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 John Mann
(Bassetlaw)
[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: 21 May 2019
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Football: Sportsgrounds
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in which year the responsible local authority last carried out emergency evacuation tests at each (a) Premier League and (b) Championship football stadium.
A
Answered by: Mims Davies
Answered on: 24 June 2019

My Department does not hold such information. While the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for the sports grounds safety legislation, responsibility for the safety of spectators lies at all times with the ground management of individual sports grounds. Certifying and regulating those sports grounds is primarily a matter for individual local authorities.

In accordance with recommendations in the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, ground management should prepare contingency plans for the evacuation of all people in the event of an emergency from all areas of the ground to a place of safety.

Asked on: 10 June 2019
Treasury
Pensioners
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are (1) the benefits, and (2) the concessions, provided exclusively to people of pensionable age; and what are the costs of each to the Exchequer.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 24 June 2019

In total, DWP expenditure to people of pensionable age in 2017/18 was £123.8bn and this includes benefits payable to pensioners but not exclusive to that group such as: Disability Living Allowance; Personal Independence Payment; Christmas Bonus; and Cold Weather Payments. Exclusive pensioner benefits are listed below :

Pensioner benefit expenditure 2017/18

Attendance Allowance

£5.74bn

Pension Credit

£5.57bn

State Pension (bSP and nSP combined)

£97.38bn

Winter Fuel Payments

£2.1bn

Free TV Licences

£655m

Q
Asked by Lord Myners
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Arcadia Group: Pensions
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Pensions Regulator has allowed the owners of Arcadia Group to phase their contribution to address that company’s pension deficit over a period of time instead of a single up-front payment; whether the Pensions Regulator is using financial advisers to determine whether Arcadia’s business plan will eventually cover the deficit; and if so, who are those advisers.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The pensions framework established by Parliament in the Pensions Act 2004 sets out that ongoing employers may address the funding of their scheme deficits over a reasonable period of time. This responsibility falls on the company rather than its owners, other than where The Pensions Regulator has used its anti-avoidance powers. This approach of spreading funding of deficits was established to balance the needs of schemes with those of their sponsoring employers.

The Arcadia trustees and the Arcadia group took an approach which was similar to many other schemes and employers in establishing recovery plans to address their schemes’ deficits over a number of years. In response to a request to vary those recovery plan payments, made in conjunction with the Arcadia Group’s Company Voluntary Arrangements proposals, The Pensions Regulator, working alongside the trustees and the Pension Protection Fund, has negotiated robustly to secure an enhanced package of support for the pension schemes in connection with a successful Company Voluntary Arrangement, worth significantly more than would be received if the Company Voluntary Arrangement is not successful and Arcadia Group Ltd becomes insolvent. This represents appropriate protection, in challenging circumstances, and is equitable in the context of the wider Company Voluntary Arrangements process.

In assessing the turnaround plan presented by Arcadia, The Pensions Regulator has been informed by the analysis carried out by professional advisers to the trustees. The Pensions Regulator has considerable expertise in restructuring situations and this includes people in its regulatory teams with a background working in big chartered accountancy firms and restructuring operations in banks.

Q
Asked by Lord Myners
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Treasury
GAM Greensill Supply Chain Finance Fund
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are investigating, or intend to investigate, the (1) management of, (2) investment valuations used by, and (3) relationships between managers and businesses invested in, the GAM Greensill Supply Chain Finance Fund.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the conduct regulator for the financial services industry in the UK. The FCA will not normally make public the fact that it is or is not investigating a particular matter, in order to protect the effectiveness of any investigation it carries out. The FCA has been made aware of this Parliamentary Question.

