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WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

The CMA is consulting on changes to 2 aspects of its merger investigation process.

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The changes, which follow a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) review of the effectiveness of the merger notice form and initial enforcement orders (IEOs), are intended to streamline its process and reduce the requirements on businesses.

Initial enforcement orders

The first change involves the introduction of additional guidance in relation to the CMA’s use of IEOs. These are orders that may be put into place during its investigations to prevent merging companies from integrating in a way that could prejudice the outcome or impede the CMA’s ability to put in place any necessary remedies.

The guidance, which reflects experience gained since the current system was introduced in April 2014, is intended to provide further clarification in relation to:

  • the circumstances in which an IEO will typically be imposed;
  • the form that an IEO will typically take;
  • the types of derogations (which permit actions that would otherwise be in breach of an IEO) that the CMA is likely to grant; and
  • the timing for imposing and revoking IEOs and granting derogations.

The consultation on the draft guidance in relation to IEOs can be found here and views are invited until 12 April 2017.

Merger notice form

The second change involves a number of proposed amendments to the merger notice form that is used to notify a merger to the CMA. The revised merger notice is intended to provide additional guidance in relation to the information that is likely to be required by the CMA in a given case and, in particular, to clarify the circumstances in which it may not be necessary to provide certain information requested in the merger notice.

The consultation on the proposed amendments to the merger notice can be found here and views are invited until 12 April 2017.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

The CMA is to review long-standing undertakings relating to the National House-Building Council.

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The National House-Building Council (NHBC) provides new home structural warranties for over 1.6 million homes in the UK, covering around 80% of new homes.

The undertakings were given in 1995, following an investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), which found that some NHBC rules restricted competition from companies looking to offer alternative warranty schemes.

As a result, NHBC amended its rules to remove the restrictions and enable its members to use other warranty providers. It also agreed not to make any further changes to its rules which might have an adverse effect on competition without written consent from the competition authorities.

The NHBC has now requested that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) review the undertakings. It argues that there is now more competition from other providers and that housebuilders purchasing new home structural warranties now have greater choice. The NHBC also says that changes to regulation and consumer protection have removed the need for it to approve other home warranty schemes used by the NHBC’s registered builders - as it is currently required to do by the undertakings.

Buying a new home is one of the largest financial decisions that consumers make. The review will look at how the market for new home structural warranties currently operates to protect home buyers in order to see if there has been a change in circumstances which would justify the removal or variation of the undertakings. The CMA will not be considering wider issues relating to the NHBC as part of this review.

For more details, see the review case page. Responses to the review are now being invited from affected parties such as structural warranty providers, home builders, insurance provides and trade bodies and consumer groups.

Responses are invited in writing by Thursday 20 April 2017 to structural.warranties@cma.gsi.gov.uk or:

NHBC Remedy Review
Competition and Markets Authority
Victoria House
37 Southampton Row
London
WC1B 4AD

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

Regulatory Delivery is showcasing outstanding work in delivering regulation in a way that gives business the confidence to invest and grow.

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The Regulatory Delivery Awards 2017 recognise regulatory organisations, individual businesses and trade associations that have achieved positive outcomes through good practice.

Winners will have demonstrated excellent use of better regulation tools and principles, such as Primary Authority, Better Business for All, the Regulators’ Code and/or consideration of regulatory impact on business growth.

This is your chance to shine, share work with peers and widen the impact it has around the country!

The Awards are open to anyone involved in delivering better regulation, such as local authorities, national regulators, businesses and trade associations.

  • Individuals, teams or organisations can be nominated, by others and/or themselves
  • Completed entry forms (online forms available on this link) must be returned to Regulatory Delivery by 31 May 2017
  • Entries can be submitted online or by post. Scanned entries are acceptable
  • Entrants are encouraged to supply a short (max one minute) supporting video
  • Short external endorsements may be included with entries
  • No additional material is required or will be considered by the judges

Download the Awards application form

Entrants may receive a follow-up call from a member of the Regulatory Delivery team. Judging and the announcement of finalists will take place in June.

Winners will be announced at a special event in the first half of July 2017, details to follow.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

On 6 April 2017, regulations relating to English social housing providers will change.

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When a private registered provider (such as a housing association) applies to be registered on or after 6 April 2017, we will no longer require them to certify their status.

When a disposal made by a private registered provider on or after 6 April is lodged for registration, the provider will no longer need to comply with some restrictions in the register.

