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 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
Asked on: 23 October 2019
Cabinet Office
Public Sector: Business Interests
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether decision-making civil servants and local authority officials are currently required to disclose all interests to prevent any conflict of interest; and if so, whether those records are made public.
A
Answered by: The Earl of Courtown
Answered on: 04 November 2019

Civil Servants serve the government of the day and can only exercise power for and on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The Civil Service Management Code sets out regulations and instructions related to civil servants’ terms and conditions of service, including the declaration and management of private interests. HR in each Department will provide advice about the appropriate procedures to follow.

Local authorities are responsible for the management of their own officials. Local government officers must act in conformity with the Nolan Principles.

Q
Asked on: 24 October 2019
Department for International Trade
Overseas Trade: Kazakhstan
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the outcomes of the UK–Kazakhstan Inter-Governmental Commission meeting, held in London on 24 October.
A
Answered by: The Earl of Courtown
Answered on: 04 November 2019

My Rt Hon Friend, the Minister of State for International Trade, attended the UK-Kazakhstan Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC). The Kazakh delegation was led by the Deputy Foreign Minister for Europe, Mr Roman Vassilenko.

The IGC promoted opportunities for British companies and business collaboration in the following sectors: technical and vocational education and training, healthcare, mining, oil and gas, and financial and professional services.

TheCityUK used the IGC to take forward a British government-funded project to help develop the Astana International Financial Centre’s corporate governance code.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) and the Kazakh authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding, affirming UKEF appetite to support projects in Kazakhstan, with a view to increasing procurement from the UK.

This was a successful event with a key strategic partner in Central Asia, which supported British exporters’ efforts in the Kazakh market, which was worth £2.3 billion to UK firms in 2018-19.

Q
Asked on: 24 October 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Russia: Diplomatic Relations
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government under what conditions they would anticipate a rapprochement of diplomatic relations with the government of Russia.
A
Answered on: 04 November 2019

​We continue to hope that we will one day once again enjoy a strong partnership with the Russian government and we remain open to a different relationship in future – one where Russia desists from attacks that undermine international treaties and international security, and its actions that undermine the territorial integrity of its neighbours - and instead acts together with us to fulfil the common responsibilities we share as permanent members of the UN Security Council. As long as Russia persists in its efforts to undermine our interests and values, we will continue to deter and counter them.

Q
Asked on: 24 October 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Russia: Foreign Relations
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government to which UK–Russia cooperative activities in (1) Moscow, and (2) other regions of the Russian Federation, they have provided funding for over the past year.
A
Answered on: 31 October 2019

The United Kingdom currently provides funding in support of a range of programme activity in Russia across Moscow and other regions primarily to support people to people links and support civil society in areas such as human rights, climate change, science, tourism, sport, and trade. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is responsible for managing the Russia programme, however we work collaboratively across Government to ensure activities reflect a broad perspective.

Q
Asked on: 25 July 2019
Department for International Trade
Overseas Trade
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to publish their Regional Trade Plans.
A
Answered by: Lord Young of Cookham
Answered on: 16 August 2019

Regional Trade Plans (RTPs), set out an overseas region’s overarching strategy, key objectives and priorities, which will drive the delivery of Her Majesty’s Government’s trade objectives overseas. Currently, the RTPs are internal documents, but the Department for International Trade intends to publish executive summaries of the RTPs in due course.

Q
Asked on: 25 July 2019
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Digital Technology: Innovation
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to incentivise more innovative digital projects in the UK.
A
Answered by: Baroness Barran
Answered on: 02 August 2019

The Industrial Strategy set out our commitment to becoming the world’s most innovative economy, ensuring the UK is the best place for researchers and innovators throughout Britain. We are already delivering record increases in public sector R&D investment — an extra £7bn committed by 2021/21 — with a target to reach 2.4% of GDP investment in R&D across the whole economy by 2027.

