Written Statements

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Written Statements
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Thursday 16 November 2023

Renewables Sector

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Written Statements
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Claire Coutinho Portrait The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho)
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The Government have today published key details of next year’s contracts for difference allocation round, Great Britain’s flagship renewables auction scheme. This announcement cements the UK as a world leader in renewables, particularly against the backdrop of recent economic challenges for the sector globally.

In the first quarter of this year, 48% of our power came from renewables, up from just 6% in the first quarter of 2010. Our contracts for difference allocation rounds are a British success story and since 2014, contracts have been awarded totalling around 30 GW of new renewable capacity across all technologies, including onshore wind, offshore wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal energy. This has improved, and continues to improve, our energy security by moving away from imported fossil fuels. And it is protecting consumers by ensuring they do not pay higher support costs during periods of high electricity prices, which are driven by volatility in international fossil fuel markets.

The UK is home to the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm project, Hornsea Two (1.4 GW) which became fully operational in August 2022. As of October 2023, the UK is also home to the second, third, fourth and fifth largest operational offshore wind farm projects in the world, all thanks to our leading contracts for difference model.

Today’s announcement

Allocation round 5 was a success for many technologies, including marine energy and, for the first time, three geothermal projects. But we recognise the shortfall in fixed and floating offshore wind. We have reviewed the design of allocation round 6 to ensure the scheme continues to encourage competitive and sustainable outcomes, driving benefits for industry and consumers.

We have seen global challenges over the last year, posed by inflation in production costs across the economy, impacting technologies from renewables to gas to nuclear. The Government have today published key details of the sixth contracts for difference allocation round, opening in March next year. In light of the global volatility for the offshore wind sector, we have comprehensively reviewed our evidence base, which has informed today’s announcement, and also engaged with industry to benchmark our analysis. Today’s updates, therefore, set out an uplift to the administrative strike prices and that allocation round 6 will feature three pots.

The administrative strike prices are the auction ceiling prices for each technology. Reflecting on last year’s auction and in light of inflationary pressures in the supply chains, these have been increased, and are intended to balance participation in the auction with ensuring good value to bill payers. The actual price projects will receive will be set by the competitive auction. We recognise this will also be an important round for supply chain companies, and the new administrative strike prices reflect the need to support a sustainable supply chain, including companies who have recently made investments in new manufacturing facilities here in the UK.

Considering the strength of the offshore wind pipeline, we are announcing that allocation round 6 will feature three auction pots, with offshore wind in its own auction pot. A three-pot structure will drive support across Britain’s diverse portfolio of renewable technologies and help the UK deliver on its ambition of up to 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030, including up to 5 GW of floating offshore wind. Other documents related to allocation round 6 published today include the draft “Allocation Framework”—the rules and eligibility requirements for the 2024 round—and the “Administrative Strike Price Methodology”, a document explaining how the administrative strike prices are determined.

A route to lower bills

Macroeconomic conditions are placing upward pressure on costs for all electricity generating technologies. The Department will be publishing updated analysis comparing the cost of electricity generation across renewable and non-renewable technologies by the end of March 2024, reflecting the latest evidence, including on global market shifts. Existing analysis shows that renewables form the bedrock of a low-cost energy electricity system. This is in line with the conclusions from the Office for Budget Responsibility’s “enhanced levelised cost” analysis from 2023.1

Last year, volatile global gas prices drove electricity prices to record highs many times greater than the administrative strike prices set out today. This led to the Government stepping in and paying around half of people’s energy bills last year. It also saw renewable generation paying back hundreds of millions into the contracts for difference, reducing the amount needed to deliver our energy support schemes. Going forward, we agree with the Climate Change Committee that oil and gas will remain an important part of our overall energy mix when we reach net zero by 2050. However, our reliance on gas for electricity production today risks making power prices higher than they would be in a system with a greater share of generation from wind and solar. We must therefore continue to reduce our reliance on gas for electricity production in a way that maintains energy security. Moving to home-based, clean power mitigates risks to bill payers, now and in the future.

