Building Regulations: Public Toilet Provision

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Monday 4th July 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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Toilets, both in municipal and private sector locations, are an important facility for members of the public, in particular, women, those with children, older people and disabled people.

The Government have taken a number of steps recently to support the increased provision of ‘Changing Places’ toilets for disabled people for whom standard accessible toilets are not suitable. Last year, the Government introduced 100% business rates relief for public toilets in England and Wales.

In October 2020, Government published a review: Toilet provision for men and women: call for evidence. This stemmed from evidence that shows that increasing numbers of publicly accessible toilets are being converted into ‘gender neutral’ facilities, causing problems for women and older people in particular.

‘Gender neutral’ facilities mean men and women share the same space for waiting and hand wash facilities; these should be contrasted with dedicated, self-contained ‘unisex’ toilets which maintain privacy for the single user (also known as ‘universal toilets’).

Such ‘gender neutral’ toilets place women at a significant disadvantage. While men can then use both cubicles and urinals, women can only use the former. The net effect is actually to reduce toilet provision for women. Women also need safe spaces given their particular biological, health and sanitary needs (for example, women who are menstruating, pregnant or at menopause, may need to use the toilet more often). Women are also likely to feel less comfortable using mixed sex facilities.

The review also asked for views on increasing the ratio of female toilets. Male toilets typically allow for a quicker transition of customers due to the use of urinals, yet insufficient female toilets are provided for a comparative number of cubicles to allow the same number of users to be served. This is not to disadvantage any sex - but greater ratios of female cubicles would help avoid queues inside and outside toilets.

The Government are also aware of broader concerns that women’s biological differences are being ‘erased’ in public life. It is important that women’s biological needs are respected and taken into account in the provision of facilities such as toilets. A high volume of responses were received to the call for evidence, all of which have been read and analysed.

The call for evidence analysis has been carefully considered, and research has been commissioned by my Department on the design of toilet facilities. Following on from this, in autumn 2022, the Department will launch a technical consultation on formal changes to the building regulations and approved guidance, informed by the call for evidence responses.

The Government are minded to take the following approach to rules and guidance in England, subject to further consultation and assessment of equality impacts:

Policy Goal

Change to the building regulations and approved guidance

To amend building regulations and guidance to ensure separate toilets for men and women continues to be provided,

guidance to encourage the provision of a unisex toilet, where space allows

Implementing a threshold approach i.e. above a certain number of toilet cubicles, require the provision of toilets for a range of users including separate male and female toilets, unisex toilets/ universal toilets, baby change, disabled Persons toilets, and changing places toilets.

Where unisex toilets are provided, that privacy is ensured

To set out the design of a unisex self-contained/ universal toilet cubicle with a sink which is designed to maximise privacy—informed by research underway and the call for evidence analysis.

To announce the intent for greater provision of toilets to reduce queuing

We will work with the British Standards Institution to develop the evidence base with a view thereafter to them updating their relevant codes of practice.



The technical review will ensure that the specific requirements of disabled users remain salient, and that access to and provision of toilets for disabled people will not be undermined by wider improvements to toilet provision more generally. The Department will be considering already commissioned research on the design of both disabled persons’ toilets and changing places toilets as part of this review.

Better customer toilet provision in commercial environments may encourage people to visit the premises. The Government will be undertaking a full regulatory impact assessment.

Such changes to building rules will also complement existing statutory provisions in education law for schools to provide sex-specific—or self-contained unisex—toilets for children.

We would also encourage Government bodies to consider how such principles can be adopted now in its own buildings, prior to formal changes in building regulations.

The Government believe the proposals that we are minded to adopt will have positive equality outcomes for women, older people, pregnant women, those with babies, people who come under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, and disabled people.

This common sense approach on protecting and improving toilet provision will ensure dignity, privacy, tolerance and respect for all, and further the cause of equality and inclusion by recognising the different needs of everyone in society.

[HCWS172]

Draft Local Authority and Combined Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Monday 27th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

General Committees
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Local Authority and Combined Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. These regulations, which were laid before the House on Monday 6 June, seek to amend local election rules to account for the new disqualification criteria introduced by the Local Government (Disqualification) Act 2022, which comes into force tomorrow. That Act updates disqualification criteria for local authorities to disqualify individuals convicted of sexual offences who do not receive a custodial sentence. The regulations make the necessary changes to election processes to ensure that future mayoral candidates continue to correctly declare that they are eligible to stand in elections.

Local election rules require candidates to declare that they are not disqualified by signing a consent to nomination form. The format and wording of those forms is prescribed in secondary legislation. These regulations will update those forms to add references to the new criteria for mayoral elections inserted by the 2022 Act. Further, they will require that copies of the relevant new sections of the 2022 Act are reproduced in full and appended to the forms. The regulations make sure that both candidates and electoral administrators have clarity when making those declarations. Implementation of the regulations should not be delayed, as the Act’s provisions come into force tomorrow.

These amendments follow statutory consultation with the Electoral Commission, which supports the need to implement the provisions of the 2022 Act by bringing forward the regulations as soon as possible. The Electoral Commission has updated its guidance to take note of the new disqualification criteria, and will update its nomination packs containing the consent to nomination forms once the regulations are approved. The Government committed to seek legislation that would disqualify sex offenders from local government in our 2018 response to a public consultation on the matter.

To support the Act, I have already amended equivalent election rules for all tiers of councils, the London Assembly and the Mayor of London through the Local Authority and Greater London Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Rules 2022 on 30 May, under the negative procedure. Today’s regulations are the final stage in delivering on that commitment and fully implementing the disqualification of sex offenders.

To summarise, the regulations are necessary for full implementation of the Local Government (Disqualification) Act 2022. No community should have to tolerate a convicted sex offender standing as its local mayor. I commend the statutory instrument to the Committee.

--- Later in debate ---
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the hon. Gentleman and the Opposition for supporting today’s SI. Regarding his comments on Northern Ireland, we will work on that issue with devolved Administrations and with Members of this House who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland. I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the sponsors of the Local Government (Disqualification) Act, as the hon. Gentleman has just done, by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) and Lord Udny-Lister for their work to progress that Act here and in the other place.

To conclude, the electorate in a modern democracy have a right to expect that their mayoral candidates should be of good character. The Government consider that there should be consequences where candidates fall short of the behaviour expected in an inclusive and tolerant society. We must fully implement the disqualification of sex offenders from local government office, and these regulations are the final step in delivering on the Government’s commitment to legislate on this important matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Local Government Update

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Thursday 23rd June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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All hon. Members will recognise the critical role local councils play in providing essential statutory services to their residents and being accountable to the communities they serve. That is why the situation at Nottingham City Council is of such concern.

Despite significant support, Nottingham City Council has struggled to resolve serious governance and financial issues. In November 2020, following a number of issues raised in a public interest report published in August 2020 by the council’s external auditors Grant Thornton, a rapid non-statutory review was conducted into the council to review the serious governance and risk management issues associated with its energy company Robin Hood Energy. The report presented by Max Caller CBE highlighted serious governance failings, poor risk management and the pursuit of commercial ventures which had resulted in a significant budget gap and low levels of reserves.

The former Secretary of State appointed an independent improvement and assurance board in January 2021, chaired by Sir Tony Redmond and made up of independent experts, to offer the council advice, expertise and challenge as it sought to address these failings. The board have provided regular assurance reports to the Secretary of State on the council’s progress throughout this time.

In December 2021, the council discovered unlawful accounting practices associated with its ring-fenced housing revenue account (HRA), covering the period 2014-15 to 2020-21 and totalling £15.86 million. In response, the council issued section 114 and section 5 notices and commissioned independent reports from an LGA associate (Richard Penn) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to understand the scale of the unlawful expenditure and decision-making processes that ultimately led to this situation. These comprehensive reports (“the Reports”) can be found at:

https://committee.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/documents/s133381/Kev%20Findings%20Report%20 for%20Nottinaham%20Citv%20Council.pdf

https://committee.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/documents/s133382/NCC%20HRA%20Phase%202%20Final %20Report%20260422%20002%20-%20FINAL.pdf

The reports paint a deeply concerning picture of serious historic financial and governance failings. This includes the failure of the council and its wholly-owned company Nottingham City Homes (NCH) to maintain the integrity of its HRA ringfence, and NCH operating without strategic oversight given poor client management and governance by the council. The Penn report does not conclude that unlawful accounting practice was a deliberate mechanism to divert funds from the HRA to support the general fund, but provides evidence of cultural failings and a reluctance to escalate issues appropriately, which led to the situation remaining unchallenged over several years. The scale of the unlawful expenditure may also be more substantial than originally thought, with CIPFA now estimating that it could be up to £40 million.

In the light of this evidence, the Secretary of State is satisfied that Nottingham City Council is failing to comply with its best value duty, and is minded to implement the intervention package set out below to secure compliance with that duty. To that end, and in line with procedures laid down in the Local Government Act 1999, officials in my Department have today written to the council seeking representations on the reports and on the proposed intervention package.

I want to place on record that the Secretary of State recognises the actions taken by the current chief executive to address the unlawful HRA expenditure since it was first identified in December last year. He has worked closely and constructively with the improvement and assurance board since January 2021 in addressing the many challenges the authority faces. However, whilst the building blocks of recovery have been put in place, there are many difficult decisions ahead and the scale of the challenge cannot be underestimated. The Secretary of State agrees with the board’s assessment that the HRA issue represents a “serious setback” and is concerned that further serious issues may yet be uncovered which could have a severe impact on the authority's ability to maintain and increase the momentum of the required improvements. This lack of assurance, along with the risk of progress stalling or slowing, is significant and the proposed intervention is therefore both necessary and expedient to secure compliance with the best value duty.

The proposed package is centred on the appointment of commissioners to exercise certain and limited functions as required, for two years. It is envisaged this will be a shorter and narrower intervention than has been seen previously due to the council being subject to a non-statutory intervention since January 2021. The proposal is for the council, under the oversight of the commissioners, to re-appraise its improvement plan within the first three months of the intervention and report on the delivery of that plan to the Secretary of State every six months.

It is important that the council leads its recovery but that it does not lose momentum in making the necessary improvements. Sir Tony Redmond has forged constructive working relationships with the council leadership and has an intrinsic understanding of the scale and nature of the challenges facing the city. The Secretary of State is therefore minded to appoint Sir Tony Redmond as lead commissioner, subject to representations received on the proposed intervention package.

Given the gravity of the reports’ findings, the Secretary of State is, consequently, proposing to direct the transfer to commissioners all functions associated with:

the governance and scrutiny of strategic decision making by the authority;

the strategic financial management of the authority under section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972; and

the appointment and dismissal of persons to positions the holders of which are to be designated as statutory officers, and the designation of those persons as statutory officers under section 112 of the Local Government Act 1972.

I hope it will not be necessary for the commissioners to use these powers, but they must be empowered to do so if they consider that required improvement and reforms are not being delivered.

I am inviting representations from the council on the reports and the Secretary of State’s proposals by 7 July 2022. We want to provide the opportunity for members and officers of the council, and any other interested parties, especially the residents of Nottingham, to make their views on the Secretary of State’s proposals known. Should the Secretary of State decide to intervene along the lines described here, he will make the necessary statutory directions under the 1999 Act and appoint commissioners. I will update the House in due course.

