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 2019-21 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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Q
Asked by Ruth Jones
(Newport West)
Asked on: 24 June 2020
Northern Ireland Office
City Deals: Northern Ireland
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, what recent assessment he has made of the progress on the delivery of Northern Ireland City Deals.
A
Answered by: Mr Robin Walker
Answered on: 03 July 2020

The Prime Minister has set out his ambitious plan to invest in our future prosperity. Jobs, skills and infrastructure will be central to the UK Government’s New Deal which will unleash the economic potential within every corner of the UK. As part of this, the UK Government intends to bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and will work with the devolved administrations on our ambitious plan for economic recovery across the UK.

This ambition is also reflected in our commitment of £562m to City and Growth Deals across Northern Ireland (NI) which will drive economic growth and productivity in line with the key local priorities. The NI Executive has recently agreed to match the UK Government commitment to City and Growth Deals and the Inclusive Future Fund, bringing total investment to £1.2bn and highlighting what our partnership can achieve.

This partnership and long-term strategic investment will be vital in supporting Northern Ireland’s economic recovery following the impact and challenges presented by Covid-19. The Councils and their delivery partners are therefore working at speed to ensure their projects reflect the best opportunities for investment. Whilst Covid-19 has required some reassessment of local priorities, we are confident that progress is being made across each of the deals. I continue to engage regularly with the Chief Executives of the City and Growth Deals in Northern Ireland and my department is working closely with Councils and NI Executive colleagues to provide any support necessary to accelerate their implementation.

Q
Asked by Bill Wiggin
(North Herefordshire)
Asked on: 24 June 2020
Department for Transport
Driving Tests: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with driving examiners to help young people pass their driving tests who have been held back due to covid-19.
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 03 July 2020

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect the public and save lives. That remains its priority as it restarts its services.

Driver and rider instruction can restart in England from 4 July 2020.

Car driving tests will restart in England on Wednesday 22 July 2020, which will give learner drivers time to have refresher lessons and practice before taking their test.

Driving examiners are receiving information on the resumption of driving lessons and tests through their local communication channels.

Asked on: 24 June 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Wang Quanzhang
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the claims of the Chinese human rights lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, that he was tortured during a four-year prison sentence, kept under 24-hour surveillance by two armed police officers within his prison cell, and was forced into making a false confession; what representations they have made to the government of China about his reported treatment; and what response they have received.
A
Answered on: 03 July 2020

We have directly raised our concerns about the detention, mistreatment, and harassment of Wang Quanzhang on multiple occasions with the Chinese Government, and raised the case during China's last Universal Periodic Review. The Foreign Secretary raised human rights concerns with his Chinese counterpart, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on both 9 March and 8 June.

Q
Asked by Alberto Costa
(South Leicestershire)
Asked on: 25 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Fly-tipping and Waste Management: Fines
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of increasing the fines given to those who (a) are caught fly-tipping and (b) fail to check if those disposing of waste have a valid waste carriers' licence.
A
Answered by: Rebecca Pow
Answered on: 03 July 2020

Defra issued a call for evidence in 2015 prior to introducing Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for those who have committed a fly-tipping offence. The responses to our call for evidence and further analysis when finalising the policy led to the maximum value of the FPN being set at £400.

In January 2019 we gave local authorities the power to issue a FPN to householders who fail in their duty of care. When consulting on this FPN, almost three-quarters of respondents felt that the proposed value (£200 default, maximum value of £400) was correct.

With regards to criminal prosecution for more serious fly-tipping offences, the punishment could be a fine of up to £50,000 or up to 12 months imprisonment or both when tried in a magistrates’ court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine or up to five years imprisonment or both if convicted in a Crown Court.

We committed in our manifesto to increase penalties for fly-tipping and will continue to work with magistrates, the Sentencing Council and the Judicial Office to ensure magistrates are aware of the prevalence and the significance of fly-tipping and its impact on local communities, with a view to securing tougher penalties.

The latest 2018/19 fly-tipping prosecution outcome figures showed that the value of total fines increased by 29% to £1,090,000 compared with 2017/18.

