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 Lord Grocott
Asked on: 22 July 2019
Department for International Trade
Trade Promotion
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 17 July (HL16983), what are the job descriptions of each Trade Envoy; whether any assessment has been made of their effectiveness in relation to the terms of their appointment; and whether those envoys are accountable to (1) the Prime Minister, (2) the Secretary of State for International Trade, (3) the Foreign Secretary, or (4) another Cabinet minister.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 16 August 2019

The Terms of Appointment for the Programme provide the framework to which Trade Envoys work to. They outline Trade Envoys’ roles and responsibilities when undertaking Trade Envoy duties, as well as outlining the Department for International Trade commitment to them. Under the Terms of Appointment, they are appointed for the term of a parliament, after which the sitting Prime Minister will decide whether to keep the current cadre in their role.

Trade Envoys regularly help UK business secure export successes, by either lobbying on their behalf, or helping to create the environment for them to succeed.

Trade Envoys are appointed by the Prime Minister and are ultimately accountable to the Prime Minister, though they regularly report specific issues to other Ministers as necessary.

Q
Asked by Lord Grocott
Asked on: 22 July 2019
Department for International Trade
Trade Promotion
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Viscount Younger of Leckie on 17 July (HL16983), whether the Trade Envoys are answerable to Parliament either (1) directly, (2) via a minister, or (3) not at all.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 16 August 2019

Trade Envoys comprised of parliamentarians drawn from both Houses are answerable to Parliament via direct line of report to my Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade who is accountable for the programme.

Although the Trade Envoy role is not a ministerial appointment and does not carry formal policy responsibility the Trade Envoys are under the same obligation as Ministers to adhere to the relevant departmental restrictions, guidelines and confidentiality clauses.

Q
Asked on: 25 July 2019
Department for International Trade
Overseas Trade
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to publish their Regional Trade Plans.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 16 August 2019

Regional Trade Plans (RTPs), set out an overseas region’s overarching strategy, key objectives and priorities, which will drive the delivery of Her Majesty’s Government’s trade objectives overseas. Currently, the RTPs are internal documents, but the Department for International Trade intends to publish executive summaries of the RTPs in due course.

Q
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 22 July 2019
House of Commons Commission
Parliamentary Estate: Beverage Containers
Commons
To ask the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, what recent assessment the Commission has made of the effect of the 25p surcharge on hot drinks served in disposable cups on the Parliamentary estate on (a) drinks sales and (b) disposable cup waste.
A
Answered by: Tom Brake
Answered on: 14 August 2019

In the nine months to September 2018, before the 25p surcharge, catering (non-banqueting) sales for hot beverages was £655,640 incl VAT. In the nine months to date, after the surcharge, hot beverage (non-banqueting) sales were £727,203 incl VAT.

There has been a reduction from 58,000 paper cups per month being sold to 15,000 on average. It is not possible to count the number of such paper cups which enter Parliamentary waste containers, but visual observation of the contents of segregated compostable waste shows that many of the compostable cups are disposed of within the Estate.

Q
(Bristol East)
[N]
Close

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: 22 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food: Imports
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, on the supply of fresh produce.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 14 August 2019

The UK’s high degree of food security is built on access to a range of sources including strong domestic production and imports from other countries. This will continue to be the case whether we leave the EU with or without a deal.

Half of the food we eat is produced in the UK. The rest of our food is imported, with 30% coming from the EU and 20% from other countries. There will not be an overall shortage of food in the UK as a result of a no deal Brexit. However, there may be fluctuations in the availability and choice of certain seasonal products, such as fresh fruit. The UK has a high degree of self-sufficiency in some vegetables year-round including root vegetables, cabbage and potatoes, as well as certain fruits during the summer harvest season including strawberries and apples.

Over the last three years Government has been working to prioritise the smooth flow of trade, particularly at channel ports, to minimise any disruption if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This includes cross Government work to ensure traders and hauliers in the UK and the EU are prepared for changes to exporting and importing requirements; ensuring our approach to imports achieves a smooth flow of goods at UK ports; working with stakeholders, major ports and airports to ensure that they are making their own preparations for leaving the EU; and developing traffic management plans to manage any potential delays at the ports, for example Operation Brock in Kent.

