Speeches made during Parliamentary debates are recorded in Hansard. For ease of browsing we have grouped debates into individual, departmental and legislative categories.
These initiatives were driven by Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, and are more likely to reflect personal policy preferences.
MPs who are act as Ministers or Shadow Ministers are generally restricted from performing Commons initiatives other than Urgent Questions.
Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown has not been granted any Urgent Questions
Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown has not been granted any Adjournment Debates
The Bill failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session. This means the Bill will make no further progress. A Bill to require the Secretary of State to set up a body to establish a public initiative for the prevention of suicide and self harm, to work with internet providers and others to reduce access to information on the internet and through other sources on methods of suicide and to develop a system of alerts and blocks for internet searches relating to suicide; and for connected purposes
The Bill failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session. This means the Bill will make no further progress. A Bill to require the Secretary of State to set up a body to establish a public initiative for the prevention of suicide and self harm, to work with internet providers and others to reduce access to information on the internet and through other sources on methods of suicide and to develop a system of alerts and blocks for internet searches relating to suicide; and for connected purposes
Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown has not co-sponsored any Bills in the current parliamentary sitting
This Government believes the circumstances of one's birth should not determine life outcomes.
We recently published our landmark Levelling Up White Paper, which sets out our ambitious plans to spread opportunity more equally across the UK.
The Social Mobility Commission is important to our levelling up agenda. We have bolstered the work of the Commission by recruiting a new Chair and Deputy Chair and giving the Commission more leverage to influence other government departments. We are also running a competition for new Commissioners and the new board is expected to be in place by Spring 2022.
To support our levelling up agenda, the Minister for Women and Equalities announced the Equality Data Programme to ensure that geographic and socio-economic inequality is considered, alongside other factors, when identifying barriers to opportunity.
We will use evidence from the Equality Data Programme and Social Mobility Commission to inform and support the development of policy across the Government to level up opportunities across the UK.
We are committed to working with the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as the other devolved administrations, to ensure an inclusive and ambitious summit for the whole of the UK. All parts of the UK will have important roles to play in ensuring the summit’s success.
The COP President Designate, Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, has invited climate change Ministers from the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to participate in a regular devolved administrations group to ensure effective engagement and collaboration on COP26 in support of the delivery of an inclusive and welcoming COP26 representative of the whole of the UK. The last meeting took place in September.
Officials in the COP26 Unit are also in regular discussions with the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as the other devolved administrations, about preparations for COP26.
It remains the UK’s preference to find a negotiated outcome to problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Government will use Article 16 as a safeguard measure if a negotiated outcome cannot be found, in order to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and address difficulties caused by the Protocol.
The information requested falls under the remit of the UK Statistics Authority. I have, therefore, asked the Authority to respond.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond | National Statistician
Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown
House of Lords
19 November 2021
Dear Lord McCrea,
As National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, I am responding to your Parliamentary Question regarding the number of suicides that have been recorded in each region in England and Wales in the last 12 months (HL4142).
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes annual suicide death registration statistics for England and Wales as part of our annual statistical release for the UK (1,2). The latest available figures were published by the ONS in September 2021 and covered calendar years up to 2020. The ONS also publish quarterly provisional statistics on suicide death registrations in England (3). The ONS hold death registrations for England and Wales; separate figures for Northern Ireland and Scotland are available from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (4) and the National Records of Scotland (5), respectively.
Table 1 shows the number of suicides and age standardised suicide rates for regions in England, and Wales, based on deaths registered in 2020 and July 2020 to June 2021. The figures that are compiled for July 2020 to June 2021 are provisional and subject to small changes. The risk of suicide cannot be ascertained based on number of deaths due to varying populations for each region. Therefore, we have provided age-standardised suicide rates in table 1 to allow for valid comparisons across regions.
ONS mortality statistics for England and Wales are compiled from information supplied when deaths are certified and registered as part of civil registration. Deaths caused by suicide are investigated by coroners, causing a delay of around five to six months between the date of death and the date of death registration. As such, with the deaths provided in Table 1, many of these will have occurred several months or even years previously. Data for deaths caused by suicide that occurred in 2020 will be available in 2022, when we have more complete death registrations data.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond
Table 1: Number (6) of suicides (7) and age standardised suicide rates by English regions and Wales, deaths registered in 2020 and July 2020 to June 2021 (8)
July 2020 to June 2021p
Rate per 100,000
Rate per 100,000
Yorkshire and The Humber
Source: Office for National Statistics
Box 1: International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes used to define suicide
Persons aged 10 years and above
Injury/poisoning of undetermined intent
Persons aged 15 years and above
(2) Due to operational difficulties, suicides registered in 2020 in Northern Ireland and Scotland were unavailable at the time of analysis, and so this year’s annual release is for England and Wales only. ONS will update the UK figures at a later stage.
(6) Figures are for persons aged 10 years and over.
(7) The National Statistics definition of suicide is given in Box 1.
(8) Figure for July 2020 to June 2021 are provisional and subject to small changes.
(9) The area is based on the persons usual residence as provided by the informant upon registration in England and Wales. Figures for English regions and Wales exclude death of non-residents and are based on the latest available postcode boundaries.
(10) Figures are for deaths registered, rather than deaths occurring in each calendar year. Due to the length of time it takes to complete a coroner’s inquest, it can take months or even years for a suicide to be registered. More details can be found in the ‘Suicide Registrations In The UK’ statistical bulletin.
(11) Age-standardised suicide rates per 100,000 population, standardised to the 2013 European Standard Population. Age-standardised rates are used to allow comparison between populations which may contain different proportions of people of different ages.
The UK government has worked closely with the Devolved Administrations throughout the COVID-19 response. While public health is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, our joint statement last September demonstrates our commitment to seek a coordinated approach where the evidence and the science shows this would save lives or make the response more effective, and work together to protect lives and livelihoods across the UK.
The UK Government has ensured through legislation that there is unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the whole of the UK market. There are therefore no processes in place for goods movements from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
With regards to the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, the Government recognises the extensive burdens imposed by customs and agrifood processes and checks seemingly required to create a zero-risk approach to protecting the single market.
We are considering our next steps and discussing with all those with an interest. We will set out our approach to Parliament in a considered way shortly.
On 12 July, the Government confirmed Step 4 will take place on 19 July.
The Government has announced that we will move to Step 4 of the roadmap on 19 July but that people should remain cautious given the continued risks of the virus. Therefore, while many of the legal restrictions will be lifted, cautious guidance will remain.
On 26 May 2022, the Government announced a £15 billion package of cost of living support. This is in addition to the over £22 billion announced previously for the cost of living now totalling over £37 billion this year. This means almost eight million of the most vulnerable households will get £1,200 of one-off support in total this year, with all domestic electricity customers receiving at least £400.
The Government is providing a range of support to help small and medium-sized businesses with rising costs. The Government has cut fuel duty for 12 months, raised the Employment Allowance to £5,000, and is zero-rating VAT on energy-saving materials. This builds on existing support, including business rates relief worth £7 billion over five years.
In addition, the Help to Grow programmes enable small and medium-sized businesses to mitigate the effects of rising costs by improving their productivity. Help to Grow Digital will support up to 100,000 SMEs by providing financial discounts covering half the costs of approved digital technologies, up to a value of £5000, to help them boost their performance. Help to Grow Management, meanwhile, is an intensive national training programme designed to improve leadership and management skills. Delivered by leading business schools across the UK, the programme is 90% subsidised by the Government, with participants contributing £750. It will support up to 30,000 SME business leaders to increase productivity, seize investment opportunities and grow their businesses, developing skills in areas such as financial management, innovation and staff engagement.
The Energy Security Strategy was published on Thursday 7th April on GOV.UK.
The Department’s analysis shows that retail prices of petroleum products such as petrol and diesel are primarily driven by the underlying price in the global market of crude oil and by exchange rates. Departmental analysis shows that changes to the price of crude oil feed through to retail prices over the course of 6-7 weeks.
My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has written to the Insolvency Service asking them to urgently undertake a thorough review into the actions of P&O Ferries. This will include any scope to take action against the company’s directors. While I do not wish to prejudge the outcome, and it is important due process is followed, we will not hesitate to take further action if appropriate to do so.
The Government’s Net Zero Strategy included a commitment to accelerate deployment of low-cost renewable generation, such as solar, across the UK in the 2020s and beyond.
The Government is providing ongoing support to large-scale solar projects across Great Britain in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. The fourth CfD auction opened in December 2021 and will aim to deliver up to double the renewable capacity of the last round. Rooftop solar in Great Britain is supported through the Smart Export Guarantee scheme, which requires electricity suppliers to offer a tariff to buy electricity exported to the grid by small low-carbon generators, typically solar panels.
The Government is implementing around £170 million of business rates support in England for green technologies, including solar, to support decarbonising buildings. The Government also supports UK-based innovation in solar through various innovation schemes, including the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, and is working with the solar industry to support development of the UK solar supply chain.
Energy policy is devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive.
The Government is committed to ensuring that support is provided to help consumers deal with the impact of high wholesale energy costs. The Government is providing a package of support worth £9.1 billion in 2022-23 which includes a £150 Council Tax rebate for bands A-D, £144 million discretionary funding for local authorities and a £200 energy bill reduction which will help over 28 million households.