The government is supporting organisations that promote digital innovation. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is incentivising innovation, including in digital projects, by bringing together world-class UK research with business investment to develop new technologies. The Digital Catapult, an advanced digital technology innovation centre, receives funding to drive the early adoption of digital technologies to make UK businesses more competitive. It provides physical and digital facilities for experimentation and brings small companies, corporates, researchers and investors together through innovation programmes.

We are also helping innovative companies to access funding to expand and develop new projects. This includes the £2.5 billion British Patient Capital programme, delivered through the British Business Bank, which will support innovative UK companies to access the long-term investment they need to grow and expand worldwide.

The Industrial Strategy also supports the development of projects in specific sectors through Sector Deals: long term partnerships between industry and the government. These have included commitments to develop several digital projects to improve productivity in sectors ranging from Rail to Creative Industries to Tourism.

Q
Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Transport
Pedestrians: Safety
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the risk to pedestrians on pavements of the wing mirrors on buses and other large vehicles; and what steps they will take to ensure that pedestrians are not at risk of being struck by the wing mirrors of such vehicles.
A
Answered on: 24 July 2019

The Government has not made an assessment of the risk to pedestrians on pavements of the wing mirrors on buses and other large vehicles, as this level of detail is not collected in road traffic collision information.

Vehicle regulations are made at an international level and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation 46 already includes provisions to protect pedestrians with regard to the mirror of a moving vehicle.

Q
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Intelligence Services: Languages
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people whose first language is not English are employed by each of the intelligence agencies; what languages they speak; and what assessment they have made of the adequacy of language proficiency in the intelligence services.
A
Answered on: 22 July 2019

​The Government has a longstanding policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.

Q
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for International Trade
Trade Promotion
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Fairhead on 23 January (HL12726) and Viscount Younger of Leckie on 4 July (HL16484), whether the Department for International Trade's Regional Trade Plans include recommendations for implementation which reflect the views of the private sector; whether equal consideration is given to the recommendations of small and medium-sized enterprises in addition to those of large organisations; and why they do not currently intend to publish Regional Trade Plans in full.
Answered on: 17 July 2019

To achieve a forward-looking Global Britain the Department for International Trade works with both UK and overseas businesses of all sizes to drive an increase in trade. Regional Trade Plans are strategic documents which drive the delivery of our Departmental objectives overseas and have been developed by teams who work regularly with businesses in their regions and in the UK. These views are reflected in regional priorities in the Plans.

We intend to publish a summary of Regional Trade Plans, which will consolidate more detailed internal plans.

Q
Asked on: 10 July 2019
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Electric Vehicles
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans UK regulators are implementing to ensure continuity of electricity supplies from national and local grids to supply electric cars during rush hour journeys.
A
Answered by: Lord Henley
Answered on: 17 July 2019

The Government is committed to making sure consumers have secure, affordable and clean energy now and in the future.

The Capacity Market secures the capacity required to meet peak demand, including demand for electric vehicles, in a range of scenarios through auctions held four- and one-year ahead of delivery. Although currently in a standstill period, the Capacity Market has already procured the bulk of the electricity capacity we need up to 2022.

In addition, the Government has taken powers in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 to mandate that charge points sold or installed in the UK must be smart enabled – allowing demand for charging of electric vehicles to be shifted, where appropriate, to off-peak times.

Finally, Ofgem regulates network companies to ensure that they deliver a safe, reliable network whilst investing for the future and providing value for money for consumers. This includes ensuring that networks can reliably deliver the energy that consumers need, including for charging electric vehicles.

Q
Asked on: 01 July 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Embassies: Surveillance
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, following the recording of events surrounding the death of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, what assessment they have made of the adequacy of security measures to prevent surveillance of UK embassies and consulates.
A
Answered on: 15 July 2019

​It is our policy not to comment publicly on the security measures that protect our people, properties and information.

