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.

From 17 November 2014, written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. On the day of publication, Commons statements are also available on the Today's Written Statements page.

Written statements are 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
HM Treasury
Made on: 25 January 2016
Made by: Lord O'Neill of Gatley (The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury)
Lords

Contingencies Fund Advance: Help to Buy ISA

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

The Help to Buy: ISA was announced in the March 2015 Budget. Under the scheme first time buyers purchasing a property in the UK will be able to save up to £200 per month in a Help to Buy: ISA and receive a bonus of up to £3,000 The bonus amount is calculated as 25 per cent of the balance in the buyer's Help to Buy: ISA, (with a minimum of £400 and capped at £3000). The bonus will be paid upon the completion of the purchase of an eligible property.

The Help to Buy: ISA has been available since 1 December 2015 and 200,000 accounts have so far been opened. The first homes to be acquired using the scheme are expected to be purchased in early February 2016.

The resources for the bonus payments will form part of HM Treasury’s Supplementary Estimate 2015-16, which is expected to achieve Royal Assent in the associated Supply and Appropriation bill in mid to late March. HM Treasury will therefore be utilising the Contingencies Fund to make the initial bonus payments that become payable prior to Royal Assent.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £20,000,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for HM Treasury. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £20,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS487
WS
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Made on: 25 January 2016
Made by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
Lords

National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism

My Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Tobias Ellwood), has made the following written Ministerial statement:

Today, the Government is launching a public consultation to help inform the creation of a National Memorial to the British Victims of Overseas Terrorism.

We are all aware of the devastating terrorist events that have taken place overseas in recent years, not least the atrocities in Paris. Following the terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year, my right Honourable Friend, the Prime Minister, announced that funding would be made available for a memorial dedicated to UK nationals who have been killed in terrorist atrocities overseas. My right Honourable Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, also announced in the Summer Budget 2015 that the National Memorial would be funded by banking fines (Official Report, 8 July 2015, col 326).

We are launching this consultation in order to gather views on how the National Memorial should be developed. We recognize that, for many, this will be a sensitive issue. We have worked with the Victims’ Commissioner, Victim Support and the British Red Cross, and with representatives of victims’ families to ensure that the consultation allows people to express their views, whilst remaining as sensitive as possible to individuals’ circumstances.

We propose that the Memorial should be an enduring physical memorial that allows those affected to reflect upon their own loss in a way that is meaningful to them. We should not attempt to prescribe the nature of events, or the loss experienced by families and friends, in a rigid way. Consequently, the Memorial should carry a dignified inscription to the victims of overseas terrorism and should not bear individual names or terrorist events.

The consultation will ask respondents whether they would prefer the National Memorial to be in central London—where it might be seen by some to give due prominence to the memory of those who have died—or at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire—a peaceful location for personal reflection at the heart of the United Kingdom.

The consultation will be open for 6 weeks until 4 March 2016.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS486
WS
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Made on: 22 January 2016
Made by: Mr Tobias Ellwood (The Parliamentary Under Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)
Commons

National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism

Today, the Government is launching a public consultation to help inform the creation of a National Memorial to the British Victims of Overseas Terrorism.

We are all aware of the devastating terrorist events that have taken place overseas in recent years, not least the atrocities in Paris. Following the terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year, my right Honourable Friend, the Prime Minister, announced that funding would be made available for a memorial dedicated to UK nationals who have been killed in terrorist atrocities overseas. My right Honourable Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, also announced in the Summer Budget 2015 that the National Memorial would be funded by banking fines (Official Report, 8 July 2015, col 326).

We are launching this consultation in order to gather views on how the National Memorial should be developed. We recognize that, for many, this will be a sensitive issue. We have worked with the Victims’ Commissioner, Victim Support and the British Red Cross, and with representatives of victims’ families to ensure that the consultation allows people to express their views, whilst remaining as sensitive as possible to individuals’ circumstances.

We propose that the Memorial should be an enduring physical memorial that allows those affected to reflect upon their own loss in a way that is meaningful to them. We should not attempt to prescribe the nature of events, or the loss experienced by families and friends, in a rigid way. Consequently, the Memorial should carry a dignified inscription to the victims of overseas terrorism and should not bear individual names or terrorist events.