The Government do not take these steps lightly and recognise and respect the role of local councils in our communities and our democracy. The Government also recognise the importance of councils having an effective relationship with their local auditor. I urge all councils to consider whether they could be doing more to ensure they are delivering the good governance that residents deserve, including considering the governance risk and resilience toolkit developed by the centre for governance and scrutiny.

Despite rare cases like Nottingham, as a whole, local authorities in England have a good record of service delivery, transparency, probity, scrutiny, and accountability. It is a reputation worth protecting. Local councils must continue to act to benefit the communities they serve.

[HCWS135]

Equality of Opportunity: South-East Wakefield

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 21st June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I congratulate the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) on securing this debate and thank him for raising this important subject. His passion for securing the best possible future for his constituency is shared by the Government. I was interested to hear what he had to say about his constituents Zac and Lee. In answer to the question that he just asked, I would say yes; not just the status quo, but our levelling-up agenda will deliver for his constituents and across the country. I will go on to explain that in a moment.

I want to address the hon. Gentleman’s point about the social mobility commissioner. I am going to hazard a guess that the hon. Member did not listen to her speech. I did, and I am afraid to say that his quotation was a misrepresentation of her remarks. I am not sure in which outlet he read it, but what she actually said was that we need to stop obsessing about getting people into Oxford and Cambridge; that there is a rags to riches version of social mobility that assumes people have to go right from the bottom straight to the top, like Dick Whittington, instead of taking steps up the ladder; and that that attitude denigrates lots of good jobs such as teaching and skilled professions. I think that is something that the hon. Gentleman would probably agree with. I am very supportive of the social mobility commissioner and I think he would find her speech interesting. She is a very clever woman, who understands social mobility more than most. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to read her state of the nation report when it is released—I think, by the end of this month.

To answer some of the points raised, it is best to go back to the beginning and why we are having these debates. Levelling up is at the heart of the Government’s agenda. We set out a clear commitment to unlock economic prosperity across all areas of the country, including Wakefield and Hemsworth. It is about providing momentum to address long-standing regional inequalities, which the hon. Gentleman clearly articulated, to enable people to pursue life chances that have previously been out of reach. To quote the White Paper, “Stay local, go far.” His point that work in previous times was in the village—so that people did not have to commute—and that that does not work for today’s society was well made. That is something we recognise. Those structural inequalities will not be addressed by simply spending more money. We need to do better.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned issues for rural constituencies. I represent a rural constituency, and I know that the Government have been funding a lot of schemes to provide mobility for those people who are cut off. I asked for information and was told that there is a fund that is devolved to the Mayor of West Yorkshire. She has £1.4 billion for transport improvements across West Yorkshire. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to speak to her to address some of these issues. As he said, not everything can be done in Whitehall, and I hope he can work with her.

Some £370 million has been provided to West Yorkshire Combined Authority for projects aimed at improving and investing in public and sustainable transport, and that covers Wakefield as well. I know that not all of Wakefield is in the hon. Gentleman’s patch, but that is something he should speak to the Mayor about. I do not know the specifics—I suspect these are in the city—but projects include cycle routes from Wakefield Kirkgate rail station and improved access to Wakefield bus station. As he said, where those buses come and go is not just about the stations, but the communities that they pass in between.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned local government funding cuts. As Minister for local government, that is something I hear from Opposition Members again and again, and I will repeat what I always say: nobody likes cuts, certainly not this Government. We had to make them because we were compelled to by the financial situation we found when we came into government, which was left by the previous Labour Government. We are fixing many of the problems, which we have not been able to fix for a very long time. I hope the hon. Gentleman will see that when I talk about the funding we are providing to his area.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned broadband, and I recognise some of the points he made. I want to let him and his constituents know that the Government have invested heavily over a number of years through the Building Digital UK programme and other funding streams. Some 99% of West Yorkshire will have access to superfast broadband by October of this year. The vast majority of the region, including Wakefield, already has access to superfast broadband, with speeds of at least 30 megabits per second. If he does not find that in Hemsworth, he should write to my colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so that they can pick that up specifically. I do not know enough about that programme to provide more information, beyond what I have just said.

Levelling up is about enabling local places to determine and support their own economic priorities. It is not just about the Government handing out money and telling areas what to do. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there was a devolution deal with West Yorkshire, and I talked about the funding that has gone to the metro Mayor, Tracy Brabin, who was elected last year. But in addition to that investment fund, the devolution deal includes a range of powers and funding streams, which are now transferred to the mayoral combined authority, including for the adult education budget and transport, as well as responsibility for the police and crime commissioner. We are handing powers closer to the people in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Since Mayor Brabin’s election the Government have awarded £830 million of additional funding for sustainable transport schemes across West Yorkshire, demonstrating the difference that clear and visible leadership can make to local economies. Building on local priorities, we are also providing West Yorkshire with £217 million from the towns fund, £50 million of which is in Wakefield, and more than £72 million through the first round of the levelling-up fund, which I know the hon. Gentleman is aware of—he referred to the £20 million for Wakefield. The previous local growth funding, which amounts to £695 million for West Yorkshire, has also enabled the Wakefield South East Gateway, which will deliver 2,500 new homes on the City Fields development, as well as the completion of the Wakefield waterfront. I hope the hon. Gentleman agrees that this funding demonstrates the scale of the Government’s commitment to working with Mayors, local MPs and other local leaders to deliver for their cities, towns and villages. I encourage him to work with Tracy Brabin to ensure that this large investment programme really benefits all parts of Wakefield, including south-east Wakefield.

The hon. Gentleman said that his constituency would need £86 billion to level up to London, but it is not a fair comparison. He mentioned that his is a rural constituency. What we need to do is make sure that areas are able to develop as much as they should within the parameters around them. Not everywhere can have 8 million to 14 million people, tube networks and so on, and I do not think that his constituents would necessarily want that.

I mention the levelling-up fund specifically because I have been told that there has been additional funding from the getting building fund, which has supported two enterprise zones, at Langthwaite and South Kirkby business parks—both in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency —to stimulate business growth and create local employment opportunities. I am sure he welcomes the multimillion-pound cross-Government investment to expand the unique Production Park—the live events campus in his constituency —which is supporting local people into good-quality apprenticeships and jobs in this growing creative industry. On the same site sits the new Backstage Academy, which will provide the next generation of live industry and media professionals. It is delivering degree-level education to over 200 students, with an industry focus so that more than 90% of students have secured employment before they complete the course.

The £4.8 billion we are investing through the levelling-up fund is providing the tools for local areas across the country to invest in their infrastructure, improve everyday life by regenerating their town centres and high streets, and invest in cultural and heritage assets. As the hon. Gentleman said, Wakefield was successful in securing £20 million through the first round of the fund, to support the expansion of the Tileyard North development and to transform a derelict site with a new cultural offer celebrating Wakefield’s heritage. This will bolster Wakefield’s position as a growing hub for the creative industries and bring with it good-quality jobs.

In the levelling-up fund prospectus, we recognise the crucial role of MPs in championing the interests of their communities and understanding local priorities. That is why we expect bidding authorities to consult local MPs fully as part of their bid development, with MPs able to officially endorse in writing one priority bid for their local area. That ensures that MPs have a hugely positive role in shaping bids, perhaps helping to broker a local consensus on what their area really needs. I note the work the hon. Gentleman is undertaking with Wakefield Council in shaping a local bid for his constituency, to be submitted in July, and I wish him luck. I am sure that he and colleagues across the House will make the most of this opportunity to represent their constituencies.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the opportunities presented through the two town deals awarded to Wakefield, providing combined Government investment of over £50 million. I recognise that these are not directedly targeted on the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, but the benefits will flow—they do not stop at local government boundaries or town boundaries. I hope that these investments, particularly in Wakefield’s urban centre, will lead to a stronger and more resilient local economy across the wider area.

Given that the hon. Member for Hemsworth and I are on different sides of the House, we will disagree on many things, but I want him to know that this is an agenda that we in the Government care very much about. We will reflect on the points he has raised and continue to pursue this agenda. We will engage with our West Yorkshire partners to inform our decision making, because we believe that all parts of the UK should have the means to shape their future positively.

Question put and agreed to.

Draft Local Government (Exclusion of Non-commercial Considerations) (England) Order 2022

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Monday 20th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

General Committees
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Local Government (Exclusion of Non-commercial Considerations) (England) Order 2022.

The order was laid before the House on 25 May 2022. If approved, it will enable best-value authorities and parish councils in England to, if they so wish, terminate proposed or subsisting public supply or works contracts where either the country or territory of origin of supplies to the contractor is the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, or the location of the business activities or interests of a contractor is the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus.

The illegal invasion of Russian forces into Ukraine earlier this year shocked the world and has been met with unprecedented global condemnation. I am sure hon. Members agree that Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked, illegal war is a reprehensible premeditated attack on Ukraine and on the principles of self-determination and the rule of law. Soon after the invasion, many local authorities publicly condemned Russia’s actions, and some noted their intention to break contracts with Russian-controlled companies. They were clear that local taxpayers’ hard-earned money must not be used to fund Vladimir Putin’s war machine. I take this opportunity to commend the strength of feeling that those local authorities demonstrated.

However, local authorities are subject to section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibits them from taking non-commercial considerations into account when making commercial decisions. Non-commercial considerations as set out in the Act include

“the country or territory of origin of supplies to, or the location in any country or territory of the business activities or interests of, contractors”.

The Cabinet Office’s policy procurement note PPN 01/2022, issued on 28 March, set out the limitations on local government in this area. That PPN, which is advisory in nature, asked Government Departments, non-departmental public bodies and Executive agencies to review their contract portfolios to identify Russian and Belarusian prime contractors and consider the termination of those contracts. The PPN also noted that Government officials were actively considering a solution for local government to enable councils to follow the Cabinet Office’s advice for central Government.

The Secretary of State wrote to all local authority leaders on 11 March preparing them to consider their exposure to Russian and Belarusian-owned companies, and council leaders have shown themselves to be not only receptive to action, but actively calling for it. A number have written to the Secretary of State requesting that the Government accommodate a flexible approach for councils that wish to terminate contracts with Russian state-owned companies. They are clear, as are we, that they do not wish public money to go towards the income of the Russian state during the present military crisis.

Hon. Members may recall a debate in the other place on 24 March regarding Gazprom UK. Members there were keen to know the Government’s plans to support local authorities and NHS trusts that wished to terminate relevant contracts, and stressed their desire to see legislation brought forward to amend public procurement rules to allow such termination, thus aligning local authorities with the rest of the public sector. As such, I am pleased that today we are considering this order, made under section 19 of the Local Government Act 1999, which will enable us to disapply the provision in section 17 of the 1988 Act.

It is important to note the intention of the order: the Government are not creating a new burden on local authorities, nor are we mandating termination of relevant contracts. Rather, we are responding to the sector’s requests and creating the opportunity for local authorities to terminate Russian or Belarusian contracts should they wish to do so. This is a permissive power; the decision to terminate relevant contracts remains solely at the discretion of the authorities in question.

The order will allow local authorities the flexibility to terminate both proposed and subsisting contracts, should they so wish. It will therefore allow them to take comparable action to central Government, as set out in PPN 01/2022, by declining to consider new procurement bids from entities that are constituted or organised under the law of Russia or Belarus, therefore ensuring they are not funding Vladimir Putin’s unwarranted aggression. In line with the PPN, and as the Secretary of State has advised local authority leaders, the Government are of the view that decisions to terminate such contracts by those authorities should be made on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the terms of the contract, and only where an alternative supplier can be sourced in line with value-for-money and affordability concerns and with minimal disruption to public services. The policy will not enable those bodies to instigate their own unofficial, municipal foreign or defence policies, but will not prevent them from undertaking their own divestment measures where those align with official Government sanctions, as in this case.