Q
Asked by Lord Myners
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Treasury
Lendy
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, when authorising Lendy, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considered the company to be (1) an agent, or (2) a principal, in the relationship between the lender or borrower; or whether the FCA took no view on this matter.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 24 June 2019

This is a matter for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which is operationally independent from Government. The question has been passed on to the FCA. The FCA will reply directly to Lord Myners by letter. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Asked on: 10 June 2019
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Technology: New Businesses
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to continue to increase the number of UK technology business start-ups after Brexit.
A
Answered by: Lord Ashton of Hyde
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We are confident the digital technology sector and its startup community will continue to go from strength to strength. As outlined in our Digital Strategy and Charter, our ambition is to ensure the UK is the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business - and that ambition remains after we leave the EU. Tech Nation and Dealroom have released figures showing that investment in UK tech reached £6.8 billion ($8.7bn) last year and has already reached £3.8 billion ($4.8bn) in the first half of 2019, showing that the UK tech ecosystem is still world-leading and remains in a strong position.

Through our extensive engagement with the sector, we understand that the primary barriers to growth for startups are having adequate access to both finance and talent. That is why for finance, Government announced a new £2.5 billion British Patient Capital programme, which is expected to attract a further £5 billion in private investment, in order to support UK companies with high growth potential to access the long-term investment they need to grow and go global.

To continue to attract international talent, we have doubled the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas to 2,000, and taken doctors and nurses out of the Tier 2 visa cap, freeing up many more skilled worker visas to other sectors, including tech. At the end of March this year, Home Office launched the new Start-Up and Innovator visa routes for entrepreneurs, which will replace a route exclusively for graduates, opening it up to other talented business founders.

In the Autumn Budget 2017 we also announced investment of £21 million to expand Tech City UK into a nationwide network – Tech Nation – aimed at accelerating the growth of the digital tech sector across the country. The funding will help Tech Nation support 40,000 entrepreneurs and up to 4,000 start-ups as they scale their businesses across the UK including Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Newcastle. And at London Tech Week last week, the PM launched a study into tech competitiveness - this will identify key opportunities and support mechanisms for business growth in the digital tech sector.

Asked on: 10 June 2019
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Motor Vehicles: Manufacturing Industries
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to increase productivity in the UK automotive sector.
A
Answered by: Lord Henley
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The UK already has one of the most productive automotive sectors in the world. In 2018 productivity levels in the sector were at £100,600/employee, a real term increase of 4.6% over 2017, and 42% higher than overall UK manufacturing productivity. The Government has a long-standing programme of support to maintain the productivity and competitiveness of the UK automotive sector. Through our Industrial Strategy and landmark Automotive Sector Deal, we are placing the UK at the forefront of new automotive technology development.

The Sector Deal includes £32 million of joint funding for an industry-led supply chain competitiveness programme to help improve productivity in the UK supply chain and assure international competitiveness.

We are determined to ensure that the UK continues to be one of the most competitive locations in the world for the automotive sector. BEIS Ministers and officials regularly engage with the automotive industry, including bilaterals with manufacturers, interactions via trade associations, and through the Department’s participation in the Automotive Council.

Q
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Israel: West Bank
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Israeli Civil Administration's powers to demolish, within 96 hours, any type of new building in Area C of the West Bank without any opportunity for appeal.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities our serious concern at the increase in demolitions of Palestinian properties in Area C of the West Bank. We call on them to cease the policy of demolitions and provide a clear, transparent route to construction for Palestinians in Area C.

Q
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Israel: Palestinians
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports of the treatment by Israel of Palestinian children who have been shot by Israeli forces, prevented from immediate medical help and taken into Israeli custody without family support.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We continue to have strong concerns about continued reports of ill-treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military detention and to seek improvements to Israeli practices. Officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv last raised our concerns with the Israeli Ministry of Justice on 6 June. We also regularly press Israel on the use of live fire, particularly against children, and urge unimpeded access to medical treatment.

Q
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Jerusalem: Archaeological Sites
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the security of archaeological sites in East Jerusalem.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We have not made any assessment of the security of archaeological sites in East Jerusalem. We regularly make clear our serious concerns about the situation in East Jerusalem to the Israeli authorities, both bilaterally and in co-operation with EU partners. We are strongly opposed to any attempts to change the facts on the ground in the East Jerusalem.

