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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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
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 15 May 2020
Department for Education
Schools: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what safety (a) guidance and (b) support will be issued to schools that will be reopening on 1 June 2020 during the covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 26 May 2020

The Department’s latest guidance for schools to support their widening opening from 1 June 2020 is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings.

In all education, childcare and social care settings, a range of approaches and actions should be employed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools should follow the hierarchy of controls that, when implemented, creates an inherently safer system, where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. These include:

  • minimising contact with individuals who are unwell or who have coronavirus symptoms;
  • frequently cleaning hands;
  • ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach;
  • regular cleaning of settings; and
  • minimising contact and mixing.

Particular advice on implementing protective measures is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 01 May 2020
Department for Education
Schools: Protective Clothing
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government has taken to help ensure special schools have access to adequate levels of personal protective equipment for staff delivering personal and intimate care.
A
Answered by: Vicky Ford
Answered on: 12 May 2020

The scientific advice indicates that most educational staff do not require additional Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

Any symptomatic individual should avoid attending an educational setting, with the exception of residential special schools, where PPE may be required if contact with a symptomatic individual is unavoidable.

Current guidance issued by Public Health England suggests that PPE is only required for contact with an asymptomatic individual if there is a high risk or high likelihood of contact with excess bodily fluids or during an aerosol-generating procedure. This may be applicable to some special school settings (for example, in instances such as tracheostomy changes or if a pupil in a special school has a medical condition that includes uncontrollable spitting).

Educational settings are using their locally agreed supply chains to obtain PPE wherever possible. If there is a requirement in line with published guidance for educational settings to obtain PPE and it is not possible for them to source PPE via the aforementioned supply chains, PPE may be obtained from their nearest Local Resilience Forum.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 29 April 2020
Department for Education
Special Educational Needs: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what additional support he is allocating to schools catering for children with special educational needs during the covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Vicky Ford
Answered on: 18 May 2020

Schools will continue to receive their core funding allocations, as determined by the local authority for maintained schools and through the general annual grant for academies, for the 2020-2021 financial year – April 2020 to March 2021 for maintained schools and until August 2021 for academies and non-maintained special schools. This will happen regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure and will ensure schools can continue to pay staff and meet other regular financial commitments, as we move through these extraordinary times.

The department is providing additional funding for all schools, including special schools and alternative provision, to support them with unavoidable, additional costs associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. Guidance on this funding is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-schools.

As well as giving schools additional funding, we are providing them with a range of support, including guidance on supporting those with special educational needs.

Our guidance on supporting vulnerable children and young people during the COVID-19 outbreak sets out the different groups of vulnerable children who can attend educational settings. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people.

Our guidance on special educational needs and disabilities risk assessment builds on the guidance above. It explains the practicalities for local authorities and other providers in undertaking risk assessments for vulnerable children and young people with education, health and care (EHC) plans, in light of school closures. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-send-risk-assessment-guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-send-risk-assessment-guidance.

Our guidance on EHC needs assessments and plans explains the temporary changes to some aspects of the law. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/changes-to-the-law-on-education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans-due-to-coronavirus/education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans-guidance-on-temporary-legislative-changes-relating-to-coronavirus-covid-19.

These are rapidly developing circumstances. We continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 17 March 2020
Treasury
Loans: Interest Rates
Commons
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will take steps to limit the rate of interest charged on long-term loans.
A
Answered by: John Glen
Answered on: 25 March 2020

On 17 March, the Government announced a package of measures totalling £350 billion aimed at supporting the financial wellbeing of British businesses, individuals, and families. The Government is committed to doing whatever it takes to get our nation through the impacts of COVID-19 and, as part of this, is continually assessing all areas of the financial sector – including rates of interest on long-term loans. The Government is working closely with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the lending sector on this issue and stands ready to announce further action wherever necessary.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 16 March 2020
Home Office
Fraud: Convictions
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to increase conviction rates for fraud offences.
A
Answered by: James Brokenshire
Answered on: 24 March 2020

The Government recognises that to increase conviction rates, there needs to be an increased pipeline of cases under investigation. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) carried out an inspection of the police response to fraud last year. The review, published in April 2019, found that significant improvements are required to ensure the model works more effectively and efficiently, including the need for a much more co-ordinated national approach with clear roles and responsibilities.

The Home Office is working closely with law enforcement to ensure the recommendations set out in the HMICFRS report are implemented effectively in order to improve the response to fraud at the local, regional and national levels, including the support provided to victims of fraud.

In addition, working with the Home Office, the National Economic Crime Centre are currently progressing work to step up the immediate operational response to fraud, delivering an immediate surge in operational activity across law enforcement to tackle fraud.

The scale and complexity of the threat from serious and organised crime, including fraud, means that we need to do more to develop our response. A formal review is in progress, led by Sir Craig Mackey QPM, to identify the powers, capabilities, governance and funding needed to enable us to improve our response to serious and organised crime in all its forms, including fraud. The final report is due in Spring 2020.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Transport
Bus Services: South East
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to improve bus services in (a) Medway, (b) Kent and (c) the South East.
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 24 March 2020

The bus market outside London is deregulated and decisions regarding service provision are primarily a commercial matter for bus operators. However, the Bus Services Act 2017 provides the tools local authorities need to improve local bus services and increase passenger numbers.

The annual Bus Service Operators Grant the Government provided for Kent County Council during 2018/19 was £1,087,788.