This is in addition to the support the Government will continue to provide through the Warm Home Discount Scheme, which this winter is providing over 2 million households with a £140 rebate off their energy bill. The Government has announced that it would be increasing to £150 and help an extra 780,000 households next winter. Further, Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments help ensure the most vulnerable are better able to heat their homes over the colder months.
As set out in Public Health England’s (PHE) evidence review of gambling-related harms, the most commonly used screening tools - the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) - categorise gambling-related harm as either low-risk, moderate-risk, or problem gambling, with problem gambling defined as gambling with negative consequences and a possible lack of control. PHE’s review found the problem gambling rate for England was estimated as 0.5% in 2018, and has been relatively stable since 2012. The 2016 Combined Health survey reported an overall rate of problem gambling for adults in Great Britain of 0.7%.
To supplement the Health Surveys, the Gambling Commission carries out a quarterly survey by telephone which uses a short-form PGSI screening to define problem gambling status. For the year to December 2021, this estimated a problem gambling rate of 0.3%.
The Gambling Commission’s ‘Young People and Gambling’ report has measured gambling behaviour in children since 2014, including problem gambling using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Adapted for Juveniles. In 2019, the most recent year for which the survey has been based on complete data, the rate for 11-16 year olds in England, Scotland and Wales was 1.7%.
All gambling operators providing facilities to British customers must comply with the conditions of their Gambling Commission licences, including measures to protect children and vulnerable people. It is an offence to allow children to participate in most forms of commercial gambling and there are strict requirements to verify age. All operators advertising in the UK must also abide by the advertising codes issued by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) in which a wide range of provisions are designed to protect children. CAP has consulted on tightening these rules further.
As part of the statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum in England, young people are taught about the risks relating to gambling, including the accumulation of debt. To support teachers to deliver these topics safely and with confidence, the Department for Education has also developed a series of training modules, one of which has a specific section on gambling. Other curriculum subjects, such as citizenship, mathematics and computing, can also help develop young people’s financial literacy and highlight the risks associated with gambling.
As part of its broad scope, the Gambling Act Review is looking at the effectiveness of existing measures to ensure the protection of young and vulnerable people from the risks associated with all types of gambling. We are considering the evidence carefully and will publish a white paper outlining conclusions and next steps in due course.
The Government remains deeply disappointed with the BBC's decision to restrict the licence fee concession for people over the age of 75 to only those in receipt of pension credit. We recognise the value of free TV licences for people over the age of 75 and believe they should be funded by the BBC.
The Digital Economy Act 2017 provides that the future of the concession is the responsibility of the BBC, not of the Government. This reform was subject to public discussion and debated extensively during the passage of the Act through Parliament. The BBC must ensure that it supports those affected by its decision, and it must look at how it uses its substantial licence fee income to support older people.
The Government is introducing new laws which will require companies to improve user safety online, particularly to tackle illegal content and protect children online. The biggest social media companies will need to set clear standards for content that could cause significant physical or psychological harm to adults and enforce them consistently. This will help ensure adult users are empowered to manage their own online safety.
The Government is committed to protecting free speech online, including the right to express controversial opinions that some may consider offensive. Companies and Ofcom will have duties that ensure freedom of expression is protected.
Ofcom will have a suite of enforcement powers to use against companies who fail to fulfil their duties, including substantial fines. There is also a deferred power to bring in new criminal offences for senior managers who fail to ensure their company provides full information to Ofcom. We are looking at how we can bring these sanctions into force faster.
Under the Gambling Act 2005, it is a criminal offence to invite or allow a child to take part in most forms of commercial gambling, and protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the licensing objectives which guide the work of the Gambling Commission. Operators must abide by strict requirements for the protection of children and are subject to sanction by the Commission if they breach these rules.
All gambling advertising, wherever it appears, is subject to strict controls on content and placement. Gambling operators advertising in the UK must abide by the advertising codes issued by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) in which a wide range of provisions are designed to protect children. For example, gambling adverts must not be targeted at children or feature content which appeals particularly to them. CAP and BCAP have also recently consulted on strengthening the codes to reduce potential appeal to children. The Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising requires that operators ensure their logos do not appear on commercial merchandise (such as replica football kit) which is designed for children, and includes a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on gambling adverts during live broadcast sport before 9pm.
The government launched its Review of the Gambling Act 2005 with the publication of a Call for Evidence which closed on 31 March and received approximately 16,000 submissions from a broad range of interested organisations and individuals. We are considering the evidence carefully and intend to publish a White Paper by the end of the year.
We will consider any proposals for longer-term tributes, and in consultation with the Royal Household, in due course. No discussions have taken place to date.
The Secretary of State wrote to Netflix and outlined that while The Crown is a beautifully produced and acted drama, the company should be very clear it is a work of fiction. He also welcomed Netflix's continued commitment and investment in the UK.
The Government recognises that nuisance and scam calls can be particularly stressful and damaging for the most vulnerable in society. The Government has taken a range of actions to reduce the number of nuisance calls including banning cold calls from pension providers unless the consumer has explicitly agreed to be contacted. We have been working with National Trading Standards to supply call blocking devices to some of the most vulnerable in society.
The Government has been running the Take Five fraud awareness campaign designed to urge the public and businesses to take time to consider whether a situation they find themselves in is genuine. The campaign equips the public to more confidently challenge fraudulent approaches – be they face-to-face, on the telephone or online. Specific advice on phone scams and phishing can be found at www.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk.
With regards to fraud more generally, the government has recently launched a gov.uk page that contains easy-to-follow steps to spot potential frauds and to avoid them. It also signposts advice and support to those who may unfortunately have fallen victim. This page can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-fraud-and-cyber-crime
Education is a devolved matter, and the response will outline the information for England only.
The department is committed to ensuring that all pupils can reach their potential and receive excellent support from their teachers. Published on 28 March 2022, the Schools White Paper sets the foundations to support the aims and ambitions of the SEND Review.
The department’s reformed initial teacher training (ITT) core content framework and the new Early Career Framework (ECF), both developed with sector experts, will equip teachers with a clear understanding of the needs of children with SEND.
All teachers are teachers of SEND. ITT courses must be designed so that trainee teachers can demonstrate that they meet the Teachers’ Standards at the appropriate level. This includes the requirement that all teachers must have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with SEND.
Consideration of SEND underpins both the ITT core content framework and ECF. The ECF is designed to support all pupils to succeed and seeks to widen access for all.
Once teachers qualify and are employed in schools, headteachers use their professional judgement to identify any further training. This includes specific specialisms for and relevant to individual staff, the school, and its pupils.
The department has funded the creation of a suite of condition specific videos to provide helpful pointers, techniques, and advice on inclusive teaching strategies for newly qualified teachers. The videos cover dyslexia and dyspraxia amongst a range of specific learning needs.
The government is investing £300 million to transform family help services in 75 local authorities. This includes funding for Family Hubs, parenting programmes and Start for Life services. We announced the 75 eligible local authorities on the 2 April 2022. The 75 local authorities, and the methodology used to select them can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/family-hubs-and-start-for-life-package-methodology-for-pre-selecting-local-authorities.
The government is committed to ensuring affordable access to childcare. Our current range of childcare offers includes 15 hours free early education for all three and four-year-olds, regardless of parental income or working status. This helps children to develop social skills and prepare them for school, regardless of their background.
In 2013, this offer was extended to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, providing a developmental boost to disadvantaged children who are less likely to use formal childcare, but who stand to benefit from it the most.
In 2017, we introduced 30 hours free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds. To be eligible for this, a lone parent must earn from just over £7,400 a year, and a couple, where both parents are working, must earn from just over £14,800 per year, to access 30 hours. This can save parents over £6,000 per year.
The department has also introduced tax-free childcare, which is available for working parents of children aged 0-11 (or up to 16 if their child is disabled), with the same income thresholds as 30 hours free childcare. This scheme can save parents up to £2,000 per year (or up to £4,000 if their child is disabled) and can be used alongside 30 hours free childcare.
Working parents on Universal Credit may also be eligible for help with up to 85% of their childcare costs through the childcare element of Universal Credit. This is subject to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children aged 0-16.
Education is a devolved matter, and the response will outline the information for England only. We have the same high ambitions for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as we do for every child, and we know that they benefit from excellent teaching that allows them to fulfil their potential. The Schools White Paper, published Monday 28 March, sets the foundations to support the aims and ambitions of the SEND Review. We want to make our system even better for all children, especially those in need of extra support.
Our reformed Initial Teacher Training Core Content Framework (ITT CCF) and the new Early Career Framework (ECF), both developed with sector experts, will equip teachers with a clear understanding of the needs of children with SEND.
All teachers are teachers of SEND. ITT courses must be designed so that trainee teachers can demonstrate that they meet the Teachers’ Standards at the appropriate level, which includes the requirement that all teachers must have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with SEND.
Consideration of SEND underpins both the ITT CCF and ECF, which were both produced with the support of sector experts. The ECF is designed to support all pupils to succeed and seeks to widen access for all.