Q
Asked by Nickie Aiken
(Cities of London and Westminster)
Asked on: 25 June 2020
Ministry of Justice
Administration of Justice: Human Trafficking
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment his Department made of the potential effect on access to justice for victims of trafficking prior to the introduction of the legal aid fixed fee for asylum and immigration legal aid work.
A
Answered by: Alex Chalk
Answered on: 03 July 2020

The Lord Chancellor is committed to ensuring that everyone can access justice and has a statutory duty as set out in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO 2012) to ensure that legal aid funding is available for the civil legal services set out in Schedule 1 of LASPO 2012.

The legal aid fee scheme for asylum and immigration work is payable for all immigration and asylum matters that are in scope of LASPO, and the new fixed fees for immigration and asylum appeals apply to all legally-aided appeals before the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber).

These new, temporary fees were introduced as part of our swift response to the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that the tribunal system could continue to function and vulnerable clients could still access justice. As such our consideration on access to justice was based on the immigration and asylum system as a whole rather than individual appellants or appeal types. The Lord Chancellor has already committed to a formal consultation before any permanent fee is set.

Q
Asked by Alex Norris
(Nottingham North)
[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: 15 June 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Contact Tracing: Training
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the training programme undertaken by NHS Test and Trace contact tracers includes information on (a) identifying child abuse and neglect and b) the steps to take in the event that they suspect a child is at risk.
A
Answered by: Ms Nadine Dorries
Answered on: 02 July 2020
Holding answer received on 18 June 2020

All organisations that we work with are experts in undertaking call handling and have standard quality assurance processes that help drive continuous improvement from the point we go live.

A training package has been put together by experts in health protection and field epidemiology. Staff who join as call handlers’ for Tier 3 and ‘clinical staff’ for Tiers 1 and 2 are required to complete Level 2 adult and child safe-guarding training. The training undertaken addresses both adult and child safeguarding training and identify when concerns should be escalated. Policies are in place to ensure contact tracers know how to escalate concerns.

Where contact tracers identify potential child abuse and neglect, they escalate these cases straight away to a specialist team for review and onward referral to the appropriate authorities.

Q
Asked by Ms Lyn Brown
(West Ham)
Asked on: 19 June 2020
Ministry of Justice
Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the Answer of 12 June 2020 to Question 54062, on Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus, how many and what proportion of prison-leavers released without an address to go to were from BAME backgrounds.
A
Answered by: Lucy Frazer
Answered on: 02 July 2020

We are working closely across Government to ensure that all individuals released at risk of homelessness receive necessary support to help them secure somewhere to live.

As a result of the pandemic, we have secured up to £8.5 million to support individuals at risk of homelessness on their release from prison for up to eight weeks and help to move on into permanent accommodation. This scheme was originally due to run until 26 June; however, we have recently undertaken our first review and, following this, have extended the scheme until 31 July.

Of the 7,814 offenders released between 23 March-30 April 2020, 5,892 (75%) were from white backgrounds, 1,521 (19%) were from BAME backgrounds and the ethnic background of 401 offenders (5%) is unknown.

Of the 7,814 offenders released, 1,014 were described as homeless (total of rough sleeping and ‘other homeless’ combined). Of these 1,014 offenders, 174 (17%) were from BAME backgrounds, 804 (79%) were from white backgrounds and the ethnic background of 36 (4%) homeless offenders is unknown.

Please note, ‘other homeless’ refers to individuals who identify as homeless but have not been identified as sleeping rough. In some cases, it is not recorded whether an individual that is identified as homeless is rough sleeping.

The table below provides the number of offenders released from custody by accommodation circumstance on the first night. The data covers the period 23 March- 30 April 2020 and is broken down by region.

