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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Asked on: 04 February 2019
Department for International Development
Department for International Development: Equality
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how the Department for International Development (DfID) records the religion and other protected characteristics of those it employs; how funding is allocated to organisations after consideration of protected characteristics; and how DfID ensures that those non-governmental organisations, private sector companies, consultancies, and others with whom it contracts are required to report on how they have performed in ensuring equity of access to their work by those with protected characteristics.
A
Answered by: Lord Bates
Answered on: 18 February 2019

Employees can voluntarily declare their diversity data on our HR systems.

DFID contracts are awarded after a process of fair and open competition on the basis of value for money, capability to deliver programme outputs and, as relevant to the specific procurement, equality considerations. DFID’s standard contract Term and Conditions require partners not to unlawfully discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics, have due regard for the advancement of equal opportunity and promote good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Partners are also required to adhere to relevant recommendations by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. DFID’s Supply Partner Code of Conduct requires contractors to ensure that robust procedures are adopted and maintained to eliminate the risk of poor human rights practices, including any inequality or discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, sexuality, culture or disability. Both requirements are legally binding and subject to compliance checks by DFID.

Asked on: 18 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to bring members of ISIS captured in Syria to justice for crimes against humanity and genocide; and whether they are assisting in the creation of a regional tribunal to hear such cases.
Asked on: 05 February 2019
Department of Health and Social Care
Embryology
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place a copy of the contingency plans drawn up by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for the importation of gametes from EU member states following Brexit in the Library of the House.
Answered on: 14 February 2019

The information on preparedness provided by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to the Department has been part of the formulation of Government policy and there are no plans to publish this information at this time.

Asked on: 14 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sudan: British Nationals Abroad
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken to secure the release of UK passport holders jailed by the government of Sudan after taking part in protests in that country.
Asked on: 30 January 2019
Home Office
Asia Bibi
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made, if any, of the comments of Hafiz Entisha Ahmed published in the Guardian on 30 January that Asia Bibi “deserves to be murdered”; and, following the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to uphold her acquittal following nine years’ incarceration on death row, why she has not immediately been offered asylum in the UK.
Answered on: 13 February 2019

As the Prime Minister set out on 14 November, the release of Asia Bibi will be very welcome news to her family and to all those who have campaigned in Pakistan and around the world for her release. We welcome the assurances the Government of Pakistan has given on keeping her and her family safe, and it is important that all countries seek to uphold the rule of law and afford security and protection for the rights of all citizens irrespective of faith or belief.

It is a longstanding Government policy not to comment on individual cases. In accordance with our duty of confidentiality, we cannot confirm whether an asylum claim has been received or the outcome of such a request. Departing from this policy may put individuals and their family members in danger.

We remain deeply concerned by the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, and the fact that religious minorities are disproportionately affected. The harsh penalties for blasphemy, including the death penalty, add to these concerns.

We regularly raise our human rights concerns with the Government of Pakistan at a senior level; and we have urged them to take steps to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy laws. My Foreign and Commonwealth colleague, the Minister of State for Commonwealth and the UN, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, discussed our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief and the protection of minority religious communities with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister, Dr Shireen Mazari, in September 2018. We will continue to press the new Government of Pakistan to adhere to its international obligations and uphold the rule of law.

Asked on: 31 January 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Disclosure of Information
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Freedom of Information Act request to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 14 January (0045–19), whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the report resulting from the internal investigation into the leaked Foreign Office memo ahead of the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 with the names of the officials concerned redacted together with any other information that could lead to their identification.
A
Answered on: 13 February 2019

It would not be appropriate to place a copy of the report resulting from the internal investigation into the leaked Foreign Office memo ahead of the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 in the Library of the House. Doing so would breach data protection legislation as the report contains personal information about those involved. The substantial media coverage of the leak at the time means that, even if the report were redacted to remove names of those involved, their identity would be readily available through an internet search.

