Drew Hendry Portrait

Drew Hendry

Scottish National Party - Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade)

(since February 2021)
Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
20th Jun 2017 - 1st Feb 2021
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee
11th Sep 2017 - 6th Nov 2019
Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport)
20th May 2015 - 20th Jun 2017


There are no upcoming events identified
Division Votes
None available
Speeches
Thursday 21st July 2022
Net Zero Strategy: High Court Ruling
The High Court ruling that the Government’s flagship policy on climate change is unlawful is a clear warning that this …
Written Answers
Monday 1st August 2022
Olive Oil: UK Trade with EU
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has taken steps to assess …
Early Day Motions
Monday 11th July 2022
Loch Insh Outdoor Centre
That this House congratulates the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre on winning Best Outdoor Centre at this year’s Scottish Hospitality Awards; …
Bills
Wednesday 23rd February 2022
Energy Pricing (Off Gas Grid Households) Bill 2021-22
A Bill to make provision about the application of the energy price cap in relation to households without mains gas …
MP Financial Interests
Monday 13th June 2022
1. Employment and earnings
24 May 2022, received £120. Hours: 2 hrs. Fee donated to SNP Inverness Branch. (Registered 08 June 2022)
EDM signed
Monday 11th July 2022
Maximum temperature in the workplace
That this House notes that recent surveys of workplace health and safety representatives show that high temperatures are one of …
Supported Legislation
Wednesday 22nd July 2020
Welfare (Terminal Illness) Bill 2019-21
A Bill to make provision about terminally ill people in the welfare system.

Division Voting information

During the current Parliamentary Session, Drew Hendry has voted in 348 divisions, and 1 time against the majority of their Party.

25 Jan 2022 - Judicial Review and Courts Bill - View Vote Context
Drew Hendry voted No - against a party majority - in line with the party majority and in line with the House
One of 4 Scottish National Party No votes vs 4 Scottish National Party Aye votes
Tally: Ayes - 187 Noes - 315
View All Drew Hendry Division Votes

Debates during the 2019 Parliament

Speeches made during Parliamentary debates are recorded in Hansard. For ease of browsing we have grouped debates into individual, departmental and legislative categories.

Sparring Partners
Paul Scully (Conservative)
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
(25 debate interactions)
Greg Hands (Conservative)
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
(18 debate interactions)
View All Sparring Partners
Department Debates
Department for International Trade
(42 debate contributions)
HM Treasury
(29 debate contributions)
View All Department Debates
Legislation Debates
United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020
(11,660 words contributed)
Trade Bill 2019-21
(1,140 words contributed)
View All Legislation Debates
View all Drew Hendry's debates

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Petitions

e-Petitions are administered by Parliament and allow members of the public to express support for a particular issue.

If an e-petition reaches 10,000 signatures the Government will issue a written response.

If an e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures the petition becomes eligible for a Parliamentary debate (usually Monday 4.30pm in Westminster Hall).

Petitions with highest Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey signature proportion
Petition Debates Contributed

Weddings take months and even years of intricate planning. Myself and many others believe the maximum number of guests authorised at wedding ceremonies should be increased. The number of guests permitted at weddings should be calculated according to venue capacity.

Extend funding to nightclubs, dance music events and festivals as part of the £1.57bn support package announced by the government for Britain's arts and culture sector to survive the hit from the pandemic. #LetUSDance


Latest EDMs signed by Drew Hendry

11th July 2022
Drew Hendry signed this EDM as the primary signatory on Monday 11th July 2022

Loch Insh Outdoor Centre

Tabled by: Drew Hendry (Scottish National Party - Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
That this House congratulates the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre on winning Best Outdoor Centre at this year’s Scottish Hospitality Awards; further congratulates the centre on receiving the Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice award 2022 for ranking in the top 10 per cent of visitor attractions worldwide; commends the ongoing hard work of …
8 signatures
(Most recent: 19 Jul 2022)
Signatures by party:
Scottish National Party: 7
Democratic Unionist Party: 1
11th July 2022
Drew Hendry signed this EDM as the primary signatory on Monday 11th July 2022

Lochardil Primary School

Tabled by: Drew Hendry (Scottish National Party - Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
That this House congratulates the staff and pupils at Lochardil Primary School on receiving the School of Sanctuary award from City Sanctuary UK; for showing solidarity with and welcoming those who need sanctuary; commends the commitment from the staff and students to accommodate students from a refugee background by expanding …
10 signatures
(Most recent: 21 Jul 2022)
Signatures by party:
Scottish National Party: 9
Democratic Unionist Party: 1
View All Drew Hendry's signed Early Day Motions

Commons initiatives

These initiatives were driven by Drew Hendry, and are more likely to reflect personal policy preferences.

MPs who are act as Ministers or Shadow Ministers are generally restricted from performing Commons initiatives other than Urgent Questions.


Drew Hendry has not been granted any Urgent Questions

Drew Hendry has not been granted any Adjournment Debates

3 Bills introduced by Drew Hendry


A Bill to make provision about the application of the energy price cap in relation to households without mains gas supply; to require the Secretary of State and Ofgem to make proposals for measures to ensure that households do not have to pay more for energy because they do not have access to mains gas supply; and for connected purposes.


Last Event - 2nd Reading
Friday 6th May 2022
(Read Debate)

A Bill to require the transfer of land and assets in Scotland currently in the ownership of Network Rail Limited to a body nominated by the Scottish Government; to transfer responsibilities for the management of the land and assets transferred and for the management and accountability for rail infrastructure in Scotland to the Scottish Government; and for connected purposes.


Last Event - 1st Reading: House Of Commons
Wednesday 15th March 2017
(Read Debate)

A Bill to require distance sellers to provide purchasers with a lowest available delivery cost option; to introduce a scheme for a fair delivery quality mark for responsible retailers; to establish penalties where vendors advertise free delivery but subsequently impose charges or conditions; and for connected purposes.


Last Event - 1st Reading: House Of Commons
Wednesday 24th February 2016

396 Written Questions in the current parliament

(View all written questions)
Written Questions can be tabled by MPs and Lords to request specific information information on the work, policy and activities of a Government Department
2 Other Department Questions
13th Dec 2021
To ask the President of COP26, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of the UK becoming a signatory to UNICEF's Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to PQ 73892 on 22 November 2021.

Alok Sharma
COP26 President (Cabinet Office)
6th May 2020
What assessment she has made of whether the covid-19 outbreak has had a disproportionate effect on women's job security.

The Government is actively monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market, including the impact on women and on other groups.

However, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions. The next ONS labour market statistics will be released in May, covering the 3-month period up to the end of March. Analysis of this and other data will provide an indication of early impacts of Covid-19 on the labour market.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
18th Jul 2022
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether he has made an assessment of the potential impact of the Government's Cost of Living Business Tsar's recommendation on independent retailers that food businesses reduce the retail price of food.

The Cost of Living Business Tsar, David Buttress, has and will continue to engage business of all sizes as part of his work to help households cope with the cost of living crisis. He is working closely with business associations to ensure that SMEs - including independent retailers - are able to contribute to this work. The Cost of Living Business Tsar will also work with officials to ensure that deals developed as part of his initiative are ethical and help UK consumers.

Food prices are set by businesses and it is not for the UK Government to set retail food prices or comment on day-today commercial decisions by companies. We continue to monitor food prices using the ONS inflation figures.

Michael Ellis
Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Attends Cabinet)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the report by Sir Robert Francis entitled Compensation and Redress for the Victims of Infected Blood, Recommendations for a Framework, what impact assessment has been undertaken relating to the time taken in making funds available.

There are a number of complex issues arising from the recommendations in the Compensation Framework Study. These issues are under active consideration across government, including consideration of Sir Robert’s evidence to the independent Inquiry on 11-12 July. I will update the House as this work progresses.

Michael Ellis
Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Attends Cabinet)
23rd Jun 2022
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the report by Sir Robert Francis entitled, Compensation and Redress for the Victims of Infected Blood, Recommendations for a Framework, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure timely action on implementing compensation for those infected and affected by contaminated blood products.

I refer the Hon. member to the answer given to PQ 16932 on 20 June.

Michael Ellis
Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Attends Cabinet)
23rd Jun 2022
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the report by Sir Robert Francis entitled, Compensation and Redress for the Victims of Infected Blood, Recommendations for a Framework, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of providing additional funding allocations to ensure payments for compensation to those affected by contaminated blood products is not funded from existing health and social care budgets.

I refer the Hon. member to the answer given to PQ 16932 on 20 June.

Michael Ellis
Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Attends Cabinet)
15th Sep 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether his Department has carried out an impact assessment of extending the delay on EU trade import controls beyond October 2021 on the competitiveness of UK exporters compared with importers; and whether he has plans to publish any such assessment.

I refer the hon. Member to the Written Statement of 14th of September, which sets out the reasons for the change to the timetable for introducing border import controls on goods from the EU.

The Government is working closely with the Devolved Administrations on the delay to the introduction of controls, especially on controls and checks on Sanitary and Phytosanitary goods which are a devolved matter.

Michael Ellis
Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Attends Cabinet)
16th Mar 2020
To ask the Prime Minister, what assessment he has made of the merits of providing British Sign Language during live televised statements.

Following discussions with the BBC, they have confirmed they will provide a sign language service during official statements for the foreseeable future.

Boris Johnson
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union
18th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with Ofgem on energy companies' policies on informing people who are moved to meter estimates when Smart Meter data is unavailable as a result of signal problems.

Energy suppliers are required by their licence conditions to take all reasonable steps to ensure their customers’ smart meters are fully functional. Suppliers are also obligated to treat customers fairly and provide information that is complete and accurate. Ofgem is responsible for regulating energy suppliers against their licence obligations

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
18th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if his Department will hold discussions with representatives of delivery companies on ending surcharges for deliveries to the Highlands.

The Government recognises delivery costs can be higher in some parts of the UK and strongly encourages businesses to provide consumers with a range of affordable delivery options. The Royal Mail provides a universal parcel service at a uniform price throughout the United Kingdom thanks to rules the UK government put in place in the Postal Services Act 2011.

The Consumer Protection Partnership, which includes Ofcom, Government representatives, consumer advocates and training standards officials, runs a dedicated working group to collect evidence on the issue.

Jane Hunt
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of setting a price cap for domestic heating in winter 2022.

The energy price cap was introduced to address an issue where certain groups of customers in the domestic market were found to be paying too much for their energy through a loyalty penalty. It therefore only applies to domestic gas and electricity consumers who are on a default or standard variable tariff. The price cap rate is set by Ofgem.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment his Department has made of the impact of leaving the EU on the availability of construction materials.

The Government regularly reviews matters related to construction skills. The Government is working closely with the industry to ensure that it can attract, retain and develop the skilled workforce it needs for the future.

Overall, the availability of construction materials is improving. Whilst manufacturers are mostly keeping up with demand, demand for some materials continues to outstrip supply due to high levels of global construction activity, lack of stock and Coronavirus-related disruption to production facilities, shipping and logistics. The Government continues to work with the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability Group to monitor and manage the situation.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of helping construction firms with training costs related to the use of sustainable alternative construction materials in the event that firms have to alter materials they plan to use for construction activities as a result of material shortages.

The Government regularly reviews matters related to construction skills. The Government is working closely with the industry to ensure that it can attract, retain and develop the skilled workforce it needs for the future.

Overall, the availability of construction materials is improving. Whilst manufacturers are mostly keeping up with demand, demand for some materials continues to outstrip supply due to high levels of global construction activity, lack of stock and Coronavirus-related disruption to production facilities, shipping and logistics. The Government continues to work with the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability Group to monitor and manage the situation.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of including Companies House in the Data Protection Act 2018 to ensure that personal details are presented accurately.

The Government is currently undertaking work with a view to introducing new powers and functions which will enable the Registrar of Companies to better support the UK business environment. This will include a new function to maintain the integrity of the Register. It is one of a number of proposals set out in the recent White Paper on Reform of Companies House, which the Government intends to bring into force through appropriate legislation in the next session of this Parliament.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions officials in his Department have had with retailers on safety in relation to the sale of gas safe products.

The installation and maintenance of gas appliances in domestic and commercial settings must only be undertaken by a suitably qualified and competent Gas Safe registered engineer. The Health and Safety Executive manages the delivery of the Gas Safe Register. Those on the Register are issued with a Gas Safe ID card that contains a list of the qualifications the engineer holds – this can be checked online by members of the public.

There are currently no plans to restrict the purchase of appliances to registered installers or for a voluntary scheme for checking purchasers’ Gas Safe ID cards at the point of purchase. The Government meets regularly with trade associations of installers and manufacturers of gas appliances, such as the Fuel Industry Association and the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances, but does not, as a matter of course, hold regular meetings with retailers on the sale of gas appliances.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if officials in his Department will hold discussions with retailers of products that require installation by a gas safe engineer on the creation of a voluntary scheme for checking purchasers' gas safe ID cards.

The installation and maintenance of gas appliances in domestic and commercial settings must only be undertaken by a suitably qualified and competent Gas Safe registered engineer. The Health and Safety Executive manages the delivery of the Gas Safe Register. Those on the Register are issued with a Gas Safe ID card that contains a list of the qualifications the engineer holds – this can be checked online by members of the public.

There are currently no plans to restrict the purchase of appliances to registered installers or for a voluntary scheme for checking purchasers’ Gas Safe ID cards at the point of purchase. The Government meets regularly with trade associations of installers and manufacturers of gas appliances, such as the Fuel Industry Association and the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances, but does not, as a matter of course, hold regular meetings with retailers on the sale of gas appliances.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
17th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with Ofgem to ensure that rural areas are not disadvantaged by comparison to urban areas during the Smart Meter roll-out.

The Government wants households and small businesses to benefit from smart metering and is working closely with Ofgem on the smart meter rollout. The Data Communications Company (DCC), which operates the national communications infrastructure for smart metering, is obligated under the conditions of its licence to provide communications coverage to at least 99.25% of premises. The DCC also has a licence condition to strive to achieve 100% coverage where it is technically practicable and cost proportionate. Ofgem is responsible for regulating the DCC.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
10th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions officials in his Department have had with representatives of Post Office Ltd. on ensuring that equipment provided by (a) Outreach and (b) Sub-Postmasters is adequate.

The Government sets the parameters for the Post Office to operate and asks management to operate commercially at arms-length from Government. BEIS continues to have oversight of the Post Office from a policy perspective and UKGI oversees Post Office’s corporate governance and strategy on behalf of the shareholder.

There remains regular dialogue between BEIS, UKGI and Post Office which includes monthly meetings between Post Office and I, as well as formal quarterly shareholder meetings between BEIS, UKGI and Post Office to discuss financial performance and various live issues. Decisions made by Post Office relating to the operation of branches are regularly discussed, and challenged by the Government when appropriate, through these channels.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
9th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with reference to Russia's suspension from The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and The Forest Stewardship Council, what steps his Department is taking to (a) stabilise the market in wood pellets for biomass boilers, and (b) support the supply of wood pellets for biomass boilers from sources other then Russia.

The Government will be working with industry to mitigate the impact of Russia’s suspension and to ensure continuity of the supply of wood pellets in the market.

The UK government intends to publish a new biomass strategy later this year. This will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how it could be best utilised across the economy to help achieve the Government's net zero and wider environmental commitments.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
21st Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of establishing an independent ombudsman to review compensation requests made by victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal that have been rejected.

When establishing the Historical Shortfall Scheme, the Post Office engaged with the claimants in the settled litigation, to inform the design of the scheme, and the scheme already includes an independent advisory panel with appropriately qualified individuals to make recommendations on compensation. The Panel is completely independent of both Post Office and of Government. The Scheme received around 2,500 claims, of which over 2,300 were eligible applications and Post Office is working to make offers on the overwhelming majority of applications, (95%), by the end of 2022.

Regarding overturned historical convictions, POL is committed to paying the reasonable legal costs of the claimants’ representatives to ensure that they are properly supported to put forward their best possible case for compensation.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
21st Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to strengthen the relationship between representatives of Post Office Ltd and the victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The Post Office is continuing its efforts to right the wrongs of the past. This includes delivering compensation via the Historical Shortfall Scheme and compensation for postmasters with overturned criminal convictions – thereby resetting its relationship with postmasters who have been affected by the Horizon scandal.

The Government is closely monitoring the Post Office’s progress on delivering compensation in both areas.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
18th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with the Fire Industry Association (FIA) on (a) supply chain disruption and (b) component shortages.

The Government is aware that there are pressures on the supply chains of certain sectors, driven by global and domestic supply and demand factors. We are working with industry to understand how these pressures are impacting businesses on the ground so that we can continue to monitor the situation.

We do talk to the Fire Industry Association (FIA) regularly on a range of issues and would welcome any further feedback from them on this matter.

10th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent discussions officials in his Department have had with Companies House on strengthening the process of removing the personal details of people who have had their names fraudulently included in a companies registration with Companies House.

We announced our plans to reform Companies House in September 2020. The reforms will ensure more reliably accurate information on the companies register, reinforced by identity verification of people who manage or control companies. Companies House will have greater powers to query and challenge information. We will bring forward legislation to implement these reforms when Parliamentary time allows.

Departmental officials hold frequent discussions with Companies House counterparts on a wide range of issues, including measures we propose to take to improve the integrity of information on the companies register.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
24th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to (a) reduce the shortage of LPG cylinders and (b) ensure that off-grid domestic customers who are reliant on LPG for heating are prioritised for cylinder deliveries.

The Department’s officials have discussed the availability of liquefied petroleum gas cylinders with the major suppliers. The companies concerned continue to offer short term mitigations such as cylinder swaps and alternative sizes where necessary, while they develop long-term, sustainable solutions. Liquefied petroleum gas consumers are free to shop around for the best price and terms relating to the supply of bottled liquefied petroleum gas.

Liquid Gas UK, the trade association for the industry, remains confident in their members’ ability to operate to the principles set out in their Customer Charter. These include ‘Cold Weather Priority Delivery’ so that at times of restricted supply the industry will seek to ensure that priority groups do not run out of energy, particularly those who are aged 75 or older, chronically ill, or registered disabled.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
20th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of extending the renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme application closure deadline beyond 31 March 2022 for the purposes of allowing applications from people who have already ordered potentially RHI eligible systems that may not be installed by 31 March 2022 as a result of shipping delays.

The Government intends to close the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive to new applications on 31 March 2022. In England and Wales, this will be followed by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which is scheduled to launch in April 2022. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme will provide a more targeted, accessible, and simpler offer, by providing upfront capital grants to support the installation of low carbon heat technologies. Some installations which are unable to apply in time for the Renewable Heat Incentive may be eligible for support in the Boiler Upgrade Scheme instead. The Scottish Government has made the decision to opt out of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme in favour of using their budget to enhance their existing schemes such as Warmer Homes Scotland and Home Energy Scotland Loans and Cashback.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
4th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of introducing retail controls to restrict the (a) sale and (b) delivery of products that require a gas safe engineer for installation to people who qualify as gas safe engineers.

The UK’s product safety regulatory requirements are designed to ensure that all products on the UK market meet essential safety requirements and are compliant with the law. Where appropriate, UK legislation specifically requires that products contain relevant information on the safe use of products. While it is not illegal to purchase products that must be fitted by a Gas Safe registered engineer, it remains an offence to install such products unless suitably competent to do so. The Government has no plans to change this position.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
14th Dec 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 9 September 2021 to Question 41970 on Liquefied Petroleum Gas: Bottles, what recent discussions officials in his Department have had with Liquid Gas UK on the (a) effectiveness of their Customer Charter in identifying vulnerable customers and (b) stock of liquified petroleum gas bottles within the market as of 14 December 2021.

The Department continues to be in frequent contact with Liquid Gas UK, the trade association for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry in the UK.

Liquid Gas UK remain confident in their members’ ability to operate to the principles set out in their Customer Charter.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
4th Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will take steps to help ensure the financial viability of authors as the Intellectual Property Office consults on the copyright regime.

The Government holds regular discussions with stakeholders about the UK’s copyright framework to ensure it remains fit for purpose. This includes engagement with organisations representing authors and the wider publishing industry.

The Government is currently analysing responses to the consultation on the UK’s future exhaustion of IP rights regime, and will provide an update on this consultation in due course.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
18th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of a dedicated research and development funding allocation for a virtual motor neurone disease translational research institute.

This Government is committed to supporting research into dementia and neurodegeneration, including motor neurone disease (MND). Last fiscal year, UKRI spent £15.9 million on MND research. This builds on wider funding for medical research charities including £204 million Research England funding in AY 20-21, the charity research support funding element of Quality-related Research, and UKRI’s funding for the Crick Institute. The UK Dementia Research Institute, founded with £190 million of government funding through UKRI, already includes research on scientific understanding of motor neurone disease as a neurodegenerative condition.

Future funding decisions will be subject to the outcome of the Spending Review 2021.

15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of offsetting domestic Renewable Heat Incentive overpayments, where the original Energy Performance Certificate was undertaken incorrectly by the RHI systems original installer, in the event that that installer has since gone into liquidation.

In cases where Ofgem, the scheme administrator, finds that an EPC is inaccurate, and that the RHI scheme participant has been overpaid, Ofgem are required to request that the overpayment is repaid, in order to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for Ofgem generally try to show flexibility with regard to how funds are recovered, and usually allow repayments to be offset against future RHI payments. RHI Payments are recovered from the participant (and not the installer or EPC assessor), because it was the scheme participant that entered a contractual obligation with Ofgem when the RHI application was made.

It is usually not directly relevant whether or not the installer has since gone into liquidation, because it is not the installer who usually carries out the EPC assessment. EPC assessments must be carried out by a qualified EPC assessor; therefore, unless the installer is both Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified and an accredited EPC assessor, the EPC assessment must be carried out by a different person or organisation.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
10th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with the Competition and Markets Authority on monitoring for unfair market practices in construction materials supply chains while there is a shortage of construction materials.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is independent of government, with a remit to tackle individual and market-wide competition issues, including breaches of competition law. My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State, BEIS officials and I have regular discussions with the CMA on a wide range of issues.

At present, global demand for building materials is far in excess of supply, leading to product shortages and rapid and sustained price inflation. The situation is being exacerbated by disruption to shipping and port operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to work closely with the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability Group to monitor and manage this challenging situation.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
9th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on levels of fuel poverty of the removal of the £20 universal credit uplift in the Scottish Highlands.

The Government recognises that the £20 Universal Credit uplift has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic. We announced the temporary uplift as part of a COVID support package worth a total of £407billion in 2020-21 and 2021-22. Our focus is now on our multi-billion ‘Plan for Jobs’, which will support people in the long-term by helping them learn new skills, increase their hours, or find new work.

Home energy and fuel poverty policy are matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament. However, until the Scottish Government has built the capacity to replace them, Cold Weather Payments, Winter Fuel Payments continue to be UK Government provision in Scotland. The Energy Company Obligation and Warm Home Discount will continue to apply across Great Britain until at least March 2022

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
3rd Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department have had with the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers on (a) the availability of supply of LPG bottles for off-grid domestic customers in winter 2021-22 and (b) prioritising that supply in the provision of LPG bottles.

The Department is in frequent contact with Liquid Gas UK, the trade association for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry in the UK. Every year, BEIS works closely with industry to monitor the LPG and heating oil supply position over winter and to proactively take steps to mitigate any risks that may affect distribution to customers and essential services.

In these discussions, Liquid Gas UK reported that demand for cylinders reached unprecedented levels this year, while lead times for importing new cylinders have been significantly lengthened due to increased global steel demand and volatile shipping markets. The industry expects the demand for cylinders from the UK leisure and tourism sectors to decline as the summer holiday season comes to an end and this to ease the pressure. Their members are offering solutions such as cylinder swaps and alternative sizes where possible for consumers affected.

In 2018 Liquid Gas UK published a ‘Customer Charter’, which requires its member companies to adhere to a set of common principles. These include ‘Cold Weather Priority Delivery’ so that at times of restricted supply the industry will seek to ensure that priority groups do not run out of energy, particularly those who are aged 75 or older, chronically ill, or registered disabled. I would encourage eligible customers to make sure that they are registered with their suppliers’ schemes under this Charter to help ensure that they go into winter with an adequate stock of LPG or identify at an early opportunity when they might need a further delivery.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
3rd Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his officials have had with Ofgem on the marketing of Green Energy tariffs by energy companies when those tariffs can be effected by wholesale changes to the market price of fossil fuels via alterations in the energy cap.

The default energy price cap and any associated derogations for renewable tariffs is a matter for the regulator Ofgem and is not subject to discussion with BEIS officials.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
18th Aug 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with reference to the Construction Leadership Council's statement on Construction Product Availability on 22 June 2021, what steps his Department is taking to (a) support allocation transparency within the building materials supply chain and (b) protect smaller building firms from unfair practices in materials supply.

At present, demand for building materials is outstripping supply due to high levels of global construction activity. Manufacturers are working hard to maximise production, but they are struggling to keep pace with demand due to lack of stock and Coronavirus-related disruption to production facilities, shipping and logistics.

The Government recognises the impact that this situation is having on many smaller building firms and we are working closely with the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Product Availability Group to monitor and manage it.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
13th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to ensure rural postmasters incomes are protected during any reassessment of payment models by the Post Office.

The Government continues to safeguard the Post Office network and protect existing rural services through the access criteria that Government sets. While postmaster remuneration and the changes resulting from the second Mails Distribution Agreement agreed recently between Post Office and Royal Mail is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd, Government recognises the importance of supporting postmasters and ensuring they are rewarded fairly for the services they provide.

The Government expects Post Office to listen carefully to the feedback received during the recent consultation on the proposed changes to ensure that running a Post Office remains an attractive proposition.

Post Office has committed to communicating the final changes to postmaster remuneration in September.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
13th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with the Post Office on the potential effect on rural postmasters in the moving from a volume-based payment model to a value-based payment model for their remuneration for delivering postal services.

The Government continues to safeguard the Post Office network and protect existing rural services through the access criteria that Government sets. While postmaster remuneration and the changes resulting from the second Mails Distribution Agreement agreed recently between Post Office and Royal Mail is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd, Government recognises the importance of supporting postmasters and ensuring they are rewarded fairly for the services they provide.

The Government expects Post Office to listen carefully to the feedback received during the recent consultation on the proposed changes to ensure that running a Post Office remains an attractive proposition.

Post Office has committed to communicating the final changes to postmaster remuneration in September.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions officials in his Department have had with representatives of relevant industry bodies on the shortage of bagged cement.

The Government is aware that some products including cement are in short supply nationally. At present, supply of these products is not keeping pace with demand, and strong demand during 2020 reduced existing stocks.

In light of this, the Construction Leadership Council’s Coronavirus Task Force has established a Product Availability Working Group, comprised of product manufacturers, builders’ merchants and suppliers, contractors of all sizes, and housebuilders. The Task Force continues to monitor the supply and demand of products, and identify those in short supply. The Task Force also issues regular statements on product availability. The statements include detailed updates on the availability of specific products in affected material areas in order to keep the market informed. They can be accessed at https://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with energy providers on the current availability of gas cylinder bottles for domestic users who are reliant on the bottles for (a) heating and (b) cooking.

The Department are aware that there are some liquefied petroleum gas cylinder availability issues at present, but the industry considers that the impact on domestic customers for heat and cooking is low, as suppliers have mitigating measures in place. Officials are continuing to monitor the situation.

Those customers with empty or unused cylinders can assist by returning them to the relevant companies.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
19th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has held with Trust Mark about implementing additional consumer protections within the scheme's system, in the context of reports of individuals registering businesses with scheme providers running multiple limited companies that have not met works standards and have subsequently ceased trading prior to consumers complaints being resolved.

In order to become a business registered with TrustMark, the business must demonstrate to the TrustMark Scheme Provider that it complies with the rigorous TrustMark Framework Operating Requirements. These requirements have clear conditions, including the disclosure of any previous and/or present business interests that will impact upon the registration of the business. This has been established to prevent manipulation of the Government Endorsed Quality Scheme including through accessing multiple schemes where compliance with the Framework Operating Requirements has not been demonstrated.

As part of the ongoing development of the Scheme, the requirement for consumer protection for all works being undertaken via a TrustMark Registered Business, is being strengthened to provide greater protection to the consumer. TrustMark is currently in discussion with multiple parties to develop improved provisions to ensure that both consumers and businesses are suitably protected as a requirement of the TrustMark Scheme.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
2nd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department have had with the Competition and Markets Authority on price alterations across the academic ebook market during the covid-19 pandemic.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is responsible for investigating individual and market-wide competition issues in the UK. The Government has ensured that the CMA has significant powers to investigate and act if it finds that companies are behaving anti-competitively in a market.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
2nd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how many Bounce Back Loans businesses have taken up by business size; and what the value is of those loans by business size.

A breakdown on the number of loans offered through the Bounce Back Loan scheme as of 26 January 2021 is in the table below.

Business Size

No. of Facilities

Value (£)

Micro

1,311,041

37,408,683,602

Small

134,600

6,505,697,212

Medium

3,098

131,529,621

Mid-sized

3,304

141,820,279

Large

171

7,195,275

Total

1,452,214

44,194,925,990

The categories are based on turnover and breakdown as follows:

Micro: Turnover

Small: Turnover between £632K and £10.19 million

Medium: Turnover between £10.2 million and £24.9 million

Mid-Sized: Turnover between £25 million and £500 million

Large: Turnover > £500 million

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
28th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions his Department has had with Ofgem on their progress in implementing the Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025.

