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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UIN

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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Asked on: 28 April 2020
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Small Businesses: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to extend their financial support for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic to small businesses that do not have their own premises.
A
Answered by: Lord Callanan
Answered on: 13 May 2020

A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate eligible small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. The Business Secretary and Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government spoke to local authorities in England on 1 May to set out that up to £617 million would be made available. This is in addition to the £12.33 billion funding previously announced for the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund (RHLGF), meaning an amount of up to £617 million.

Government has introduced legislation helping tenants who are facing difficulties paying rent by implementing a pause on commercial forfeitures and we will review this. Government is urgently investigating what other support may be provided to commercial property owners as they seek to recover from the current crisis.

We have been working quickly to support the UK’s businesses and commercial real estate sector through the crisis. This has included support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility - support which is available to both tenants and landlords. The Small Business Grant Fund is designed for eligible small businesses with relatively high fixed costs and experiencing reduced trade as a result of social distancing and closures policies.

Asked on: 21 April 2020
Treasury
Schools: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to providing ‘top up’ income support for employees who are unable to work their full hours due to childcare commitments arising from school and nursery closures.
A
Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton
Answered on: 05 May 2020

The Government recognises it is a challenge for parents to balance paid work and childcare while schools and nurseries are closed. Schools remain open for children of key workers and the most vulnerable children, and the Government has put in place a national voucher scheme to provide free school meals for children while at home.

Families who see a fall in earnings may become eligible for support through the welfare system, including through Universal Credit (UC). Existing UC claimants are likely to receive a higher award as a result of a fall in earnings. For employed claimants this will be updated automatically using information from the PAYE system. In response to the crisis, the Government has strengthened the welfare system, including by increasing the UC standard allowance and the Working Tax Credit basic element by £20 per week. In addition, to protect people’s jobs and incomes as far as possible during the crisis, the Government has announced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Asked on: 21 April 2020
Treasury
Parents: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the potential economic benefit of parents being allowed to undertake reduced hours on full pay rather than being furloughed whilst balancing work and care commitments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A
Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton
Answered on: 05 May 2020

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is designed to help those who otherwise would have been made unemployed and to provide support to businesses as quickly as possible. Allowing employers to move staff to part-time and claim the difference would have substantially increased the risk of fraud. However, there is flexibility in the scheme as employers can decide how many staff to furlough, and staff can be furloughed multiple times while the scheme is in operation, provided they are furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

The Government recognises that it is challenging for parents to balance paid work and childcare while schools and nurseries are closed. Schools remain open for children of key workers and the most vulnerable children, and the Government has put in place a national voucher scheme to provide free school meals for children while at home. Families who see a fall in earnings may become eligible for support through the welfare system, including through Universal Credit (UC).

Asked on: 21 April 2020
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Employment: Pregnancy
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that pregnant employees do not suffer detriment at work, including dismissal or less favourable treatment, as a result of following public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A
Answered by: Lord Callanan
Answered on: 05 May 2020

Government is determined to ensure that pregnant women do not suffer detriment at work in any circumstances, including where they have followed public heath guidance.

The Coronavirus outbreak has not changed the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. There is no place for it under any circumstances. If a pregnant woman is dismissed or made redundant on the grounds of her pregnancy, this is automatically unfair dismissal.

Under Health and Safety legislation, it remains the employer’s responsibility to put in place arrangements to control health and safety risks. There are already specific requirements in place for pregnant workers and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets out the expectations around risk assessments, finding alternative work and medical suspension, where necessary.

In terms of new specific coronavirus interventions, HSE will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks where it is clear an employer is not following Public Health England guidance properly (eg not taking appropriate action on social distancing or ensuring workers in the shielded category can follow advice to self-isolate). Government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme also makes it clear that pregnant women can be furloughed if they and their employer agree, and provided they meet the normal eligibility requirements.

Asked on: 22 April 2020
Treasury
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether employees who cannot practically work because they are shielding themselves in line with the current public health guidance, or because of childcare commitments, can be furloughed. [T]
A
Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton
Answered on: 29 April 2020

To be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employees must have been on their employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and HMRC must have received an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020. Employees who cannot work due to shielding or because of childcare commitments should speak to their employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough. The grant will start on the day they were placed on furlough, and this can be backdated to 1 March 2020.

The Government recognises it is a challenge for parents to balance paid work and childcare while schools and nurseries are closed. Schools remain open for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children, and the Government has put in place a national voucher scheme to provide free school meals for children while at home. Families who see a fall in earnings may become eligible for support through the welfare system, in particular Universal Credit (UC).

For shielding employees, if a firm chooses not to furlough shielding staff, they are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay as a statutory minimum, although many employers will pay more than that in occupational sick pay.

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