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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Q
Asked on: 25 March 2020
Department for Transport
Aviation: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure that (1) during, and (2) after, the grounding of any aircraft due to the COVID-19 pandemic all (a) UK registered commercial aircraft comply with air worthiness certification, and (b) commercial aircraft registered outside the UK comply with valid air worthiness certification to enable entering UK air space.
A
Answered on: 08 April 2020

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is working with UK airlines to understand their plans for the storage of aircraft due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines have provided to the CAA their plans to maintain aircraft whilst in storage to ensure compliance with the regulations on continuing airworthiness. The CAA will check UK airlines continue to comply with these regulations as the aircraft return to service. The CAA will also continue to audit aircraft registered in other states to check that they are in compliance with the international standards contained in the Chicago Convention through the Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) programme.

Q
Asked on: 25 March 2020
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Hygiene: Products
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Callanan on 18 March (HL2249), what assessment they have made of the impact of HMRC rates and allowances on the ability of producers of hygiene gel to produce such gel; and what plans they have, if any, to dispense with those rates and allowances to assist such producers to meet demand.
A
Answered by: Lord Callanan
Answered on: 07 April 2020

Alcohol used in the production of retail sanitiser gel is not subject to excise duty, providing it is denatured. Producers, suppliers, and users of denatured alcohol must be authorised by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Licensed suppliers of trade-specific denatured alcohol or duty-free spirit that are supplying it for hand sanitiser do not need to restrict the volume supplied. However, they should continue to inspect authorisations and record details of supplies made.

On 23 March 2020, HMRC announced a series of easements designed to increase the amount of denatured alcohol available, as well as the number of businesses authorised to use it in the production of sanitiser gel. These measures will make it easier for manufacturers to meet the sudden increase in demand during the Coronavirus outbreak. Further information on the easements announced to support hand sanitiser production can be found at gov.uk.

Q
Asked on: 25 March 2020
Ministry of Defence
Army Reserve: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) the first aid, (2) the trauma and triage, and (3) the security and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defence, capabilities of the Army Reserve; and what plans they have, if any, to deploy the Army Reserve to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.
A
Answered by: Baroness Goldie
Answered on: 06 April 2020

Defence has a number of existing contingency plans in place to provide support to civil authorities, including to the NHS. Our personnel are already providing assistance in a number of capacities and this includes those with specialist medical training. Considering the likely additional call on military assistance to mitigate COVID-19 related staff absences in civil authorities, and the increasing volume of patients requiring treatment by the NHS, Defence is consistently monitoring and enhancing its plans, training and readiness in order to support additional requests.

Q
Asked on: 09 March 2020
Home Office
Visas: Biometrics
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what percentage of staff working at visa application centres, processing biometric data for applicants for UK visas, they directly employ.
Answered on: 23 March 2020
  • UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) runs different types of visas application centres in the UK and overseas. Over four 4 million visa and immigration applications each year (visit, work, study, family, other)

are processed in these centres.

  • The majority of application centres overseas are run by commercial suppliers (VFS Global and TLS Contact) who employ their

own personnel. In the UK, Sopra Steria Ltd run application service points, again with their own employees. Biometric data of customers is taken by supplier staff.

  • There are several locations in the UK - UKVI Service and Support Centres (SSCs) - in which biometrics are taken and which are staffed by UKVI directly-employed personnel.
Q
Asked on: 09 March 2020
Home Office
Visas: Biometrics
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether staff collecting biometric data from applicants for UK visas are involved in the decision-making process for awarding visas.
Answered on: 23 March 2020

Staff employed by our suppliers who collect biometric data from applicants for UKVI are not involved in the visa decision making. Staff in the SSCs are directly UKVI employed and some are trained decision makers involved in the decision making process.

Q
Asked on: 04 March 2020
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Hygiene: Products
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are shortages of hygiene gel distributed to retail outlets; and if so, what is the reason and what measures are being taken to resolve those shortages.
A
Answered by: Lord Callanan
Answered on: 18 March 2020

The UK is well prepared for this type of outbreak; we are taking all necessary precautions to protect the public, including engaging with industry and the business community to discuss their preparedness planning.

The Government recognises that there has been increased demand on a number of products, including hygiene gel. These shortages are caused by increased consumer demand, rather than supply chain disruption. Retailers are working with suppliers to increase stock and reassure consumers there is no need to buy higher quantities than usual.

We will work with local authorities to extend the hours that deliveries can be made to supermarkets and other food retailers to help the industry respond to COVID-19. The new measures mean retailers can increase the frequency of deliveries to their stores and move stock more quickly from warehouses across the country to replenish their shelves.

