Written questions and answers

Written questions allow Members of Parliament to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments.

Historical written answers can be found in Hansard.

Find the latest written questions and answers for the 2017-19 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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Q
Asked by Diana Johnson
(Kingston upon Hull North)
[N]
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Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 13 October 2017
Home Office
Slavery
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the Answer of 25 October 2016 to Question 48814, on slavery, if she will provide further data for (a) 2016 and (b) 2017.
A
Answered by: Victoria Atkins
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The table below sets out the number of National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referrals that have been suspended before Reasonable and Conclusive Grounds decision stages between 2009 and 2016. NRM decisions are suspended when it is not possible to gather further information to make a decision, for example if the Competent Authority decision makers become aware that the individual referred has gone missing. In such cases, the Competent Authority must ensure the missing individual has been reported to the police.

Year

Total Number of Potential Victims Referred to National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

Potential victim reported exploitation as

Suspended Pre-Reasonable Grounds decision

Suspended Pre-Conclusive Grounds decision

2009

534

Adult (385)

2

12

Minor (149)

2

10

2010

712

Adult (525)

2

10

Minor (187)

6

7

2011

945

Adult (647)

1

9

Minor (298)

3

19

2012

1183

Adult (812)

3

10

Minor (370)

7

34

Unknown (1)

0

0

2013

1745

Adult (1,297)

9

20

Minor (448)

15

17

2014

2339

Adult (1,667)

5

26

Minor (672)

3

25

2015

3262

Adult (2,284)

5

35

Minor (978)

23

52

2016

3804

Adult (2,527)

4

32

Minor (1277)

13

21

The Government is committed to ensuring that children who have been trafficked receive the right support, including through the national roll-out of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates. The Advocates will help to protect trafficked children from further harm, including preventing children from being re-trafficked or going missing.

On 16 January, the Home Secretary announced the award of £2.2m from the Child Trafficking Protection Fund (CTPF) to seven organisations to protect vulnerable children in the UK and overseas who are at risk of trafficking. The CTPF has two objectives. First, victim support and recovery, including specialist care to trafficked children. Second, reducing vulnerability to exploitation, by preventing trafficked children from going missing and potentially being re-trafficked. The projects cover a range of proposals including tailored support for trafficking victims from various cultures, developing skills and expertise in local areas, and a specialist accommodation pilot.

Q
Asked by Ian Blackford
(Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
[R]
Close

Registered Interest

Indicates that a relevant interest has been declared.

Asked on: 18 October 2017
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture: Subsidies
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when his Department plans to publish its review on convergence uplift payments to Scottish farmers.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The Secretary of State received a letter from the member for Dumfries and Galloway requesting a review of intra-UK allocations of funding for agricultural support on 26 October.

The Secretary of State also met Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, on 6 November to discuss intra-UK allocations. We will set out next steps in due course.

Q
Asked by Darren Jones
(Bristol North West)
Asked on: 23 October 2017
Department for Education
Pupils: Personal Records
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, on what basis journalists can access identifying and sensitive health data about children's special educational needs from the national pupil database; and if she will make a statement.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 20 November 2017

Any request to use National Pupil Database data is only processed if it complies with the requirements of the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) (England) Regulations 2009, made under section 537A(4) of the Education Act 1996 and the Data Protection Act 1998. As part of the approval process officials, including senior data experts and legal advisers, assess each application for legality, proportionality and security. The panel must also be satisfied that the access requested is ethical and of value to education.

If journalists are able to meet these standards, their request will be considered.

Q
Asked by Lady Hermon
(North Down)
Asked on: 31 October 2017
Northern Ireland Office
Employment: Northern Ireland
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, what assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the number of jobs in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.
A
Answered by: James Brokenshire
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The economy in Northern Ireland remains strong. The unemployment rate is down to 4.0 per cent over the year, the lowest since the great recession in 2008, and those receiving unemployment-related benefits has decreased again, falling by more than 26,000 claimants since early 2010. More than 10,000 new jobs were created in Northern Ireland over the year, meaning more people with the security of a regular pay packet for themselves and their family.

