need to be taken in order to reduce the risk to vulnerable claimants and staff members in light of the escalating Covid-19 outbreak. The safety of these individuals is our number one priority.

We therefore took the decision to suspend all face to face assessments for health and disability related benefits with immediate effect from 17th March. This includes Personal Independence Payment, the Industrial Injuries Scheme and Work Capability Assessments in both Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. This decision has been taken in order to safeguard the health of individuals claiming these benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk due to their pre-existing health conditions. This is also in line with measures announced yesterday by the Prime Minister.

Due to the immediacy of this change and the need to urgently communicate this to individuals affected, we began communicating this change yesterday. This included contacting affected claimants with appointments booked in the coming days as well as contacting MPs directly, encouraging them to share the information with their constituency members and local organisations. I can however confirm that this measure has only come into place from today, 17th March.

Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled no longer needs to attend. We are working at pace with our Assessment Providers to put in place alternative arrangements and I am grateful to the Providers for their support in working collaboratively with the Department to provide continuity of service at this critical time. Claimants do not need to take any action, we will be contacting claimants to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements as soon as possible. This may involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.

We expect this measure will be in effect for the next 3 months but we will be regularly reviewing the position in line with Public Health advice. We continue to accept new claims to all benefits and for existing claimants, benefits will remain in payment while alternative arrangements are put in place. Any decisions made under the alternative arrangements will of course also come with Mandatory Reconsideration and Appeal rights as normal, should claimants wish to challenge any decision made.

This change does not affect the existing Public Health advice. The current NHS guidelines on Coronavirus, including advice on those who should stay at home can be found here.

As and when changes in Public Health guidance necessitate other changes, the Department will endeavour to inform Parliament as soon as possible.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS167
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 17 March 2020
Made by: Justin Tomlinson (Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work)
Commons

Covid-19: DWP Update

We have been carefully considering what steps need to be taken in order to reduce the risk to vulnerable claimants and staff members in light of the escalating Covid-19 outbreak. The safety of these individuals is our number one priority.

We therefore took the decision to suspend all face to face assessments for health and disability related benefits with immediate effect from 17th March. This includes Personal Independence Payment, the Industrial Injuries Scheme and Work Capability Assessments in both Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. This decision has been taken in order to safeguard the health of individuals claiming these benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk due to their pre-existing health conditions. This is also in line with measures announced yesterday by the Prime Minister.

Due to the immediacy of this change and the need to urgently communicate this to individuals affected, we began communicating this change yesterday. This included contacting affected claimants with appointments booked in the coming days as well as contacting MPs directly, encouraging them to share the information with their constituency members and local organisations. I can however confirm that this measure has only come into place from today, 17th March.

Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled no longer needs to attend. We are working at pace with our Assessment Providers to put in place alternative arrangements and I am grateful to the Providers for their support in working collaboratively with the Department to provide continuity of service at this critical time. Claimants do not need to take any action, we will be contacting claimants to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements as soon as possible. This may involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.

We expect this measure will be in effect for the next 3 months but we will be regularly reviewing the position in line with Public Health advice. We continue to accept new claims to all benefits and for existing claimants, benefits will remain in payment while alternative arrangements are put in place. Any decisions made under the alternative arrangements will of course also come with Mandatory Reconsideration and Appeal rights as normal, should claimants wish to challenge any decision made.

This change does not affect the existing Public Health advice. The current NHS guidelines on Coronavirus, including advice on those who should stay at home can be found here.

As and when changes in Public Health guidance necessitate other changes, the Department will endeavour to inform Parliament as soon as possible.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS162
WS
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Made on: 17 March 2020
Made by: Baroness Barran (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
Lords

Gigabit Broadband Roll Out

My Honourable Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman MP, has made the following Statement:

This government has ambitious plans to achieve nationwide rollout of future-proof gigabit broadband as soon as possible. Delivering these ambitions will unlock huge economic and social benefits for all members of society.

The provision of gigabit-capable connectivity to new build developments is a crucial element of meeting our ambitious broadband targets. Ensuring virtually all new homes, rural and urban, are built with the future in mind, ready to support the next generation of digital infrastructure, is vitally important. My department consulted on delivering gigabit-capable connections to all new build developments across the UK in 2018.

Today I am pleased to inform members that we have published the Government response to this consultation.

This response announces that the Government will require developers in England to install gigabit-capable infrastructure and, subject to a cost cap, a gigabit-capable connection. To do this, we will use existing powers in the Building Act 1984 to amend the Building Regulations 2010 to mandate that:

  • Developers ensure new homes have gigabit broadband. This includes ensuring that the physical infrastructure necessary for gigabit-capable connections is provided on site for all new build developments and that the home is connected by an operator to a gigabit-capable connection.
  • The requirement on the developer to provide a gigabit-capable connection exists unless the cost to the developer of providing connectivity exceeds £2,000, or the operator declines to provide a connection.
  • Developers must seek a second quote from network operators, where the first quote suggests that gigabit-capable broadband cannot be installed within the cost cap.
  • If gigabit broadband exceeds the cost cap, the developer must provide connectivity to other technologies which can provide at least superfast connection[1] within the same cost cap, unless the operator declines to provide a connection.

This will establish a system that provides a clear and simple process for developers to comply with, limiting the administrative burden on developers to a minimum and gives a clear point in time for submission of evidence.

Implementing through the Building Regulations 2010 will also remove the 6-9 month period that would have been required for primary legislation, speeding up the implementation of this policy. It allows us to proceed immediately to secondary legislation, which would have been required in all circumstances in any case. We will bring forward this legislation as soon as possible in this parliamentary session.

This is not to say that network operators do not have a key role in this area or that Government will not hold them to account to ensure that they deliver gigabit-capable connections. Government is looking to secure commitments from network operators to contribute to the costs of connecting new builds. We have been in active conversations with a number of network operators on this topic and have already secured commitments from Openreach and Virgin Media. Virgin Media will contribute at least £500, rising in the case of some larger sites to £1000. Openreach have also committed to a combined Openreach and Developer Contribution of £3,400, with a maximum developer contribution of £2000.

We have had initial discussions on similar commitments with smaller network operators and will seek to formalise more commitments in advance of this legislation coming into force.

As building standards are a devolved matter, these proposed amendments will apply in England only. However, as the provision of gigabit-capable connections to new homes is a priority for all of us across the whole of the UK, my officials will continue to work closely with the Devolved Administrations to ensure this policy is implemented in a consistent manner across the UK.

[1] that is a connection with speeds of at least 24 Mbps

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