These changes come into force on 6 April 2017 when the Housing and Planning Act 2016 amends the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

Please note we will update relevant practice guides on 6 April.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No.4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2017 (the TP Regulations) brings section 92 of, and Schedule 4 to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (the 2016 Act) into force on 6 April 2017 reducing the regulatory requirements for private registered providers (mainly housing associations) in England.

Alongside this, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Consequential Provisions) (England) Regulations 2017 (the CP Regulations) amend section 183A and four of the standard forms of restrictions in Schedule 4 to the Land Registration Rules 2003.

Private registered providers applying to be registered as proprietor of a registered estate or charge in England on or after 6 April 2017 will no longer need to provide us with a certificate as to their status. This requirement, which will no longer appear as paragraph (1A) of rule 183A of the Land Registration Rules 2003, was designed to help us ensure we entered the appropriate form of restriction in the register. We will no longer need this information after 6 April, because the Regulator of Social Housing’s disposal consent regime in relation to private registered providers is being repealed (by section 92 of, and Schedule 4 to the 2016 Act). Rule 183A (1A) of the Land Registration Rules 2003 is being repealed by the CP Regulations.

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

Launch of new Childcare Choices website means parents now able to find available government support.

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Millions of parents can pre-register from today for the government’s new childcare offers, with the launch of a new Childcare Choices government website.

The introduction of the government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme will begin on 28 April, for parents of the youngest children. It will be gradually rolled out over 2017 – cutting childcare costs for working families across the UK by up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for disabled children.

On top of this, from September this year parents of three and four year old children living in England will be able to apply for a new 30 hours free childcare offer, worth around £5,000 per child.

The Childcare Choices website includes a Childcare Calculator for parents to compare all the government’s childcare offers and check what works best for their families.

Through the site parents can also pre-register for email alerts that will notify them when they can apply, as well as providing details of existing government childcare offers.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said:

This Government is on the side of working families and our childcare support will cut thousands of pounds off bills for millions of households, as well as supporting parents to return to or remain in work.

The new Childcare Choices website provides busy families with options that suit their needs, so they can clearly see which childcare offer works best for them. For the first time, we have brought all the childcare options together to make the process easier and simpler for families and childcare providers.

Education Secretary, Justine Greening, said:

Affordable childcare and early years education are a vital part of how we can get our children on the right path, whilst also helping parents to be back at work, if that is what they want. Many parents are struggling to balance the cost of childcare against the benefits of being in work and this government wants to help.

From today, parents can use the Childcare Choices website to find out what support is available for their family. Whether that’s our 30 hour free childcare offer, Tax-Free Childcare or Universal Credit, the website is a quick and easy way for parents to choose the offer that’s best for them and their children.

Two million working families will be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare. It will be gradually rolled out, with parents of children under two invited to enter the scheme first. By the end of the year, all eligible parents will be able to receive government top-ups of £2 for every £8 that a parent pays into their Tax-Free Childcare account. This will be open to all working parents across the UK with children under 12, or under 17 if disabled.

The new 30 hours free childcare offer for working parents of three and four year olds in England doubles the current 15 hours of free childcare currently available, saving eligible working families up to £5,000 a year.

Parents will be able to apply for Tax-Free Childcare and the 30 hours offer in one go through the government’s new digital childcare service. Eligible parents can benefit from both Tax-free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare at the same time.

Both of these new offers have been run as trials over recent months, to test the new digital services.

More than 4,000 parents are already benefiting from the 30 hours offer in eight ‘early implementer’ councils, with thousands more set to follow suit, as four new areas launch the 30 hours offer in April. And over 2,000 parents are cutting their childcare costs with the Tax-Free Childcare trial.

These offers build on the childcare support already available to thousands of families, including:

  • 15 hours free childcare for all three and four year olds
  • 15 hours for disadvantaged two year olds
  • enhanced childcare support through Universal Credit
  • childcare vouchers.

Background

How Tax-Free Childcare works

Working parents will be able to apply, through the childcare service, to open an online childcare account. For every £8 that families or friends pay in, the Government will make a top-up payment of an additional £2, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year (or £4,000 for disabled children). This top up is added instantly and parents can then send electronic payments directly to their childcare providers.

All registered childcare providers – whether nannies, nurseries or after school clubs – can sign up online now to receive parents’ payments through Tax-Free Childcare. Once childcare providers have signed up they will appear on the Childcare Provider Checker. This allows parents to check whether childcare providers have already signed up for Tax-Free Childcare.

How 30 hours free childcare works

Eligible parents will be able to apply online through the childcare service. They will receive a code – this will allow parents to arrange their childcare place ahead of September 2017. Parents can take their code to their provider or council, along with their National Insurance Number and child’s date of birth. Their provider or council will check the code is authentic and allocate them a free childcare place.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement following the death of Martin McGuinness, the former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

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Prime Minister Theresa May said:

First and foremost, my thoughts are with the family of Martin McGuinness at this sad time.

While I can never condone the path he took in the earlier part of his life, Martin McGuinness ultimately played a defining role in leading the Republican movement away from violence. In doing so, he made an essential and historic contribution to the extraordinary journey of Northern Ireland from conflict to peace.

While we certainly didn’t always see eye-to-eye even in later years, as deputy First Minister for nearly a decade he was one of the pioneers of implementing cross community power sharing in Northern Ireland. He understood both its fragility and its precious significance and played a vital part in helping to find a way through many difficult moments.

At the heart of it all was his profound optimism for the future of Northern Ireland – and I believe we should all hold fast to that optimism today.

THURSDAY, 23 MARCH 2017  | 

Updates and advice following the incident in Westminster on 22 March 2017.

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For latest updates on the incident that took place in Westminster on 22 March you can read more on the Metropolitan Police website.

Twitter updates

You can follow @Terrorism Police UK and @MetPoliceUK for Twitter updates on the incident.

Useful advice on staying safe

Useful advice for:

Find out more about the Action Counters Terrorism campaign.

If you see anything that causes you concern or raises your suspicions do not hesitate to call the Police on 0800 789 321 or in an emergency 999.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

Start of dialogue about what our cities will look like in 2040 stresses need for infrastructure design to get smarter.

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Some of the UK’s leading thinkers in urban infrastructure came together today to start a conversation about the challenges of supporting a growing population in cities.

The event was part of the Future Cities Dialogue project, by Forum for the Future, Innovate UK, Sciencewise and Ipsos Mori. It coincided with the release of a report which reveals the current trends and challenges in urban development and offers 3 visions for what our cities could look like in 20 years.

Find out more about our work in infrastructure systems.

Future Cities Dialogue - 3 potential city scenarios

Growing cities

With more than 70% of people estimated to be living in urban areas by 2040, city infrastructure and design is going to need to drastically change in order to better support its citizens.

Speaking at the breakfast session, James Goodman, Director of Futures, Forum for the Future, said:

The year 2040 will be radically different from today. The population in the UK will be 74 million, climate change will have progressed and food production will have needed to increase between 50 and 80%.

In that landscape, the role of cities is critical because it is where ideas are formed and implemented.

Visit Forum for the Future’s project page.

How people are going to live

The group felt that the trajectory of growth in people would place pressure on public and private spaces. The consensus was that infrastructure design will need to get smarter, more collaborative and focus on the needs of people if it is to be effective.

Sophie Thomas, Founding Director of Thomas Matthews and the former Director of Circular Economy for Royal Society of Arts, said:

How are people going to live in these cities? What is the density? That is not going to feel like London and the other cities we know now. Where is all the public space going to go? This is what we really need to be thinking about and what the infrastructure needs to focus on. Where is my 10-year-old going to play football?

Rob Whitehead, Head of Strategy, Future Cities Catapult, added:

The key question is how do we manage the public interest versus the private interest? My optimistic side feels that the promise of what we have ahead of us, is that together we can find better, smarter ways of balancing our interests as a whole in a much more responsive and fine-tuned way then we do now.

Join the discussion

This is only the start of the conversation. Now we want to hear from you. We are hosting a Twitter chat on Wednesday 22 March from 11am to midday to answer any questions about where our urban environments are headed and to gather your thoughts.

Join the Twitter conversation at #citiesdialogue.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

Marine Management Organisation (MMO) announces start of two Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) Exchange Fellows

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The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has welcomed its first Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) Fellows to support its work in improving access to marine science.

Dr Jacqui Tweddle from the University of Aberdeen and Dr Katherine Yates from the University of Salford have started in their new roles of Knowledge Exchange Fellows, helping the MMO to deliver key elements of its Evidence Strategy.

Dr Tweddle and Dr Yates’ three year fellowships will focus on the use of science in decision making and marine management, encouraging greater knowledge exchange around marine research.

The two fellowships which are funded by NERC, will:

  • Support the review of the use of science in the MMO’s decision making processes
  • encourage greater collaboration between the MMO and academic and research communities
  • fill gaps in marine evidence by influencing and improving access to external marine research

As part of their fellowship Dr Tweddle and Dr Yates will also identify and promote the vast amounts of marine data and evidence generated by scientific researchers to the MMO enabling the MMO to provide effective, efficient, targeted marine management based on the most up to data knowledge.

