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10 most recent Written Questions

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Date Title Questioner
2 Apr 2020, 2:28 p.m. NHS: Coronavirus Matt Western

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what he is taking to protect front-line NHS staff who are (a) categorised as vulnerable and (b) over 70 years old during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Helen Whately)

Preserving and protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and keeping them well is critical for the National Health Service as we respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Advice from the Government confirmed that the groups of people who should take particular care to minimise their social contact were:

- People over the age of 70 and other adults who would normally be advised to have a flu vaccine (such as those with chronic disease); and

- Pregnant women.

For staff members in this category, the NHS will support staff to stay well and at work. NHS organisations should make adjustments to enable this wherever possible. Adjustments may include working remotely or moving to a lower risk area. Line managers should get support from the locally nominated EPRR (Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response) lead, or for example, Medical/Nursing director or Chief Operating Officer to make this happen. NHS organisations are encouraged to make it clear who the point of contact is in this regard.

Our people are the most important consideration as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In these unprecedented times, our people more than ever will be making every effort to care for patients and the population, and we must equal that with the care we provide to them.

2 Apr 2020, 12:46 p.m. Visas: China Alan Brown

Question to the Home Office

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will further extend the relaxation of visa requirements for Chinese nationals in the UK beyond 31 March 2020.

Answer (Kevin Foster)

Visa nationals whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to extend their visa.

A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI to make the process as straightforward as possible. Anyone in this situation just needs to contact this team, via the following email address, CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.

This will last until 31 May, but will be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed.

2 Apr 2020, 12:45 p.m. Immigration: EU Nationals Daniel Zeichner

Question to the Home Office

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will make an assessment of the potential merits of extending the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme beyond 30 June 2021 as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Kevin Foster)

There are still nearly 15 months before the deadline of 30 June 2021 for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme. The published statistics, to 29 February 2020, show the scheme is performing well, with more than 3.3 million applications having been received and applications continuing to be received and processed.

EU citizens can apply online, free of charge, simply by completing three key steps: proving their identity, showing they live in the UK and declaring any criminal convictions. There is support available online and by email.

Where a person eligible for leave under the scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the application deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply. Our compassionate and flexible approach will ensure individuals who miss the deadline through no fault of their own can still obtain lawful status in the UK. We will publish clear guidance for caseworkers in due course to ensure consistency of approach.

2 Apr 2020, 12:39 p.m. British Overseas Territories: Coronavirus Baroness Hooper

Question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to include British Overseas Territories in the support and protection being offered to individuals and institutions within the UK for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answer (Baroness Sugg)

The UK takes its responsibilities towards the Overseas Territories extremely seriously. The UK Government is procuring medical equipment and support for each Territory immediately and we will stand fully by the Overseas Territories in the long run as they deal with the impacts of the pandemic. The UK is also leading with partners and allies to support an effective and co-ordinated global health response led by WHO and we are working closely with the Overseas Territories to ensure their needs are fully taken into account. As Minister for the Overseas Territories, I am in constant touch with the Premiers and Governors to ensure they receive the support they need.

2 Apr 2020, 10:28 a.m. Voluntary Work: Coronavirus Gareth Thomas

Question to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if the Government will provide funding to local councils to coordinate community volunteering efforts during the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement,.

Answer (Mr John Whittingdale)

DCMS is responsible for the voluntary, charity and social enterprise sector, which includes volunteering.

We recognise and appreciate how much local communities have contributed towards volunteering efforts during the covid-19 outbreak. We advise that all volunteers do not enter the homes of vulnerable people and can provide support by assisting with food shopping, collecting medication and staying in touch via social media. Further information can be found on GOV.UK in the volunteering safely guidance published last week.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has outlined the support available to local authorities on its website.

2 Apr 2020, 10:27 a.m. Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21 Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick

Question to the Ministry of Defence

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the (1) government of Ireland, and (2) political parties in Northern Ireland, about the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill.

Answer (Baroness Goldie)

The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill relates to the conduct of the UK Armed Forces outside of the UK. The operation of the UK Armed Forces is a reserved matter and one for the UK Government. The introduction of the Bill in the House of Commons is just the start of the process, and the Ministry of Defence will continue to engage with stakeholders across the UK throughout the Bill’s progress through Parliament.

No discussions have taken place with the Irish Government on the contents of this Bill.

2 Apr 2020, 10:26 a.m. Service Industries and Utilities: Coronavirus Baroness Sanderson of Welton

Question to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with utility companies about any support those companies could offer the hospitality industry as a result of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answer (Lord Callanan)

Government is liaising closely with energy suppliers and relevant trade bodies about support to all of their customers, and in particular vulnerable customers, during this period. Businesses in the hospitality sector that have concerns about being able to pay their utility bills should speak to their energy supplier about payment terms.

1 Apr 2020, 6:03 p.m. Further Education: Pupils Emma Hardy

Question to the Department for Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether colleges will be given discretionary powers to ensure that vulnerable pupils who do not have official status can remain in college.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

We have ensured that vulnerable students and the children of key workers can remain in college. Where young people are particularly at risk or there are safeguarding issues, colleges may make appropriate arrangements that allow them to continue to attend.

1 Apr 2020, 6:02 p.m. Apprentices: Coronavirus Emma Hardy

Question to the Department for Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to allow awarding organisations to enable work from apprentices to be accepted as evidence by video capture and witness testimonials for the next six months during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Gillian Keegan)

We have developed guidance with the sector to support all parts of the apprenticeship system, which is consistent with advice issued by Public Health England. Guidance issued on 23 March sets out how we are responding to the impact of Covid-19 on the apprenticeship programme. It can be found at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response.

We are keeping the guidance under active review and will publish updates as the situation evolves.

The authority to change assessment methods sits with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE). IfATE issued guidance on 23 March about the range of temporary flexibilities being introduced to end-point assessment: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/response-to-covid-19/.

IfATE are working closely with external quality assurance providers and end-point assessment organisations to make adjustments to assessment plans, including remote assessment wherever possible, whilst maintaining the integrity of the apprenticeship. Some assessment methods can be carried out remotely but these will need to be checked for each apprenticeship standard to take account of specific occupational requirements. Adjustments will need to be logged with relevant external quality assurance providers.

1 Apr 2020, 5:59 p.m. Pupils: Attendance Layla Moran

Question to the Department for Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that parents whose children are (a) unable to and (b) choose not to attend school because of (i) special educational needs and (ii) a disability during the covid-19 outbreak are not prosecuted under section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996.

Answer (Vicky Ford)

From Friday 20 March, schools, colleges and early years settings have been closed to everyone except children of key workers and vulnerable children, as part of the country’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

We have asked local authorities to suspend any penalty notice action or prosecutions for COVID-19 related absence with immediate effect. Local authorities should update their Code of Conduct for issuing penalty notices to make this clear. New cases should not be taken forward and any cases from 16 March should be withdrawn. This approach should also be applied to prosecutions for non-attendance.

Guidance has been issued on providing support for vulnerable children, including those with special educational needs or disabilities, during the current period of school closures. Schools, colleges, other training providers and local authorities will need to work with parents to make a risk assessment for each child and young person with an education, health and care plan and decide whether their needs should be met though the continuation of provision in their educational setting, or they are able to have their needs met at home.

The latest guidance for schools and other education settings can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings.