Liz Truss Apologies for Conduct of Sir Christopher Chope

Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has apologised for the conduct of Sir Christopher Chope in blocking the progress of an anti-FGM bill. In a fierce attack on the backbench MP she said:

“When I see one of my colleagues opposing a measure which could have saved girls’ lives, could have saved girls from that horrendous experience, I’m absolutely appalled.”

Referring to Chope’s behaviour, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, also attacked the MP:

“Very disappointed by this. FGM is child abuse. I am determined to stamp out this despicable and medieval practice. We will do all we can protect girls at risk.”

James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary, also condemned Chope, saying:

“I’m just hugely disappointed.”

The chairman of the Conservative Association for Christchurch, Chope’s constituency, confirmed that there will be a meeting held to discuss the MP’s behaviour.

Government Announces New Measures to Tackle Rough Sleeping

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has announced new measures which are aimed to tackle the problem of rough sleeping. £30 million will be made available to local councils with a new rough sleeping team being appointed from across Government departments.

Javid said in a statement:

“This winter has tragically claimed the lives of a number of people sleeping on the streets. This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain. No one should ever have to sleep rough and this government is determined to break the homelessness cycle once and for all.

Tackling the causes of rough sleeping is undoubtedly complex but we must do all we can – working across central and local government, the voluntary and charity sector – to help the most vulnerable in society and eliminate rough sleeping for good”.

John Healey, the Shadow Housing Secretary, said that more funding was needed and added:

“You can’t help the homeless if you won’t provide the homes, and the money announced here is less than 1% of the Conservatives’ annual cut to funding for new low-cost housing”.

Sajid Javid Makes Statement on Troubled Northamptonshire County Council

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has made a statement in the House of Commons on troubled Northamptonshire County Council. He said that the council had been failing for many years and that there were significant financial failings within the organisation.

Javid said, referring to the independent report written by Max Caller:

“Northamptonshire’s failures are not down to a lack of funding or because it is being treated unfairly or is uniquely disadvantaged compared to other councils.

In fact, his report says that:

“for a number of years, NCC has failed to manage its budget and has not taken effective steps to introduce and maintain budgetary control”. Furthermore, the complex structure of financial support meant oversight was difficult and accountability blurred.

This report says that Northamptonshire’s Next Generation approach – which envisaged outsourcing many of the council’s functions – had no:

“hard edged business plan or justification to support these proposals”.

This “…made it difficult to ensure a line of sight over costs and operational activity” and “made it impossible for the council, as a whole to have any clarity or understanding as to what was going on”.

Similarly, the inspector found that Northamptonshire County Council used capital receipts to support revenue spend without documentary evidence demonstrating compliance with the Statutory Guidance and Direction”.

Javid concluded:

“With all of this mind, it is clear that I must consider whether further action is necessary to secure compliance with the Best Value duty. In doing so, I want to reassure the residents of Northamptonshire that essential services will continue to be delivered.

The Inspector is clear that “the problems faced by NCC are now so deep and ingrained that it is not possible to promote a recovery plan that could bring the council back to stability and safety in a reasonable timescale.”

He recommends that “a way forward, with a clean sheet, leaving all the history behind, is required”. I am therefore minded to appoint Commissioners to oversee the Authority using my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999.

From day 1, I propose that they take direct control over the council’s financial management and overall governance”.

Heather Smith Resigns as Leader of Northamptonshire County Council After Report Suggests Entire Authority Should be Scrapped

Heather Smith, the leader of the troubled Northamptonshire County Council, has resigned following a report that the council should be abolished and replaced by two new authorities. The independent report had been commissioned by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and he is expected to announce his intentions for the council shortly.

Matthew Golby, the Deputy Leader of the Council, said in a statement:

“While I am pleased the report recognises the hard work and dedication of the staff and recognises recent progress in financial management it is clear that the inspector has found what he believes to be significant failings at the council.

We accept the findings and we will now be acting accordingly and responding directly to the secretary of state.

While the report accepts the figures we use in arguing our case for fairer funding, it states we are in no worse position than other councils. We would argue that the sector as a whole does face significant financial challenges and we will continue to work with our local government partners to present our case.

While we will make these points in our response, we should in no way hide away from the general thrust of this report.

We will now be reviewing the report is far further detail and respond directly to the Secretary of State”.

 

Government Confirms that Some Powers have been Returned to Rotherham MBC

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has confirmed that five functions have been returned to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. This is on top of eight functions that have already been returned over the last nine months, having been removed following the Casey Report in 2015 which showed significant council failings.

Javid said in a statement:

“The council is continuing to make progress under the watchful eye of our commissioners and the return of additional powers to Rotherham reflects this progress. However, the commissioners will remain in place and continue to work with the council to help restore full democratic powers”.