In his recent letter to council leaders, the Secretary of State acknowledged that taking the type of action this instrument will enable may have an impact on local authorities. That is why all decisions on terminating contracts must be taken locally. In addition, it is why I, as Local Government Minister restate the commitment that the Secretary of State made in his letter: the Government stand by to engage with any local authority that has concerns about its financial position or service delivery or that may be facing pressures it cannot take steps to manage locally.

Today’s order further demonstrates that our support for Ukraine at all levels of government remains undiminished. The UK and our allies have shown remarkable strength and unity in response to President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and we will not be party to funding his war machine. I hope hon. Members will join me in supporting the proposed order.

--- Later in debate ---
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman and Opposition Members for supporting the regulations. We have been united across the House in our support of Ukraine through military and humanitarian means and in leading international efforts to support Ukraine’s objectives and levy financial and investment sanctions. Today’s order, which enables local authorities to cease their contracts with businesses linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime, further demonstrates that the Government will use all levers at our disposal and will not tolerate the abhorrent attack on Ukraine. I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Levelling Up Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 22.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments (a) to (i) to the words restored to the Bill.

Lords amendment 23, and Government motion to disagree.

Government amendments (a) to (k) in lieu of Lords amendments 22 and 23.

Lords amendment 86, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 1 to 21, 24 to 85 and 87 to 126.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Bill has returned to the Commons after wide-ranging and often intense debate in the other place. I am grateful to my colleagues there, Lord True, Baroness Scott and Earl Howe, for their efforts in ensuring that the Bill was able to benefit from that scrutiny. The Bill delivers on key manifesto commitments to protect our democracy as well as a range of recommendations from consultations, parliamentarians, Select Committees, international observers and electoral stakeholders.

I will come to the more positive highlights of the Bill’s passage shortly, but I must, with regret, begin with the areas where the Government cannot agree with the changes made. We disagree with Lords amendment 86, tabled by Lord Willetts, Lord Woolley, Baroness Lister of Burtersett and the Lord Bishop of Coventry, which suggests a long list of new documents that could be used as a form of identification at polling stations, including non-photographic documents such as a bank statement, a council tax letter, a P45 or P60 form. The Government have been clear that the most straightforward and secure way of confirming someone’s identity is photographic identification. The Electoral Commission found this to be the best approach to pursue in the pilots undertaken by the Government in 2018 and 2019.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister share the concern raised by Mencap that the introduction of voter ID could result in another barrier to people with a learning disability participating in elections?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The answer is no, we do not share that concern. We have conducted extensive pilots and we recognise that many people are concerned about the Bill, which is why we carried out extensive engagement explaining why there need not be any concerns about additional barriers on voter ID.

We also have the experience of Northern Ireland, where photographic identification has been required since 2003, following its introduction by the last Labour Government after the non-photographic model that had been in place since 1985 was deemed insufficient to stamp out fraud. A free voter card will be available for voters without suitable photographic identification and we are working closely with the Electoral Commission, which will deliver a clear and comprehensive communication campaign on the new requirements. While the list of acceptable identifications in the Bill is wide-ranging, I wish to reassure this House that, should further forms of photo identification become available and be sufficiently secure, the powers in the Bill are such that additional identification can be added or removed as necessary without the need for further primary legislation. For these reasons, the Government cannot support this amendment.

I ask the House to disagree with Lords amendments 22 and 23, which seek to remove clauses 14 and 15 from the Bill. The purpose of clause 14 is to make provision for the introduction of a strategy and policy statement setting out guidance to which the Electoral Commission must have regard in the discharge of its functions. Some parliamentarians have claimed that this duty to have regard to the strategy and policy statement will weaken the commission’s operational independence, which is not correct. This duty will not allow the Government to direct the commission’s decision making, nor will it undermine the commission’s other statutory duties or displace the commission’s need to carry out those other duties. Clause 15 simply expands the role of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission and empowers it to examine the commission’s performance of its duty to have regard to the strategy and policy statement.

In the other place, technical amendments to these clauses were made in Committee before the clauses were removed on Report. If this House disagrees with Lords amendment 22, the series of amendments we have proposed to the words so restored to the Bill will reinstate those technical amendments to clause 14. Amendments (c) and (f) to (h) reflect the parliamentary consequences of recent machinery of government changes. The other technical changes to the words so restored to the Bill, amendments (a) and (b), will ensure that the strategy and policy statement must not relate to the devolved functions of the Electoral Commission. Consequently, amendments (d), (e) and (i) provide that Scottish and Welsh Ministers are no longer statutory consultees on the strategy and policy statement. For the reasons I have set out, I ask the House to disagree with Lords amendments 22 and 23 and to agree to amendments (a) to (i) and to the words so restored to the Bill.

Given the strength of feeling, although the Government strongly reject the characterisation that clause 14 will weaken the commission’s operational independence, we have heard the concerns and tabled amendments (a) to (k) in lieu of Lords amendments 22 and 23. Amendment (a) will require the Secretary of State, when preparing a statement, to have regard to the duty placed on the commission by section 145(1) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to monitor and ensure compliance with the rules set out in that Act. Further, the amendment will prohibit the statement from including reference to specific investigatory or enforcement activity. That provides further reassurance on the commission’s operational independence.

On the parliamentary approval procedure in relation to the statement, the Government’s view is that the affirmative resolution procedure will provide both Houses of Parliament with appropriate opportunities to debate and scrutinise the statement in full before determining whether to approve or reject it. However, we have listened to the concerns raised and, to provide further reassurance, the Government tabled amendments (c) to (h), (j) and (k) in lieu of Lords amendments 22 and 23. These amendments provide for enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of a statement that has been subject to statutory consultation under new section 4C of the 2000 Act by providing both Houses with a supplementary opportunity to consider the draft statement and make representations before it is laid for approval. The amendments also make consequential changes to clause 14.

Amendments (b) and (i) in lieu of Lords amendments 22 and 23 will require the Secretary of State to publish a response to the statutory consultation on the statement, and to respond to requests from the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission for the statement to be revised.

Taken together, these provisions, in addition to those already built into clause 14 relating to parliamentary approval and consultation, should provide significant reassurance to Members of both Houses on the concerns about the strategy and policy statement. In particular, the amendments put beyond doubt the question of whether the statement could be used to unduly influence individual enforcement activity or to give guidance without the Secretary of State considering the commission’s monitoring and compliance duties.

On clause 25, the Government have listened to the concerns raised by parliamentarians and by representatives of civil society organisations in recent meetings. Lords amendment 44 means that any order to remove or vary the description of a category of third-party campaigner can be made only where it gives effect to a recommendation of the Electoral Commission, which will provide a necessary safeguard against any future Government who potentially seek to misuse the clause.

The Government have also carefully considered the concerns relating to clause 27. These measures were not designed to disproportionately affect any particular group. Given the strength of feeling on this issue, the Government tabled Lords amendment 50 to remove the clause from the Bill. I ask the House to support this amendment.

It is standard practice for the Government to conduct post-legislative scrutiny of Acts following Royal Assent, but we took on board the desire to ensure in the legislation that that scrutiny took place. Lords amendment 80 supports the joint aim on both sides of the House that the operation of these measures is assessed following the implementation of the Bill, while ensuring sufficient time has passed and processes are embedded enough for the scrutiny to be meaningful and effective. For these reasons, I commend the amendment to the House.

Lords amendments 1 to 5 make changes to clause 7, narrowing its scope so that the provisions do not unintentionally prevent legitimate campaigning by candidates outside the time that a person completes their postal ballot or legitimate opinion polling activity. Lords amendments 112 to 116 make the same changes in relation to Northern Ireland.

Lords amendments 9 to 12, 45, 64 to 79, 81 to 85, 87, 105 to 110 and 118 to 124 are technical and clarifying amendments. As the House will be aware, the Bill represents an extensive and ambitious portfolio of work in a complex and detailed body of law. The amendments ensure the measures are fit for purpose and operate as intended.

Following extensive engagement with the devolved Administrations in the preparation and drafting of the policy, the Scottish and Welsh Governments unfortunately declined to consent to applying certain measures to devolved polls. It was therefore necessary for the Government to table Lords amendments 6 to 8, 13, 14, 24 to 28, 30 to 33, 37, 38, 40 to 43, 46 to 48, 51 to 63, 88 to 102, 117, 125 and 126 to ensure the measures apply to reserved matters only. I therefore ask the House to agree to these necessary amendments.

Lords amendments 15 to 19 strengthen the provisions in clause 9 that seek to expand the provision for voters with disabilities from a narrow and restrictive provision specific to blind and partially sighted voters to one that supports the needs of a wider range of voters with disabilities, increasing the overall accessibility of our elections. For too long, we have had a requirement in law to provide a single device, which has hindered innovation in this area. We are grateful for the work of Lord Holmes, who worked with both the Government and external organisations to strengthen these measures in the Bill by specifically highlighting the importance of supporting electors’ ability to vote independently and secretly, all while maintaining our policy aim of moving away from a limited prescriptive approach to more flexibility and innovation. These amendments will also enable the support for disabled voters to be monitored effectively through Electoral Commission reporting, and will require in law that there is guidance to promote consistency, for which returning officers must have regard. That guidance will be developed in consultation with organisations representing people with disabilities. For those reasons, I commend the amendments to the House.

The Government also support Lords amendments 20, 21, 103, 104 and 111 tabled by Lord Hayward. These amendments make sensible changes to the rules for candidates standing in elections, which were first raised in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans). Lords amendment 21 will allow candidates the additional option of citing their local authority area on the ballot paper for UK parliamentary elections, as they already can for local elections. That will make it easier for candidates to demonstrate locality while preserving protection for their personal safety. I particularly thank my hon. Friend for raising this topic and I hope he is pleased with that outcome.

Lords amendments 20, 103, 104 and 111 widen the scope of the current provisions concerning the use of commonly used names to allow candidates to include on their nomination paper any name they commonly use as a forename or surname, such as their middle name. This is already facilitated in practice by returning officers, but it is not provided for in existing electoral law, so it is right that the Bill is amended for consistency. I commend these amendments to the House.

Lords amendments 34, 35 and 36, tabled by Baroness Noakes, are technical amendments that bring this clause into line with more standard accounting practices, so I commend them to the House. Finally, Lords amendments 49, 29 and 39 were brought forward in the other House by Lord Hodgson. I am pleased to confirm that the Government are supporting them. They will introduce a duty on the Electoral Commission to produce a statutory code of conduct, providing much-needed certainty for third-party campaigners on how to comply with the rules related to third-party campaigning.

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John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The constituent was lobbying on the abolition of imprisonment for public protection, and I am visiting one of her sons in prison, so I felt the need to see her.

I want to make three very simple points. When we get to this stage in the parliamentary Session, people start to become a bit light-headed, so let us try to concentrate on three issues. I am a member of PACAC, whose Chair, the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg), is here. Every time he makes a parliamentary intervention, he increases my respect for him. Electoral officers were looking for a Bill that was much more comprehensive and wrapped up a whole range of issues; they were looking to bring together existing practices in one piece of legislation, and to look at new challenges that they faced. Those challenges are not reflected in the Bill.