BEIS regularly engage with Ofgem to discuss their progress in implementing the Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025. Since this was published, in October 2019, Ofgem has made progress on their first-year priorities, including:

  • Creating an analytical framework to consistently assess the impact of regulatory policies on groups of consumers in vulnerable situations, published in May 2020;
  • Strengthening protections for consumers who self-disconnect from prepayment meters or self-ration, and protections for consumers who struggle to pay their bills. Ofgem consulted on proposals in June 2020 and intend for protections to be in place by the end of 2020, and;
  • Proposing a requirement on gas network companies to adhere to a vulnerability principle, making network companies more accountable for the service they provide consumers in vulnerable situations, through a licence obligation. Ofgem is planning to issue the statutory consultation in December and for the condition to come into effect on 1 April 2021.
Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
13th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department has undertaken to ensure that businesses utilising personal current accounts for business activities are not rejected for support from the Business Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has been introduced to help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. Businesses are not required to bank with their provider in order to be eligible for a loan under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).

It is also not a requirement of the Scheme for businesses to operate via a business account. However, some lenders may request that an applicant opens a business account in line with their standard policies. This is at the sole discretion of the lender. There are now 26 lenders accredited under the scheme, providing more choice for SMEs. Details of accredited lenders can be found on the British Business Bank’s website.

In order to apply for the scheme, businesses need to complete a short, simple online application form. A lender may consider paying funds into a personal current account if no business bank account is held, if it has been satisfactorily evidenced that the personal current account is being used for business purposes. In some cases, borrowers may need to include their 2018-19 HMRC self-assessment tax return alongside the form to verify their status as a business.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
8th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which technologies will be eligible under the Government's plans to allocate £1 billion for the decarbonisation of public sector buildings.

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme will offer grants to public sector bodies to fund both energy efficiency and low carbon heat measures. The details of the eligible technologies in scope for the scheme will be announced in due course.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
8th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which technologies will be eligible under the Government's plans to allocate £50 million for the decarbonisation of social housing.

Further details on the Social Housing Demonstrator, including which technologies will be eligible, will be announced at its launch in the Autumn.

Funding will be allocated competitively, building on the experience of the Whole House Retrofit (WHR) programme. The WHR competition was launched in May 2019 and awarded a total of £7.7m to the first three winning organisations in the Whole House Retrofit competition.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
25th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether there are plans for additional recovery roundtables further to those announced on 15 June 2020.

My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State held this series of roundtables as part of an intensive programme of engagement to inform the Government’s approach to economic recovery. The Department will continue to hold regular extensive engagement with stakeholders across all sectors and to work with stakeholders towards a clean, resilient recovery that will create new opportunities for long-term growth and improved productivity in parts of the country that have been worst affected.

Paul Scully
Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)
9th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with reference to the quarantine of oil and gas workers, whether the quarantine exemption for people who are required for the continued safe and secure operation, maintenance and essential support services for offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the UK applies to workers (a) entering the UK to operate on infrastructure domestically, or (b) returning to the UK having conducted the same commercial activities in other EEA nations.

In line with many other countries, the Government has introduced a series of measures and restrictions at the UK border which are supported by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, to contribute to keeping the overall number of transmissions in the UK as low as possible. These measures came into effect on 8 June. A small proportion of people required to maintain essential supply chains, critical national infrastructure or to contribute to the crisis response have been made exempt from the requirement to self-isolate. Offshore workers undertaking, or required to commence, activities in the UK and on the UK Continental Shelf on or in relation to offshore installations, upstream petroleum infrastructure, critical safety work on offshore installations and wells that are being decommissioned or which are being preserved pending demolition or reuse or activities for the provision of workers, goods, materials or equipment or other essential services required to support the safe operation of offshore work have been exempted from these measures. Offshore workers entering the UK who are required to undertake those activities in the UK or on the UK Continental Shelf are covered by the exemption. Those travelling overseas to work on infrastructure outside of the UK will not be exempt on their return to the UK, unless they will be conducting the specified activities in the UK or on the UK Continental Shelf within 14 days of their return.

These measures will be subject to review every three weeks.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
19th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of potential risks to the consumer of fibre to the cabinet products being sold as fibre products.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media.

In 2017, the ASA considered the case of whether fibre to the cabinet products could be marketed as fibre. Their conclusion was that 'the word ‘fibre’ is unlikely to mislead consumers as it is currently used in the advertising of part-fibre broadband services.'

The Government understands the significant benefits full-fibre broadband brings over fibre to the cabinet technologies, and that is why we are investing £5 billion in Project Gigabit to ensure at least 85% of the UK will have gigabit-capable connectivity by 2025.

Matt Warman
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
11th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if her Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of expanding the Ofcom Code on Sports and Other Listed and Designated Events to include a broader range of Scottish football tournament finals.

The Government has no intention of further amending the list of events of national interest which are included in the Listed Events Regime.

Although the listed events regime exists to ensure that events of national significance are available to as wide an audience as possible, this must be balanced with the ability of sporting organisations to generate revenues to invest in their sports at all levels. Broadcasting rights provide essential income, which enables sports national governing bodies to invest in better facilities for spectators, improve elite performance, hire the best coaches, and keep-up with mounting competition from rival sports and tournaments.

Nigel Huddleston
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department has taken to ensure UK cultural institutions avoid relationships with non-UK organisations that (a) hold or (b) host items taken from Ukrainian territory.

The government is committed to protecting cultural property and combating the illicit trade in cultural objects. We are working with international partners, and the Ukrainian authorities, to protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage and property from unlawful removal and illicit trade.

All UK cultural institutions, and the art market, are required to ensure that the objects which they handle are of lawful provenance. No UK institutions should therefore have dealings with organisations that knowingly receive cultural objects removed from Ukraine without the appropriate permission of the relevant Ukrainian authorities.

Nigel Huddleston
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
7th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department is taking to ensure cultural institutions trading in or housing cultural objects and materials looted from Ukraine are sanctioned and unable to operate or trade with (a) institutions, (b) individuals, (c) charities and (d) businesses in the UK.

No one in the UK should be doing business with any institution which knowingly acquires cultural objects looted from Ukraine. International and domestic UK law includes a range of provisions, including criminal offences, to protect cultural objects from unlawful removal and illicit trade. Art market businesses and museums in the UK subscribe to codes of conduct which set out their responsibilities and procedures for ensuring the lawful provenance of the cultural objects which they handle. The Government expects anyone dealing in cultural objects to ensure that those objects have not been looted from any country, including Ukraine, and that the businesses and institutions they are dealing with are acting lawfully.

Nigel Huddleston
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
2nd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment her Department has made of the potential sanctions that can be imposed on social media companies that fail to tackle disinformation from Russian-backed sources relating to the war in Ukraine.

As the Secretary of State set out in her statement on 3 March, we have been engaging regularly with the major platforms, who have taken a number of positive steps in response to the situation. Apple has paused all product sales in Russia, Google has added new safeguarding features to Google Maps and Search and Whatsapp is hosting a helpline for Ukraine’s State Emergency Service that sends people information and critical news about the local situation.

From the moment the Russian President began his invasion, we have been clear that he must not be allowed to exploit our open and free media to spread damaging propaganda in Britain. This is especially true in the case of RT, whose own Editor-in-Chief has called the network an “information weapon” of the Russian state. We welcome the action Youtube has taken to prevent access to RT in the UK, and the Secretary of State has written to other major platforms, including Meta and TikTok, calling on them to take action to block access to RT on UK services.

In addition, the Counter Disinformation Unit continues to works closely with platforms to flag specific pieces of disinformation and have them removed where they violate a platform's terms of service.

22nd Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to ensure professional athletes training and competing regularly in Europe are not penalised by the need to obtain visas for each nation they intend to operate in as a result of the 90 in 180 days within the EU visa rules.

The EU agreed in 2019 that UK nationals would be able to travel visa-free to the Schengen Area for short-term visits (up to 90 days in 180) for a limited number of activities, including attending sporting and cultural events, tourism and short-term study. For those undertaking longer-term stays (exceeding the 90 days limit) a visa and/or work permit may be required. It is up to the individual (including professional athletes) to check the rules of each country they intend to travel to ahead of time, in case they need to apply for a visa, work permit, or provide other documentation.

Nigel Huddleston
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what discussions his Department has had with relevant stakeholders on extending the range of professional cycling disciplines that can qualify for managed isolation exemption letters from British Cycling to include downhill mountain biking.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 and the elite sport stage 4 guidance on return to cross-border competition sets the framework for elite sports exemptions to self-isolation.

It is for the National Governing Body to determine which disciplines or athletes meet the definitions within the legislation, and to issue the written evidence required to benefit from the exemption.



Nigel Huddleston
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
16th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what discussions his Department has had with the Gambling Commission on the regulation of the naming of gambling products in response to the suspension of Football Index's licence.

The Gambling Commission has suspended the licence of BetIndex Ltd, the operators of Football Index, while it carries out an investigation. I have met the Commission to discuss the situation.

Regarding rules on the naming of gambling products, the Commission requires operators to act in a way that meets the licensing objectives to be fair and open. They are also required to present their products in a way that is compliant with Advertising Standards Authority rules regarding advertising and marketing. Where the ASA determines an operator has presented its products in a way that is in breach of these rules, the Commission can also consider whether further regulatory action is required as a result.

19th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what discussions his Department has had with Ofcom on clarifying consumer pricing regulations in relation to mobile operators' advertised spending caps to help ensure that consumers are aware when they are being connected to a service with a network access charge not included in their spending cap.

Mobile bill limits were introduced by the Digital Economy Act 2017, and came into effect from October 2018. Ofcom, the independent telecoms regulator, is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of this obligation. Prior to this requirement taking effect, to help consumer awareness, Ofcom published guidance on its website.

Mobile phone providers are required, under the legislation, to allow their customers to set a monthly spending cap for the services they provide, and send a notification when they are nearing limits. This means that for calls, such as to premium rate services, the ‘access charge’ is covered, i.e. the cost of the mobile operator to connect the call, but not the ‘service charge’, the actual cost of the service. To ensure consumers are aware of this facility, mobile operators allow their customers to set bill limits when signing up to services, and some providers also allow customers to set bill limits on all services, including third party services charged to their mobile.

Matt Warman
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
12th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions his Department has had with (a) Ofcom and the (b) Phone-paid Services Authority on improving regulation of companies selling turn key premium phone line (i) services and (ii) software to third parties.

The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) is the UK regulator for content, goods and services that are charged to a phone bill. The PSA is reviewing and updating its Code of Practice - the regulatory framework that companies offering phone-paid services to UK consumers have to follow. The PSA will consult on a draft revised Code of Practice in 2021, which Ofcom has to approve before it can come into force. The PSA keeps DCMS and Ofcom informed of the progress of the review.

Matt Warman
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
16th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the implications for reaching the Government target of full fibre broadband for all people by 2025 of the provisions in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review; and whether he plans to make an assessment of the potential merits of the wider proposals in that review.

The Government remains committed to delivering nationwide gigabit connectivity as soon as possible. Over 3.5 million premises (or 12% of the UK) can access gigabit capable broadband according to the latest Ofcom figures, compared to 7% a year ago. Gigabit coverage is even higher at 20%, or one in five UK premises, as a result of Virgin Media’s upgrades of its existing cable network.

We support industry’s plans to deliver gigabit broadband to the most commercial parts of the UK (c.80% of the country) and will continue to take action to remove barriers to deployment to help them deliver this by 2025.

It will be more difficult to deliver gigabit connectivity to the hardest to reach 20% of the country by 2025. This is why we have committed a record £5 billion of capital funding to support deployment in these areas.

Matt Warman
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
16th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, when he plans to publish further details on (a) how the £5 billion fund for rural roll-out will be allocated to support the roll-out of full fibre broadband and (b) what share of that funding will be allocated to Scotland.

We are currently developing the pipeline of premises for initial deployment under the £5 billion investment into gigabit-capable broadband. To ensure these are successfully delivered, we need to consult plans with industry, Local Bodies and Devolved Administrations. We plan to publish the first draft pipeline later this year.

The £5bn programme will deliver to the hardest to reach premises in the UK. These are disproportionately situated in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland given their rurality. It is too early in our programme design process to provide figures of how much funding each region will receive from the programme. However, the funding will be allocated based on the number of eligible premises in that area, as opposed to the Barnett Formula.

Before we can confirm the share of the funding which will be allocated to Scotland we need the R100 programme, the Scottish superfast broadband programme, to complete its procurement phase so that we can determine which specific premises are in scope for R100 and therefore what remains to be done with funding from the £5bn. We are working with the Scottish Government to align our interventions.

Matt Warman
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department has taken to ensure UK educational institutions avoid relationships with non-UK organisations that (a) hold or (b) host items taken from Ukrainian territory.

Alongside our allies, we are united in support for Ukraine. I, alongside my hon. Friend, the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, have recently written to the higher education sector to outline our expectation that universities review their partnerships with Russia and take appropriate action.

This includes taking action on research partnerships as well as asking universities to review their broader investments arrangements. The department is pleased that the sector appears to already be taking a proactive approach when it comes to reviewing their financial arrangements connected to Russia. Institutions will be bound by new rules restricting Russian investment in line with other British businesses.

I am continuing to ask that all universities conduct due diligence when entering into all international partnerships and accepting foreign investment, in line with Universities UK guidance on ‘Managing risks in Internationalisation’.

17th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of extending home student status to the 2021-22 academic year for EU nationals who have been required to defer entry to higher education institutions as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals not in scope of the citizens’ rights protections will not be eligible for home fee status, undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for courses starting in the academic year 2021/22 or beyond. This change will also apply to further education funding for those aged 19 and over and to funding for apprenticeships. It will not affect students starting courses in the academic year 2020/21. This will not apply to students from Ireland whose right to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis under the Common Travel Area arrangement.

EU nationals and any of their family members who start a course in England in the 2020/21 academic year or before (on or before 31 July 2021) will continue to be eligible for home fee status and undergraduate and postgraduate student financial support from Student Finance England for the duration of their course, provided that they meet the residency requirement.

If a student secures a place in the 2020/21 academic year, but subsequently defers the start of their course until the following academic year, then the rules governing student support for courses starting in the 2021/22 academic year will apply to them.

13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has taken steps to assess the impact on supply chains of additional agri-good paperwork for the importation of olive oil from the EU for independent retailers.

Defra routinely engages with stakeholders on a wide range of food issues including olive oil, but has not undertaken any formal assessment on this point.

Victoria Prentis
Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
24th Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of allowing the Animal and Plant Health Agency to conduct regulatory checks on animals travelling with refugees from Ukraine immediately upon their arrival in the UK.

The Government wishes to ensure that people fleeing from Ukraine can come here with their pets, in a way which also safeguards our rabies-free status.

The UK has been rabies-free for many years, and we wish to remain so. Ukraine is a high-risk country for rabies and animals coming to the UK from Ukraine need to meet the health preparation requirements before they travel. In practice, this means having a microchip, a rabies vaccination, passing a blood test 30 days later and then waiting for three months before travelling.

However, we recognise that many people fleeing from Ukraine will not have been able to complete all of these requirements. Therefore, people fleeing from Ukraine can bring their pets with them under licence. In cases where their pets need to spend time in quarantine, we are covering the costs of this.

We have streamlined the license application process for people fleeing from Ukraine with their pets. Pets from Ukraine may also be eligible for home isolation in England if they are found to have rabies antibodies, subject to strict criteria.

Victoria Prentis
Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of undertaking visual checks to confirm that dogs entering the UK match pet passports.

We operate one of the most rigorous and robust pet travel checking regimes in Europe. All non-commercial dogs entering Great Britain on approved routes (every route other than Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Crown Dependencies) under the pet travel rules undergo 100% documentary and identity checks by authorised pet checkers.

To enter Great Britain dogs must have been implanted with a microchip or have a legible tattoo imprinted prior to 3 July 2011. A dog’s identity is checked by ensuring that the microchip or tattoo details correspond to the details in the dog’s documentation. Carriers can refer suspected non-compliances to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). APHA staff are highly trained to deal with intercepted shipments.

APHA works collaboratively with Border Force and other operational partners at ports, airports and inland, sharing intelligence to enforce the pet travel rules, disrupt illegal imports, safeguard the welfare of animals and seize non-compliant animals.

The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was introduced in Parliament on 8 June 2021 and will progress as soon as parliamentary time allows. The Bill allows us to further protect the welfare of pets by introducing restrictions to crack down on the low welfare movements of pets into Great Britain and includes powers to introduce new restrictions on pet travel and the commercial import of pets on welfare grounds, via secondary legislation.

Victoria Prentis
Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
9th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 27 of January to Question 108554 on Floods: Insurance, with reference to his Department's commissioned insurance industry data, what proportion of the samples of policies for determining the number of policies impacted by flood exclusions were from (a) Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency and (b) other rural communities.

The Association of British Insurers and British Insurance Brokers’ Association commissioned data from their members. The data samples provided by industry are not broken down; therefore, we do not hold details on the proportion of exclusions by constituency or in rural communities.

10th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the impact of excluding cats and kittens from the proposed new protections to prevent pet smuggling as outlined in the Commercial and Non-Commercial Movements of Pets into Great Britain consultation.

The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was introduced in Parliament on 8 June and completed committee on 18 November 2021. The Bill allows us to protect the welfare of pets by introducing restrictions to crack down on the low welfare movements of pets into Great Britain and includes powers to introduce new restrictions on pet travel and the commercial import of pets on welfare grounds, via secondary legislation.

In August 2021, the Government launched an 8-week consultation on our proposed restrictions to the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain. The consultation proposed to maintain the existing requirements for cats. This is because there is currently limited evidence that there is a significant illegal trade in cats or significant numbers of low welfare movements. Overall, the number of movements of cats into GB is much lower than for dogs.

The consultation sought views on whether this was the right approach. We are currently analysing the responses to the consultation and will publish a summary in due course. This will allow us to take on board the views of the public and interested groups in order to shape our future policy.

We will continue to work closely with stakeholders prior to the introduction of the legislation, to ensure that our final measures are well considered and led by the latest evidence.

20th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the Government response to the independent review of flood insurance in Doncaster, what assessment his Department has made alongside the Association of British Insurers of the scale of flooding exclusions; and what discussions officials in his Department have had with the Financial Conduct Authority on the regulatory framework for flood exclusions.

Following the independent review of flood insurance in Doncaster, Defra commissioned industry to gather data from insurers on the number of policies sold with flood exclusions. The data samples from the Association of British Insurers and British Insurance Broker’s Association currently suggests less than 0.5% of policies sold have flood exclusions.

Defra are also conducting further research into the affordability and availability of flood insurance which will also seek to understand the scale of flood exclusions. The study will conclude in summer 2022. Defra officials have met the Financial Conduct Authority to discuss flood exclusions. However, the evidence base for supporting the need for a regulatory change is inconclusive at this stage.

We continue to work closely with the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, the Association of British Insurers and Flood Re to agree a new signposting service and Code of Practice. The Code of Practice will set out the role of insurers and brokers to ensure customers are appropriately informed of their available options, including eligibility for the Flood Re scheme. When launched, participating insurers and brokers will be asked to signpost customers to the new specialist directory of providers if they are unable to provide flood insurance cover. The interventions will be embedded throughout industry by summer 2022.

19th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to support the agricultural industry to minimise food waste.

This is a devolved matter and the information provided therefore relates to England only.

The Government funds the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to administer the Courtauld Commitment 2030 voluntary agreement, including the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap (FWRR), which aims to reduce food waste from farm to fork through collaboration with businesses.

Included in the FWRR is a practical model for how farmers and growers can be supported to measure on-farm food surplus and waste and take action to reduce it. WRAP estimates that around 50 farm businesses have undertaken measurements to date, with most of those in the last two years. The aim is to provide support for another 30 farmers and growers.

We are also supporting WRAP’s and the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s Whole Chain Food Waste Reduction Plans (WCP). A toolkit is available to help businesses across the supply chain work together to understand waste hotspots for a food product and to identify ways to reduce these. The Roadmap has a target of at least 50 active WCPs in place by 2022.

WRAP has also supported farmer-led pilots to understand how food waste measurement and reduction can be best implemented in primary production as well as resources for farm advisers to deliver similar projects with their clients.

Since 2017, Defra has provided around £12 million of grants to the redistribution sector to increase the diversion of surplus food for human consumption from waste destinations. Some of these grants were used to harvest and collect surplus from farms, minimising food waste.

Furthermore, the Government’s Food Strategy White Paper will cover the entire food system from farm to fork, building on work already underway in the Agriculture Act, Fisheries Act, and Environment Bill as well as docking into wider Government priorities, including Net Zero, the 25 Year Environment Plan, and Build Back Greener. As part of this, Defra is exploring options to reduce carbon emissions from food production including food waste, as well as to incentivise land use change to sequester more carbon and restore nature, and preserve natural resources.

19th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent analysis his Department has undertaken on the long term impacts of historical pesticide usage on (a) bee and (b) wild pollinator numbers.

Linking pesticide usage directly to changes in pollinator numbers remains challenging because of the range of pressures which affect pollinators. In 2019, alongside leading academics, we published evidence statements on what is known, and not known, about the status and responses to pressures and management of pollinators, including in relation to pesticide use. We are currently funding research looking at how we could develop our monitoring to better understand the effects of pesticides on pollinators, as well as routes of exposure.

Defra is developing a Pesticide Load Indicator which takes account of both the chemical properties of pesticides used and the weight applied. This uses pesticide usage data, ecotoxicity and environmental data to better understand how the pressure from pesticides on the environment, including bees, has changed over time. Much of this research will be published in 2022.

We also publish an indicator of the status of pollinating insects, which measures how widespread each of almost 400 species is in each year since 1980. It shows long-term decline, but little change over the short term. Although not yet definitive, there are encouraging signs of improvement, for example the average distribution of wild bees has shown some stability over recent years. We are keeping these trends under review.

Victoria Prentis
Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to (a) reduce household plastic waste and (b) prevent plastic waste from being shipped overseas.

A) Our 25 Year Environment Plan set out the Government’s ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. In 2018, we published the Resources and Waste Strategy, which sets out how we want to achieve this. For the most problematic plastics we are going faster - which is why we are working towards all plastic packaging being recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Our Environment Bill will enable us to take forward a number of key proposals including Extended Producer Responsibility, a Deposit Return Scheme, greater consistency in the recycling system, better control of the export of plastic waste and powers to set new charges for single-use plastic items. We have already introduced measures to restrict the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. We will consult shortly on banning a range of other single-use plastic items, including plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups. The single use carrier bag charge, which has led to a 95% reduction in their use at main supermarkets, has been doubled to 10p, and extended to all retailers. Going further still, from April 2022, plastic packaging without at least 30% recycled content will be taxed at £200/tonne. Taken together, these amount to one of the most comprehensive programmes of any major economy in tackling this issue.

B) The Government recognises the difficulties some importing countries have in dealing with plastic waste and that is why we have committed to banning the export of plastic waste to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); we plan to consult before the end of 2022 on options to deliver the ban.

15th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of extending the delay on EU trade import controls beyond October 2021 on the level of risk posed to the (a) biosecurity and (b) health and hygiene reputation for future UK trade; and whether he has plans to publish any such assessment.

Risk posed to Biosecurity

The Government has set out a new timetable for introducing full import controls for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) goods being imported from the EU to the UK. The new timetable considers the challenges businesses have faced due to the global pandemic, as well as its impact on supply chains across the UK and Europe.

These temporary practical arrangements recognise the need to ensure biosecurity across the UK whilst balancing the need to remove barriers to trade. We already have SPS controls in place on high-risk goods, such as live animals and high-priority plants and plant products, and checks on these goods will continue to be carried out at destination.

Pre-notification is also being introduced from January 2022 and increases our biosecurity status. It allows the Food Standards Agency to know what high-risk food and feed is crossing our borders, as well as trace products back to the established premises, helping us to manage any food incidents that may occur.

The Government continually assesses risks to biosecurity and has a range of measures it can take should the need arise.

Victoria Prentis
Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
3rd Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions his Department has had with Natural England on steps taken in response to the High Court judgement of 13 November 2015, in R (McMorn) v Natural England and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2015] EWHC 3297, on standardising licensing processes when licences are issued in relation to raptor species.

Raptor species, along with all other wild birds, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to kill them without a licence. Natural England, in its role as a wildlife licensing authority, can issue licences to control birds under certain circumstances.

Following the McMorn case, Natural England developed internal guidance covering licence applications for predatory species for the purpose of preventing serious damage and for the purpose of conserving species. These were designed to establish standard criteria for assessing such applications and have been agreed with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

13th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of allowing the usage of simplified procedures as applicable under the Cites Resolutions for the trade in captive bred raptors.

Following our departure from the EU we have begun a review of our domestic CITES legislation and procedures which implement our obligations under CITES. As part of this review, which is at an early stage, we have been seeking views from industry groups and other interested organisations, including those involved in the trade of captive-bred raptors.

Victoria Prentis
Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, whether she has made a recent estimate of the amount of (a) gold and (b) diamonds originating from Russia which has entered the UK as components of items of jewellery that have been produced in other countries.

The Department for International Trade does not collect data on components used in the production of finished goods imported from partner countries.

Andrew Griffith
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of banning the import of all luxury goods containing raw materials sourced from Russia following that country's invasion of Ukraine.

In lockstep with our allies, we are introducing the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever faced. This includes the ban on exporting certain luxury goods in the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No.8) Regulations 2022, laid on 14th April.

We do not speculate on future sanctions.

Ranil Jayawardena
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of introducing a complete ban on all new UK commercial investment in Russia.

On 6 April 2022, HM Government announced a ban on all new outward investment to Russia. UK investment in Russia was worth over £11 billion in 2020. This ban will be another major hit to the Russian economy and further limit their future capabilities.

23rd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what recent assessment her department has made of the potential merits of sanctioning the importation of (a) precious and semi precious stones, gold and silver and (b) products using these materials from (i) Russia and (ii) third party countries where those raw materials were imported from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

In coordination with our allies, we are introducing the largest and most severe economic sanctions that Russia has ever faced. We do not speculate on future sanctions.

Ranil Jayawardena
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
14th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, if her Department will assess all UK trade in (a) goods and (b) services with (i) individuals, (ii) organisations and (iii) businesses based in Russia which could create any revenue for the Russian government.

In lockstep with our allies, we have announced the strongest set of economic sanctions ever imposed against a major economy, which will help cripple Putin’s war machine. The UK has targeted the political elite, cut off Russian banks from the UK, and introduced restrictive trade measures.

As part of this work, we have published trade sanction impact assessments, which are available on GOV.UK: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/195/impacts.

7th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of making representations at the World Trade Organisation for a vote on the suspension of Belarus from that organisation in respect of its continuing material support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus is not a member of the World Trade Organization. Accession talks were suspended following the rigged election and fraudulent inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko in 2020. Belarussian complicity in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is incompatible with the respect for the rules-based order that is a precondition for WTO membership. This issue has been discussed with partners within the WTO.

Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
7th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of revoking preferential trading partner status from a) Russia and (b) Belarus.

The UK has announced a range of economic sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including denying both countries access to Most Favoured Nation tariffs for hundreds of their exports. £900 million of imported goods from Russia and Belarus will now face an additional 35 percent tariff.

We will continue to explore the full range of economic, diplomatic, and political options in co-operation with partners.

Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
4th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what recent discussions she has had with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on taking steps to potentially exclude Russia from the WTO until they withdraw fully from Ukraine.

At the WTO, the Government has condemned the actions of the Russian Federation and shown solidarity with the Government and people of Ukraine. We are working closely with like-minded partners to take steps to marginalise Russia and to deprive the Russian government of the benefits of WTO membership.

We are aware that discussions are taking place about the possible mechanisms to expel Russia from the WTO. We will continue to explore with allies the full range of economic, diplomatic, and political options.

Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
20th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what advice Tony Abbott provided to her Department on the removal of climate change-related clauses that had formed part of the proposed UK-Australia free trade deal.

Tony Abbott does not negotiate trade deals on behalf of the UK. He is a voluntary, unpaid advisor to the Board of Trade. Advisers to the Board of Trade have been appointed because of their expertise in trade and economic matters and to help inform our future thinking on international trade. Our ambitious trade deal with Australia will include a substantive article which reaffirms both parties’ commitments to address climate change. Both Australia and the UK make clear their commitment to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement and achieving all of its goals, which includes the temperature goals.

Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
20th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what (a) advice or (b) role has Tony Abbott played in the UK's discussions with Australia on a possible free trade deal.

Tony Abbott does not negotiate trade deals on behalf of the UK. He is a voluntary, unpaid advisor to the Board of Trade. Advisers to the Board of Trade have been appointed because of their expertise in trade and economic matters and to help inform our future thinking on international trade. Our ambitious trade deal with Australia will include a substantive article which reaffirms both parties’ commitments to address climate change. Both Australia and the UK make clear their commitment to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement and achieving all of its goals, which includes the temperature goals.

Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
8th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what recent progress has been made towards the establishment of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.

I refer the Member to the answer given to the Right Honourable Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich on 10 September, UIN 40833.

Graham Stuart
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what recent discussions officials in her Department have had with their European counterparts on helping to reduce the time taken for the movement of timber products from the EU into the UK.

The Forestry Commission is responsible for helping British importers and their agents prepare for the customs entry procedures for timber products.

HM Government is supporting businesses adjusting to new trading arrangements, including the guidance published by the Forestry Commission on GOV.UK on importing timber products.

Ranil Jayawardena
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, whether (a) legal costs and (b) compensatory payments resulting from investor-state dispute settlement claims relating to acts by the Scottish Government would be passed on to the Scottish Government; and if she will make a statement.

The United Kingdom has never been successfully taken to tribunal under her over 90 bilateral investment treaties, nor as a party to the Energy Charter Treaty. HM Government has a strong record of creating an open environment for both domestic and foreign investors, and treating them fairly. We will continue to do so.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the HM Government and devolved administrations across the country continues to apply. The Memorandum sets out that a devolved administration would only be responsible for the payment of legal costs or awards made by the tribunal to the extent that they arise from its failure to implement or enforce an obligation.