This is work is an important part of delivering Part 2 of the MMO’s Evidence Strategy, published August 2016. The Strategy sets out how knowledge exchange, partnership and influencing research will be used to deliver the MMO’s future evidence requirements.

Dr Tweddle said: “I’m excited to be working with the MMO, and grateful to NERC for the opportunity. Understanding more clearly what the MMO needs, and how the research community can support that, is a priority for me. I want to help the MMO access and use the best scientific evidence and expertise available. Facilitating new contacts between researchers and the MMO will both help the MMO, but also provide researchers with opportunities to have their work make the biggest impact it can in supporting how we manage out marine activities.”

Dr Katherine Yates added: “Marine management is incredibly complicated and it’s essential that management decisions are based on robust, up-to-date evidence. Our roles will be to help with evidence provision, through both personal contributions and by facilitate partnerships between the academic community and the MMO. It’s an exciting opportunity and I am grateful to be part of it.”

Adam Cook, MMO’s Head of Evidence welcomed the two knowledge exchange fellows:

“We are delighted to welcome Jacqui and Katherine to the MMO. The scale and complexities of our seas means there is still much to learn about their ecosystems and our impact on them. Access to high quality evidence is critical to delivering effective and sustainable marine management and their work will be an invaluable part of improving access to this information.”

Notes

  • Dr Jacqui Tweddle is a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, and is an oceanographer with expertise in marine spatial planning.
  • Dr Katherine Yates is a lecturer at University of Salford specialising in marine conservation planning and spatial management.
  • Both fellowships are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellows focus on accelerating and amplifying impact of NERC science. They do this through a number of different mechanisms, from NERC-funded research to working with business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or, as in this case, government bodies.
  • This new partnerships between the MMO and NERC is an important part of delivering the MMO’s Evidence Strategy, improving access to the latest scientific research and providing funding for a new Knowledge Exchange Fellowship.
  • NERC is the UK’s main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Their work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. They co-ordinate some of the world’s most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. They receive around £330m of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

HM Passport Office has launched a new online passport renewal service as part of its drive to improve customer services.

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The new service means that the majority of adults can now renew their passport online. Following a successful pilot in 2016, over 240,000 people have renewed their passport online using the new service.

Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill, said:

This latest offering is a key part of the Home Office’s drive to transform the way we deliver our services through digitisation. It is designed to improve efficiency and convenience by providing a modern and secure service to millions of passport holders and applicants.

The service means applicants can upload a suitable digital photo from their smartphone or tablet, making applying for a passport quick and simple. In total, the whole process takes 10 minutes on average.

Passport applicants who meet the following criteria will be directed to the service when they choose to apply online:

  • age 26 or over residing in the UK
  • do not hold dual nationality
  • are in possession of their current passport (not damaged, lost or stolen)
  • will not be making any changes to their name
  • the passport that is being renewed expired after 2012

This fully online service will gradually become available to all passport customers. In the meantime, all UK customers and British citizens overseas can still complete the majority of their application and pay online, before printing and returning a signed declaration, their supporting documents, and photographs in the post to HM Passport Office to process.

Each year, HM Passport Office issues over 6 million passports, operating 7 regional passport offices and from over 40 passport interview offices across the UK.

To renew your passport online visit www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport.

Guidance on acceptable passport photos is also available.

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

Another 33 firms have signed up to the government’s ground-breaking Women in Finance Charter.

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33,000 extra staff in the UK now covered by the plan to tackle gender inequality in financial services.

The news comes on the first anniversary of the charter, with 122 firms, employing over half a million people in the UK and covering almost 50% of the financial services sector, now signed up.

The Women in Finance Charter, launched a year ago today, asks financial firms to commit to four industry actions to build the female talent pipeline for leadership positions. The Charter’s innovative approach has been an unprecedented success with some of the UK’s biggest and most well established firms signing up.

The latest signatories include retail banks such as CYBG, payment firms such as VocaLink, global banks such as the Royal Bank of Canada, insurers like Ageas UK, and other firms including Pinsent Masons LLP and NS&I, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the latest firm with headquarters in the US to sign up.

Since the Charter launched, 77 financial services firms have committed to have at least 30% women in senior roles by 2021 and 23 firms have committed to a 50/50 gender split in senior roles by 2021. New signatories will announce their targets in June.

The Commercial Secretary, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, said:

I know how difficult it can be for a woman to get the recognition she deserves and achieve her potential. And in financial services particularly, women progress too slowly or they leave the sector completely.

