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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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 by Dr David Drew
(Stroud)
Asked on: 16 May 2019
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Boilers: Natural Gas
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 15 May 2019 to Question 250740, for what reason the 35 per cent of boilers that did not comply with the legal efficiency standards were allowed to be sold.
A
Answered by: Chris Skidmore
Answered on: 24 May 2019

The assessment referred to in answer of Question 250740 was carried out before the Boiler plus standard came into force. There is no evidence that boilers with an efficiency below 92% continued to be sold beyond the coming into force date of the current standards.

Efficiency standards for products are always carried out under standard test conditions. This ensures a reliable value for the product itself, irrespective of the capability of the installer, the diverse range of buildings into which they are installed, or how optimally the product is used by the consumer. This provides the ability to compare products fairly.

The research carried out on real-world boiler performance is available from the SAP website:

www.bregroup.com.

Grouped Questions: 255265 | 255266
Q
Asked by Dr David Drew
(Stroud)
Asked on: 16 May 2019
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Boilers: Natural Gas
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 15 May 2019 to Question 250740, whether the boilers that met or exceeded the minimum efficiency requirement of 92 per cent were in test situations or in real-world situations when installed.
A
Answered by: Chris Skidmore
Answered on: 24 May 2019

The assessment referred to in answer of Question 250740 was carried out before the Boiler plus standard came into force. There is no evidence that boilers with an efficiency below 92% continued to be sold beyond the coming into force date of the current standards.

Efficiency standards for products are always carried out under standard test conditions. This ensures a reliable value for the product itself, irrespective of the capability of the installer, the diverse range of buildings into which they are installed, or how optimally the product is used by the consumer. This provides the ability to compare products fairly.

The research carried out on real-world boiler performance is available from the SAP website:

www.bregroup.com.

Grouped Questions: 255264 | 255266
Q
Asked by Dr David Drew
(Stroud)
Asked on: 16 May 2019
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Boilers: Natural Gas
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 15 May 2019 to Question 250741 on boilers: natural gas, if he will publish (a) the research carried out on real-world boiler performance referred to in that answer and (b) where on the BRE website further information can be found.
A
Answered by: Chris Skidmore
Answered on: 24 May 2019

The assessment referred to in answer of Question 250740 was carried out before the Boiler plus standard came into force. There is no evidence that boilers with an efficiency below 92% continued to be sold beyond the coming into force date of the current standards.

Efficiency standards for products are always carried out under standard test conditions. This ensures a reliable value for the product itself, irrespective of the capability of the installer, the diverse range of buildings into which they are installed, or how optimally the product is used by the consumer. This provides the ability to compare products fairly.

The research carried out on real-world boiler performance is available from the SAP website:

www.bregroup.com.

Grouped Questions: 255264 | 255265
Q
Asked on: 09 May 2019
Home Office
Thames House: Pedestrian Areas
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 11 April (HL14894), whether the Security Service sought permission from Westminster City Council or Transport for London before they closed the pedestrian footpath on Horseferry Road.
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The Security Service has taken all appropriate and reasonable steps to ensure the safety of pedestrians on Horseferry Road.

Q
Asked by Lord Greaves
Asked on: 09 May 2019
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Local Government: Constituencies
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following an election that has changed the political composition of a local authority, that authority is able to withdraw a submission made to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England on a local boundaries review in their area and replace it with an alternative submission.
Answered on: 23 May 2019

This is a matter for the independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England, which is accountable to the Speaker’s Committee of the House of Commons.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 09 May 2019
Home Office
Asylum: Children
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Statement by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 8 May (HLWS1504), whether they expect local authorities will offer extra placements to Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC); and whether offers from individual British families to adopt or to foster UASC will be taken up.
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The Home Office recognises the highly valuable work that local authorities undertake in supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) and that is why we significantly increased the funding paid as a contribution to their costs. It is hoped that this will enable more local authorities to feel able to offer placements for vulnerable UASC, and we will be working with them and partners to encourage this.

It is unlikely that adoption will be an appropriate option for unaccompanied children. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, as well as other humanitarian charities, advise that no new adoption applications should be considered in the period after a disaster or fleeing from war. It is not uncommon for children in these circumstances to be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members who may be looking for them. Efforts to reunite children with relatives or extended family should therefore be given priority.

Foster parents are recruited by fostering services which include local authorities or independent fostering agencies. The decision to let someone foster a child, including UASC, is a very important one to get right. Anyone who wants to become a foster parent must undergo a full assessment and be approved by a fostering service before any child can be placed in their care. Regulations set out in detail the requirements of the approval process, including the information that must be collected in the assessment and the requirement for a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. In 2013 Department for Education streamlined and strengthened the assessment and approval process for foster carers, introducing a two-stage process to ensure efficiency and transparency.

Existing foster parents may also be able to provide suitable homes for unaccompanied children and over the past two years the Department for Education has funded over 2000 training places for existing foster parents and support workers who wish to care for UASC, with places being prioritised for local authorities participating in the National Transfer Scheme.

Q
Asked on: 09 May 2019
Ministry of Justice
Furniture: Fire Resistant Materials
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many prosecutions were made by Trading Standards for offences under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 between 2014 and 2019; and how many of these prosecutions resulted in a conviction.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The Ministry of Justice has published data for prosecutions and convictions up to the end of December 2018. Data for 2019 will be published in May 2020.

The number of prosecutions and convictions for offences under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 between 2014 and 2018 are shown in the table below.

Table: Prosecutions and convictions under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988, 2014–18

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Prosecuted

4

9

2

11

2

Convicted

3

6

2

7

1

Asked on: 13 May 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Christianity: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a departmental, or cross-governmental strategy, was devised to prevent or ameliorate the global persecution of Christians between 2003 and 2018; and if so, whether they will place a copy of the relevant documents in the Library of the House.
A
Answered on: 23 May 2019

There has been no cross-government strategy on the global persecution of Christians between 2003 and 2018, however the promotion of human rights has and remains at the heart of our foreign policy and we regard freedom of religion or belief as a universal human right. In my role as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, I regularly raise the importance of this issue with international counterparts. We condemn instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith or belief, including Christians, wherever it happens and whatever the religion or belief.

Q
Asked on: 13 May 2019
Home Office
British Nationals Abroad: Syria
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many UK nationals have returned from Syria in the last three years for which figures are available.
Answered on: 23 May 2019

Since the beginning of the conflict around 900 people of national security concern have travelled from the UK to Syria and Iraq, against the advice of the Foreign Office. Of these, around 40% have returned to the UK.

Asked on: 13 May 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Pakistan: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to support the government of Pakistan to continue to uphold  the right to freedom of religion or belief in that country.
A
Answered on: 23 May 2019

​The UK has a long history of supporting Freedom of Religion or Belief for all people. We stand up for everyone's right to practise or not practise a religion that is in line with their conscience, wherever they are in the world.

We regularly raise our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief with the Government of Pakistan at a senior level. I raised the treatment of religious minority communities with Pakistan's Federal Minister for Human Rights, Dr Shireen Mazari, during my visit to Islamabad in February, and in subsequent telephone calls.

Under the Government's Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, the UK has supported projects in Pakistan to promote greater tolerance and religious freedom. In November 2018, the Government announced a new £12 million fund to bolster the work of civil society and Non-Governmental Organisations to promote respect, and the value of religious diversity and tolerance.

On 30 January 2019, the Foreign Secretary and the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, launched an Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians overseas. The Bishop submitted his interim report on 3 May; he will submit his final report in the summer.

Asked on: 13 May 2019
Department for Education
Special Educational Needs: Finance
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they intend to take, if any, in the next Spending Review to ensure that councils can continue to meet their statutory duties towards those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
A
Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton
Answered on: 23 May 2019

We recognise that high needs budgets are under pressure and that is why we allocated an additional £250 million in high needs funding for 2018-19 and 2019-20 in December. This brings the total allocation for high needs this year to £6.3 billion.