Furthermore, as part of the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper, we will consult on introducing a leadership level SENCO National Professional Qualification to replace the National Award in SEN Coordination (NASENCO) as the mandatory qualification for SENCOs. We have set out further detail in the SEND Review.
This will better align SENCO qualifications with our reformed teacher development system and ensure that these professionals are fully supported to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
It is a legal requirement for qualified teachers of classes of pupils with sensory impairments to hold the relevant mandatory qualification, known as MQSI. The department’s aim is to ensure a steady supply of teachers for children with visual, hearing, and multi-sensory impairment, in both specialist and mainstream education providers.
The department is committed to supporting those fleeing from Ukraine.
It is generally in the best interests of a child to be reunited with family members when possible. The Ukrainian government has also been clear that children should not be taken into care without their agreement.
The department takes the welfare of all unaccompanied children extremely seriously and is committed to ensuring they are properly safeguarded. Statutory duties placed on the local authority in respect of unaccompanied children will apply to any unaccompanied or orphaned Ukrainian children arriving in the UK.
In England, section 17 of the Children Act 1989 imposes a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area, and to accommodate them if they meet the relevant criteria.
Generally, once a child has been accommodated by a local authority continuously for more than 24 hours, they become a looked after child and should be safeguarded. Their welfare should be promoted in the same way as any other looked after child, taking account of their particular needs.
The department collects data on the number of children looked after in local authority care in England. Local authorities have a legal duty to provide appropriate accommodation for all children that are looked after. This data is collected on the annual SSD903 'children looked after by local authorities in England' statistical return, and the latest figures relate to the collection year ending 31 March 2021.
These figures on the number of children looked after by their placement type were published on the 18 November 2021 in Table A5 of the annual statistical release at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoptions. This is the first release of data covering the time period of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is important that everyone using lateral flow devices (LFD) uses them in the correct way to ensure we can control and slow the spread of COVID-19. On their return to school or college from 8 March, pupils and students were tested three times at an on-site asymptomatic testing site. This gave pupils and students the opportunity to get used to swabbing in a supervised environment.
In line with the latest public health advice, it is important to continue regular testing and reporting in order to detect cases of COVID-19. Around one in three people with COVID-19 experience no symptoms and rapid testing with lateral flow tests helps to identify positive cases that would otherwise be missed. Antigen LFD tests have a very high specificity, possibly as high as 99.97%, which means three false positives in every 10,000 LFDs. Despite this, due to the lower prevalence, the probability of a false positive from an LFD becomes higher. We are mitigating this by asking people to confirm a positive antigen LFD test with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
From Step 4 of the roadmap, nurseries, schools and colleges will not routinely be required to undertake contact tracing for children and young people. Instead, pupils and students who test positive will be subject to the normal test and trace process, which will identify close contacts. This will be limited to close contacts. Unless they test positive, children and those who are double vaccinated will not be required to isolate from 16 August, if they are identified as a close contact, and instead will be advised to take a PCR test. Further guidance will be provided shortly. Self-isolation continues for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and for those with symptoms.
The government believes that students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) must get the support that they need to benefit from the Lifetime Skills Guarantee (LSG).
Preparing all young people with SEND for adulthood is a key part of the SEND system and should begin from the earliest point. Colleges have a duty to use their best endeavours to secure the special educational provision that the young person needs, regardless of whether students have an education, health and care plan.
We believe that our measures in the Skills for Jobs Bill will support those with SEND. The cross-government SEND review, which is currently underway, will consider how children and young people with SEND can be supported effectively. We will continue to work closely with the SEND sector and system leaders at pace over the coming months, to ensure we are in a strong position to publish proposals for public consultation as soon as possible.
The adult education budget supports the delivery of flexible tailored provision for eligible adults aged 19 and above from pre-entry to level 3 qualifications. The provision is either fully or co-funded, depending on the learner’s age, prior attainment, and circumstances, and helps learners to gain the skills they need for work, an apprenticeship or further learning. Under the LSG, the government is now supporting any adult (aged 19 and above) who does not have A levels or equivalent qualifications, to access around 400 fully funded level 3 courses, with free courses for jobs. Complementing this, skills bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. Both offers are funded through the National Skills Fund. We will be launching a consultation on the fund in due course to ensure that we use this investment to help adults, including those with protected characteristics, to gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects.
Finally, the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE), will be introduced from 2025, providing individuals with a loan entitlement to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use over their lifetime. We believe students with SEND must get the support that they need to benefit from the LLE. The government has not yet determined what form this support will take, and plan to use our consultation this year to build our evidence base on how people with protected characteristics might access or benefit from the LLE offer. We do not want to prejudge the information we receive and outcome of the consultation.
Since 8 March, school attendance has been mandatory for all pupils and the usual rules on school attendance apply again. It is vital for all pupils to attend school to minimise the longer term impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on their education, wellbeing, and wider development.
The Department understands that some pupils, parents, and households may be reluctant or anxious about attending school. Schools are encouraged to discuss any concerns with parents and explain the measures they are putting in place to reduce any risks. Schools should work closely with other professionals, where appropriate, to support school attendance. Some local councils also have teams that help parents improve their child’s attendance at school.
When any child is withdrawn from a school, schools are obliged to make the reason for withdrawal known to the local authority. When the reason is for elective home education, all local authorities have procedures in place to identify whether the education received is suitable to the child’s needs, age, and ability.
Local authorities have powers to intervene when they cannot establish if a suitable education is being provided. In April 2019, the Department published revised guidance for local authorities and parents on the oversight of home education. The guidance has been substantially strengthened to set out the steps that a local authority can take when they believe the education provided by parents is unsuitable, including when there are safeguarding concerns. Local authorities may also provide support and guidance to families who are home educating should resources allow and families wish to receive it.
Education is a devolved matter, and as such, this response outlines our support for adults with learning disabilities in England.
Adult skills are key in supporting the economy and tackling disadvantage, and so we are continuing to invest in education and skills training for adults through the Adult Education Budget (AEB), worth £1.34 billion in the 2020/21 financial year. The AEB fully funds or co-funds skills provision for eligible adults aged 19 and above from pre-entry to level 3, to support adults to gain the skills they need for work, an apprenticeship or further learning and training up to level 2 for unemployed people aged 19 and over.
The AEB funds colleges and providers to help adult learners to overcome barriers which prevent them from taking part in learning. This includes Learner Support to support learners with a specific financial hardship and learning support to meet the additional needs of learners with learning difficulties or disabilities.
Learning support funding helps colleges and training providers to meet the additional needs of learners with learning difficulties or disabilities and to meet the costs of reasonable adjustments as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
Learning support can cover a range of needs, including an assessment for dyslexia, funding to pay for specialist equipment or helpers and arranging signers or note-takers.
We are very aware of the significant turbulence in international commodity markets following Russian’s invasion of Ukraine and are closely monitoring the market situation.
Agricultural commodity prices have always been strongly correlated to the price of energy. Farmers face the challenge of rising inputs costs, particularly fertiliser costs, due to the sharp increase in the price of gas. The solution will require us to pioneer new technologies to manufacture more organic based fertiliser products, and to rediscover traditional, more established techniques such as using nitrogen fixing legumes and clovers as an alternative to fertiliser.
The Government has recently announced steps to assist farmers with the availability of fertilisers for the coming growing season to help address uncertainty amongst growers and keep costs down for farmers. These include delays to changes to the use of urea; revised and improved statutory guidance on the use of slurry; and the publication of further details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive. The Government has announced that it will pay farmers to help with the costs of sowing nitrogen fixing plants and green manures to reduce dependence on manufactured fertilisers, and that farmers will be further supported through new slurry storage grants.
We recognise that fertiliser pressures on the livestock and arable sectors may differ, particularly over the farming seasons. On the 31 March, Minister Prentis hosted the first meeting of the Fertiliser Roundtable with key industry bodies to discuss potential mitigations to the challenges which global supply pressures are causing. Ministers will continue to meet with key industry bodies for further fertiliser round-table sessions in the coming months, to help identify and mitigate potential risks
Further support in the form of guidance from fertiliser suppliers and agricultural organisations such as National Farmers Union can be found from various public sources. Defra is aware that AHDB have published many helpful public pieces of guidance, advice and webinar recordings on mitigating high fertiliser prices. They can be found on the AHDB website.
We are also seeing high costs for red diesel and we are working with the industry to identify where mitigations are available. We continue to keep the market situation under review through UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which monitors UK agricultural markets including price, supply, inputs, trade and recent developments. We are increasing our engagement with industry to supplement our analysis with real time intelligence.
Agricultural commodities are closely correlated to global gas prices. Farmers are facing increased input costs, including fuel and fertiliser prices. We continue to monitor the situation, including through the UK Agricultural Market Monitoring Group. Defra is in regular contact with key industry figures including the National Farmers Union, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and key sector representatives.
The Government announced on the 30 March a number of actions to address current fertiliser issues. These included changes to statutory guidance to the Environment Agency on how they should implement the "Farming Rules for Water" to provide clarity to farmers on how they can use slurry and other manures during autumn and winter to meet agronomic needs; increased grants funding to help farmers and growers boost research and development; and a delay to changes to the use of urea by at least a year. When the urea restrictions are introduced, they will be related to the use of ammonia inhibitors rather than a complete ban.