Driving our renewable energy manufacturing industry

The contracts for difference scheme has been successful in driving down the price of renewable energy deployment, but this has presented challenges for sustainable renewable energy supply chains in competing for business, particularly as they have been struggling under difficult market conditions since the covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I am therefore also publishing a consultation today on the introduction of new sustainable industry rewards into the allocation round from 2025, which will provide additional funding through the contracts for difference to support projects that invest in more sustainable supply chains.

The core parameters published today demonstrate we are investing in our booming renewables sector. We are backing our world-leading offshore wind sector, delivering enough offshore wind to power the equivalent of every home in Britain by 2030. I am committed to a successful allocation round 6, which drives value for money for consumers. This will also be important in helping achieve energy security, decarbonising our power system by 2035, and hitting our net zero targets by 2050.

1 Office for Budget Responsibility, Fiscal Risks and Sustainability, July 2023, pp.82-3: https://obr.uk/frs/fiscal-risks-and-sustainability-july-2023

[HCWS40]

Energy Infrastructure Planning Projects

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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This statement concerns an application for development consent made under the Planning Act 2008 by Net Zero Teesside Power Ltd and Net Zero North Sea Storage Ltd for a full-chain carbon capture, usage and storage project, which includes a new gas-fired electricity generating station, with a post-combustion carbon capture plant, gas, electricity and water connections, and a CO2 pipeline network, located on Teesside.

Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of the receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) of the Act to set a new deadline. Where a new deadline is set, the Secretary of State must make a statement to Parliament to announce it. The current statutory deadline for the decision on the Net Zero Teesside project is 16 November 2023.

The Secretary of State has received new information from a statutory consultee, and has decided that it is necessary to set a new deadline of no later than 16 February 2024 for deciding this application to enable the Department to ensure there is sufficient time to consider this new information and to conduct the necessary consultations with interested parties.

The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decisions on whether to grant or refuse development consent.

[HCWS39]

Building Safety Update

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Lee Rowley Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Lee Rowley)
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Today, for the first time, the Government are publishing comprehensive remediation data on the progress made to fix residential buildings over 11 metres with unsafe cladding in England.

The laws passed by this Parliament and the actions taken by this Government since 2021 have systematically broken impasses on thousands of buildings. Through the Building Safety Act 2022, we have delivered the most substantive reforms to building safety in nearly 40 years and leaseholders have been given significant legal protections from unfair remediation bills.

All residential buildings above 11 metres in England now have a pathway to fix unsafe cladding, either through a taxpayer-funded scheme or through a developer-funded scheme.

Following intensive talks with the home-building sector, we have a solution that will see industry take responsibility for fixing fire safety defects. Where developers or building owners are not currently funding cladding remediation, the Government have committed £5.1 billion to ensure that people are safe and feel safe in their homes.

Summary of progress

2023 has seen a step change both in the framework for, and progress of, remediation. Thousands of buildings have been identified and are now making progress on their journey. Significant additional pressure is being applied to those that are yet to begin. Developers are now clearly aware that they must step up to fix buildings that they are responsible for. And, month on month, more and more buildings are completing their remediation and allowing residents to move on with their lives after such a difficult period.

At the end of October 2023, the following progress can be reported:

1,512 buildings have now formally started remediation work (up from 749 at the end of 2022);

Of those, 703 have completed that work (57% above December’s figure of 448);

A further 2,285 buildings are preparing to begin works (up from 853 at the end of 2022). Every month will see further progress, supported by one of five initiatives that are underway:

the ACM Cladding Remediation fund, which has been open since 2018 and covers buildings with the most dangerous Grenfell-type cladding;

the Building Safety Fund, first opened in 2020 for buildings over 18 metres;

the Cladding Safety Scheme, which was fully opened in July for buildings between 11 and 18 metres and is also open to new applications for 18 metre+ buildings outside of London;

the more than 1,000 buildings for which developers have now assumed direct responsibility for remediating all life-critical fire safety defects, and;

the work underway by social housing providers to remediate buildings in their portfolios which require remediation.