Q
Asked on: 04 March 2020
Department for International Trade
Trade Promotion
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to publish (1) each of Her Majesty's trade commissioners' latest annual reports setting out the strategy, objectives and overarching priorities for each delegated region, and (2) the budgets supporting the delivery of those objectives.
Answered on: 18 March 2020

Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioners work as an integral part of the Department for International Trade, which produces its annual report and accounts every June or July.

Q
Asked on: 11 February 2020
Department for International Development
Overseas Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the average percentage of overseas development assistance that they disburse through non-governmental organisations that reaches its intended recipients; what percentage of such funding is spent on administration costs; and what steps they are taking to increase the percentage of such funding that reaches its intended recipients.
A
Answered by: Baroness Sugg
Answered on: 25 February 2020

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are important partners for DFID in ensuring that UKAid reaches intended recipients, particularly the most marginalised groups. Approximately 10% of UKAid in 2018 was channelled directly through NGO partners.

DFID’s approach to programme delivery ensures this funding is well targeted. A Business Case must set out why the programme represents value for money and how this will be measured. Before funds are dispersed, a due diligence assessment is conducted to ensure the NGO partner has the capacity to deliver. Each programme is then monitored throughout its life, with formal annual reviews ensuring that progress and value for money are sustained and that any management fees remain appropriate.

On 1 April this year, DFID published a new approach to cost transparency in NGO grants. A new budget template and guidance will ensure that DFID has full sight of, and is able to scrutinise, all costs being paid to CSO partners through grants and standardises our approach to paying overheads. However, the exact information requested on administration costs is not held centrally and could only be collated at disproportionate cost.

Q
Asked on: 11 February 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign Relations
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government with which foreign leaders, or their representatives, each Department has met since the 2019 General Election.
A
Answered on: 24 February 2020

The information is not readily available/held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost

Q
Asked on: 29 January 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
British Indian Ocean Territory: Sovereignty
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their latest policy on the Chagos Islands; and what assessment they have made of the UN General Assembly's resolution 73/295 Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, of 22 May 2019.
A
Answered on: 10 February 2020

We have no doubt about our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814. We have made a long-standing commitment to cede sovereignty of the territory to Mauritius when it is no longer required for defence purposes. We stand by that commitment.

We were disappointed this matter was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), contrary to the principle that the Court should not consider bilateral disputes without the consent of both States concerned. The United Kingdom respects the ICJ and participated fully in the advisory proceedings in good faith. However, we do not share the ICJ's approach and have made known our views on the content of the opinion, including its insufficient regard to significant material facts and legal issues. The ICJ's opinion is advisory and not legally binding. Resolution 73/295 does not and cannot create any legal obligations for UN Member States.

Q
Asked on: 14 January 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Uzbekistan: Official Visits
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to invite the President of Uzbekistan to visit the UK; and if so, what (1) dates, and (2) topics for discussion, are being considered.
A
Answered on: 22 January 2020

​The United Kingdom-Uzbekistan relationship has improved considerably since President Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016. We are actively engaged in supporting his ambitious reform programme and are alive to the opportunities which this presents. There is not currently a date for President Mirziyoyev to visit the United Kingdom, but the signing of a bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in October last year provides the foundation for future cooperation in foreign, political and security matters.

Q
Asked on: 14 January 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Russia: COE Parliamentary Assembly
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they support the position of the UK's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in regard to the suspension of the Russian delegation.
A
Answered on: 22 January 2020

The decision to adopt rules changes that saw the return of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in June 2019 was a matter for the Assembly. Russia's membership of the Council of Europe provides access, valued by Russian citizens and human rights Non Governmental Organisations, to the European Court of Human Rights and is one of the few ways available to the international community to hold Russia to account for its human rights violations.

The British Government did not support Russia's unconditional return to PACE. We consistently called on Russia to fulfil all its obligations as a member state, and to adhere to Council of Europe standards on human rights, democracy and rule of law. We will continue our efforts in the Council of Europe to ensure Russia is answerable for its actions. We will also continue to make clear that we do not and will never recognise Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.

Q
Asked on: 13 January 2020
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Local Government: Business Interests
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by the Earl of Courtown on 4 November 2019 (HL380), whether they intend to instruct local authorities to maintain a public register of the disclosable pecuniary interests of officers to who delegated authority has been granted by elected members, to ensure that local government officials maintain transparency and compliance with the Nolan Principles.
Answered on: 20 January 2020

It is a matter for each council to put in place whatever arrangements it considers appropriate for the recording and disclosure of officers' interests. Many councils have a code of conduct which covers the handling of officer interests, or details are included in their contracts.

In addition, there is a statutory requirement under section 117 of the Local Government Act 1972 that officers should declare if they have any pecuniary interest in a contract awarded.

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