We recognise that fertiliser pressures on the livestock and arable sectors may differ, particularly over the farming seasons. On the 31, Minister Prentis hosted the first meeting of the Fertiliser Roundtable with key industry bodies to discuss potential mitigations to the challenges which global supply pressures are causing. Ministers will continue to meet with key industry bodies for further fertiliser round-table sessions in the coming months, to help identify and mitigate potential risks.
The Government monitors consumer food prices using the Consumer Prices Index (including Housing Costs) CPIH. The latest published statistics show annual food and drink inflation as 0.8 per cent in the year to September 2021, up from 0.3 per cent in the year to August 2021. The CPIH month-on-month food and drink inflation rate was -0.2 per cent between August 2021 and September 2021, down from 1.1 per cent between July 2021 and August 2021. The month-on-month rate is generally more variable than the annual rate.
This small increase in the annual rate will have been driven by a number of factors. Our research shows that the main drivers of consumer food prices are domestic farmgate prices; domestic manufacturing costs; domestic labour costs, import prices and currency exchange rates. Transport and distribution costs are a relatively small factor in influencing consumer food prices, so the shortage of lorry drivers and any consequential increase in the pay of lorry drivers alone, would not be expected to significantly increase food prices.
Most food sectors are accustomed to fluctuations in supply chain costs from these factors and food retailers also compete on price so these increases in supply chain costs do not necessarily translate into consumer price rises.
Our 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy for England sets out our ambitions of doubling resource productivity and eliminating avoidable waste by 2050. To help us achieve this we are working with the devolved administrations to jointly reform the packaging producer responsibility regulations and introduce a UK-wide extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for packaging.
Our second consultation on Packaging EPR closed on the 4 June. This will see packaging producers paying for the management of the packaging that they place on the market, including at end of life. This will ensure producers think carefully about the necessity of any packaging they use. Producer’s fees would also be varied to account for certain criteria, including recyclability, so that producers who use easily recyclable packaging will pay less than those who use packaging that is not. Producers will also be required to achieve ambitious recycling targets for packaging obligated under the scheme. This will include plastic packaging. In addition, the consultation sought views on the introduction of obligations to encourage the use of re-useable and re-fillable packaging
Aside from Packaging EPR, we have seen progress in the reduction in the use of single-use carrier bags. Their use by the main supermarket retailers in England has reduced by 95% since the introduction of the 5p charge. To drive further progress we have increased this charge to 10p and extended to all retailers on 21 May 2021.
The Government is also working with retailers and Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to encourage efforts to reduce waste and to explore the introduction of plastic-free supermarket initiatives in which fresh food is sold loose, giving consumers the choice.
The UK Plastics Pact is jointly founded between WRAP and the Ellen McArthur Foundation and is supported by the Government. The Pact brings together organisations from across the plastics supply chain with four key targets for 2025 that aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. Our proposed reforms will support The Pact in achieving these targets.
The agreement includes a range of measures to safeguard UK agriculture. Tariff liberalisation for sensitive products will be staged over time and tariff rate quotas and product specific safeguards for sensitive agricultural products such as beef, lamb, butter and cheese will limit the level of annual tariff-free imports from New Zealand and last for up to 15 years.
The agreement also includes a general bilateral safeguard mechanism, which will provide a safety net for all sectors should they face serious injury – or threat of serious injury – from increased imports as a result of this Free Trade Agreement.
We are supporting apprenticeships, including to train lorry drivers. A revised standard will be available from 1 August 2021 attracting £7,000 in apprenticeship levy funding. There is also an incentive payment of £3,000 available for new apprentices of any age with an employment start date of 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021.
The Department for Work and Pensions is developing a scheme to train jobseekers in HGV driving. The Flexible Support Fund is available to help the unemployed or those in receipt of Universal Credit renew their Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).
The Department has provided a grant for the non-profit initiative Road to Logistics to train military service leavers, ex-offenders and the long term unemployed to move into jobs in the logistics sector, including lorry driving.
Travel from the UK to the US is restricted under Presidential Executive Order and regulations 212(f). These measures have now been in place for over 400 days and meaningful travel cannot begin in earnest until the US lifts these restrictions.
The Prime Minster and President Biden have made clear the importance of bringing about the return of safe trans-Atlantic travel as soon as possible. The newly formed joint UK-US Experts’ Working Group is now underway, and we are working closely with our US partners on delivering this important goal.
There are a range of DWP initiatives that support disabled people and people with health conditions to live independent lives and start, stay and succeed in employment. These include the Intensive Personalised Employment Support programme, Access to Work, Disability Confident and support in partnership with the health system, including Employment Advisers in NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapy services.
The Green Paper explored how the benefits system can better meet the needs of claimants now and in the future, by improving claimant experience of our services, enabling independent living, and improving employment outcomes. We remain committed to responding to this Green Paper consultation with a White Paper later this year.
Universal Credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic, and we announced the temporary uplift as part of a £400 billion package of measures put in place that will last well beyond the end of the roadmap. Our focus now is on our multi-billion Plan for Jobs, which will support people in the long-term by helping them learn new skills and increase their hours or find new work.
Departmental officials have regular discussions with the devolved administrations to share best practice and information related to general practitioner provision in the United Kingdom.
Obesity is the single greatest risk factor to developing type 2 diabetes, which can lead to associated conditions such as diabetic foot ulcers and diabetic retinopathy. The Better Health adult obesity campaign was launched in July 2020, highlighting the harms of excess weight and providing motivation to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The campaign directs the public to a range of free online tools and support, including the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, the National Health Service weight loss plan app, local authority healthy lifestyle services and discounted offers from healthy weight partners. Primary care providers also support individuals in accessing weight management programmes, including the Diabetes Prevention Programme, depending on their risk factors.
We have no plans to provide free tests for international travel. Free National Health Service tests cannot be used for travel in order to preserve testing capacity and protect public health. We are committed to working with private testing providers to reduce the cost of testing. Since international travel testing requirements were introduced, the average cost of a day two polymerase chain reaction test has decreased to £45.
We have also reduced the cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for international arrivals from £88 to £68 for fully vaccinated arrivals and from £170 to £136 for two tests for arrivals who are not fully vaccinated. For United Kingdom residents or individuals with residency rights who would suffer severe financial hardship by paying the full cost of their managed quarantine or testing fees before they travel, hardship arrangements may be available.
The new £86,000 cap, in combination with the new higher capital limits, will mean that more people will be able to preserve more of their assets if they need care. The value of a person’s home is taken into consideration when determining how much they should pay for social care when they enter residential care and where a spouse or other eligible adult is no longer living in their home.
No-one will be forced to sell their home to pay for their care in their lifetime. Where people do need to access housing wealth to pay for care, individuals are able to take out a deferred agreement so that payments can be deducted from their estate after their care journey has ended.
On 21 October 2021, the Department announced a new £162.5 million Workforce Recruitment and Retention fund to support local authorities working with providers to recruit and retain social care staff this winter.
On 20 October 2021 the Department announced that we have secured 730,000 patient courses of two COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments for patients in the United Kingdom. However, these are awaiting the appropriate authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and are not yet available for patients to access.
The Antivirals Taskforce is working with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the UK Health Security Agency and the devolved administrations to deploy these antivirals should they receive appropriate authorisation. Further details will be announced in due course.
On 21 October 2021, the Department announced a new £162.5 million Workforce Recruitment and Retention fund to support local authorities working with providers to recruit and retain social care staff this winter. The next phase of the national adult social care recruitment campaign will be launched in early November and we are also working alongside the Department for Work and Pensions to promote adult social care careers in job centres. In addition, we will invest at least £500 million across three years in social care workforce professionalisation and development, wellbeing and mental health support, to improve retention of staff in the sector.
We have commissioned Health Education England to develop a 15 year forward view of National Health Service workforce requirements. The report is expected to be published in spring 2022.
We have funded an additional 1,500 undergraduate medical school places each year for domestic students in England. This expansion was completed in September 2020 and has delivered five new medical schools in England.
National Health Service ambulance trusts are being supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement to improve response times. This includes continuous monitoring and support through the National Ambulance Coordination Centre and an extra £55 million for ambulance trusts to increase staff numbers ahead of winter, helping them to recruit more 999 call handlers and clinicians to work in control rooms.
Departmental officials responsible for suicide and self-harm prevention attend regular meetings with officials from devolved administrations to discuss best practice, share learning and look at emerging issues.
The Department expects clinicians to take note of the Supporting women and their partners through prenatal screening for Down's syndrome, Edwards' syndrome and Patau's syndrome consensus statement published in an online only format by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and the Society and College of Radiographers.
The consensus statement sets out that all medical professionals involved in the offer of prenatal screening should ensure that women are given results in a non-directive way; the offer of further tests is non-directive; women are signposted to relevant charities and organisations to support personal informed choice; and options following a higher chance result in a non-directive manner. The consensus statement explicitly states that parents whose babies have been identified as having a higher chance of having Down’s Syndrome who have decided to continue with their pregnancy should not have their decisions challenged or be pressured into changing their minds.