We have made a strong start – the first anniversary of the Women in Finance Charter sees 122 firms seizing the competitive advantage by tackling sex inequality head on.

But this is just the beginning. The financial industry is famed for its ability to identify opportunities to improve productivity. The Women in Finance Charter is one of those opportunities. It offers the chance to increase diversity of thought and for the financial services sector to better reflect the society it serves. This is why I encourage firms across the UK to step up and sign the Charter.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion, said:

I am delighted with the strong and ongoing momentum of the Women in Finance Charter. A truly diverse financial services sector will drive productivity and underpin the UK’s position as a strong and competitive economy. There is still further to go and I urge more businesses to commit to the charter so that they can play their part in building an economy that works for everyone.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the latest firm with headquarters in the US to sign up, joining the likes of Morgan Stanley, BNY Mellon, BlackRock, Circle and Thomson Reuters. This proves that there are no barriers for international firms to show their commitment to gender parity by signing the Charter.

Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, President, EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said:

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a long history of supporting women’s leadership and economic empowerment, but there is clearly more to be done.

Increasing the number of senior women and addressing gender balance is crucial for our long-term success. This means supporting and engaging women at all levels, to ensure a strong pipeline of talent.

We are wholly supportive of the Women in Finance Charter and the positive impact it will have on our industry.

FinTechs have also responded to the government’s call to action with nine signing up including Nutmeg, RateSetter, Starling, Monzo, Zerado, Azimo, and FINTECH Circle.

The Gadhia review looked at the issue of unequal gender representation in financial services and found that in UK financial services female representation was around 23% on boards, but only 14% on executive committees. It is estimated that equalising the role of men and women in the labour market could increase GDP by 10% by 2030.

On 29th June, HM Treasury, in partnership with GrowthBusiness.co.uk, What Investment magazine and Virgin Money, will launch the inaugural Women in Finance Awards at The Savoy in London.

These awards will celebrate the individuals and organisations who are leading change by driving the gender diversity agenda in financial services.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

The government has announced today that Nick Stace has been appointed to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as a Non-Executive Director.

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Nick has been appointed for an initial 3 year term which will take effect from 1 April 2017.

The Non-Executive Directors play a vital part in shaping the role of the FCA; agreeing the strategy; and providing appropriate advice, guidance and counsel to the executive team whilst holding them to account for the performance of the organisation.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Kirby said:

The Financial Conduct Authority plays an important role ensuring Britain’s financial services sector delivers for consumers.

Nick Stace will bring a wealth of consumer and leadership experience to this role and is ideally suited to help the FCA deliver its objectives.

Welcoming the appointment, FCA Chairman John Griffith-Jones said:

One of the FCA’s key strategic objectives is to ensure we secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers in financial services. Nick’s extensive experience and knowledge gained through working at senior levels within organisations that deal directly with consumer related issues will be a significant asset to the FCA. We look forward to having him on our Board.

Nick Stace added:

I am delighted to be joining the FCA at such an important time. The treatment of consumers using financial services is something that we can all relate to and is rightly one of the FCA’s priorities in the work it performs. I look forward to joining the board to help the FCA meet its objectives in this area.

About Nick Stace

Nick Stace is currently Chief Executive of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He has held executive leadership positions in consumer organisations as Deputy CEO of Which? (UK) and CEO of Choice (Australia), as well as a number of non-executive roles focusing on consumer experience, including as a director of a European consumer affairs organisation (BEUC) and as a director of Consumers’ International.

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

Helpline calls about exceptional and complex cases must be made on 0300 200 2020 from 1 April 2017.

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Call diverts for old exceptional and complex cases team numbers are being switched off on 1 April 2017 and you will need to use 0300 200 2020.

The 0300 200 2020 number is for the main customer services team. As advised in February this is the team which is now handling enquiries about exceptional and complex cases.

An amended ECF1 form is also being made available on GOV.UK on 1 April 2017. The only amendment to this form is the removal of the previous contact details for the team.

Further information

Exceptional case funding form and guidance – to download amended ECF1 form

Contacting the exceptional and complex cases team – 8 February 2017 news announcement

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement in Downing Street this evening following today’s attack in Westminster.

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Prime Minister Theresa May said:

I have just chaired a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee, COBRA, following the sick and depraved terrorist attack on the streets of our Capital this afternoon.

The full details of exactly what happened are still emerging. But, having been updated by police and security officials, I can confirm that this appalling incident began when a single attacker drove his vehicle into pedestrians walking across Westminster Bridge, killing two people and injuring many more, including three police officers.

