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.

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Asked on: 18 May 2020
Home Office
Slavery: Victim Support Schemes
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether all individuals currently in receipt of support, including outreach support, through the Victim Care Contract, will continue to receive financial and case work assistance for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Answered on: 02 June 2020

The safety and security of those supported through the modern slavery Victim Care Contract (VCC) is a top priority for government.

Potential victims within the VCC will continue to have access to support during the pandemic. We are continually reviewing how essential services can best be maintained and delivered to ensure victims receive, and have the means to access, the support they need at this time. We are providing support through virtual means as required and have introduced a new contactless payment card to ensure safe receipt of financial support.

The Recovery Needs Assessment (RNA) informs tailored move on plans to help victims transition out of the VCC and back into the community where appropriate. The assessment considers the availability of alternative, and often more sustainable, support services and victims will only begin a move on process if it is suitable for them to do so, in line with their recovery needs.

The policy change announced on 6 April mean individuals who are accommodated in the VCC, will have continued access to this accommodation until at least the 6 July 2020. The policy will be reviewed before the end of June in respect of the Government’s latest covid-19 advice. This change, alongside the existing support mechanisms within the contract will ensure that vulnerable individuals are not left without the support they need at this challenging time.

Asked on: 19 May 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to call for the Biological Weapons Convention to be updated to include provision for inspection and compliance enforcement at the Ninth Review Conference due to occur in 2021.
A
Answered on: 02 June 2020

The UK strongly supports the effective global implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Verification remains a highly contested question and there is currently no prospect of consensus among the Convention's States Parties to agree any declaration, inspection or investigation provisions. However, at the Ninth Review Conference the UK will work to build consensus on strengthening the operation of the Convention, including improved decision making and more structured scientific and technological review processes.

The UK continues to take a leading role in efforts to build up and sustain operational capabilities for the UN Secretary-General's Mechanism for the investigation of allegations of the use of chemical and biological weapons. This is complementary to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Asked on: 19 May 2020
Department for International Trade
Overseas Trade: China
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Henry Jackson Society Breaking the China Supply Chain: How the ‘Five Eyes’ Can Decouple From Strategic Dependency, published on 14 May, which states that the UK is strategically dependent on China for 229 categories of goods, 57 of which are used in critical national infrastructure
Answered on: 29 May 2020

HM Government is protecting our national security while ensuring the United Kingdom remains a global champion of free trade and an attractive destination for international investment.

My Department is working with other departments and our counterparts overseas to ensure the continued flow of critical equipment and supplies through this pandemic, as well as supporting trading businesses as the economy recovers. This includes diversifying the import and export markets for British businesses, which will allow them to build resilience into their supply chains.

Asked on: 29 April 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Health Services: Older People
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken in response to the concerns raised by the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons on 27 March about the protection of older people who are at the highest risk of COVID-19; and what consideration they have given to her recommendation to develop triage protocols to “ensure that decisions on whether to allocate medical resource are made on the basis of medical needs, the best scientific evidence available and not on non-medical criteria such as age or disability”, and to “ensure that essential support services at home in the communities can continue without putting older persons and their care providers at risk”.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 28 May 2020

On 7 April 2020, NHS England published a letter outlining the importance of maintaining standards and quality of care in pressurised circumstances. This letter emphasised the NHS Constitution which is based on the principle of equity of access for those who could benefit from treatment escalation.

The evidence is clear that people who are over the age of 70 are at increased clinical risk of having severe cases of COVID-19. The Government recognises that social distancing and self-isolation are likely to increase the risk of loneliness and mental health issues for everyone, but particularly for vulnerable groups including those with pre-existing conditions and those shielding. The Government has provided guidance to support people both medically and socially, who on the basis of their condition and not their age, are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. This is available in an online only format on GOV.UK. Furthermore, on 22 April the Government launched a new major plan to tackle loneliness which include a £5 million boost for national loneliness organisations.

It is important that people continue to receive support services in the community. The Government has made £3.2 billion available to help local authorities deal with the immediate impacts of COVID-19, and £1.3 billion of additional funding to enhance the National Health Service discharge process, getting patients who no longer need urgent treatment home from hospitals safely and quickly.

