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 2015-16 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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Unique Identifying Number – Every written question in the House of Commons has a UIN per Parliament. In the House of Lords each written questions has a UIN per parliamentary session.
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Q
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for International Development
Syria: Humanitarian Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much of the $6 billion of humanitarian aid pledged at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in February has been disbursed.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The Syria Conference raised a record amount of more than $12 billion - the largest amount raised in one day for a humanitarian crisis. $6billion was pledged for 2016 and a further $6.1billion for 2017-20 to enable partners to plan ahead. According to the UN, as of 26 August, $4.8 billion has been committed by donors to implementing partners for humanitarian assistance in 2016.

The UK continues to urge donors to deliver on the commitments made in London including at the forthcoming UN General Assembly in New York, where the Secretary of State for International Development will co-host a Conference follow-up event. The Department for International Development has set up a tracking mechanism that will report on the delivery of all the financial commitments made at the conference, including humanitarian and development funding and loans. The first report from the tracking mechanism will be published in September.

Q
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for International Development
Syria: Foreign Loans
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made since the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in February in implementing loans by multilateral development banks and bilateral donors to help vulnerable Syrians and host communities in the Middle East.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The Syria Conference raised a record amount of more than $12 billion - the largest amount raised in one day for a humanitarian crisis. This was supported by Multilateral Development Banks and donors’ pledges of around $41 billion loans, including $1.7 billion on highly concessional terms.

The World Bank launched the MENA Finance Initiative to support Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon at the Spring Meetings in April. Donors pledged $140 million in grants and over $1 billion in concessional loans. Grant pledges have since increased to $225 million.

As part of this initiative, the UK is providing an £80 million concessional loan to the World Bank MENA Finance Facility to support employment opportunities for Syrian refugees in Jordan. In July, a successful first meeting of the Steering Committee saw two Jordan projects approved.

The UK continues to urge donors to deliver on the commitments made at the London Conference in London. The Department for International Development has set up a tracking mechanism that will report on the delivery of the financial commitments made at the London Conference, including humanitarian and development funding and loans. The first report from the tracking mechanism will be published in September.

Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Education
Degrees
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by the Earl of Courtown on 3 August (HL1378), how many institutions applied to the Quality Assurance Agency’s Advisory Committee on Degree Awarding Powers for degree-awarding powers between 2013 and 2016 inclusive; and what is the current status of each application.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

During this period, 24 institutions have applied for degree-awarding powers. Of those applications, 9 awards have been made and 13 applications are either currently undergoing scrutiny or awaiting final decision from the Privy Council following advice from the Quality Assurance Agency. There were also 2 applications that did not proceed to full scrutiny, as referred to in the earlier answer, HL 1378.

Q
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Transport
Taxis: Wheelchairs
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to ensure that taxis are wheelchair accessible; and whether they plan to set a target for all taxi firms and hire car operators to have a minimum number of wheelchair accessible vehicles in their fleets by 2020.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) play an important role in enabling disabled people to complete door-to-door journeys independently, and it is essential that they are accessible to those needing to use them.

Local licensing authorities already have powers to determine the categories of vehicle included in their fleets, and we encourage them to ensure a range of passengers are catered for. Whilst wheelchair accessible vehicles are vital for some passengers, for some ambulant disabled people they can be difficult to access. As such we encourage authorities to consider the needs of all potential passengers when determining the make-up of their taxi and PHV fleets.

We currently have no plans to set minimum quotas for wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Q
Asked by Lord Bradshaw
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Transport
East Coast Railway Line
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 17 June (HL515), what progress has been made in assessing the detailed implications for the timetable and train performance on the East Coast Main Line of the decision to run 7.5 long distance trains per hour from 2021.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Network Rail and the relevant train operators will continue to develop the detail and performance implications of the 2021 timetable in line with the industry’s normal timetable development process, under the oversight of the Office of Rail and Road.

With regard to the operation of the Thameslink central core, this is a matter for Network Rail and the relevant train operators, under the oversight of the Office of Rail and Road. The industry is continuing to develop plans for integrating the 24 trains per hour proposed to run on the Thameslink route at peak times from December 2018 with other services on the East Coast Main Line, including the implications for punctuality and reliability.

After consulting with Network Rail we have established that there were five ‘unplanned closures’, on various sections of the line, on five separate days in August, two of which were infrastructure related and three as a result of passenger action.