This attacker, who was armed with a knife, then ran towards Parliament where he was confronted by the police officers who keep us – and our democratic institutions – safe.

Tragically, one officer was killed. The terrorist was also shot dead.

The United Kingdom’s threat level has been set at severe for some time and this will not change. Acting Deputy Commissioner Rowley will give a further operational update later this evening.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected – to the victims themselves, and their family and friends who waved their loved ones off, but will not now be welcoming them home.

For those of us who were in Parliament at the time of this attack, these events provide a particular reminder of the exceptional bravery of our police and security services who risk their lives to keep us safe.

Once again today, these exceptional men and women ran towards the danger even as they encouraged others to move the other way.

On behalf of the whole country, I want to pay tribute to them – and to all our emergency services – for the work they have been doing to reassure the public and bring security back to the streets of our Capital City.

That they have lost one of their own in today’s attack only makes their calmness and professionalism under pressure all the more remarkable.

The location of this attack was no accident. The terrorists chose to strike at the heart of our Capital City, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech.

These streets of Westminster – home to the world’s oldest Parliament – are engrained with a spirit of freedom that echoes in some of the furthest corners of the globe. And the values our Parliament represents – democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law – command the admiration and respect of free people everywhere.

That is why it is a target for those who reject those values.

But let me make it clear today, as I have had cause to do before: any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to failure.

Tomorrow morning, Parliament will meet as normal. We will come together as normal.

And Londoners - and others from around the world who have come here to visit this great City - will get up and go about their day as normal.

They will board their trains, they will leave their hotels, they will walk these streets, they will live their lives.

And we will all move forward together. Never giving in to terror. And never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

Large phones, laptops and tablets not allowed in the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia.

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On Tuesday 21 March the government announced new aviation security measures on all inbound direct flights to the UK from the following countries:

  • Turkey
  • Lebanon
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Saudi Arabia

Under the new arrangements, passengers boarding flights from these countries to the UK will not be allowed to take phones, laptops and tablets which are larger than:

  • length: 16.0cm
  • width: 9.3cm
  • depth: 1.5cm

into the cabin of the plane. Passengers with these devices should check with their airlines for more details on transporting these items.

The additional security measures may cause some disruption for passengers and flights, and we understand the frustration that will cause, but our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals.

Direct flights to the UK from these destinations can continue to operate to the UK subject to these new measures being in place. Travellers are advised to keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice and to check online with their chosen carrier for further information.

Which devices are not allowed in the cabin?

  • large phones
  • all laptops
  • all tablets and e-readers

Which flights and routes will this apply to?

These new measures will apply on all inbound direct flights travelling to the UK from the following countries:

  • Turkey
  • Lebanon
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Saudi Arabia

Passengers travelling on these flights should check online with their carrier if they require further information.

Should I cancel my trip? Is it still safe to go to these countries?

These new measures are concerned with flights into the UK. The UK is not stopping direct flights to and from those countries. Those with imminent travel should contact their airline for further information. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also publishes travel advice.

What’s a ‘normal sized mobile phone’?

Most smart phones will be allowed in the cabin, including many common popular handsets such as:

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • LG G3
  • Sony Xperia Z2

The new UK measures will mean that phones, laptops and tablets larger than:

  • length: 16.0cm
  • width: 9.3cm
  • depth: 1.5cm

will not be allowed in the cabin.

Can I take items purchased from duty free on board?

Any phones, laptops or tablets larger than the above dimensions will not be allowed in the cabin, regardless of whether they were purchased in duty free.

Why are these measures not in place for flights travelling from the UK?

This applies to inbound flights. The UK has some of the most robust aviation security measures in the world but we keep this under constant review based on assessment of risk.

More about hand luggage restrictions on electronic devices and items at UK airports.

What about any costs incurred as a result of this? And what if I want to cancel my flight can I get compensation?

This is matter for the airlines. We encourage them to take a customer focused approach.

How long will these measures be in place?

The UK has some of the most robust aviation security measures in the world and we will continue to take all the steps we believe are necessary to put in place security measures we believe will be effective and proportionate. We keep our aviation security measures under constant review.

Is this in response to a specific threat?

It is long standing government policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

Why isn’t the UK following the US and banning all personal electronic devices from the cabin, why only phones, laptops and tablets?

We are confident these measures are proportionate and effective.

What happens to passengers travelling from countries unaffected by the measures who are transferring to an affected flight?

Transfer passengers who board a flight on a route affected will be subject to the measures.