In England, to further increase the supply of doctors we have increased the number of medical school places by 1,500 and opened five medical schools. This expansion was completed in September 2020 and the first of these doctors will enter the workforce from 2023. We are also taking action to increase the retention of doctors. The Enhancing Junior Doctors’ Working Lives programme, led by Health Education England, is delivering a range of initiatives to improve the quality of life of doctors in training.
The Government is committed to sustainable improvement of the adult social care system and will bring forward proposals in 2021.
The information is not available in the format requested. National Health Service bed capacity is not fixed and is flexible to meet changes in demand. Demand in winter 2021/22 remains uncertain due to factors including hospitalisations of patients with influenza or COVID-19.
On 23 June, the PRINCIPLE clinical trial platform in the United Kingdom announced that ivermectin would be investigated to generate robust data on its effectiveness in treating adults aged 18 years old and over with mild COVID-19 who are at higher risk of developing serious illness. We will closely monitor the data from this trial, as well as emerging clinical trials worldwide to expand our evidence-base on the efficacy of ivermectin in treating COVID-19.
The Department funds research through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR has no current active projects into Lyme disease. The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit on Emerging and Zoonotic Infections has undertaken work on the understanding of and treatments for Lyme disease, including looking at incidence of the disease in England and Wales.
We are committed to bringing forward a proposal for social care this year. The reform of social care and its funding arrangements are complex areas and a range of options for how to deliver on this commitment are being considered.
Wherever possible we have made exemptions to restrictions, to enable people with a learning disability to continue to access the support they need to live fulfilling lives, whilst balancing this with the need to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
We have recognised the need for support groups for disabled people to continue and formally organised groups of up to 15 can continue to meet, including day services. Government guidance is clear that people who are unable to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability are exempt from having to wear one. We have engaged with disability charities and other stakeholders using multiple channels to communicate this message to the general public. On 1 December we also published an accessible guidance online regarding the local restriction tiers.
At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic some clinics were suspended but rapidly reinstated and recommendations to continue specialised clinic work in the second wave has been issued. Patients have continued to be both identified and treated.
While such lung function measurements are aerosol generating procedures, advice was circulated by The Association for Respiratory Technology and Physiology to ensure such patients were investigated.
For those patients already receiving treatment the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines were relaxed to ensure continuation of the drugs and to allow initiation of new therapies.
We recognise the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental wellbeing, potentially leading to the onset of new mental health difficulties as well as exacerbating existing problems. We have released tailored guidance on the ‘Every Mind Matters’ website and GOV.UK giving advice and practical steps for people to support their mental health and wellbeing.
National Health Service mental health services have remained open for business throughout this time, including delivering support digitally and by phone. For those with severe needs or in crisis, NHS mental health providers have set up 24 hours, seven days a week urgent mental health helplines. We have also provided over £10 million funding for mental health charities supporting people through the pandemic.
We remain committed to investing at least £2.3 billion of extra funding a year into mental health services by 2023-24 through the NHS Long Term Plan.
Throughout the pandemic urgent services, such as cancer treatment, urgent operations and stroke care have remained open. Even at the peak of demand, hospitals were still able to look after two non-COVID-19 inpatients for everyone COVID-19 inpatient.
The following table shows the total number of completed admitted pathways during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
Stroke Sentinel National Audit Programme data shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, improvements were seen in access to stroke units and in the time taken for brain scanning and acute assessments by a stroke specialist. There was a decrease in stroke admissions of 13% during March-May 2020. Seven-day crude mortality data for March-June 2020 shows that there is an overall adjusted risk of mortality of 12% which is consistent with the case mix adjusted 30-day mortality data average of 12% between 2016-2019.
The number of people starting treatment for cancer in August was 78% of the same month last year, having recovered from a low of 63% in May. The majority of people who have not been diagnosed are assessed as being those who did not come forward for checks.
Chemotherapy treatments are largely delivered on a day case or outpatient basis and only a small proportion would normally be delivered in an inpatient setting. Between March and August 2020, there were around 5,300 chemotherapy admissions for inpatient treatment. This is lower than in the same period in 2019, when around 9,000 admissions were recorded. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance NG161, published in April 2020 to support clinicians in the management of patients requiring systemic treatment through the pandemic, provided advice on alternative chemotherapy treatment approaches to reduce the risk of infection to patients and avoid unnecessary admissions and visits to hospital where possible.
These restrictions are necessary and proportionate to prevent the incidence and spread of COVID-19, to protect the National Health Service and to save lives.
An analysis of the overall health impact of lockdown was published in July. A copy of Direct and Indirect Impacts of COVID-19 on Excess Deaths and Morbidity: Executive Summary is attached.
Estimates of the impact of COVID-19 admissions on NHS capacity was published in October as part of a presentation by the Chief Scientific Adviser. A copy of this presentation is attached.
These set out the risk that non-COVID-19 health services would be impacted at a national level by early December if the NHS were to free-up sufficient capacity to meet the projected hospital admissions from COVID-19 patients. If action had not been taken, we would exceed surge hospital capacity by approximately 4 December, even after postponing some hospital services.
The Government funds the Central Booking Service, which is managed by British Pregnancy Advisory Service for access to services under the Abortion Act 1967 in England only.
Health is devolved matter and abortions in Northern Ireland follow the regulations that apply there. Service provision in Northern Ireland, in line with the regulations, is a matter for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.
Lifestyle changes which may help prevent or delay the onset of dementia include being more physically active, eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight, not exceeding lower risk levels of alcohol consumption, not smoking, connecting with people and staying mentally active, and controlling diabetes and high blood pressure.
An aspiration of the Government’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 is to improve public awareness and understanding of the factors which can increase the risk of developing dementia and of how people can reduce their risk by living more healthily.
The Department does not set clinical practice. To support clinical practice, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has considered the issue of fetal pain and awareness in its guideline on Fetal Awareness: Review of Research and Recommendations for Practice.
The Department has brought the article by Dr Stuart W G Derbyshire and John C Bockmann to the attention of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It is for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to consider whether to revise the guidelines having considered the available evidence.
We are urgently working with the UN, the G7 and the international community to explore the best solutions to extract the 25 million tons of grain currently stuck in Ukraine. We continue to work with the Ukrainians and other international partners to find ways to resume the export of grain from Ukraine and to the countries that desperately need it.
The UK also joined 44 others in launching the OSCE Moscow Mechanism fact-finding mission. This investigated human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law by Russia in Ukraine, covering the period 24 February to 1 April, and drew on reporting from open sources as well as interviews with civil society, journalists, refugees and other actors on the ground.
The report, published on 13 April, is the first independent expert report into these issues. It found credible evidence of Russian war crimes, from the torture, rape and killing of innocent civilians to the forced deportation of over 500,000. The UK is determined to hold to account those responsible for these atrocities so this can never happen again.
The UK Government is concerned by insecurity across Nigeria; this violence is having a devastating impact on affected communities of all faiths and ethnicities. We assess that the principal causes of violence are complex and multifaceted and are often linked to criminality and competition over resources. We continue to urge and support the Nigerian Government to take action to implement long-term solutions that address the root causes of violence and ensure the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief for all.
The Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean regularly raises insecurity in Nigeria with the Nigerian Government, including during her visit to Nigeria in February, where she discussed this issue with Foreign Minister Onyeama. During her visit, the Minister held detailed discussions with regional governors, community leaders and religious leaders about the causes of violence. Additionally, on 1 February, the Minister also discussed insecurity with Nigerian National Security Adviser Monguno during the inaugural dialogue of the UK-Nigeria Security and Defence Partnership.
We will continue to make clear to the Nigerian authorities at the highest levels the importance of protecting civilians, including ethnic and religious minorities, and human rights for all.
The UK engages regularly with China on counter-proliferation issues and there is considerable scope for constructive engagement and cooperation. The UK encourages all States Party to the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to abide by their obligations and commitments under that treaty, and in particular for nuclear weapon states to take their special responsibilities seriously.
The UK is at the forefront of diplomatic, economic, humanitarian and defensive support to Ukraine, in response to Russia's unprovoked assault. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the UK will continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend its homeland. We, with our allies and partners, will continue to impose the most punishing sanctions to inflict maximum and lasting pain on Russia. And we will continue to employ every method - diplomatic, humanitarian and economic - until Russia fails in its disastrous venture.
Iran has been in non-compliance with its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) commitments since 2019. Its nuclear programme is now more advanced than ever before.
We are currently engaged in negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the JCPoA. Iran must now decide whether to conclude the fair and comprehensive deal on the table, for the benefit of the Iranian people and economy, or collapse the JCPoA. In this scenario, we would carefully consider all the options in partnership with our allies.
We discuss any money owed from the UK to Iran and vice versa and how we resolve this directly with Iran. The IMS debt, which has garnered public and parliamentary interest, is a longstanding issue and we have been consistently clear that we continue to explore options to resolve this 40-year old case.
Russia's build-up of military forces near the Ukrainian border and within illegally annexed Crimea indicates a troubling escalation in its ongoing campaign of aggression towards Ukraine and its militarisation of the illegally annexed peninsula.