Ranil Jayawardena
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
25th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what steps her Department is taking to support UK maritime trade links.

The Department for International Trade’s (DIT) five-year plan for the United Kingdom’s maritime sector, developed in partnership with industry, promotes our world-class global maritime offer and focuses on UK strengths in many of the key technologies that will drive the future of maritime – such as digital shipping, smart ports and autonomous vessel technologies.

Graham Stuart
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
11th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential impact on safe traffic flows of (a) allowing the unlicensed road usage by cyclists of gradient dependent dynamic variable electric bike motor power outputs over 250w, (b) motor output limitations on electric bike journey types and (c) gradient altered bike speeds.

The Department has not made a detailed assessment of the impact that this would have on traffic flows, but any impact would be likely to be minimal. Most e-cycles already allow the rider to increase or reduce the amount of electrical assistance being provided, thus allowing more assistance to be provided in hillier settings if the rider wishes it. The current speed and power restrictions for Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs) are in place for public safety. At speeds higher than 15.5mph, there is the potential for the rider to cause serious injury to themselves and others.

The Department reviewed the case for amending the current speed and power restrictions as part of the Future of Transport Regulatory Review Call for Evidence published in 2020 and has no plans to amend the existing regulations.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions he has had with representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority on airport assistance for disabled passengers in the context of passengers requiring assistance while airside.

We have a legal accessibility framework to ensure disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility are provided assistance and we have been clear on the standards we expect from the aviation industry in terms of support for disabled and less mobile passengers, as we want all forms of transport to be accessible for everyone. We continue to have regular discussions with the CAA, including through the Ministerial weekly strategic risk group to ensure that airports and airlines are meeting the needs of disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of bringing forward legislative proposals for improved driver vehicle safety standards through the implementation of operator roll-over protection for six wheeled off road vehicles.

Requirements for six wheeled off-road vehicles vary according to the exact vehicle type. The most appropriate safety equipment varies according to the wide variety of potential applications for these vehicles. The Health and Safety Executive publish guidance on the safe use of all-terrain vehicles, and is responsible for enforcement of workplace health and safety.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
10th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 5 January 2022 to Question 92981 on Large Goods Vehicle Drivers: Training, what progress his Department has been made on the urgent review of the Driver Certificates of Professional Competence (DCPC) scheme; and on what date additional information will be provided to the road haulage industry on that review.

The review of the Driver Certification of Professional Competence (DCPC) has now been completed, with the report and associated recommendations expected to be published soon.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what analysis his Department has undertaken on the potential impact of the changes to the Highway Code on single track road users in rural communities regarding (a) the 2m passing distance when overtaking pedestrians walking in the road, (b) the 1.5m road distance when passing cyclists whilst driving under 30mph and (c) giving 2m distance when passing horses or horse drawn vehicles at speeds under 10mph.

The changes introduced to The Highway Code on 29 January are an extension to the previous advice and guidance. They are not expected to pose any major challenges as they simply reinforce the good behaviours that we would expect every road user to adhere to. Rule 163 around safe passing distances and speed limits when overtaking reinforces the Hierarchy of Road Users and the emphasis that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
3rd Dec 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of providing compensation for B+E Towing training companies for any lost revenues whilst new drivers are unable to gain the ability to undertake B+E Car and Trailer Towing.

The Government has acted decisively to help address the HGV driver shortage and has announced a range of measures to help the industry recover from the pandemic.

The proposal to remove the requirement for car drivers to take a B+E test if they want to tow a trailer, was subject to a public consultation exercise. The consultation received over 9,500 responses and most respondents supported the proposals. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is exploring options for an industry-led accreditation that could offer a standardised non-statutory testing approach. It has now met with key stakeholders to discuss this issue and will share the outcome of those discussions in due course, once plans have been confirmed.

The Department and the DVSA will continue to encourage people who want to tow a trailer to get professional training to promote road safety and support those businesses.

Businesses who have been affected by these changes are advised to seek further advice and support from the Business Support Line at www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
12th Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether officials in his Department have had discussions with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency on the potential merits of increasing payments offered to GP surgeries for medical information to help ensure that (a) delays are not created when medical evidence is required for the licensing of heavy goods vehicle drivers and (b) costs that have increased as a result of the covid-19 outbreak are met.

Drivers of heavy goods vehicle are required to meet the costs of providing the medical report where it is required when applying for or renewing a driving licence.

The amount charged for completing the medical report is a matter for the individual doctor. The British Medical Association (BMA) advises doctors that fees should be reasonable, transparent and justifiable. The BMA also recommends that the fee should be agreed before the examination takes place.

Where a driver has a medical condition, further evidence may be required to aid the DVLA’s investigation into whether the driver meets the appropriate health standards for driving larger vehicles. The DVLA pays for the provision of this information from a doctor. Discussions are ongoing between DVLA and BMA on the fees paid for this service.

A public consultation was launched on 8 November seeking views on a proposal to change the law to allow a wider pool of medical professionals to provide information. This could potentially remove a burden that currently rests with doctors and will allow GP surgeries and hospital teams greater flexibility to provide information from a wider range of medically qualified staff.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of issuing additional guidance for airlines on lateral flow test age exemptions for passengers flying between the different nations of the UK on onward internal domestic flights.

Eligible fully vaccinated passengers and most under 18s arriving into the UK from non-red list countries are now able to use a cheaper lateral flow test with a free confirmatory PCR test if they receive a positive result.

There are no testing requirements in place for domestic travel between UK nations.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
22nd Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of modifying the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence process for HGV Drivers.

The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) was introduced to improve road safety and provide economic and environmental benefits. Our assessment is that there are merits in modifying the processes, although change to key process issues would require regulatory and legislative changes.

We also appreciate the cost of renewing the Driver CPC can be difficult for some drivers. That is why, at the discretion of local DWP Work Coaches, the Flexible Support Fund is available to those who are currently unemployed or are in receipt of Universal Credit who need to renew their DCPC, where appropriate. In addition, many employers are offering training packages so even if a driver’s CPC has lapsed, they can be supported in updating this through classroom or online courses.

We are further supporting lorry driver training through apprenticeships. This includes the revised Large Goods Vehicle Driver apprenticeship standard which is now available and supported by a funding band of £7,000.

We are also developing a driver training pilot through Jobcentre Plus to help jobseekers retrain as HGV drivers.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions his Department has had with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency on increasing the availability of heavy vehicle ADR tests.

ADR examinations are delivered by third-party organisations who hold approval from the Secretary of State, so this provision does not use any of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency testing resource. Those providers advise they have capacity to meet the demands for the examinations nationally, including in your constituency and there is no significant backlog of drivers wishing to qualify.

To provide support for fuel deliveries, the Government has granted an extension of ADR validity for those drivers whose certification would expire between 27 September 2021 and 31 December 2021 until 31 January 2022. This is one of a package of measures we have introduced to address vocational driver shortages.

The Government has also enlisted military tanker drivers to assist with fuel deliveries and extended the provision of remote training delivery to help support both ADR drivers and providers in the future.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to help increase the availability of practical driving tests in the Scottish Highlands.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has a number of measures in place to increase practical driving tests, including in the Scottish Highlands.

These include offering a national recovery allowance and annual leave buy back to examiners, asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests, and conducting out of hours testing (such as on public holidays and weekends). The DVSA has also started a recruitment campaign to increase the number of examiners.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate his Department has made of the number of HGV drivers who use short-term medical driving licences; and what the average waiting time was for renewing a HGV short-term medical driving licence as at 1 October 2021.

Information requested about the number of HGV drivers who have a short-term medical driving licence cannot be retrieved in the time available. Officials will write to the Honourable Member when the information is available.

On 1 October 2021, the average time to process a vocational driving licence application where a medical condition has been declared was 75 days. Vocational applications include those applying to drive both HGVs and buses as it is not possible to separate them.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with the DVLA on (a) reducing the backlog in driver license applications that need processing, and (b) the potential merits of prioritising rural communities when tackling that backlog.

The quickest and easiest way to apply for a driving licence is to use the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)’s online service. There are no delays in successful online applications and customers should receive their licence within a few days.

However, many people still choose or have to make a paper application. The DVLA receives around 60,000 items of mail every day and industrial action by members of the Public and Commercial Services union has led to delays for customers. The DVLA has been working with a significantly reduced number of staff on site to ensure social distancing in line with Welsh Government requirements. The current increased demand for the DVLA’s services has also contributed to delays with paper applications.

The DVLA has introduced additional online services and recruited additional staff. The DVLA is urgently securing extra office space to house more staff to help reduce waiting times while providing future resilience and business continuity.

The DVLA understands the impact that delays can have on people’s everyday lives and is working as quickly as possible to process paper applications and return people’s documentation to them.

The DVLA is unable to prioritise applications received from those living in rural communities. However, the large majority of drivers applying to renew their licence can continue driving while their application is being processed. Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 allows drivers who have sent a valid application to the DVLA to continue driving while waiting for their application to be processed. Strict criteria apply and these are outlined online here.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of supporting instructors approved by the National Register of LGV Instructors to become DVSA-approved assessors for off-road LGV testing elements.

The heavy goods vehicle driver shortage is well documented and the Government has been considering a range of measures that will help the industry recover from the pandemic.

The Government has announced that the time allocated for a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) driving test will be reduced, by removing the ‘reversing exercise’ element and ‘uncouple/ recouple’ element for vehicles with trailers and instead having them tested separately by the driver training industry. This part of the test is carried out off the road on a manoeuvring area.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is in discussions with the training industry to understand their capacity to deliver this part of the test. It will also work with them to develop a robust and clear process by which to assess, accredit and audit any trainers who wish to assess the manoeuvres element of the test. Testing such manoeuvres separately will free up examiner time, meaning an increase to the number of tests an examiner conducts per day.

The DVSA takes its commitment to road safety extremely seriously and it will work with the industry and stakeholders to drive forward the importance of safe driving and safe towing. These changes will not change the standard of driving required to drive a HGV, with road safety continuing to be of paramount importance. Any driver who does not demonstrate utmost competence will not be granted a licence.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of providing compensation for businesses for lost revenue as a result of the ending of B+E licence testing on 20 September 2021.

The heavy goods vehicle driver shortage is well documented and the Government has been considering a range of measures that will help the industry recover from the pandemic.

The Department and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will continue to encourage people who want to drive a car and trailer to get professional training with providers to promote road safety and help support those businesses.

The DVSA is exploring options for an industry-led accreditation that could offer a standardised non-statutory testing approach, and is engaging with key stakeholders, trainers and insurers, to discuss this issue.

The DVSA is also in discussions with the training industry to understand their capacity to deliver the off-road manoeuvres element of the vocational test and will work with them to develop a robust and clear process by which to assess, accredit and audit any trainers who wish to assess the manoeuvres element of the test.

The DVSA is establishing a new business manager role to work with vocational trainers as a local contact to better understand their current and future needs. This will help the agency to be more responsive to vocational trainers needs and help support businesses and people employed to deliver training.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate his Department has made of the number of (a) businesses delivering B+E category drivers licence training and (b) people employed delivering that training.

The heavy goods vehicle driver shortage is well documented and the Government has been considering a range of measures that will help the industry recover from the pandemic.

The Department and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will continue to encourage people who want to drive a car and trailer to get professional training with providers to promote road safety and help support those businesses.

The DVSA is exploring options for an industry-led accreditation that could offer a standardised non-statutory testing approach, and is engaging with key stakeholders, trainers and insurers, to discuss this issue.

The DVSA is also in discussions with the training industry to understand their capacity to deliver the off-road manoeuvres element of the vocational test and will work with them to develop a robust and clear process by which to assess, accredit and audit any trainers who wish to assess the manoeuvres element of the test.

The DVSA is establishing a new business manager role to work with vocational trainers as a local contact to better understand their current and future needs. This will help the agency to be more responsive to vocational trainers needs and help support businesses and people employed to deliver training.

Trudy Harrison
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
3rd Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions officials in his Department have had with representatives of the DVSA on ensuring that HGV trainer qualification module tests are available for training companies that wish to provide the off-road element HGV assessment in the event that HGV testing rules change.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is currently considering the approval scheme that would be required, should the delegation of manoeuvres to third party trainers go ahead. The DVSA will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide advice for ministers to make final decisions on the qualification requirements that could apply subject to the outcome of the consultation.

3rd Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions his Department has had with the DVSA on increasing the number of driver theory tests available in the Scottish Highlands.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is aware that demand for theory tests in Scotland is currently high and it is doing all it can to offer more tests at centres by increasing opening hours and running tests on extra days where possible. The provision of additional testing is dependent upon the availability of venues and agreements with landlords. The DVSA is working with its theory test provider, Reed In Partnership Ltd, to explore further ways in which it can further increase theory test capacity including the possibility of adding temporary sites to deliver additional theory tests.

18th Aug 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with its counterparts in New Zealand on bilateral recognition of covid-19 vaccination status for travellers.

Department for Transport Ministers and officials have met with New Zealand counterparts throughout this year to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the safe, sustainable resumption of international travel.

We continue to work closely with international partners on reopening travel, including New Zealand, both bilaterally and through a range of international fora, to cautiously balance the reopening of international travel with the management of the public health risks.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
22nd Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to tackle the examiner shortage for B+E towing licence exams in the Scottish Highlands.

DVSA will continue their examiner training programme to ensure there is sufficient resource to service demand, including B+E testing in the Scottish Highlands.

19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions officials in his Department have had with their European counterparts on (a) mutual acceptance of vaccine status certificates and (b) how to evidence someone who cannot receive the vaccine.

We are engaging with international partners, including the EU, and will provide an update in due course on how we will approach vaccinated individuals from other countries. We recognise that there are those who cannot have a vaccine for medical reasons, and we will work to ensure they are not disadvantaged. We have already set out our approach for those on clinical trials, and similarly will set out our approach for those with medical exemptions soon.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
9th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to expand the availability of Theory and Hazard Perception testing for learner LGV drivers in the Scottish Highlands.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is aware that demand for theory tests in Scotland is currently high and it is doing all it can to offer more tests at centres by increasing opening hours and running tests on extra days where possible. The provision of additional testing is dependent upon the availability of venues and agreements with landlords. The DVSA is working with its theory test provider, Pearson VUE, to explore further ways in which it can further increase theory test capacity.

The DVSA is continuing to work with the Scottish Government but as a result of the 2 metre physical distancing restrictions required by the Scottish Government , it is unable to increase the number of desks used to take tests. This has reduced capacity at most theory test sites by 50%.

28th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with the aviation industry on the number of flights being undertaken with two metre social distancing in place between different households and bubbles.

We continue to engage with the aviation sector on a regular basis, including on social distancing and other health measures. We consulted with the sector prior to developing the Government’s operator and passenger guidance and advised airlines to carry out a risk assessment and implement appropriate risk controls where social distancing was not possible. Wearing a face covering, which is mandatory on-board aircraft, can play a role in helping to prevent transmission of COVID-19, as can regular hand-washing and sanitisation.

Passengers are seated facing forwards in the same direction on board aircraft, which avoids the increased transmission risk of being seated face to face. In addition, air conditioning systems on modern aircraft do filter cabin air every few minutes. These filters are very effective at capturing airborne microbes in the filtered air and, when coupled with the drawn in fresh air, can help to mitigate the longer-range risk of transmission.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his officials in his Department have had with representatives of the DVLA on the waiting times for provisional drivers licences in the event that a medical assessment is required.

The potential for delays where an applicant for a provisional driver licence requires a medical assessment is recognised. This is because DVLA is often reliant on receiving information from healthcare professionals involved in dealing with the pandemic or its impacts.

17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 14 June 2021 to Question 13069 on DVLA: Recruitment, what discussions officials in his Department have had with officials for Government Equalities Office on undertaking an equalities impact assessment on the potential effect on the rights of disabled people of delays in the processing by the DVLA of requests for drivers licences from drivers with medical conditions.

The law requires that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) investigate the health of all driving licence holders and applicants who have a medical condition that may affect their ability to drive safely.

The DVLA is aware of its duties under equality legislation, in particular the Public Sector Equality Duty set out in Section 149 Equality Act 2010. The medical standards are applied consistently regardless of characteristics and in accordance with the law.

14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of an immediate work place safety inquiry into the covid-19 outbreak at the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency's Swansea offices.

Throughout the pandemic, the DVLA has implemented Welsh Government legislative requirements and advice fully, including its workplace guidance for offices and contact centres. It has made significant investment in making its estate Covid-secure, working closely with Public Health Wales, Swansea Council’s Environmental Health team and the trade union. In its visits to assess DVLA’s Covid control measures, Swansea Environmental Health confirmed a high level of compliance and did not identify any additional concerns over the control regime in place.

Extensive safety measures have been put in place across the DVLA’s sites. These include lateral flow testing for all staff on site, enhanced cleaning, social distancing, leasing an additional building, thermal imaging stations and perspex screens installed, floors divided into zones with no mixing within zones, one-way systems introduced, and communal areas closed. All staff whose jobs can be done remotely are working from home, with more than 2,000 staff doing so exclusively.

The DVLA’s online services have been available and unaffected throughout the pandemic and are the quickest and easiest way to renew a driving licence. Motorists are strongly advised to use these channels where possible. During the pandemic to help streamline processes and improve work flow the DVLA has accelerated the development of additional online services to reduce paper applications and supported their take up through a publicity campaign. Further digital service enhancements are underway.

14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to (a) ensure that concerns raised by workers' unions on the covid-19 outbreak at the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) headquarters during the second wave are taken account of, (b) streamline DVLA processes to help improve work flow and (c) ensure that sufficient resources are available to allow the timely progress of drivers license renewal applications.

Throughout the pandemic, the DVLA has implemented Welsh Government legislative requirements and advice fully, including its workplace guidance for offices and contact centres. It has made significant investment in making its estate Covid-secure, working closely with Public Health Wales, Swansea Council’s Environmental Health team and the trade union. In its visits to assess DVLA’s Covid control measures, Swansea Environmental Health confirmed a high level of compliance and did not identify any additional concerns over the control regime in place.

Extensive safety measures have been put in place across the DVLA’s sites. These include lateral flow testing for all staff on site, enhanced cleaning, social distancing, leasing an additional building, thermal imaging stations and perspex screens installed, floors divided into zones with no mixing within zones, one-way systems introduced, and communal areas closed. All staff whose jobs can be done remotely are working from home, with more than 2,000 staff doing so exclusively.

The DVLA’s online services have been available and unaffected throughout the pandemic and are the quickest and easiest way to renew a driving licence. Motorists are strongly advised to use these channels where possible. During the pandemic to help streamline processes and improve work flow the DVLA has accelerated the development of additional online services to reduce paper applications and supported their take up through a publicity campaign. Further digital service enhancements are underway.

4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions officials in his Department have had with representatives of the DVSA on using alternative testing sites in the Highlands for driver theory tests to increase test availability.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is aware there has been an unprecedented demand for theory tests in Scotland. The DVSA is working with its theory test provider, Pearson VUE, to explore ways in which it can increase theory test capacity in Scotland, including extending opening hours and running tests on extra days where possible.

The DVSA is continuing to work with the Scottish Government but as a result of the 2 metre physical distancing restrictions in Scotland, as required by the Scottish Government, it is unable to increase the number of desks used to take tests.

The DVSA and its theory test contract provider, Pearson VUE, have explored the possibility of delivering the theory tests outside of existing sites, but this was found to be not suitable as it is dependent upon a physical infrastructure within the Pearson VUE network.

25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the guidance entitled Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer aviation guidance for operators, what estimate his Department has made of the average number of daily flights that have implemented two meter social distancing between different households or support bubbles within aircraft where possible since the implementation of the green list travel corridors.

The Government expects all airlines to manage the risks of COVID-19 transmission. The guidance is clear that social distancing of 1m+ with risk mitigations should be observed where possible. Where social distancing is not possible, airlines are advised to carry out a risk assessment and implement appropriate risk controls. For example, wearing a face covering can play a role in helping us to protect each other.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of (a) the adequacy of covid-19 restrictions at airports designed to avoid the mixing of travellers from outbound and inbound air traffic from multiple destinations and (b) whether he plans to publish additional guidance to strengthen those restrictions as international air travel rules become segmented for different destinations.

The government has introduced a range of health measures such as the wearing of face coverings and social distancing to help reduce the risk of transmission at airports, as well as issuing clear guidance for both passengers and operators. Where social distancing is not possible, airlines are advised to carry out a risk assessment and implement appropriate risk controls. For example, wearing a face covering can play a role in helping us to protect other passengers, which is why it is mandatory to wear one at airports.

Additionally, operators are encouraged to introduce clear signage and one-way passenger flows where appropriate. Arrangements may vary depending on the airport and guidance is available to support operators to manage flows in a COVID-secure way. We continue to improve processes which maintain the checks we need to carry out to keep the public safe, while minimising disruption, and passengers can support this process by ensuring they have completed the necessary requirements to enter the UK. The government continues to engage with the aviation sector to ensure they are supported in implementing best practices.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
25th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions his Department has had with European counterparts on reciprocal driver's licence exchange arrangements.

The Government is committed to establishing arrangements with Member States that facilitate private motoring with the minimum of bureaucracy. We have confirmed agreement from all EU/EEA countries that UK motorists will continue to be able to drive in their territories on the basis of a UK Photocard licence, without the need for an additional International Driving Permit. All EU/EEA Member States, except for Italy, have also confirmed current arrangements for exchanging licences. We continue to explore options with Italy on this issue. Most of our agreements are permanent arrangements and a small number require formal agreements which will be concluded before the end of this year. Where these agreements are needed, the UK has secured interim arrangements with the relevant Member States.

15th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has held with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) on (a) the time frames from the (i) postage of a notification to (ii) implementation of a driving license revocation and (b) whether the DVLA has made an assessment of the potential merits of using guaranteed delivery day postage systems for such revocation notifications.

When the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) determines that a driving licence should be revoked for medical reasons, the law requires that the notice of revocation must be served in writing to the licence holder. The letter notifying the individual of the revocation is sent by first class post and the licence is revoked either one or two working days after the letter is sent, depending on the time the letter is dispatched.

The Royal Mail’s current service aim is to deliver over 90 per cent of first class post by the next working day, including Saturdays. The DVLA already makes allowances for Bank Holidays and non-working days.

The DVLA has considered other guaranteed delivery day postage systems. However, these require someone to be at the address and to sign for the item which is not always possible. Sending these letters by first class post ensures delivery is made irrespective of whether anyone is available to receive the letter.

11th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the average waiting period for DVLA medical testing in the most recent period for which figures are available.

The length of time taken to deal with an application depends on the medical condition and if further information is required from medical professionals. Most decisions on whether a driving licence can be issued are made without the need for a medical examination. However, where an examination is necessary, waiting times are currently longer due to the current pressures on the NHS.

The number of driving licence applicants awaiting a medical examination fluctuates and is dependent on the availability of NHS appointments.

9th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of prioritising the allocation of driving theory test slots to (a) essential workers and b) people who had those tests cancelled due to the covid-19 lockdown.

Following the Prime Minister's road map announcement, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is now planning to resume its services. In England, it intends to restart theory test services on 12 April 2021. This is providing that the Government’s coronavirus data shows it is safe to move from step 1 of the road map to step 2.

Dates for Scotland and Wales remain subject to agreement with the devolved administrations.

It would be unfair on other candidates, who have also waited patiently for their theory test, if certain groups are given priority. The DVSA is increasing theory test capacity and will make available between 120,000 -135,000 additional appointments per month.

4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions officials in his Department have had with their European counterparts on the scope of existing constraints on eligible small boat sizes that can be used for commercial activity within the EU.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been engaging with EU Member States to remove technical barriers to enable the provision of cabotage services by UK vessels in specific EU Member States, including yachts under 24 meters. The MCA will continue to engage with relevant countries to ensure recognition of UK Small Commercial Vessel Codes and seek to unblock technical barriers where they exist. DfT will engage with EU Member States to unlock any other regulatory restrictions for maritime cabotage. The MCA have been working with European counterparts to make progress towards the mutual acceptance of qualifications and the technicalities of the codes of practice for some small vessels such as workboats.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
1st Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with representatives of the DVLA on planning for (a) the restarting of driving theory testing and (b) ensuring the maximum number of driving theory tests are available once covid-19 lockdown restrictions have ended.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is responsible for the conduct of theory driving tests.

The DVSA has been working closely with Pearson VUE, its theory test provider, to explore ways in which it can expand theory testing capacity and reduce waiting times for theory tests once testing can resume.

Since theory tests re-started in August 2020 after the first lockdown, the DVSA has implemented various solutions which provided more testing capacity. This included extending opening and closing times where possible and extending the booking window from three months to four months to give candidates more choice of available dates. The DVSA also moved to one metre plus social distancing at test centres in England, which increased the number of candidates able to take their test at any one time.

Theory tests have again had to cease in all home nations. The DVSA will build on the experience it acquired from restarting and increasing test capacity after the first and second lockdowns to ensure it can offer maximum testing capacity as soon as it is safe to restart tests.

27th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of funding new driver theory tests for learner drivers whose tests expired while awaiting new practical driving test dates following cancellations caused by the covid-19 outbreak.

Approximately 12,000 -14,000 candidates let their certificates lapse per month in normal circumstances. Further, a candidate whose theory test certificate expires will have received the service for which they paid the fee.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) pays its contractor, Pearson, per theory test delivered. If candidates were exempted from having to pay for a retake, then the DVSA and in turn the feepayer would incur these costs. In addition, applications for a re-test would need to be validated and systems amended to remove the requirement for payment in these cases. The DVSA’s focus should rightly be on developing solutions to address the backlog of practical driving tests that has arisen as a result of the pandemic.

4th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions he has had with the DVLA on using driving assessment mobility centres for standard driving tests during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is responsible for delivering driving tests.

No discussions have taken place with the DVSA on this issue. In order to be able to conduct driving tests, mobile centre trainers would be required to cease all their instructional activities and meet the requirements of Directive 2006/126/EC, which includes satisfying the various competences and undertaking an initial qualification and examination. There are no current plans to take this kind of action.

2nd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent assessment his Department has made of the average time taken by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to respond to complaints.

The average time taken by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to respond to complaints in November 2020 was six working days.

2nd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his his Department has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the level of staffing in the DVLA.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has a range of services available online which offer the quickest, easiest and often cheapest way to transact. The DVLA’s staff have ensured these online services have worked well throughout the pandemic, allowing businesses and motorists to transact with DVLA at a time and place that suits them.

All DVLA staff who can work from home continue to do so as office space has been prioritised for operational staff who have to be on-site to process paper applications.

The health and safety of DVLA staff is a priority. In line with the relevant guidance, the DVLA is employing shift patterns, staggered start times, weekend working and other measures to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.

19th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether liquid biofuels are included in his Department's climate change policies; and what steps he plans to take to support the liquid biofuels industry.

Liquid biofuels play an important role in our policies to reduce carbon emissions from conventional road vehicles in use today, and potentially from those transport modes harder to reach through electrification.

The government has successfully supported the UK biofuel market since 2008 through the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). Targets for the supply of low carbon fuels set through the RTFO have increased over time and are set to do so until at least 2032. In addition, an advanced biofuels market is being promoted by making available £20 million of capital funding through the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition.

The Department will continue to monitor and review the support schemes it has in place for liquid biofuels and other low carbon fuels. In so doing we will consider how liquid biofuels are best deployed across sectors and in the delivery of cost-effective savings against future carbon budgets.

12th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with the DVSA on ensuring people are not able to book tests that would require travelling from an area with a high level of covid-19 restrictions into an area under lower restrictions.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is following guidance and advice issued by the devolved administrations when taking the decision to suspend driving tests. It is working with Transport Scotland following the Scottish five-level system, the Welsh Parliament, and the Cabinet Office to ensure local and national restrictions are adhered to.

As was the case in March, people in England should stay at home to reduce day-to-day contact with other people, and reduce the spread of the infection. The DVSA has asked candidates, approved driving instructors and approved training bodies to respect and adhere to local and national restrictions when taking lessons and tests, and carrying out any form of training.

11th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with the DVLA on ensuring people are not able to book tests that would require travelling from an area with a high level of covid-19 restrictions into an area under lower restrictions.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is following guidance and advice issued by the devolved administrations when taking the decision to suspend driving tests. It is working with Transport Scotland following the Scottish five-level system, the Welsh Parliament, and the Cabinet Office to ensure local and national restrictions are adhered to.

As was the case in March, people in England should stay at home to reduce day-to-day contact with other people, and reduce the spread of the infection. The DVSA has asked candidates, approved driving instructors and approved training bodies to respect and adhere to local and national restrictions when taking lessons and tests, and carrying out any form of training.

25th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to support private investment in the UK maritime industry.

The maritime sector plays a key role in the UK economy, responsible for up to 95% of our imports and exports. As much of the UK maritime sector is privately owned, our world-leading companies are well placed to seek investment opportunities through commercial means.

Nevertheless, the Department, along with our colleagues across government, work closely with all parts of the UK maritime sector to identify the support they need to support their success and growth. In particular, the Department for International Trade works closely with the industry to promote the UK as an inward investment destination for the global maritime community.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
25th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the role decarbonising the maritime industry can play in reaching net zero by 2050.

The domestic maritime sector falls under the UK’s national net zero target, and in common with the wider economy will need to be decarbonised by 2050 in order to achieve net zero.

The Department has undertaken research into the decarbonisation of the sector as part of the Clean Maritime Plan, which has been published on Gov.UK, and meets regularly with Industry and Civil Society groups to discuss both domestic Net Zero and the international work to address GHG emissions being undertaken at the International Maritime Organization.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
25th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the level of funding that would be required to decarbonise the maritime industry.