We are committed to securing a deal that works for the entire United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. That is outlined in the Northern Ireland and Ireland Position Paper, published on 16 August 2017. We are positive about the opportunities that our departure presents to Northern Ireland – getting out into the world and doing business right across the globe, while at home building a UK that works for everyone. That is demonstrated by our desire to work with a restored Executive towards a comprehensive and ambitious set of City Deals for Northern Ireland, just as it is by the £4.7bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund that will help to deliver innovation, employment and growth right across the UK.

Asked on: 01 November 2017
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Commonwealth: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what priority they have given to addressing freedom of religion or belief across the Commonwealth at next year’s Commonwealth Summit; and what funding, if any, has been allocated by the Cabinet Office’s Commonwealth Secretariat to deliver a programme of events around that issue in the run-up to the Summit.
A
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The Government remains firmly committed to the promotion and protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief in all countries. The Prime Minister has announced the four themes for the summit: prosperity, security, sustainability and fairness. The summit will encourage all Commonwealth members to uphold the values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including religious freedom or belief. We are currently working with the Commonwealth Secretariat and other member states to establish a detailed agenda for the week of the summit and the programme of events.

We are currently considering programmes for the UK's Commonwealth Chair-in-Office period, the two years following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018. We have agreed to support the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in hosting a forum which will bring parliamentarians from around the Commonwealth together for important discussions across the key challenges facing the Commonwealth, including upholding the Commonwealth Charter. We have also provided £20,000 to the Royal Commonwealth Society to support its interfaith service, which will take place in Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day in March 2018.

Asked on: 01 November 2017
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Commonwealth: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are taking steps ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in 2018 to document levels of government restrictions and societal hostility towards religious freedom across the Commonwealth.
A
Answered on: 20 November 2017

Her Majesty's Government remains firmly committed to the promotion and protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in all countries. Throughout our diplomatic network, including our High Commissions, diplomats are instructed to take account of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief and report back to London.

On International Religious Freedom Day, I wrote to all Ambassadors and High Commissioners regarding the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO)'s work to protect and promote FoRB globally. I have also initiated a series of roundtable discussions on FoRB with civil society and faith leaders to increase our collaboration in this area. Ministers and officials raise individual cases with relevant authorities and highlight practices and laws that discriminate against people on the basis of their religion or belief. We also speak out publicly in support of FoRB, for example during my recent visit to Bangladesh in August 2017, I visited the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Dhaka and made a call for religious tolerance. We also include reporting on FoRB in our Annual Human Rights Report, which includes some Commonwealth countries.

To support staff working on these issues, the FCO has re-issued its revised "toolkit" on FoRB and continues to provide training and seminars to increase religious literacy amongst staff.

Q
Asked on: 01 November 2017
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
British Nationals Abroad: Terrorism
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the statement by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 1 November, what is the basis for their assessment that terrorists are “flooding” back into the United Kingdom; and what plans they have to prevent this from continuing.
A
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The threat posed by individuals who have gained combat experience and been further radicalised by spending time fighting for Daesh is an important issue for the UK and its international partners. Approximately 850 UK-linked individuals of national security concern have travelled to engage in the Syrian conflict. We estimate that just under half have returned to the UK and over 15 per cent have been killed in fighting in the region.

This is a global challenge and the international community must work together, learn from each other's experiences and share best practice. There are two aspects to how we manage this threat: focusing on UK-linked individuals returning to the UK, and considering foreign terrorist fighter flows overseas.

Everyone who returns to the UK from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be investigated by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences and ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security. The police have a range of legal powers they can use to manage any risk they pose. The UK supports its counter terrorism partners around the world to manage this risk by sharing information and experience, and by providing support to develop capabilities to manage the risk.

Asked on: 02 November 2017
Ministry of Justice
Alternatives to Prison: Mothers
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of promoting the use of community-based sentences as a first option for offences that presently require custodial sentences, in order to ensure that mothers are not separated from their children.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 20 November 2017

It is important that there are robust community options available to sentencers so that vulnerable women with complex needs, including those with children, are only sent to prison when it is absolutely necessary.