Network Rail have defined days with ‘unplanned closures’ of the East Coast Main Line as days where there are more than five cancellation events. A cancellation event covers any service suffering one or more of the below events:

  • Full Cancellation
  • Part Cancellation
  • Diversion
  • Fail to stop
  • Change of Origin
Q
Asked by Lord Bradshaw
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Transport
East Coast Railway Line
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 17 June (HL516), what assessment they have made of the levels of punctuality and reliability of trains on the East Coast Main Line required to facilitate a proposal to integrate 24 trains per hour through the central core of Thameslink via Blackfriars.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Network Rail and the relevant train operators will continue to develop the detail and performance implications of the 2021 timetable in line with the industry’s normal timetable development process, under the oversight of the Office of Rail and Road.

With regard to the operation of the Thameslink central core, this is a matter for Network Rail and the relevant train operators, under the oversight of the Office of Rail and Road. The industry is continuing to develop plans for integrating the 24 trains per hour proposed to run on the Thameslink route at peak times from December 2018 with other services on the East Coast Main Line, including the implications for punctuality and reliability.

After consulting with Network Rail we have established that there were five ‘unplanned closures’, on various sections of the line, on five separate days in August, two of which were infrastructure related and three as a result of passenger action.

Network Rail have defined days with ‘unplanned closures’ of the East Coast Main Line as days where there are more than five cancellation events. A cancellation event covers any service suffering one or more of the below events:

  • Full Cancellation
  • Part Cancellation
  • Diversion
  • Fail to stop
  • Change of Origin
Q
Asked by Lord Bradshaw
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Transport
East Coast Railway Line
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 17 June (HL518), how many unplanned closures of the East Coast Main Line there were in August.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Network Rail and the relevant train operators will continue to develop the detail and performance implications of the 2021 timetable in line with the industry’s normal timetable development process, under the oversight of the Office of Rail and Road.

With regard to the operation of the Thameslink central core, this is a matter for Network Rail and the relevant train operators, under the oversight of the Office of Rail and Road. The industry is continuing to develop plans for integrating the 24 trains per hour proposed to run on the Thameslink route at peak times from December 2018 with other services on the East Coast Main Line, including the implications for punctuality and reliability.

After consulting with Network Rail we have established that there were five ‘unplanned closures’, on various sections of the line, on five separate days in August, two of which were infrastructure related and three as a result of passenger action.

Network Rail have defined days with ‘unplanned closures’ of the East Coast Main Line as days where there are more than five cancellation events. A cancellation event covers any service suffering one or more of the below events:

  • Full Cancellation
  • Part Cancellation
  • Diversion
  • Fail to stop
  • Change of Origin
Q
Asked by Lord Bradshaw
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Transport
East Coast Railway Line
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 17 June (HL402), when they expect to complete their estimate of the financial impact that the decision by the Office of Road and Rail to allow competition on the East Coast Main Line will have on the existing Virgin Trains East Coast franchise.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The Government has estimated the financial impact of the Office of Rail and Roads decision on the franchise. However, in light of the potential impact on the franchisee, this information is considered to be commercially sensitive.

Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Transport
Road Traffic Offences
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to ensure that EU law relating to traffic will continue to be enforced when the UK leaves the EU.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The Government is considering the impacts of the decision to leave the EU, including future arrangements for existing legislation. Until we leave the EU, EU law continues to apply, so we continue to comply with the requirements relating to traffic.

Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for Education
Equal Pay
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that has identified an 18 per cent gap between men's and women's earnings.
A
Answered by: Lord Nash
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) research notes that the differential in average earnings between women and men remains substantial. The Office for National Statistics figures show that the gender pay gap has been virtually eliminated for women under 40 years of age working full-time, and has decreased for all women over 40 years of age working full-time, but we know that there is more to do. New regulations requiring large employers to be more transparent will take us one step closer to eliminating the gender pay gap within a generation.

The IFS research also highlighted that the gender pay gap widens once women start a family. We have extended the right to request flexible working to all employees; introduced a new system of shared parental leave; and committed to providing 30 hours of free childcare a week for working families.

Q
Asked on: 06 September 2016
Department for International Development
Gaza: Humanitarian Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take in the light of the call by the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities for international support to improve the living conditions of those living in Gaza and to lift the blockade.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The UK remains deeply concerned by the situation in Gaza. As my hon friend the Minister of State Rory Stewart is new to his role, he is conducting a full examination of our work in the OPTs, including our support to Gaza. UK aid helps to provide basic services and support economic development in Gaza. The UK government continues to press for a sustainable political solution which will address Israel’s legitimate security concerns whilst opening up movement and access.