Sajid Javid Issues Statement on Grenfell Towers

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has today issued a statement on the current situation on the Grenfell Towers disaster.

The text of Javid’s statement was:

“Five weeks have now passed since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.

Nothing that has happened in those 5 weeks will have diminished the grief of those who lost loved ones.

Nothing will have negated the trauma of those who lost their homes.

But across the public sector…

…in local and central government, in the emergency services, in hospitals, in schools and more…

…dedicated public servants have been doing all they can to deal with the aftermath and help the community to recover.

Over the past 5 weeks, the government has endeavoured to keep the House up-to-date with these developments.

This is the third oral statement I’ve made on the subject.

The House has also heard from the Prime Minister and the Housing Minister, who also answered questions in Westminster Hall before Parliament formally returned.

There has been a full debate in the Commons, 4 written statements, and a number of letters that have been sent to all Members.

My aim today is to provide an update before the House rises, and another opportunity for Hon Members to ask questions.

And I’d also like to let the House know exactly what action we’ll be taking over the summer.

Victims

The Police continue to list 80 people as either dead or missing presumed dead.

39 victims have so far been formally identified, with 39 inquests opened by the coroner and adjourned pending the public inquiry and police investigation.

2 adults remain in hospital.

I know that some local residents remain concerned that the number of people in the tower on the night has been underestimated.

I would continue to urge anyone with further information to come forward.

We’ve been very clear that we don’t mind if those affected were subletting or have immigration issues.

All we care about is getting to the truth.

Rehoming

Turning to the rehoming programme, everyone who lost their home in Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk has been made at least 1 offer of good quality, fully furnished temporary accommodation in the local area.

As of 10am this morning, 35 of these have been accepted and 10 families have moved in.

Those numbers are slightly down on the figures that were published recently as some people have changed their minds, as they are perfectly entitled to do.

Where residents have turned down an offer we are finding suitable alternatives to offer them.

Where residents aren’t yet ready to engage with the process, they don’t want to make a decision right now, or they would rather wait for a permanent home to be offered, we will respect that.

At DCLG questions this week, the quality of the accommodation being offered was raised.

I’d like to repeat the Housing Minister’s offer to the opposition front bench to visit some of these homes so they can inspect them for themselves.

I don’t believe they’ve yet taken us up on that offer so far, but it still stands.

In the longer term, we’re continuing to seek out and secure suitable permanent accommodation.

The first such homes for Grenfell families will be ready within days, and specialist teams are ready to start matching them to families and start making offers.

RBKC / Recovery Taskforce

At the town hall, we’re continuing preparations for the return of control of the recovery effort from Gold Command to Kensington and Chelsea council.

I’ve spoken at length with the new leader of the council and been very clear that Gold won’t hand over the reins until it’s clear that the council is ready and able to cope.

We saw last night the very raw anger that some in the community still feel towards the council.

It’s entirely understandable – as the Prime Minister herself has said, the initial response from the local authority was simply not good enough.

There’s not a lot of trust there, not a lot of confidence.

And that’s why, once Kensington and Chelsea council takes over the recovery operation, it will do so under the supervision of the independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce.

It is important to stress that the role of the Taskforce is not to investigate the causes of the fire or to apportion blame – that’s for the public inquiry and for the police investigation.

Rather, it is there to provide advice and support and see to it that council does the job that’s required of it.

We’re in the process of finalising the Taskforce membership, and I hope to make an announcement soon.

I can confirm that the handover from Gold to Kensington and Chelsea will not happen until the Taskforce is up and running.

Other towers / Testing

Away from Kensington, Madam Deputy Speaker, the fire safety testing programme continues.

We now believe that no more than 208 local authority and housing association residential blocks over 18 metres tall have been fitted with aluminium composite material cladding.

189 of these have had cladding samples tested by the Building Research Establishment, they’ve been tested by proxy or they have already had taken their cladding down.

None of them have passed the limited combustibility test.

Samples from a further 12 towers have been submitted this week and they are now being tested.

The BRE has yet to see samples from 7 towers, all of them managed by housing associations.

A month after the tests began, this is simply unacceptable.

And I expect to see them all submitting samples without any further delay.

On the advice of the Independent Expert Advisory Panel on Building Safety, the BRE is now undertaking system testing that will help establish how combinations of different types of ACM panels with different types of insulation behave in a fire.

An Explanatory Note, setting out the process and the timetable for further advice, will be published very shortly.

It has taken a short time to design and set up the test, but we expect the first results to be available next week.

As soon as results are available we will share them first with local authorities and housing associations who have confirmed that their properties are clad in the same combination of materials that are used in that test.

We will also, of course, share them with the local fire and rescue service.

The results will provide further information that building owners and their professional advisers can use to take decisions about what, if any, remedial action is required.