Q
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Jerusalem: Religious Buildings
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of incursions onto the Al-Aqsa compound by Israeli settlers and reports that they are supported by Israeli forces and encouraged by some Israeli politicians.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We are concerned by recent tensions and violence at the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount, and urge all parties to avoid provocation and work to uphold the status quo. In our meetings with the Israeli authorities we regularly raise the need to respect the status quo on the holy sites in Jerusalem. The Minister for the Middle East expressed the Government's concern at recent escalations at the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount with Israel's Ambassador to London on 11 June.

Q
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Gaza: Fisheries
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the consequences of frequent alterations to the fishing zones that the government of Israel allows fishermen in Gaza to use.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

​We regularly raise with the Government of Israel the urgent need to ease all access and movement restrictions on Gaza, including fishing limits. This would help to restore the fishing industry as regular alterations to the zone, often as a punitive measure, cause uncertainty and insecurity. The UK would like to see a permanent increase in the size of the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza in line with the limit of 20 nautical miles stipulated in the Oslo accords.

Q
Asked on: 10 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hebron
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the consequences for Palestinian children in Hebron of the removal of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron by the government of Israel.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We are concerned by Israel's decision not to extend the mandate for Hebron's international monitoring mission. The mission has been in Hebron for over 20 years and fulfilled an important role in reducing tensions in the city between Israeli settlers and Palestinian communities. Our Ambassador to Israel raised our concerns over this decision with the Israeli authorities on 29 January. The former Minister for the Middle East discussed our concerns with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK on 31 January and in a tweet on 2 February.

Asked on: 11 June 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sewage: Whitburn
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the average volume of storm sewage discharge has reduced since the completion of the scheme at the Whitburn long sea outfall in December 2017 compared to the average volume when using the previous system.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

Based on the current available data there has been an approximate 37% reduction in spill numbers and a 43% reduction in spill volume since the completion of the enhancement works, against the average for the previous ten year period.

Prior to the completion of the enhancement works at Whitburn long sea outfall, records showed an average of 27 storm sewage discharge ‘spills’ totalling around 660,000 cubic metres each year for the ten year period from 2008 to 2017.

In 2018, the first year of operation for the enhanced system, records show 17 storm sewage discharge ‘spills’ totalling around 380,000 cubic metres.

Asked on: 11 June 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sewage: Whitburn
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what the volume of storm sewage discharge has been since the completion of the scheme at the Whitburn long sea outfall in each month since December 2017 for which figures are available.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

Verified data is provided for the total volume of discharge for each month between January 2018 and December 2019 when discharge events occurred.

Date

Volume of storm sewage discharged (m3 )

January 2018

10387.50 m3

March 2018

95323.50 m3

April 2018

114946.50 m3

July 2018

46641.00 m3

August 2018

55095.00 m3

September 2018

37882.50 m3

October 2018

16317.00 m3

November 2018

0 m3

December 2018

0 m3

Asked on: 11 June 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sewage: Tyne and Wear
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs next plans to hold discussions with (1) Northumbrian Water, (2) Sunderland City Council, and (3) South Tyneside Council, on further reducing the impact of sewage discharges on beaches at (a) Sunderland, and (b) Whitburn.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The bathing beaches at Sunderland and Whitburn consistently achieve ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ quality under the Bathing Waters Directive. As required environmental standards are being met, the Environment Agency, which acts on behalf of the Government on local environmental planning matters, has no immediate plans to meet with Northumbrian Water or the local authorities about reducing the impact of sewage discharges.

The Environment Agency will continue to monitor bathing water quality and meet regularly with Northumbrian Water to discuss any improvements when they are required. It also gives planning advice to local authorities such as Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council on any matters that concern bathing water quality.

Asked on: 11 June 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Supply
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to balance the demands for water from a growing population with the amount of water in the environment that can sustainably be withdrawn as a result of the impact of climate change.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The government is working closely with other water regulators and the water industry to improve the resilience of water supplies. The government recognises continued action is required and it is committed to a ‘twin track approach’, of reducing demand for water and increasing supply in parallel.