Q
Asked on: 27 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Jamal Khashoggi
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Baroness Goudie on 27 June, what repercussions the UK has indicated to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would follow should international judicial norms not be followed in all matters relating to the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
A
Answered on: 11 July 2019

The British Government condemns Jamal Khashoggi's killing in the strongest possible terms. The Government remains clear that anyone found responsible must be held fully accountable. The ongoing Saudi judicial process is an important element in the process to establish accountability. We expect it to proceed in line with internationally recognised legal standards. The UK attends the trial as part of a group of international observers. We attend all trials of international concern where host governments permit us to do so. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on an ongoing legal process.

Q
Asked on: 27 June 2019
Department for International Development
International Assistance: Blockchain
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they have given to making full use of the capabilities of blockchain-based smart contracts to protect the supply chain and ensure that major international aid and development projects are fully transparent, and that funding is secure.
A
Answered by: Baroness Sugg
Answered on: 10 July 2019

DFID is committed to best practice in the use of new digital technologies and we have set a vision for doing development in a digital world in our Digital Strategy. We have commissioned several reports to understand the effectiveness and potential of emerging blockchain technologies for international development. DFID also has several proof of concept pilots in design and implementation to test the potential of blockchain in, for example, humanitarian supply chains, tracking of UK aid funds, and to incentivise and reward environmentally sustainable farming practices. DFID is learning from these pilots and other projects to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of delivering aid.

DFID’s contracts are tendered in accordance with the EU Public Procurement Directive and the UK Public Procurement Regulations 2015, the focus of which is to ensure open and fair competition between bidders. This means our contracts are competitively tendered following a set of standard processes set out in the regulations. This competitive approach helps ensure value for money in the delivery of UK aid. British companies have continued to be very successful in this competitive market with UK firms winning 80% of our contracts in 2018/19.

Grouped Questions: HL16770 | HL16771
Q
Asked on: 27 June 2019
Department for International Development
International Assistance: Blockchain
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have (1) to help fund the further assessment and development of blockchain technologies for major infrastructure and international development projects, and (2) to ensure that the UK remains a centre of excellence and is a preferred jurisdiction for such contracts.
A
Answered by: Baroness Sugg
Answered on: 10 July 2019

DFID is committed to best practice in the use of new digital technologies and we have set a vision for doing development in a digital world in our Digital Strategy. We have commissioned several reports to understand the effectiveness and potential of emerging blockchain technologies for international development. DFID also has several proof of concept pilots in design and implementation to test the potential of blockchain in, for example, humanitarian supply chains, tracking of UK aid funds, and to incentivise and reward environmentally sustainable farming practices. DFID is learning from these pilots and other projects to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of delivering aid.

DFID’s contracts are tendered in accordance with the EU Public Procurement Directive and the UK Public Procurement Regulations 2015, the focus of which is to ensure open and fair competition between bidders. This means our contracts are competitively tendered following a set of standard processes set out in the regulations. This competitive approach helps ensure value for money in the delivery of UK aid. British companies have continued to be very successful in this competitive market with UK firms winning 80% of our contracts in 2018/19.

Grouped Questions: HL16769 | HL16771
Q
Asked on: 27 June 2019
Department for International Development
International Assistance: Blockchain
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to support UK companies that are developing blockchain technology for the delivery of major international development contracts.
A
Answered by: Baroness Sugg
Answered on: 10 July 2019

DFID is committed to best practice in the use of new digital technologies and we have set a vision for doing development in a digital world in our Digital Strategy. We have commissioned several reports to understand the effectiveness and potential of emerging blockchain technologies for international development. DFID also has several proof of concept pilots in design and implementation to test the potential of blockchain in, for example, humanitarian supply chains, tracking of UK aid funds, and to incentivise and reward environmentally sustainable farming practices. DFID is learning from these pilots and other projects to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of delivering aid.

DFID’s contracts are tendered in accordance with the EU Public Procurement Directive and the UK Public Procurement Regulations 2015, the focus of which is to ensure open and fair competition between bidders. This means our contracts are competitively tendered following a set of standard processes set out in the regulations. This competitive approach helps ensure value for money in the delivery of UK aid. British companies have continued to be very successful in this competitive market with UK firms winning 80% of our contracts in 2018/19.