Asked on: 04 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sudan: Politics and Government
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for Africa on 28 January (211702), what was the Sudanese Foreign Minister’s response to the concerns the Foreign Secretary raised in the 22 January meeting about the need for an end to violence and for political reform; and what steps they are taking to promote human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Sudan since the fifth meeting of the biannual UK–Sudan strategic dialogue on 24 April 2018.
A
Answered on: 13 February 2019

When she met the Sudanese Foreign Minister on 22 January, the Minister for Africa communicated the UK's concerns about the Sudanese government's response to recent protests, emphasising the importance of the rule of law and human rights. The Sudanese Foreign Minister registered the depth of these concerns and set out his assessment of the economic challenges that had initiated them. We have continued to raise human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, regularly with the Government of Sudan at all levels. I visited Sudan in September 2018 and raised religious freedoms with senior members of the government, as well hearing directly from a number of religious leaders. I also raised the need for action to address these issues with the Sudanese delegation in the margins of the biannual UK–Sudan strategic dialogue in November 2018. Most recently we supported an event in Khartoum on 29 January with the Bishop of Leeds to press for greater religious freedoms, after which the Government of Sudan announced the dropping of restrictions on school opening hours at weekends, a priority freedom of religion issue.

Asked on: 13 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Cameroon: Armed Conflict
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports of the Biya regime in Cameroon (1) burning down Kumba hospital, (2) destroying villages, and (3) abducting Southern Cameroonian students from their student accommodation.
Asked on: 13 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Nicaragua: Sanctions
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the decision by the government of the United States to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against leading members of Nicaragua’s Ortega regime; whether they have considered emulating that decision; and when they last discussed a global approach to selective sanctions in Nicaragua with the government of the United States.
Asked on: 13 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Nicaragua: Politics and Government
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights Gross Human Rights Violations in the Context of Social Protests in Nicaragua, published on 21 June 2018; how many people they estimate to have been killed, wounded, or detained by the Nicaraguan authorities since the start of the Ortega regime; and what assessment they have made of reports of (1) medical staff being removed from their posts for providing medical help to injured protestors, (2) disappeared journalists, and (3) disbanded non-governmental organisations in that country.
Asked on: 29 January 2019
Department for International Development
Pakistan: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan about employment discrimination, with particular regard to advertisements published by that government which reserve low level jobs, such as street sweeping, for religious minorities; whether UK aid supports employment opportunities in the public sector closed to religious minorities; and whether they support programmes which help illiterate members of religious minorities in that country to improve their employment prospects.
A
Answered by: Lord Bates
Answered on: 12 February 2019

Our aid relationship with any government is based on an assessment of their commitment to our Partnership Principles, including to promote and safeguard human rights. Our development assistance targets the poor, regardless of race, religion, social background or nationality. We promote the Partnership Principles in our dealings with the Pakistan Government, and this extends to economic development and employment. The Partnership Principles Assessment (PPA) is regularly discussed with the Economic Affairs Division, Government of Pakistan, at the federal level and we discussed it formally last year at the Bilateral Assistance Talks in March. We also have specific programmes to help the poorest become more equipped for work. DFID Pakistan’s Skills Development Programme will provide 330,000 poor and vulnerable people, including those from minority communities, with technical and vocational training to improve their employment prospects.

DFID and the FCO continue to raise the issue of human rights of minorities at the highest levels of Government, including in our annual Bilateral Assistance Talks, advocating greater tolerance and action against abuses when they occur.