The Department for Transport has undertaken extensive research in support of its Clean Maritime Plan to consider the level of investment required for the UK’s domestic maritime sector to achieve net zero by 2050. This research comprises a range of scenarios assessing different policy options, including both costs and benefits, and has been published on Gov.UK

For the global shipping industry, research carried out by UMAS, part of UCL, and published in January 2020, suggests that the total cost to achieve global maritime decarbonisation may be in the region of £1.5 trillion, invested over the next thirty years, with the majority of that investment occurring in the production and supply of alternative fuels.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
25th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what support his Department is providing to the maritime industry to support the decarbonisation of that industry.

The Department for Transport is working actively with the maritime sector to support decarbonisation at both international and domestic level.

Internationally we are working with other high ambition states at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the sector to develop and adopt pragmatic, effective, short and medium term measures that will peak and reduce emissions from the sector.

Domestically we have published research exploring the opportunities and challenges arising from decarbonisation, to provide the sector with greater clarity on what is required to achieve decarbonisation, and in support of this the Department has provided £1.5m of grants through Maritime Research and Innovation UK, supporting clean maritime innovation in the UK

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
8th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing covid-19 testing for all arrivals at airports.

The Government is actively working on the practicalities of using testing to release people from self-isolation earlier than 14 days. Officials across the Government are working with health experts with the aim of cutting the self-isolation period without adding to infection risk or infringing on our overall NHS test capacity. The Secretary of State for Transport has committed to updating the House on testing of international arrivals in the coming weeks.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)
8th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has held with the DVSA as to the ongoing safety of the continuation of three in a vehicle ADI standards checks during the covid-19 pandemic.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has consulted with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure it can conduct approved driving instructor (ADI) standards checks safely with three people in the car, during the COVID-19 pandemic. PHE has said the DVSA’s standard operating procedures comply with general public health principles and existing guidance for the reduction of transmission risk. The DVSA has also cleared its standard operating procedures and risk assessments with the trade unions.

The DVSA will continue to keep its guidance under review in line with Government guidance.

27th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of amending the Road Traffic Act 1988 to enable the legal road usage of personal light electric vehicles.

We are considering this closely and recognise that people want to take advantage of the opportunities that personal vehicles, such as electric scooters, can offer. The Department for Transport is committed to encouraging innovation in transport as well as improving road safety, but new modes of transport must be safe and secure by design.

The Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy, published on 19 March 2019, includes a Regulatory Review to address the challenges of ensuring our transport infrastructure and regulation are fit for the future.

The Strategy can be found at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-of-mobility-urban-strategy

The Department will use the Regulatory Review to examine current legislation and determine from the evidence what is needed to make the necessary changes for a safe and healthy future. One strand of this will look at options for enabling micromobility devices, and a consultation will be issued in due course.

25th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of enabling data sharing between the Child Maintenance Service and HMRC to help ensure accurate income assessments of non-resident parents.

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) already uses data received directly from HMRC to ensure child maintenance liabilities are based on accurate income information. The CMS can also access a wide range of income information, including income from property, savings, and investments (including dividends) and other miscellaneous income.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of the introduction of a registration system for assistance dogs.

The services and standards of assistance dogs are currently and historically maintained on the basis of a voluntary regulatory framework. There is no specific legislation for the regulation of assistance dogs and no legislation is planned.

There are recognised standards for assistance dogs worldwide set by international bodies to which a number of UK charities and organisations are accredited.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of the immediate removal of the two child limit for the Universal Credit Child Element for all claimants to enable Ukrainian nationals arriving in the UK are not (a) subject to limitations in available family support, and (b) made to disclose if they have being the victims of sexual violence used as a weapon of war in order to receive support for any children who may have being conceived in non-consensual conception above the two child limit.

No assessment has been made. The policy applies to all children born on or after 6 April 2017 regardless of the nationality of the child.

We recognise that some claimants are not able to make the same choices about the number of children in their family.

That is why exceptions have been put in place to protect certain groups, including those likely to have been born as a result of non-consensual conception. This includes rape or where the claimant was in a controlling or coercive relationship with the child’s other biological parent at the time of conception. In this case, before a claim is approved, claimants are asked to contact a suitable third-party professional who can confirm the claimant’s circumstances, as described by them, are consistent with the criteria for the exception. The third-party professional does not judge the credibility of the claimant’s statement or require any further evidence.

Furthermore, On 9th July 2021, the Supreme Court handed down the judicial review judgement on the two-child Policy. The court found the two-child Policy lawful and not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

David Rutley
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
18th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of the regulatory framework for gas safety; and what estimate she has made of the (a) number of prosecutions made in connection with installations that fail to meet the gas safe engineer rules in each of the last three years and (b) annual cost to consumers of unsafe works.

In 2018 following discussions with stakeholders the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) amended the current regulations, Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (GSIUR).

HSE continues to work across UK Government and industry to ensure the regulations are effective to maintain the safety of gas users not just today but in the development of future fuels that form part of the wider Net Zero Strategy.

HSE is currently conducting a Post Implementation Review of the specific amendments they made to the regulations in 2018 and will be reporting their conclusions in 2023.

Since the introduction of GSIUR, the number of reported gas-related fatalities has steadily declined from 48 in 1998/99 to 3 in 2020/21. While any number of fatalities is clearly unwanted, this substantive decline is evidence that these regulations have improved the safety of the gas landscape in GB and that they remain effective.

HSE believes in firm but fair enforcement and the number of breaches prosecuted under GSIUR are outlined below:

Year

No. breaches prosecuted under GSIUR

2018/19

46

2019/20

74

2020/21

33

The annual cost to consumers of unsafe work is not reported to or held by Government.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
4th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of implementing a feature on calls relating to (a) universal credit and (b) employment support allowance where in the event that the caller does not progress with automated telephony services they are automatically transferred to a human operator.

All except two of the many freephone lines that DWP provides operate with a menu of options for customers to select before the call is routed to a human operator. The two lines which operate differently with a form of automation are the Benefit Enquiry Line and the Jobcentre Enquiry Line. These freephone lines use a function called Natural Language Call Steering which, if the customer is not understood, does not understand the question, or chooses not to speak, will revert to a menu of options before transfer to a human operator.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
8th Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that people whose voices cannot be understood by her Department's automated helpline systems are redirected to a human operator.

All except two of the Freephone lines that DWP provides operate with a menu of options for customers to select the most appropriate one before the call is then routed to an agent. The two lines which operate differently; Benefit Enquiry Line (BEL) and the Jobcentre Enquiry Line (JEL) use a function called Natural Language Call Steering which will revert to a menu of options if the customer is not understood or chooses not to speak

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
8th Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the average telephony waiting time for people seeking support with their employment support allowance via her Department's helplines as of 8 November 2021; and what assessment she has made of the acceptability of those waiting times.

We actively manage our Percentage of Calls Answered (PCA) to achieve the optimal service to our customers by balancing our resources to meet the needs of our customers. To achieve this, we consider a variety of factors of which average speed of answer is one. These figures are calculated using historic data available to us and balancing this alongside current demand.

For The period 1 October 2021 – 31 October 2021 the average speed of answer for Employment and Support Allowance was 21 minutes and 08 seconds. Call volumes received during the month of October were 8.6% higher than our forecast figures. This will have contributed to the slight increase in the average speed of answer for the month.

To actively achieve the optimal PCA of 80% the accepted average speed of answer for Employment and Support Allowance enquiries is 18 minutes 48 seconds.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
5th Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer on 25 October 2021 to Question 57146 on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), what steps her Department is taking to ensure (a) ESA decision makers apply hardship payments where appropriate for individuals whose ESA has been temporarily suspended while investigations into capital allowance are ongoing and (b) training of ESA decision makers on the role of hardship payments.

Decisions about whether suspending payment would cause hardship are made on a case by case basis by considering the circumstances of the claimant at the point that suspension becomes an option. This would only arise after a claimant has been given the opportunity to resolve the doubt that has arisen in relation to their entitlement or award and not done that.

Decision makers are trained to be fully conversant with all legislation and guidance in relation to all aspects of Decision Making, including hardship. There are quality assurance frameworks to ensure that there are consistent national standards in the decision-making process.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
27th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of providing additional support for the mobility needs of severely disabled children under the age of three.

Children under the age of 16 can claim Child Disability Living Allowance (DLA). They are not eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which is a benefit for working age claimants.

DLA is an extra-costs benefit available to those under the age of 16 who, due to a disability or health condition, have mobility issues and/or have needs which are substantially in excess of a child the same age without the disability or health condition. DLA is a contribution towards the extra costs associated with being disabled.

As all younger children have substantial mobility needs, only children over the age of three can claim the mobility component of DLA. Under 3s, however, can still access other forms of support, including the care component of DLA.

There are no current proposals to change the existing age restrictions for the mobility component of Child DLA.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
27th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the impact of excluding children under the age of three from personal independence payment's higher rate mobility awards on those children and their families.

Children under the age of 16 can claim Child Disability Living Allowance (DLA). They are not eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which is a benefit for working age claimants.

DLA is an extra-costs benefit available to those under the age of 16 who, due to a disability or health condition, have mobility issues and/or have needs which are substantially in excess of a child the same age without the disability or health condition. DLA is a contribution towards the extra costs associated with being disabled.

As all younger children have substantial mobility needs, only children over the age of three can claim the mobility component of DLA. Under 3s, however, can still access other forms of support, including the care component of DLA.

There are no current proposals to change the existing age restrictions for the mobility component of Child DLA.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what funding the Government plans to make available for face to face support from third sector organisations currently contracted to assist the most vulnerable with universal credit claims over the next 12 months.

The Department is committed to providing the best possible support for all our claimants, including the most vulnerable in society, in both making and maintaining their claim.

Help to Claim support delivered through Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland offers tailored, practical support to help people make a Universal Credit claim, up to receiving their first full correct payment on time.

This support has been bolstered by the announcement in March this year of a further 12 months of funding for Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland to deliver Help to Claim.

Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland continue to deliver the Help to Claim support, mainly through their telephony and web chat channels. However, both organisations have started re-introducing face to face support within a number of sites, in line with guidance, and we will continue to support them with this.

Throughout the pandemic, our jobcentres also remained open so that the most vulnerable claimants could continue to have face-to-face meetings as necessary.

David Rutley
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of extending the eligibility criteria for people on Income Related Employment and Support Allowance to apply for a hardship payment to include any cause of temporary payment suspension.

Whether the claimant is facing a sanction related to work-related matters or a suspension because there is a doubt about their entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance, claimants can already apply for hardship with their Jobcentre adviser, work coach or via the helpline, at any time during the period when payment is reduced or stopped.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the current call waiting time for individuals seeking support with a universal credit claim from her Department's helpline; and if she will make an assessment of the adequacy of that call waiting time.

We regularly review our resources both internally and with our telephony suppliers to ensure we meet customer demand across all services of contact including our phone lines, our service partners are currently recruiting additional staff to answer customer enquiries. Whilst demand fluctuates, this recruitment has supported so far this month our aim to keep average wait times under ten minutes, adequate for the freephone services available for all DWP customers.

The Actual Average Speed of Answer (Call Waiting) for Universal Credit April to September 2021 is shown in the table below in the format of hours:minutes:seconds.

April

May

June

July

August

September

12:28

10:43

04:00

04:57

07:05

11:38

Average Speed of Answer measures the average customer wait time from the point of entering a queue to connection to an agent. This excludes any time spent in pre-queue messaging and any wait time for calls ultimately abandoned by callers.

Please note that the data in the above tables is derived from unpublished management information which was collected for internal Departmental use only and has not been quality assured to National Statistics or Official Statistics publication standard. The data should therefore be treated with caution.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
17th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the average waiting time is for personal independence payment claims to be reviewed by a Health Professional prior to determining the best method for undertaking an assessment in the most recent period for which figures are available; and whether that waiting time has met her Department's targets set for that process.

The information requested is not available.

It might be helpful if I explain that on receipt of a referral, a Health Professional (HP) will review each case along with any additional information provided by the claimant. If there is enough paper-based evidence to determine entitlement, the HP will assess the claimant on this evidence alone. If there is not, the HP may request further medical evidence from a treating medical professional. Once all the information has been received, the HP may be able to provide a paper-based assessment. If they cannot, the HP will advise on the appropriateness of a telephone, video or face to face assessment, and an assessment will be scheduled with the claimant as soon as possible.

Both DWP and its providers remain committed to ensuring claimants receive an efficient service, and takes all steps possible to ensure claimants are assessed in the most efficient way possible.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
17th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent estimate her Department has made of the average waiting time to process personal independence payment applications in (a) Scotland and (b) the Highlands.

We are committed to ensuring that people can access financial support through Personal In-dependence Payment (PIP) in a timely manner and reducing customer journey times for PIP claimants is a priority for the Department. We always aim to make an award decision as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to review all available evidence.

Average waiting times for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) new claims made under normal rules (i.e. excluding those processed under special rules) are calculated as the median number of weeks from registration to DWP decision, and published as the “Average Actual Clearance Time”. For claims cleared in July 2021, the latest data shows:

(a) The Average Actual Clearance Time for new claims in Scotland was 26 weeks.

(b) The Average Actual Clearance Time for new claims in the Highlands Local Authority was 28 weeks.

Notes:

Data Source: PIP Atomic Data Store (ADS)

  • Data for the Highlands Local Authority is unpublished. It should be used with caution as there is likely to be more variability in clearance times at small geographical levels. It may be subject to future revision.
  • The status of claims as 'normal rules' and 'new claim' is shown as at the point of the DWP decision, in accordance with the measure. It is possible for claims to transition between normal and special rules, and between new claims and reassessments, during the course of the claimant journey.
  • Clearance time measures do not include claims that were withdrawn by the claimant or claims that were disallowed by DWP prior to referral to the Assessment Providers (e.g. for failure to meet basic eligibility criteria).
  • The median time is the middle value if you were to order all the times within the distribution from lowest value to highest value. The median is presented here instead of the mean because the mean can be unduly affected by outlying cases (e.g. cases where the person has been hard to reach due to being in prison, hospital, failed to attend the assessment on numerous occasions etc.).

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)
9th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the effect on the levels of fuel poverty of the suspension of the pension triple lock in the Scottish Highlands.

The Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill ensures those who rely on the new State Pension, basic State Pension and Pension Credit Standard Minimum Guarantee have their spending power preserved. They will be protected from the higher costs of living by increasing at least with the rise in inflation or 2.5%, whichever is higher. This was also the case last year when we took legislative action to increase State Pension rates despite the fall in earnings which would otherwise have meant that they would have been frozen.

The UK Government is committed to supporting older people and vulnerable households to keep warm, and it has a strong package of policies already delivering to those in need.

This includes Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments available in Scotland until the Scottish Government has built the capacity to deliver replacements for them.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
9th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the (a) appropriateness of access rights to claimant information when third parties make alternative enquiry requests to the State Pension Claim phoneline and (b) adequacy of support available under those rules from third party organisations for claimants who are unable to make applications independently to the phoneline.

The DWP Agents, Appointees, Attorneys, Deputies and third parties guide is used by staff to ensure that communications from customer representatives are processed in line with guidance. This includes the instances when State Pension claims are made by a customer’s official representative.

Official customer representatives can make enquiries to DWP via our helplines, as well as making written requests to the DWP Mail Opening Unit address, which is available online at GOV.UK

DWP also operates secure email links with Local Authorities in the instances when they act as Corporate Appointee to make a claim on behalf of a customer or to share information.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
9th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of increasing the level of the Cold Weather Payment to help offset (a) the suspension of the pension triple lock in the 2022-23 financial year and (b) increasing fuel costs.

The Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill ensures those who rely on the new State Pension, basic State Pension and Pension Credit Standard Minimum Guarantee have their spending power preserved. They will be protected from the higher costs of living by increasing at least with the rise in inflation or 2.5%, whichever is higher. This was also the case last year when we took legislative action to increase State Pension rates despite the fall in earnings which would otherwise have meant that they would have been frozen.

The UK Government is committed to supporting older people and vulnerable households to keep warm, and it has a strong package of policies already delivering to those in need.

This includes Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments available in Scotland until the Scottish Government has built the capacity to deliver replacements for them.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
6th Sep 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what additional steps she will take to improve response times to personal independence payment inquires from hon. Members.

The Department aims to provide substantive replies to inquiries from hon. Members within 20 working days. Where issues are complex substantive replies may take longer.

19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the Order by Consent issued by the High court on 13 July 2021 (CO/4263/2020), whether her Department carried out an equalities impact assessment of its policy to make on-the-spot personal independence payment benefit calls to recipients of that benefit.

The Department’s aim is that claimants are paid the correct amount of benefit at the earliest opportunity. Where new evidence or information becomes available after an appeal has been lodged, but before it is heard at a tribunal, DWP is able to revise a decision and increase the award where appropriate. In circumstances where the decision can be revised but not to the level the claimant is seeking on appeal, we contact claimants to give them the option to continue with their appeal or to have the decision revised, in which case they can still appeal the new decision. The right of appeal was always set out in the decision letter claimants receive notifying them of the new decision. Accordingly, we have no plans to further review the Department’s handling of past calls.

We began contacting claimants in this way in 1998 consequent on the change in the law introduced by the Social Security Act 1998, whereby the Secretary of State may revise a decision in the claimant’s favour even if they would not get everything they were seeking on appeal. An equality impact assessment was not conducted at that time and has not been conducted pursuant to the Equality Act 2010.

19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the Order by Consent issued by the High court on 13 July 2021 (CO/4263/2020), what assessment she has made of the potential merits of conducting an inquiry into her Department's handling of Personal Independence Payment benefit calls.

The Department’s aim is that claimants are paid the correct amount of benefit at the earliest opportunity. Where new evidence or information becomes available after an appeal has been lodged, but before it is heard at a tribunal, DWP is able to revise a decision and increase the award where appropriate. In circumstances where the decision can be revised but not to the level the claimant is seeking on appeal, we contact claimants to give them the option to continue with their appeal or to have the decision revised, in which case they can still appeal the new decision. The right of appeal was always set out in the decision letter claimants receive notifying them of the new decision. Accordingly, we have no plans to further review the Department’s handling of past calls.

We began contacting claimants in this way in 1998 consequent on the change in the law introduced by the Social Security Act 1998, whereby the Secretary of State may revise a decision in the claimant’s favour even if they would not get everything they were seeking on appeal. An equality impact assessment was not conducted at that time and has not been conducted pursuant to the Equality Act 2010.

15th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the consent order in K v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions CO / 4263 / 2020, what steps her Department is taking in response to that consent order to ensure that people who received on the spot benefit calls and as a result accepted a lower Personal Independence Payment (PIP) payment than they were legally entitled to are (a) contacted and (b) have that PIP payment (i) corrected and (ii) fully backdated.

The Department’s aim is to ensure that claimants are paid the correct amount of benefit at the earliest opportunity. Accordingly, if new evidence or information becomes available after an appeal has been lodged, it is right that decisions are reviewed and claimants put in the best position where they can choose either to continue with their appeal, or have the decision revised. At the same time claimants have, and have always had, a right of appeal against the revised decision, and to have their payments fully backdated if successful at appeal. Claimants are notified of this right of appeal in their revised decision letter.

15th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer of 6 July 2021 to Question 28245 on Personal Independence Payments: Long Covid, how many people have applied for personal independence payments with covid-19 as a primary disability since March 2021.

In the application process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a claimant’s main disabling condition is only recorded centrally on Departmental computer systems at assessment. Disabilities are not recorded centrally at the point of application. The Department does not therefore hold data on the number of applicants to PIP with particular conditions. Only those who have a disability assessment determination decision will have a main disabling condition recorded for them.

The latest available data on the number of people who have “Coronavirus COVID-19” recorded as their primary disability following assessment for PIP each month can be found on Stat-Xplore: https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/. As described in my response to Question 28245, this disabling condition has been available to record for PIP assessments following a computer system change in March 2021. Due to the nature of the qualifying period for PIP claims, these cases will all be “long COVID” or “post-COVID syndrome” cases rather than initial COVID-19 infections.

Guidance on how to use Stat-Xplore can be found here:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/online-help/index.html.

6th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the inclusion of covid-19 as a registrable cause for a long term health condition when applying for personal independence payment (PIP) since March 2021, what discussions his Department has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on developing a system of monthly published reporting of PIP application numbers to allow for additional tracking of the economic impact of long covid.

Entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is assessed on the basis of the needs arising from a health condition or disability, rather than the health condition or disability itself.

PIP statistics are published on a quarterly basis and include breakdowns by month. From March 2021, the published statistical series that include low level disability breakdowns (clearances, PIP cases with entitlement, MR registrations and clearances, Award Review & Change of Circumstance clearances) include the additional category “Coronavirus covid-19”. This reflects an operational change implemented in March 2021 to include this code on the PIP Computer System. This will allow us to track the volume of clearances with Coronavirus covid-19 as a primary disability and the corresponding volume/proportion of the PIP caseload. There are currently no plans to publish the PIP statistics on a monthly basis.

There are regular, ongoing discussions between the Secretary of State and Cabinet colleagues.

25th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what plans her Department has to allow discretion in taking recovery action for overpayment of universal credit when that overpayment occurred as a result of her Department's error.

Following the introduction of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act, all overpayments of Universal Credit and new style benefits paid in excess of entitlement are recoverable.

The trend in recent years has been to ensure claimants are left with more of their benefit; through two successive reductions in the proportion of UC we will deduct – from 40% of the UC Standard Allowance to 30% and now 25% from April 2021.

The Department seeks to recover benefit overpayments without creating undue financial hardship; any person who does experience such hardship is encouraged to contact the Department’s Debt Management unit. Where a person cannot afford the proposed rate of repayment a lower amount can be negotiated.

In exceptional circumstances discretion not to pursue recovery can also be applied under guidelines set out by HM Treasury. Typically, this would be where the continuing recovery would cause severe hardship or risk to the customer and/or their family. Further details of which are publicly available in HM Treasury’s Managing Public Money.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994902/MPM_Spring_21_with_annexes_180621.pdf

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the average waiting time for a decision on whether an award should be made in the case of a new Personal Independence Payment application; and what assessment she has made of acceptability of that waiting time.

I refer the Hon member to the answer I gave on 24 May 2021 to Question UIN3035.

18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to reduce the time taken for a decision on a new personal independence payment claim.

We are committed to ensuring that people can access financial support through Personal Independence Payment in a timely manner. We always aim to make an award decision as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to review all available evidence.

We are currently operating within expected levels. Average clearance times from initial claim to a decision being made for new claims are currently 19 weeks, which is the same as average clearance times achieved in January 2020.

16th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what discussions officials in her Department have had with representatives of (a) chambers of commerce and (b) local authorities on registering as gateway providers to enable local small and medium sized enterprises to use the Kickstart Scheme.

Officials from the Department for Work and Pensions have had discussions with organisations and employers across the country about involvement in the Kickstart Scheme. This includes the Scottish and Welsh governments, mayoral combined authorities and local authorities and chambers of commerce.

We are delighted that these discussions have resulted in more than 900 organisations being approved as Gateways for the Kickstart Scheme including around 35 members of the British Chambers of Commerce network. There are also over 100 Local Authorities approved to be Kickstart Gateways. We closed applications to organisations seeking to be a new Gateway.

Since 3rd February we have also removed the 30 job minimum requirement for direct applications to Kickstart. This will make the scheme accessible to even more employers – especially smaller ones - giving them choice about whether to apply direct or via one of the approved Kickstart Gateways. We continue to engage with employers to maintain the high interest in the scheme with over 180,000 jobs approved to date.

Although care is taken when processing and analysing Kickstart applications, referrals and starts, the data collected might be subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale recording system which has been developed quickly. The management information presented here has not been subjected to the usual standard of quality assurance associated with official statistics, but is provided in the interests of transparency.

16th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of expanding access to the Kickstart Scheme to enable small and medium sized enterprises to use that scheme.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ Kickstart Scheme is already open for small and medium employers, as well as larger ones, to offer jobs to young people. On 3rd February 2021, we removed the requirement for an application to the Scheme to contain a minimum of 30 jobs. This means that employers have greater choice in how they participate regardless of the number of Kickstart jobs they are seeking to offer. All employers also have the option of applying through one of the 900 approved Gateway organisations supporting Kickstart. Sole traders can also participate in the scheme by applying through one of our approved Gateway Plus organisations.

16th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of publishing the number of Kickstart Scheme applications that have been rejected by region.

A regional breakdown of applications to the Kickstart Scheme is not currently held by the Department for Work and Pensions. This is because applications at the approval stage of Kickstart only provide the registered address of the applying organisation (employer or Gateway) and so are not reflective of where the jobs would be based if approved. Employers and Gateway organisations can make multiple applications to the scheme. And some employers within Gateway application may be rejected while others are approved. This data is therefore of limited use for analytical and planning purposes. For these reasons, information is not currently produced on application outcomes by region.

12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when she plans to reply to the letters from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey of 23 November 2020 passed to the Department for Housing Communities and Local Government and then the Department for Health and Social Care before being returned to her Department for response on 17 March 2021.

A reply was sent to the hon. Member on 13 April 2021.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of extending universal credit rent support to adult children living in their familiar home where that rent is not paid to a family member.

Housing Costs Support in Universal Credit is already available to any claimant with a rent liability for the home they live in, where that liability is on a commercial basis and not owed to a close relative who lives at the same address.

There are no limitations on adult children who live at the same address as their parents from claiming housing costs support, so long as the above conditions are met.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
10th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the effect on claimants of having to proactively reapply for personal independence payments as opposed to having an integrated process of automatic renewal of those payments.

On Personal Independence Payment (PIP), we do not have an integrated process of automatic renewals but review claimants to ensure their award reflects their needs. Once someone has been awarded PIP, which can be paid at one of eight rates, that award will be reviewed. Award rates and their durations are set on an individual basis, based on the claimant’s needs and the likelihood of those needs changing. Regular reviews are a key feature of the benefit and ensure that payments accurately match the current needs of claimants, something fundamentally missing from Disability Living Allowance, which PIP began to replace in 2013. Award durations are based on an individual’s circumstances and can vary from nine months to an on-going award, with a light touch review at the ten-year point.

Some claimants can be given a shorter, fixed-term award which isn’t subject to a review on the basis that the individual’s needs will improve to the point they are not entitled by the end of their award. Claimants subject to such an award are free to make a new claim before their award ends if they consider they may still be entitled.

Since PIP was introduced we have implemented changes and improved guidance which reduces the frequency of reviews for most pensioners and those with the highest needs and where those needs will not improve or will deteriorate.

3rd Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when she plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey of 9 November 2020 and the follow-up sent on 19 February 2021.

A reply was sent to the hon. Member on behalf of the Secretary of State by a Director on 5 March.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to help reduce wait times for the Independent Case Examiner to asses a complaint.

In 2020/21, the Department provided additional funding to the Independent Case Examiner’s Office, to allow it to increase its headcount from 89 to 112. The recruitment and rigorous training of additional Investigation Case Managers, to reduce the time complaints wait to be brought into investigation, is underway.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
22nd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the average waiting time for decisions to award personal independence payments (PIP) to people whose fixed term PIP awards ended after the 2 October 2020.

Table 1 below shows the median clearance time in working days from registration to initial clearance (end to end clearance time) of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) advanced claim awards made up to 31st October 2020 (the latest data available), following a fixed term award with no review that was due to end after 2nd October 2020. This is broken down by whether the advanced claim was awarded under Normal Rules or Special Rules for the Terminally Ill. This data excludes advanced Claims that were outstanding as of 31st October 2020.

Table 1: Median end to end Clearance time in working days of PIP advanced claims awarded following a fixed term award due to end after 2nd October 2020.

Normal Rules Median Clearance Time*

Special Rules for The Terminally Ill Median Clearance Time

-

7

*Please note that for Normal Rules advanced claims, there were 20 claimants who were awarded a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) fixed term award at initial decision due to end after 2nd October 2020 who have had their advanced Claim awarded up to 31st October 2020 (the latest data available).

Because of the small number of claims in this category we are unable to provide an average for the clearance time in this instance. Calculating averages for small populations has a risk of misrepresentative results skewed by non-typical values. This is in line with our practice for PIP statistical publications, where averages for populations of less than 50 are suppressed.

Notes

Source: PIP ADS

  • The end dates here are recorded as of the initial decision for a New Claim or Reassessment from DLA. This data excludes instances where end dates have been updated following this initial decision.
  • PIP data includes both new claims and reassessment claims from Disability Living Allowance.
  • This is unpublished data. It should be used with caution and it may be subject to future revision.
  • Data on the number of clearances has been rounded to the nearest 10. Medians are rounded to the nearest working day
  • Data includes advanced claims registered following either a Normal Rules Short term award with no review or a claim registered following a Special Rules for Terminally Ill claimants that was due to end after 2nd October 2020.
  • Advanced claims are defined as a New Claim or Reassessment from DLA registration made by a claimant with an existing award either less than 6 months prior to the end date or any time after the end date of an existing award.
11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of applying a backdated uplift to personal independence payment in line with the increase in universal credit to the start of the covid-19 outbreak.

Universal Credit is an income related benefit unlike the disability benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which is an extra costs benefits. PIP is not means–tested, non-contributory and thus paid regardless of any income or savings. PIP is also tax-free and worth up to £151.40 a week. PIP was not subject to the benefits freeze and was most recently uprated by 1.7 per cent from 6 April 2020. Following the Secretary of State’s most recent statutory review of the rates of PIP, it is due to be uprated again from 12 April 2021, subsequent to the recent approval of the Social Security Up-rating Order 2021 by both Houses of Parliament.

PIP can be paid in addition to other financial support that those with a health condition or disability may be eligible for, such as Employment and Support Allowance, UC (thereby taking advantage of the UC increase), additional amounts and premiums paid within the income-related benefits, Carer’s Allowance or financial and practical help from the NHS or Local Authorities.

11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the effect of the decision not to extend to uplift to universal credit to legacy benefits on the comparative healthcare outcomes for individuals living with disabilities.