Asked on: 06 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Hospitals: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Reuters Special Report In shielding its hospitals from COVID-19, Britain left many of the weakest exposed, published on 5 May. [T]
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 28 May 2020

Social care has been at the frontline of our response to COVID-19, with social care providers looking after many of the most vulnerable in society. The Government’s number one priority for adult social care is to ensure that everyone who relies on care gets the care and support they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 13 May we announced an additional £600 million for an Infection Control Fund for Adult Social Care. This funding is to support adult social care providers in England reduce the rate of transmission in and between care homes and to support workforce resilience. Furthermore, on 15 May, the Government published a Care Home Support Plan in an online only format on GOV.UK. This is the next phase of our response for care homes, using the latest domestic and international evidence brought together by Public Health England, and drawing on the insights of care providers.

Asked on: 12 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Care Homes and Hospitals: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) the remarks by the National Statistician that the R rate of COVID-19 infections “is driven by the epidemic in care homes; and (2) reports by Care England that the levels of COVID-19 infections among hospital and care home staff may be five times higher than those in the wider population; and what steps they are taking in response.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 28 May 2020

Individual modelling groups use a range of data to estimate R including epidemiological data such as hospital admissions, intensive care unit admissions and deaths. R is an average value that can vary in different parts of the country, communities, and subsections of the population. It cannot be measured directly so there is always some uncertainty around its exact value.

We know that care providers across the country have been doing their utmost to keep those they look after safe and well in the most challenging circumstances. On 13 May we announced an additional £600 million to support providers through a new Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund.

The Government has also made £3.2 billion available to help local authorities deal with the immediate impacts of COVID-19, and £1.3 billion of additional funding to enhance the National Health Service discharge process, getting patients who no longer need urgent treatment home from hospitals safely and quickly.

Asked on: 14 May 2020
Cabinet Office
Care Homes: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by Adelina Comas-Herrera and Jose-Luis Fernandez at the London School of Economics England: Estimates of mortality of care home residents linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, published on 12 May, which found that “data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to COVID- 19 underestimate the impact of the pandemic on care home residents” and that such data accounted for “an estimate 41.6 per cent of all excess deaths in care homes”; what assessment they have made of the accuracy of the data provided by the Office for National Statistics that 8,314 people had died from COVID-19 in care homes from 13 March to 8 May; what were the causes of the additional 10,000 recorded deaths in care homes during that period between 13 March and 1 May as set out in the report; and whether the total number of deaths over that period represents 18,000 more than the average estimate in previous years.
A
Answered by: Lord True
Answered on: 28 May 2020

The information requested falls under the remit of the UK Statistics Authority. I have therefore asked the Authority to respond.

Dear Lord Alton,

As National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, I am responding to your Parliamentary Question asking what assessment has been made of the report by Adelina Comas-Herrera and Jose-Luis Fernandez at the London School of Economics England: Estimates of mortality of care home residents linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, published on 12 May, which found that data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to COVID-19 underestimate the impact of the pandemic on care home residents, and that such data accounted for an estimated 41.6 per cent of all excess deaths in care homes; what assessment they have made of the accuracy of the data provided by the Office for National Statistics that 8,314 people had died from COVID-19 in care homes from 13 March to 8 May; what were the causes of the additional 10,000 recorded deaths in care homes during that period between 13 March and 1 May as set out in the report; and whether the total number of deaths over that period represents 18,000 more than the average estimate in previous years (HL4465).

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for publishing mortality statistics for deaths registered in England and Wales. The most recent year for which mortality statistics are available is 2018[1]. However, we do publish provisional statistics for weekly deaths registrations, which are currently published for deaths registered up to 8 May 2020[2]. National Records Scotland (NRS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for publishing the number of deaths registered in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

Cause of death is defined using the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th edition (ICD-10). Deaths involving COVID-19 are identified by the ICD-10 codes U07.1 and U07.2.