On 12 April, the Foreign Ministers of the G7 issued a joint statement, in which they called on Russia to cease its provocations and reaffirmed our unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We have also raised our concerns about the increased Russian military activity on Ukraine's border at the OSCE.
There has been regular Ministerial and senior official level engagement with the Government of Ukraine and with our allies on this issue. The Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary spoke to their Ukrainian counterparts on 2 April and the Prime Minister had discussions with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine on 5 April to assure them of the UK's support.
As a fellow Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, we engage directly with Russia on matters of international peace and security, including Ukraine. We continue to raise our concerns with the Russian government at every opportunity. Our Ambassador in Moscow has spoken to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mostly recently on 16 April, to express our deep concern about the build-up of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border, to reiterate our call for Russia to de-escalate, and to underline our support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We will continue working closely with partners to monitor the situation, and consider all options.
The UK has been at the forefront of the international response to the coup in Myanmar, and we continue to call for a return to democracy. On 10 March we secured a unanimous Presidential Statement at the UN Security Council which called for respect for the democratic transition and human rights and an end to violence. The Foreign Secretary and Minister for Asia have spoken to a wide range of counterparts, including the US, France, Germany and Japan. They have also engaged with partners in ASEAN, including with the ASEAN Secretary General, to seek a strong and coordinated response. We welcome ASEAN's Five Point Plan on Myanmar and agree with ASEAN Leaders that the violence must end immediately. We have provided a platform for pro-democracy voices at the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council.
We are also looking to exert direct pressure on the military and have sanctioned nine leaders and two of the key military conglomerates which fund the military's actions. We will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to encourage dialogue, find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, and restore democracy.
The UK Government remains deeply concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and has declared two breaches of the Joint Declaration in the last six months. In response to imposition of the National Security Law, the Government has put in place a new bespoke immigration path for BN(O)s, suspended our extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and extended our arms embargo on mainland China to Hong Kong. On 13 November, following the decision to arbitrarily remove elected pro-democracy legislators from their positions, the FCDO Permanent Under Secretary summoned the Chinese Ambassador to register our deep concerns.
We continue to bring together our international partners to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their freedoms, and to hold China to their international obligations. At the UN Human Rights Council in June the UK delivered a joint statement on behalf of 28 countries raising China's assault on Hong Kong's autonomy and rights and freedoms. At the Council in September, the UK reiterated these serious concerns in a national statement, and the UK joined a statement on these issues at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Third Committee on 6 October; 39 countries supported the statement, a significant increase from June. On 18 November, the Foreign Secretary issued a statement with his Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and US counterparts, urging China to re-consider its actions against Hong Kong's elected legislature.
Defending the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) for all is a priority for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. As the Minister of State responsible for Human Rights, I reiterated this message in my tweet to mark International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day on 27 October. The UK Government remains committed to implementing the recommendations from the Bishop of Truro's independent Review on persecuted Christians in full. Work is continuing to implement the recommendations in a way that will bring real improvements in the lives of those persecuted because of their faith, belief, or those of no religious belief. Of the recommendations, 17 have already been, or are in the process of being, implemented. One of those recommendations related to the establishment of the UK's Global Human Rights ('Magnitsky') sanctions regime. This regime came into effect on 6 July and allows us to designate those who commit serious human rights abuses or violations, including those who target individuals on the grounds of their religion or belief. We also launched the John Bunyan Fund for FoRB in August 2019, through which we have funded 15 research projects helping address the challenges faced by different communities, such as Christians, Yazidis, and Humanists, as well as cross-cutting issues such as migration and the double vulnerability experienced by women from minority faith backgrounds. We continue to work with international partners, including through the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, to combat religious persecution worldwide.
The Government regularly monitors trends in household debt levels in order to inform its policy making to help people manage their money well and access support if they need to get their finances back on track. It does so by working closely with the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and engages regularly with a range of other stakeholders on their research and findings.
The latest findings from the FCA’s biennial Financial Lives Survey were published in February 2021 and showed that between March and October 2020, the number of people with low financial resilience increased by 3.5 million, from 10.7 million to 14.2 million. MaPS monitors financial difficulty through the Debt Need Survey of approximately 22,000 people, with data on regional levels of over-indebtedness last published in 2018. MaPS will publish the results of the 2021 Debt Need Survey early next year.
The Government is strongly committed to supporting the financial wellbeing of the most vulnerable in society, and to tackling problem debt. This is why the Government put in place an unprecedent package of support to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Government recognises that the full impact of the pandemic on people’s personal finances is still unfolding and that some require extra support at this challenging time. To help people in problem debt get their finances back on track, the Government agreed to maintain record levels of funding for free-to-consumer debt advice in England in 2021-22, bringing this year’s debt advice budget for MaPS to £94.6 million. This is a more than 70% increase since 2019-20 to help more people who are struggling with their finances during the pandemic.
In addition to this, the Breathing Space scheme launched in England and Wales, offering people in problem debt a pause of up to 60 days on most enforcement action, interest, fees and charges, and encouraging them to seek professional debt advice.
The Government has also changed the existing monetary eligibility limits for a Debt Relief Order in England and Wales; increasing the value of assets that a debtor can hold, the level of surplus income received and the total debt allowable. This will give more people with low levels of assets and low income who are in problem debt access to a suitable and proportionate solution.
The Government works closely with industry to close down the vulnerabilities that fraudsters exploit and ensure members of the public have the information they need to spot a scam and stand up to fraudsters. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requires banks to maintain effective systems and controls to prevent the risk that they might be used to further financial crime. This includes controls to prevent fraud.
The Government is committed to tackling fraud within payments networks. With regards to Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud, the Government considers rules within Faster Payments as the best solution for ensuring that victims are reimbursed.
The Government recognises the actions taken to-date by the financial services industry to help tackle fraud, including through investment in anti-fraud capabilities, the creation of a voluntary reimbursement Code, and the implementation of initiatives such as Confirmation of Payee. While the Government welcomes these initiatives, it is clear that more needs to be done both to prevent these scams, and to ensure that victims are not left paying for fraud through no fault of their own.
The Government is engaging with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) and industry on what further actions are needed to better protect customers, and welcomed the PSR’s recent consultation on APP scams, which set out various potential measures that could improve scam prevention and outcomes, including proposals to introduce mandatory requirements to reimburse victims. The Government has confirmed it intends to legislate to address any barriers to regulatory action regarding mandatory reimbursement when parliamentary time allows.
The government takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and has published the Net Zero Strategy on how the UK will deliver on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The government has also published the Net Zero Review exploring the key issues and trade-offs as the UK decarbonises. As the Net Zero Review stated, if there is to be additional public spending, the government may need to consider changes to existing taxes and new sources of revenue during the transition in order to deliver net zero sustainably, and consistently with the government’s fiscal principles.
The government keeps all taxes under review, and any changes are made in the round at fiscal events.
The Equitable Life Payment Scheme closed to claims in 2015. There are no plans to reopen the Payment Scheme or review the £1.5 billion funding allocation previously made to it.
The Government is committed to tackling tax evasion at all levels. The Government has introduced over 100 measures to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and other forms of non-compliance since 2010. Together with HMRC’s compliance work, the government has secured and protected an additional £200 billion in tax revenue which would otherwise have gone unpaid.
This success demonstrates the Government’s continued efforts to address tax evasion, avoidance and non-compliance in all its forms.
HM Revenue and Customs strategic approach is to use the most appropriate, cost-effective, and highest-impact way to encourage and support all taxpayers in complying with their obligations.
Drugs devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities. This Government is determined to tackle this threat and that is why we published a ten-year Strategy to combat illicit drugs. This Strategy sets out a whole system approach of how the Government is doing more than ever to cut off the supply of drugs by criminal gangs and give people with a drug addiction a route to a productive and drug-free life reducing the recreational use of drugs
Underpinned by significant investment, we will reduce drug-related crimes, deaths, harms and overall drug use. This includes £300m of dedicated investment from the Home Office over the next three years to drive work on tackling drug supply
The strategy is on the gov.uk page.
Making our communities safer and reducing crime is a key priority for the Government, which includes protecting elderly people from crime.. That is why we are delivering on the people’s priorities by recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers to give the police the resources they need, of which 11,053 have already been recruited. We have also increased funding for policing this year by £636m compared to 20/21.
In July, we published the Beating Crime Plan, which sets out our strategy for protecting the law-abiding majority, swiftly bringing criminals to justice, and managing offenders with rigour and discipline. It also commits all of Government to do everything within its power to drive crime down. Moreover, the first two rounds of the Safer Streets Fund were designed to prevent neighbourhood crimes such as burglary, robbery and theft. The fund supports communities in England and Wales that are disproportionately affected by these crimes to implement well-evidenced crime prevention initiatives, such as street lighting and home security.
The Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP) is part of Prevent. DDP focuses on rehabilitating individuals who have been involved in terrorism or terrorism-related activity and reducing the risk they pose to the UK. The programme offers a suite of tailored interventions drawing on the skill sets of multiple intervention providers including practical mentors and theological & ideological specialists as well as provides support through psychological intervention where this need is identified.