The £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the public health emergency. This measure remains in place until March 2021. As the Government has done throughout this crisis, it will continue to assess how best to support people, which is why we will look at the economic and health context before making any decisions.

There are no plans to extend a benefit increase to legacy benefits. Claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off. Claimants should check carefully their eligibility and entitlements under UC before applying as legacy benefits will end when claimants submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future. For this reason, prospective claimants are signposted to independent benefits calculators on GOV.UK.

11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what equalities impact assessment her Department has undertaken on the decision not to extend the £20 uplift to universal credit to employment support allowance.

The £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the public health emergency. This measure remains in place until March 2021. As the Government has done throughout this crisis, it will continue to assess how best to support people, which is why we will look at the economic and health context before making any decisions.

There are no plans to extend a benefit increase to legacy benefits. Claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off. Claimants should check carefully their eligibility and entitlements under UC before applying as legacy benefits will end when claimants submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future. For this reason, prospective claimants are signposted to independent benefits calculators on GOV.UK.

5th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of extending time frames for debt recovery of Universal Credit overpayments during the covid-19 outbreak.

No such assessment has been made.

Debt recovery, including the recovery of Universal Credit overpayments, was paused for 3 months from April 2020, so that Debt Management staff could support processing in excess of three million new Universal Credit claims following the outbreak of COVID 19.

Those staff have subsequently been able to return to their roles in Debt Management and we have adopted a phased and controlled approach to re-instating debt recovery, allowing us to manage the demand on services.

There are no current plans to re-instate the suspension of debt recovery, but we will keep the situation under review.

We have always recognised that there will be some people who may be experiencing financial difficulty, and anyone unable to afford the rate of recovery is encouraged to contact DWP so an affordable rate of repayment can be negotiated based on their individual circumstances.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of excluding payments from workplace (a) bullying redress schemes and (b) sexual harassment redress schemes from income calculations for universal credit.

There are no plans to amend the treatment in Universal Credit of such payments. They would not be treated as unearned income unless subject to taxation under Part 5 of the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005. Where one-off payments are treated as capital there would be no effect on Universal Credit entitlement unless the claimant’s capital reached £6,000 or more. Capital of £16,000 would end entitlement to Universal Credit.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the average rejection rate is for the Kickstart scheme, by constituency.

Data regarding the average rejection rate of applications for the Kickstart scheme, by constituency, is not available.

3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the effect on relative poverty levels of the decision not to extend the £20 universal credit uplift to employment support allowance claimants.

No assessment has been made.

If a legacy benefit claimant wishes to apply for Universal Credit, they can do so online. However, we encourage all those who think they may be eligible to use a benefits calculator before applying, as making a Universal Credit claim will cease any entitlement to legacy benefits that an individual might have and they cannot move back to legacy benefits.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
14th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of extending support for former business owners during the covid-19 outbreak by not including monies paid out by former business owners for business closure costs in their universal credit calculations after a company liquidates.

Universal Credit treats company directors in the same way as self-employed people who do not choose to structure their business that way and, where someone is treated as self-employed in UC, permitted expenses are deducted from any earnings before UC is calculated. If a person has ceased to carry on a business within the last 6 months, and is taking reasonable steps to dispose of assets which were used wholly or mainly in that business, those business assets can be disregarded from the calculation of that person’s capital when entitlement to Universal Credit is calculated.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
4th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent estimate she has made of the response timeframe for Child Maintenance Service complaints.

Complaints received about the Child Maintenance Service are handled in line with the overall Departmental complaints process published on Gov.uk. We aim to contact customers within 15 working days to clear the complaint or agree how to investigate it if it will take longer.

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to make changes to our complaints model to allow staff to be deployed to support processing claims and payments. From 9 July 2020, DWP now triage complaints giving priority to vulnerable customers who may be at risk, and those with benefit payment issues.

We continue to look into all complaints as quickly as we can and, as part of the triage process used to determine lower priority, we write to those customers explaining there may be a delay in answering their complaint.

We plan to review the effectiveness of the approach we have taken throughout the pandemic as part of an ongoing review into complaints handling.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
2nd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what comparative assessment her Department has made of the average time taken for a claimant to receive a personal independence payment in November (a) 2020 and (b) 2019.

Data on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) clearance times for both PIP New Claims and Reassessments from Disability Living Allowance is published. This covers each stage of the customer journey for the period covering April 2013 – July 2020 (latest available data). This can be found in Tables 2A – 2A(vi) for Normal Rules claims and 2B for claims made under Special Rules for the Terminally Ill in the following published statistical tables:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/917471/tables-pip-statistics-to-july-2020.xlsx

16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on her Department's staffing levels.

The Department is continually assessing the services being offered to customers and we continue to keep staff numbers under review as part of our response to the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market. We have recruited and continue to recruit significant numbers of new staff to meet the demand required.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment she has made of trends in the time taken to process a universal credit complaint.

Complaints received about the Universal Credit are handled in line with the overall Departmental complaints process published on Gov.uk. We aim to contact customers within 15 working days to clear the complaint or agree how to investigate it if it will take longer.

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to make changes to our complaints model to allow staff to be deployed to support processing claims and payments. From 9 July 2020, DWP now triage complaints giving priority to vulnerable customers who may be at risk, and those with benefit payment issues.

We continue to look into all complaints as quickly as we can and, as part of the triage process used to determine lower priority, we write to those customers explaining there may be a delay in answering their complaint.

We plan to review the effectiveness of the approach we have taken throughout the pandemic as part of an ongoing review into complaints handling.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
11th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of introducing a call back system when individuals have spent a significant period of time waiting on hold with her Department's helplines.

DWP has considered the merits of a call-back service for customers. We concluded that it would not support the current operating models of the department. DWP moved all telephony services for customers to a free phone operation nearly three years ago and therefore any delay in answering calls will not be at the expense of customers.

30th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of current response times to complaints raised with the Pension Service.

Complaints received about the Pension Service are handled in line with the overall Departmental complaints process published on Gov.uk. We aim to contact customers within 15 working days to clear the complaint or agree how to investigate it if it will take longer.

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to make changes to our complaints model to allow staff to be deployed to support processing claims and payments. From 9 July 2020, DWP now triage complaints giving priority to vulnerable claimants who may be at risk, and those with benefit payment issues.

We continue to look into all complaints as quickly as we can and, as part of the triage process used to determine lower priority, we write to those customers explaining there may be a delay in answering their complaint.

We plan to review the effectiveness of the approach we have taken throughout the pandemic as part of an ongoing review into complaints handling.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
30th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate she has made of the Child Maintenance Service debt that has been written-off in the last 12 months where the paying parent has an ongoing maintenance liability.

No Child Maintenance Service (CMS) debt has been written off. The Department is offering one last attempt to collect historic Child Support Agency (CSA) debt, where it is cost effective to do so and there is a reasonable chance of collection. Where this is not possible, the debt will be written off.

There are no longer any CSA cases with ongoing maintenance.

Our main focus is to collect money owed to children who will benefit today, thereby preventing the build-up of arrears under the CMS.

14th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure that increased time frames for personal independence payment renewals do not prevent people whose PIP is no longer paid from accessing universal credit's limited capability for work related activity element when their income is above the conditionality earnings threshold and stopping them from having a universal credit work capability assessment.

As I stated during recent oral questions [Hansard, 14 September 2020, Column 6] the Department has supported disabled customers during the Covid outbreak by automatically extending existing Personal Independence Payment (PIP) awards. As PIP payments are unaffected until any review activity has been completed, the circumstances whereby an individual loses access to Universal Credit's limited capability for work and work related activity element do not arise.

2nd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of including a universal credit claim start date selection section, within the universal credit initial claim form, to enable clearer claim backdating for people who would be eligible under regulation 26 of the Claims and Payments Regulations.

We encourage all people to engage with us at their point of need, and as the vast majority of Universal Credit claims are successfully made online, most will not require backdating. However, backdating provision, of up to a maximum of one month, is available where the circumstances are such that someone could not reasonably have been expected to claim earlier, including due to illness, disability or an official computer system failure.

The Department works in partnership with a variety of stakeholders, including local authorities, charities and employer groups, as well as through our local Jobcentres, to distribute factual information on the range of benefits that people could be entitled to.

To support people in making the right decisions we also launched a new microsite within the ‘Understanding Universal Credit’ website, to help people navigate the range of support available and apply for it. Additionally, we also encourage the use of independent benefits calculators (available via www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators) to ensure individuals can navigate the welfare system and decide what is right for their circumstances.

However, we recognise that some people will still require additional support to successfully submit a claim to Universal Credit. From 1 April 2020 the Department has provided a second year of grant funding to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland to continue to deliver Help to Claim. Help to Claim offers trusted, independent, tailored, practical support to help people make a Universal Credit claim and receive their first full correct payment on time. It is available across England, Wales and Scotland and is usually available online, over the phone and face to face through local Citizens Advice services. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, face to face access was temporarily suspended with the required support being provided through the telephony and web chat channels.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
2nd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the (a) accessibility of the universal credit claim backdating process for eligible applicants and (b) adequacy of the information provided to applicants that they may be eligible to backdate a claim.

We encourage all people to engage with us at their point of need, and as the vast majority of Universal Credit claims are successfully made online, most will not require backdating. However, backdating provision, of up to a maximum of one month, is available where the circumstances are such that someone could not reasonably have been expected to claim earlier, including due to illness, disability or an official computer system failure.

The Department works in partnership with a variety of stakeholders, including local authorities, charities and employer groups, as well as through our local Jobcentres, to distribute factual information on the range of benefits that people could be entitled to.

To support people in making the right decisions we also launched a new microsite within the ‘Understanding Universal Credit’ website, to help people navigate the range of support available and apply for it. Additionally, we also encourage the use of independent benefits calculators (available via www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators) to ensure individuals can navigate the welfare system and decide what is right for their circumstances.

However, we recognise that some people will still require additional support to successfully submit a claim to Universal Credit. From 1 April 2020 the Department has provided a second year of grant funding to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland to continue to deliver Help to Claim. Help to Claim offers trusted, independent, tailored, practical support to help people make a Universal Credit claim and receive their first full correct payment on time. It is available across England, Wales and Scotland and is usually available online, over the phone and face to face through local Citizens Advice services. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, face to face access was temporarily suspended with the required support being provided through the telephony and web chat channels.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
2nd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the level of child maintenance arrears built up by paying parents during the period in which the Child Maintenance Service has not been taking new enforcement action as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Where payments have been missed we have asked parents to report the changes via the self-service portal. In order to ensure that receiving parents do not lose out in the long run, the Child Maintenance Service is updating cases with notified changes. Where payments have been missed the Service is taking action to re-establish compliance and collect any unpaid amounts that may have accrued.

Those found to be abusing the system are subject to the full extent of our enforcement powers and the Child Maintenance Service will pursue these, where appropriate.

The vast majority of CMS enforcement powers involve third parties, including Her Majesty’s courts, enforcement agents and financial institutions. The COVID-19 crisis meant that these third parties had to pause business. The CMS is now beginning to reinstate a full service and remains committed to working with these key partners to establish how best to restart enforcement activity.

The total amount of Child Maintenance arranged via the Collect and Pay service, and the amount of this that has not been paid, are published quarterly. The latest published figures for Child Maintenance Service are up the end of March 2020 and can be found in National Table 10 at the link below.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/child-maintenance-service-statistics-data-to-march-2020-experimental

Statistics containing data to June 2020 will not be available until the next publication, due on 30 September 2020.

28th Aug 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate she has been made of the current clearance time frame for a personal independence payment claim compared to the three year average.

The table below shows the median clearance time in weeks from registration to initial decision for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Normal Rules New Claims and Reassessments from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for all decisions made in April 2020 (the latest data available) and for the period May 2017 – April 2020 (the latest 3-year period for which data is available).

The median time from registration to initial decision for PIP Normal Rules claims for each month from April 2013 – April 2020 for New Claims and Reassessments from DLA is published and can be found in Table 2A of the published statistical tables linked below:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/904392/tables-pip-statistics-to-april-2020-revised-july-2020.xlsx

Table 1: Median Clearance Times in weeks for PIP New Claims and Reassessments from DLA for April 2020 and the 3-year period up to April 2020

Reassessment Type

New Claim

Reassessment

April 2020

16

27

May 2017 - April 2020

14

15

Notes

Source: PIP ADS

  • PIP data includes normal rules claimants only and is for both new claims and DLA reassessment claims.
  • Figures have been rounded to the nearest whole number of weeks.
  • The status of claims as 'normal rules' and 'new claim/reassessment' is shown as at the point of clearance.
  • The figures in the table are the median clearance time of claims which are cleared in the given time period.
  • The median time is the middle value if you were to order all the times within the distribution from lowest value to highest value. The median is presented here instead of the mean because the mean can be unduly affected by outlying cases (e.g. cases where the person has been hard to reach due to being in prison, hospital, failed to attend the assessment on numerous occasions etc.)
  • The 'Registration to DWP decision (end to end)' clearance time is measured as the median time between the date of registration of the claim and the date of the DWP decision to either award or disallow the claim. It does not include claims that were withdrawn by the claimant or claims that were disallowed by DWP pre-referral to the Assessment Providers (e.g. for failure to meet basic eligibility criteria or failure to return the Part 2 form within the time limit).
  • Great Britain only.
  • The median clearance time for May 2017 – April 2020 is unpublished data. It should be used with caution and it may be subject to future revision.

20th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of extending the time frame beyond 30 days of the date of decision for the mandatory reconsideration of a universal credit decision to provide support agencies with a wider time frame to help people with that process.

Whilst the time limit for applying for a Mandatory Reconsideration is one month, if an application is made within this period but more time is needed to provide supporting evidence, the claimant or their representative can ask that a decision is not made pending the provision of that evidence.

14th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure that claimant commitments under universal credit do not comprise (a) volunteering and (b) other activities that affect an individual's eligibility for (i) personal independence payment and (ii) other additional support.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) can be paid regardless of whether someone can work or volunteer.

Work-related requirements are agreed in discussion with the claimant and will always be tailored to the claimant’s personal circumstances, ensuring they are realistic and achievable.

Work coaches have the flexibility to personalise requirements for individual claimants based on their health condition. They can remove all work related requirements where it is not reasonable to expect them to be able to fulfil them.

14th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what amount of child maintenance arrears are owed in the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

The total amount of arrears for Child Maintenance Service (CMS) in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency in March 2020 is £588,000.

Source: Child Maintenance Group administrative data

6th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of introducing a backdated carers allowance payment for individuals in full time education who undertook caring responsibilities whilst staying in their family home during the covid-19 outbreak.

Carer’s Allowance is a devolved benefit in Scotland, but is being administered temporarily by DWP under an Agency Agreement with the Scottish Government until the replacement Scottish benefit is available. Provision of new benefits under devolved powers, such as the Young Carer Grant, is a matter for the Scottish Government. The UK Government believes that people in full-time education should be supported by the educational maintenance system rather than the benefit system. That is why, as a general principle, full-time students are precluded from entitlement to income-related and income-maintenance benefits administered by DWP.

6th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what progress she has made on changing the six months to live rule that her Department uses to determine accessibility to additional support for people who are terminally ill.

In July 2019, the Secretary of State announced an in-depth evaluation of how the benefits system supports people nearing the end of their life. The evaluation included 3 strands of research:

- hearing directly from claimants and charities about their first-hand experiences;

- considering international evidence to find out what works in other nations and the support they provide; and

- reviewing current DWP performance to better understand how our Special Rules for Terminal Illness process operates and performs.

The evaluation remains a priority for the Department. The Department has made good progress and we expect to be able to provide an update on the outcome of the evaluation shortly.

1st Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what comparative assessment her Department has made of the number of DS1500 forms issued during March to June (a) 2020 and (b) 2019.

The DS1500 is not issued by DWP. It is completed by a terminally ill patient’s doctor or other healthcare professional and returned to DWP. The doctor or healthcare professional provides information about their patient’s condition, including its clinical features and ongoing or planned treatment on the DS1500.

The DS1500 is not a claim form in itself and is not a requirement to support a claim under the special rules for terminal illness but it remains the quickest and most appropriate route to gather evidence to support entitlement in these cases.

Guidance for Healthcare Professionals can be found here

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-factual-medical-reports-guidance-for-healthcare-professionals/dwp-medical-factual-reports-a-guide-to-completion

26th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will extend the universal credit overpayment debt recovery pause for as long as covid-19 outbreak continues.

We are currently in the process of reviewing this measure, and will confirm next steps as soon as possible.

Will Quince
Minister of State (Education)
23rd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure the continuity of statutory sick pay payments for those individuals asked to continue to shielding beyond 1 August 2020.

The current epidemiological data shows the risk is currently low enough to allow the relaxation in guidance that we have outlined. From 1 August. the Government will further relax advice to those shielding, bringing it in line with the advice to those who are clinically vulnerable. In broad terms, this means that although the advice is still to stay at home as much as possible, those shielding may wish to go out to more places and see more people, as long as they take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household and follow hygiene measures. This means that if they are unable to work from home but can work on site, they should do so, provided the business is COVID-safe. Therefore, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable.

The government expects employers to do the right thing to help their employees to transition back to work safely and support them to follow strict social distancing in the workplace where they cannot work from home.

If employers cannot provide a safe working environment, they will still be able to access a range of government support: this includes the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees who have previously been furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30 June and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Guidance around shielding will be continually reviewed and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice. We will continue to assess the support in place should advice to shield be reinstated.

Background

  • Employees will remain eligible for SSP if they are unable to work and are required to self-isolate because they, or someone in their household, has symptoms of COVID-19, or because they have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus.
  • SSP also remains available to those who are off sick for reasons other than coronavirus.
  • SSP eligibility conditions apply.
19th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of guaranteeing a minimum child maintenance payment during the covid-19 outbreak.

There is no plan for any such assessment, the purpose of the Child Maintenance Service is to facilitate the payment of child maintenance between separated parents.

No one should use the pandemic as an excuse to avoid their child maintenance payments. Where paying parents experience a change in income, we can review their case and check if the amount paid should change. If it does not, they should continue to make payments.

We know the majority of parents take their responsibilities extremely seriously and will do what is needed to ensure their children are supported.

19th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of whether the Child Maintenance Service is facing additional delays in the handling of cases as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

The CMS has made temporary changes to services to ensure we continue to support separated parents as part of our wider efforts to provide financial support through the welfare system.

The CMS has updated guidance on telephone and online services to encourage parents to report changes online where possible, except where changes must be reported by phone.

In order to ensure that receiving parents do not lose out in the long run, the Service will update cases with notified changes as soon as possible. Where payments have been missed the Service will take action to re-establish compliance and collect any unpaid amounts that may have accrued.

17th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to ensure that people continue to have access to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) while complaint processing with the Independent Case Examiner exceeds PHSO complaint review timeframes.

Decisions on whether to accept a complaint which has not exhausted DWP’s complaint processes – including its independent tier - rest with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s Office.

8th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of maintaining the suspension of face-to-face health assessments until the final phase of the lockdown period is entered during the covid-19 outbreak.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 9 June 2020 to Question UIN 52251.

8th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department has undertaken to ensure that people classed as terminally ill but have not submitted a DS1500 continue to have their claims for employment support allowance managed in a timely manner.

DS1500 forms have never been a requirement for a claim under the terminal illness rules but remain the quickest and most appropriate route to gather evidence to support entitlement in these cases. Where it is not possible to supply a DS1500 in support of a terminal illness claim we will continue to consider alternative evidence and work flexibly and quickly with the claimant and/or their clinician(s) to make a quick determination. Supporting people who are terminally ill is an absolute priority for the Department and we will continue to process claims as quickly as possible.

1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department has taken to support (a) people who have recently received a cancer diagnosis and (b) other people who would normally require work capability assessments for (a) universal credit and (b) new style contributory employment support allowance to access additional support.

From 17 March 2020 we suspended all face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits, initially for three months, to protect vulnerable people and assessment centre staff from unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19. We continue to complete paper based assessments where possible and have introduced telephone assessments.

Where a claimant declares they have cancer in the ESA/UC50 Health Questionnaire a Health care practitioner considers this evidence and in the majority of cases a recommendation will be made at this stage based on the papers alone.

If it is not possible to complete an assessment based on the paper evidence, a WCA will be conducted, where possible, over the telephone in coming months. We anticipate customers may experience a longer wait to be referred for their assessment and for the assessment to take place during this period, as we have redeployed some staff to manage unprecedented volumes of demand for benefits. Backdating rules mean that claimants will not lose out in the long-run.

15th May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is to ensure that change of circumstance based PIP2 application forms are assessed in a timely manner during the covid 19 outbreak.

The Department continues to process both New Claims and Changes of Circumstance and encourage anyone with a change in their needs to contact the Department so that we can ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.

22nd Apr 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of increasing the benefit cap in line with increases in universal credit to ensure additional support is available for families.

The Benefit Cap restores fairness between those receiving out-of-work benefits and taxpayers in employment.

The Government has quickly and effectively introduced £6.5bn of measures that benefit those facing the most severe financial disruption. DWP is experiencing significant increased demand as such the safety and stability of the benefits system must be prioritised.

Claimants can approach their Local Authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment if they need additional help to meet rental costs.

13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department is taking steps to help people who are owed refunds by covid-19 travel testing companies that have ceased operations.

Where a customer service issue with a private testing provider arises, this should be raised directly with the provider. The terms and conditions of sale provide further information on consumers’ rights. Where this cannot be resolved by the provider, guidance on consumer rights is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/consumer-protection-rights

In specific circumstances, the Department will support the relevant regulatory bodies, such as Trading Standards, to investigate the provider.

Maggie Throup
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
21st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of additional contracts with the ZOE Covid Study.

The Government will continue monitoring the virus through maintaining surveillance studies such as the Office for National Statistics’ COVID-19 Infection Survey and other data sources, including genomic sequencing. The Government will keep all surveillance activities under review to ensure we have the capabilities to monitor waves of COVID-19 and defend against future variants.

Maggie Throup
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
4th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of a dedicated research fund for research into fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.

No specific assessment has been made. The Department provides over £1 billion to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to deliver health and social care research. The usual practice of the NIHR is not to ring-fence funds for expenditure on particular topics and to welcome funding applications into any aspect of human health. Applications are subject to peer review and judged in open competition.

Maria Caulfield
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
1st Dec 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how much of the £20 million committed by his Department in 2018 to brain tumour research over a five year period is still to be allocated; and what assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on brain tumour research funding.

Since this funding was announced in February 2018, a further £20 million was announced in May 2018, bringing the total planned investment to £40 million over five years.

The information on spending still to be allocated is not held in the format requested. The National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) infrastructure spending on cancer research does not record the specific type of cancer. Studies can be applicable to cancer in general, such as the type of tumour and research on supportive and palliative care interventions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic many of the NIHR’s research programmes, studies and trials were necessarily paused. However, the NIHR’s funding competitions remained open throughout, including for brain tumour research.

Maria Caulfield
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
22nd Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the Answer of 26 October 2021 to question 60443 on NHS: Pensions, what equalities impact assessment his Department has made on the potential effect of not equalising Survivor Pension Benefits rules for people who are unable to enter into new marriages or co-habit with a partner as a result of the pre-2008 NHS Survivor Pension rules without losing their entitlements on pensions for women and men who are seeking to re-marry or co-habit with a new partner.

Equality Impact Assessments are regularly performed to facilitate and evidence compliance with Government’s duties under the Equality Act 2010. However, such assessments are not a statutory requirement. The prospective improvements to survivor benefit terms were implemented in 2008 and so was not subject to this process at the time. Equality Impact Assessments are not usually produced where a policy remains unchanged as in this case.

15th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact on health outcomes of (a) the ending of the £20 uplift to universal credit uplift, (b) increases to inflation and (c) increases in energy costs.

The Department has not undertaken an assessment. It is the responsibility of each Government Department to assess the impacts of its own policies.

Maggie Throup
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department makes of the transparency of other nations' (a) covid-19 medical case rate reporting and (b) media freedom to discuss the covid-19 pandemic prior to making decisions on potential inclusion of those countries on the UK's list of covid-19 acute risk countries for international travel during the covid-19 pandemic.

The decision to include countries on the ‘red list’ is made by the Government, informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice from a world-leading range of experts. Data includes evidence of variants of concern, epidemiology, imported cases and traveller volumes. The list of red list countries is kept consistently under review.

The Government is committed to the open sharing of the scientific advice guiding our response to COVID-19 where possible. Transparency and confidence of reported data by other countries is considered as part of the assessment process. We continue to engage and encourage other countries to share best practice and data.

20th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department makes of the transparency of nations' (a) covid-19 medical case rate reporting and (b) media freedom to discuss the covid-19 pandemic prior to making decisions on potential inclusion of those countries on the covid-19 acute risk list.

It has not proved possible to respond to the hon. Member in the time available before prorogation.

16th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on groups who may not have a permanent or stable home address of the use of agencies usually used for credit checks in the verification of individuals' addresses when giving access to covid-19 antibody testing.

The identity verification check in place could potentially cause accessibility issues for those with no fixed abode. Therefore, the verification check was deactivated in November 2020 for both antigen testing and antibody testing to ensure there were no barriers to testing. It has not been used in either service since.

17th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, when he plans to reply to the letters from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey of 4 December 2020 and 14 January 2021.

We replied to the hon. Member’s letter on 26 January 2021.

19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of supplies of 25mg Cyclosporin capsules in the UK.

We are not aware of any issues affecting ciclosporin 25 milligram capsules in the United Kingdom and supplies remain available.

24th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what estimate he has made of the number of individuals who have had access to an NHS Survivor Pension removed as a result of pre-2008 co-habitation and remarriage NHS Survivor Pension rules.

Since 1 April 2018, 136 individuals have had their entitlement to a survivor pension withdrawn following re-marriage or co-habitation.

24th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential cost of backdating NHS Survivor Pension changes to include people who are unable to enter into new marriages or co-habit with a partner as a result of the pre-2008 NHS Survivor Pension rules.

There are no plans currently to review existing arrangements in these circumstances.

Making changes to pension schemes retrospectively results in improvements for members who have already retired, with costs that can only be borne by the active membership and/or taxpayers in the case of the public service schemes. Such costs are frequently large, and backdating is rarely undertaken. The most recent cost estimate, in 2013, of the cost of retrospectively removing the provision for survivor pensions to cease on remarriage was around £40 million.

30th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the help available on the gov.uk website for people having difficulty accessing covid-19 antibody testing via that website.

Free antibody tests are currently only available for certain people who work in health and adult social care in England. These tests are to help the National Health Service and scientists learn more about who has already had the virus and how it has spread in the United Kingdom. Guidance on who is eligible for antibody testing and details of how to register for a test is available at the following link:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/antibody-test-to-check-if-youve-had-coronavirus/

5th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what discussions his Department has had with the General Medical Council on the difference in English language requirements necessary for doctors to access (a) the Foundation Programme and (b) GMC licensing.

The Department has regular contact with the General Medical Council (GMC) including on the English language requirements for practising medicine in the United Kingdom. The GMC is required by law to be assured that any doctor applying for registration as an international medical graduate has demonstrated, at the point of registration, that they possess the required level of English. The GMC has set its requirements at the level it believes best safeguards patient safety, whilst ensuring it does not inappropriately disrupt overseas recruitment.

Employers and training providers are entitled to set their own requirements as part of their selection processes which may reflect their specific needs in relation to their training and working environments. This means entry requirements to the UK Foundation Programme may differ from the minimum required for GMC registration.

16th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what comparative assessment his Department has made of the average cost of a covid-19 test when using (a) commercial partner and (b) NHS-owned laboratories.

The information requested is commercially sensitive. The cost will also vary depending on the delivery channel used, the logistics involved and the laboratory that processes the test results.

23rd Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions his Department has had with the East African Community (EAC) on the impact of UK-Rwanda relations on regional security following the signing of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership, in the context of the EAC's regional force's announced deployment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to combat M23.

In recent weeks we have raised our concerns about the increase in violence, hate speech and increased movement of armed groups with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda, as well as the leadership of the UN Peacekeeping Mission, MONUSCO. The UK engages frequently and at a senior level with the Partner States of the East African Community (EAC) on regional security issues through our missions, and in the UK. The Prime Minister discussed these issues with Rwandan President Kagame during CHOGM last week and I [Minister Ford] most recently spoke with the Rwandan Foreign Minister on 16 June and the DRC Minister for Planning on 24 June to re-iterate the need for all sides to continue to work together to deliver de-escalation on the ground and an end to hate speech.

The UK is committed to supporting regional efforts to build stability and reduce violence in DRC, and we welcome the recent meeting of regional Heads of State in Nairobi towards this end. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, including developments on the deployment of the EAC's regional force.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
23rd Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent discussions his Department has had with his Rwandan counterparts on (a) the resurgence in violence by M23 and (b) regional security in Central Africa.

In recent weeks we have raised our concerns about the increase in violence, hate speech and increased movement of armed groups with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda, as well as the leadership of the UN Peacekeeping Mission, MONUSCO. The UK engages frequently and at a senior level with the Partner States of the East African Community (EAC) on regional security issues through our missions, and in the UK. The Prime Minister discussed these issues with Rwandan President Kagame during CHOGM last week and I [Minister Ford] most recently spoke with the Rwandan Foreign Minister on 16 June and the DRC Minister for Planning on 24 June to re-iterate the need for all sides to continue to work together to deliver de-escalation on the ground and an end to hate speech.

The UK is committed to supporting regional efforts to build stability and reduce violence in DRC, and we welcome the recent meeting of regional Heads of State in Nairobi towards this end. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, including developments on the deployment of the EAC's regional force.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions officials in her Department have had with their Australian counterparts on the recognition of assistance dogs travelling from the UK.

