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
(North East Fife)
Asked on: 28 June 2019
Department for International Trade
Arms Trade: Saudi Arabia
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what the cost to the public purse was (a) of his Department's legal team and (b) in legal fees to the appellant for his Department's defence of the 2017 High Court case on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
A
Answered by: Graham Stuart
Answered on: 22 July 2019
Holding answer received on 05 July 2019

The cost to the public purse of (a) the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) legal team was £146,752.61, and (b) the cost to the public purse in legal fees to the appellant for this Department’s defence of the 2017 High Court case on arms sales to Saudi Arabia was £45,000. In addition, other money disbursed from the public purse for the purposes of this case was £138,292.14. This figure represents DIT legal costs to date associated with the Special Advocate representing the Appellant in closed proceedings in the Judicial Review.

The figures provided comprise net legal costs, including disbursement costs and these represent the legal cost to DIT. The legal costs provided here do not include figures spent by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. There may also be further legal costs that have not yet been billed to the department.

Q
Asked by Frank Field
(Birkenhead)
[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: 04 July 2019
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Tree Planting
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many trees will be planted in order to reach the Government’s target of 11 million trees in each year from July 2019 to the end of this Parliament.
A
Answered by: David Rutley
Answered on: 22 July 2019

Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2019 we have planted 3.64 million trees towards our target of 11 million by the end of this Parliament, and we are on track to meet the target.

The Woodland Carbon Fund, Woodland Creation Planning Grant and Countryside Stewardship initiatives are already in place to support land managers to plant trees. They are demand-led grant schemes for independent landowners. It is therefore not possible to have exact annual planting figures for future years.

In order to increase tree planting rates, we have simplified the application process for our grant schemes, and made them open for applications year-round. We have also announced £5.7 million to kick start a new Northern Forest, as well as £50 million for the Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme, which will open for applications this year.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Ethnic Groups
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that Muslim children are being separated from their families, faith and language in schools in Xinjiang; and what representations they intend to make about such separations to the government of China.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

We have serious concerns about the detention of more than a million Uyghurs, along with widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at minorities. British diplomats in China visit Xinjiang every few months, in order to see at first-hand the situation there. They most recently visited in May 2019, and their observations have supported much of the recent open source reporting about the restrictions targeted at specific ethnic groups.

Ministers and senior officials frequently raise the human rights issues in the region with their Chinese counterparts, most recently in a public statement on 3 July at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council. The Foreign Secretary also highlighted our concerns with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his most recent visit to China, in July 2018. Later that month, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific did the same with his Chinese counterpart Vice Minister Guo Yezhou. Additionally, our Embassy in Beijing regularly raises the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang with the Chinese authorities.

Reports about forced separation of children add to the growing body of disturbing evidence highlighting the situation Uyghurs face in Xinjiang. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and raise our concerns with the Chinese government at all levels bilaterally and in appropriate UN fora, including the Human Rights Council.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Ethnic Groups
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that in one township in Xinjiang more than 400 children have lost both of their parents to some form of internment in camps or prisons; and what assessment they have made of whether those internments are part of a campaign to systematically remove children from their roots and their family’s beliefs.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

We have serious concerns about the detention of more than a million Uyghurs, along with widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at minorities. British diplomats in China visit Xinjiang every few months, in order to see at first-hand the situation there. They most recently visited in May 2019, and their observations have supported much of the recent open source reporting about the restrictions targeted at specific ethnic groups.

Ministers and senior officials frequently raise the human rights issues in the region with their Chinese counterparts, most recently in a public statement on 3 July at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council. The Foreign Secretary also highlighted our concerns with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his most recent visit to China, in July 2018. Later that month, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific did the same with his Chinese counterpart Vice Minister Guo Yezhou. Additionally, our Embassy in Beijing regularly raises the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang with the Chinese authorities.

Reports about forced separation of children add to the growing body of disturbing evidence highlighting the situation Uyghurs face in Xinjiang. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and raise our concerns with the Chinese government at all levels bilaterally and in appropriate UN fora, including the Human Rights Council.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Eritrea: Health Centres
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 4 July (HL16637), whether they can now provide an assessment of the impact of the government of Eritrea's enforced closure of Church-run health centres; whether staff in Eritrea have been able to visit and gather evidence of the impact of such closures on the local community; what assessment they have made of the reported deaths resulting from the closure of those facilities; and when they intend to raise this matter with (1) the government of Eritrea, and (2) the Eritrean Ambassador to the UK.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

​We understand that the majority of the Catholic Church managed health centres recently closed by the Eritrean Government have reopened under Ministry of Health management. Due to restrictions on travel, and with no independent media in Eritrea, it is difficult for UK Embassy staff to verify these reports themselves or the consequences of the original closures. The Eritrean Government has stated that the closures are part of a long-term plan to bring all healthcare provisions under the Government. We have raised with the Eritrean Ambassador in London and our Ambassador in Asmara has requested a meeting with the Eritrean Foreign Minister.