We are working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Public Health England (PHE) to better understand deaths that are occurring in care homes. From 28 April 2020, we have published counts of deaths reported by care home operators to the CQC involving COVID-19, in our provisional statistics for weekly death registrations release. We have also provided information about the different data sources in our comparison article[3] that was last updated on 19 May 2020.

The weekly mortality statistics published for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all designated as National Statistics, meaning they meet the Code of Practice for official statistics requirements of trust, quality and value. The most up-to-date figures for the number of registered deaths in care homes in England and Wales involving COVID-19 are contained in the ONS weekly deaths bulletin[4] and accompanying dataset[5] published on 19 May 2020. The year-to-date analysis in this report showed there were 9,980 deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes up to the week ending 8 May 2020 (these figures represent provisional numbers for deaths where COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate). The analysis also showed there were 21,753 excess deaths that occurred in care homes up to the week ending 8 May 2020 as compared to the previous five-year average over the same period.

On 15 May 2020, we published further analysis of deaths involving COVID-19 in the care sector in England and Wales[6]. This report provides breakdowns of deaths involving COVID-19 in the care sector, by: characteristics of the deceased; place of death; geographical location; leading cause of death; and, pre-existing conditions. Included are figures on the number of deaths of recipients of domiciliary care, derived from data provided by the Care Quality Commission.

The analysis in this report found that since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (between the period 2 March and 1 May 2020, registered up to the 9 May 2020):

  • there were 45,899 deaths of care home residents (wherever the death occurred); of these 12,526 involved COVID-19, which is 27.3% of all deaths of care home residents.
  • COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in male care home residents, accounting for 30.3% deaths, and the second leading cause of death in female care home residents, after Dementia and Alzheimer disease, accounting for 23.5% of deaths.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer disease was the most common main pre-existing condition found among deaths involving COVID-19 and was involved in 42.5% of all deaths of care home residents involving COVID-19.

No specific assessment has yet been made of the estimates presented in the preprint article by Adelina Comas-Herrera and Jose-Luis Fernandez released on 12 May 2020. The ONS is publishing a report on the increase in non-COVID-19 deaths observed in weekly deaths statistics, with a provisional publication date of 29 May. This is mentioned in the ONS’s statement of upcoming analysis on deaths and coronavirus (COVID-19)[7]. The report will analyse how the number of non-COVID-19 deaths occurring in different places of death (including care homes), for different age groups and for different causes of death differ from previous years’ data and will suggest how these findings correspond with possible reasons for the increase.

Yours sincerely

Professor Sir Ian Diamond

[1]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/deathsregisteredinenglandandwalesseriesdrreferencetables

[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredweeklyinenglandandwalesprovisional/weekending8may2020

[3]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/articles/comparisonofweeklydeathoccurrencesinenglandandwales/latest

[4]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredweeklyinenglandandwalesprovisional/weekending8may2020

[5]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/weeklyprovisionalfiguresondeathsregisteredinenglandandwales

[6]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/deathsinvolvingcovid19inthecaresectorenglandandwales/deathsoccurringupto1may2020andregisteredupto9may2020provisional

[7]https://www.ons.gov.uk/news/statementsandletters/statementofupcominganalysisondeathsandcoronaviruscovid19

Asked on: 18 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Coronavirus: Vaccination
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the laboratories involved in the development of COVID-19 vaccines are evaluating the (1) use, and (2) potential effects, of those vaccines in trials with (a) older people, and (b) people with disabilities.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 28 May 2020

Vaccine development involves evaluating the quality, safety and efficacy in a series of carefully planned clinical trials. The Government is backing two promising United Kingdom COVID-19 vaccine candidates at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. Vaccine development is in the early stages but progressing rapidly. During clinical trials, both Oxford and Imperial plan to evaluate the safety and efficacy of their vaccines in older people. While there are no plans to specifically recruit those with disabilities, in both cases those with disabilities are eligible and welcome to take part in clinical trials subject to specific exclusion criteria which apply to all volunteers to ensure the safety of participants.

Asked on: 18 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Care Homes: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the comments by the National Care Association that care homes have felt “completely abandoned” during the COVID-19 pandemic and that prioritising the NHS without adequately protecting elderly people in care may have been “wrong”.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 28 May 2020

The safety of residents and staff is always a priority. We have provided extensive support and guidance to care homes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are working closely with local authorities, the care sector and NHS England to ensure everyone has access to the right care, in the most appropriate setting for their needs.