Progress made by developers to fix buildings they are responsible for

The Government have always been clear that the primary responsibility for resolving any building safety issues lies with those responsible for the creation of the issues. Prior to 2023, only a small number of buildings were being remediated by the developer who originally constructed them. This has changed significantly since the spring, when 51 developers agreed to take full responsibility for all life-critical fire safety defects on at least 1,342 buildings, at an estimated cost of £2.7 billion.

Since the summer, the Government have required developers to submit regular updates on the progress on remediation of these buildings. For the first time, we are publishing information on how each developer is performing. Of the 1,342 buildings in scope, so far works have been completed on 262 and are underway on a further 211, and clear plans are in place to remediate a further 506. There are currently 363 buildings without a finalised remediation plan.

We are clear with developers that they need to work quickly and that leaseholders in each property need to have clear information about when further progress is likely to be made. I expect all developers to make significant progress on assessing their buildings by the next data release, confirming start dates for works, pushing forward with works, and updating residents and leaseholders. Should developers not move at a reasonable speed, we will take the necessary action. We also call on the freeholders of these buildings to co-operate with developers, by providing access for assessments and making sure the works can start as quickly as possible.

Government-supported schemes to remediate

Where no responsible developer can be identified, the Government now has three wide-ranging schemes open to address fire risks in buildings which have unsafe cladding. To prioritise those buildings with the most dangerous Grenfell-type cladding, the ACM Cladding Remediation Fund was opened in 2018. This was followed with the Building Safety Fund, which covers all relevant properties over 18 metres, in 2020. The Cladding Safety Scheme was opened in full in July 2023, after an eight-month pilot, to cover eligible buildings between 11 and 18 metres, as well as new applications for 18 metre+ buildings outside London.

Six years into the ACM scheme, almost all buildings with ACM cladding (96%) have now been fixed or are in the process of being fixed. There are 22 buildings yet to start ACM remediation. Two buildings are vacant and therefore do not pose a risk to resident safety. 15 buildings have start forecasts and four buildings without a start forecast have had local authority enforcement action taken against them. The remaining building has a remediation plan in place. We continue to work to reduce the remaining number through extensive work with the local enforcement authorities and direct contact with the responsible entities.

Progress within the Building Safety Fund is also gaining momentum, with almost half of eligible buildings either having started or completed works. The proportion of in-scope buildings with works completed has more than doubled since the beginning of the year, rising from 96 (8%) to 199 (20%). A further 27% of buildings now have works underway (up from 20% in December). We continue to work with partners in the Greater London Authority and Homes England with urgency to increase the number of buildings going through their remediation journey.

The full opening of the Cladding Safety Scheme in July 2023 marked the culmination of our extensive work to ensure that buildings between 11 and 18 metres have a pathway towards remediation. The pilot opened in November last year, and over 325 buildings from the pilot phase are progressing through the application system. The scheme opened in full in July this year; as of October 2023, there are almost 1,000 buildings at various stages of the application process. 48 buildings have now been issued or have signed grant funding agreements with Homes England, which is delivering the CSS on our behalf. Our focus now will be to extend support and raise its profile over the coming months for those buildings which have not yet got involved. Lease- holders and residents who believe their building should be in the scheme can inform Homes England, which will investigate each building, and pull them into the programme where appropriate.