Q
Asked by Lord Bates
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Yemen: Human Rights
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the conclusions and recommendations of the report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Situation of human rights in Yemen, including violations and abuses since September 2014, published on 17 August 2018.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

We are deeply concerned by the human rights violations and abuses reported by the UN in August 2018. It is vital that all parties to the conflict make every effort to promote and protect human rights. Yemen remains a human rights priority country for the UK. In the 2018 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Human Rights and Democracy Report, we highlighted our concerns over women’s rights including girls’ education, the recruitment of child soldiers, arbitrary detention, and attacks on freedom of religion or belief and on freedom of speech and association. We have raised the FCO's report directly with the Human Rights Minister for the Government of Yemen, voicing our concerns. We will continue to work with all parties and international partners, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to find a political solution to the conflict, in order to create the conditions to improve and protect human rights in Yemen.​

Q
Asked by Lord Berkeley
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Transport
Traffic Commissioners
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are conducting a review into the role of the Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain; if so, (1) whether they will place copy of any such review's terms of reference in the Library of the House, (2) what consultation is taking place as part of that review and with whom, and (3) when they expect to publish the conclusions of any such review.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is conducting an internal review of the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) to consider ways of working and potential for efficiencies. It has consulted trade associations as part of this process. This is an internal review and therefore DVSA will not be publishing its terms of reference or any conclusions. DVSA expects to complete the review in early autumn 2019.

Q
Asked by Lord Bird
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Disadvantaged: Children and Young People
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, what assessment they have made of the report by Barnardo’s Overcoming Poverty of Hope, published on 8 July; and what steps they intend to take to improve how they (1) listen to, and (2) act upon, the concerns of younger generations.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 22 July 2019

We welcome the Overcoming Poverty of Hope report which provides valuable insight into young people’s views and concerns about their own future.

We are committed to providing support for young people so that everyone, no matter what their start is in life, is given the best chance of getting into work. The department has a variety of support for young people such as the Youth Obligation Support Programme which provides support tailored to the needs and ambitions of individual 18 to 21 year olds. We have been working with Barnardo’s to develop a pilot specifically for care leavers. The pilot offers enhanced work experience and a personal mentor to support the care leaver throughout the placement, building the skills and confidence needed to start a career.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Pension Credit
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much funding they provided to charities that work with older people to support the take-up of Pension Credit in (1) 2015–16, (2) 2016–17, and (3) 2017–18.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 22 July 2019

The Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to. We work with a wide range of stakeholders, including charities to ensure that accurate information about benefits including Pension Credit is available in the places where people are most likely to go to seek information.

The DWP knows that one of the best ways to reach eligible claimants is through trusted stakeholder organisations working in the community and that is why we have developed and resourced the Pension Credit toolkit, as an on-line tool for agencies and welfare rights organisations to use in order to encourage Pension Credit take-up.

The toolkit contains resources for anyone working with pensioners and includes guides to Pension Credit. It also contains publicity material and guidance designed to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit and help organisations support someone applying for Pension Credit as well as ideas for encouraging take-up. The toolkit also provides links to information about disability and carers benefits.

Stakeholders and potential claimants alike can use the Pension Credit calculator at gov.uk to check if they are likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what they may receive.

Most recently we have provided to relevant stakeholders a fact sheet about Pension Credit and the changes introduced on 15 May for mixed age couples to ensure they are able to communicate the most up-to-date information to potential claimants.

DWP staff in Pension Centres and Jobcentres including visiting officers are able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in Local Authorities who administer Housing Benefit.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Ministry of Justice
Alternatives to Prosecution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government why they introduced community resolution orders as informal punishments for low-level offences in 2014; who was responsible for their introduction; and whether their use was approved by the Home Secretary.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 22 July 2019

Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) allow police to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level offending without recourse to the courts. One type of OOCD is community resolution. This is a non-statutory disposal that can be administered by police forces when the offender accepts responsibility for the offence, and in most cases, where the victim has agreed that they do not want more formal action taken.

‘Community resolution’ is a nationally recognised term for a disposal which has been in use by police for some years, and prior to 2014. In 2014, following consultation, the Ministry of Justice identified support for community resolution as part of a simplified framework for OOCDs in which all disposals had conditions attached.

The College of Policing hold guidance on the use of community resolutions:

http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/Community-Resolutions-Incorporating-RJ-Final-Aug-2012-2.pdf (this was also summarised as part of a quick reference guide published by Ministry of Justice in 2013: https://www.yjlc.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/MoJ-Quick-reference-guides-out-of-court-disposals-2013.pdf).