We are determined to give both the care sector and the National Health Service everything they need to respond to this pandemic. On 15 May 2020 we published a care home support package which outlines the next phase of our response for care homes, using the latest scientific evidence and drawing on the insights of care providers. To support this, on 13 May we announced an additional £600 million to support care home providers through a new Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund.

This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we will continue to review our guidance and national support in line with the latest scientific advice and engage with stakeholders to ensure we address the majority of their concerns.

Asked on: 16 March 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Coronavirus: China
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bethell on 10 March (HL1839), what assessment they have made of the report by the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies China and Viruses: The Case of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, published on 29 January.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 27 May 2020

The Government is aware of this report by the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies.

Research into COVID-19’s origins is ongoing, and the United Kingdom is working with the international scientific community to determine the source of the outbreak.

Asked on: 05 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
World Health Assembly
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what policy objectives they intend to set for their participation in the 73rd Session of the World Health Organisation’s World Health Assembly due to be held from 17 to 21 May; what plans they have to raise the case for a formal international investigation of the government of China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan at that Assembly; and what discussions they intend to have with other governments, in advance of the Assembly, about conducting such an investigation.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 27 May 2020

The United Kingdom participated fully in the 73rd World Health Assembly which we saw as an important opportunity to further international collaboration on COVID-19. We believe the World Health Organization (WHO) has an important role to play in leading the global health response. We want to see the WHO continue to learn lessons on how to improve its response to global health emergencies and as such would expect a full review of all elements of their response once they are out of response mode, as has occurred after previous Public Health Emergencies of International Concern. The Secretary of State raised this point in the United Kingdom national address and we were pleased to co-sponsor the COVID-19 resolution, which was an important step forward on the review as well as other areas of collaboration. The UK intends to engage constructively with a future review, including working with other Governments.

Asked on: 12 May 2020
Department for Transport
Shipping: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans are in place to implement the International Maritime Organisation’s Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, issued on 6 May, to ensure the continued free movement of seafarers; and what steps they are taking to ensure the swift return to the UK of UK seafarers whose contracts of employment have expired and are now stranded on ships around the world.
A
Answered on: 27 May 2020

The Government welcomes the framework that was developed by the International Chamber of Shipping and other organisations, which has been supported and circulated by the International Maritime Organisation. The Department wrote to the International Maritime Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation on 23 March 2020, confirming that the UK will continue to meet its international obligations related to the transit and transfer of seafarers and highlighted that the UK is fully committed to the welfare of all seafarers regardless of their nationality.

The Government is currently considering the framework in more detail to see what more can be done to further facilitate crew changes in UK and we will do this work as quickly as we can, as we are very keen to see a resolution, and support the sector.

Asked on: 12 May 2020
Department for Transport
Shipping: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking in response to the UK Chamber of Shipping’s request that they sign up to a global initiative to repatriate seafarers stranded across the world.
A
Answered on: 27 May 2020

The Government understands the concerns that have been raised by the UK Chamber of Shipping in relation to crew changes and ensuring that seafarers who have completed their contracts can return home. We acknowledge their request for the UK to sign up to the initiative developed by the International Chamber of Shipping and other organisations, which has been supported and circulated by the International Maritime Organisation.The Government is currently considering the framework in more detail to see what more can be done to further facilitate crew changes in UK and we will do this work as quickly as we can, as we are very keen to see a resolution, and support the sector.

Asked on: 13 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Care Homes: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (1) residents, and (2) workers, in care homes have been offered COVID-19 tests; how many have been carried out; and what estimate they have made of the time it will take for all residents and employees in care homes to be offered tests.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 27 May 2020

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 125,000 workers in care settings and over 118,000 care home residents have been tested through Departmental and Public Health England testing routes. On Monday 11 May we launched the ‘whole home’ testing portal. As of 19 May, around 170,000 tests have been delivered to 1,243 care homes using the whole care home portal as part of this programme. We will make testing available for every resident and member of staff in care homes for older people in England between now and early June.