Asked on: 07 September 2016
Department for International Development
St Helena: Airports
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made on tackling the wind shear issue that is preventing the opening of St Helena’s airport to regular passenger flights; and when they anticipate that regular passenger flights will begin at that airport.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Work is ongoing to establish the impact of the wind conditions at St Helena Airport, with a view to identifying the means to mitigate the impact of the wind shear on flight operations. At the same time work continues to identify options for commencing commercial air services, the timing of which depends on securing the right aircraft and regulatory approvals. We are aiming for these services to start as soon as possible.

Asked on: 07 September 2016
Department for Transport
Roads: Gloucestershire
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with Gloucestershire County Council regarding the budget required to repair local roads in the county.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Whilst no specific discussions have been held with Gloucestershire County Council in respect to local highways maintenance budgets, the Department for Transport officials meet with officers from all local highway authorities in respect to a wide range of local transport issues on a regular basis.

The Government has committed record levels of investment, over £6 billion, to highways maintenance up to 2020/21, including a Pothole Action Fund totalling £250 million in this Parliament. From this funding we are allocating over £95 million to the council to help improve the condition of the local roads for which Gloucestershire County Council are responsible.

Q
Asked by Lord Mawson
Asked on: 08 September 2016
Department for Transport
Railways: Graffiti
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to remove graffiti from the rail network.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Graffiti removal on the rail network is an operational matter for Network Rail, but the company has advised me that it currently spends around £3.5 million a year for this purpose.

Q
Asked by Lord Mawson
Asked on: 08 September 2016
Department for Transport
Railways: Industrial Health and Safety
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the health and safety implications of discarded pieces of rail and equipment alongside tracks across the rail network.
A
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The independent regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), is responsible for monitoring and enforcing health and safety matters in respect of Britain’s railway. It has confirmed that Network Rail has standards in place regarding the removal of material and equipment following the completion of works and that Network Rail provides adequate guidance to its staff on this issue in order to minimise health and safety risks. However, the ORR has noted some inconsistent application of these standards; its inspectors are therefore actively engaging with Network Rail to address this issue.

Q
Asked by Lord Polak
[I]
Close

Registered Interest

Indicates that the member concerned has a relevant registered interest.

Asked on: 08 September 2016
Department for International Development
Palestinians: Overseas Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will provide the names of the receiver organisations currently reported as "Supplier Name Withheld" for the £5.49 million in disbursements given to the Norwegian Refugee Council for legal assistance in the West Bank and Gaza from September 2013 to May 2016.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

All disbursements listed on the Development Tracker for the programme entitled ‘Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): Legal Assistance to prevent demolitions and displacement in the OPTs’ have been made directly to the NRC, which is the supplier for this programme. Due to a technical issue inherent in the Development Tracker management information system, some supplier names appear as withheld when in fact they should be published. Our central management information team is working on a solution to this problem.

Q
Asked by Lord Polak
[I]
Close

Registered Interest

Indicates that the member concerned has a relevant registered interest.

Asked on: 08 September 2016
Department for International Development
Palestinians: Overseas Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what were the total values of UK aid disbursements in the Palestinian territories given for the purpose of (1) legal assistance, and (2) promoting peaceful co-existence, in each of the last five years for which figures are available.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

In each of the last five years the UK has provided the following support for legal assistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs):

Year

Disbursement

2012/2013

£340,000

2013/2014

£2,011,000

2014/2015

£2,550,000

2015/2016

£2,655,000

2016/2017

£1,000,000*

Total

£8,556,000

*as this is the current financial year, this figure is subject to change.

The DFID Secretary of State is currently considering options for co-existence programmes as part of a wider examination of DFID’s programme in the OPTs. The FCO has supported several co-existence projects in Israel.

Q
Asked by Lord Polak
[I]
Close

Registered Interest

Indicates that the member concerned has a relevant registered interest.

Asked on: 08 September 2016
Department for International Development
Palestinians: Overseas Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the reports of a senior World Vision official in Gaza diverting funds to Hamas, what steps they are taking to ensure that UK aid given to projects in Gaza and the West Bank is not misappropriated.
Answered on: 20 September 2016

The recent allegations against the senior World Vision official in Gaza are deeply concerning. DFID does not fund World Vision operations in Gaza or the Occupied Palestinian Territories more widely. DFID’s programmes are subject to stringent safeguards.

Q
Asked by Kevin Foster
(Torbay)
Asked on: 09 September 2016
Department of Health
Junior Doctors: Pay
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will make a comparative assessment of the level of proposed weekend pay under the new junior doctors' contract with weekend pay for (a) prison officers, (b) fire fighters, (c) police officers, (d) call centre workers, (e) consultants and (f) nurses, midwives and physios.
A
Corrected answer by: Mr Philip Dunne
Corrected on: 20 September 2016
An error has been identified in the written answer given on 19 September 2016.
The correct answer should have been:

Junior doctors already work weekends, and they will continue to be fairly rewarded for work undertaken at the weekend using the weekend allowance proposed by the British Medical Association negotiators. Comparative rates are set out in the attached table below.

Because of the allowance based approach to weekend working, the effective hourly rate juniors are paid will vary depending on how many hours they work over how many weekends. In almost all cases junior doctors will receive weekend pay better than other National Health Service professional staff.

A typical rota for a junior doctor involves an average of 6.5 hours a week being worked at weekends. (i.e. they work two long shifts of 13 hours every four weekends). This is split evenly over Saturdays and Sundays and includes night work.

For working those weekend hours the percentage hourly supplement across all the hours worked for different groups of NHS staff would be

- 66% for a junior doctor (37% for night work plus an additional 7.5% weekend allowance set as a percentage of basic pay)

- 56% for a band 3 Health Care Assistant (37% for Saturday, 74% for Sunday)

- 45% for a nurse (30% for Saturday, 60% for Sunday)

- 33% for a consultant


Payment

Junior doctors

Weekend night shifts ending by 10am. Time plus 37%. Weekend allowance - + 10% 1in2 - + 7.5% - + 6% - + 4% - + 3% - No allowance

Consultants

4hour Programmed Activity is reduced to 3 hours, effectively Time + 33%

Nurses

Time + 30% Saturday time +60% Sunday

Prison officers *

Time + 17%

Firefighters *

Shift duty covers shifts 24 hours, 7 days. No premia

Police Officers *

Time plus 10% for nights only (8pm-6am)

Call centre workers *

Between Time + 5% and Time + 40%

*Income Data Services study

Comparative Pay Rates PQ45817 (Word Document, 15.43 KB)
A
Answered by: Mr Philip Dunne
Answered on: 19 September 2016

Junior doctors already work weekends, and they will continue to be fairly rewarded for work undertaken at the weekend using the weekend allowance proposed by the British Medical Association negotiators. Comparative rates are set out in the attached table below.

Because of the allowance based approach to weekend working, the effective hourly rate juniors are paid will vary depending on how many hours they work over how many weekends. In almost all cases junior doctors will receive weekend pay better than other National Health Service professional staff.

A typical rota for a junior doctor involves an average of 6.5 hours a week being worked at weekends. (i.e. they work two long shifts of 13 hours every four weekends). This is split evenly over Saturdays and Sundays and includes night work.

For working those weekend hours the percentage hourly supplement across all the hours worked for different groups of NHS staff would be

- 66% for a junior doctor (37% for night work plus an additional 7.5% weekend allowance set as a percentage of basic pay)

- 56% for a band 3 Health Care Assistant (37% for Saturday, 74% for Sunday)

- 45% for a nurse (30% for Saturday, 60% for Sunday)

- 33% for a consultant


Payment

Junior doctors

Weekend night shifts ending by 10am. Time plus 37%. Weekend allowance - + 10% 1in2 - + 7.5% - + 6% - + 4% - + 3% - No allowance

Consultants

4hour Programmed Activity is reduced to 3 hours, effectively Time + 33%

Nurses

Time + 30% Saturday time +60% Sunday

Prison officers *

Time + 17%

Firefighters *

Shift duty covers shifts 24 hours, 7 days. No premia

Police Officers *

Time plus 10% for nights only (8pm-6am)

Call centre workers *

Between Time + 5% and Time + 40%

*Income Data Services study

Comparative Pay Rates PQ45817 (Word Document, 15.43 KB)
Q
Asked by Diana Johnson
(Kingston upon Hull North)
Asked on: 09 September 2016
Department for Exiting the European Union
Department for Exiting the European Union: Staff
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, how many trade negotiators his Department plans to employ by the end of the current fiscal year.
A
Answered by: Mr Robin Walker
Answered on: 20 September 2016

Britain has been at the forefront of the free trade-supporting countries in the EU for the last 40 years. The Department for Exiting the EU now has over 200 staff plus the expertise of over 120 officials in Brussels, and is growing fast. The overall size and scope of the new Department, including staffing and budget, are regularly reviewed. We will ensure we are appropriately staffed to deal with all aspects of the forthcoming negotiation.

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