It focusses on those who have served prison sentences for terrorist or terrorist related offences and are due to be released on probation licence; those on Terrorism Prevention Investigation Measures (TPIMs): and those who have returned from conflict zones in Syria or Iraq and are subject to Temporary Exclusion Orders (TEOs).
The Home Office seeks to drive improvements to our programmes on a continuous basis and is currently undertaking a review of the programme by the way of an independent evaluation.
The Government’s priority, working alongside law enforcement and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), is to do all we can to mitigate any harm to the UK from ransomware.
The Home Office provides funding for cyber teams in Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) across England and Wales, to bolster the regional response to crime, provide protect advice to businesses and individuals, and to divert people vulnerable to cyber criminality.
The NCSC as the UK’s technical authority for cyber threats, continually reviews its advice and guidance to reflect new trends and how individuals and organisations can protect themselves, as well as providing swift support to organisations which fall victim to ransomware attack.
The National Crime Agency’s (NCA) National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) provides the focus for our national response to combating serious cyber criminals. It is using its operational resources to deliver arrests and disruption, using the NCA’s enhanced intelligence picture to target criminals where they are most vulnerable.
The NCSC and NCA continue to monitor and respond to the cyber threat, including ransomware.
The Government is working collaboratively with our international partners specifically the Five Eyes to address the ransomware threat.
The Government conducted a call for evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff to understand the extent of the issue and how we can work with retailers and police to improve the response to these crimes. The Government’s formal response was published 7 July 2020 and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-and-abuse-toward-shop-staff-call-for-evidence
Nothing is more important than the safety of our children. The UK Government is committed to stamping out all forms of child sexual exploitation and abuse and continuing to be a global leader in tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Last year we announced an additional £30 million to safeguard children from child sexual exploitation and abuse, both at home and online. This includes £9.86 million to the National Crime Agency (NCA) to improve its ability to tackle perpetrators seeking to offend against children via the Dark Web and £3.36 million to further improve our understanding and tackle all aspects of the threat.
Recognising the unprecedented challenge posed by the impact of COVID-19 and restrictions to prevent its spread, the Prime Minister hosted a cross-Government Hidden Harms Virtual Summit, to bring together key decisions makers and agree actions to combat hidden crimes, including child sexual abuse. We have also worked across government, with law enforcement and the third sector to provide information and advice about child sexual exploitation and abuse to schools, parents, carers and children and to ensure that victims and survivors continue to have access to the greatest possible support.
For example through the NCA’s #OnlineSafetyAtHome campaign and their ThinkUKnow resources, as well as published guidance on GOV.UK. We have also galvanised industry and international partners to raise awareness of online safety in response to COVID-19 and formally launched the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
In the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, the Government committed to develop legislation to improve internet safety for all. This will build on the proposals in the Online Harms White Paper, published in April 2019 which set out our plans for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
We intend to establish in law a new duty of care on companies towards their users, overseen by an independent regulator. The duty of care will require companies to put in place appropriate systems to deal with harmful content on their services and keep users safe. Companies will be required to take particularly robust action on tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
On 12 February the Government published an initial response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation. We are working on a full Government response, which will be published shortly. This will be released alongside an interim code of practice to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse. This code will set out steps that companies can take to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse on a voluntary basis, ahead of any regulatory system introduced following the proposals in the Online Harms White Paper.
The UK continues to galvanise support from the international community. We have worked closely with allies and partners to ensure that Ukrainian Armed Forces requirements are met at pace. The Defence Secretary has hosted two international donor conferences to coordinate aid from 35 partner nations and, via strong participation in the International Donor Coordination Centre, the UK continues to enable support to Ukraine from across the world.
Poland joined the UK at the 2nd International Defence Donors' Conference for Ukraine on 31 March, which was convened by the Secretary of State. The decisions taken at the Conference will see the international community stepping up and increasing the co-ordination of military support to Ukraine.
The Government is now working with Poland, the US and other Allies and partners to co-ordinate the provision of longer-term international support according to Ukrainian requirements, including the provision of air and coastal defence systems, longer-range artillery and counter battery capabilities, armoured vehicles as well as wider training and logistical support.
We strongly condemn such egregious actions perpetrated by the Taliban. While we recognise that the current security situation is serious, we do not believe there is any military solution to this conflict. The Taliban must engage in meaningful dialogue with the Afghan government, to enable a political solution to ensure lasting peace. We will continue to work closely with international and regional partners to support Afghan peace efforts, including through diplomatic support and technical advice.
The percentage of Regular Army applications in the calendar year 2020 which provided a Northern Ireland residence as the home address was 1.8%. This figure has been provided by Analysis Army and has been defined as an online application submitted by an individual and accepted by the Defence Recruitment System.
The Government has delivered the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel & Veterans) Act 2021 (the Act), which delivers on the 2019 manifesto commitment to tackle the vexatious legal claims that undermine our Armed Forces.
The measures of the Act provide reassurance to our Service personnel and veterans that, where an investigation into historical allegations of wrongdoing is referred to the prosecutor for a decision on whether to prosecute, the unique circumstances of overseas operations will be taken into account in their considerations.
The Government has been clear it will introduce a separate legacy package for Northern Ireland that delivers better outcomes for victims, survivors and veterans, focuses on information recovery and reconciliation, and ends the cycle of investigations. The MOD continues to work with the NIO to ensure that the legacy package delivers on the commitments made to Northern Ireland veterans. Government is committed to bringing forward legislation as soon as possible.
The Government is strongly committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to current and former locally employed staff in Afghanistan. That is why we developed a new Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which launched on 1 April 2021. It acknowledges and reflects the fact that the situation in Afghanistan has changed, and with it the potential risk to current and former Locally Employed Staff who worked for the UK Government over the past twenty years. Under the new scheme, any current or former Locally Employed Staff who are assessed to be under serious threat [to life] will be offered priority relocation to the UK regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served. And local staff who have worked in roles which could have exposed their identities and placed them at risk of reprisals will be relocated to the UK by default. We will continue to monitor events in Afghanistan closely to ensure the implementation of this policy reflects the changing security situation.
The Building Safety Bill will ensure that those responsible for occupied higher-risk buildings will be required to actively manage building safety risks, evidencing this through the safety case regime overseen by the Building Safety Regulator. This will ensure major fire and structural hazards are effectively and proportionately managed, mitigated and remedied and that effective steps are taken, which take into account safety and cost.
The Bill contains measures to protect leaseholders by providing a legal requirement for building owners to explore alternative ways to meet the costs of remediation works before passing these onto leaseholders, along with evidence that this has been done.
We have been clear that building owners are responsible for ensuring the safety of their residents, that is why we are taking action to extend rights to redress where unacceptable defects have made a dwelling unfit to live in by making changes to the Defective Premises Act 1972. The changes we are making will enhance building owners’ ability to seek compensation for defective work carried out on their buildings.
We have been clear that building owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – where they haven’t stepped up, we have stepped in. The Government has announced a globally unprecedented investment of over £5 billion in building safety and hundreds of thousands of leaseholders will be protected from the cost of remediating unsafe cladding from their homes. Lower-rise buildings between 11 and 18 metres will gain new protection from the costs of remediating dangerous cladding through a Government backed financing scheme. The Government is conscious of the need to make any financing scheme affordable for leaseholders. That is why we have said that the financing scheme will have a £50 a month cap. Now that the financing solution has been announced, we will publish more details on how it will work as soon as we are in a position to do so.
Stalking is an insidious crime that can have a devastating impact on a victim’s wellbeing. This Government is committed to protecting and supporting victims and is determined to do everything we can to stop perpetrators at the earliest opportunity.
In 2012 the Government created two stalking offences to highlight stalking as a specific behaviour, and through the Policing and Crime Act 2017 the maximum penalties for certain stalking and harassment offences were raised from 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment. There are currently no plans to make further changes to the penalties available for stalking offences.
In January 2020 we introduced new civil Stalking Protection Orders to protect victims of stalking at the earliest possible opportunity and address the perpetrator’s behaviours before they become entrenched or escalate in severity. A breach of this order carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
The Northern Ireland Office shares with the rest of the United Kingdom in celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen and in thanking Her Majesty for 70 years of selfless devotion to duty and leadership of our whole nation. The Northern Ireland Office worked closely to deliver and collaborate on a range of exciting projects and events to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee. We saw a range of events in Northern Ireland including the lighting of beacons, Jubilee Big Lunches as well as the return of the Northern Ireland annual Garden Party that acted as a moment of celebration in this Platinum Jubilee year for people in Northern Ireland.
We also worked with a range of local organisations to develop a Jubilee hamper which showcased the best of Northern Irish produce and was sent to the Royal Household. We ran an exciting competition for young people to design a rug for Her Majesty and we also worked to profile the many organisations and individuals across Northern Ireland who have been honoured by Her Majesty in her last 70 years. In addition, the commemorative Jubilee book was distributed to Primary Schools across Northern Ireland. We wanted to make sure that the Jubilee brought communities together, celebrating the best of Northern Ireland.
This Government is steadfastly committed to Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom, on the basis of consent, and will never be neutral on the Union.