We are developing a strategy for female offenders to improve outcomes for women in custody and in the community. As part of this work we are already investing £1 million seed funding between 2016 and 2020 to help local areas develop improved, multi-agency approaches to support female offenders in their area.

Sentences in individual cases are decided by the courts, who take into account guidelines issued by the independent Sentencing Council.

In February 2017, the Council issued its guideline “Imposition of Community and Custodial and Sentences”, which makes it clear that prison should be reserved for the most serious offences, and that custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime. The guideline also notes that for offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.

Q
Asked by Lord Vinson
Asked on: 02 November 2017
Attorney General
Hate Crime: Prosecutions
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government under what authority the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has agreed a definition of racially and religiously aggravated crime that is wider than the legal definition under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and Criminal Justice Act 2003, as indicated in the CPS Public statement on prosecuting racist and religious hate crime published in August.
A
Corrected answer by: Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Corrected on: 20 November 2017
An error has been identified in the written answer given on 16 November 2017.
The correct answer should have been:

In order to charge and prosecute hate crimes, the CPS uses the legal definition provided by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and Criminal Justice Act 2003. The shared police and CPS definition of hate crime is based on the perception of the victim or any other person and allows for case flagging and monitoring as well as appropriate victim support, it does not affect the charge.

This flagging definition comes from the recommended definition in the Macpherson report which was published in 1999 as a result of the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson Report found a lack of confidence within communities that hate crime was being treated seriously by the police and Criminal Justice System and recommended that the definition of a racist incident should be, ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. Putting the victim’s perception at the heart of the definition gives a clear signal that, once flagged as a hate crime, an appropriate investigation will follow and evidence to support the law on hostility will be proactively sought. The definition seeks to encourage victims to report and to increase confidence in the Criminal Justice System.

A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 16 November 2017

In order to charge and prosecute hate crimes, the CPS uses the legal definition provided by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and Criminal Justice Act 2003. The shared police and CPS definition of hate crime is based on the perception of the victim or any other person and allows for case flagging and monitoring as well as appropriate victim support, it does not affect the charge.

This flagging definition comes from the recommended definition in the Macpherson report which was published in 1999 as a result of the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson Report found a lack of confidence within communities that hate crime was being treated seriously by the police and Criminal Justice System and recommended that the definition of a racist incident should be, ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. Putting the victim’s perception at the heart of the definition gives a clear signal that, once flagged as a hate crime, an appropriate investigation will follow and evidence to support the law on hostility will be proactively sought. The definition seeks to encourage victims to report and to increase confidence in the Criminal Justice System.

Q
Asked by Chris Ruane
(Vale of Clwyd)
Asked on: 02 November 2017
Home Office
Home Office: Telephone Services
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many and what proportion of her Department's public phone-lines charge members of the public to call.
A
Answered by: Victoria Atkins
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The Home Office has 24 public phone lines in use across its contact centres. All of these numbers are chargeable.

Q
Asked by Dan Carden
(Liverpool, Walton)
Asked on: 03 November 2017
Home Office
Offences against Children: Merseyside
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of trends in the level of child exploitation by criminal gangs across Merseyside.
A
Answered by: Victoria Atkins
Answered on: 20 November 2017

Intelligence and information on child criminal exploitation is collected at individual force level and Merseyside Police will hold the relevant information. At a national level, the National Crime Agency (NCA) is responsible for producing a national threat assessment on county lines based on information provided by individual forces and Regional Organised Crime Units and this includes child criminal exploitation. The next national threat assessment by the NCA is due to be published very shortly.

We are taking firm action to tackle the issue of child criminal exploitation and county lines this includes: publishing new guidance for practitioners on identifying county lines and helping those being exploited; funding a pilot service for exploited young people caught up in county lines drugs running; match-funding local reviews to build resilience in areas where there are concerns about county lines; and we will be shortly implementing new powers to enable the police to close down mobile phone numbers that are being used to deal drugs as part of the county lines model.

