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
(Bolton South East)
Asked on: 08 February 2018
Ministry of Justice
Courts: Video Conferencing
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of virtual court processes on the court experience of defendants.
A
Answered by: Lucy Frazer
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Technology is used in a variety of ways in courts to increase the efficiency of the court process. The various ways in which video links are used in proceedings are kept under regular internal review by HMCTS. The judge will always have the final say on mode of hearing and will need to be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice and compatible with the defendant’s right to a fair trial, having considered any representations from the parties.

Q
Asked by Dr David Drew
(Stroud)
Asked on: 12 March 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Incinerators
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will require operators of waste incineration sites to monitor emissions of particulate matters of less than 2.5.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Waste incineration sites are required to continuously monitor emissions of total particulate matter (TPM) in line with the requirements of the European Industrial Emissions Directive. TPM includes PMs of less than 2.5 (PM2.5) as well as other sizes. Therefore there is no need to monitor specifically for PM2.5. Furthermore there is no commercially available equipment for the continuous monitoring of PM2.5.

This approach is further supported by the fact that applicants for new incinerators are required to model PM2.5 emissions to air by assuming a worst-case scenario that all of the TPM emitted is PM2.5. This is a very precautionary approach as in practice TPM will be a mixture of sizes, and so the true impact will be less.

The Environment Agency will only issue a permit for an incinerator if it is satisfied that emissions of particulate matter will not have a significant impact on the environment under the worst-case scenario.

Asked on: 15 March 2018
Cabinet Office
Infrastructure: Weather
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the cost of the damage to infrastructure caused by the recent bad weather in the UK.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Departments and agencies plan for seasonal disruption and the impact of bad weather. No specific estimates have been made of the cost of the damage to infrastructure caused by the recent spell of bad weather in the UK. However, in the case of road networks, the Department for Transport announced on 26th March 2018 funding of £100 million was being provided to local highway authorities in England, outside London, to help repair local highways and improve the resilience of roads to local flooding and other severe weather events. Details can be found at the following link; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pothole-fund-boosted-to-repair-roads-after-winter-damage”.

Q
(Bradford South)
Asked on: 21 March 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Housing: Construction
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what plans he has to ensure greater protection and improved redress for consumers where developers of new build homes fail on their obligations to complete the construction in accordance with the conditions of the grant of planning permission.
A
Answered by: Dominic Raab
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The Government is committed to fixing our broken housing market, to ensure we have a housing market that works for everyone. We expect housing developers to deliver good quality housing, on time, and to treat house buyers fairly.

The majority of house builders are covered by an industry-led consumer code or warranty provider scheme which can offer resolution where things go wrong, but these do not always cover all issues. Where applicable, the industry-led Codes offer protection for the pre and post sales process and can include a completion timeframe. Where breaches of the code are evident, consumers can raise a complaint through the independent dispute resolution service. If consumers are unhappy with the warranty provider they can raise a complaint through the Financial Ombudsman Service.

It is right that developers are required to mitigate the impacts of development, and pay for the cumulative impacts of development on the infrastructure in their area. Specifically on the adoption of roads, this is covered under separate legislation (s.38 of the Highways Act 1980).

There are already existing enforcement powers available to local authorities to ensure developers comply with conditions of the grant of planning permission.

Through our package of planning reforms, which includes the revised draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the reforms to developer contributions, we’re putting more rigour into the system so that plans are clear about the obligations expected for infrastructure and affordable housing and developers are held to account in meeting them.

In February, we published the consultation “Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market”, to simplify the redress process so consumers have a clear and simple route to redress This follows the Secretary of State’s commitment from last November to explore options for improving redress in the housing market.

Grouped Questions: 133726 | 133728
Q
(Bradford South)
Asked on: 21 March 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Housing: Construction
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what plans he has to ensure greater protection and improved redress for consumers where developers of new build homes fail to complete development infrastructure in respect of roads, drainage, sewerage and street lighting to the satisfaction of the local planning authority to the extent that such infrastructure remains unadopted.
A
Answered by: Dominic Raab
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The Government is committed to fixing our broken housing market, to ensure we have a housing market that works for everyone. We expect housing developers to deliver good quality housing, on time, and to treat house buyers fairly.

The majority of house builders are covered by an industry-led consumer code or warranty provider scheme which can offer resolution where things go wrong, but these do not always cover all issues. Where applicable, the industry-led Codes offer protection for the pre and post sales process and can include a completion timeframe. Where breaches of the code are evident, consumers can raise a complaint through the independent dispute resolution service. If consumers are unhappy with the warranty provider they can raise a complaint through the Financial Ombudsman Service.