Department officials are working with the regulator for social housing to assess progress of remediation in the social sector. I welcome their publication of the findings of a Fire Safety Remediation Survey that over 1,500 registered providers were asked to complete. Providers reported having a combined total of 15,405 11 metre+ buildings, of which 1,608 are known to require cladding remediation work. Remediation works are complete in 7% of these buildings; works have started in 25%; plans for works are in place in 37%; 32% of buildings still lack clear plans, and this must change. All providers should expect to provide quarterly updates on progress of remediation, and I have written to 14 larger local authorities who did not provide a return in response. The next survey will be commissioned shortly and future departmental publications will include data on a provider-by-provider basis. I expect all providers of social housing to identify, assess and remediate their buildings at pace, and we are working with the regulators to ensure that this happens.

Enforcement

Finally, building owners who are continuing to stall should know they are running out of time if they are trying to avoid being forced to act. Leaseholders and residents who have concerns about remediation progress for their building should report this to their local authority or fire and rescue service. Local authorities are enforcing against freeholders failing to remediate high-rise buildings at sufficient pace and, as an example, Newham Council has recently successfully prosecuted a freeholder for failure to comply with enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004. For the most egregious of cases, the recovery strategy unit is pursuing companies and individuals through any means necessary, and currently has 19 legal cases underway against freeholders.

The publication of broader remediation data today is another step in the journey to ensure further transparency on the achievements to date, the work underway and, crucially, where more focus is needed. We are determined to both confirm progress where it is happening and shine a light on those parts of the sector where further attention is needed.

Ensuring buildings are safe requires a significant, involved and prolonged effort. The pace of remediation has, happily, stepped up significantly over recent months but we recognise there remains much more to do. We remain committed to making further progress in the months ahead.

[HCWS41]

Online Safety Act: Super-complaints Consultation

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Michelle Donelan Portrait The Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology (Michelle Donelan)
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The Government are working at pace to ensure that the new online safety regulatory framework set out in the Online Safety Act 2023 is fully operational as quickly as possible. Today we are launching the first consultation related to the Act on the eligible entity criteria and procedure to be used for the super-complaints regime.



Super-complaints will play an essential role within the framework as they will allow for complaints about systemic issues to be assessed by the regulator. They will ensure that Ofcom is made aware of systemic issues users are facing which it may not be aware of otherwise.

To support the implementation of the super-complaints regime, the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations setting out the criteria a body must meet in order to be eligible to submit a super-complaint to Ofcom: the eligible entity criteria. The Secretary of State is further required to make provisions about procedural matters related to super-complaints. This can include requirements such as the form and manner of such a complaint, steps that Ofcom must take in relation to it, and time limits for each step.

In developing these regulations, the Government view is that the eligible entity criteria should allow systemic issues to be raised effectively, while ensuring that super-complaints are high quality and evidence-based. This approach will focus Ofcom’s resource on genuine problems. Similarly, we are seeking to create a super-complaints procedure which is clear, fair and effective.

In order to ensure that the regulations are informed by the expertise of civil society organisations and the wider public, a full consultation has been launched today and will run for eight weeks. We welcome responses to any, or all, of the proposed questions.

The consultation will use the Qualtrics survey tool. For those unable to access the tool, a PDF copy of the survey can be found at: Online Safety Act - Super-Complaints Consultation. A copy of the consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and published on gov.uk.

[HCWS37]

Equality and Human Rights Monitor Report

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Maria Caulfield Portrait The Minister for Women (Maria Caulfield)
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Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published its report, “The Equality and Human Rights Monitor 2023.”

The report can be found on the EHRC website later today. The EHRC has a statutory duty—under Section 12 of the Equality Act 2006—to monitor progress on equality and human rights in Britain and publish its findings every 5 years. “The Equality and Human Rights Monitor 2023” outlines the changes the Commission has observed in equality and human rights in England, Scotland and Wales over the last five years, since its last report, “Is Britain Fairer?” (2018).

Based on the Commission’s comprehensive measurement framework, this report analyses outcomes in all aspects of life in Britain, across all nine protected characteristics. It is based on their own robust statistical analyses, a systematic review of research evidence and the responses to a public call for evidence, as well as input from a broad programme of stakeholder engagement.