Q
Asked on: 06 November 2017
Department for Work and Pensions
Personal Independence Payment
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much money has been spent in each of the last 12 months on the process of administering Personal Independence Payment (1) mandatory reconsiderations, and (2) tribunals, in (a) England, (b) Scotland, and (c) Wales.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The table attached at Annex A Table 1 provides data on the amount spent by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on administering Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mandatory reconsiderations in each of the last 12 months (October 2016 to September 2017 inclusive)

DWP does not hold separate costs relating to mandatory reconsiderations for England, Scotland and Wales and these could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

The table attached at Annex A Table 2 provides data on the amount spent by DWP on internal costs of administering PIP appeals in each of the last 12 months (October 2016 to September 2017 inclusive)

DWP does not hold separate costs relating to appeals for England, Scotland and Wales and these could only be obtained at disproportionate cost

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service holds data on overall tribunal costs for the First-tier Tribunal (Social Security and Child Support Appeals). Therefore, to give PIP-only tribunal costs could only be done at disproportionate cost.

Annex A (Word Document, 16.55 KB)
Q
Asked on: 06 November 2017
Department for Work and Pensions
Personal Independence Payment
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the performance measures in (1) England, (2) Scotland, and (3) Wales, for the percentage of Personal Independence Payment mandatory reconsiderations which are to be upheld.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 20 November 2017

There are no targets within the Department for Work and Pensions and none set for Atos and Capita for upholding applications for mandatory reconsiderations. Each application is considered on its merits.

Grouped Questions: HL2975
Q
Asked on: 06 November 2017
HM Treasury
National Insurance Credits
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the number of women who are not claiming Child Benefit due to a parent earning above £50,000 and who do not receive the credit for National Insurance State Pension each year.
A
Answered by: Lord Bates
Answered on: 20 November 2017

Child Benefit can help some claimants qualify for National Insurance credits. These credits count towards their State Pension and protect it by making sure they don’t have gaps in their National Insurance record.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) ensures that individuals have the information they need to make well-informed choices about their pension position and Child Benefit. HMRC provides specific information on the Child Benefit claim form, through the HMRC helpline, online at gov.uk, through partners such as Citizen’s Advice, and in the Bounty Packs that go to new parents.

However, some people may choose not to claim Child Benefit. HMRC does not have an estimate of the number of people whose state pension entitlements are affected by their decision not to claim.

Asked on: 06 November 2017
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
North Korea: Refugees
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to make representations to the government of China concerning the proposed repatriation to North Korea of a group of ten escapees, including a three year old child, who are being held at Shenyang police station detention centre.
A
Answered on: 20 November 2017

​We are aware of reports of a number of North Koreans being detained in the city of Shenyang, China. At this time we have not raised these individual cases with the Chinese Government.

Despite claims by the DPRK authorities that forcibly repatriated refugees are well treated and reintegrated into DPRK society, reports suggest that they are often mistreated by the authorities.

​We raised the issue of non-refoulement with the Chinese authorities at the UK-China Human rights Dialogue, which was held on 28 June.

Asked on: 06 November 2017
Department for Education
Schools: Asbestos
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent assessment they have made of the danger of asbestos in schools; what advice they give to schools and local authorities about its safe removal; and how many deaths of (1) teachers, (2) students, and (3) others, who may have contracted mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases while in school buildings, there have been in each of the last ten years.
A
Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton
Answered on: 20 November 2017

The department takes the issue of asbestos in schools seriously, and is committed to supporting schools, local councils and academy trusts to fulfil their duty to manage asbestos safely. If managed carefully, the presence of asbestos in schools does not pose a risk to staff or pupils. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that as long as asbestos-containing materials are undamaged, encapsulated and not in locations where they are vulnerable to damage, they should be managed in situ.

In February 2017 the department published a report of a survey of asbestos management in schools. Approximately 25% of schools in England responded to the survey. Of the 83% of schools with asbestos present: 98% had an asbestos management survey; 97% had an asbestos register; and 97% reported that they had processes and procedures in place to prevent disturbance of asbestos in the education estate. We plan in future to seek written assurance from all duty holders that their schools are compliant with existing legislation and guidance on the management of asbestos in schools.