The consultation will ask respondents whether they would prefer the National Memorial to be in central London—where it might be seen by some to give due prominence to the memory of those who have died—or at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire—a peaceful location for personal reflection at the heart of the United Kingdom.

The consultation will be open for 6 weeks until 4 March 2016.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS476
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Lord Faulks (The Minister of State for Civil Justice)
Lords

Family Justice

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid (Shailesh Vara) has made the following Written Statement.

"Just prior to the Christmas recess, an error was identified in an online version of Form E. This is the form provided by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service in order to enable people to disclose financial information during divorce and similar proceedings.

This fault meant that the automatic calculator in the form calculated the wrong total for an individual’s net assets by failing to deduct certain liabilities.

The Ministry of Justice was alerted to the fault on 10 December 2015 and a corrected version of the form was put online on 14 December. However the wider implications of the faulty form were not immediately recognised.

As soon as I was made aware of this issue on 16 December, I ordered an urgent investigation.

The investigation found the faulty formula was present in versions of Form E which were online between April 2014 and mid December 2015 and between April 2011 and January 2012.

A total of 36,527 cases contain a version of Form E filed from these periods. HMCTS staff have now reviewed all these cases and found that 3,638 files – 10 per cent – contained the faulty calculator version of Form E with an incorrect figure for net assets figure in the summary table.

1,403 of these cases are still live, allowing HMCTS to intervene immediately to clearly flag these cases to the courts in order to avoid the error affecting the final orders in these cases.

The remaining 2,235 files – 6.1 per cent – were closed cases. Although the faulty form was used in these cases, it will not necessarily have had any effect on the ultimate outcome. Form E is only a part of the material used by the parties and the court and is used at an early stage, so the information is often disputed or superseded by further information introduced during proceedings.

Following the error coming to light, HMCTS established a dedicated email address which people could use if they were concerned about their own case: formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk. This email address was advertised on our website and also in all responses to media enquiries. As of 21 January, 51 members of the public have emailed us about their case.

I have instructed HMCTS to write to all parties in the 2,235 closed cases. The letter expresses our sincere regret for the error, sets out what happened and explains that, although Form E is just one part of the evidence used in their case, there remains a possibility that the error affected the final outcome.

The letter sets out options available to people involved in these cases. Some may wish to do nothing, if, for example, they know that the error was corrected during the proceedings or they do not wish to re-open their cases. If people think they have been affected by this error then they can apply to the court to vary or set aside their order. My officials consulted the President of the Family Division about the court rules and procedures that would apply to such applications or for any other proceedings that might be open to the parties. My officials also consulted the President on the development of a specific form for such applications. We have provided a link to the new form in our letter to the parties, as well as guidance on how to complete the form.

I have instructed that no court fee will be charged for making this application, and this is also made this clear in the letter from HMCTS.

We are also uploading a new version of Form E which makes clearer how the calculation of net assets should be made. We will also consider the future of Form E as part of our broader court reforms and the automatic calculator function will be disabled during this process.

This failure should not have happened. Divorce proceedings can be very difficult and I sincerely apologise for this situation and any distress it may have caused."

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS485
WS
Ministry of Justice
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Mr Shailesh Vara (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid)
Commons

Family Justice

Just prior to the Christmas recess, an error was identified in an online version of Form E. This is the form provided by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service in order to enable people to disclose financial information during divorce and similar proceedings.

This fault meant that the automatic calculator in the form calculated the wrong total for an individual’s net assets by failing to deduct certain liabilities.

The Ministry of Justice was alerted to the fault on 10 December 2015 and a corrected version of the form was put online on 14 December. However the wider implications of the faulty form were not immediately recognised.

As soon as I was made aware of this issue on 16 December, I ordered an urgent investigation.

The investigation found the faulty formula was present in versions of Form E which were online between April 2014 and mid December 2015 and between April 2011 and January 2012.

A total of 36,527 cases contain a version of Form E filed from these periods. HMCTS staff have now reviewed all these cases and found that 3,638 files – 10 per cent – contained the faulty calculator version of Form E with an incorrect figure for net assets figure in the summary table.

1,403 of these cases are still live, allowing HMCTS to intervene immediately to clearly flag these cases to the courts in order to avoid the error affecting the final orders in these cases.