On the amendments, one of the main concerns about the operation of the Electoral Commission that the Government seem to identify is that it needs more direction by way of a Government ministerial statement. That was not part of any of the evidence that we heard from electoral administrators. This goes to the heart of the independence of the electoral administration of this country. That is why people are fearful. I have ranted on this before, and do not want to go into the arguments again about our being on a slippery slope to something that could be quite dangerous. However, if there is to be a statement from the Secretary of State, which I think is completely wrong, there needs to be at least some acknowledgement by the Government that there should be more of a role for Parliament in drafting it.

I want to ask the Minister a question, and I will give way if she can respond. Did I hear correctly that the statement will be dealt with by the affirmative procedure, but not the super-affirmative procedure? Can she clarify that by way of intervention?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Yes, I am happy to confirm it is the affirmative procedure.

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Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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Many people cannot follow it, and I suspect that I am one of them.

The denial letter is sent with the DRN on it. Again, the elderly and ill people ask, “What does that DRN mean?” I say positively and constructively to the Minister that I believe she will replicate what we have done in Northern Ireland and probably do it better, having learnt from some of the mistakes made back home. How do I explain to an 87-year-old woman—I will not mention her name—that the electoral office needs information that she did not know that she had and that, because she has been denied her vote at this time, I will have to borrow a wheelchair to take her down to vote? We will do that on the day, and she has not left her home in two years. I say that because the digital process was lost on that lady, and it is lost on many others.

The digital registration number is essential according to the legislation, yet it means nothing in practice. She had used her national insurance number for the last 65 years of her life, yet all of a sudden that is not what the electoral office wants. She understands that, but she does not understand what the DRN is. Again, that is about looking at how we can make the system better.

I believe we are overcomplicating the system, and it is the ordinary person who is the loser. Those sitting in a room fraudulently filling out postal vote forms know all about DRN—they understand it, but this lady does not. She will make herself ill getting to the polling station because she will not miss her vote. Never mind that she has had a postal vote for that address for many elections, there is no room in the legislation for common sense.

My fear is that the Lords amendments do not go far enough and complicate matters, which is why I look to the Minister and the Government for suggestions on how to take the issue forward. I welcome Lords amendments 15 to 19, which include explicit reference to voting in secret and “independently”, and would place new statutory duties on the Electoral Commission to draw up new guidance to support an independent and secret vote at the polling station from 2023, consult relevant organisations in the production of that guidance, and hold returning officers to account for following that guidance. However, as the Royal National Institute of Blind People says, the key question will, of course, be whether blind and partially sighted voters have better experiences at polling stations in 2023 and beyond. On that, it is clearly too soon to say.

I know the Minister is keen. I know the comments she has made in the past on ensuring those who are visually impaired have the right to have the same opportunity to vote and a system they understand. I know the Minister wants to make sure that happens, but perhaps she could confirm that that will be the case.

I will conclude with this comment. There is an overarching theme that this legislation may not be hitting. That is to encourage people to vote and not set up hurdle after hurdle for those who are minded to vote. If people want to cast their vote and use their franchise, and if we want to ensure they have that opportunity in whatever way they can—it is right that they should—then I believe this House must ensure that people have that vote. I look forward very much to what the Minister will say. I cast my mind back to our experiences in Northern Ireland and what we have done. Do not feel threatened in any way by photo ID. It works for us; it can work for you.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I have listened to the debate with interest. As shown by the amendments tabled today in relation to the Electoral Commission, the Government have been receptive to the representations made by parliamentarians across both Houses and have sought to provide reassurance where possible.

Before I conclude, I thought I might pick up on a number of points raised by Members. The Opposition Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), asked about the purpose of candidates’ addresses. It is right that candidates who live just outside the constituency they are standing for, but who do not wish to disclose their home addresses, are not at a disadvantage because their local connection may not be recognised. Using local authorities is a balanced approach to that, while also protecting their safety. On Report, this was a cross-party amendment, so I know that Opposition Members agree. The option is already available to candidates at local and mayoral elections across local authorities, and we think it is appropriate to extend that option to candidates at parliamentary elections.

The hon. Gentleman asked about funding. New burdens funding will be provided to cover additional costs as a result of the changes, so local authorities will not be required to find it from their existing budgets.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) is no longer in her place, but she made an intervention on the hon. Gentleman about the suppression of ethnic minority voters. She is quite wrong. Her assertion that black voters are less likely to have ID is based on a stereotype that arose in the US and was true during the Jim Crow era. We do not have Jim Crow in this country. We never did. It is an offensive stereotype. It is not just offensive but wrong to say that ethnic minorities do not have photo ID. All other things being equal, ethnic minority voters in this country are actually more likely to have photographic ID. Speaking for first-generation immigrants like myself—[Interruption.] I am not addressing the hon. Gentleman; I said the hon. Member for Edinburgh West. We should agree across the House that ethnic minorities should not be used as political footballs to make those sorts of silly points when there is no evidence. I am glad that he agrees with me. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Edinburgh West is not in her place.

The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) raised the point about the strategy and policy statement, and he might be pleased with my clarification—I assumed that he was asking about everything in our new provisions on the strategy and policy statement. It will be subject to the approval of the UK Parliament and allow it a greater role in scrutinising the Electoral Commission. In applicable circumstances, the statement will be subject to statutory consultation to allow the views of key stakeholders to be considered before the draft statement is submitted for UK parliamentary approval. I think he will be pleased to hear that we tabled amendments (c), (h), (j) and (k) in lieu, which provide for enhanced parliamentary scrutiny—it is super-affirmative, as he mentioned—of a statement that has been subject to a statutory consultation by providing both Houses, with a supplementary opportunity to consider the draft statement and make representations before it is laid for approval.

However, not all changes to a statement will warrant a full statutory consultation, which is why, in some circumstances—if it is just a minor change—the Secretary of State will be able to disapply the statutory consultation requirement. The Government’s view is that it would be overly burdensome to apply enhanced parliamentary scrutiny to changes that did not warrant a statutory consultation.

The Scottish National party Members, the hon. Members for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), continued the theatrical representations that they have made during all stages of the Bill, repeatedly creating straw men that they could knock down and using so much circular reasoning that my head was spinning. We have covered those points many times, so I will not repeat them again, but I enjoy listening to them in these debates. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), who was excellent in making a lot of rebuttals to the points that they and other members of the Bill Committee made.

I thank the hon. Members for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who very eloquently and strongly explained that voter turnout in Northern Ireland was not impacted by the introduction of photographic ID. That is yet another straw man. It is not true, and they said it far better than I ever could. The hon. Member for Strangford sought reassurances about a number of measures. I do not have the correct information to do so now, but I will ensure that my officials provide him with a comprehensive response.

I hope, in returning the Bill to their lordships, that hon. Members can send a clear message on the vital importance of ensuring that our elections remain secure, fair, transparent and up to date. The Bill delivers on the Government’s manifesto commitment to ensure the integrity of our elections and it will protect the right of all citizens to participate in our elections while feeling confident that the vote is theirs and theirs alone. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 22.

Cotswold District Council: Solar Farms

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Wednesday 27th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Levelling Up Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) on securing a debate on this important topic. Borrowing rules for local authorities may not be the sort of thing that generate many column inches in the newspapers, but they really matter to the day-to-day workings of local government. In many ways, these rules are the guard rails that help to govern decisions around the investment of public funds, which is why it is vital that hon. Members have as much clarity and transparency as possible on what councils can and cannot do, as well as having the opportunity to challenge and raise instances of what they perceive to be misallocation of funds.

My hon. Friend is a tireless campaigner on behalf of his constituents and I applaud him for bringing the issue to the House today for discussion. First, he asked whether the borrowing in question was within the lending rules of the Public Works Loan Board. Under Public Works Loan Board guidance, a project for service delivery includes education, highways and transport, social care, public health, culture, environmental and regulatory services; police, fire and rescue; and central services. I can confirm that projects related to climate change are included in that.

I make it clear that the Government understand that although borrowing is necessary to deliver local priorities, it does carry risk, so it is important that it is done sensibly to keep local authorities’ finances sustainable. My hon. Friend will no doubt be aware that in recent years, a small minority of local authorities have taken excessive and unnecessary risks with taxpayers’ money. Those risks have backfired. That has been all too visible in the high-profile cases of councils that have become too indebted or have made substantial investments in projects that have ultimately proved too risky or too large.

On my hon Friend’s points about the scale of the borrowing that Cotswold District Council intends to do in comparison with its annual income, it goes without saying that disproportionate levels of debt expose councils to financial risk. It is not just the size of the debt that can create issues; some authorities invest in novel activities outside their areas of experience or expertise, which can lead to financial loss when the investment is mismanaged. My hon. Friend will remember what happened with Robin Hood Energy, Bristol Energy and Together Energy. While councils are sometimes very well meaning in trying to tackle important issues such as achieving net zero, we cannot forget that the energy market can be volatile, and councils need to be sure that they are getting the right advice when proceeding with such investments.

That is not to say that local authorities should not undertake borrowing. I want to make it clear that the Government recognise that commercial investments can be necessary and appropriate when made sensibly. Sensible investment can play an important role in helping us to power forward on issues that are central to the Government’s agenda, be they levelling up, net zero or building the homes that the country needs.

On my hon Friend’s point that the Government should stop Cotswold District Council borrowing this money, as he will be aware, councils have responsibility for setting out capital strategies for their area, and they will be held accountable by their communities. Local leaders should understand local issues and prioritise accordingly; it is the Government’s expectation that they should be able to make decisions that reflect the needs of their communities.

In making these decisions, every local authority has a duty to comply with the prudential framework by making sure that its plans are prudent, affordable and sustainable. As my hon. Friend highlighted, taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for preventable mistakes. The Government will, of course, step in where there is clear evidence that local authorities are not complying with their legal duties or acting in the best interests of their taxpayers.

Our focus, as my hon. Friend might expect, is on making sure that we have a system that is genuinely fit for purpose.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
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Will my hon. Friend confirm that the guidance to the Public Works Loan Board has recently been changed so that no investment that is made purely to increase return is allowed? Will she also confirm that any application to the PWLB will have to be accompanied by a statement including a minimum loan guarantee repayment, so that it is crystal clear to everybody in the Cotswold district how these loans will be repaid?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I can confirm that my hon. Friend is correct on the first point. The council cannot invest purely for profit, but because its investment has a net zero element, it would qualify under the guidance. However, it remains to be seen exactly how the proposal will manifest itself. I cannot confirm the second point at the Dispatch Box, but I will get officials to write to him formally with a comprehensive answer. He is absolutely right to raise the point that there is guidance out there that should ensure that councils invest prudently.

In July 2021, we set out what might be called a multi-pronged approach to supporting our role as steward of local investments by improving local decision making and capability, and by developing proportionate tools for intervention, when that might be needed. We continue to work with the sector to implement our proposals and keep the system under continuous review.