Offenders Released from custody

Rough sleeping

Other Homeless***

Unknown accommodation circumstance

Young Adults*

1289

17

68

188

London

276

4

11

42

Midlands

216

#

9

28

North East

230

#

7

40

North West

179

#

16

18

South East and Eastern

164

5

15

15

South West and South Central

135

5

6

16

Wales

89

#

4

29

Other Males**

5933

198

642

933

London

916

52

125

168

Midlands

1037

19

100

173

North East

1080

22

111

179

North West

984

23

104

103

South East and Eastern

763

50

88

106

South West and South Central

716

26

76

80

Wales

437

6

38

124

Other Females**

592

26

63

88

London

81

5

14

20

Midlands

139

4

13

22

North East

119

4

13

13

North West

86

#

15

10

South East and Eastern

62

5

4

10

South West and South Central

68

4

#

7

Wales

37

#

#

6

# Denotes values less than 4, or secondary suppression (suppressed to avoid disclosure).

Regions correspond to National Probation Service division boundaries at the end of March but also include Community Rehabilitation Company managed offenders.

*Young adults are offenders between 18 and 24

** Other male and females are offenders 25 and over

*** “Other homeless” refers to individuals who identify as homeless but have not been identified as sleeping rough. In some cases, it is not recorded whether an individual that is identified as homeless is rough sleeping

Please note, offenders not managed by either the National Probation Service or a Community Rehabilitation Company (including those offenders subject to electronic monitoring) are not included in the dataset. Release on temporary licence (RoTL), End of Custody Temporary Release (ECTR), releases where the offender is subject to same-day recall to custody, and release from unsupervised short sentences are also not included.

Grouped Questions: 61689
Q
Asked by Ms Lyn Brown
(West Ham)
Asked on: 19 June 2020
Ministry of Justice
Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the Answer of 12 June to Question 54062 on Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus, how many people within each of the categories in the table provided were released into (a) each of the regions of England and (b) Wales.
A
Answered by: Lucy Frazer
Answered on: 02 July 2020

We are working closely across Government to ensure that all individuals released at risk of homelessness receive necessary support to help them secure somewhere to live.

As a result of the pandemic, we have secured up to £8.5 million to support individuals at risk of homelessness on their release from prison for up to eight weeks and help to move on into permanent accommodation. This scheme was originally due to run until 26 June; however, we have recently undertaken our first review and, following this, have extended the scheme until 31 July.

Of the 7,814 offenders released between 23 March-30 April 2020, 5,892 (75%) were from white backgrounds, 1,521 (19%) were from BAME backgrounds and the ethnic background of 401 offenders (5%) is unknown.

Of the 7,814 offenders released, 1,014 were described as homeless (total of rough sleeping and ‘other homeless’ combined). Of these 1,014 offenders, 174 (17%) were from BAME backgrounds, 804 (79%) were from white backgrounds and the ethnic background of 36 (4%) homeless offenders is unknown.

Please note, ‘other homeless’ refers to individuals who identify as homeless but have not been identified as sleeping rough. In some cases, it is not recorded whether an individual that is identified as homeless is rough sleeping.

The table below provides the number of offenders released from custody by accommodation circumstance on the first night. The data covers the period 23 March- 30 April 2020 and is broken down by region.

Offenders Released from custody

Rough sleeping

Other Homeless***

Unknown accommodation circumstance

Young Adults*

1289

17

68

188

London

276

4

11

42

Midlands

216

#

9

28

North East

230

#

7

40

North West

179

#

16

18

South East and Eastern

164

5

15

15

South West and South Central

135

5

6

16

Wales

89

#

4

29

Other Males**

5933

198

642

933

London

916

52

125

168

Midlands

1037

19

100

173

North East

1080

22

111

179

North West

984

23

104

103

South East and Eastern

763

50

88

106

South West and South Central

716

26

76

80

Wales

437

6

38

124

Other Females**

592

26

63

88

London

81

5

14

20

Midlands

139

4

13

22

North East

119

4

13

13

North West

86

#

15

10

South East and Eastern

62

5

4

10

South West and South Central

68

4

#

7

Wales

37

#

#

6

# Denotes values less than 4, or secondary suppression (suppressed to avoid disclosure).

Regions correspond to National Probation Service division boundaries at the end of March but also include Community Rehabilitation Company managed offenders.