It is right that developers are required to mitigate the impacts of development, and pay for the cumulative impacts of development on the infrastructure in their area. Specifically on the adoption of roads, this is covered under separate legislation (s.38 of the Highways Act 1980).

There are already existing enforcement powers available to local authorities to ensure developers comply with conditions of the grant of planning permission.

Through our package of planning reforms, which includes the revised draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the reforms to developer contributions, we’re putting more rigour into the system so that plans are clear about the obligations expected for infrastructure and affordable housing and developers are held to account in meeting them.

In February, we published the consultation “Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market”, to simplify the redress process so consumers have a clear and simple route to redress This follows the Secretary of State’s commitment from last November to explore options for improving redress in the housing market.

Grouped Questions: 133722 | 133728
Q
(Bradford South)
Asked on: 21 March 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Housing: Construction
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what plans he has to ensure greater protection and improved redress for consumers where developers of new build homes fail to complete the development infrastructure and in the event that infrastructure utilities refuse to adopt that infrastructure.
A
Answered by: Dominic Raab
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The Government is committed to fixing our broken housing market, to ensure we have a housing market that works for everyone. We expect housing developers to deliver good quality housing, on time, and to treat house buyers fairly.

The majority of house builders are covered by an industry-led consumer code or warranty provider scheme which can offer resolution where things go wrong, but these do not always cover all issues. Where applicable, the industry-led Codes offer protection for the pre and post sales process and can include a completion timeframe. Where breaches of the code are evident, consumers can raise a complaint through the independent dispute resolution service. If consumers are unhappy with the warranty provider they can raise a complaint through the Financial Ombudsman Service.

It is right that developers are required to mitigate the impacts of development, and pay for the cumulative impacts of development on the infrastructure in their area. Specifically on the adoption of roads, this is covered under separate legislation (s.38 of the Highways Act 1980).

There are already existing enforcement powers available to local authorities to ensure developers comply with conditions of the grant of planning permission.

Through our package of planning reforms, which includes the revised draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the reforms to developer contributions, we’re putting more rigour into the system so that plans are clear about the obligations expected for infrastructure and affordable housing and developers are held to account in meeting them.

In February, we published the consultation “Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market”, to simplify the redress process so consumers have a clear and simple route to redress This follows the Secretary of State’s commitment from last November to explore options for improving redress in the housing market.

Grouped Questions: 133722 | 133726
Q
Asked by Martyn Day
(Linlithgow and East Falkirk)
Asked on: 29 March 2018
Department for Work and Pensions
Bereavement Support Payment
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make an assessment of the effect of the 18 week limit for bereavement support payments on the time available to families to grieve before returning to work.
A
Answered by: Kit Malthouse
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) is paid as an initial larger payment followed by up to 18 smaller monthly instalments. It provides targeted support to help with the immediate costs of bereavement rather than being an income replacement for on-going living expenses. The period of payment is not intended to equate to the period of grief following a bereavement.

The Government has made a commitment to review the impacts of BSP once sufficient evidence is available to assess all aspects of the policy.

Q
Asked by Derek Twigg
(Halton)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Housing: Construction
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, pursuant to the Answer of 9 March 2018 to Question 130480 on Housing: Construction, in the event that (a) a local authority does not have enough brownfield land left to meet their objectively assessed need and (b) neighbouring authorities cannot meet their unmet need would a Local Plan that does not meet objectively assessed housing need be passed by a Planning Inspector.
A
Answered by: Dominic Raab
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The draft revised National Planning Policy Framework, published for consultation on 5 March, makes it clear that plans will be found sound by a Planning Inspector only if they provide a strategy which will, as a minimum, meet as much of the identified housing need as possible. To do that they should make effective use of the land they have.

As well as using brownfield land and working with neighbours, local planning authorities should explore all other options such as under-utilised employment and commercial land and minimum density standards where appropriate.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong: Foreign Relations
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he made any representations to the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or to the Government of the People's Republic of China as a result of the findings of the Tenth Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Session 2014-15, The UK's relations with Hong Kong: 30 years after the Joint Declaration, HC 649.
A
Answered by: Mark Field
Answered on: 19 April 2018

​The Government regularly discusses a range of issues with the Governments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the People's Republic of China, including implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the importance of 'One Country, Two Systems'. As part of this ongoing dialogue, officials in Hong Kong discussed the FAC's report with their HKSARG counterparts.

Q
Asked by David Simpson
(Upper Bann)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Education
School Choice
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department plans to introduce a right for parents to send their children to the same school.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 19 April 2018

It is for admissions authorities in England to decide whether to give priority to siblings in their admissions arrangements, where the school is oversubscribed, and many schools do choose to do this. The Department expects schools to balance prioritising siblings with ensuring places are also available for other local children who do not have a sibling at the school.

The Deparment routinely reviews the English school admissions system and seeks regular feedback from stakeholders. Any changes to the School Admissions Code will require a full statutory process, including consultation and parliamentary scrutiny.

Q
Asked by David Simpson
(Upper Bann)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Education
Foster Care
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what information his Department holds on the number of children who were fostered in 2017.
A
Answered by: Nadhim Zahawi
Answered on: 19 April 2018

At 31 March 2017, there were 53,420 looked after children in England in foster care.

This information is already in the public domain and further information on the number of looked after children by their placement is published in Table A2 of the statistical release ‘Children looked after in England including adoption: 2016 to 2017’ at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoption-2016-to-2017.

Q
Asked by David Simpson
(Upper Bann)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Data Protection
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what his policy is on companies that sell personal data to third parties.
A
Answered by: Margot James
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The Government takes both the protection of personal data and the right to privacy extremely seriously. We expect all organisations to abide by the law when processing (including sharing or selling) personal data.

The Data Protection Act 1998 has served us well and placed the UK at the front of global data protection standards. With the new Data Protection Bill, Government are modernising the data protection laws in the UK to make them fit for purpose for our increasingly digital economy and society. It will set new standards for protecting general data, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), giving people more control over use of their data, and provide new rights to move or delete personal data. This new data protection regime will come into force on 25 May 2018.

Q
Asked by Lucy Allan
(Telford)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Right to Buy Scheme
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, how many people have purchased a property through the Help to Buy scheme in (a) the Telford constituency, (b) Telford and Wrekin borough, (c) Shropshire, (d) the West Midlands and (e) the UK since the inception of that scheme.
A
Answered by: Dominic Raab
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The following data refers to Help to Buy: Equity Loan which operates in England only.

The number of households who have purchased a home through Help to Buy: Equity Loan from April 2013 to September 2017:

(a) the Telford constituency 659

(b) Telford and Wrekin borough 1,383

(c) Shropshire 887

(d) the West Midlands 15,965

(e) the UK since the inception of that scheme. England 144,826

There are other Help to Buy schemes, both closed and currently open: the Scottish and Welsh governments currently run Help to Buy schemes with equity shares in Scotland and Wales.

Help to Buy: mortgage guarantee was available across the UK and open to new mortgage offers from October 2013 to December 2016.

Help to Buy: ISA opened in December 2015 and is open for new accounts until November 2019.

Q
Asked by Lucy Allan
(Telford)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Right to Buy Scheme
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, how many properties purchased through the Help to Buy scheme in (a) Telford constituency, (b) Telford and Wrekin borough and (c) England were purchased by (i) leasehold and (ii) freehold in each year since the inception of that scheme.
A
Answered by: Dominic Raab
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Help to Buy: Equity Loan data is set out in the quarterly statistical release covering April 2013 to September 2017:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/help-to-buy-equity-loan-scheme-and-help-to-buy-newbuy-statistics-april-2013-to-30-september-2017

Q
Asked by Adam Afriyie
(Windsor)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Treasury
Money Laundering: Cryptocurrencies
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department plans to review money laundering regulations to take into account the effect of cryptocurrencies.
A
Answered by: John Glen
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The Government has committed to bringing digital currencies into the scope of anti-money laundering regulation. The Government anticipates that the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive will enter into force at EU-level in summer of this year, with a transposition deadline of late 2019. This will be during the Implementation Period, and so the UK will transpose this Directive. These amendments bring virtual currency exchanges and custodian wallet providers into the scope of obliged entities. We will consult on any steps the government proposes to take to regulate digital currencies under UK law.

The Government has also recently announced the establishment of the Cryptoassets Taskforce, consisting of HM Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority. As part of its work, the Taskforce will consider the risks of cryptoassets and the future responses of the appropriate authorities, including around anti-money laundering regulation.