Q
Asked by Dr David Drew
(Stroud)
Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture: Subsidies
Commons
[Suggested redraft] To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what estimate he has made of the number of farms at risk of closing down as a result of a new systems of agricultural payments as outlined in the Government's policy paper of 12 September 2018 on health and harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit, what the size of those farms are; and the type of farming undertaken by those farms.
A
Corrected answer by: George Eustice
Corrected on: 13 August 2019
An error has been identified in the written answer given on 01 August 2019.
The correct answer should have been:

In September 2018, alongside the Agriculture Bill and policy statement, the Government published an ‘Analysis of the impacts of removing Direct Payments’. This provided an overview of the potential impacts to different farm types and sizes of moving away from direct payments and introducing a new system of public money for public goods. It also showed the potential across all sectors for farmers to become more efficient – producing more for less – as a response to any reductions in direct payments.

Direct payments are untargeted, poor value for money, undermine efficiency and productivity improvements, and limit opportunities for new entrants. They have imposed unnecessary bureaucracy on farmers and can inflate rent prices. Some of our most successful and vibrant food-producing sectors of agriculture have never been subsidised. For example the poultry industry, the pig industry and the horticulture industry.

Direct payments are arbitrary payments based on land area that tend to favour larger land owners rather than smaller family farming businesses. In England we will phase out direct payments during an agricultural transition, giving time for farmers to adjust. Phasing out direct payments will free up money so we can reward farmers for delivering public goods, including environmental outcomes and animal welfare. We recognise that some certain sectors are more dependent than others on direct payments but provided that these farmers are delivering public goods, they will be well placed to benefit from the new system.

A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 01 August 2019

In September 2018, alongside the Agriculture Bill and policy statement, the Government published an ‘Analysis of the impacts of removing Direct Payments’. This provided an overview of the potential impacts to different farm types and sizes of moving away from direct payments and introducing a new system of public money for public goods. It also showed the potential across all sectors for farmers to become more efficient – producing more for less – as a response to any reductions in direct payments.

Direct payments are untargeted, poor value for money, undermine efficiency and productivity improvements, and limit opportunities for new entrants. They have imposed unnecessary bureaucracy on farmers and can inflate rent prices. Some of our most successful and vibrant food-producing sectors of agriculture have never been subsidised. For example the poultry industry, the pig industry and the horticulture industry.

Direct payments are arbitrary payments based on land area that tend to favour larger land owners rather than smaller family farming businesses. In England we will phase out direct payments during an agricultural transition, giving time for farmers to adjust. Phasing out direct payments will free up money so we can reward farmers for delivering public goods, including environmental outcomes and animal welfare. We recognise that some certain sectors are more dependent than others on direct payments but provided that these farmers are delivering public goods, they will be well placed to benefit from the new system.

Q
(Coventry South)
[N]
Close

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: 22 July 2019
Department for Transport
Railways: Standards
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to improve the punctuality of trains.
A
Answered by: Chris Heaton-Harris
Answered on: 13 August 2019
Holding answer received on 25 July 2019

Government takes train punctuality seriously and understands it is crucial to passengers and freight users. That is why Government agreed a Network Rail settlement for England and Wales of £47.9bn for Control Period 6 specifically aimed at maintaining and renewing the railway to improve reliability and punctuality for all rail users. We recognise performance on the railway has been unsatisfactory, and passengers have not always received the level of service they expected. While performance has improved recently, the new Transport Secretary understands passengers need the certainty of reliable journeys, and is determined to work with industry to improve performance. We continue to monitor the performance of our franchised operators closely to press for improvements for passengers.

Q
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 23 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food Supply
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what guidance his Department has issued to consumers on the supply of food in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 13 August 2019

On 31 July, the Prime Minister announced a new £138 million public awareness campaign to prepare the public for every aspect of our leaving the EU without an agreement at the end of October.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 24 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Philippines: Politics and Government
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the government of the Philippines about (1) President Duterte’s treatment of his political opponents, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Vice President Leni Robredo, Congressmen Antonio Tinio and Ariel Casilao, Senator Risa Hontiveros, and Senator Leila de Lima, (2) upholding human rights and media freedom, (3) plans to reintroduce the death penalty, and (4) plans to amend the constitution to move towards a more federal government structure.
A
Answered on: 13 August 2019

The British Government regularly raises concerns about a range of troubling human rights issues in the Philippines with the Government, including the treatment of human rights defenders, the deteriorating space for political debate, reintroduction of the death penalty and media freedom.

The UK co-sponsored an Icelandic resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in July which highlighted these concerns. The Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Philippines raised our human rights concerns with Cabinet Secretaries in February 2019. We also discussed human rights with Philippines Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Enrique Manalo during the UK-Philippines High Level Talks in Manila in November 2018.

The British Government hosted a global conference on Media Freedom on 10-11 July. The prominent Philippine human rights defender and journalist, Maria Ressa, was one of the key speakers.

The British Embassy in Manila is closely following the cases of sedition filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in July against 36 opposition figures, including Maria Lourdes Sereno, Vice President Leni Robredo, Congressmen Antonio Tinio and Ariel Casilao, Senator Risa Hontiveros, and Senator Leila de Lima.

We are following discussions around federalism in the Philippines. Our Embassy in Manila has held discussions with the Philippine Government covering proposed timelines for implementation and format, as well as offering reflections on the UK model of devolution.

Q
(Feltham and Heston)
Asked on: 18 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Ethnic Groups
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how many BAME staff are employed at (a) grade 7, (b) grade 5 and (c) grade 3 in his Department.
A
Answered by: Christopher Pincher
Answered on: 12 August 2019

​The percentage of United Kingdom-based ethnic minority staff employed at D6 (grade 7 equivalent) in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is 9 per cent. The percentage of United Kingdom-based ethnic minority staff employed in the FCO's senior management structure (SMS) is 7 per cent. Diversity statistics are published in the FCO's Annual Report and Accounts 2018-2019. They are given as percentages and are not broken down into separate SMS grades (SMS 1 (grade 5 equivalent), SMS 2 (grade 3 equivalent), SMS 3 and SMS 4) in order to protect individual staff anonymity.

The Civil Service-wide percentage for ethnic minority staff in SCS grades is 6.0 per cent (March 2019). The Civil Service-wide percentage for ethnic minority staff at grade 7 is 11.1 per cent.

Q
Asked on: 18 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Social Security Benefits: Medical Examinations
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what controls and penalties are in place to ensure that providers of medical assessors for social security benefits maintain high standards of accuracy and integrity; and on how many occasions any such controls or penalties have been used since June 2018.
A
Answered by: Baroness Stedman-Scott
Answered on: 12 August 2019

The department is committed to ensuring claimants receive high quality assessments. We set our assessment providers challenging targets and monitor performance closely against a range of measures including through independent audit to improve accuracy and decision making. Contractual remedies are in place if assessment providers fail to deliver against the service standards.

Contractual remedies for underperformance against a range of service levels are recovered through service credit mechanisms and through deductions of payments (a ‘No Pay’ mechanism). The extent of underperformance and application of related mechanisms varies significantly and the regularity of such remedies should not be seen as a measure of overall performance.

In relation to the HDAS contract covering Work Capability Assessments, service credits (the contractual remedy for SC1 – Quality) have been applied in 12 out of the 14 months from June 2018 to July 2019 (the date of the most recent statistical information available).

In relation to the Personal Independence Payment contracts, “No Pay” (the contractual remedy for SC1 – Quality) has been applied in one or more Lots in each month from June 18 to June 19 (the date of the most recent statistical information available).

Below is the breakdown of the totals by Lot:

Lot 1 – No pay was applied to SC1 in 8 of those months

Lot 2 – No pay was applied to SC1 in 5 of those months

Lot 3 – No pay was applied to SC1 in 11 of those months.

Q
(Coventry South)
[N]
Close

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: 19 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
State Retirement Pensions: Females
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps he is taking to compensate women born in the 1950s who were adversely affected by changes to the state pension age.
A
Answered by: Guy Opperman
Answered on: 12 August 2019

Successive Governments have made necessary decisions to equalise and increase the State Pension age. State Pension age reform has focused on maintaining the right balance between sustainability of State Pension, equality and fairness between generations in the face of demographic change.

Even after equalising women’s State Pension age with men’s, women will spend on average around 2 years more in receipt of their state pension because of their longer life expectancy. If we had not equalised State Pension age, women would be expected to spend on average over 40 per cent of their adult lives in retirement.

During the passage of the 2011 Act, the Government listened to the concerns of those affected and this is why we introduced a concession worth over £1 billion in order to limit the impact on those women who would be most affected by the changes. This concession reduced the proposed increase in State Pension age for over 450,000 men and women, and means that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the 1995 Act timetable.

For people who simply can’t work, our welfare system will continue to provide a strong safety net, as it does for people of all ages now. Any women experiencing hardship, including problems such as unemployment, disability, and coping with caring responsibilities, can already claim support from the welfare system. The Government is committed to supporting the vulnerable and spends over £50 billion a year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions.

The new State Pension is more generous for many women. Over three million women stand to gain an average of £550 extra per year by 2030 as a result of recent State Pension reforms.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
[N]
Close

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: 22 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Pensions
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she plans to take to limit a person's pension age rise when age eligibility for the state pension is increased.
A
Answered by: Guy Opperman
Answered on: 12 August 2019

The Government published its review of State Pension age in July 2017. The report can be viewed here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/630065/state-pension-age-review-final-report.pdf.

The next Government review of State Pension age will be completed within six years of that report.

The Pensions Act 2014 requires the Government to regularly review State Pension age and report to Parliament, to help to ensure the rules about State Pension age are appropriate having regard to life expectancy and the costs of increasing longevity are shared fairly between the generations, and provide greater clarity around the plans for changing State Pension age in the future.

The changes to State Pension age became law following consultation and extensive debates in Parliament. During the passage of the Pensions Act 2011, Parliament introduced limits to person’s State Pension age rise, worth £1.1 billion, which reduced the proposed increase in State Pension age for over 450,000 men and women, meaning that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the original 1995 Act timetable.

Q
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 23 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food Supply
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment the Government has made of the worse-case effects of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on (a) the proportion of food trucks not being able to have smooth border transit, (b) waiting times at borders, (c) the length of time of disruption to food supplies, (d) potential food price rises and (e) the finances of vulnerable people.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 12 August 2019

The government has been planning for a no deal scenario for the past three years and the cross government Border Delivery Group has been working on logistics issues and planning for a range of scenarios. The government has conducted exercises to test systems in preparation for leaving the EU without a deal and Operation Brock has been developed as a contingency plan, in the event that any problems arise at cross-Channel ports, to manage traffic flows.

Q
(Orkney and Shetland)
[N]
Close

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: 19 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong: Police
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what (a) training, (b) capacity building and (c) assistance (i) the UK Government and (ii) Scotland Yard provides to the Hong Kong Police Force.
A
Answered by: Mrs Heather Wheeler
Answered on: 09 August 2019
Holding answer received on 06 August 2019

In recent years, UK law enforcement agencies have provided training and assistance to the Hong Kong Police Force in a number of areas, including illicit finance and traffic policing. UK law enforcement agencies maintain regular engagement with the Hong Kong Police Force in the course of information exchange and joint investigations of serious and organised crime – as they do with counterparts throughout the world. All cooperation with overseas partners – including those in Hong Kong – is conducted under the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) risk management system, which is used across Government to assess human rights risks.