In February 2017 the department also published updated guidance, which provides information on action duty holders should take in order to prevent pupils and staff being exposed to asbestos. The guidance makes clear that the removal of asbestos should take place only if asbestos containing materials are in poor condition and advises on the risks of unsafe removal. It advises on actions that duty holders must take where work is carried out on the premises which might disturb asbestos containing materials (including asbestos removal).

The Government has committed more than £10 billion over 2016-2021 to rebuild, expand and maintain the school estate. Over time it is expected that this programme of work will eradicate asbestos in the education estate. The department directly funds the removal of asbestos through schemes such as the Priority Schools Building Programme and provides capital funding for asbestos management and removal where appropriate for schools that have identified that asbestos is in poor condition or poses a high risk of deterioration.

Data on the number of deaths of (1) teachers, (2) students, and (3) others, who may have contracted mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases while in school buildings is not collected by the department. The HSE publish information, copy attached, on their website on asbestos-related deaths, available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/asbestos.htm.

Asbestos Related Disease (PDF Document, 242.7 KB)
Q
Asked by Lord Beecham
Asked on: 06 November 2017
Ministry of Justice
Magistrates' Courts: Newcastle upon Tyne
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Keen of Elie on 26 September (HL1527), whether they intend that the full range of Newcastle magistrates' court proceedings will be conducted at the premises referred to; and if not, why not.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 20 November 2017

HM Courts & Tribunals Service intends that the proposed magistrates’ court facilities at Newcastle Combined Court will be capable of hearing a range of magistrates' courts work including cases involving custody. If workload levels exceed the hearing and custodial capacity of the court then cases will be listed into other nearby magistrates’ court buildings.

Q
Asked on: 06 November 2017
Department for Work and Pensions
Disability Rights Commission
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consult on the recreation of the Disability Rights Commission with all its previous powers and under the auspices of the DWP.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 20 November 2017

We are committed to supporting all disabled people to live independent lives, and to reach their full potential in a modern and inclusive society. This includes ensuring disabled people are engaged with all decisions that concern them.

We have no current plans to consult to recreate the Disability Human Rights Commission as this role is now exercised by the government funded, Equality and Human Rights Commission which replaced the Disability Rights Commission in 2007.

Q
Asked by Lord Blunkett
Asked on: 06 November 2017
Department of Health
Health Services
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice or direction they have given to clinical commissioning groups in relation to the reconfiguration of local services, specifically (1) the removal and closure of walk-in centres opened under the reforms set out in the Darzi Review, and (2) the use of apps to replace local services with technology.
A
Answered by: Lord O'Shaughnessy
Answered on: 20 November 2017

Local commissioners have been asked to review their current local urgent care facilities against the key Urgent Treatment Centres standards and make a decision for each facility; these decisions should be based on local patient need and take into consideration current and planned future provision of urgent and primary care services.

NHS England is working with clinical commissioning groups to develop complementary online channels to operate alongside existing services, which offer patients choice and flexibility. This includes the deployment of NHS 111 Online to all areas in England, allowing people to connect with urgent health care services through either a web-based or app-based interface.

NHS Improvement is leading the effort to standardise and enhance the service offer, make sure services are best positioned to reduce unnecessary attendances at accident and emergency departments, and help patients understand what services are available wherever they are in the country.

Asked on: 06 November 2017
Ministry of Defence
RAF Marham: Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 30 October (HL2256), which elements of the infrastructure programme at RAF Marham are (1) behind schedule, (2) on schedule, and (3) ahead of schedule.
A
Answered by: Earl Howe
Answered on: 20 November 2017

All elements of the infrastructure programme at RAF Marham are progressing well and are expected to be completed in time to meet the programme needs. I can confirm that most elements are on track, two are behind contract dates and one element is in delay, but this is not expected to affect the Initial Operating Capability date.

I am withholding further information relating to individual elements of the infrastructure programme as its disclosure would prejudice commercial interests.

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