*Young adults are offenders between 18 and 24

** Other male and females are offenders 25 and over

*** “Other homeless” refers to individuals who identify as homeless but have not been identified as sleeping rough. In some cases, it is not recorded whether an individual that is identified as homeless is rough sleeping

Please note, offenders not managed by either the National Probation Service or a Community Rehabilitation Company (including those offenders subject to electronic monitoring) are not included in the dataset. Release on temporary licence (RoTL), End of Custody Temporary Release (ECTR), releases where the offender is subject to same-day recall to custody, and release from unsupervised short sentences are also not included.

Grouped Questions: 61687
Q
(Putney)
[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: 29 June 2020
Department for Transport
Motorcycles: Driving Tests
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when motorcycle driving tests can resume as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 02 July 2020

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been the safety of its staff and the wider public. That remains its priority as it restarts its services.

From 4 July 2020, people will be able to take motorcycle and moped compulsory basic training, and motorcycle direct access scheme training.

Motorcycle and moped module 1 and module 2 tests will be available from 13 July 2020.

Q
(Stalybridge and Hyde)
[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: 02 July 2020
Department for Transport
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with driving examiners unions' on whether their members plan to return to work on 22 July 2020 as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.
Q
Asked by Sarah Olney
(Richmond Park)
[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: 02 July 2020
Department for Transport
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will extend the expiry period for driving theory tests during the covid-19 outbreak.
Q
Asked by Simon Baynes
(Clwyd South)
Asked on: 02 July 2020
Attorney General
Sentencing: Appeals
Commons
To ask the Attorney General, how many sentences have been extended under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme in each of the last six months.
Q
(Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)
[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: 20 April 2020
Home Office
Immigration: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans her Department has to test people entering the UK from overseas for covid-19.
A
Answered by: Kevin Foster
Answered on: 01 July 2020

The security of the UK border, the safety of the staff who protect it and the public are our key concerns.

Our approach to tackling coronavirus is and has always been driven by the latest scientific and medical advice, and procedures at the border have been strictly following the latest PHE guidance throughout. To bolster public health measures already in place, passengers at airports are provided with information on symptoms and the social distancing processes.

Since 8 June, all passengers arriving in the UK have been required to complete a locator form as well as self-isolate for 14 days. This applies to all nationalities. Full details of these new measures, including the very limited exemptions to the new rules, can be found at www.gov.uk/uk-border-control.

Border Force continues to work collaboratively with devolved administrations, including Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England, to support the COVID 19 response.

Grouped Questions: 37430
Q
(Tewkesbury)
Asked on: 20 April 2020
Home Office
Immigration Controls: Health
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what health checks are carried out at borders on people coming to the UK from abroad; and if she will make a statement.
A
Answered by: Kevin Foster
Answered on: 01 July 2020

The security of the UK border, the safety of the staff who protect it and the public are our key concerns.

Our approach to tackling coronavirus is and has always been driven by the latest scientific and medical advice, and procedures at the border have been strictly following the latest PHE guidance throughout. To bolster public health measures already in place, passengers at airports are provided with information on symptoms and the social distancing processes.

Since 8 June, all passengers arriving in the UK have been required to complete a locator form as well as self-isolate for 14 days. This applies to all nationalities. Full details of these new measures, including the very limited exemptions to the new rules, can be found at www.gov.uk/uk-border-control.

Border Force continues to work collaboratively with devolved administrations, including Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England, to support the COVID 19 response.

Grouped Questions: 37572
Q
(Torfaen)
[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 April 2020
Home Office
Airports: Travel Requirements
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what the evidential basis was for the decision for Border Force officials not to ask people arriving at UK airports from other countries to quarantine themselves.
A
Answered by: Kevin Foster
Answered on: 01 July 2020

Our approach to tackling coronavirus is and has always been driven by the latest scientific and medical advice, and procedures at the border have been strictly following the latest PHE guidance throughout.

During the contain phase we had enhanced monitoring at the borders to identify symptomatic travellers from high risk areas early and safely triage them into the health system.

Since 8 June, all passengers arriving in the UK have been required to complete a locator form as well as self-isolate for 14 days. This applies to all nationalities. Full details of these new measures, including the very limited exemptions to the new rules, can be found at www.gov.uk/uk-border-control.