I turn to my hon. Friend’s point that the council lacks the experience to successfully manage the programme. To be clear, when local authorities make decisions to borrow to invest in areas such as solar farms, it is important that they have the relevant expertise in the market, and that they have the governance in place to challenge the parties and people running the projects if they are being mismanaged or appear to be falling behind schedule. The council will need to satisfy itself, taxpayers and the electorate that it has the necessary expertise to manage complex projects without exposing itself to excessive risk.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again; she has been generous. Considering that there is more than adequate private finance to fund these solar farms, is it right that a local authority should invest in such a risky venture?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for that point. He is right that the Government should not be competing too much with the private sector, but it is not for me to determine what a council should or should not do. Councils are elected and have mandates, but they must be responsible in spending taxpayers’ money. We do not want, as a corollary of that, the Government intervening too much in councils’ decisions. We have empowered councils to do the right thing and, as I said, we expect them to satisfy themselves and taxpayers that they have the necessary expertise to manage complex projects and not expose themselves to excessive risk. We would expect any council to comply with good practice guidance from not just the PWLB but organisations such as the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy, and to take on board lessons learned from other authorities. We want to support local authorities in investing responsibly. In March—my hon. Friend may not be aware of this—we commissioned a review of the governance and capability of local authority investment and borrowing, and that review will report later this year.

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing the issue to the House, and for raising this case. It is important that local authorities remain financially sustainable, and the Government take that seriously. If he would like to raise any further points, I will be happy to write to him with further details. Members from across the House care about local accountability and protecting taxpayers’ interests. I am sure that Members will agree that that needs to be achieved in the right way, and that local authorities’ spending needs to be sustainable and not beyond their means.

Question put and agreed to.

Supporting Families Annual Report

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Thursday 31st March 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Written Statements
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Levelling Up Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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As required by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, section 3(1), today I have published the 2021-22 annual report of the Supporting Families programme. The report sets out how the programme has been helping our most disadvantaged families who face multiple and complex problems.

Supporting Families (previously the Troubled Families programme) helps level up key services to give families the practical support they need to stop domestic abuse and combat problems such as unemployment, persistent school absence and poor mental and physical health, with funding allocated based on deprivation and population figures. It has been at the heart of our ambition to strengthen families and improve their futures for 10 years. At last year’s Budget, the Chancellor announced £200 million of additional investment to expand the programme. This is around a 40% real-terms uplift in funding by 2024-25, taking total planned investment across the next three years to £695 million.

Through its 10 years of delivery, the programme has directly helped hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families make positive changes to their lives, with many thousands more benefiting from access to early, co-ordinated whole family support. Importantly, the programme has shown what is possible when we step in early to help families and prevent problems from escalating. The programme’s evaluation showed it reduced the proportion of children on the programme going into care by a third, the proportion of adults going to prison by a quarter and the proportion of young people going to prison by 38%.

Reducing the pressure on high-cost statutory services such as children’s social care is a key focus for the expanded programme. Between 2022-23 and 2024-25 my Department will work closely with the Department for Education, local authorities, and their partners to deliver support to up to 300,000 more families.

“Levelling up for families: annual report of the Supporting Families programme 2021-2022” marks the 10th year of Supporting Families delivery and includes an update on the programme’s performance and a summary of the latest research findings and policy developments for the programme.

Between April 2021 and January 2022, the programme has funded local authorities to achieve successful outcomes with 55,421 families. This includes 1,838 adults who were helped into sustained employment, and builds on 414,955 successful family outcomes achieved by the Troubled Families programme between April 2015 and March 2021. These families faced multiple and complex problems including a combination of crime, truancy, neglect, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, poor mental health, worklessness and financial exclusion. Every successful family outcome represents a family’s life changed for the better—a considerable achievement for the families and the local services supporting them.

The report sets out how we are improving the programme in this next phase. We have updated the programme’s funding formula to reflect current need by redistributing funding to more deprived areas in line with our ambition to level up across the country. We are setting refreshed expectations on the outcomes to be achieved with families through a new outcomes framework and setting expectations for an effective early help system through an updated early help system guide. Local authorities use the outcomes framework to assess whether families are eligible for the programme’s funding, measure if the family’s situation is improving, and define what a good outcome looks like for each problem. The refresh will make sure that the programme continues to reflect the needs of families. The early help system guide outlines a national vision and descriptors for an effective and mature “early help system” to enable local authorities and their partners to deliver seamless, responsive, and co-ordinated preventive support to families. Updating the guide will ensure that local authorities delivering the programme continue to improve their early help offer and have clarity on what a high-standard system looks like.

The annual report summarises the latest research findings relating to the programme. Alongside the annual report, I have also published a new research report by the independent research organisation Kantar, which looks at effective practice and service delivery in local areas. This sets out what a sample of local areas report as the most effective approaches for delivering positive change in families’ lives. I will deposit copies of both reports in the House of Commons Library.

I look forward to working alongside local authorities, their partners and other stakeholders as the programme celebrates its 10th anniversary, and seeing first-hand the continued impact it has on the lives of our most vulnerable families.

[HCWS753]

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Written Statements
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Levelling Up Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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On 18 January 2022,1 announced to the House that the Secretary of State was minded to intervene at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (“the authority”) and to appoint Commissioners to take over functions associated with the governance and scrutiny of strategic decision making, and of those relating to the appointment and dismissal of statutory officers.

At the same time, I sought views on how best to improve political stability in the authority’s leadership and to move towards a four-yearly election cycle.

These proposals followed the publication of a “Value for Money Governance” review by the authority’s external auditor, Grant Thornton, issued to the authority on 3 December 2021. The review makes 45 wide-ranging recommendations, three of which are statutory recommendations, and in my view provides considerable evidence that the authority has failed to comply with its best value duty over a number of years. This is a requirement set out in the Local Government Act 1999 to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, with regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The Governance review paints a deeply troubling picture of mismanagement and of ineffective scrutiny and accountability arrangements at the authority. While the review recognises the recent progress made under the Interim Chief Executive, Kim Bromley-Derry CBE DL, it also notes how, historically, senior officers and members have been unable to make the changes required to move away from the past.

While the Secretary of State is encouraged by the “green shoots” of progress described in the report, his view is that the risk of progress stalling or slowing is significant. He believes the proposed intervention is necessary and expedient to secure compliance with the best value duty.

As part of my announcement in January, I invited the authority to make representations about my proposals to formally intervene on or before 11 February 2022.

Representations were received from 15 parties: the authority, its Conservative Councillor Group, an independent Councillor, three MPs, eight residents and one residents’ group. With one exception, all the representations supported the intervention and the proposal to appoint Commissioners.

The authority welcomed the support of the Department with its improvement, and stated that it looked forward to working with Commissioners and developing a clear improvement plan. In relation to elections, the authority confirmed that it is in the process of developing an action plan which includes consultation and engagement activity.

The Conservative Group and the independent Councillor pledged to work with the Commissioners. Residents were universally supportive of the intervention and keen to see real improvement in the authority’s services.

While two MPs supported intervention, one was opposed, citing the need for the progress made by the Council’s new senior leaders not to be undermined by Commissioners.

Best value intervention in Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Following consideration of these representations, the Secretary of State has decided to proceed with the proposals announced on 18 January.

Appointing Commissioners for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council the Secretary of State has decided to appoint two Commissioners with a proven record of leadership, transformation and strong governance, and the specific expertise that will be relevant to their functions.

The Governance review recognises that it is the interim Chief Executive Officer, Kim Bromley-Derry CBE DL, that has been driving change within the authority since his arrival in August 2021. It is for this reason that the Secretary of State has decided to appoint Mr Bromley-Derry as Managing Director Commissioner, a role which will enable him to continue the work that he has already begun, and to provide the authority with the consistent leadership capacity that it needs to continue its recovery. I would also like to thank Mr Bromley-Derry’s employers, McLaren Construction Group, for enabling his appointment.

Kim Bromley Derry CBE DL (Managing Director Commissioner)—Kim has more than 35 years of public sector experience, including eight years as Chief Executive of the London Borough of Newham. He was also Director of Children’s Services at both the London Borough of Newham and South Tyneside Council and a Children’s Services Director at Leicester City Council. Kim was appointed Interim Chief Executive of Sandwell Council in August 2021 after being temporarily released from his role as Group Director for strategic partnerships at McLaren Construction Group. Kim has also been President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and chaired the Government’s Libraries Taskforce.

Jim Taylor (Assistant Commissioner)—Jim served for six years as Chief Executive of Salford City Council prior to his retirement in 2021. He also fulfilled the role of Interim Chief Executive of Trafford Borough Council simultaneously from July 2018 to February 2019. Prior to this Jim was the Chief Executive of Rochdale Council having also served as Director for Children’s Services at Tameside MBC. In June 2021 Jim was appointed by the Secretary of State to undertake an external assurance review of governance at Slough Borough Council.

The Commissioners have been appointed for two years from 22 March 2022 to 22 March 2024, or such earlier or later time as we determine. We are clear that the directions should operate for as long, and only as long, and only in the form, as necessary.

The Commissioners will be asked to provide their first report within the next three months. Further reports will be provided every six months, or as agreed with the Commissioners.

I want to be clear that most decisions will continue to be made by the authority; the intention being that Commissioners will only use their powers as a last resort if they are dissatisfied with the authority’s improvement processes.

Commissioners will work collaboratively with Emma Taylor, Chief Executive of Sandwell Children’s Trust and Mark Gurrey, the Department for Education’s children’s services adviser and Chair of the Council’s improvement board for children’ services. This will ensure that the improvements overseen to date through the Department for Education’s statutory intervention continue to be made.

I would also like to thank the LGA for the continued support it has provided to the authority, most recently through a Corporate Peer Challenge.

As with other interventions led by my Department, the authority will be directed to meet the costs of the Commissioners. The fees paid to individuals are published in appointment letters which are available separately on www.gov.uk. I am assured this provides value for money given the expertise that is being brought, and the scale of the challenge in councils requiring statutory intervention.

Conclusion

The Government will continue to work closely with the political, business, and cultural leadership of Sandwell, and is committed to making sure the residents of Sandwell have what they need from their local council, including confidence in its governance and service delivery.

I have published the directions and explanatory memorandum associated with this announcement at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/proposed-intervention-at-sandwell-metropolitan-borough-council.

[HCWS706]

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Thursday 17th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Levelling Up Communities (Kemi Badenoch)
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With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on our work to tackle ethnic disparities and to build a fairer, more inclusive Britain for all.

In April last year, I came before this House following publication of the report by the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Dr Tony Sewell. I return to the House today to announce publication of our response to that report and to outline our new “Inclusive Britain” action plan.

The Sewell commission was established by the Prime Minister in response to the protests we saw throughout the summer of 2020. It was tasked with carrying out a deeper examination of why disparities exist and considering how we can reduce them. The commission published its findings on 31 March 2021, making 24 recommendations in all, focused on health, education, crime and policing, and employment. The result was a groundbreaking report that set out a new, positive agenda for change. It provided an important contribution to both the national conversation about race and the Government’s efforts to level up and unite the whole country. I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the commissioners for their tireless efforts and the invaluable contribution they have made to helping us better understand this complex and multifaceted policy area.

The Government fully endorse the findings of the Sewell commission and our action plan is based largely on its recommendations. Its report conclusively showed something which I, and indeed hon Members on all sides of this House, know to be true: disparities do persist in the UK and racism and discrimination continue to shape people’s experiences. But it also showed that most of these racial disparities are not driven by individual acts of prejudice committed by people behaving, either consciously or subconsciously, in a racist way. What the report’s analysis shows is that, for the most part, negative disparities arise for reasons not associated with personal prejudice. That is why so many disparities stubbornly persist even in this progressive age when there has never been such an acute awareness of racism and so much action and policy against it. All of this underscores the importance of moving beyond gestures and soundbites, to look in depth at the evidence and to challenge many of the deeply held assumptions about race and ethnicity that exist within our society.