Individual decisions around the appropriateness of issuing an OOCD are an operational matter for police.

Typically, a Constable, Police Community Support Officer or Police Staff Investigator can decide to issue a community resolution, in accordance with Authorised Professional Practice, gravity matrices and local force policies which inform decision making.

Police and partners have a range of measures in place to ensure appropriate use of Out of Court Disposals. Supervisors are expected to check decision-making of their staff regularly. Out of Court Disposal scrutiny panels are also in place with external representation - these review in detail a selection of cases to determine whether the method of disposal is considered appropriate, based on a review of the information/evidence available to the decision maker at the time.

Government works closely with the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) whose Charging and Out of Court Disposals strategy (2017-2021) sets out their position and support for forces around OOCDs. We publish data and pay attention to trends in the use of Out of Court Disposals on an ongoing basis.

Grouped Questions: HL16981 | HL16982
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Ministry of Justice
Alternatives to Prosecution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance they provide to police forces in England and Wales on the criteria for determining whether a person should be subject to a community resolution order rather than an alternative punishment; and who determines whether or not to use a community resolution order.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 22 July 2019

Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) allow police to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level offending without recourse to the courts. One type of OOCD is community resolution. This is a non-statutory disposal that can be administered by police forces when the offender accepts responsibility for the offence, and in most cases, where the victim has agreed that they do not want more formal action taken.

‘Community resolution’ is a nationally recognised term for a disposal which has been in use by police for some years, and prior to 2014. In 2014, following consultation, the Ministry of Justice identified support for community resolution as part of a simplified framework for OOCDs in which all disposals had conditions attached.

The College of Policing hold guidance on the use of community resolutions:

http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/Community-Resolutions-Incorporating-RJ-Final-Aug-2012-2.pdf (this was also summarised as part of a quick reference guide published by Ministry of Justice in 2013: https://www.yjlc.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/MoJ-Quick-reference-guides-out-of-court-disposals-2013.pdf).

Individual decisions around the appropriateness of issuing an OOCD are an operational matter for police.

Typically, a Constable, Police Community Support Officer or Police Staff Investigator can decide to issue a community resolution, in accordance with Authorised Professional Practice, gravity matrices and local force policies which inform decision making.

Police and partners have a range of measures in place to ensure appropriate use of Out of Court Disposals. Supervisors are expected to check decision-making of their staff regularly. Out of Court Disposal scrutiny panels are also in place with external representation - these review in detail a selection of cases to determine whether the method of disposal is considered appropriate, based on a review of the information/evidence available to the decision maker at the time.

Government works closely with the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) whose Charging and Out of Court Disposals strategy (2017-2021) sets out their position and support for forces around OOCDs. We publish data and pay attention to trends in the use of Out of Court Disposals on an ongoing basis.

Grouped Questions: HL16980 | HL16982
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Ministry of Justice
Alternatives to Prosecution
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that community resolution orders are being used for more serious offences than originally intended; and what plans they have to prevent such orders being used for anything other than low-level crimes.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 22 July 2019

Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) allow police to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level offending without recourse to the courts. One type of OOCD is community resolution. This is a non-statutory disposal that can be administered by police forces when the offender accepts responsibility for the offence, and in most cases, where the victim has agreed that they do not want more formal action taken.

‘Community resolution’ is a nationally recognised term for a disposal which has been in use by police for some years, and prior to 2014. In 2014, following consultation, the Ministry of Justice identified support for community resolution as part of a simplified framework for OOCDs in which all disposals had conditions attached.

The College of Policing hold guidance on the use of community resolutions:

http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/Community-Resolutions-Incorporating-RJ-Final-Aug-2012-2.pdf (this was also summarised as part of a quick reference guide published by Ministry of Justice in 2013: https://www.yjlc.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/MoJ-Quick-reference-guides-out-of-court-disposals-2013.pdf).

Individual decisions around the appropriateness of issuing an OOCD are an operational matter for police.

Typically, a Constable, Police Community Support Officer or Police Staff Investigator can decide to issue a community resolution, in accordance with Authorised Professional Practice, gravity matrices and local force policies which inform decision making.

Police and partners have a range of measures in place to ensure appropriate use of Out of Court Disposals. Supervisors are expected to check decision-making of their staff regularly. Out of Court Disposal scrutiny panels are also in place with external representation - these review in detail a selection of cases to determine whether the method of disposal is considered appropriate, based on a review of the information/evidence available to the decision maker at the time.

Government works closely with the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) whose Charging and Out of Court Disposals strategy (2017-2021) sets out their position and support for forces around OOCDs. We publish data and pay attention to trends in the use of Out of Court Disposals on an ongoing basis.