To date, no such discussions have been held. We understand that Australia has regulations in place to manage biosecurity risks of bringing dogs into the country. While there are different entry requirements for assistance dogs, this entails additional administration to confirm a dog is a legitimate and certified assistance dog.

Amanda Milling
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of adding all members of Vladimir Putin's political party, United Russia, to the UK's financial sanctions regime.

We do not speculate on future sanctions. However, we have made clear that we will continue to increase pressure on Putin's regime to ensure he is unable to fuel his barbaric war machine. Nothing and no one is off the table. We have now sanctioned over 1400 individuals, entities and subsidiaries since Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The ultimate objective is to ensure that Putin fails in Ukraine. The whole of the UK government, along with our international allies, is working to ensure that happens.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of implementation of secondary sanctions against organisations and individuals undertaking economic or military activity with sanctioned Russian entities and individuals.

We do not speculate on future sanctions, but have made clear that we will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Putin. In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine we have announced an unprecedented package of sanctions. We have sanctioned over 1400 individuals and businesses since the invasion. UK sanctions apply to any individual or entity in the UK, and to any UK individual or entity globally. The UK's sanctions therefore apply to multinationals' UK operations, as well as any relevant economic activity involving a UK person.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
30th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of offering Ukrainian authorities support and provision for (a) specialist medical services for victims of sexual violence during the war in Ukraine and (b) a dedicated specialist prosecution service to ensure justice for victims of sexual violence used as a weapon during the war in Ukraine.

The UK is supporting survivors through our humanitarian funding. We have worked with partners to refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court and to establish a Commission of Inquiry through the UN Human Rights Council. The UK is funding the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to gather evidence of human rights violations and abuses. We are deploying specialist UK expertise to strengthen the response to sexual violence in Ukraine. On 13 April at the UN Security Council, Lord Ahmad launched the Murad Code, which sets out how those collecting evidence of conflict-related sexual violence can respect survivors' rights and ensure investigations are safer, more ethical, and more effective.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
30th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 23 of March 2022 to Question 145909 on Chechnya and Russia: Sanctions, whether she has made an additional assessment of the potential merits of sanctioning, alongside absentia prosecutions, people involved in (a) sexual violence as a weapon of war and (b) wider war crimes committed during the siege of Mariupol.

We are working with international partners to strengthen the response to conflict-related sexual violence. We have worked with partners to refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court, to establish a Commission of Inquiry through the UN Human Rights Council and, with the support of Ukraine, the OSCE Mission of Experts.

We condemn the Russian atrocities in Mariupol, including attacks on schools sheltering civilians and the abduction and deportation of Ukrainians. Russia's use of indiscriminate force against civilians in its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine amounts to war crimes, and the Putin regime must be held accountable for the devastation and destruction it has inflicted on the people of Ukraine.

We continue to hold the Russian Government to account. We have announced an unprecedented package of sanctions targeting over 1400 individuals and businesses since Putin's invasion. We will continue to apply this pressure against Russia, in coordination with allies, through further waves of sanctions.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
23rd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether she has made an assessment of the potential merits of implementing broad sanctions against Russian and Chechen service personnel and Commanders involved in the siege of Mariupol.

We have now sanctioned over 1200 individuals and entities since Putin's invasion of Ukraine. We are focusing our efforts on those measures which will have the biggest impact. The UK has targeted Russia's political elite, introduced powers to cut off the Russian banking sector from the UK, and introduced restrictive trade measures. We have acted against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian Government. We will not comment on future sanctions but, as our recent announcements have shown, nothing and no one is off the table.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
7th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of (a) supplying sexual assault forensic evidence kits to the Government of Ukraine, and (b) paying for the processing of those kits to take place in the UK, so as to enable the international prosecution of commanders and service personnel who commit rape as a war crime during the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia's use of indiscriminate force against innocent civilians, in its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, must be investigated and those responsible must be held to account. That is why the UK led efforts to bring together allies on 2 March to expedite an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into Russian war crimes in Ukraine. With 37 countries joining the UK, it is the largest referral in the history of the ICC. As a founder member of the ICC, the UK is willing to provide the necessary technical assistance to support successful convictions.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
7th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of establishing an extensive emergency law enforcement taskforce to target Russian sanctions evasion and the financial assets of people linked to Vladimir Putin and the Russian State.

The new dedicated 'Kleptocracy Cell' in the National Crime Agency will target criminal sanctions evasion and corrupt assets hidden in the UK. The Government is working with the NCA to establish the new Cell at pace and the NCA have already surged additional officers to support existing efforts and will further enhance the Cell to progress these complex investigations. The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) works extremely closely with the NCA, and this includes close cooperation on sanctions breaches.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
2nd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions officials in her Department have had with representatives of British Overseas Territories to ensure that cryptocurrency exchanges based in those territories are not used by (a) individuals trying to evade sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and (b) the Russian state for the purposes of purchasing materials for the war in Ukraine.

The United Kingdom's sanctions regimes apply to all of the Overseas Territories, who work with the UK Government to implement these regimes. The Overseas Territories are committed to upholding international standards in financial services, including those set by the Financial Action Task force on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing. This includes requirements on regulating virtual assets.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
18th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps her Department is taking to (a) identify and (b) fund projects following the launch of the £65 million Just Rural Transition support programme at COP26.

The Just Rural Transition Support Programme will work with developing countries to design and implement approaches that help their farmers build resilience and drive investment into more sustainable methods of agriculture through repurposing agricultural policies and support. This programme will build on and scale-up current UK Government support to the Just Rural Transition (£9 million, 2020-23), which is helping countries to take initial steps towards implementing sustainable land use policies and practices, to deliver benefits for people, climate and nature. Programme funds will be used for analytical support to help identify opportunities, technical assistance to design new policies and support schemes, engagement with farmer groups and local communities in the development of schemes, and assisting with the resources required to run trials and pilots leading on to implementation at scale. The programme is still at the design phase with the selection of partner countries expected to follow later this year.

The Just Rural Transition programme builds on an existing $2 million partnership with the World Bank that is currently supporting nine countries to assess opportunities for repurposing public policies and support and on funding to a Policy Action Coalition under the Just Rural Transition initiative to support a transition to sustainable agriculture.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
10th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what plans her Department has to send observers to attend the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Meeting of States Parties due to be held in Vienna in July 2022.

The Government does not believe the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will bring us closer to a world without nuclear weapons. The UK will not sign the Treaty and will not be sending Observers to the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW. The Government firmly believes that the best way to achieve our collective goal of a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach, under the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
4th Jan 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent discussions she has had with her Libyan counterpart on obtaining support for UK authorities' investigations within Libya into the case of Constable Yvonne Fletcher.

The Government cannot comment on the details of this case. This is one of the most notorious crimes of the last forty years, representing an act of state-sponsored terrorism, which resulted in the murder of a serving police officer on the streets of London. WPC Fletcher's death remains as shocking and senseless today as the day it occurred, and I understand that the decision not to prosecute remains disappointing and frustrating for all her family, friends and colleagues.

James Cleverly
Secretary of State for Education
22nd Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of the 17 November 2021 to Question 73901, on Travel; Cyprus, whether her Department has considered putting in place interim measures to enable travellers from Northern Cyprus who are not able to access the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) to travel to the UK during the 2021-22 winter holiday period.

Whilst we are looking at whether there are ways to address the issue of access to UK-accepted certificates for certain people vaccinated in the north of Cyprus, people in this group can still travel to England, but will have to take a pre-departure test, a day 2 and day 8 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days. Under the Test to Release scheme they can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test on day 5. If the result is negative (and the result of the day 2 test was negative or inconclusive), they can end their quarantine.

Wendy Morton
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
12th Nov 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of recognising Covid-19 Vaccine Certificates from Northern Cyprus from 22 November 2021.

People vaccinated in the north of Cyprus with access to the European Union Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) can use this to evidence their vaccine status. We understand that some people vaccinated in the north of Cyprus may not have access to a UK-accepted certificate and are looking at whether there are ways to address this.

Wendy Morton
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he has had with his counterparts in other countries on promoting global transparency in the reporting of covid-19 case numbers.

Accurately reporting COVID-19 case numbers is critical to mounting an effective response to the pandemic, but is often challenging given limitations in testing capacity, particularly in lower income countries. The UK has supported testing capacity in some vulnerable countries. We have also supported seroprevalence surveys in some countries, which go beyond reported numbers to estimate the true numbers infected, with results published to ensure transparency.

The UK has actively worked to secure the G20 "Call to Action on Corruption and COVID-19," which includes specific commitments around promoting transparency in responses to COVID-19, and we will continue to play a leadership role on the open data agenda internationally.

Wendy Morton
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether he has taken steps to support British nationals overseas in accessing covid-19 vaccines.

We are closely following other countries' plans to roll out vaccines. We are providing information through Travel Advice pages and 'Living In' guides on gov.uk to inform British Nationals of healthcare options available to them and how they can receive a vaccine locally. The UK is playing a leading international role to ensure global access to COVID-19 vaccines. For example, we have contributed £548m to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to ensure that the 92 most vulnerable economies have access to COVID-19 vaccines, and I [Minister Adams] am delighted that this is starting to deliver, with delivery this week to Ghana of COVID-19 vaccines.

Nigel Adams
Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister without Portfolio)
27th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with his European counterparts on Gibraltar's inclusion in the UK's negotiations on its future relationship with the EU.

The UK continues to negotiate for the whole UK family, which includes Gibraltar. We remain fully committed to finding a solution that supports Gibraltar, its people and its economy.

The UK and the Government of Gibraltar have held a number of constructive discussions with Spain on this issue. It is clearly in all parties' interests to find a solution, to ensure ongoing well-being and prosperity in the region.

Wendy Morton
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
27th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the future trade relationship of Gibraltar with the EU.

The UK continues to negotiate for the whole UK family, which includes Gibraltar. We remain fully committed to finding a solution that supports Gibraltar, its people and its economy.

The UK and the Government of Gibraltar have held a number of constructive discussions with Spain on this issue. It is clearly in all parties' interests to find a solution, to ensure ongoing well-being and prosperity in the region.

Wendy Morton
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that people who have been requested to shield during the covid-19 outbreak do not face discrimination in relation to employment retention by their employers.

The Government is actively monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market and will continue to do so.

Any employee who considers that their dismissal was unfair, whether for a reason related to Covid-19 or otherwise, can complain to an employment tribunal, subject to a qualifying period of continuous service of 2 years. Guidance on what constitutes unfair dismissal or pressure to come into work if you are shielding is available from ACAS: Coronavirus: shielding and vulnerable people.

13th Jul 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he has had discussions with Cabinet colleagues on taking steps to help ensure that long-term fuel prices do not contribute to inflation.

To date, higher inflation has been pushed up by global pressures, such as the economic recovery from Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a result, supply chain bottlenecks and restricted access to oil has increased the cost of fuel.

At Spring Statement 2022 in response to high fuel prices, the government announced a temporary 12-month cut to duty on petrol and diesel of 5p per litre. This is the largest cash-terms cut across all fuel duty rates at once, ever, and is only the second time in 20 years that main rates of petrol and diesel have been cut. This cut represents savings for households and businesses worth around £2.4 billion in 2022-23.

Alan Mak
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
24th Jun 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of introducing tax rebates on VAT for key workers in respect of petrol and diesel purchases for travel to work.

In response to fuel prices reaching their highest ever levels, the Government announced at Spring Statement 2022 a temporary 12-month cut to duty on petrol and diesel of 5p per litre across the UK. This cut represents savings for households and businesses worth around £2.4 billion in 2022-23.

VAT has been designed as a broad-based tax on consumption and the twenty per cent standard rate applies to the vast majority of goods and services, including VAT on road fuel. Whilst there are exceptions to the standard rate, these have always been strictly limited by both legal and fiscal considerations.

A key principle of the VAT system is that similar supplies are subject to similar levels of VAT. The Government keeps all taxes under constant review, but there are no plans to offer VAT rebates on fuel for key workers.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
24th Jun 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the likelihood of VAT inflating petrol and diesel prices as retail prices increase.

Unique circumstances globally, including the war in Ukraine, have pushed pump prices up to unprecedented levels. In response to fuel prices reaching their highest ever levels, the Government announced at Spring Statement 2022 a temporary 12-month cut to duty on petrol and diesel of 5p per litre across the UK. This cut represents savings for households and businesses worth around £2.4 billion in 2022-23.

VAT has been designed as a broad-based tax on consumption, and the twenty per cent standard rate applies to the vast majority of goods and services. While there are exceptions to the standard rate, these have always been strictly limited by both legal and fiscal considerations. VAT makes a significant contribution to the public finances and, according to OBR forecasts, will have raised approximately £135 billion in 2021/22. As you will know, any reduction in tax paid is a reduction in the money available to support important public services, including the NHS and policing.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that NHS staff who undertake overtime can avoid cliff edge tax arrangements for the taxation on their pensions as a result of the annual allowance taper.

The Government is committed to ensuring that hard-working NHS staff do not find themselves reducing their work commitments due to the interaction between their pay, their pension, and the relevant tax regime.

In April 2020, the Government raised the thresholds above which the tapered annual allowance applies by £90,000. As a result, no one with a net income before tax below £200,000 is now affected by the tapered annual allowance. In addition, the annual allowance only begins to taper down for individuals who also have total income (including pension accrual) above £240,000. It is estimated that these changes have taken up to 96% of GPs and up to 98% of NHS consultants outside the scope of the tapered annual allowance.

These changes allow pension savers to build significant retirement savings tax free, while also ensuring that the highest earning pension savers do not receive a disproportionate benefit from pension tax relief.

14th Apr 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of giving protection to funeral plan policy holders who have bought funeral plans from firms who might enter into administration before the change to the regulatory regime on 29 July 2022.

In January 2021, the government legislated to bring all pre-paid funeral plan providers and intermediaries within the regulatory remit of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means that by 29 July 2022 all funeral plan providers must be authorised by the FCA.

Safe Hands Plans has recently gone into administration. I am aware that the current situation will be distressing for customers of Safe Hands and can assure you that the Treasury continues to monitor the implementation of regulation in this sector closely.

While the FCA does not yet regulate funeral plan providers, it is currently supporting the industry and administrators to see if a longer-term solution is possible for Safe Hands’ customers.

It is regrettable that bringing a previously unregulated sector into regulation – whatever form that may take – creates a possibility that some providers are not able to meet the threshold for authorisation. However, a well-regulated market should promote effective competition and drive better outcomes for consumers in the long-term.

Where a provider is unable to obtain FCA authorisation because of underlying issues, it is important to understand that this is not an issue created by bringing the sector into regulation. Rather, bringing the sector into regulation exposes these unsustainable business models and prevents these problems from getting worse and impacting more consumers.

The Government’s legislation has allowed for an 18-month transition period before the new regulatory regime comes fully into force on 29 July 2022. This transition period was intended to give existing providers sufficient time to prepare for the new regulatory requirements. The FCA’s guidance is clear that providers who are not seeking or not able to obtain authorisation should either transfer their existing plans to a provider which is seeking authorisation, or wind down in an orderly way before regulation starts.

28th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent estimate he has made of average HMRC telephony response times; and what recent assessment he has made of the (a) adequacy and (b) effectiveness of HMRC telephony response times.

Information on HMRC’s performance is published here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmrc-monthly-performance-reports

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmrc-quarterly-performance-updates

HMRC is in discussion with HMT and Ministers to agree expected performance levels and commitments for 2022-23. These will be presented in the Outcome Delivery Plan, to be published early in 2022-23.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
24th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions officials in his Department have had with counterparts in allied nations on cancelling Ukraine's national debt.

The UK continues to engage with counterparts in allied nations, including G7 partners and International Financial Institutions, on progressing current and future support to Ukraine.

Alongside our allies, we’ve hit Russia with the most severe package of sanctions it has ever seen. Our economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine also now totals around £400 million. This includes a £220 million package of aid, making the UK a leading bilateral humanitarian donor; a £100 million grant to support Ukraine’s energy and security reforms, primarily delivered through World Bank programmes; and a $100 million budgetary support grant, which contributed to a package agreed on 8 March of over $700 million for direct fiscal support to Ukraine via the World Bank, to help mitigate direct economic impacts. The UK also agreed to guarantee up to $500 million of lending by multilateral development banks operating in the region, with at least $450 million being earmarked to scale up World Bank lending, which will enable them to significantly scale up their financial support offer to Ukraine.

23rd Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of a unified system for accounts data between HMRC and Companies House.

HMRC are already joined up with Companies House in several areas relating to accounts data, including company registrations, small company accounts filings, and the automatic ingestion of bulk accounts data.

“File once with Government” proposal has been publicly consulted upon, with responses reported in the recently issued BEIS White Paper on “Corporate Transparency and Register Reform”, issued on 28 February 2022. The White Paper can be found at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/corporate-transparency-and-register-reform .

The “File once with Government” concept would enable companies to file their financial information with the Government once, instead of filing elements of information separately with each department that requires it. The concept generated significant public support.

The White Paper noted the potential benefits of unified data and systems, including increased efficiency and effectiveness of Government agencies in their ability to regulate, monitor and prevent fraudulent activity, making more effective use of public money.

Some of the other proposals included in the White Paper, such as fully iXBRL-tagged digital accounts, would help to lay the foundations for “Filing once with Government”. However, technological and legislative challenges still remain.

Whilst there are no firm plans at this time, the Government is currently exploring the “File once with Government” proposals, and will continue to explore this within the current “Corporate Transparency and Register Reform” project.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
17th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of changes to rebated fuel entitlements on the (a) commercial viability of animal cremation and (b) costs for local authorities in rural areas undertaking animal cremations.

Following consultation in 2020, the Chancellor confirmed at Spring Budget 2021 that the Government will remove the entitlement to use red diesel from most sectors from April 2022. This will more fairly reflect the negative environmental impact of the emissions they produce and help to ensure that the tax system incentivises the development and adoption of greener alternative technologies.

The Government did not believe that the cases made by sectors that will not retain their red diesel entitlement outweighed the need to ensure fairness between the different users of diesel fuels and the Government’s environmental objectives.

10th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answers of the 28 January 2022 to Question 110444 and 13 January 2022 to Question 103583 on on Housing: Building Alterations, what analysis his Department has conducted of VAT relief requests to determine the around £50 billion figure for all VAT reliefs requested following the EU Referendum.

HM Treasury, alongside HMRC, has modelled the cost implications of relief requests from VAT received since the EU referendum. These are then combined, excluding any duplicates, to produce the total figure for VAT relief requests.

Any new VAT reliefs would impose additional pressure on the public finances, to which VAT makes a significant contribution. VAT raised around £130 billion in the year 2019-20 and helps to fund key spending priorities. Any reduction in tax paid is a reduction in the money available to support important public services, including the NHS and policing.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
10th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department has taken to help ensure that no financial benefits from licensed football activities at Chelsea Football Club go to (a) sanctioned individuals, (b) sanctioned entities, (c) entities where the beneficial owner is a sanctioned individual or (d) the Russian Government.

Roman Abramovich is a designated person, subject to financial sanctions. This means that all funds and economic resources belonging to him are subject to an asset freeze in the UK. As such, Chelsea Football Club and its subsidiaries are also subject to an asset freeze.

General Licence INT/2022/1327076 permits the Club to undertake activities that are necessary to carry out its business as a football club, including playing and hosting fixtures. Although the licence allows payment to the club for certain activities those funds will be frozen; Roman Abramovich will not be able to access them. The licence only permits certain limited activities, it does not authorise anyone to deal with Roman Abramovich’s funds or economic resources, or make funds or economic resources available, to him or the Club outside the terms of the licence.

9th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of a mechanism by which, under IR35 rules, the deemed payment figure declared to HMRC, as reported by the fee payer, can be altered to enable the gross employee wages to be changed for tax calculation purposes, in circumstances where the personal service company has not paid the whole fee to the employee as wages, in relation to (a) Employers National Insurance, (b) Employees National Insurance, (c) the Apprenticeship Levy and (d) Personal Income Tax.

The Off-Payroll working rules, commonly known as IR35, have been in place for over twenty years and are designed to ensure that individuals working like employees but through their own company, usually a personal service company (PSC), pay broadly the same Income Tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) as those who are directly employed.

If the rules are determined to apply to an engagement, the deemed employer will operate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to deduct any Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) due from the gross wage before paying this to the PSC. The deemed employer is also responsible for paying any employer NICs and the Apprenticeship Levy, if applicable.

As PAYE has already been operated on the payment, this income will not be subject to any further taxation. How the PSC decides to remunerate the worker out of this income will therefore have no bearing on the calculation of tax that is collected through PAYE by the deemed employer on the gross wage.

Were the measure of deemed employment income under the off-payroll rules to be limited to the wages paid by the PSC to the worker, as suggested, the worker would be able to decide how much tax they wished to pay, undermining the intention that those working like employees should pay tax like employees.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
7th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to ensure robust regulatory mechanisms are in place for the sale and transfer of digital financial assets, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to prevent Russian organisations and individuals from evading sanctions relating to the war in Ukraine.

Financial sanctions regulations do not differentiate between cryptoassets and other forms of assets. Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) guidance states that crypto assets are an economic resource and are caught by financial sanctions restrictions

All persons in the UK are subject to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, and the circumvention of sanctions is a criminal offence. The financial sanctions regime is enforced by OFSI, working in cooperation with the National Crime Agency.

Cryptoasset exchange providers, custodian wallet providers, electronic money institutions and payment service providers are in scope of the UK’s Money Laundering Regulations. These businesses must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority for anti-money laundering supervision, and are expected to apply risk-sensitive customer due diligence measures in order to identify and verify the customer and understand the purpose behind their transactions. This includes checking that the customer is not subject to sanctions and does not intend to use the services for criminal purposes, including assisting others in the evasion of sanctions.

In addition, the government will shortly publish a response to its recent consultation on creating a requirement for entities to collect, verify, transmit, and retain specified information about the beneficiary and originator of a transfer of cryptoassets, to assist in the prevention and detection of illicit financial transfers.

7th Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the financial impact on Russia's ability to continue to fund its war in Ukraine of the winding down transactions window granted to VTB Bank before sanctions come fully into force.

VTB Bank PJSC has been subject to a full asset freeze since 24/02/2022.

General Licence INT/2022/1272278 permits only the wind down of existing activity for third parties and expires on 27 March 2022. The general licence has been granted to reduce disruption in the UK financial system, not to permit VTB to proactively exit positions. It ensures that VTB will not benefit from a situation where UK persons cannot close out their positions or wind down transactions involving the bank.

2nd Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of creating additional identification requirements for people making purchases from UK-based businesses using cryptocurrencies to help prevent (a) individuals and (b) the Russian state avoid sanctions related to the war in Ukraine.

Under the Money Laundering Regulations, cryptoasset exchanges and custodian wallet providers operating in the UK must conduct customer due diligence checks to verify a customer’s identity and, where applicable, the beneficial owner of the customer, and ascertain the nature of the business relationship or transaction. This includes checking that the prospective customer is not subject to sanctions, and does not intend to use the business relationship or transaction for criminal purposes, such as unlicensed arms dealing. Where the customer is a Politically Exposed Person or is deemed otherwise high-risk of being involved in money-laundering or sanctions evasion, the firm must conduct Enhanced Due Diligence.

These requirements are in line with the globally agreed recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. The Financial Conduct Authority has contacted cryptoasset firms to make clear their obligations in relation to preventing sanctions evasion, and the government will continue to consider what more can be done to further reduce the risk of sanctioned individuals or entities using cryptoassets.

2nd Mar 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that cryptocurrency cannot be used to make purchases in the UK by (a) individuals sanctioned due to the war between Russia and Ukraine and (b) the Russian state to buy war materials within the UK.

Under the Money Laundering Regulations, cryptoasset exchanges and custodian wallet providers operating in the UK must conduct customer due diligence checks to verify a customer’s identity and, where applicable, the beneficial owner of the customer, and ascertain the nature of the business relationship or transaction. This includes checking that the prospective customer is not subject to sanctions, and does not intend to use the business relationship or transaction for criminal purposes, such as unlicensed arms dealing. Where the customer is a Politically Exposed Person or is deemed otherwise high-risk of being involved in money-laundering or sanctions evasion, the firm must conduct Enhanced Due Diligence.

These requirements are in line with the globally agreed recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. The Financial Conduct Authority has contacted cryptoasset firms to make clear their obligations in relation to preventing sanctions evasion, and the government will continue to consider what more can be done to further reduce the risk of sanctioned individuals or entities using cryptoassets.

23rd Feb 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of reducing the rate VAT on the energy used whilst charging electric vehicles batteries at public electric charge points to the level of VAT on energy used at domestic household vehicle charging points, as part of the fiscal forecast to be published on 23 March 2022.

The Government has no plans to review the VAT treatment of electric vehicle charging.

In order to keep costs down for families, all domestic fuel and power, including the supply of electricity for domestic use, attracts the reduced rate of VAT at 5 per cent. Therefore, the reduced rate also applies to charging electric vehicles at home. However, electricity supplied at electric vehicle charging points in public places is subject to the standard rate of VAT at 20 per cent.

Expanding the existing relief would come at a cost. VAT makes a significant contribution towards the public finances, raising around £130 billion in 2019-20, and helps to fund the Government's priorities including the NHS, schools, and defence. Any loss in tax revenue would have to be balanced by a reduction in public spending, increased borrowing, or increased taxation elsewhere.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
31st Jan 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions officials in his Department have had with HMRC on ensuring that documentation asked for from self-employed people during Tax Credits claims allows for (a) claimants to comply with their GDPR requirements, particularly in relation to requests for (i) invoices and ii) purchase orders and (b) copies of documents in order that original documents are not damaged during any necessary redaction processes made to comply with GDPR rules.

HMRC does not ask to see any of the evidence listed when considering Tax Credits Claims. They rely on information provided by the applicant. If HMRC need to check the validity of a claim, they may ask for sight of relevant documents solely for that purpose. HMRC would not redact any original documentation that they receive, it would be returned to the applicant once the contents had been considered.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
24th Jan 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 13 January 2022 to Question 103583 on Housing: Building Alterations, what recent estimate his Department has made of the cost to the Exchequer of removing VAT for all building works undertaken for the adaption of a residential property to meet a disabled persons needs has his department undertaken.

The Government has not estimated the cost to the Exchequer of removing VAT for all building works undertaken for the adaptation of a residential property to meet a disabled person’s needs.

The scope of the existing VAT reliefs covers alterations specifically for assisting with a disability.

Disabled people benefit from the zero rate of VAT on certain building works, the reduced VAT rate of 5 per cent on residential construction under certain conditions, and some additional zero-rates on alterations such as work on ramps, bathrooms, lifts, and widening doorways.

Although all taxes are kept under review, the Government has no plans to introduce new VAT reliefs at this time.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
21st Jan 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions his Department has had with HMRC on ensuring accurate address locations are maintained to ensure tax payers addresses reflect where people live in a devolved Nation with divergent income tax rates.

HMRC staff have access to relevant guidance to produce the right tax codes for people in devolved nations. HMRC also provides a telephone service for people who need help understanding their devolved income tax. This can be accessed by calling the normal telephone number, 0300 200 3300, and then asking for help with Scottish or Welsh income tax.

HMRC determines the residency status of individuals using address data it holds and identifies Scottish and Welsh taxpayers using this data. Special ‘S’ and ‘C’ codes are issued to employers based on the residency status identified. Taxpayers can change their address data using their Personal Tax Account and should contact HMRC if they believe their tax code is wrong. Information on how to contact HMRC can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc

HMRC regularly checks the accuracy of address data to ensure taxpayers receive the code appropriate to their residency status, and they work with employers to ensure that they are operating the right codes and monitor that this is happening. A full report of HMRC’s activities in this area is published each year. The latest versions are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/scottish-income-tax-hmrc-annual-report-2021/scottish-income-tax-hmrc-annual-report-2021

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/welsh-rates-of-income-tax-hmrc-annual-report-2021

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
21st Jan 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps he has taken to ensure that the HMRC telephone helpline services provide accurate tax codes for residents of devolved nations where income tax codes are divergent.

HMRC staff have access to relevant guidance to produce the right tax codes for people in devolved nations. HMRC also provides a telephone service for people who need help understanding their devolved income tax. This can be accessed by calling the normal telephone number, 0300 200 3300, and then asking for help with Scottish or Welsh income tax.

HMRC determines the residency status of individuals using address data it holds and identifies Scottish and Welsh taxpayers using this data. Special ‘S’ and ‘C’ codes are issued to employers based on the residency status identified. Taxpayers can change their address data using their Personal Tax Account and should contact HMRC if they believe their tax code is wrong. Information on how to contact HMRC can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc

HMRC regularly checks the accuracy of address data to ensure taxpayers receive the code appropriate to their residency status, and they work with employers to ensure that they are operating the right codes and monitor that this is happening. A full report of HMRC’s activities in this area is published each year. The latest versions are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/scottish-income-tax-hmrc-annual-report-2021/scottish-income-tax-hmrc-annual-report-2021

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/welsh-rates-of-income-tax-hmrc-annual-report-2021

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
13th Jan 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of removing all VAT from costs incurred as a result of building works undertaken in residential properties that are required to adapt a property to meet a disabled persons needs prior to the economic and fiscal forecast in spring 2022.

Disabled people benefit from the zero rate of VAT on certain building works, the reduced VAT rate of 5 per cent on residential construction under certain conditions, and some additional zero-rates on alterations, such as work on ramps, bathrooms, lifts, and widening doorways. Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/reliefs-from-vat-for-disabled-and-older-people-notice-7017

Extending the current reliefs further would come at a cost to the Exchequer, and this must be viewed in the context of around £50 billion worth of requests which have been received since the EU referendum.