The response we have published today, entitled “Inclusive Britain”, presents a clear strategy to tackle entrenched disparities, promote unity and build a more meritocratic, cohesive society—a society in which everyone, irrespective of their ethnicity or cultural background, can go as far in life as their ambition will take them. The response sets out over 70 actions to level up the country and to close the yawning gaps between different groups in education, employment, health and criminal justice. In many of these areas, we have gone much further than the commission envisaged to ensure that our action plan is as ambitious as it possibly can be.

The UK is a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multicultural success story and we believe that many of our greatest strengths derive from the diversity of our population. One only has to look at our brilliant NHS—one of the largest and most diverse employers in Europe—to see the benefits of being an open, tolerant and welcoming country. However, it would be naïve to say that tolerance and inclusion are the universal experiences of everyone who lives here, so our action plan seeks to right these wrongs with three clear aims: building a stronger sense of trust and fairness in our institutions and confidence in British meritocracy; promoting equality of opportunity, encouraging aspiration and empowering individuals; and encouraging and instilling a sense of belonging to a multi-ethnic UK that celebrates its differences while embracing the values that unite us all.

One of the most basic, but also one of the best, ways to build trust is to ensure that every individual in our society knows that they will be treated fairly and will not be discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity. So we will continue to work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to challenge race discrimination through investigations and supporting individual cases. We will hold social media giants to account for the vile and racist abuse that is allowed to propagate on their platforms. Our groundbreaking Online Safety Bill will force those companies to comply with a tough new regulatory regime, and if they fail to take action then the Bill will allow us to issue hefty fines of up to £18 million. These fines could be even heavier for the big operators failing to take down racist posts and racist accounts. We will also tackle unfair pay through new guidance to employers on how to assess and address their ethnicity pay gaps.

To improve the way in which stop-and-search powers are used by the police we will strengthen scrutiny arrangements so that local communities are able to hold their police forces more effectively to account. We will strive towards the goal of ensuring that police officers and members of the judiciary better reflect the people and communities they serve.

To tackle persistent ethnic disparities in health outcomes, our new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will even the playing field in access to good-quality care, with measures to be set out in a White Paper this spring. We will place particular emphasis on maternal health disparities, including identifying and driving change through our new maternity disparities taskforce. We will also tackle misleading information that can undermine trust in our public services and the institutions delivering them. This work includes encouraging more responsible and accurate reporting on race issues in the media.

The second strand in our action plan is to promote equality of opportunity, encourage aspiration and foster personal agency. Over the last decade we have made great strides in widening opportunity and giving more people from all backgrounds the chance to fulfil their true potential, but there is still more to do and we are fully committed to removing the barriers that are holding people back.

That starts from birth. We know that a strong start in life, and a stable family support system, can make all the difference. That is why we will invest £200 million in expanding the supporting families programme and £300 million in transforming start for life services and creating a network of family hubs so that children can grow up in a loving, stable and nurturing environment that fosters creativity and learning. This funding also means that families in desperate circumstances will receive the dedicated support they need to turn their lives around, find well-paid jobs and ensure that they and their loved ones can live happy and healthy lives. Indeed, we have asked the Children’s Commissioner to ensure that such services put the needs of children at the heart of everything they do. We also want to see more ethnic minority children adopted by loving parents who can give them everything they need in life to grow and flourish.

Members across this House know that access to high-quality education from an early age will set a child up for success later in life. While some ethnic minority children outperform their white British peers, that is not the case for every ethnic group, so we will look to level up pupil attainment by understanding what works best to drive up standards and bridge the attainment gaps for good.

We are providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade—£14 billion over three years—and supporting children to catch up on what they missed during the pandemic, and we will drive up the quality of education outside mainstream schools. Our forthcoming schools White Paper will focus on improving literacy and numeracy standards for the most disadvantaged pupils. We will also continue to invest in what works for pupils, improve access to apprenticeships and demand better transparency from our higher education providers so that all prospective students know there is a wealth of options open to them.

While promoting and celebrating diversity is hugely important, it is ultimately meaningless if people do not feel a sense of belonging or inclusion. That is why the third strand of our action plan is to instil a sense of belonging in those who feel that they are treated differently, left out or left behind because of their colour, class or creed. No child should grow up feeling alienated from the society in which they live. They should know that this country is proud to call them citizens of our United Kingdom and that that applies to every individual who chooses this country as their home irrespective of whether they were born here. To foster that sense of belonging from an early age, we will work with a panel of experts, historians and school leaders to develop a model history curriculum to help pupils understand the intertwined nature of British and global history and their own place within it.

When those children grow up and enter the workplace, we want to ensure that they do not experience some of the biases and unfairness that they do today. To that end, we are appointing a new “inclusion at work” panel to help employers drive fairness across their organisations. The panel will develop a wide range of new and effective resources that employers can use so that they move beyond unverified, low-quality training materials and create a more meritocratic place to work. That is complemented by a new “inclusion confident” scheme to provide employers with the tools to overcome barriers to in-work progression and improve retention of their ethnic minority staff. Finally, in the fields of science, innovation and medicine, we will ensure that new technology, including cutting-edge medical equipment and artificial intelligence, is harnessed for good and not inadvertently biased against ethnic minorities.

It was right that we took the time to consider carefully the commission’s findings. The breadth and scale of our action plan shows that we have put to good use the time since the report was published, but we have not stood by and waited to publish our response before taking action. We began to implement the commission’s recommendations even before the report was published, including moving the Social Mobility Commission into the Cabinet Office. We have also published new guidance on how to write about ethnicity while moving away from use of the term “BAME”, and our recent levelling-up White Paper draws on the commission’s findings.

So much work has been done, and I am grateful to all those who have helped us get here. I thank officials for their support in the race disparity unit—Summer Nisar in particular. I also thank Bryony Bonner in my private office and the special adviser Daniel El-Gamry, as well as Munira Mirza, formerly of No. 10.

“Inclusive Britain” sets out a clear and comprehensive action plan to tackle ethnic disparities, level up communities and build a stronger, fairer and more united country. I will return to the House in 12 months’ time to report on the progress we have made in delivering those actions.

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement. I will be honest with the House: I was beginning to think that today’s statement would never come. The “Inclusive Britain” strategy is woefully late. The Sewell report was published a whole year ago and the Conservatives have been in government for more than a decade. We all know that significant race and ethnic disparities exist in Britain today—indeed, even the flawed Sewell report acknowledges that life chances and outcomes for black and ethnic minority people vary hugely—so why has it taken the Conservatives 12 years to decide to do anything about it?

Most frustratingly, the strategy unquestioningly accepts the Sewell report’s controversial premise that there is no such thing as structural racism in our society. When the report was published last year, it was met with outrage for its failure to acknowledge that structural racism exists and, despite the spin on today’s announcement, the Government continue with the same flawed analysis; one that Baroness Lawrence rightly stated is

“giving racists the green light.”

If both the Sewell report and the strategy fail to identify the root causes of racial and ethnic disparities, how can either possibly hope to tackle them? That is why the strategy was always going to be hopelessly ineffective and short-sighted, and that is why it will fail to deliver for black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Let us briefly reflect on what that means. The strategy fails to deliver for black, Asian and minority ethnic NHS workers—frontline workers who faced a disproportionate risk to their health throughout the deadly covid-19 pandemic. It fails to deliver for black children living in Britain, more than half of whom are growing up in poverty. It also fails to deliver for Child Q, a 15-year-old black girl from Hackney who faced the most appalling treatment at the hands of the police, with racism very likely to have been an influencing factor. When the Government publish a flawed report and then churn out an inadequate strategy a whole year later, those are the very people they are failing.

When we look at the strategy line by line, sadly, matters go only from bad to worse. The strategy suggests that we can tackle race and ethnic disparities by just levelling up, but levelling up is a slogan still searching for a meaning. It is the empty soundbite for a Minister struggling to answer the question. It is not the solution to entrenched racial disparities. Where the strategy does put forward proposals, they are either too weak or too slow. For example, it fails completely to implement mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting despite repeated calls from the CBI, the TUC and the Labour party to do just that. Does the Minister think that such measures are not urgently needed? It is absurd that her strategy places so much emphasis on early years support when the Government systematically decimated Sure Start, stripping away a lifeline for children and families. The strategy will not paper over the long-term harm that did.

Where the Conservatives dither, the Labour party acts decisively. The Labour Government in Wales have already introduced a bold race equality action plan to create a truly anti-racist Wales. The Leader of the Opposition commissioned Baroness Lawrence to produce a report addressing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minority communities, with clear recommendations for the Government. The next Labour Government will introduce a landmark race equality Act to tackle racial inequality at its source.

The Conservative Government have had 12 years to act. Instead, they have failed to deliver and failed to acknowledge the genuine reasons for racial and ethnic disparities in Britain today. This country deserves so much better.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. I have a lot of time for her personally, but the fact is that Labour Members cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that this is an ambitious strategy. It would not have mattered what we brought to the House today; they would have criticised it.

The report is not late: we started implementing actions immediately after the commission’s findings came out. Labour Members know that. They know that the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is set up and running, and they know about the work that we have been doing on maternal disparities. They even know about the changes we made in ethnicity reporting and guidance, because her predecessor wrote to me about that. We have started implementing many actions and are presenting how they weave into so many other strategies across Government, such as levelling up, the health inequalities strategy and the schools White Paper. We will not wait for the last thing to be ready so that we can put it into a nice package for the Labour party to criticise.

It is laughable to say that Labour is decisive in this area. It had the internal Forde inquiry into racism in its own party in 2019, and, three years later, it still has not reported. It is joke that Labour Members are telling us we are late when we have started implementing the actions.

I turn to the hon. Lady’s specific comments on the report. It is not true that the commission’s report denied the existence of structural racism.

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Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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If it did, the hon. Lady would have been able to stand at the Dispatch Box and read out that section. In fact, the commission said that it did not find institutional racism in the areas that it examined.

A rhetorical trick is happening around this question. There is a difference between racism and institutional racism, which has a specific definition as defined by Macpherson. The commission said that there is racism and that it does persist. It has made recommendations on actions to tackle that in its report, and we have taken them up. It is quite wrong to conflate the two. We see crime in our country every day, yet we do not say that this is an institutionally criminal country. We look in the same way at accusations of racism, and it is important to distinguish where there is a pervasive institutional failing across the board that is unable to provide services to people of colour So I am afraid I reject the misrepresentation Labour Members make about the commission. I also remind them about the personal targeted attacks and harassment the commissioners suffered because of that misrepresentation—a group of commissioners who were all, bar one, ethnic minorities. I am very committed to ensuring that ethnic minorities in public life get a fair say and have their voice. What is wrong is when people with different opinions are attacked and told they are not allowed to think in a certain way because there are rules about what black people or Asian people are allowed to say. We reject that..