Asked on: 19 May 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) reports that the World Health Organisation (WHO) cooperated with the government of China to suppress information about the emergence of COVID-19, and (2) the extent of the influence of that government within the WHO. [T]
A
Answered on: 27 May 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has an important role to play in coordinating the global health response - underpinned by the latest public health and scientific evidence. The UK has always been clear that, at the right time, there will need to be a full and independent review into the pandemic. The World Health Assembly resolution on COVID-19, which the UK co-sponsored, calls on the WHO to initiate an independent and comprehensive evaluation. This is an important step in learning the lessons of this pandemic.

China is currently one of 34 member states represented on the World Health Assembly's Executive Board, as is the United Kingdom. The World Health Assembly, which is the WHO's supreme decision making body, includes representatives of all 194 member states. In line with their responsibilities in the international community, China has a vital role in the global response to the pandemic and any long-term health challenge. The immediate focus continues to be stopping the spread of the virus through global action but, at the right time, we will work with the international community, including China, to learn lessons.

Asked on: 05 May 2020
Home Office
Immigration: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to allow those with irregular migration status leave to remain in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Answered on: 22 May 2020

The Immigration Rules already provide for undocumented migrants to regularise their status.

If appropriate in light of the situation in their country of origin, irregular migrants may claim asylum. The UK has a long and proud history of providing protection to those who need it and we will continue to uphold our obligations under the Refugee Convention during this time. Therefore, whilst ensuring that the Home Office is adhering to Public Health England’s advice in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak, decisions are continuing to be served on asylum claims on a case by case basis where there is sufficient evidence for us to make an accurate and well-informed decision in-line with published policy.

Even if an application is refused, measures we have implemented already guarantee that an individual can remain safely accommodated and be able to follow public health guidance, whilst maintaining access to financial support and healthcare until the end of June, and this will be kept under review.

There are no plans to provide temporary leave to remain to all asylum applicants or those with insecure status.

Asked on: 12 May 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Syria: Armed Conflict
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by Amnesty International’s Nowhere is safe for us: unlawful attacks and mass displacement in north-west Syria, published on 10 May; and what steps they intend to take in response.
A
Answered on: 22 May 2020

We assess that Amnesty International's report provides useful further evidence of unlawful attacks by the Assad regime and Russia on civilian targets in Idlib. It therefore complements recent reports by the UN Commission of Inquiry and the UN Board of Inquiry. The UK continues to call for accountability for these crimes and for all parties, including the Assad regime and Russia, to respect the ceasefire in Idlib and to abide by International Humanitarian Law. We also continue to support those displaced by the recent offensive, as documented in the Amnesty International report. The Department for International Development has allocated at least £50 million to humanitarian organisations delivering aid cross-border from Turkey primarily into north-west Syria, in addition to the £118 million allocated for this purpose in financial year 2019/20.

Asked on: 22 April 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Protective Clothing: Exports
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) the application developed by Doctors Association UK about problems with personal protection equipment (PPE); and (2) reports that PPE is being shipped from the UK to Germany, Spain, and Italy, because UK companies claim that offers of help have not been pursued.
A
Answered by: Lord Bethell
Answered on: 20 May 2020

We are working around the clock to give the social care sector and wider National Health Service the equipment and support they need to tackle this outbreak.

Sourcing sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment is a challenge that many countries are facing. We are working to expand supply from overseas, improve domestic manufacturing capability and expand and improve the logistics network for delivering to the front line.

The full weight of the Government is behind this effort and we are working closely with industry, social care providers, the NHS, and the army to ensure the right equipment continues to be delivered.

Asked on: 20 May 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong: Politics and Government
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to publish the next edition of the six-monthly report on Hong Kong relating to the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong; and why that edition has not yet been published.
Asked on: 20 May 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Care Homes: Coronavirus
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the deaths of 20 residents at the Paisley Care Home in Liverpool from suspected COVID-19; and what measures are in place (1) to prevent the spread of that virus, and (2) to ensure the safety of residents and staff, in care homes.
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