Although the Government keeps all taxes under review, going further would impose additional pressure on the public finances, to which VAT makes a significant contribution. VAT raised around £130 billion in the year 2019-20, and helps to fund key spending priorities, including on health, education, and defence.
Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
4th Jan 2022
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 6 September 2021 to Question 40978 on Off-Payroll Working, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of reforming the taxation system to allow personal service companies (PSC) to claim tax relief for (a) commuting costs and (b) other expenses incurred by a contractor working through that PSC and who pays (i) Employers' National Insurance, (ii) Employees' National Insurance and (iii) the Apprenticeship Levy.

Where a contractor works through their own Personal Service Company and is within the off-payroll working rules, they can claim tax relief on expenses, including overnight stays and business travel away from their usual place of work, in the same way as those employed directly.

Such contractors can also claim tax relief on expenses, including equipment, tools, and professional fees in the same way as those employed directly.

Where someone is working within the off-payroll working rules, the deemed employer is responsible for paying Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and the Apprenticeship Levy. These costs should not be paid from the contractor’s gross pay, from which the deemed employer will deduct Income Tax and Employee NICs.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
6th Dec 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of including water and power companies and other utility providers in the list of organisations entitled to use red diesel and rebated biofuels.

Following consultation in 2020, the Chancellor confirmed at Spring Budget 2021 that the Government will remove the entitlement to use red diesel from most sectors from April 2022. This will more fairly reflect the negative environmental impact of the emissions they produce and help to ensure that the tax system incentivises the development and adoption of greener alternatives.

The Government did not believe that the cases made by sectors that will not retain their red diesel entitlement outweighed its environmental objectives.

Regarding certain utility providers, the Government will be amending the qualifying fuel definition accordingly to ensure that businesses currently using red diesel to generate electricity for supply through a licensed supplier can continue to reclaim the fuel duty, less any carbon price support payment due, once they have to use fully duty-paid diesel from 1 April 2022.

29th Nov 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of (a) the impact on members trust in the Civil Service Pension Scheme of defining the remedy costs to the 2016 valuation of that scheme as a member cost and (b) option of sharing remedy costs with scheme members.

Treasury directions confirm that schemes, including the Civil Service Pension Scheme, must take into account the expected impact of the Government’s proposal to remedy the discrimination identified by the Courts in the McCloud and Sargeant judgments when completing the cost control element of the 2016 valuations.

The remedy will give members a choice of scheme benefits for the remedy period. This represents an increase in the value of schemes to members. As the cost control mechanism was designed to assess changes in the value of schemes to members, it is right for this to be taken into account in the cost control element of the 2016 valuations.

The Government has not made a formal assessment of the impact of this on members’ trust.

The Government has announced its intention to waive any ceiling breaches that arise from the 2016 valuations, which means that no member will see a reduction to their benefits. This will be implemented through the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill.

As this relates to live litigation, it would be not be appropriate to comment further.

Simon Clarke
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
25th Oct 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of further extending the allowable time frames for Returned Goods Relief in response to the covid-19 pandemic.

The grace period allowing goods located in the EU to return to Great Britain under Returned Goods Relief has already been extended, from 31 December 2021 to 30 June 2022. The Government has no plans to extend this further.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
15th Oct 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of (a) extending HMRC's Loan Charge helpline to a 24 hour a day service and b) ensuring that mental health support workers are available through that helpline.

The Government takes concerns about the wellbeing of all taxpayers seriously and recognises that the Loan Charge can add significant pressures for some taxpayers.

Following Lord Morse’s Independent Loan Charge Review, the Government has taken further steps to mitigate the impact of the Loan Charge to ensure that the right support is in place for those who need it.

HMRC operates a settlement helpline for taxpayers who have used disguised remuneration avoidance schemes, and all call handlers are trained to identify taxpayers who might need additional support.

It would be inappropriate for HMRC, as a tax authority, to set up a helpline for those in severe mental distress. For taxpayers who need specialised help, HMRC advisors suggest they contact organisations like Samaritans or Mind.

HMRC has a well-established approach to helping those who are struggling to pay their liabilities in full. HMRC will agree a sustainable and manageable payment plan to spread the tax liability for anyone who is unable to pay in full.

Lucy Frazer
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
18th Aug 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the impact of insolvency rules on contractors who use personal service companies and who remain eligible for costs, such as pension payments, but have no income in the event that contractors fee payers are classed as the contractors employer under IR35 rules.

The Government introduced changes in April 2016 to bring people who work through employment intermediaries, including umbrella companies, into line with most workers who cannot claim tax relief for their ordinary commuting costs. Deemed employees can therefore claim tax relief on expenses, including overnight stays and business travel away from their usual place of work, in the same way as those employed directly.

Deemed employees can also claim tax relief on expenses, including equipment, tools and professional fees in the same way as those employed directly. This means that they may be able to claim tax relief where expenses are needed to allow them to do their job and it is used exclusively for work purposes.

HMRC have published advice on applying supply chain due diligence principles to assure labour supply chains including where an umbrella company is used by public sector bodies, which can be found on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-labour-providers/advice-on-applying-supply-chain-due-diligence-principles-to-assure-your-labour-supply-chains.

Under the off-payroll working rules, the fee-payer will become the deemed employer of the individual for tax and NICs purposes. However, the fee in relation to the engagement will still be paid to and received by the personal service company (PSC), albeit net of income tax and employee National Insurance contributions. Thus an individual’s PSC should still be able to use this income to meet such costs as pension payments.

18th Aug 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the impact on contractors' ability to claim reasonable expenses of being classed as employees of umbrella personal service companies; and what the Government guidance is on the use of umbrella companies by public sector bodies.

The Government introduced changes in April 2016 to bring people who work through employment intermediaries, including umbrella companies, into line with most workers who cannot claim tax relief for their ordinary commuting costs. Deemed employees can therefore claim tax relief on expenses, including overnight stays and business travel away from their usual place of work, in the same way as those employed directly.

Deemed employees can also claim tax relief on expenses, including equipment, tools and professional fees in the same way as those employed directly. This means that they may be able to claim tax relief where expenses are needed to allow them to do their job and it is used exclusively for work purposes.

HMRC have published advice on applying supply chain due diligence principles to assure labour supply chains including where an umbrella company is used by public sector bodies, which can be found on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-labour-providers/advice-on-applying-supply-chain-due-diligence-principles-to-assure-your-labour-supply-chains.

Under the off-payroll working rules, the fee-payer will become the deemed employer of the individual for tax and NICs purposes. However, the fee in relation to the engagement will still be paid to and received by the personal service company (PSC), albeit net of income tax and employee National Insurance contributions. Thus an individual’s PSC should still be able to use this income to meet such costs as pension payments.

22nd Jul 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent estimate he has made of average HMRC telephony response times; and what recent assessment he has made of the (a) adequacy and (b) effectiveness of HMRC telephony response times.

HMRC publish their telephony response times on a monthly and quarterly basis: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmrc-monthly-performance-reports and https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmrc-quarterly-performance-updates.

Like other service organisations, HMRC have been affected by the pandemic and are doing all they can to offer the best possible service to their customers, whether supporting them with their taxes or delivering the Government’s support schemes.

Wait times on some helplines are longer than HMRC would like, and they are sorry about the inconvenience this causes to customers at busy times. HMRC’s digital services are available 24 hours a day, and customer satisfaction for them is very high; HMRC encourage customers to go online where they can and have increased webchat availability as a channel across most areas.

22nd Jul 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of HMRC's timeframes for handling complaints.

HMRC report regularly their complaints handling performance and publish data every month on GOV.UK. The average complaints handling time of 17 days for new complaints received was also reported in HMRC’s 2019-20 Annual Report and Accounts.

HMRC’s complaints regime also includes the option of escalation to an independent Adjudicator. The latest Adjudicator’s annual report can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-adjudicators-office-annual-report-2021. The Adjudicator’s remit includes the timeframe for responding to complaints.

HMRC remain committed to learning from the real-time feedback provided, together with other sources of customer insight as they continue working towards improving all elements of their service.

20th Jul 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made on (a) whether HMRC guidance issued in relation to the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) complies with GDPR legislation and (b) the proportionality of the application of FACTA for joint accounts where UK nationals are not subject to FACTA rules.

HMRC have assessed that their FATCA guidance is GDPR compliant.

It is proportionate to report a joint account under FATCA because a US citizen or resident is an account holder. The name and other details of any joint account holder who is not a US citizen or resident are not reportable.

29th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what progress he has made on implementation of the Goods Vehicle Movement Service.

The GVMS Check-in and Embarkation functionality was deployed successfully on 31 December 2020 at 18:00 (GMT) and is working as expected. This was following deployment of the GVMS Registration Service on 8 December 2020, and the “Get a Goods Movement Reference” (GMR) Service on 23 December 2020.

Further GVMS releases will be deployed over a series of dates up to full border controls in January 2022 and remain on track. This has included functionality supporting NI-GB Exports which was successfully deployed on 28 February 2021 and enhancements to improve customer journeys, such as driver messaging which took place on 4 July 2021.

To date there have been 6,655 successful GVMS haulier registrations and 431,417 GMRs created (data obtained 1 July 2021).

Port, carrier and haulier engagement is continuing to support the take up of GVMS, and HMRC are working with them to support their readiness for January 2022.

HMRC will continue to work with all industry actors to ensure they understand the steps they need to take to move goods through border locations using the different customs models.

17th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of providing additional sectoral support to the (a) live performance and (b) wedding industries to cover costs that may have been incurred through the extension of covid-19 restrictions beyond 21 June 2021.

The Government recognises the extreme disruption the necessary actions to combat Covid-19 are having on sectors like live events and weddings.

During this difficult time the Treasury is working intensively with employers, delivery partners, industry groups, and other government departments to understand the effects of Covid-19 across all key areas of the economy.

Eligible events and businesses may already benefit from available employment schemes, government grant and loan schemes, a reduction in VAT and business rates relief; as well as the Culture Recovery Fund which has already supported thousands of organisations including theatres, music venues, comedy clubs and festivals. Much of this support will continue to be available to September, reflecting the Chancellor’s decision at Budget to extend the package of economic support to accommodate even a very cautious view about the time it might take to exit restrictions and to provide certainty and continuity to business.

Changes to restrictions announced by the Prime Minister will also remove the 30- person limit on wedding venues, with venue capacity based on the number of attendees who can be accommodated with social distancing in place. We are also removing the cap on numbers for outdoor weddings, but with a requirement to socially distance.

We will continue to monitor the impact of government support, such as the extension of restrictions beyond 21 June, on public services, businesses, individuals and sectors, including the events sector, as we respond to this pandemic.

17th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of providing additional long term sectoral support to the (a) live performance and (b) wedding industries through a further extension of the (i) 5 per cent VAT reduced rate for the tourism and hospitality sector, (ii) Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and (iii) Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Government recognises the extreme disruption the actions needed to combat COVID-19 are having on sectors like live events and weddings.

Eligible events and businesses may already benefit from available employment schemes, Government grant and loan schemes, a reduction in VAT and business rates relief; as well as the Culture Recovery Fund which has already supported thousands of organisations including theatres, music venues, comedy clubs and festivals. At Budget, the Chancellor extended many of these economic support schemes beyond the end of the Roadmap to accommodate even the most cautious view about the time it might take to exit restrictions.

As announced at Budget, the Government has extended the temporary reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector. The 5% rate will now end on 30 September 2021. On 1 October 2021, a new reduced rate of 12.5% will be introduced for these goods and services to help businesses manage the transition back to the standard rate. The new rate will end on 31 March 2022. While the Government keeps all taxes under review, this relief comes at a significant cost to the Exchequer, and there are no plans to extend the scope of the reduced rate. This policy will cost over £7 billion, and while some businesses in some sectors are disappointed, a boundary for eligibility had to be drawn.

At Budget, the Government also extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for a further five months from May until the end of September 2021. Furloughed workers in the UK will continue to receive more generous support than those in many other countries, as the CJRS ensures employees receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 per month, until the end of September.

The Government also announced at Budget that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will continue until September, with a fourth and a final fifth grant. This provides certainty to business as the economy reopens.

4th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure that the use of umbrella companies to employ contractors does not lead to a repeat of the IR35 disguised remuneration tax situation for those contractors employed through umbrella schemes.

As a result of the changes to the off-payroll working rules some businesses are reconsidering whether Personal Service Companies are still the best way to engage contractors who are working like employees. Some will choose to engage contractors in a different way, such as through an agency or umbrella company. Most umbrella arrangements are set up and operated correctly, and comply with tax, National Insurance Contributions and National Minimum Wage legislation, but there are some that are not compliant. HMRC have published guidance for people working through umbrella companies, which can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-through-an-umbrella-company.

The Government remains committed to tackling those who promote disguised remuneration schemes, including through a package of measures to strengthen existing anti-avoidance regimes and tighten the rules designed to tackle promoters and enablers of tax avoidance schemes. These measures are being legislated for in the current Finance Bill.

In addition, on 23 March 2021, the Government launched a consultation on a further package of measures to tackle promoters. These include ensuring HMRC can protect their position by securing or freezing a promoter’s assets so that the penalties they are liable for are paid, tackling offshore promoters and the UK entities that support them, closing down companies that continue to promote avoidance schemes and disqualifying the directors involved, and supporting taxpayers to identify and steer clear of avoidance schemes.

HMRC have launched a publicity campaign targeted at contractors to help them spot and steer clear of tax avoidance and HMRC have also proactively contacted 17,000 businesses highlighting the support available that they can share with contractors.

21st Apr 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of working with his European counterparts to allow the creation of T1 Customs Declaration forms on the departure of goods from the manufacture when exporting from the UK to the EU, rather than the creation of those forms upon goods reaching the cross border carrier, when goods are transported using multiple carriers.

A Common Transit Convention (CTC) transit movement can be started and the Transit Accompanying Document (TAD) can be printed out at the customs office of departure or at the premises of an authorised consignor. Businesses seeking to start transit movements from their own location can seek authorisation to be a consignor.

The requirements of the convention are that the TAD covers a single means of transport, package or container. If this single means of transport is broken, then the transit movement should end. There are processes under the CTC which allow for a change of tractor unit/trailer following an incident; however, this must be marked on the TAD and reported to the nearest customs office. Alternatively, if the transit consignment is in a container then this container can change mode of transport, providing this is overseen by customs authorities.

HMRC are currently involved in discussions with the Common Transit Convention Working Group about removing or reducing the oversight of customs authorities for this change in mode of transport which will make these movements easier.

25th Mar 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 22 March 2021 to Question 169891 on Boats: UK Trade with EU, what assessment he has made of extending the Returned Goods Relief timeframes for boats no long able to commercially operate in the EU following the end of the transition period.

Relief from import VAT and any customs duty is available under the Returned Goods Relief (RGR) for goods exported from the UK and re-imported within three years in an unaltered state. Goods which were transported from the UK to the EU, and which remained located in the EU at the end of the transition period, will be eligible for RGR, subject to meeting the conditions for the relief, if they are returned to Great Britain by 30 June 2022, regardless of the date they were transported to the EU. This extends the period during which such goods can return to Great Britain under RGR by a further six months in view of the continuing COVID-19 travel restrictions in the UK and in the EU. The extension of this grace period is included in the revised RGR legislation published on 22 March 2021: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reference-documents-for-the-customs-reliefs-from-a-liability-to-import-duty-and-miscellaneous-amendments-eu-exit-regulations-2020.

For RGR to apply on import VAT relief, the exporter and the importer need to be the same person.

16th Mar 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing VAT relief for the importation of small British flagged boats into the UK, from the EU, by operators who are unable to use their boats commercially within the EU as a result of maritime technical changes that came into force at the end of the transition period.

Relief from import VAT and any customs duty is available under the Returned Goods Relief (RGR) for goods transported or exported from the UK and re-imported within certain time limits in an unaltered state. Subject to meeting the conditions of the relief, RGR will be available to boats returning from the EU to the UK regardless of whether they were used commercially or not.

In order to obtain relief from import VAT under the RGR rules, the original exporter and the importer need to be the same person. More information on UK RGR can be found online at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pay-less-import-duty-and-vat-when-re-importing-goods-to-the-uk-and-eu.

15th Mar 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of further regulatory controls by the Financial Conduct Authority to prevent organisations from promoting their products as inherently based around a share index as opposed to other forms of entity such as gambling platforms.

The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) prevents the communication of invitations or inducements to engage in investment activity or claims management activities (otherwise known as financial promotions) unless the communication is made or approved by an authorised person, or subject to an exemption. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has powers under FSMA to make rules concerning the standards financial promotions must meet. Controlled activities in scope of the financial promotions regime are set out in legislation.

The advertisement of any activities which are not controlled activities is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority. FSMA also specifies that certain regulated activities can only be carried out by authorised or exempt persons. Offering contracts and/or products with the purpose of securing profit or avoiding loss by reference to fluctuations in an index is a regulated activity and therefore can only be carried out by such persons. Gambling platforms are regulated by the Gambling Commission which requires gambling platforms to comply with Advertising Codes administered by the Advertising Standards Authority.

11th Mar 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of an advance payment system for people who are (a) facing financial hardship and (b) struggling financially following payment of self-assessment tax returns prior to the issuing of the fourth grant under that scheme.

The fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant will be available to claim from late April and HMRC will contact potential claimants from mid-April. This is because HMRC will need to process the data received in millions of 2019/20 Self-Assessment returns prior to making payments.

In recognition of the immense pressures that many people are facing due the pandemic, the Government sought to provide a breathing space by waiving the penalty for the late filing of tax returns received after the 31 January statutory deadline and by 28 February. Self-Assessment returns filed by 2 March can now be taken into account for the fourth and fifth SEISS grant.

For those requiring further support, the SEISS continues to be just one element of a wider package of support for the self-employed. The temporary £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance has been extended for six months, and the Government has decided to extend the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for three months, to the end of July 2021, so that where self-employed claimants' earnings have fallen significantly, their Universal Credit award will have increased to reflect their lower earnings. In addition to this, they may also have access to other elements of the package, including Restart Grants, the Recovery Loan scheme, business rates relief, and other business support schemes.

10th Mar 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending VAT relief to passenger vehicles used exclusively for tours with under 10 seats.

The supply of transport services in passenger vehicles, including those used for tours, with less than 10 seats is subject to the standard rate of VAT. Any loss in tax revenue would have to be balanced by a reduction in public spending, increased borrowing or increased taxation elsewhere. Therefore, the Government has no plans to extend tax reliefs to passenger vehicles further.

24th Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent assessment he has made of trends in the level of telephony waiting times customers experience when calling HMRC.

Like other service organisations, HMRC have been affected by the pandemic and are doing all they can to offer the best possible service to their customers, whether supporting them with their taxes or delivering the Government’s support schemes.

Waiting times on some helplines are longer than HMRC would like, and they are sorry for the inconvenience this causes at busy times. HMRC’s digital services are available 24 hours a day, and customer satisfaction for those services is very high. HMRC encourage customers to go online where they can, and have increased webchat availability.

HMRC publish monthly reports on how they have performed against their customer service targets, on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmrc-monthly-performance-reports.

19th Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of removing VAT from building works undertaken in a residential property that are required to adapt a property to meet a disabled persons needs.

Consumers already benefit from a zero rate of VAT on certain building work for disabled people and a reduced VAT rate of 5 per cent on residential construction under certain conditions. Extending the current reliefs further would come at a cost to the Exchequer, and must be viewed in the context of about £50 billion worth of requests received since the EU referendum.

The Government keeps all taxes under review, and any future decisions on tax policy will be made at Budget.

19th Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of removing VAT from extensions to residential property that are undertaken to meet a disabled persons needs.

Consumers already benefit from a zero rate of VAT on certain building work for disabled people and a reduced VAT rate of 5 per cent on residential construction under certain conditions. Extending the current reliefs further would come at a cost to the Exchequer, and must be viewed in the context of about £50 billion worth of requests received since the EU referendum.

The Government keeps all taxes under review, and any future decisions on tax policy will be made at Budget.

11th Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on business cash flow management of the waiting period for the announcement of payment amounts and dates of the fourth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The Government is committed to supporting the self-employed population during the COVID-19 pandemic through a substantial package of support.

The three Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants combined provided up to £21,570 of support for each individual, placing the SEISS among the most generous schemes for the self-employed in the world. As of 31 December, about 2.7 million individuals have made claims totalling over £18.9 billion so far across all three grants.

The claims window for the third grant closed on 29 January 2021. The Government committed on 24 September 2020 that there would be a fourth grant; details of which will be announced alongside other economic updates at Budget in March.

The SEISS is not intended to provide a month-by-month replacement of income. Due to the volatility of self-employed income and the lack of granular data that HMRC hold on self-employed trading profits, precise mapping of income replacement month by month is not possible. Instead, the SEISS provides a lump sum payment to support eligible self-employed individuals whose businesses have been affected by coronavirus.

The SEISS continues to be just one element of a substantial package of support for the self-employed. In addition to the SEISS, individuals may also have access to other elements of the package, including Bounce Back loans, tax deferrals, rental support, mortgage holidays, self-isolation support payments and other business support grants.

4th Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the inclusion of interest income that falls within the tax free threshold as income earned outside of self-employment when people make applications for payments through the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

The Government has taken substantial steps to support the self-employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) receiving claims from about 2.7 million individuals so far, totalling over £18.9 billion as of 31 December.

HMRC assess eligibility for the SEISS based on trading profits and non-trading income reported on Income Tax Self-Assessment returns.

Interest that falls within the Personal Savings Allowance is declared on Income Tax Self-Assessment returns.

All interest is included in total income and relevant income (non-trading income) for the purposes of SEISS eligibility. The design of the SEISS, including the eligibility requirement that an individual’s trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to their non-trading income, means it is targeted at those who most need it, and who are most reliant on their self-employment income.

26th Jan 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions officials of his Department have had with the Financial Conduct Authority on the effect of Government support provided in response to the covid-19 outbreak on business interruption insurance settlements.

The Financial Conduct Authority has advised that all deductions from business interruption insurance settlements should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, as insurance policies differ significantly. The individual policy wording generally sets out the basis on which the sum due to the policyholder following an insured event will be calculated.

The FCA may intervene and take further actions where firms do not appear to be meeting their expectations and treating their customers fairly on these points, and customers have recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service if they are not satisfied.

All UK insurers have now made a commitment to not make deductions from business interruption insurance settlements to account for Covid-19 business grants.

14th Dec 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions his Department has had with the Bank of England on the potential effect of changes to the VAT regime on business cash flows in the final quarter of the tax year 2020-21 in the event that the UK and EU do not reach an agreement on their future relationship at the end of the transition period.

As the Prime Minister set out in his Written Ministerial Statement of 3 February 2020 on the future relationship with the EU, the Government would not agree to measures in areas which go beyond those typically included in a comprehensive free trade agreement, including in the area of taxation. This is why the free trade agreement agreed with the EU will have little effect on changes to the UK tax system.

Nevertheless, the Government remains mindful of business cash flows after the end of the transition period. The Government has already announced that from 1 January 2021, UK VAT registered businesses can account for import VAT on their VAT return for goods imported from anywhere in the world. This means businesses can declare and recover import VAT on the same VAT return, rather than having to pay it upfront and recover it later.

As a matter of routine, HM Treasury continues to work closely with the Bank of England on effects stemming from the UK’s relationship with the EU.

20th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of backdating Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme support payments for workers who continued to work part-time at the start of covid-19 outbreak and were ineligible for the original operation of that scheme but who are now eligible for that scheme through flexible furlough.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been delivered at an unprecedented pace and is protecting thousands of jobs up and down the UK, with 1.2 million employers applying to help to pay the wages of 9.6 million furloughed jobs.

In light of recent developments in the path of the virus, the CJRS has been extended until the end of March 2021 for all parts of the UK. People employed and on payroll on 30 October will be eligible, and neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously claimed or have been claimed for under the CJRS to make a claim under the extended CJRS, if other eligibility criteria are met. Furthermore, businesses will have flexibility to use the scheme for employees for any amount of time and shift pattern, including furloughing them part-time. By having the eligibility cut-off date the day before the announcement, this addresses the risk of abuse while also ensuring that there is no gap in support.

The scheme is designed to help those who otherwise would have been made unemployed and to provide support to businesses as quickly as possible. Allowing backdated payments to people working part-time since March is not consistent with the objectives of the scheme, would require more process and substantially increase the risk of fraud.

18th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of using CT600 returns to allow for the provision of payments under the Self Employment income Support Scheme to company directors paying themselves via dividends.

HMRC’s view is that information provided in the CT600 Company Tax Return cannot be used as a basis to provide support for directors paying themselves in dividends. The CT600 shows the company's profits. It does not provide information on dividends received by the company’s directors.

The Government has worked with stakeholders and carefully considered the case for providing a new system for those who pay themselves through dividends. However, targeting additional support for those who pay their wages via dividends is much more complex than existing income support schemes.

Those ineligible for the SEISS may still be eligible for other elements of the package of financial support available. More information is available at https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder.

16th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of extending eligibility for the Self Employment income Support Scheme to people for whom self-employment makes up over half of their income following the loss of other employment during the covid-19 outbreak.

Unlike for employees, self-employed income is not reported monthly, but at the end of each tax year on the individual’s Income Tax Self Assessment return. To protect the Exchequer from fraudulent activity, this means that the most reliable and up-to-date record of self-employed income is from 2018-19 tax returns.

The self-employed are very diverse and have a wide mix of turnover and profits, with monthly and annual variations even in normal times, and in some cases with substantial alternative forms of income too. The design of the SEISS, including the eligibility requirement that an individual’s trading profits must be at least equal to their non-trading income, means it is targeted at those who most need it, and who are most reliant on their self-employment income.

The Government does acknowledge that it has not been possible to support everyone as they might want. Those ineligible for the SEISS Grant Extension may still be eligible for other elements of the support available. The Universal Credit standard allowance has been temporarily increased for 2020-21 and the Minimum Income Floor relaxed for the duration of the crisis, so that where self-employed claimants' earnings have fallen significantly, their Universal Credit award will have increased to reflect their lower earnings. In addition to this, they may also have access to other elements of the package, including Bounce Back loans, tax deferrals, rental support, mortgage holidays, self-isolation support payments and other business support grants.

13th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 15 October 2020 to Question 102112, what estimate his Department has made of the amount of monies voluntarily returned as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme since 13 October 2020.

As of 3 November 2020, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grants to the value of £382m have been recorded as returned. This figure consists of £198m in payments being repaid and £184m in adjustments to existing claims.

11th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of introducing of a call back system when individuals have spent a significant period of time waiting on hold with HMRC's helplines.

HMRC aim to answer calls as quickly as possible. Where queuing is unavoidable, HMRC point taxpayers to their online services. HMRC have looked at the option of introducing a call back system but doing so increases waiting times to unacceptable levels resulting overall in worse customer service for the taxpayer.

30th Oct 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of compensating firms ineligible for support from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme who have maintained the salaries of employees.

Those businesses not eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme may have access to other elements of the Government’s package of financial support.

Support for businesses has reached millions of firms, paying out over £70bn in loans and grants. This includes through the Small Business Grant Fund, business rates holidays, the Bounce Back Loans Scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, tax deferrals for VAT and Self-Assessment, preventing commercial tenants from being evicted, the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, and the Future Fund.

HM Treasury and HMRC are undertaking an evaluation that will assess the delivery of the CJRS and the Job Retention Bonus. The Government will publish the CJRS Evaluation Strategy by December 2020, and the CJRS Evaluation Report by the end of 2021.

12th Oct 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential benefits of extending the three month grace period for parents in receipt of child benefit who could not register the birth of a child as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government announced on 7 April 2020 that, as General Register Offices have been closed or operating at a reduced capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak, HM Revenue and Customs would allow parents to claim Child Benefit for their newborns without having to register their child’s birth first, to ensure they do not miss out on Child Benefit payments. Child Benefit can be backdated for up to three months.

The press release announcing these measures is at:

www.gov.uk/government/news/dont-miss-out-claim-child-benefit-by-phone-or-post-hmrc-tells-new-parents

12th Oct 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 17 September 2020 to Question 91671, what estimate his Department has made of the amount of monies voluntarily returned within the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme since 17 September.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants have been returned to HMRC where the employer no longer needs the grant, or has realised they have made an error, and have followed the guidance on putting things right. Between 17 September and 13 October 2020, a total of £27,933,329 has been returned to HMRC voluntarily, via payment and adjustment to claims. This is in addition to the £215,756,121 that had been returned in the period up to 15 September 2020.

17th Sep 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what estimate his Department has made of the amount of monies voluntarily returned within the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants have been returned to HMRC where an employer no longer needs the grant, or has realised they have made errors and followed the guidance on putting things right. As of 15 September a total of £215,756,121 had been returned to HMRC voluntarily, via payments and adjustments to claims.

8th Sep 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of reopening phases 1 and 2 of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme to provide access to that scheme for individuals who were unable to use it as a result of late filings by accountancy firms of self-employment tax returns for their clients.

Individuals who did not file their 2018/19 tax return are not eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Special provision was made for those who missed the deadline in January, and they were given until 23 April 2020 to submit a return to be included in the SEISS. The SEISS legislation (Direction) clearly states that, for the purposes of SEISS, amounts of trading profits and relevant income are determined by reference to a person’s tax returns as at 23 April 2020.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said there will be no further extensions or changes to the SEISS. However, those who missed the filing deadline may still be eligible for other elements of the unprecedented package of financial support provided by the Government. This package includes Bounce Back loans, tax deferrals, rental support, increased levels of Universal Credit, mortgage holidays, and other business support grants. More information about the full range of business support measures is available at www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

17th Jul 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of banning the sale of mortgage books to lenders who are (a) unregulated and (b) do not offer new mortgages.