Q
Asked by Nigel Dodds
(Belfast North)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Work and Pensions
Housing Benefit
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the level of housing benefit (a) fraud and (b) overpayments in each region of England and Wales in each year since 2015.
A
Answered by: Kit Malthouse
Answered on: 19 April 2018

The Department of Work and Pensions publishes estimates on the total amount of fraud and error in the benefit system on GOV.UK. These estimates include figures for Housing Benefit, however, these are only available at a national level.

Housing Benefit debt recoveries and fraud data is published at a regional level on GOV.UK. This publication provides data on Housing Benefit overpayments outstanding, identified, recovered and written off. From April 2016 the publications no longer include fraud data.

Housing Benefit entitlement reduction statistics, available on GOV.UK, were developed as an experimental proxy measure of local authority fraud and error performance.

Q
(Bexleyheath and Crayford)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Education
GCE A-level
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many students from each socio-economic group achieved three or more A* or A grades at A level in each of the last five years.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Information about the number of students from each socio-economic group who achieved three or more A* to A grades is not held centrally.

The closest information the Department publishes are figures organised by disadvantage and the provision of Free School Meals, which can be used as a proxy. Figures for 2016/17 are published as part of the “A level and other 16 to 18 results: 2016 to 2017 (revised) statistical release[1] and in the underlying data of the ‘A level attainment by pupil characteristics’ transparency data[2] for earlier years.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/a-level-and-other-16-to-18-results-2016-to-2017-revised

(see ‘SFR03_2018_Performance_Measures_by_Charateristics’ CSV file in the zip folder entitled: ‘A level exam results and A level and vocational participation csv: SFR03/2018’, containing CSV files)

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-level-attainment-by-pupil-characteristics

Then open (A level attainment characteristics: underlying data)

Q
(Bexleyheath and Crayford)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Education
Further Education: Standards
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government is taking to improve the quality of further education.
A
Answered by: Nadhim Zahawi
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Improving the quality of Further Education (FE) provision is a key government priority. There remains too much poor quality FE provision. The introduction of T levels will establish a world class technical education system that develops young people’s talent and ensures that they have access to the training they need.

To deliver world class technical education we need outstanding FE Colleges. We have now approved the first fourteen grants from the Strategic College Improvement Fund, worth £15 million, enabling some of the best FE colleges to partner with those needing to improve. We have appointed seven National Leaders in FE, enabling the best college principals to actively support their peers. The FE Commissioner’s role has been extended to support improvement at a wider group of colleges, helping them to address any areas of weakness at an early stage. The role of governors within the FE sector has been strengthened. We are also continuing to help colleges restructure to create efficiency which can be reinvested in teaching and learning, including through access to funding from a restructuring facility.

To create excellent institutions, we need talented teachers and leaders. We continue to fund the Education Training Foundation to help raise standards of teaching, leadership, and governance across the sector. We have announced up to £20 million to help teachers prepare for the implementation of T levels. Bursaries of up to £25,000 continue to be offered, up to at least 2019, to attract new graduates with relevant degrees to teach maths and English within the FE sector. We have also committed to invest £40 million to establish a FE centres for excellence in basic maths programme. This programme will build teaching capacity and spread high quality, new and evidenced methods for teaching of basic skills in the post-16 sector.

Q
(Southampton, Test)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Fracking
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what estimate his Department has made of the number of shale oil wells that will be in place by (a) 2025 and (b) 2030.
A
Answered by: Claire Perry
Answered on: 19 April 2018

There have been no specific estimates on the number of shale oil wells that will be in place by (a) 2025 or (b) 2030.

The Government will continue to monitor progress of the shale industry and will revise its estimates as appropriate as the industry develops.

Q
Asked by Robert Halfon
(Harlow)
Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Education
Apprentices
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the current level of employer demand for apprenticeships at (a) higher and (ii) degree level; and if he will make a statement.
A
Answered by: Anne Milton
Answered on: 19 April 2018

Apprenticeship starts at higher levels (including degree-level apprenticeships) are growing and have increased by a quarter in the first two quarters of the 2017/18 academic year in comparison to this time in 2016/17. Degree level apprenticeships, specifically, have seen as many starts in the current academic year as the previous three years combined.

Over 90% of employer PAYE schemes with larger levy declarations (over £150,000) have registered an account on the apprenticeship service. This illustrates a high level of engagement amongst levy payers and we are working with employers to help them plan their future apprenticeship programmes. This includes account managing over 1,000 of the largest levy-paying employers to help them shape their own programmes. Account managers have a caseload of approximately 50 to 60 employers, who they meet with face-to-face on a regular basis.

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