The remaining 2,235 files – 6.1 per cent – were closed cases. Although the faulty form was used in these cases, it will not necessarily have had any effect on the ultimate outcome. Form E is only a part of the material used by the parties and the court and is used at an early stage, so the information is often disputed or superseded by further information introduced during proceedings.

Following the error coming to light, HMCTS established a dedicated email address which people could use if they were concerned about their own case: formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk. This email address was advertised on our website and also in all responses to media enquiries. As of 21 January, 51 members of the public have emailed us about their case.

I have instructed HMCTS to write to all parties in the 2,235 closed cases. The letter expresses our sincere regret for the error, sets out what happened and explains that, although Form E is just one part of the evidence used in their case, there remains a possibility that the error affected the final outcome.

The letter sets out options available to people involved in these cases. Some may wish to do nothing, if, for example, they know that the error was corrected during the proceedings or they do not wish to re-open their cases. If people think they have been affected by this error then they can apply to the court to vary or set aside their order. My officials consulted the President of the Family Division about the court rules and procedures that would apply to such applications or for any other proceedings that might be open to the parties. My officials also consulted the President on the development of a specific form for such applications. We have provided a link to the new form in our letter to the parties, as well as guidance on how to complete the form.

I have instructed that no court fee will be charged for making this application, and this is also made this clear in the letter from HMCTS.

We are also uploading a new version of Form E which makes clearer how the calculation of net assets should be made. We will also consider the future of Form E as part of our broader court reforms and the automatic calculator function will be disabled during this process.

This failure should not have happened. Divorce proceedings can be very difficult and I sincerely apologise for this situation and any distress it may have caused.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS475
WS
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Baroness Williams of Trafford (Parliamentary Under Secretary of Stae for Communities and Local Government)
Lords

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

My rt. hon Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On the 26 February 2015, my predecessor the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) and the Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan) confirmed that, having considered the report of the inspection by Louise Casey CB and advice note from Sir Michael Wilshaw (HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills), Rotherham Metropolitan Borough was failing to comply with its best value duty. They therefore concluded that it was both necessary and expedient for them to exercise their intervention powers. Moreover, given the complete failure of political and officer leadership in the council at this time, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided that the intervention should be broad and wide ranging with commissioners exercising many of the authority’s functions until these could be confidently rolled back for the authority to exercise in compliance with its best value duty. A team of Commissioners were appointed to exercise all executive functions of the authority, as well as some non-executive ones (e.g. licensing). They also had to oversee a rigorous programme of improvement to bring about essential changes in culture and ensure there is in future effective and accountable political and officer leadership.

Nearly a year on, a number of challenges remain but there have been significant areas of progress. Following consideration of submissions from the Lead Commissioner in support of his proposal, including the views of lay and expert panels and the results of a public consultation. Today I am therefore proposing, on the recommendation of the Commissioner team, my intention to return certain functions to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

After careful consideration of the proposal and this further information provided by the Lead Commissioner, I am satisfied that the Council is now able to exercise the functions identified by the Lead Commissioner in compliance with the best value duty, and that the people of Rotherham can have confidence that this will be the case. I am therefore considering exercising my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to return certain service areas, including all associated executive and non-executive functions, to the Council to exercise. Returning these functions is of the start of building the effective and accountable political leadership and represents a clear milestone on the road to recovery.

The functions to be returned are:

  • Education and schools; education for 14-19 years in all settings; school admissions and appeal system; youth services.
  • Public Health.
  • Leisure services; events in parks and green spaces.
  • Customer and cultural services, libraries, arts, customer services and welfare programmes.
  • Housing.
  • Planning and transportation policy; highways maintenance.
  • The Council’s area assembly system and neighbourhood working; responsibilities under the Equalities Act.
  • Building regulation, drainage, car parking; environmental health; business regulation and enforcement (not including taxi licensing); emergency planning.
  • ICT; legal and democratic services; corporate communications; corporate policy; procurement; financial services, including benefits and revenues, but not including audit.
  • Budget control in these areas and budget planning.
  • Policy arising from Sheffield City Region.

The returned functions do not include licensing; children’s services; adult social care; audit; and other functions which still remain high risk.

I am confident that this is the right time and these are the right functions to return to the Council. The Commissioners will provide oversight of the returned functions to ensure that they are exercised in accordance with the best value duty. In addition they will continue to implement the rigorous programme of improvement they have started to bring about the essential changes in culture and ensure there is in future effective and accountable political and office leadership across the Council.

I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS482
WS
HM Treasury
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Lord O'Neill of Gatley (The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury)
Lords

ECOFIN: 15 January 2016

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

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 15 January 2016. Ministers discussed the following items:

Current Legislative Proposals

The Presidency updated the Council on the state of play of financial services dossiers.

Presentation of the Presidency Work Programme

The new ECOFIN chair, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, provided an outline of the Dutch Presidency’s work programme.

European Semester

The Council adopted conclusions on two European Semester reports: the Annual Growth Survey and the Alert Mechanism Report. A Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area was also approved and will be sent to February European Council for endorsement.

Implementation of the Banking Union

The Commission gave an update on implementation of several dossiers linked to the Banking Union: the Single Resolution Fund, the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and the Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive.

Combatting VAT fraud in the EU: Use of the reverse charge mechanism

An exchange of views was held in relation to widening the use of the reverse charge mechanism to combat VAT fraud in the EU.

Counter terrorist financing

The Commission updated ministers on progress to bring forward new proposals to reinforce the European framework in the fight against the financing of terrorism. The Council welcomed the update and will re-visit the issue in February.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS484
WS
Department for Education
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Lord Nash (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools)
Lords

Childcare Bill – Joint Online Childcare Application

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education (Mr Sam Gyimah) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

During second reading of the Childcare Bill my right honourable friend - the Secretary of State for Education - announced that our extended childcare entitlement will be delivered via a joint online application being developed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

As I outlined during Committee Stage of the Childcare Bill, the Department for Education will be providing HMRC with funding for the development of the joint online application and eligibility checking system.

I can confirm today that for 2015-16, urgent expenditure estimated at £1million will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

The development of the joint online application will mean that parents and children who will be eligible to benefit from both the extended entitlement and Tax-Free Childcare will be able to apply for both schemes through one simple and straightforward system, saving them valuable time.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS481
WS
Northern Ireland Office
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Lord Dunlop (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland)
Lords

Independent Commission on Information Retrieval

My right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Theresa Villiers) has made the following written Ministerial statement: The cross-party talks that ran from 8 September to 17 November last year, which culminated in the Fresh Start agreement, brought us closer than ever before to consensus on the best way to deal with Northern Ireland’s past. While we established much common ground, it was not possible to reach agreement on all issues. I am committed to working with the Northern Ireland parties, with the Irish Government as appropriate, and with representatives of victims and survivors, to build on the progress made during the talks. The UK Government is determined to resolve the outstanding issues that are preventing the establishment of the legacy institutions set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

One of these institutions is the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). This will be an independent body designed to enable victims and survivors privately to receive information about the Troubles-related deaths of their next of kin. As set out in the Stormont House Agreement, and building on the precedent of the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains, the ICIR will be an international body. To that end, the UK and Irish Governments have signed an international agreement to enable the establishment of the ICIR and to set out its functions. Today I have placed a copy of this treaty in the libraries of both Houses.

The ICIR will be an important institution which will help victims and survivors to seek information which it has not been possible to obtain by other means. Engagement by families with the ICIR will be entirely voluntary. Information provided to the ICIR about deaths within its remit will not be admissible in court, something which families will always be told in advance. The ICIR will not, however, provide any form of amnesty or immunity from prosecution. This Government believes in the rule of law and would not countenance such a step. As the Stormont House Agreement set out, information provided to the ICIR will be protected but no individual will be protected from prosecution if evidence is obtained by other means. It is the Government’s intention that the legislation needed to implement the ICIR will contain provisions clearly setting this out.

It had been our aim to lay the treaty before Parliament at the same time as introducing the legislation required to establish the legacy bodies. However, as agreement has not yet been reached on this legislation, this is not possible. Once any treaty is formally laid, Parliament has a period of 21 sitting days, in which it can resolve that the treaty should not be ratified, in accordance with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. I believe that it would be best if this consideration took place alongside the legislation, which will contain more detail about how the ICIR will function. I propose therefore formally to lay the treaty once we are able also to introduce legislation. These particular circumstances mean that placing a copy of the treaty in the libraries of both Houses is an appropriate way to ensure that Parliament is aware of the text of the treaty, without instigating the formal process of consideration.

In addition to the ICIR, the Stormont House Agreement envisaged the establishment of the Historical Investigations Unit, the Oral History Archive and the Implementation and Reconciliation Group. Together, this set of institutions provides the best opportunity to help Northern Ireland deal with its past and provide better outcomes for victims and survivors, the people who we must never forget suffered more than anyone else as a result of the Troubles. The Government is committed to implementing the Stormont House Agreement and to establishing the legacy bodies it contains. I will continue to meet victims’ representatives and others over the coming days and weeks to discuss these matters and to build support for the new institutions.

WS
Department for Education
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Lord Nash (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools)
Lords

Publication of Reformed History of Art Subject Content

My right honourable friend the Minister for State for Schools (Mr. Nick Gibb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The government is reforming GCSEs and A levels to be more knowledge-based and to make sure that they give students the best possible preparation for further and higher education, and for employment.

Schools are now teaching some of the new reformed GCSEs and A levels, and we have already published reformed subject content for those GCSEs and A levels to be taught from September 2016 as well as for some of the GCSE and A levels to be taught from September 2017. Content for reformed GCSE subjects can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gcse-subject-content and content for AS and A level subjects at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gce-as-and-a-level-subject-content.

Today I am publishing revised subject content for history of art AS and A levels that will be taught in schools from September 2017.

Students will study a wide range of art and artists from different movements and periods including pre- and post-1850, ensuring good breadth and depth of study. The content also includes the development of art over time, and the connections and interrelationship between different artists, periods and movements.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS480
WS
HM Treasury
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Mr George Osborne (The Chancellor of the Exchequer )
Commons

ECOFIN: 15 January 2016

A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council was held in Brussels on 15 January 2016. Ministers discussed the following items:

Current Legislative Proposals

The Presidency updated the Council on the state of play of financial services dossiers.

Presentation of the Presidency Work Programme

The new ECOFIN chair, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, provided an outline of the Dutch Presidency’s work programme.

European Semester

The Council adopted conclusions on two European Semester reports: the Annual Growth Survey and the Alert Mechanism Report. A Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area was also approved and will be sent to February European Council for endorsement.

Implementation of the Banking Union

The Commission gave an update on implementation of several dossiers linked to the Banking Union: the Single Resolution Fund, the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and the Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive.

Combatting VAT fraud in the EU: Use of the reverse charge mechanism

An exchange of views was held in relation to widening the use of the reverse charge mechanism to combat VAT fraud in the EU.

Counter terrorist financing

The Commission updated ministers on progress to bring forward new proposals to reinforce the European framework in the fight against the financing of terrorism. The Council welcomed the update and will re-visit the issue in February.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS473
WS
Cabinet Office
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Matthew Hancock (Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General)
Commons

Advance from the Contingencies Fund

The Cabinet Office has received a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund of £37,199,000.

The requirement for this has arisen because the Cabinet Office cash receives a relatively high proportion of its voted resource programme funding at Supplementary Estimate, and so can only draw the related cash from the Consolidated Fund after the Supply and Appropriation Act has received Royal Assent in March 2016.

HM Treasury’s Supply Estimates Guidance provides for a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund in order to meet an urgent cash requirement for existing services when cash provision from the Main Estimate has been exhausted.

The cash advance will pay for programmes which will generate government-wide benefits or savings and are urgent in the public interest.

The following programmes are funded from the reserve:

  • various technology and property programmes announced in the 2015 Summer Budget which will generate savings across Government (£46,000,000);
  • Individual Electoral Registration (£9,750,000); and
  • various Office for Civil Society programmes (£690,000).

The following programmes are funded from budgetary cover transfers from other government departments:

  • various national security programmes (£17,465,000);
  • a cross-Government secure IT programme (£15,931,000);
  • an identity assurance programme (£19,657,000);
  • cross-Government Shared Services (£3,836,000);
  • common technology services (£3,500,000);
  • cross-Government Gulf Strategy commitments (£1,491,000);
  • various Office for Civil Society programmes (£1,300,000);
  • Financial Management Review Target Operating Model (£300,000); and
  • diversity and inclusion (£279,000).

The requirement for an advance is reduced by cash proceeds from the sale of Admiralty Arch (£65,000,000), and budgetary cover transfers to other departments for the GREAT campaign (£18,000,000).

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £37,199,000 will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for the Cabinet Office. Pending that approval, expenditure estimated at £37,199,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

WS
Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Greg Clark (The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)
Commons

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

On the 26 February 2015, my predecessor the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) and the Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan) confirmed that, having considered the report of the inspection by Louise Casey CB and advice note from Sir Michael Wilshaw (HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills), Rotherham Metropolitan Borough was failing to comply with its best value duty. They therefore concluded that it was both necessary and expedient for them to exercise their intervention powers. Moreover, given the complete failure of political and officer leadership in the council at this time, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided that the intervention should be broad and wide ranging with commissioners exercising many of the authority’s functions until these could be confidently rolled back for the authority to exercise in compliance with its best value duty. A team of Commissioners were appointed to exercise all executive functions of the authority, as well as some non-executive ones (e.g. licensing). They also had to oversee a rigorous programme of improvement to bring about essential changes in culture and ensure there is in future effective and accountable political and officer leadership.

Nearly a year on, a number of challenges remain but there have been significant areas of progress. Following consideration of submissions from the Lead Commissioner in support of his proposal, including the views of lay and expert panels and the results of a public consultation. Today I am therefore proposing, on the recommendation of the Commissioner team, my intention to return certain functions to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

After careful consideration of the proposal and this further information provided by the Lead Commissioner, I am satisfied that the Council is now able to exercise the functions identified by the Lead Commissioner in compliance with the best value duty, and that the people of Rotherham can have confidence that this will be the case. I am therefore considering exercising my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to return certain service areas, including all associated executive and non-executive functions, to the Council to exercise. Returning these functions is of the start of building the effective and accountable political leadership and represents a clear milestone on the road to recovery.

The functions to be returned are:

  • Education and schools; education for 14-19 years in all settings; school admissions and appeal system; youth services.
  • Public Health.
  • Leisure services; events in parks and green spaces.
  • Customer and cultural services, libraries, arts, customer services and welfare programmes.
  • Housing.
  • Planning and transportation policy; highways maintenance.
  • The Council’s area assembly system and neighbourhood working; responsibilities under the Equalities Act.
  • Building regulation, drainage, car parking; environmental health; business regulation and enforcement (not including taxi licensing); emergency planning.
  • ICT; legal and democratic services; corporate communications; corporate policy; procurement; financial services, including benefits and revenues, but not including audit.
  • Budget control in these areas and budget planning.
  • Policy arising from Sheffield City Region.

The returned functions do not include licensing; children’s services; adult social care; audit; and other functions which still remain high risk.

I am confident that this is the right time and these are the right functions to return to the Council. The Commissioners will provide oversight of the returned functions to ensure that they are exercised in accordance with the best value duty. In addition they will continue to implement the rigorous programme of improvement they have started to bring about the essential changes in culture and ensure there is in future effective and accountable political and office leadership across the Council.

I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS474
WS
Department for Education
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Mr Sam Gyimah (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education)
Commons

Childcare Bill – Joint Online Childcare Application

During second reading of the Childcare Bill my right honourable friend - the Secretary of State for Education - announced that our extended childcare entitlement will be delivered via a joint online application being developed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

As I outlined during Committee Stage of the Childcare Bill, the Department for Education will be providing HMRC with funding for the development of the joint online application and eligibility checking system.

I can confirm today that for 2015-16, urgent expenditure estimated at £1million will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

The development of the joint online application will mean that parents and children who will be eligible to benefit from both the extended entitlement and Tax-Free Childcare will be able to apply for both schemes through one simple and straightforward system, saving them valuable time.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS472
WS
Department for Education
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Nick Gibb (The Minister of State for Schools)
Commons

Publication of Reformed History of Art Subject Content

The government is reforming GCSEs and A levels to be more knowledge-based and to make sure that they give students the best possible preparation for further and higher education, and for employment.

Schools are now teaching some of the new reformed GCSEs and A levels, and we have already published reformed subject content for those GCSEs and A levels to be taught from September 2016 as well as for some of the GCSE and A levels to be taught from September 2017. Content for reformed GCSE subjects can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gcse-subject-content and content for AS and A level subjects at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gce-as-and-a-level-subject-content.

Today I am publishing revised subject content for history of art AS and A levels that will be taught in schools from September 2017.

Students will study a wide range of art and artists from different movements and periods including pre- and post-1850, ensuring good breadth and depth of study. The content also includes the development of art over time, and the connections and interrelationship between different artists, periods and movements.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS470
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Northern Ireland Office
Made on: 21 January 2016
Made by: Mrs Theresa Villiers (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)
Commons

Independent Commission on Information Retrieval

The cross-party talks that ran from 8 September to 17 November last year, which culminated in the Fresh Start agreement, brought us closer than ever before to consensus on the best way to deal with Northern Ireland’s past. While we established much common ground, it was not possible to reach agreement on all issues. I am committed to working with the Northern Ireland parties, with the Irish Government as appropriate, and with representatives of victims and survivors, to build on the progress made during the talks. The UK Government is determined to resolve the outstanding issues that are preventing the establishment of the legacy institutions set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

One of these institutions is the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). This will be an independent body designed to enable victims and survivors privately to receive information about the Troubles-related deaths of their next of kin. As set out in the Stormont House Agreement, and building on the precedent of the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains, the ICIR will be an international body. To that end, the UK and Irish Governments have signed an international agreement to enable the establishment of the ICIR and to set out its functions. Today I have placed a copy of this treaty in the libraries of both Houses.

The ICIR will be an important institution which will help victims and survivors to seek information which it has not been possible to obtain by other means. Engagement by families with the ICIR will be entirely voluntary. Information provided to the ICIR about deaths within its remit will not be admissible in court, something which families will always be told in advance. The ICIR will not, however, provide any form of amnesty or immunity from prosecution. This Government believes in the rule of law and would not countenance such a step. As the Stormont House Agreement set out, information provided to the ICIR will be protected but no individual will be protected from prosecution if evidence is obtained by other means. It is the Government’s intention that the legislation needed to implement the ICIR will contain provisions clearly setting this out.

It had been our aim to lay the treaty before Parliament at the same time as introducing the legislation required to establish the legacy bodies. However, as agreement has not yet been reached on this legislation, this is not possible. Once any treaty is formally laid, Parliament has a period of 21 sitting days, in which it can resolve that the treaty should not be ratified, in accordance with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. I believe that it would be best if this consideration took place alongside the legislation, which will contain more detail about how the ICIR will function. I propose therefore formally to lay the treaty once we are able also to introduce legislation. These particular circumstances mean that placing a copy of the treaty in the libraries of both Houses is an appropriate way to ensure that Parliament is aware of the text of the treaty, without instigating the formal process of consideration.

In addition to the ICIR, the Stormont House Agreement envisaged the establishment of the Historical Investigations Unit, the Oral History Archive and the Implementation and Reconciliation Group. Together, this set of institutions provides the best opportunity to help Northern Ireland deal with its past and provide better outcomes for victims and survivors, the people who we must never forget suffered more than anyone else as a result of the Troubles. The Government is committed to implementing the Stormont House Agreement and to establishing the legacy bodies it contains. I will continue to meet victims’ representatives and others over the coming days and weeks to discuss these matters and to build support for the new institutions.

WS
Home Office
Made on: 20 January 2016
Made by: Lord Bates (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office)
Lords

Police Reform

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

The Government consulted in September 2015 on a series of reforms to enhance the powers of designated police staff and, for the first time, enable volunteers to be designated with powers without taking on the office of Special Constable. We also proposed that, for the first time, a single piece of legislation should set out the core list of powers available only to those that hold the office of constable.

As I said when I launched the consultation in September, the office of constable is central to the delivery of policing in England and Wales. But I was equally clear that we needed to explore whether police staff and volunteers could play a key role in helping officers to police our communities, bringing new skills and expertise, and freeing up police officers to concentrate on the core policing task that most requires their particular powers and experience.

Today I am announcing the Government’s consultation response, which sets out the key themes highlighted in the consultation and our response to the issues raised. We received 150 responses from a wide range of representative bodies and individuals, from members of police forces, existing police staff and volunteers and from the wider public.