Aviation and maritime media enquiries

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

The Secretary of State pays tribute to Martin McGuinness, former deputy First Minister, who died earlier this morning

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I want to extend my sympathy and sincere condolences to the family of Martin McGuinness at this difficult time.

Martin’s personal journey and the clear influence he had on others in the Republican movement were instrumental in shaping political institutions in Northern Ireland founded on exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

While not forgetting the past, no-one can doubt the essential role he played in helping to secure the power sharing arrangements and political progress in Northern Ireland. Martin’s commitment to reconciliation and understanding across communities was a significant factor.

Whilst passionate and robust in his politics, on a personal level I always found Martin to be thoughtful and reflective and appreciated the personal consideration he showed. The importance of family and his home in Derry shone through.

Martin will be remembered for his contribution to politics in Northern Ireland and particularly during his near ten years as deputy First Minister.

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

New online system, Report Illicit Drug Reaction, launched today to improve knowledge of the harmful effects of new psychoactive substances.

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Last year, according to the 2015 to 2016 Crime Survey for England and Wales, one in 40 (2.5%) young adults aged 16 to 24 took a new psychoactive substance and there is evidence of widespread use among vulnerable adults such as prisoners and homeless people. Whilst specialist services are responding, these harms are often poorly understood in frontline healthcare services and there is little guidance available to them.

Public Health England (PHE) in collaboration with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is piloting a national system to help better monitor the negative effects of NPS and share best treatment practice across a variety of settings, including A&E, sexual health clinics, mental health services, prison health services, drug treatment services and GP surgeries.

The UK-wide, easy to use Report Illicit Drug Reaction (RIDR) system will be accessible to all front line health staff. Information about the drug and its effects will be recorded anonymously using an online portal. Data from the tool will be analysed by experts to identify patterns of symptoms and harms. This will be used to inform treatment guidance and help staff deal more quickly with unknown substances, and improve patient safety.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at PHE, said:

The contents of NPS frequently change and their effects can be dangerous and unpredictable. These substances can cause serious problems to both mental and physical health.

Last year’s ban has helped reduce their easy availability, but we are still seeing the most vulnerable groups, particularly, the homeless, prisoners and some young people, suffering the greatest harm from these substances.

The new RIDR system will help health staff better deal with the emerging challenges we are seeing. We want to encourage all frontline staff in settings such as A&E, sexual health clinics, prisons, drug and mental health services, to use the system, which over time will greatly increase our knowledge of these new substances and ultimately improve patient care.

Dr Sarah Elise Finlay, Emergency Medicine Consultant, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

The information and advice provided by this new system will ultimately ease some of the burden and stress of managing those tricky overdose and poisoning cases in the early hours over the weekend in emergency settings.

Emergency services are facing significant pressure, which is why we’ve made the RIDR system as easy as possible for health staff. It’s great to know that, in future, help will be at hand for health staff dealing with the harms of these often unknown new drugs.

More information, including on how to register, is available on the RIDR website.

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

Ofqual has today confirmed that the first annual National Reference Test (NRT) has been held and that the test went according to plan.

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Each year, the test is taken by a sample of students in year 11, shortly before they take their GCSEs. This year’s test was held in 341 schools between 20 February and 3 March. At each school, up to 30 students took the English test and another 30 students took the maths test. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) carried out the testing in each school on Ofqual’s behalf and is now marking and analysing the students’ papers.

Each year a sample of students will take the same test so it will show, over time, if there is any change in how students perform at a national level. Results from the NRT will only be used to measure changes in performance nationally. There will be no results for individual students or schools

Sally Collier, Ofqual’s Chief Regulator said: “I would like to thank all the students and staff who took part in this first live National Reference Test. We have begun to analyse the results and we look forward to understanding more about how this new source of information can help us maintain standards in the reformed GCSEs.”

We would expect to see an improvement in early NRT results as student and teacher familiarity with the new English language and maths GCSEs increases. This, alongside the need to compare the performance of student cohorts over several years, means that we expect it will be 2019 at the earliest before exam boards will start to use the information from the NRT when they award GCSEs.

For more information about the National Reference Test, please read visit the NRT document collection.

For more information about the National Foundation for Educational Research please visit the NFER website.

TUESDAY, 21 MARCH 2017  | 

Ofqual has today published a statistical report on appeals for GCSE, AS and A level relating to the summer 2016 exam series.

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The report shows that there were 355 appeals against results made in 2016, compared to 466 in 2015 - a decrease of 24%.