I would like to thank Baroness Falkner and the Commission for their work on this report.

The report has been published on gov.uk and will be laid in Parliament on Monday 20 November, once the House of Lords returns.

[HCWS42]

Back to Work Plan

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Mel Stride Portrait The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mel Stride)
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Later today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and I will announce a new back to work plan. This is a package of employment-focused support that will help people to stay healthy, to move off benefits and to move into work, which will form part of the Chancellor’s autumn statement on 22 November.

The number of people economically inactive due to long-term sickness has risen to a record high of 2.6 million, and the number of people who are on unemployment benefits is expected to grow over the coming years. With almost 1 million vacancies in the economy, it is vital we ensure that every opportunity is given to those who can work.

Our back to work plan will tackle economic inactivity by addressing the rising flow of people out of work due to long-term sickness and enhancing back to work support for the long-term unemployed.

Our back to work plan will not only help disabled people and those with a long-term illness to overcome barriers to work; it will also provide support for people currently employed to take preventive action and help them stay in or return to work quickly. Fast access to the right type of joined-up work and health support can prevent people falling out of work, ensuring they reap the physical, financial and mental benefits of being in work.

To address the rising flow of people out of work, we are formally launching our new WorkWell service, announced at the spring Budget. This will be delivered by my Department, and the Department of Health and Social Care, and will support almost 60,000 long-term sick or disabled people to start, stay and succeed in work through integrated work and health support. A prospectus launched in the coming weeks will provide information for all integrated care systems across England to develop their localised work and health strategies. The service will then be delivered in approximately 15 pilot areas.

Our flagship universal support programme will also be expanded to reach more people. It is a new, voluntary employment programme for economically inactive long-term sick or disabled people who are experiencing additional barriers to employment. Universal support offers individuals up to 12 months of “place and train” support from a dedicated keyworker, helping them to find a suitable role and offering personalised support. In addition, we will explore reforming the fit note process to provide individuals whose health affects their ability to work with easy and rapid access to specialised work and health support.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will also introduce measures that reinforce our efforts to join up employment and health support and expand access to mental health services, tackling one of the main reasons for sickness absence. This includes a significant expansion in access to NHS talking therapies and individual placement and support, building on the evidence that these programmes deliver positive health and employment outcomes.

The back to work plan will also support more people on unemployment benefits who are able to work to get back into work. This means earlier, more intensive support for those who find themselves out of work, reducing flows to long-term unemployment. We will provide upskilling, job search support, practical work experience and tailored advice to support claimants to sustain themselves and actively participate in growing our economy. This will include a phased roll-out where we will expect claimants to either take up a job, take up mandatory work placements, or engage in a programme of intensive activity to get them off benefits and into jobs. This also means more intensive contact with claimants and smarter case monitoring to make sure that they are not forgotten and that they do not fall behind in their journey back to work.

There are some unemployed people who resolutely refuse to engage in job-seeking activities and continue to receive benefits. They are able to work, and it is not fair on taxpayers who contribute to our welfare system. For this reason, we are toughening the application of sanctions for those who fail to comply with expectations on job searching. Our welfare system should be a safety net for those genuinely not able to work or only capable of limited work, and provide a springboard for those capable of working to help them back into employment as quickly as possible. As a result of these reforms, no claimant should reach 18 months of unemployment in receipt of their full benefits if they have not taken every reasonable step to comply with jobcentre support.

This package will help up to 1.1 million people over the next five years: rewarding fairness; boosting labour market participation; growing our economy; and just as importantly, changing lives.

[HCWS43]

Office for Nuclear Regulation Annual Report and Accounts 2022-23

Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Paul Maynard Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Paul Maynard)
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Later today I will lay before this House the “Office for Nuclear Regulation Annual Report and Accounts 2022-2023”. This document will also be published on the ONR website.

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

[HCWS38]