Grouped Questions: HL16769 | HL16770
Q
Asked on: 27 June 2019
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Business: Billing
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to use blockchain-based smart-contracts to ensure that small and medium sized enterprises are protected from late payment by larger companies in the supply chain.
A
Answered by: Lord Ashton of Hyde
Answered on: 10 July 2019

The Government recognises the impact late payments can have on businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises.

Blockchain technology is one solution of how this can be tackled.. For example, smart contracts can initiate payments based on digitally approved work or digitally tracked goods delivery. This enables businesses to be paid automatically, reducing the need for invoicing and preventing delays in payments. The technology ensures a high level of transparency for all parties involved, and helps prevent organisations from taking unilateral actions to alter original contracts.

The Government is supporting the development of blockchain technology in the UK and officials in the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport are exploring potential pilot projects with government departments. The Department for Business recently published the government response on the call for evidence to end late payments to small businesses. Many SMEs supply to government and, as one of the UK's largest corporate buyers, it is our responsibility to ensure suppliers are paid promptly and to examine where the use of technology can help with this.

Q
Asked on: 24 June 2019
Home Office
Home Office
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any plans to reassess the working structure of the Home Office.
Answered on: 08 July 2019

Her Majesty’s Government has no such plans. Nonetheless, in common with all large organisations, the Home Office makes marginal adjustments to its structures routinely.

Q
Asked on: 18 June 2019
Department for International Trade
Trade Promotion
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Fairhead on 9 January (HL 12726), whether the Trade Commission Regional Trade Plans include recommendations for implementation; if so, how any such recommendations are being implemented; whether they will now publish the Regional Trade Plans; and if not, why not.
Answered on: 04 July 2019

Regional trade plans (RTPs) are internal departmental documents which set out a region’s overarching strategy, objectives and priorities. They are developed in collaboration between overseas and UK based officials, and are assessed yearly. Where the Department for International Trade operates, UK overseas posts also have a plan to deliver our vision for a Global Britain, which provides the detail of how an RTP will be implemented in each market.

It is the Department’s intention to publish a public version of the plans in due course.

Q
Asked on: 24 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
China and Iran: British Nationals Abroad
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the respective Nationality Acts of (1) China, and (2) Iran, on British dual nationals, in particular their impact on general safety, vulnerability to blackmail and security risks; what advice they give those dual nationals when travelling to those countries; and what protection they give to those when affected.
A
Answered on: 04 July 2019

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) produces country-specific travel advice for British nationals. The travel advice for China and Iran contains specific information for British dual nationals. The FCO advises British-Iranian dual nationals against all travel to Iran. The assistance the FCO can provide to British nationals is set out in the public guide, "Support for British nationals abroad: a guide", which also contains information on how we can help dual nationals. Consular assistance is tailored to the individual circumstances of each case, though the FCO cannot normally help dual nationals when they are in the country of their other nationality. Further advice for British-Chinese dual nationals in China is also available on GOV.UK.

Q
Asked on: 24 June 2019
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sanctions
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 20 June, whether they can provide examples of the evidence on which they based their answer; and what assessment they have made of whether leaders of countries targeted by UK sanctions care about the effects of such sanctions on citizens of those countries.
A
Answered on: 04 July 2019

​Sanctions are designed to effect a change in behaviour through coercing or constraining an individual or entity, or sending a clear political signal of international discontent at particular behaviour. Linking behaviour change to sanctions explicitly is challenging as it is difficult to judge the extent of the influence of sanctions alone as they are always deployed as part of a broader strategy, accompanied by other policy tools. The majority of sanctions implemented by the UK are EU and UN sanctions. It is difficult to assess the personal opinions of the political leadership of countries which have been sanctioned; however, sanctions are carefully targeted and not intended to be punitive in nature.

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