This reduction is in the context of a drop in the number of GCSE, AS and A level unit entries and drop in the number of requests for reviews of marking in 2016 compare to 2015.

In 2016 211 (3.2%) of all grades challenged at appeal led to a grade change. This compares to 2015 where 49 (0.7%) of grades challenged under appeal were changed. An appeal can relate to more than one student.

This increase in successful appeals, from 31 in 2015 to 45 in 2016, follows a pilot run in 2016 to test new grounds for appeal in 3 subjects. For AS and A level geography, physics and religious studies the grounds for appeal following a review were extended to allow an appeal on the grounds of a marking error that was not corrected during the review. Traditionally, exam boards have only accepted appeals on the grounds of a procedural error.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, said: “The appeals pilot in three subjects is part of a set of wider changes we are making to the marking reviews and appeals system. The changes aim to make the system as fair as it can be for all students and to make sure students get the grade their performance deserved.

“We are evaluating the pilot before deciding whether to extend the additional grounds to other subjects.”

An appeal can be requested once a school or college has gone through the review of marking and moderation process if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.

The full statistical release, Appeals for GCSE and GCE: summer 2016 exam series, can be read here

WEDNESDAY, 22 MARCH 2017  | 

Alun Cairns writes for the Wales on Sunday

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The last 12 months have allowed me the opportunity to experience the very best of this country - to connect with every corner of Wales, to savour its culture, its history and its people.

I have experienced first-hand the euphoria of a stunning Welsh Euro 2016 Championship campaign which galvanised the country in celebration. Yet I have also been humbled in remembrance visiting the site of Mametz Wood where thousands of Welsh soldiers advanced 100 years ago in the bloody Battle of the Somme.

I have visited many companies - large and small - and have seen for myself that they aren’t simply surviving, they are thriving.

From oyster farming in the Menai Strait, to helping AB InBev brewery in Monmouthshire make 264,000 pints of beer, I have been privileged to sample the drive and determination of the Welsh workforce helping to put our country on a sound footing to economic growth.

When I stepped into the role of Secretary of State for Wales 365 days ago, I did so with a vision to foster a Welsh nation which is ambitious, confident and more outward looking than ever before.

One year on, Wales is in a real position of strength to become just that.

We are seeing the fastest growth outside London and, over the past year, the employment rate has grown faster in Wales than any other region of the UK.

The Welsh economy has already acquired an international reputation for excellence. But while many people, places and businesses are flourishing, opportunities and growth are still spread unevenly across the country.

That is why our new modern industrial strategy has been launched, and why I hosted the first Wales Business Export Summit in Cardiff earlier this month. I want to ensure every area of Wales can make the most of the opportunities ahead.

On the challenge of devolution I have been going even further, overseeing historic changes to how Wales is governed.

A new chapter in Wales’ constitution was written in January as the Wales Bill received Royal Assent. It is a settlement that will stand the test of time and delivers what I always intended - a clearer, stronger and fairer devolution settlement for Wales based on a reserved powers model.

We also saw a historic, needs based funding deal secured between governments in Cardiff Bay and Westminster, guaranteeing long term financial security for Wales.

The signing of the Cardiff City Deal last year has provided a real springboard for other regions of Wales to come forward with their aspirations for growth. My next priorities are to secure the Swansea Bay Region City Deal, as well as a growth deal for North Wales linked to the Northern Powerhouse.

Infrastructure is also key to our ability to succeed. On the challenge of modernising our infrastructure, I have laid down the challenge to the major mobile operators to reduce mobile not-spots across Wales with a deal to guarantee voice and text coverage from each. Modern Wales is entitled to modern infrastructure and I am determined to make it happen.

I was delighted to welcome the Transport Secretary to Wales at the start of the year to announce the reduction of Severn tolls. The Severn Crossing is a vital investment artery into Wales and our commitment to cutting the tolls is a clear demonstration once again that Wales is open for business.

Taken together these achievements take us one step closer to achieving this Government’s vision of building a country that works for everyone.

But these achievements have only been possible due to a maturing and positive relationship between UK and Welsh government ministers.

And at this momentous time, it is more important than ever that we face the future together as a strong United Kingdom. This great Union has been the cornerstone of Wales’ prosperity in the past, and its preservation will be at the heart of everything this Government does.

There is no denying that we are living through an important moment in our country’s history.

But I will not waste a second in getting on with the job - providing leadership to make sure that Wales is in the strongest possible position to prosper when we leave the European Union, to support jobs and growth and to make sure that the UK Government continues to deliver for the people of Wales.

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