Although legal responsibility for fire safety enforcement lies with local authorities, I do have the power to direct an authority to consider these test results as part of their duty to keep housing conditions under review.

If necessary, I will not hesitate to use this power, which could lead to enforcement action being taken against a landlord if a fire risk is not dealt with.

I do hope it will not come to that.

Public inquiry

Moving on to the public inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick is continuing his preparatory work.

I welcome his decision to extend by 2 weeks the consultation period for the terms of reference.

While we’re all anxious for the inquiry to get underway, it is important that the remit is appropriate and that everyone affected has had an opportunity to share their views.

Updates over the summer

With the House due to rise later today this is the last statement I’ll be making before the summer recess.

But work on the recovery effort and testing regime will obviously continue at pace while Parliament isn’t sitting.

And my department will be writing regular letters to all Members to keep them abreast of progress.

Thanks to MPs / conclusion

And finally, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the many Members on both sides of the House who have assisted with the emergency response and recovery effort so far.

They’ve provided insight, support, scrutiny and a voice for their constituents, both in public and behind the scenes.

The weeks, months and even years ahead will be unimaginably difficult for those that have been caught up in the fire and those who have lost family and friends.

There’s nothing any of us can do to bring back those who died or erase the trauma of that terrible night.

But I’m sure the whole House shares my determination to take care of those that have been affected by the fire…to make sure the truth comes out and that justice is done, and to see to it that a tragedy like this never ever happens again”.

Government to Return Democratic Power Back to Tower Hamlets

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has confirmed that the Government is returning full powers back to Tower Hamlets council. The democratic powers were taken from Tower Hamlets council after independent auditors found that there was a lack of democratic accountability.

Javid said in a statement:

“I’m confident that Tower Hamlets council is on the right track to provide the services their residents deserve and rightly expect. That’s why I have decided to return all powers to the council.

I want to make sure that taxpayers’ money is put to the best use, in an open and transparent way. So I will want to hear from Tower Hamlets every three months on the progress they’re making”.

Sajid Javid Fast-Tracks Investigation into BHS Collapse

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, has fast-tracked an investigation into why the retailer BHS collapsed last week.

Javid confirmed that the investigation would cover the actions of both current and past directors to ascertain if their actions caused detriment to creditors of the company.

Javid said in a statement:

“I have asked the Insolvency Service to bring forward its investigation rather than wait 3 months for the administrators to report before launching their inquiry. This investigation will look at the conduct of the directors at the time of insolvency and any individuals who were previously directors. Any issues of misconduct will be taken very seriously”.

Government Rule out Steel Nationalisation

tatesteel

The Government has ruled out nationalising the steel industry saying that “it is not the answer”.  John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, called for the Government to “get a grip” on the situation, with 40,000 jobs at risk following Tata Steel’s decision to shut down UK operations.

Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, issued this statement:

“I am deeply concerned about the situation. I think it is absolutely clear that the UK steel industry is absolutely vital for the country. We will look at all viable options to keep steelmaking continuing in Port Talbot. We also are very much alive to the human cost. We want to make sure that no worker is left behind, so where workers are affected, that we’re doing everything we possibly can to help them and their families.

Options – renationalise

At this stage, given the announcement from Tata has just come out, it is important we talk to them properly and understand the exact situation and look at all viable options. I don’t think that nationalisation is going to be the solution, particularly if you take into account the big challenges the industry faces. But there are solutions to this once we understand the situation better and we want to make sure that we explore all of them.

Who is going to buy a business that is losing a million pounds a day?
Well actually Tata has announced recently another part of their steel business in the UK that they were planning to close down, and a buyer has been found for that. Recently, there was an announcement for part of their business in Scotland where a buyer has been found. So I think there are buyers out there. It might require some kind of government support, and we are more than ready to look at all ways that we can provide commercial support to really secure the long-term future of steelmaking in Port Talbot.

How long would you give that support for?

I think we will look at all options. Right now it is too early to tell what options are exactly on the table, because we want to speak to potential buyers, but the good thing is that we have been in discussions with Tata for a number of weeks over a number of issues that they have faced. I spoke today to the head of Tata and we have his assurance that we will work together constructively to try and secure the long-term future of steelmaking in Port Talbot.

Message to workers and their families

I think this kind of news is absolutely devastating for a local community. For so many workers in a place where steelmaking has been the culture, the fabric of the community for such a long time, I am very much alive to that human cost, and my assurance to them is that the government will do everything it can to keep steelmaking in Port Talbot. And secondly, where workers are affected, to make sure that that impact is minimal and we do everything we can to help them and their families”.

John McDonnell said:

“I think in the short-term nationalise to stabilise and then look at the plans that have been brought forward by a combination of workers and management, which is about restructuring the company. Too many jobs are at stake, we know we’ll need steel in the future and it’s better for that steel to come from our own country than elsewhere”.