My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the government will hold a Spending Review alongside the Budget where spending plans beyond 2019-20 will be agreed. The government will need to balance competing priorities across a broad range of areas, but we will be taking careful account of the importance of providing the right funding for education, and for high needs in particular. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education has made clear that as we approach the next Spending Review, he will back head teachers to ensure they have the resources they need to deliver a world class education.

Asked on: 13 May 2019
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Telephones: Fees and Charges
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the cap on the cost of phone calls between EU member states will apply to UK consumers until the end of any transition period, in the event that a Brexit deal is agreed.
A
Answered by: Lord Ashton of Hyde
Answered on: 23 May 2019
Under the draft Withdrawal Agreement, EU law will continue to apply in the UK during the Implementation Period (subject to certain exceptions), including EU law that comes into force during the Implementation Period. That will include the Regulation that caps the cost of phone calls via landline and mobile phone or SMS made from one EU country to another.  
Q
Asked by Tom Brake
(Carshalton and Wallington)
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Department for International Trade
Department for International Trade: Sick Leave
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, how many and what proportion of officials in his Department took sick leave for reasons relating to stress in the last 12 months; what proportion that leave was of total sick leave taken in his Department; and what the cost was to his Department of officials taking sick leave over that period.
A
Answered by: George Hollingbery
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The number of employees in the Department for International Trade from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 who were absent due to mental health reasons including stress was 39. This represented approximately 1% of employees. The proportion of sickness absence related to stress related reasons was 8.6% of the overall sickness absence for the department for the same time period.

Recorded sickness absence figures include employees working in the UK and overseas and for UK Export Finance. They do not include contractors, secondees from other organisations or military staff.

The estimated cost to the department from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 for employees taking sickness absence due to mental health reasons, including stress is estimated at £116,920.

DIT continues to recognise and take seriously the wellbeing of its employees. DIT has in place policies and processes to identify, prevent and manage stress. The DIT policies introduced the provision of mental health first aiders who can provide a range of support to both employees and managers including access to our Employee Counselling Service.

Q
Asked by Jon Trickett
(Hemsworth)
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Cabinet Office
Government Departments: Land
Commons
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the National Audit Office's 2 May 2019 report entitled Investigation into the Government’s land disposal strategy and programmes, if he will publish the 176 sites that were disposed of for £1 or less from the government estate.
A
Answered by: Oliver Dowden
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The National Audit Office investigation into the government's land disposal strategy and programmes referenced 176 sites which were sold since 2015 for £1 or less. Details of each of these sites are already published on GOV.UK in annual Transparency Reports listing all Government land sales. The April 2018 publication reports on sales in 2015/16 and 2016/17. The January 2019 publication reports on sales in 2017/18. The common reasons for sales at £1 or less are:

  • sites where costs of remediation (for example, decontamination) are involved;
  • sites which are narrow strips of land that have no other use or value; and
  • the sale of a lease which contains a clause allowing the purchaser to buy the freehold for £1 after a set period or once certain conditions have been met

Of the 176 sites disposed of for £1 or less, 160 were owned by Homes England. Homes England inherited a number of sites from predecessor organisations which were not viable for development. Disposing of these is helping to reduce the liability of holding costs for Government.

Departments disposing of surplus land must do so in line with Managing Public Money and wider disposals guidance. They should get a Market Valuation, and are restricted from selling at lower value than a site is worth.

Q
Asked by Jon Trickett
(Hemsworth)
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Cabinet Office
Government Departments: Land
Commons
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the National Audit Office's 2 May 2019 report entitled Investigation into the government’s land disposal strategy and programmes, for what reasons 176 sites from the government estate were disposed of for £1 or less.
A
Answered by: Oliver Dowden
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The National Audit Office investigation into the government's land disposal strategy and programmes referenced 176 sites which were sold since 2015 for £1 or less. Details of each of these sites are already published on GOV.UK in annual Transparency Reports listing all Government land sales. The April 2018 publication reports on sales in 2015/16 and 2016/17. The January 2019 publication reports on sales in 2017/18. The common reasons for sales at £1 or less are:

  • sites where costs of remediation (for example, decontamination) are involved;
  • sites which are narrow strips of land that have no other use or value; and
  • the sale of a lease which contains a clause allowing the purchaser to buy the freehold for £1 after a set period or once certain conditions have been met

Of the 176 sites disposed of for £1 or less, 160 were owned by Homes England. Homes England inherited a number of sites from predecessor organisations which were not viable for development. Disposing of these is helping to reduce the liability of holding costs for Government.

Departments disposing of surplus land must do so in line with Managing Public Money and wider disposals guidance. They should get a Market Valuation, and are restricted from selling at lower value than a site is worth.

Q
Asked by Lord Berkeley
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Treasury
Company Cars: Taxation
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they plan to announce the benefits in kind rate for company cars for the years after 2021; and what assessment they have made of the impact on car owners of the rates not yet being publicly available.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 23 May 2019

The government aims to publish emissions-based company car tax rates in advance to help employees and industry plan.

However, as emissions testing changes in 2020, the government is reviewing the impact of the new Worldwide Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) on vehicle taxes. The government will respond shortly to the review.

Q
Asked by Lord Greaves
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Department for Transport
Skipton-Colne Railway Line
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport on 25 January, whether they have commissioned the further studies into the possible reinstatement and reopening of the Colne–Skipton railway line as part of a TransPennine freight line and for local passenger services; and if so, who is undertaking those studies.
A
Answered on: 23 May 2019

Work is currently progressing and we expect to receive the results later this year to inform a decision as to whether the scheme should go to the ‘develop’ stage of the Government’s Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline.

Local stakeholders, including the local MP Andrew Stephenson, have championed the scheme and we are working closely with Transport for the North to assess the proposed scheme and to ensure that it can be affordable, will attract sufficient traffic, and is part of the right long-term solution for cross Transpennine rail traffic.

This is part of our new approach to rail enhancements to ensure we address the needs of passengers and freight, and that funding commitments appropriately reflect the stage of development of schemes.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment may, in some circumstances, be published without the prior consent of the state in question.
A
Answered on: 23 May 2019

​The UK encourages Council of Europe members to engage fully with the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). The UK Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe has intervened in the Committee of Ministers in the past, calling on Member States to agree to the publication of all CPT reports concerning that State. The UK Government promotes a general policy of transparency by authorising the publication of the visit reports and the UK responses thereon, encouraging other Member States to do likewise. We shall continue to take this approach.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they intend to make to the Council of Europe about finding ways to ensure that all members implement the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
A
Answered on: 23 May 2019

​The UK unreservedly condemns the use of torture and works closely with international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice, including making robust statements in multilateral organisations and by Ministers. The UK encourages Council of Europe members to engage fully with the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Where necessary, the UK Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe will intervene in the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers meetings to call on member states to engage with the recommendations of the Committee's reports.

Q
Asked by Lord Mawson
Asked on: 14 May 2019
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Social Science: Research
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of Government-funded social science research on deprived communities.
Answered on: 23 May 2019

Since 2017, the department has commissioned around 20 studies to investigate and understand the needs of deprived communities and communities who face specific integration challenges. Key examples include the update to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), The Integrated Communities Innovation Fund evaluation, a number of studies on reducing homelessness, and the ongoing troubled families evaluation. The results of these projects have provided invaluable insight into the issues and the findings are incorporated into policy development.

For example, the Randomised Control Trial research on community based English Language programmes has informed the development of the current English Language programme of support, providing people who don’t speak English with the skills and confidence to improve their integration outcomes.

Our Integrated Areas evaluation will test the impact of different interventions designed to improve real life social outcomes, including social mixing outcomes across different communities residing in the same place.

The previous 2015 version of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation fed directly into MHCLG and more widely into other Departments’ policy development, particularly where policies have been focused on working with the most deprived communities across the country.

More generally, much of our commissioned research aims to understand and address the needs of communities that most need our support and promote growth. Key examples include the English Housing Survey and European Regional Development Fund.

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