Border Force continues to work collaboratively with devolved administrations, including Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England, to support the COVID 19 response

Q
(New Forest West)
Asked on: 16 June 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Tobacco: Sales
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will enable the sale of menthol cigarettes after the end of the transition period.
A
Answered by: Jo Churchill
Answered on: 01 July 2020

The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 introduced a ban on flavoured cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco. As the ban is part of United Kingdom legislation, it will remain in place when the UK exits the transition period with the European Union. Removing menthol cigarettes is an important milestone to help people quit smoking and improve their health and support the Government’s drive towards a smoke-free society by 2030.

Asked on: 17 June 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Coronavirus: Disease Control
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they plan to take in response to the report by the World Wide Fund for Nature COVID-19: urgent call to protect people and nature, published on 17 June, in particular regard to addressing the environmental drivers of pandemics.
Answered on: 01 July 2020

The Government welcomes this and other recent reports that have made the case for swift action to prevent a repeat of this devastating pandemic. We remain fully committed to tackling the environmental drivers of pandemics, including by reversing global biodiversity loss, tackling unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade, and driving up standards in food production and food safety around the world. Nature must be at the heart of our recovery and the UK will play a leading role in securing this, including by pressing for an ambitious post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Q
Asked by Apsana Begum
(Poplar and Limehouse)
Asked on: 18 June 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Coronavirus: Asians
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to Public Health England's report entitled Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 published on 2 June 2020, what assessment his Department has made of the reasons for which people of a Bangladeshi background are twice as likely to die from covid-19.
A
Answered by: Jo Churchill
Answered on: 01 July 2020

Public Health England’s (PHE) review ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ presented an analysis of survival among people with confirmed COVID-19 by sex, age group, ethnicity, deprivation and region. It showed that, after taking these factors into account, some ethnic groups still had a higher risk of death than others.

This analysis adjusts for important factors such as age and deprivation, but not for factors such as comorbidities and obesity, which are likely to have an impact on the different risks of dying between ethnic groups.

The review did not aim to determine root causes of findings that are likely to be driven by complex interactions, as the terms of reference shows.

PHE’s report ‘Beyond the data: understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups’ contains a literature review that highlights issues which can be a factor in some ethnic groups being more likely to suffer from COVID-19, including Bangladeshi communities. The report is available to view at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-understanding-the-impact-on-bame-communities

Q
Asked by Helen Hayes
(Dulwich and West Norwood)
[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 June 2020
Department for Education
Vocational Education
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress his Department has made on its review of BTECs and other applied general qualifications.
A
Answered by: Gillian Keegan
Answered on: 01 July 2020

The review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below, alongside the development of T Levels, is central to building a world-class technical education system. The first stage of the qualifications review consultation ran from March to June 2019. The second stage consultation is due to be published later in 2020. The review is looking at complex questions about the range of qualifications needed post-16, including the place of applied general qualifications, and we want to take the time to get this right. We are taking a number of steps in advance of this to drive up quality and reduce complexity in the system.

From 1 August 2020, we will withdraw funding approval for new starts on 163 older qualifications that have been superseded by newer more rigorous versions. From 1 September 2020, we will not approve new qualifications for funding for students aged 16 and above, to stabilise the publicly funded offer in advance of further reform. We have also, this year, started the process to remove public funding approval of qualifications with low or no publicly funded enrolments. Subject to the outcomes of this process, from August 2021 we will remove funding approval for qualifications with no publicly funded enrolments. Additionally, from August 2022 we will remove funding approval for qualifications with low numbers of publicly funded enrolments, unless doing so would have a significant adverse impact on a particular sector, geographical area or student group.

Q
Asked by Karin Smyth
(Bristol South)
Asked on: 23 June 2020
Department for Transport
Driving Tests: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how may emergency driving tests were undertaken by essential workers during the suspension of regular tests as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 01 July 2020

Between the period 23 March 2020 and 19 June 2020, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency conducted 5,967 emergency tests for critical workers:

Test category

Tests conducted

Motorcycle tests

124

Vocational tests

584

Car tests

5259

5967

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