The hon. Lady raised the case of Child Q, and I am very happy to speak about that. It is an appalling incident. I am glad to see that the Met has apologised and that the Independent Office for Police Conduct is looking at it. We have systems in place to ensure that when things go wrong we can right them. What we cannot do is stop any bad thing happening to anyone in the country at any time. That is a threshold that is impossible to meet. What we do know is that everybody is rightly appalled and outraged by what happened to Child Q. That is an example of a country that cares about ethnic minorities and about children in the system. We will continue to do everything we can to support them.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests relating to higher education. In accepting my congratulations on her robust counter to the small minds who have criticised the Sewell report—small minds that cannot tell the difference between disadvantage, disparity and discrimination—will the Minister ensure that every Government Department effects what she has said today and what the report proposes? Education is at particular risk, from Brighton and Hove Council’s destructive and pernicious racial training for primary school teachers, which still has not been dealt with despite a cursory inspection from the Department for Education, to Nottingham University—my old university, by the way—which, appallingly, withdrew Tony Sewell’s honorary degree, while giving them to Chinese holocaust deniers. Will she issue guidance to each Government Department to stop the nonsense about critical race theory and white privilege?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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My right hon. Friend is right to make the point about distinctions in language. Discrimination, disparity and disadvantage all mean different things. They can correlate and they can be related. Now that we have an action plan and something written, I can assure him that we will be propagating it across Government and not just across but beyond Whitehall.

My right hon. Friend is right to raise the case of Brighton and Hove. In fact, I read in a paper today about a black mother who complained that the anti-discrimination training is actually discriminatory. He is right to raise the case of Tony Sewell, who, unbelievably, had an honorary degree withdrawn because he did not believe that this is a racist country. That is an example of the sort of silencing of ethnic minorities that we are seeing across the board. It is terrible, and I have to say I was disappointed to see the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) congratulate Nottingham University on cancel culture. She will find that those sorts of actions prevent ethnic minorities from participating in public life.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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I thank the Minister for advanced sight of her statement. Only by acknowledging and understanding institutional inequalities will we be able to effectively tackle them in all aspects of life. That is certainly true in the world of work, where BAME people were already in a precarious position in the labour market before the pandemic, and is linked to the disproportionate economic impact on those groups of the cost of living crisis.

I have two quick questions. The TUC recently warned that insecure work is tightening the grip of structural racism in the labour market, with BAME workers overrepresented on zero-hour contracts. Will the Minister urge the Government to introduce the long-awaited employment Bill to tackle zero-hour contracts?

Unlike with gender pay gaps, there is currently no legal requirement for UK businesses to disclose their ethnicity pay data. Will the UK Government follow the recent recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee and introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting by April 2023, including urging employers to publish a supporting action plan?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We have made an action on ethnicity pay gap reporting in the report, and we will be issuing guidance to help businesses and organisations to deliver it. What we are not going to do is mandate ethnicity pay gap reporting. It is very different from gender pay gap reporting, which is binary—male and female. Men and women are represented equally across the country. Ethnicity pay gap reporting covers multiple categories that are not necessarily applicable in each area, so mandating it in a particular way could actually end up distorting and skewing the figures. What we are going to do is support organisations that want to understand what is going on in their businesses and help to progress pay and opportunity for ethnic minorities.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
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I strongly welcome the report because it will ensure that everyone, from whatever background, can climb the important ladder of opportunity. The vice-chancellor of Nottingham University should hang his head in shame for the way Tony Sewell has been treated. I genuinely find it incomprehensible that such a thing could happen, with an honorary degree being withdrawn.

My hon. Friend will know that the Education Committee produced a report into our biggest ethnic group, disadvantaged white working-class children, who underperform at every stage of the education system compared with almost every other ethnic group. They are at the bottom except for Gypsy/Roma children in terms of going on to higher education. Will my hon. Friend ensure that the report also looks at our Select Committee’s recommendations and makes sure that white working-class people from disadvantaged backgrounds are disadvantaged no longer?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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My right hon. Friend is right. I have seen his Select Committee’s report, and those are things we will be working on. He is right to point out the disadvantage that children from white working-class communities face. The commission found that the issues that affect black Caribbean, black African, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian children when it comes to deprivation and disadvantage also affect white working-class communities, which is why we know that race cannot be the factor that explains many of those disparities. What I can tell him is that the solutions we have put in place will be solutions for all children. That is one of the principles we have for this report: we are not segregating or targeting specific solutions for specific communities; we are going to be looking after everybody.

Diane Abbott Portrait Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab)
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The Minister will be aware that recommendation 4 of the report is that the Government wish to:

“Bridge divides and create partnerships between the police and communities”.

Will the Minister explain how she thinks strip-searching black schoolgirls helps to bridge the divide between the police and communities? Is she aware that this is not an isolated incident? The Metropolitan police’s own figures show that in 2020-21, 25 young people under 18 were strip-searched. Most were black or from other ethnic minorities: 60% were black and the rest were some kind of minority ethnic. Only two of the 25 children who were strip-searched were white.

Is the Minister aware of how degrading this strip-search was? It was not just that this schoolgirl was stripped naked. They made her part the cheeks of her bottom and cough. She was on her period. I could give more detail, but I do not want to distress people in this House. It was utterly degrading. She is still traumatised. I must stress that they found no drugs and she has never been accused of taking drugs. How can the Minister sit there and tell this House that that had nothing to do with that young girl’s race, and that the figures I quoted are not striking? Will she assure this House and the wider community that the Government will take notice of whatever comes out of the report into that case, and make sure that the Metropolitan police and schoolteachers will not collude in the mistreatment of young schoolgirls again?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The right hon. Lady is very, very correct to raise the issue of strip-searching. The Home Secretary, I believe, wrote to her shadow and said that the incident is deeply concerning. Strip-searching is one of the most intrusive powers available to the police, because it allows officers to go well beyond a person’s outer clothing. There are safeguards and codes of practice that must be followed when the power is used, so what has gone wrong in this specific instance? That is being investigated. I do not have the full details and I am not able to provide those sorts of answers until an inquiry is finished. What I can tell her is that those figures are startling. No one has said that racism does not exist. No one has said that there are no problems in the system, but what we do ask is that we investigate every single incident and that where we see a trend, we try to understand what is going on. The action plan provides even more things we can do to support communities to hold the local police to account.

The other thing that we stress is that when these things happen we must not forget that every day the police save the lives of young people across the country. They save the lives of young black children, brown children and Asian children—children from all communities. When incidents such as this happen, we must not look at them as representative of every single thing that the police do, even though we will do all that we can to tackle them and reduce the number of times they occur.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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Aylesbury is a diverse community and it is all the better for it. Does my hon. Friend agree that today the Government have ushered in a new way to think about race and, more importantly, a new way to act about race, shifting from ideology to evidence and from destructive discourse to constructive action? In other words, will she reassure us all that today marks a new approach that will genuinely improve people’s lives whatever their race or religion?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am very happy to reassure my hon. Friend. This is a new way of thinking about things. We are not looking at issues in isolation. We had many suggestions from people across the country about what we should do. The Government have listened. We do not agree with all the suggestions, but we think that to have a genuinely ambitious and transformative strategy on race we need to ensure that we look at the evidence. We do not accept the premise that all disparities are due to discrimination, so that is one principle that actions must have. We also want to make sure that we do not damage institutions even when we find problems, because the institutions themselves will be part of the solution. Finally, as I said in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), we also want to make sure that we target solutions across the board and do not segregate communities. We were sent many actions that did not meet those three tests, which we believe will help to frame the way that we look at race in this country and improve it for a generation.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy Portrait Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham) (Lab)
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Unfortunately, I find what the Minister has said to be smoke and mirrors. We started with a report that began on the premise that there is no evidence of institutional racism when those who contributed to the report and those who it is meant to support have widely rejected that idea as completely false. Why would the Minister not take the question back to the drawing board? What on earth is moral history meant to be when people have called for the teaching of black history? How can the Government claim that there is no evidence of institutional racism given the case of Child Q and everything we have heard about police institutions, educational institutions and health institutions? Claiming that those institutions do not fail people will not help us to start from a place where we can fix things. Does the Minister understand why black, Asian and ethnic minority people across the country will not be encouraged by what she has said today? It simply looks like more smoke and mirrors, more warm words and nothing that will solve the racism we face daily.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I completely disagree with the hon. Lady. In fact, I know that black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities across the country will be very pleased with the plan because I have gone out and spoken to them. I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi), who spoke from the Labour Front Bench: I know that there is nothing that we could say from the Conservative Benches that would please Labour Members, because they believe that they own this topic. They are not in government; we are. The fact is that we have been carrying out actions over the past 12 years. We even had one of the shadow Front Benchers, the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), carry out a review.

We have taken actions on those reviews, yet even after we carry out those actions Labour Members stand up and deny that anything is happening. The truth is that they are not interested in an action plan. They want a debate about institutional racism. I will not spend time as a Government Minister having an academic argument and debating semantics and language. We will deliver the actions in this plan, and I am very proud to be the Minister responsible.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for setting out the Government’s comprehensive plan to tackle negative disparities wherever they exist, and especially on the model history curriculum, which will be very important. I am proud of our heritage. Of course there is good and bad, but we are proud of where we come from and what way we are going. Will she confirm that this Government remain fully committed to a fairer Britain for all and to taking necessary actions for everyone who is left behind by society, regardless of gender, age, sexuality or ethnic background? We are all one country and one great nation.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Yes, and my hon. Friend will find that that is what the model history curriculum will deliver.

I forgot to mention to the hon. Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) when she talked about black history that black is a category that cuts across so many significant ethnic groups that there is no way that one history module could go into any depth. We need a model history curriculum that explains the story of Britain and all our places within it. We cannot have segregated history curriculums for people of different skin colour. I am completely against that and I do not support it.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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All of us want to tackle racism in all its forms in this country. One thing that ethnic minorities felt let down by at the height of the covid pandemic was what was seen by many as the Government’s disregard for the disproportionate impact that covid had on many ethnic communities. Will the Minister assure us that the action plan will address that issue and that it will be included in the covid inquiry?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am really surprised that the hon. Lady would say that. We did an 18-month piece of work on covid disparities and covid’s disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities, and I came to this House multiple times and gave updates and reports, so it is not true to say that the Government did not take that seriously. I am very confident that the findings will be part of the covid inquiry; they were even among the evidence that the commission used, which we built on when we were writing the action plan. If she wants to write to me, I am sure that we can get a report to her to show her its findings.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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The hon. Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi) stated that the report of the independent commission was received with outrage because it failed to find structural racism. Surely we want Government strategy to be based on evidence, not ideology. Does my hon. Friend agree that a narrative that all minority discrimination is caused by majority discrimination or privilege is by definition divisive, diverts attention away from the real causes of discrimination as found by the independent commission and is incompatible with the goal of a sense of belonging?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I completely agree with that. We cannot have young ethnic minority children growing up being told that everyone in that society is against them. It means that they give up, lose aspiration and decide not to take up opportunities that they should, because the rhetoric is so demoralising.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
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A year ago, when the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published its report, within hours it was unravelling and it has been discredited. The strategy published today states that the Race Disparity Unit will begin consulting on the types of data it will collate with a view to reducing the levels of evidence and data that it will collate. Everybody across the House knows how important data and evidence are, so can the Minister say why the RDU is consulting on that? When will the consultation begin, and will it be a public consultation? Why on earth would it seek to reduce the level of race and ethnicity data right now?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am not quite sure why the hon. Lady thinks that we are trying to reduce the amount of race and ethnicity data. We are improving and increasing the amount of data. Perhaps she could write and explain a little further; I am not sure that she has quite got what the RDU will be doing. More broadly, she mentioned that the report began to unravel, but I remember seeing invitations to events at which she was supposed to be participating and was planning to criticise the report—well before it was published and anything had been seen. She and I know that what she said is not quite what happened.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
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I know that my hon. Friend is 100% committed to implementing the commission’s recommendations. Does she agree with me that it is our Conservative belief that background should not determine destiny and promoting fairness is the key to truly delivering real social mobility? As we level up in places such as Darlington, can she comment on how “Inclusive Britain” is key to our ambitious levelling-up plans?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Yes, that is absolutely right. When constructing the actions in the report, our three pillars were building trust and fairness—fairness was right at the heart—creating agency and opportunity, and inclusion. Those actions will benefit everyone across the country, including people in Darlington. We are focusing more on inclusion than on diversity, because we believe that inclusion brings in more factors, such as socioeconomic factors, that tend to be forgotten. Given everything that my hon. Friend has said in the House about Darlington, I think he will find his constituents welcome that approach.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
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Soon after the pandemic began, the Prime Minister said:

“people who have worked hard for this country, who live and work here should have support of one kind or another”.