We have announced an additional £30 million of additional funding to improve current services and restoring lost services. Kent County Council has been allocated £1,007,624 which will be available from April 2020 if the funding requirements are met. This is from the £220 million Better Deal for Bus Users package to transform bus services. The Government’s ambition is to secure a long term, sustained improvement in bus services underpinned by a National Bus Strategy for England which will be accompanied by a long-term funding settlement.

www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-better-deal-for-bus-users/a-better-deal-for-bus-users

On 11 February 2020, the Prime Minister announced there will be £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London which may benefit bus services serving Medway, Kent and the wider South East.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department for Transport
Airports: Thames Estuary
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what his policy is on proposals for a Thames estuary airport.
A
Answered by: Chris Heaton-Harris
Answered on: 24 March 2020

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement has no legal effect unless, and until, this Government carries out a review.

It is a complex judgment that the Government will need time to consider carefully.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 17 March 2020
Home Office
Action Fraud
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent steps she has taken to ensure Action Fraud deals with cases in (a) a timely and (b) an effective manner.
A
Answered by: James Brokenshire
Answered on: 24 March 2020

We are clear that the law enforcement response to fraud must improve. As the National Lead Force for fraud, the City of London Police (CoLP) are responsible for the performance of the Action Fraud service.

This includes ensuring that reports are dealt with in a timely and effective manner. We are working closely with law enforcement to ensure the recommendations set out in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) report, as well as the independent review led by Sir Craig Mackey into the standards, culture and management of Action Fraud, are implemented effectively in order to improve the response to fraud at the local, regional and national levels, including the support provided to victims of fraud.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 10 March 2020
Home Office
Prosecutions: Fraud
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to increase prosecution rates for fraud cases.
A
Answered by: James Brokenshire
Answered on: 18 March 2020

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organisations in England and Wales. The CPS is independent, and they make their decisions independently of the police and government.

The Government recognises that to increase prosecution rates, there needs to be an increased pipeline of cases under investigation. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) carried out an inspection of the police response to fraud last year. The review, published in April 2019, found that significant improvements are required to ensure the model works more effectively and efficiently, including the need for a much more co-ordinated national approach with clear roles and responsibilities.

The Home Office is working closely with law enforcement to ensure the recommendations set out in the HMICFRS report are implemented effectively in order to improve the response to fraud at the local, regional and national levels.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 09 March 2020
Treasury
Self-employed: Tax Avoidance
Commons
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps he is taking to reduce uncertainty for (a) contractors and (b) businesses that are affected by the changes to IR35.
A
Answered by: Jesse Norman
Answered on: 17 March 2020

The Tax Information and Impact Note (TIIN) published in July 2019 sets out HMRC’s assessment that the reform to the off-payroll working rules is expected to affect 170,000 individuals. The TIIN can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rules-for-off-payroll-working-from-april-2020/rules-for-off-payroll-working-from-april-2020.

HMRC are undertaking an extensive programme of education and support to help organisations and contractors prepare for the reform. This includes:

  • Offering one-to-one support to more than 2,000 of the UK’s biggest employers, and writing directly to 43,000 medium sized businesses and other organisations.
  • Providing large and medium sized businesses, public bodies, and charities with factsheets to share with their contractors, and publishing this factsheet on gov.uk.
  • Holding workshops with small tax agents, recruitment agencies, charities, and public bodies.
  • Holding webinars at least weekly, with small tax agents, recruitment agencies, charities, public bodies and contractors.
  • Publishing an enhanced version of the Check Employment Status for Tax online tool in November 2019 to help individuals and organisations make the right status determinations and apply the off-payroll rules correctly.

Grouped Questions: 26950
Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 09 March 2020
Treasury
Self-employed: Tax Avoidance
Commons
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many people will be affected by the proposed changes to IR35 in (a) Medway, (b) Kent and (c) the South East.
A
Answered by: Jesse Norman
Answered on: 17 March 2020

The Tax Information and Impact Note (TIIN) published in July 2019 sets out HMRC’s assessment that the reform to the off-payroll working rules is expected to affect 170,000 individuals. The TIIN can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rules-for-off-payroll-working-from-april-2020/rules-for-off-payroll-working-from-april-2020.

HMRC are undertaking an extensive programme of education and support to help organisations and contractors prepare for the reform. This includes:

  • Offering one-to-one support to more than 2,000 of the UK’s biggest employers, and writing directly to 43,000 medium sized businesses and other organisations.
  • Providing large and medium sized businesses, public bodies, and charities with factsheets to share with their contractors, and publishing this factsheet on gov.uk.
  • Holding workshops with small tax agents, recruitment agencies, charities, and public bodies.
  • Holding webinars at least weekly, with small tax agents, recruitment agencies, charities, public bodies and contractors.
  • Publishing an enhanced version of the Check Employment Status for Tax online tool in November 2019 to help individuals and organisations make the right status determinations and apply the off-payroll rules correctly.

Grouped Questions: 26948
Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 09 March 2020
Treasury
Loans: Unfair Practices
Commons
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent steps he has taken to eliminate unfair practices by logbook loan companies.
A
Answered by: John Glen
Answered on: 12 March 2020

In 2014, HM Treasury asked the Law Commission to review the legislation underpinning logbook loans. During consultation stakeholders raised concerns that any reform could increase consumer detriment, particularly amongst vulnerable consumers. Furthermore, the number of logbook loans also fell substantially from 52,000 loans registered in 2014 to 10,194 in June 2019. For these reasons, the government decided not to take forward reform of this legislation.

In 2014, the government also transferred regulatory responsibility for the consumer credit market to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Logbook lending is part of the FCA’s new supervisory strategy for high-cost credit lenders, which will run until 2021.

Treasury ministers and officials meet regularly with the FCA and continue to work closely to ensure consumers of financial services are treated fairly.

Q
(Gillingham and Rainham)
Asked on: 10 March 2020
Home Office
Action Fraud
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent steps she has taken to improve Action Fraud's performance.
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