We aim to strengthen the Union by making Northern Ireland a better place to live and work for all parts of the community, and by building a stronger, more shared and inclusive society.
Through our ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, a record financial settlement for Northern Ireland in the spending review, with an average of £15 billion funding per year and the support provided throughout the pandemic sustaining more than 370,000 jobs, we are demonstrating that all of our United Kingdom remains better together than it would ever be apart.
There can be no doubt that Northern Ireland benefits from the strength and security of being part of the world's fifth largest economy, and the Government will continue to deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom so that we may further strengthen our precious Union.
The Government is resolutely committed to the Union and will take every opportunity to promote Northern Ireland’s integral place within it as we have said many times, while always upholding the consent principle we will never be neutral on Northern Ireland's position within our United Kingdom.
During this centenary year for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Government has proudly celebrated the contribution of Northern Ireland’s people, culture, traditions and enterprise to our Union and the world.
The record settlement for Northern Ireland in the Spending Review demonstrated the clear benefits of the Union, with £15 billion per year in funding alongside investment through the New Deal, City and Growth Deals and the New Decade, New Approach financial package.
Together, this investment will deliver greater prosperity and stronger public services for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland. All of this underlines the enormous benefit Northern Ireland gains from being part of the fifth largest economy in the world.
The Government will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the benefits of levelling up are felt across the United Kingdom, and to make Northern Ireland an even better place to live, work and invest within it.
The Government has been clear that it will deliver on its commitments to NI veterans as part of a wider package to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland.
As set out by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland last week, the Government’s proposed package focuses on reconciliation, information recovery and ending the cycle of investigations that is not working for anyone.
The Government remains clear however, that it will never accept any moral equivalence between those who upheld the law in Northern Ireland and those, on all sides, who sought to destroy it.
These proposals will be considered as part of the ongoing intensive talks process with the NI parties, Irish Government and representatives of NI society, further to which we will bring forward legislation.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland remains in close and continued contact with Northern Ireland’s party leaders. The Government welcomes the unity that the Executive has shown in opposing the recent disorder.
It is clear that the factors behind the recent disorder are complex and multifaceted. The answer to these issues lies in dialogue, engagement, and the democratic process; not through violence or disorder.
The Protocol was designed to protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and to safeguard the gains of the peace process. There are outstanding issues with the Protocol which need to be addressed in order to restore confidence on the ground and minimise the impact on day-to-day lives of the people in Northern Ireland. The measures taken in March this year were temporary, operational steps intended to minimise disruption in Northern Ireland and protect the everyday lives of the people living there. We are working intensively with the EU to address these and working hard to ensure the effective operation of the Protocol, including through tailored support for businesses.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Minister of State for Northern Ireland are in regular contact with the First and deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, as well as the Health minister, with the most recent discussions focusing on the recent restrictions across the UK, the concerning rise in cases, and how the UK government can provide continued support.
The First and deputy First Minister, are invited to attend a weekly Covid-19 Operations Committee meeting, hosted by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This forum supports collaboration and helps ensure decisions taken across the four nations are aligned as far as is possible and appropriate.
Since the start of this pandemic, the UK Government has worked closely with the First Minister and deputy First Minister and the rest of the Executive to coordinate our response to coronavirus. We have also remained in close contact with the Irish government.
The government and devolved administrations will continue to work closely together to ensure a coordinated approach across the United Kingdom.
The Government has been clear that we will introduce legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of reinvestigations that has failed victims and veterans alike.
We remain committed to making progress and engaging on these issues with the Northern Ireland parties, the Irish Government, and stakeholders from across the community including victims groups as quickly as possible.
Northern Ireland Office Ministers are in regular contact with Northern Ireland Executive Ministers regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As education is a devolved matter, the education Minister Peter Weir is rightly leading the response for education matters in Northern Ireland.
We are delighted to see that Minister Weir is determined to improve the current system of special educational provision and support pupils with special educational needs (SEN) to meet their full potential.
On 30 September, Minister Weir launched a public consultation which will improve the provision of education for children and young people with special educational needs. The Minister has also announced funding of £7.5m to deliver a new SEN framework which will provide additional resources for schools.
As a Government, we promised to do whatever it takes to get through this together - as one United Kingdom, and we will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations to ensure they have the funding and resources needed to tackle the impacts of COVID-19.
The threat from dissident republican terrorism continues to be SEVERE in Northern Ireland. Violent dissident republicans have shown, time and again, that they do not care who they hurt and have no regard for people in their communities. This Government’s first priority is to keep people safe and secure right across the United Kingdom. The recent success of OP ARBACIA marks a significant step in a far reaching investigation into the new IRA. Terrorism, paramilitary violence and criminality have no place in our society - they must not hold us back from progress towards a peaceful and prosperous future. The Police Service of Northern Ireland, MI5 and others who work to keep people safe have our full support for the public service they give.
The Government recognise the dedication and resolve of staff across the health and social care systems who have shown real determination to provide the best care possible to their patients during this challenging time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically altered the functions of hospitals and as such the focus has led to a serious impact on waiting lists.
The lack of a functioning Executive in Northern Ireland in previous years, coupled with the impact on the health and social care system from the pandemic, exacerbated the need for the urgent reform of services. As a result, the Rebuilding Health & Social Care Strategic Framework was published by Minister Swann on 9 June. In addition to this, Minister Swann announced the launch of a new Covid-19 Surge Planning Strategic Framework for Northern Ireland on 6 October. One of the key initiatives in the framework is the establishment of a regional cancer reset cell to oversee the resumption of screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients in clinically safe environments as quickly as possible, and to protect these services as much as possible in the event of further potential surges of Covid-19
Beyond this, under the New Decade, New Approach deal, the Executive will introduce a new action plan on waiting times. The UK Government committed £2 billion over five years to facilitate NDNA commitments, which includes around £245m to support the transformation of public services, and £200 million over three years to deliver pay parity. The deal also responds to the increasing demand for doctors in Northern Ireland, providing £60m of capital and resource funding to deliver a Northern Ireland Graduate Entry Medical School in Derry/Londonderry, which has now been approved by the Executive.
Recognising the pressures arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government has provided the Northern Ireland Executive with a guaranteed £2.4billion in additional funding. The allocation of this funding within the health budget is a matter for the Executive.
Her Majesty’s Government was placed under a clear legal duty to bring forward regulations on access to abortion services under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Act 2019, given the Northern Ireland Executive was not restored by 21 October 2019.
The Government has delivered Regulations, which initially came into force on 31 March 2020, and these have now been approved by Parliament to remain in place as the law on access to abortion services in Northern Ireland.
The Regulations deliver equivalent outcomes in practice to the rest of the UK so that women and girls in Northern Ireland can enjoy similar rights in accessing abortion services.
The Government stands ready to provide whatever support and guidance we can to both the Northern Ireland Minister for Health and his department to assist them in progressing work to set up full abortion services as soon as possible, consistent with the Regulations.
In accordance with the duty placed on the Government under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Act 2019, regulations are now in place to make provision for accessing abortions in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has not opposed the Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.
The debate in the Assembly on 2 June 2020 was focused on one aspect of those regulations, severe fetal impairment, and does not have any binding effects on the Regulations we have made.
The Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 have now been debated in both Houses of Parliament as required under the ‘made affirmative’ procedure and approved by the House of the Lords. The House of Commons will today vote on the Regulations to approve them to remain in force as the law on access to abortion in Northern Ireland.
As abortion remains a devolved issue in Northern Ireland, the Assembly remains able to legislate on abortion, subject to the usual Assembly and other procedures, including compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK Government will continue to ensure we abide by our domestic and international legal obligations.
The UK has now left the EU, and will not be applying the proposed EU Directive in the UK. There is no obligation for Northern Ireland to align with Ireland or the EU on time zones.
The UK wide response to coronavirus has been a collaboration between the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations. The Northern Ireland Executive has been involved in both official and ministerial level planning meetings. This approach will continue as the UK response to coronavirus continues.
The UK Government is providing the restored Executive with a £2 billion financial package that delivers for the people of Northern Ireland and supports the delivery of the New Decade, New Approach agreement.
This financial commitment represents the biggest injection of new money in a Northern Ireland talks deal in well over a decade.
The threat from dissident republican terrorism continues to be SEVERE in Northern Ireland. This Government’s first priority is to keep people safe and secure right across the United Kingdom.
Vigilance against this continuing threat is essential and we remain determined to ensure that terrorism never succeeds.
The Irish General Election results are of course a matter for the people of Ireland. The UK and Ireland are the nearest of neighbours and we look forward to continuing to work closely together with the future Government. Our commitment to Northern Ireland, and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement remains steadfast, including the principle of consent and the East/West institutions set out in the Agreement which will support our wider cooperation and bilateral engagement with Ireland.
It remains the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland's view that a majority of the people of Northern Ireland continue to support Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom. The circumstances set out in the Belfast Agreement that require the Secretary of State to hold a referendum on Irish unification are therefore not satisfied.
In 2015, the UK Government commissioned the Assessment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland in order to provide a factual assessment from the UK security agencies and the PSNI on the structure, role and purpose of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.