Water companies have a statutory duty to provide clean and reliable water to customers under the Water Industry Act 1991. To fulfil this duty there is a statutory requirement to maintain water resources management plans, which balance water supply and demand at least twenty-five years into the future.

The government, the Environment Agency and Ofwat issued guidance to water companies in 2016 on how they should be planning to supply water to a growing population, while protecting and enhancing our environment, including taking appropriate action to respond to climate projections. Water companies are currently revising their plans.

The government is taking steps to improve water resources planning to ensure that there is better collaboration between water companies and other water using sectors on their water supply resilience. This includes the Environment Agency developing a National Framework for water resources, which use evidence to illustrate the regional and national challenge of water availability. The government has also consulted on legislative improvements to ensure that water companies’ plans are informed by effective collaboration.

The Environment Agency is also implementing the abstraction plan, published in 2017. This includes work to bring together the Environment Agency, abstractors and catchment groups to develop local solutions to protect and enhance the environment, and improve access to water.

Q
Asked by Lord Myners
Asked on: 11 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Arcadia Group: Pensions
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Pensions Regulator (1) regarded an additional payment into the Arcadia Pension Fund to be an adequate contribution to the deficit, and (2) supported the Company Voluntary Arrangements proposed by Sir Philip and Lady Green; and if so, why.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The best support for a defined benefit pension scheme is an ongoing trading employer. Working with the shareholders, pension trustees and Pension Protection Fund, The Pensions Regulator were pleased to be able to agree a £310m package of support last week that would provide greater certainty for the Arcadia pension schemes. This comprises security to the value of £210m, together with the £100m in cash from Lady Green. The Pensions Regulator remain satisfied that the arrangement is the right one for members and the Pension Protection Fund in challenging circumstances and is equitable in the context of the wider Company Voluntary Arrangements process.

The Pension Regulator’s goal is to protect the interests of members of the Arcadia schemes as far as possible in these difficult circumstances. A successful outcome will mean ongoing Deficit repair contributions payments from the company, enabling the schemes to become fully funded in due course. Had the Company Voluntary Arrangement votes failed, or if the Company Voluntary Arrangements are successfully challenged, the position of the pension schemes would be/will be much less certain. Deficit repair contributions from Arcadia Group Limited, initially £25m per annum (paid in equal monthly instalments) and escalating in subsequent years, would cease. The amount recovered by the pension schemes would be significantly less in an uncontrolled insolvency than under the terms of the Company Voluntary Arrangement. On this basis The Pensions Regulator supported the Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Asked on: 11 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong: Politics and Government
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) recent protests in Hong Kong, and (2) the impact of plans to allow extradition to China on the judicial independence of Hong Kong.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

The significant protests in Hong Kong show the strength of feeling among the people of Hong Kong. We are pleased to see that, in the most part, the people of Hong Kong have peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of speech and assembly, as guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. However all allegations of inappropriate use of force by the Hong Kong police should be fully investigated by the Hong Kong SAR Government.

We welcome the Chief Executive's statement that she would not proceed with the second reading of the bill, if the fears and anxieties of the people of Hong Kong were not addressed. It is vital that Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms set down in the Joint Declaration are respected in full.

The most recent 6 monthly report on Hong Kong published on 27 March, made clear our view that judicial independence in Hong Kong remains robust. The proposals themselves have no direct impact on judicial independence. However we are concerned that the proposals could risk leaving the extradition process open to political interference, and could, in future, undermine Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 12 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Israel: Lebanon
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how they assess progress in negotiations between Israel and Lebanon about offshore gas and oil, in particular over the Block 9 oilfield; and whether they are able to provide technical assistance to the parties involved with offshore resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
A
Answered on: 24 June 2019

We welcome attempts by all parties involved in negotiations over the maritime border to find a solution which is acceptable to all sides. A deal is in everyone’s interests and the UK stands ready to support.

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