Q
Asked by Liz McInnes
(Heywood and Middleton)
Asked on: 22 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Afghanistan: Peace Negotiations
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the prospects for a peace deal in Afghanistan.
A
Answered by: Mrs Heather Wheeler
Answered on: 09 August 2019

​Despite continuing challenges, there is the real prospect of a credible peace process for Afghanistan. Concerted Afghan and international efforts continue, with positive signs including US-Taliban talks; the recent intra-Afghan dialogue co-convened by Germany and Qatar; and the consultative Loya Jirga in Kabul. Intra-Afghan negotiations are now needed to find a sustainable settlement which will assure the country's future peace and stability. It is crucial that the democratically elected National Unity Government plays a central role, and that peace efforts are inclusive, including women and minorities. The people of Afghanistan deserve peace after decades of conflict and insecurity. We strongly believe that a political settlement is the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability.

Q
Asked by Liz McInnes
(Heywood and Middleton)
Asked on: 22 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Afghanistan: Peace Negotiations
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to support the (a) involvement of civil society in the talks between the US and the Taliban in Afghanistan and (b) rights of women in any agreement that might be reached in those talks.
A
Answered by: Mrs Heather Wheeler
Answered on: 09 August 2019

Talks between the US Government and the Taliban are a positive step towards an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. Resolution of the conflict will require negotiations between Afghans, including the National Unity Government and the Taliban. We continue to make clear the importance of the involvement of civil society and of women and minorities in the process to shape Afghanistan's future.

Afghanistan is a focus country in the UK's National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and a priority country in our efforts to promote women's meaningful inclusion in peace processes. We encourage the Afghanistan Government to bring women into discussions on peace and to ensure the participation of Afghan women in all levels of decision-making, from the local level to the negotiation table. The UK funds programmes in support of this, including a pilot on local approaches to peace, with an emphasis on women, across four districts and two provinces. We also support the "Open Jirga" television programme which provides a platform for women's representation in politics, including on the critical issue of peace.

Q
(Hornsey and Wood Green)
Asked on: 22 July 2019
Department for Education
Schools: Radicalism
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance is in place for schools on the circumstances when they should provide information to the police on domestic extremists.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 09 August 2019

The Department does not provide specific guidance to schools on circumstances where they should provide information directly to the police on domestic extremists. However, the Department has published advice on the Prevent duty, which explains what schools can do to protect children and young people from the risk of radicalisation.

Under the Prevent duty, a school may make a ‘Prevent referral’ as a result of concerns about extremism and for further multi-agency support. The means by which a referral can be made is determined locally and is either via the local authority or directly to the police. Guidance on Prevent referrals is available from these agencies. More information on the Department’s guidance is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protecting-children-from-radicalisation-the-prevent-duty.

The Home Office has also developed an online ‘Prevent referral’ package, which explains when to make referrals and what to include, featuring examples from the education sector.

The Department also has a dedicated telephone helpline and email address that schools can use if they have an extremism-related concern that they are uncertain how to manage. This will include advice on whether concerns need to be shared further, including to the police. More guidance on this matter and information on the telephone helpline is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/preventing-extremism-in-schools-and-childrens-services/preventing-extremism-in-the-education-and-childrens-services-sectors.

Q
(Washington and Sunderland West)
Asked on: 23 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food Supply
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure the maintenance of food suppliers in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 09 August 2019

The UK’s high degree of food security is built on access to a range of sources including strong domestic production and imports from other countries. This will continue to be the case whether we leave the EU with or without a deal.

Defra Ministers and officials meet regularly with the food industry to understand the potential impacts of leaving with no deal at the end of October and support contingency planning by the industry. This includes working with Defra’s long established Food Chain Emergency Liaison Group (FCELG). The FCELG membership is drawn from across the agri-food chain industry sectors from farm to fork.

Q
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 23 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food Supply
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans the Government has to undertake a public awareness campaign on the effect on food (a) supply and (b) prices of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 09 August 2019

On the 31st July, the Prime Minister announced a new £138 million public awareness campaign to prepare the public for every aspect of our leaving the EU without an agreement at the end of October.

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