The majority of the responses were supportive of all our proposed reforms and were clear that there is indeed a role for police staff and volunteers, provided of course that they are appropriately selected, trained and accountable for the role that they undertake.

The vast majority of responses (86%) agreed with the principal proposal to give chief officers a greater level of control over the designation of powers on their staff. 67% of responses agreed that chief officers should be able to designate powers on volunteers.

The proposal to create a list of powers exercisable only by police officers was very well received, with 92.5% of respondents welcoming this. The content of that list, as set out in the consultation document, was also well received, with few proposals to add to the list and none to subtract from it. We have accepted the suggestion from the Police Federation of England and Wales to add the power to conduct intimate searches to this list.

Given the majority of respondents welcomed all of the proposals, with the caveats in some areas as summarised above, we intend to legislate in the forthcoming Policing and Crime Bill to give effect to the proposals consulted on, with the small number of changes set out in the consultation response which has been published today.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS478
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Home Office
Made on: 20 January 2016
Made by: Mrs Theresa May (The Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Commons

Police Reform

The Government consulted in September 2015 on a series of reforms to enhance the powers of designated police staff and, for the first time, enable volunteers to be designated with powers without taking on the office of Special Constable. We also proposed that, for the first time, a single piece of legislation should set out the core list of powers available only to those that hold the office of constable.

As I said when I launched the consultation in September, the office of constable is central to the delivery of policing in England and Wales. But I was equally clear that we needed to explore whether police staff and volunteers could play a key role in helping officers to police our communities, bringing new skills and expertise, and freeing up police officers to concentrate on the core policing task that most requires their particular powers and experience.

Today I am announcing the Government’s consultation response, which sets out the key themes highlighted in the consultation and our response to the issues raised. We received 150 responses from a wide range of representative bodies and individuals, from members of police forces, existing police staff and volunteers and from the wider public.

The majority of the responses were supportive of all our proposed reforms and were clear that there is indeed a role for police staff and volunteers, provided of course that they are appropriately selected, trained and accountable for the role that they undertake.

The vast majority of responses (86%) agreed with the principal proposal to give chief officers a greater level of control over the designation of powers on their staff. 67% of responses agreed that chief officers should be able to designate powers on volunteers.

The proposal to create a list of powers exercisable only by police officers was very well received, with 92.5% of respondents welcoming this. The content of that list, as set out in the consultation document, was also well received, with few proposals to add to the list and none to subtract from it. We have accepted the suggestion from the Police Federation of England and Wales to add the power to conduct intimate searches to this list.

Given the majority of respondents welcomed all of the proposals, with the caveats in some areas as summarised above, we intend to legislate in the forthcoming Policing and Crime Bill to give effect to the proposals consulted on, with the small number of changes set out in the consultation response which has been published today.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS469
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Cabinet Office
Made on: 20 January 2016
Made by: Mr Rob Wilson (Minister for Civil Society)
Commons

Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill

I am today placing in the Library of the House the Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order 83L in respect of the Government amendments tabled for Commons Report stage for the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill.

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Department for Communities and Local Government
Made on: 19 January 2016
Made by: Baroness Williams of Trafford (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)
Lords

Voluntary Right to Buy Pilot

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In October 2015, the Government announced the voluntary agreement with housing associations and the National Housing Federation that will extend Right to Buy discounts to 1.3 million more families across the country.

At Autumn Statement 2015, the Chancellor announced that, ahead of full implementation, there would be a pilot with five housing associations, which would inform the design of the main scheme.

The power of the Secretary of State to make payments to housing associations in respect of Right to Buy discounts would be established by Clause 62 of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015.

The Government will provide funding for the Pilot. The five housing associations will be compensated for their administrative costs up to the point of sale, and once the Housing and Planning Bill receives Royal Assent, would be compensated in full for the cost of the discounts.

Expenditure on the implementation of the Pilot, including routine administration, communication, marketing, valuation and legal costs will take place relying on the sole authority of the Supply and Appropriation Act, subject to eligibility and approval. Expenditure will be met from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s existing budget.

The funding of sales and the contractual commitment to sales will be contingent upon the Housing and Planning Bill receiving Royal Assent.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS476
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