Grouped Questions: HL16980 | HL16981
Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Turkey: Iraq
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that Turkey is planning to establish a permanent military base in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq; and whether the government of Iraq is in agreement with any such plan.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

​We are aware of media reports stating that Turkey is planning to establish a permanent military base in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq. We cannot verify the accuracy of these reports, nor the consent of the Government of Iraq on this matter. We continue to urge dialogue between Iraq and Turkey, in order to ensure sustained co-operation in combatting terrorism in the region.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
USA: Detention Centres
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they intend to have with the government of the United States about the case for independent inspections of detention centres for refugees and migrants held near the frontier with Mexico.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

​We share concerns over recent reports on the conditions faced in US detention facilities. The President signed a Bill on 1 July providing emergency funding, including humanitarian support, in part to help address those conditions. We will continue to monitor the situation, but immigration policy in the US, including the conduct and manner of independent inspections, is a matter for the US Government.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Philippines: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the government of the Philippines has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); and what plans they have to discuss with that government how the provisions of the UNCRC could be applied to children in detention in the Philippines.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

​The Philippines ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.

Officials at our Embassy in Manila regularly raise the issue of Children in Conflict with the Law and the detention of children as part of the Embassy's engagement with the relevant local authorities and the Philippines security sector.

Q
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Transport
Roads: Repairs and Maintenance
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Highways England holds a schedule of rates for (1) damage to Crown Property, and (2) unplanned and emergency works; and if so, whether they will publish those schedules.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

On 24 June 2019, Highways England published a National Schedule of Repair Costs for damage to the network (Crown Property). This includes the rates for planned and reactive (unplanned) works. The schedule can be found on Highways England’s website.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Ethnic Groups
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the government of China about reports of (1) forcible separations, and (2) re-education, of Uighur children in the eastern province of Xinjiang.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

We have serious concerns about the detention of more than a million Uyghurs, along with widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at minorities. British diplomats in China visit Xinjiang every few months, in order to see at first-hand the situation there. They most recently visited in May 2019, and their observations have supported much of the recent open source reporting about the restrictions targeted at specific ethnic groups.

Ministers and senior officials frequently raise the human rights issues in the region with their Chinese counterparts, most recently in a public statement on 3 July at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council. The Foreign Secretary also highlighted our concerns with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his most recent visit to China, in July 2018. Later that month, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific did the same with his Chinese counterpart Vice Minister Guo Yezhou. Additionally, our Embassy in Beijing regularly raises the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang with the Chinese authorities.

Reports about forced separation of children add to the growing body of disturbing evidence highlighting the situation Uyghurs face in Xinjiang. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and raise our concerns with the Chinese government at all levels bilaterally and in appropriate UN fora, including the Human Rights Council.

Q
Asked by Lord Scriven
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Saudi Arabia: Military Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 8 July (HL16673), whether they have assessed training provided to the Saudi Arabian military financed by the Integrated Activity Fund since the Court of Appeal ruling that the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia was unlawful.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

All IAF-funded project work undergoes assessment and review. We are not able to disclose information related to particular IAF projects in greater detail as we have a duty to maintain the confidence and confidentiality of our partners.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Treasury
Parcels: VAT
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure more foreign companies sign up to the new parcel tax scheme in preparation for a possible no-deal Brexit.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 22 July 2019

HMRC’s Import VAT on Parcels online service was launched in February 2019 to allow businesses to prepare for a potential no deal EU exit, and remains open for registrations. HMRC are working with key partners to communicate the potential changes to overseas businesses. While HMRC expect registrations would increase if a no deal exit were confirmed, registration numbers for the online service are not a reliable indicator of overall readiness because there are other ways to pay import VAT on parcels via third parties.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Treasury
Doctors: Tax Allowances
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to revisit the 2016 rule changes to tax relief for medical practitioners, in order to resolve the current staffing crisis.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 22 July 2019

The Government keeps public sector pay and pensions policy under constant review in the context of the wider public finances.

Pensions tax relief is one of the most expensive reliefs in the personal tax system. In 2017/18 income tax and employer National Insurance Contributions relief cost over £50 billion, with around two-thirds going to higher and additional rate taxpayers.

The tapered annual allowance is therefore focused on the highest-earning savers, to ensure that the benefit they receive is not disproportionate to that of other pension savers. Less than one per cent of pension savers will have to reduce their saving or face an annual allowance charge as a result of the tapered annual allowance.

The Government recognises that some senior clinicians face tax charges owing to the increase in the value of their pension accrual. The tax rules must apply identically to everyone in the same situation, regardless of their employer.

However, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has announced plans to consult on proposals for a new flexibility for senior clinicians in the NHS pension scheme via the introduction of a 50:50 option. This option will give senior clinicians in England and Wales more choice in respect of their pension accrual, and therefore better control in relation to any pensions tax charges.

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