Asked on: 12 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Human Rights
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to make further representations to the government of China on granting the UN full access to re-education camps.
Asked on: 12 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Ethnic Groups
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations, if any, they have made to the government of China, following recent newspaper reports of deaths of Uighurs from malnourishment, electrocution and torture in camps in Western China.
Asked on: 12 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Ethnic Groups
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had, if any, with other governments about the potential to make joint representations to the government of China on the treatment of the Uighur population.
Asked on: 12 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the treatment of different religious groups by the government of China, including the treatment of Uighur Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhists; and what assessment they have made of whether the treatment of those groups is part of a wider effort by the government of China to suppress religious groups.
Asked on: 12 February 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Human Rights
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that Uighur Muslims detained in China have undergone unwanted blood, tissue and DNA tests; what they believe to be the purpose of any such tests; and whether there is evidence of state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting religious prisoners of conscience, including Uighur Muslims.
Asked on: 12 February 2019
Department for International Development
Pakistan: Religious Freedom
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 12 February (HL13192), whether they will now answer the question put.
Asked on: 28 January 2019
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Internet: Self-harm
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what actions they have taken, prior to the announcement on 27 January that they would consider banning websites promoting self-harm and suicide, to protect young people from harmful online content.
A
Answered by: Lord Ashton of Hyde
Answered on: 11 February 2019

Government is taking a range of measures to protect children and young people from harmful online content.

Through the Digital Economy Act 2017, the government is introducing a requirement for commercial providers of online pornography to have robust age verification controls in place to prevent children and young people under 18 from accessing pornographic material.

In addition we have worked with Internet Service Providers to introduce a rigorous and comprehensive system of family-friendly content filtering, through which parents can help protect their children from viewing harmful content over home broadband networks.

Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety we have produced a practical guide for providers of social media and interactive services, in which we set out best practices for preventing children from encountering harmful content.

Furthermore, the Data Protection Act 2018 introduced a new requirement for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to produce a statutory code of practice on age-appropriate design. This code will ensure that websites and applications are designed in a way that makes clear what data is being collected on children, how this data is being used, and how both children and parents can stay in control of this data.

Nevertheless there is still more to do, which is why we will shortly be publishing an Online Harms White Paper, which will set out a range of legislative and non-legislative measures detailing how the Government will tackle the full range of online harms and set clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe.

Asked on: 28 January 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China: Ethnic Groups
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the account of Gulbahar Jelilova, a Muslim Uyghur woman, who was reportedly subject to degrading treatment at a re-education camp in China; and what assessment they have made of the accuracy of estimates cited by the United Nations that up to 1 million ethnic Muslim-minority Uyghurs may be held involuntarily in extralegal detention in Xinjiang.
A
Answered on: 11 February 2019

We are aware of reports of the detention of Gulbahar Jelil (Jelilova) in Xinjiang.

We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the Chinese Government’s deepening crackdown; including credible reports that over one million Uyghurs have been held in re-education camps, and widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at ethnic minorities.

During China’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council on 6 November, the UK made a statement which described our concern about the treatment of ethnic minorities in China, including Uyghurs. We issued a specific recommendation, calling on China to implement the recommendations by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Xinjiang, and to allow the UN to monitor the implementation.

Mr Field raised our concerns about Xinjiang with Vice Minister Guo Yezhou during his visit to China on 22 July 2018. The Foreign Secretary also raised our concerns about the region with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to China on 30 July 2018.

Asked on: 04 February 2019
Department for International Development
Overseas Aid
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they collect data on Department for International Development allocations by religion; if not, why not; and if not, whether they have considered the consistency of not collecting such data with the obligations under the Equalities Act 2010 in regard to religion.
A
Answered by: Lord Bates
Answered on: 11 February 2019

DFID does not currently identify or record beneficiaries by their religion; however, our Data Disaggregation Action Plan has set out our increased ambitions to increase the level of disaggregated data we collect, report and use, and to work with the United Nations and others to improve data collection and disaggregation at a global level. Our short-term focus remains on four disaggregates (sex, age, disability status and geography) in the first instance to help us reorient our approach and raise our ambition whilst we work with others in the international system to find and develop tools, methods and guidance on further disaggregation variables.

The UK is firmly committed to ensuring aid reaches the most vulnerable, including those from religious minorities, where they constitute part of that category. In line with the Equality Act 2010, DFID operates by the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality which aim to ensure that no one is excluded or discriminated against on the grounds of race, ethnicity, or religion; and to also ensure that the specific risks facing religious minorities are addressed and that assistance reaches those who need it most.

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