The no recourse to public funds condition meant that many got no support at all. The Select Committee on Work and Pensions has heard harrowing testimony of the hardship that resulted. Will the action plan that the Minister has announced review no recourse to public funds, which has driven ethnic disparity?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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No, the action plan will not be looking at that. No recourse to public funds was outside the terms of reference for the commission, and the action plan is very much based within those terms of reference.

I challenge what the right hon. Gentleman says about no recourse to public funds, because it is important that we do not conflate migration and ethnicity. No recourse to public funds was based on nationality, and during the pandemic I distinctly remember, even in the Treasury, that we took many policy decisions to overcome any barriers that people might have had. I cannot speak specifically about what the Work and Pensions Committee has looked at, but I am sure officials from that Department will take those points away. If more can be done within that policy, I am sure that we will look at that, but that would fall outside my terms of reference for the Equality Hub.

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)
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The highly discredited Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report stated that Britain “no longer” had a system that was “deliberately rigged” against black people, but as the first black MP for Liverpool, I would beg to differ. I have little faith that the “Inclusive Britain” report with its 70 practical actions will change how police powers work. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will give more power to the police to stop and search, and it will not stop them from strip-searching young girls. Can the Minister explain in detail how local scrutiny will prevent that from happening?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I will continue to rebut the assertion that the report is widely discredited; it was discredited only in certain quarters, in the same way that our environmental policy will never meet the test for the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion. The fact is that we are doing something that will be great for the vast majority of people in this country. The report will change the way we look at race in this country. We are in government and we are taking these ambitions forward.

On her question on local scrutiny, the commission looked at the way that policing was taking place in communities. It accepted that there was a “lack of trust”—a trust deficit; I think the hon. Lady would agree with that. The commission put forward a recommendation that we will be trialling and piloting. I cannot give specific details of how that will happen, because I am not a Home Office Minister, and the actions of the police are independent and we cannot get involved in their operational decisions. If the hon. Lady has suggestions on how that can be improved or tackled, I am very willing to hear them.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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I am disappointed that there is not a Home Office Minister on the Treasury Bench. The Select Committee on Home Affairs report, “The Macpherson Report: twenty-one years on”, was published last summer and we have been waiting for a substantive reply to our recommendations ever since; the Government said that they wanted to deal with their response to the commission. Now that the Minister has made this statement, can she confirm that the Government will respond to our call, first for urgent action on racial disparities in law enforcement? She referred to stop and search, but it is not enough to do something just about scrutiny, as she announced in her statement. Secondly, will the Government tackle the worrying decline in confidence in the police among some ethnic minority communities? Thirdly, will they deal with the need for anti-racism training in the police, especially in the light of the horrific case of child Q, where race played a part in her treatment?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The right hon. Lady is right that there are actions on stop and search in criminal justice, but we are doing many different things, including improving skills training for police officers. She will find that the actions in the report will address the issues she raises. I have already made comments on the case of Child Q, which I will not repeat. I am sure Home Office Ministers will be able to respond to the questions she has specifically for them.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
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In the light of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, I put on record my dismay and sorrow that Child Q experienced being stripped of her clothes and searched at her school by police officers. I thank the Minister for mentioning Child Q, but is she aware that she was on her menstrual cycle, which made the experience even more undignified? This morning I was shocked to hear that she was taken out of an exam by teachers and, following her ordeal, it was considered appropriate by all professionals concerned for her to return to her exam, with no consideration for her emotional wellbeing. That is one of the cruellest and most despicable things I have ever heard.

Teachers and officers failed to keep this child safe and, speaking as a former child protection social worker, I think that they have acted in the most abusive manner. They are not fit to work with children and they bring shame on their profession. This child now suffers from self-harm and is having therapy. I have fond memories of my secondary school and my teachers, but her bitter memories will remain with her for life. Will the Minister fully investigate what role the colour of Child Q’s skin played in how degradingly she was treated?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We are all appalled at the details that we are hearing about Child Q. As I said before, I cannot comment until a full inquiry has come out, but it is important to understand what led to the failures. They are very significant failures, if what we are hearing and all the details that are coming out are true. We have systems in place to look again, learn lessons and make sure that they are not repeated. I am sure that everyone in Government will be seeing what we can do to ensure that happens.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
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I have listened with great interest right from the start of the statement and to all of the questions, and two things strike me. Racism is totally abhorrent and I can completely understand why Members, especially Opposition Members, are absolutely fuming that it is not completely exterminated from our society, but I say as a scientist that we have to fix that problem via evidence and ensure that we are helping the people whom we seek to help. Does my hon. Friend accept that the evidence in the report and delivering on it is the most important thing to stamp out the evil of racism in this society?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I can assure my hon. Friend that that is the case. The evidence and looking underneath it at the details of what is happening is important; otherwise, how can we tell when looking at something negative that has happened to someone from an ethnic minority whether that is racism or not? In many cases, when the commission examined a case where racial discrimination was given as a reason, it found that that did not explain the disparity. One example is the difference between black African and black Caribbean students when it came to exclusion. There is a statistic that black children are more likely to be excluded from school than white children, but looking at the data, black African children, who are far more in number than black Caribbean children, are far less likely to be excluded than white children, even within the same communities, compared to black Caribbean children. They have the same skin colour. Racism does not explain that disparity. That is an example of why people need to look at the evidence and not immediately jump to a discrimination conclusion.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
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I am astonished that the Minister does not think that there is evidence of racial disparity in this country. She made the point that a strong early start makes all the difference. When the Government smashed up Sure Start, that made a demonstrable difference to black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and, yes, to the deprived white communities in Britain. She is talking about putting £500 million back. Can she go back to the Treasury and say that that is totally inadequate if we are going to make a real difference? Can she go and tell the Treasury that if we want to make a difference, real money can do that?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The hon. Gentleman is putting words into my mouth that I did not say and that the commission did not say. I have already disputed that. It is not true to say that we have not found any evidence for racism or racial disparity in this country; that is not the case.

Regarding the hon. Gentleman’s comment about Sure Start, I remind him that when we came into government in 2010, the country’s finances were in a dire state. His party ran down the finances of this country, and we have spent the past 10 years fixing them, which is why we are able to put more money back in the system. He is citing one particular statistic on funding. He does not, for example, mention the £14 billion increase, which is unheard of and, frankly, unprecedented in this country. We are doing what works, not just complaining because we do not want to see Conservatives do well. We are going to do well for this country, and I am very proud of what this action plan puts forward.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
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I want to take the Minister back to her statement, where she outlined that one of the most basic but also best ways to build trust is to ensure that every individual in our society knows that they will be treated fairly and not be discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity.

I hope that the Minister will recognise that a number of black and minority ethnic children do not feel that that is the case. They do not feel that that is the case when they continue to be stopped and searched; when they hear the story of what happened to Child Q; or when they watch their community centres being raided. The Minister has mentioned that she has been out speaking to communities. I invite her to Lambeth to speak to a group of young people from my constituency, so that they can share with her their experiences of what they face day in, day out.

I commend the police in Lambeth, who are doing great work with those communities, but the fact is that there is still mistrust. The Minister outlined that the powers for scrutiny of the police will not come into effect until summer 2023 and that police training in de-escalation and conflict will not happen until autumn 2024. Please Minister, why cannot those be brought forward?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question. She is right that we are concerned about the trust deficit and people feeling that they do not belong or are not included in this country. We have listened, and we believe that this is what is going to work.

I understand very much the story the hon. Lady is telling me about people believing that, because they are being stopped and searched and being raided—she points to the case of Child Q—they do not feel trust in the system. What we need to show is that when these actions happen, they are done fairly and that when they are not done fairly, they are investigated. A country that did not care about racism would not be tackling these issues at all; we would not be looking at them. What we want those communities to see is that we do care. That does not mean that those things will never, ever happen, but that when they do happen the process is fair.

I am very happy to come and explain the policy to the young people in Lambeth; as the hon. Lady knows, I used to live in Brixton, near her, so I know the community very well. I am very happy to take up any opportunity I have, as a black woman in the Government, to explain to people all we are doing and how that is going to work for them.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
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I am really astonished that there is so little reference to policing in the Minister’s statement today. It was the actions of police in the US that sparked the protests here and led to the commissioning of the Sewell report. Trust and confidence in policing are absolutely fundamental to communities feeling safe and secure, and that is foundational for addressing disadvantage and racial disparity in every other area of life. Yet my constituents see racism and racial disparity in the actions of police, whether in the use of stop and search, deaths in custody or—this week—in the grotesque case of Child Q, which is all the more appalling because it is not the only example.

What action is the Minister taking in the action plan to address the transformation in the culture of our policing, which is so desperately needed to address racial disparity?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The hon. Lady said that the report was set up because of what happened in the US; I really have to stress to the House that we are not the United States and we cannot assume that the problems there are exactly the same as the ones here. That is why the commission investigated what was happening in the United Kingdom and made recommendations based on what is happening in the United Kingdom. It is really important that we understand the difference; in so many things that I see and read, people are conflating what is happening in other countries with what is happening here. Our police are not routinely armed, which makes a huge difference when it comes to our statistics. I have seen four statistics on deaths in custody that are based on US stats. There is a lot in the report that will help improve policing, but it is based on evidence from this country, not just on what is happening on social media and Twitter.

The fact is that the mothers of children who die as a result of knife and gun crime do not dislike stop and search. They want to see more of it—they want communities to be policed properly. That is what we are going to be doing. If the hon. Lady looks at the worst statistic in the report—that black children are 24 times more likely to die of a homicide than white children; this is not race crime—she will find that we need stop and search in communities, to help stop those types of crime.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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The Sewell report states that when we include more minority ethnic history in our curriculum, children from those backgrounds identify themselves as part of British history. I have been proud to work with footballer Troy Deeney, who the Minister will know is the driving force behind taking the knee in the premier league, on his new campaign, #HistoryUntold, which would mandate—not model—a history curriculum that reflects our society. In Wales, the Lib Dem Education Minister in the last Government did that. We are asking for this to be the case in England. What discussions has the Minister had with the Department for Education? Would she like to back Troy’s campaign today?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I do not know the details of Troy’s campaign but I can say that the model history curriculum has been drawn up in conjunction with the Department for Education. We think it is the right way to teach history in a super-diverse country such as ours. That is why we are moving beyond the very broad categories such as BAME. We have a very complex society and a model history curriculum will allow us to tailor history depending on the school and community, and ensure that people feel included in the history of the United Kingdom.