In all government-owned (ex-Bradford & Bingley and Northern Rock) United Kingdom Asset Resolution (UKAR) sales, customer treatment is a key consideration for UKAR and the government in selecting a bidder and all bidders have to agree to UKAR’s customer treatment conditions in order for their bid to be considered. This is a strict requirement, not open to negotiation, and is considered before bids are assessed on price. The purchaser is obliged to ensure the servicer of the mortgages is regulated by the FCA. For the latest asset sale and future sales the legal title holder must also be FCA-regulated. This is a contractual requirement.

Range of buyers, including active lenders, will be invited to participate in any future UKAR asset sales and we will continue to require bidders agree to our robust customer protections. However, selling UKAR assets to active lenders does not guarantee that customers would be able to access new products.

It is a legal requirement that all owner-occupied mortgages must be serviced by an administrator that is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means that customers are protected by the FCA’s Mortgages and Home Finance: Conduct of Business rules, and that customers have recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

17th Jul 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of creating an independent tribunal service to oversee mortgage (a) lending practices and (b) customer complaints.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) supervises the conduct of mortgage lenders and intermediaries through regulations. The FCA’s day-to-day operations are independent from Government control and influence. The FCA will take action against lenders and intermediaries that are found to be in breach of the FCA rules. This can include warning a firm and requiring it to take action to ensure future breaches do not occur, imposing a fine on firms and requiring them to arrange for customers who have lost out to be compensated, and ultimately preventing a lender from undertaking any further mortgage lending activity.

The Government is determined that borrowers are treated fairly by their lenders. Any dispute arising between a lender and its customers is usually best resolved by the parties involved. If a consumer is not happy with their lender’s response, they will be eligible to apply to have a further review conducted by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The FOS provides a free, independent dispute resolution service for customers. Its decisions are binding on the firm concerned.

The FOS can be contacted by post at: Financial Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, London, E14 9SR, by telephone on 0800 023 4567, or through their website at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk.

14th Jul 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the introduction of the additional evidential standard under which applicants to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme are required to show a continued sectoral impact of covid-19 by 14 July 2020 on the level of accessibility to that scheme's second payment.

Applications for the second and final grant will open on 17 August. This will provide eligible claimants with a taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further three months’ worth of profit, and capped at £6,570 in total.

Those claiming?for the second grant will have to confirm?that their business has been adversely affected on or after?14?July 2020.??The eligibility criteria for both grants are the same.

A business could be adversely affected by coronavirus if, for example,?the self-employed person is unable to work because they are shielding or self-isolating. A business could also be adversely affected if it has fewer or no customers.?More examples are provided on GOV.UK.

Taxpayers claiming the SEISS grant should keep a record of how their business has been adversely affected; examples of evidence are available on GOV.UK.

13th Jul 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of changing the proportion of the income of frontline emergency service staff members which is required to be from self-employment to enable them to be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), including the eligibility requirement that an individual’s trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to their non-trading income, is designed to target those who most need it, and who are most reliant on their self-employment income.

Those not eligible for the SEISS may benefit from other elements of the comprehensive package of support for individuals and businesses. This package includes Bounce Back Loans, tax deferrals, rental support,?increased levels of Universal Credit, mortgage holidays, and other business support grants.

The Government’s focus must now turn to economic recovery. The Government will support, protect and create jobs through the Plan for Jobs, which will provide up to £30bn of support.

10th Jul 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of banking sector's response to the Financial Conduct Authority's changes to the rules on overdraft charges on April 2020 in relation to (a) overdraft fees and (b) competition on overdrafts within that sector.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is operationally independent from Government and carries out its functions, including its work on the High-cost Credit Review and reforms to overdrafts, within the framework of statutory objectives and duties agreed by Parliament. Decisions on overdraft fees are also commercial matters for firms and Government does not intervene in those decisions.

In June 2019, the FCA announced new rules governing how firms can charge for overdrafts as part of their High-cost Credit Review. These include mandating that firms cannot charge more for unarranged overdrafts than arranged overdrafts, banning fixed daily and monthly charges, and a package of measures to improve the transparency of pricing. Firms were required to implement these new rules by 6 April 2020.

Overall the FCA expects these changes to make overdrafts simpler, fairer, and easier to manage and will protect the millions of consumers that use overdrafts, particularly more vulnerable consumers. According to their analysis, 7 out of 10 overdraft users will be better off or see no change to their fees. In January, the FCA also wrote to firms to ask them to provide evidence of how they arrived at their pricing decisions and continue to monitor the market for harms to consumers.

In response to COVID-19, on 2 April 2020 the FCA announced a series of temporary proposals to provide emergency support for consumer credit customers who were facing short-term cash flow problems as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. The measures came into force on 14 April 2020. On overdrafts, the FCA expects firms to provide up to £500 interest free buffer for customers for up to 3 months if requested and make sure that all overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft changes came into force.

On 1 July 2020, the FCA published guidance on further proposals to support consumer credit customers. On overdrafts, the FCA will expect firms to offer customers who have been negatively impacted by Covid-19 the £500 interest-free buffer for a further 3 months. Firms will also be expected to provide further support for customers impacted by Covid-19 including reducing the cost of borrowing above the interest-free buffer, especially if this cost of borrowing would otherwise increase.

Providers are ready and able to offer support to their customers who are impacted directly or indirectly by COVID-19. The Government encourages anyone concerned about their finances to contact their provider.

29th Jun 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of enabling access to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for Wirecard Card Solutions Limited customers utilising the institution for current account activities.

Wirecard Card Solutions Ltd is required to maintain appropriate measures to safeguard customers’ money under the Electronic Money Regulations. It does this by holding customer funds separate from its own money in accounts with credit institutions. Effective safeguarding arrangements are critical to help ensure that customers’ money is protected and returned if a firm fails. Adequate safeguarding arrangements which are compliant with the regulatory requirements are a condition of Wirecard’s ongoing FCA authorisation.

23rd Jun 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions officials in his Department have had with the retail banking sector on (a) support for business customers who operated unsecured overdraft facilities for pre-planned expenditure and (b) transitioning these customers into alternative lending arrangements where their operations have been affected by the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government recognises that the outbreak of COVID-19 may lead to businesses facing financial difficulty and uncertainty. In response, the Government has set out an unprecedented package of support for businesses, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).

Under CBILS, borrowers can apply for finance facilities of up to £5 million from 95 accredited lenders. No interest or fees will be charged to the customer during the first 12 months. Under CLBILS, borrowers can apply for finance facilities of up to £200 million (subject to a cap of 25% of turnover). Overdraft facilities are available under both schemes. Bounce Back Loans are also available for the smallest businesses to access finance quickly. Businesses can access loans of up to £50,000, subject to a maximum of 25% of turnover, with no repayments due for the first 12 months. To date, these schemes have provided over £40bn finance to over 970,000 businesses. The Government continues to work with banks and other finance providers to help SMEs access the finance they need.

More broadly, many lenders are also offering support for their customers outside the Government-backed loans schemes, including through for example, repayment holidays and arranging fee-free overdraft extensions.

15th Jun 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to fee earner public sector employees who work under frozen PAYE contracts.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) seeks to protect jobs and businesses across the economy, in both the private and public sectors. All employers with a PAYE scheme, including in the public sector, can apply for the CJRS directly through HMRC, subject to eligibility. In line with the rest of the economy, a public sector employer can only claim for employees that were on PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on a Real Time Information submission on or before 19 March 2020.

It should be noted that the CJRS will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three-week furlough period prior to 30 June.

Where organisations receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding continues uninterrupted, the Government expects employers to pay staff as usual and correspondingly not to furlough them. It may be appropriate for organisations that are not fully funded by public grants to furlough staff in certain circumstances, including when the organisation has experienced economic disruption due to COVID-19. Any claim through the CJRS should be proportionate to the reduction in revenue.

The Government continues to monitor developments and to engage with affected sectors, with the aim of ensuring that the support provided is right for these sectors and for the whole economy.

8th Jun 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps he is taking to ensure that future lending decisions are not affected by payment holidays that have been taken during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government recognises the important role payment holidays play in providing temporary support to consumers through this period and continues to work closely with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to support consumers facing financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lenders must act responsibly when deciding whether and how much credit to issue. This includes assessing consumers’ ability to repay. The information on a consumer’s credit file is an important part of this assessment. FCA guidance makes clear that, during a payment holiday, accounts should be recorded to ensure the consumers’ current credit data position is maintained or frozen for the duration of the payment holiday period. The Government expects that this should not impact on a consumer’s credit file.

Consumers should speak to their lender about their options when coming to the end of their payment holiday.

1st Jun 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of taking steps within the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to provide ongoing support for people who are shielding and who may not be able to transition into additional work activities as wider covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased for other workers.

The Government has set out an unprecedented package of financial support to help the country through the coronavirus pandemic, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and Statutory Sick Pay.

The CJRS will run until the end of October and the Government is working to ensure those who are shielders can access the financial assistance that they need.

While there is no obligation for employers to place staff on furlough, the Government encourages all?firms?affected by coronavirus to treat their employees fairly and carefully. Employees who are unable to work because they are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) can be furloughed. Those who are shielding in line with public health guidance, or are required to stay home due to an individual in their household shielding and are unable to work from home, should speak to their employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.

11th May 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect on applicants of preventing tax (a) advisors and (b) agents from completing Self-Employment Income Support Scheme applications on behalf of their clients.

The claims process for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is easy and straightforward. HMRC are doing all of the calculations, and taxpayers will only need their National Insurance number, Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number, online log-in details, and bank account details to apply for the grant.

Accountants, tax agents or advisers cannot make claims on behalf of their clients. Designing a scheme that enabled agents to do this would have taken significantly longer to deliver, at a time when speed is a priority.

Accountants, tax agents and advisers can help their clients by ensuring clients are aware they may be eligible; helping clients to find the details they need; using the online eligibility checker on their clients’ behalf (or supporting them to use the checker themselves); and explaining why they may or may not be eligible, and what other support is available to them.

11th May 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of enabling tax (a) advisors and (b) agents to complete Self-Employment Income Support Scheme applications on behalf of their clients.

The claims process for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is easy and straightforward. HMRC are doing all of the calculations, and taxpayers will only need their National Insurance number, Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number, online log-in details, and bank account details to apply for the grant.

Accountants, tax agents or advisers cannot make claims on behalf of their clients. Designing a scheme that enabled agents to do this would have taken significantly longer to deliver, at a time when speed is a priority.

Accountants, tax agents and advisers can help their clients by ensuring clients are aware they may be eligible; helping clients to find the details they need; using the online eligibility checker on their clients’ behalf (or supporting them to use the checker themselves); and explaining why they may or may not be eligible, and what other support is available to them.

22nd Apr 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what steps he is taking to improve the process for businesses to access funds through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme launched ahead of schedule on 20 April, just one month after the announcement.

The online portal has been developed and delivered at great speed to ensure employers can receive payments by the end of April. HMRC have designed the service to be as simple as possible, while ensuring the appropriate fraud and compliance controls are in place.

Guidance has been published on GOV.UK for employers to enable them to determine their eligibility and how to compile their claims, and to ensure they have the right online authentication credentials, so that they can upload their claims now the service is open.

HMRC have up to 10,200 staff manning phone lines and webchat services to ensure any questions can be answered.

The overall digital customer satisfaction for the week commencing Monday 20 April is 81.3% against a target of 80%. Taxpayers continue to successfully complete their transactions through digital means, reducing the demand on other customer channels such as telephony.

22nd Apr 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many HMRC staff are providing telephone support for businesses trying to access funds through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme; and what the average call waiting time is for people seeking to access that support.

HMRC have trained 10,200 staff to work on the Job Retention Scheme. HMRC are constantly monitoring the performance of the Job Retention Scheme helpline and webchat, ensuring that there is sufficient resource to meet demand.

Those calling HMRC’s Job Retention Scheme line this week are experiencing a wait time of less than 1 minute.

20th Apr 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending national insurance refunds for national insurance contributions paid while studying to all NHS staff trained under the Widening Access Training Scheme.

Income tax and National Insurance Contribution (NICs) are due on payments to NHS employees participating in NHS Widening Access Training Scheme courses. This is because these are payments of salary and are not scholarship income.

HM Revenue and Customs have published updated guidance clarifying this tax position for NHS Trusts and employees whose courses started on or after 1 September 2019.

18th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of removing fees for priority passport services when individuals have already waited beyond the stated usual service standard time of 10 weeks for their passport application to progress.

Upgrades to urgent services are only required where an applicant needs a passport sooner than ten weeks. For the small percentage of customers whose applications take longer than ten weeks, there is an expedited service at no additional cost to help ensure they receive their passport ahead of any planned travel.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
18th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what the average processing time was for enquiries to support teams for hon. Members at HM Passport Office in each month in 2021; what steps her Department is taking to manage the (a) performance and (b) case management of those teams; and if she will make a statement.

The Department works to a target of responding to 95% of Hon. Members written correspondence within 20 working days.

Performance against target has been impacted by a significant increase in the volume of correspondence received, including the unprecedented amount of correspondence about the situation in Afghanistan and more recently in Ukraine and about HMPO passport applications.

The Department continues to prioritise enquiries related to Ukraine and recognises that it has not been able to meet service standard in other cases. Actions are being taken to clear backlogs and drive-up performance.

Members can escalate urgent and compassionate cases via the team at Portcullis House or via engagement surgeries with the MP Engagement team.

The Department continues to recruit additional resources and has recently been loaned staff from non-operational areas to assist in clearing the backlogs. A detailed recovery plan to support a return to an acceptable service standard is being prepared.

Data about intake and performance in answering Hon. Members correspondence are published quarterly with the latest Quarter available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/customer-service-operations-data-q1-2022

The Department does not publish average processing times for substantive responses to correspondence.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
15th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that (a) airlines and (b) airports (i) follow Government guidance on the use of national identification documents by people with Settled Status going to and from the EU and (ii) ensure that travellers are aware of that guidance.

We have issued advice to airlines confirming EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) may continue to use a national identity card to enter the UK.

We have also advised airlines they do not currently need to establish whether a person has been granted EUSS status, and is thus entitled to use a national identity card, when deciding whether to bring them to the UK but may use the online View and Prove service if they elect to do so.

GOV.UK provides advice on documentary requirements, including the use of national identity cards, for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens with status under the EU Settlement Scheme travelling to the UK. If you're from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Carriers can, and do, play a role in encouraging their passengers to check that they are properly documented for travel to the UK for example by providing advice or links to government guidance on their websites and apps. However, it is ultimately a matter for individual carriers what information they provide for their passengers.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether she has made an assessment of the potential merits of allowing an independent assessment of passport processing times between March and May 2022.

The Home Office is regularly audited by external organisations, which includes the audit of our passport operations.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether she has had recent discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority on the potential merits of enabling travel within the Common Travel Area using biometric identification documents.

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is an immigration arrangement between the UK and Ireland, as well as the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey which allows British and Irish citizens to travel freely between the UK and Ireland and reside in either jurisdiction.

As part of the CTA arrangements, the UK does not operate routine immigration controls on journeys from within the CTA, with no immigration checks whatsoever on the Northern Ireland-Ireland land border.

However, individuals are still expected to comply with the UK’s immigration framework and where required most people who are not British or Irish citizens will need to show a valid passport on arrival if required by a Border Force Officer. The document must be valid for the whole time individuals are in the UK.

There are no plans to change the document requirements on CTA routes.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
4th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will make an assessment of the potential risks for individuals applying for UK refugee status who are transferred to Rwanda under the Migration and Economic Development Partnership of (a) arbitrary detention by Rwandan security services and (b) forced recruitment into either non-state actor or state actor armed organisations; and if she will make an assessment of the potential implications for her policies of that matter.

People who are relocated to Rwanda under the Migration and Economic Development will not be detained. Rwanda will process their asylum claims in accordance with national and international human rights laws, and will ensure their protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or being returned to the place they originally fled.

Rwanda is a safe country with a track record of providing opportunities for refugees. Those relocated will be given all the support they need, with accommodation, food, healthcare, and help to integrate into the local community. They will be free to come and go.

This Partnership will be underpinned by a monitoring system put in place to ensure that the scheme is successfully relocating people to Rwanda to rebuild their lives and their welfare needs are being adequately addressed.

Simon Baynes
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) (jointly with Home Office)
23rd Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of call back services by HM Passport Office.

As has already been said in Parliament, the recent performance of the Passport advice line has been unacceptable.

Teleperformance, the contractor who runs the line on behalf of HM Passport Office, has been required to put in place an improvement plan which has seen additional staff recruited to enable the expected performance standards to be met.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
20th Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is undertaking to ensure that Border Force staff provide airlines with accurate information when they are contacted on the use of National Identification documents by people with Settled Status travelling to the EU.

Documentary requirements for passengers seeking to travel from the UK are a matter for the destination country, and passengers should ensure they meet those requirements. The Home Office does not routinely engage with carriers in relation to documentary requirements for outbound travel as we are not responsible for or set the rules related to this.

GOV.UK does, however, provide advice for British citizens planning to travel to the EU. This advice can be viewed here: Visiting the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein: Checks for all types of travel - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
17th Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent steps her Department has taken to help increase the response times for Visa application enquiries.

We continue to work with our service provider to review their performance to ensure service standards are maintained, this includes increasing the number of staff operating the customer helpline.

It is envisaged this will enable the service standard to be met in the coming weeks.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
6th Jun 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department has carried out an assessment of the (a) coverage and (b) accessibility of Passport Offices for people (i) in rural areas and (ii) without personal transport in (A) Scotland, (B) Northern Ireland, (C) Wales and (D) England.

The vast majority of passport applicants have no need to travel to a passport office to access services, with online applications being the cheapest and simplest way to get your passport, alongside the availability of check and send services at Post Offices across the UK.

Appointments are currently required to access urgent services and are made available from 8 passport offices located across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. However, the applicant need not attend an urgent service appointment personally and may instead authorise someone to attend on their behalf.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
14th Apr 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if her Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of increasing the amount of information provided in respect of waiting times for passport applications prior to people starting applications, including when applications from multiple children are interlinked.

Due to COVID-19, over 5 million people delayed applying for a British passport during 2020 and 2021. In preparation for the demand for international travel returning, since April 2021 we have been advising people to allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport. This remains the case.

Until recently, Her Majesty’s Passport Office published additional guidance showing the typical processing times for applications that had been completed in the previous week. However, customer feedback indicated these timeframes were being conflated with the need to allow up to ten weeks and, in response, additional guidance is no longer published.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the visa application regime for Ukrainian refugees to refugees from (a) Syria and (b) Afghanistan.

The Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine Scheme have been developed in response to the very specific circumstances of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and are designed to help Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

The Ukrainian Schemes have been designed in light of very different circumstances to those which led to the Government’s Syrian and Afghan resettlement schemes. The Government has no plans to extend eligibility for its Ukrainian Visa Application Schemes to refugees from Syria or Afghanistan.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
31st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the impact of reducing in-person assessments by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit on compliance with regulations.

The Animals in Science Regulation Unit has recently strengthened its regulatory oversight processes to better deliver protections to animals used in science. This has included the process of in-person assessments. The Regulator has published its process for rigorous full system audits at: www.gov.uk/guidance/animal-research-technical-advice#process-and-standards-for-establishment-full-system-audits. At audit the Regulator requires evidence for assessment of compliance against all legal licence conditions, including those for animal welfare, which are available at: www.gov.uk/guidance/animal-research-technical-advice#process-and-standards-for-establishment-full-system-audits. The frequency of the audits meets the requirements specified in law.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
30th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what the average processing time is for the completion and awarding of a visa under the Homes for Ukraine scheme; and what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of that timeframe.

Improvements have been made to ensure visas are being processed quickly, which includes surging staff across government to bolster resource and speed up processing across both schemes.

Figures for both schemes are published regularly online and can be found at: Ukraine Family Scheme: application data - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Home Office does not capture the average length of time between applications being submitted and granted under either the Ukraine Family Scheme or Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

To capture this would require a manual trawl of data and to do so would incur disproportionate cost.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
23rd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of staffing levels within UK Visa and Immigration in the context of the refugee crisis arising from the war in Ukraine.

We are committed to ensuring our operational teams have the resources they need to run an efficient and effective system. We actively monitor workflows to ensure sufficient resources are in place to meet demand, including from pressures relating to Ukraine.

UKVI has redeployed caseworking staff in the UK to work seven days a week to process Ukraine applications, and has temporarily loaned in staff from other departments like HM Revenue and Customs to help manage demand.

The Home Office and the commercial provider operating our Visa Application Centres have also surged staff across Europe to meet demand, where we can offer over 13,000 appointments to visa applicants, and UKVI staff in the UK are working seven days a week to process applications.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
21st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of current asylum programs and policies in place for Russians.

The UK has a proud record of providing protection for people who need it, in accordance with our obligations under the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

All asylum claims lodged from within the UK, including those from Russian nationals, are given full and careful consideration so we do not remove anyone who faces persecution or serious harm on return to their country of origin. Protection is normally granted where a claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution under the Refugee Convention or their circumstances engage our obligations under Article 3 ECHR.

We are monitoring the situation in Russia. Every asylum claim made is carefully considered on its individual merits by assessing all the evidence provided by the claimant against a background of country information from a wide range of credible sources, including the Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Office, the media and non-governmental sources, such as the UNHCR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
21st Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the information available to call handlers supporting individuals looking for application updates via telephony services at HM Passport Office.

All Passport Adviceline call handlers have some access to passport application information, and customers can be transferred where more in-depth advice is needed.

We continue to work with our supplier to increase the number of call handlers who are dedicated to the Passport Adviceline and have the necessary access to passport application systems. This will help to ensure calls can be transferred in greater volumes, so more complex passport queries can continue to be answered in good time during periods of high customer contact.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
2nd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to her oral statement of 1 March 2022 on Humanitarian support for Ukrainians, whether the humanitarian sponsorship pathway route will be open to the immediate families of Ukrainian students studying in the UK.

This Government has made clear its support for Ukrainians fleeing in fear for their lives. We have brought forward a bespoke humanitarian support package for the people of Ukraine, having listened carefully to the Ukrainian Government.

The bespoke ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to bring Ukrainians to safety. This includes those individuals with no family ties to the UK.

Ukrainian students in the UK will be able to register their interest to become a sponsor of a named individual to come to the UK, as long as they meet the sponsorship eligibility criteria.

All sponsors must be over the age of 18 and be able to provide accommodation for at least 6 months. For those who are not a British citizen, they must have leave to remain in the UK for at least 6 months so they have the ability to provide at least 6 months’ accommodation for those who they sponsor.

There will be no limit on the number of arrivals, and those who come to the UK on the scheme will have permission to live and work here for up to 3 years. They will also have access to healthcare, benefits, employment support and education.

For further information on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme can be found here:

https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
16th Dec 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the potential merits of simplifying the acceptance of Premium Bonds as a form of cash saving for the process of meeting income thresholds when individuals are making Spousal Visa application.

The Secretary of State has not held any recent discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the potential merits of simplifying the acceptance of Premium Bonds as a form of cash saving for the process of meeting income thresholds.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
25th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of allowing the use of remaining days on EEA Family Permits after the permit category ends on the 30 June 2021 where (a) there have been delays on the processing of the permit prior to that point and (b) the families have faced delays reuniting due to covid-19 restrictions.

The Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 provided for the temporary continuation of the EEA family permit to 30 June 2021, to allow the family members of EEA citizens with saved EU law rights to accompany them to, or join them in, the UK. After that date, family members will no longer be able to apply for, or use, an EEA family permit to travel to and enter the UK.

Family members wishing to join an EEA citizen who was resident in the UK by the end of the transition period can instead apply for an EU Settlement Scheme family permit, for which there is also no application fee.

Where, from 1 July 2021, an individual arrives at the border with an unexpired EEA family permit and has not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, they will generally be granted immigration bail, to enable them to make an application here.

21st Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the statutory parenting duties and responsibilities the Government has in respect of looked after children and care leavers and the vulnerabilities and challenges they may face, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that (a) looked after children and (b) legally recognised care leavers (i) have completed applications to the EU Settlement Scheme and (ii) are not affected by (A) late and (B) missed applications.

The Home Office is committed to continuing to engage with local authorities as they undertake their responsibilities to ensure all eligible looked after children and care leavers are supported to make an application to the EUSS. The Home Office will ensure caseworkers liaise with and support applicants to get the status they deserve.

The Home Office remains focused on ensuring all eligible children in care apply in time. It’s recognised however, this vulnerable cohort can change over time, with new children coming into care. We are committed to working with Local Authorities to ensure this work continues after the deadline.

In line with the Citizens’ Rights Agreement, there remains scope, indefinitely, for a person eligible for status under the EUSS to make a late application to the scheme where there are reasonable grounds for their failure to meet the deadline applicable to them.

Where a Local Authority has failed by the relevant deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme on behalf of a child under the age of 18, this would constitute reasonable grounds for the child – including where they are now an adult – to make a late application to the scheme when they become aware of this, for example when they first need to demonstrate their right to work in the UK.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
21st Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if her Department will make an assessment of the effect of the EU Settlement Scheme on the rights of (a) refugee children and (b) children in care under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Home Office is committed to continuing to engage with local authorities as they undertake their responsibilities to ensure all eligible looked after children and care leavers are supported to make an application to the EUSS. The Home Office will ensure caseworkers liaise with and support applicants to get the status they require.

The Home Office remains focused on ensuring all eligible children in care apply in time. It’s recognised however, this vulnerable cohort can change over time, with new children coming into care.

We are committed to working with Local Authorities to ensure this work continues after the deadline.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
15th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to review the level of the fee charged for the registration of children as British citizens.

The Home Office has acknowledged the recent judgment and is reviewing the fee in line with its duties under Section 55. In the meantime, the fees set out in the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2018 continue to be charged.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
15th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of reducing the cost of visas for foreign national spouses of UK national NHS workers who have worked for the NHS during the covid-19 outbreak.

The government is hugely grateful for the vital contributions made by NHS staff during the pandemic and have brought in a range of unprecedented measures to ensure the sector is supported fully.

This has included the introduction of a Health and Care Visa, which provides fast track entry, reduced fees and dedicated support for professionals and their families, along with exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge. Further free 12-month extensions were also announced last week for crucial frontline health workers and their dependents.

Fees, however, apply equally to all those settled in the UK who are seeking to sponsor family members to come to the UK. Relaxing these fees for the family members of NHS workers only, would undermine this principle.

Fees are set taking account of the charging powers provided by Section 68(9) of the Immigration Act 2014, which include the ability set fees based on: the cost of processing the application, the benefits and entitlements provided by a successful application and the wider cost of the Border, Immigration and Citizenship system. Full details of which can be reviewed via the following link:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/22/section/68.

The Home Office keeps fees for immigration and nationality applications under review and ensures they are within the parameters agreed with HM Treasury and Parliament.

Kit Malthouse
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of enabling visa applicants who would have to travel between local authority areas to attend a testing centre to undertake online English language testing during the covid-19 outbreak.

As of 13 April 2021, all SELT test centres in the United Kingdom are open, and testing is available with appropriate health and safety measures in place. There are currently no plans to introduce online testing.

Consideration of the feasibility of online testing prior to the award of the current concessions contracts was undertaken in 2019, however it was assessed at the time the maturity of online proctoring technology and its anti-fraud measures were not at a suitable level to ensure the integrity of the SELT.

The Home Office continues to be interested in the opportunities, innovations and new technologies in this space which can be provided to our customers in the future.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
11th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment her Department has made of the ability of families to earn enough to meet the increased income threshold requirements for a spouse visa following the covid-19 outbreak.

The Minimum Income Requirement is set at the level which prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration. We remain committed to those aims but have made relevant adjustments to support those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes those who have worked for the NHS during the pandemic. Further details are available here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents#.

Many NHS workers and their dependants are also eligible for free visa extensions as set out on GOV.UK here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-health-worker-visa-extension.

The minimum income requirement has not increased since it was first introduced in July 2012 and there are no plans to reduce it.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
11th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of whether the spouse visa income threshold should be reduced in the event that one of the spouses works in the NHS.

The Minimum Income Requirement is set at the level which prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration. We remain committed to those aims but have made relevant adjustments to support those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes those who have worked for the NHS during the pandemic. Further details are available here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents#.

Many NHS workers and their dependants are also eligible for free visa extensions as set out on GOV.UK here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-health-worker-visa-extension.

The minimum income requirement has not increased since it was first introduced in July 2012 and there are no plans to reduce it.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
11th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of reducing the income threshold for spousal visa applications where one of the spouses has worked for the NHS during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Minimum Income Requirement is set at the level which prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration. We remain committed to those aims but have made relevant adjustments to support those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes those who have worked for the NHS during the pandemic. Further details are available here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents#.

Many NHS workers and their dependants are also eligible for free visa extensions as set out on GOV.UK here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-health-worker-visa-extension.

The minimum income requirement has not increased since it was first introduced in July 2012 and there are no plans to reduce it.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether time within the UK built up under the NHS visa extension can be used for meeting time threshold requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain applications.

In April last year the Government introduced the automatic visa extension for those working for the NHS and independent healthcare providers. This scheme extended the visas of eligible workers for 12 months.

The majority of those who have benefitted from this scheme are on visas which have a route to settlement, such as Skilled Worker and its predecessor Tier 2 (General).

For those on a route to settlement, this period of 12 months will count towards the time they need to complete to qualify.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
5th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of supporting pandemic health and social care workers with future immigration costs after the covid-19 outbreak.

The UK Government recognises the vital contribution which overseas NHS, health and social care workers have made and continue to make in fighting the pandemic across our United Kingdom.

To provide support to them in terms of future immigration costs, last year the UK Government introduced the Health and Care visa. Thanks to this new visa they, and their dependants, pay significantly reduced visa fees and are exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. Those who are eligible also benefit from fast-tracked processing and can expect a decision within three weeks of enrolling their biometrics.

On 29 January 2021, we expanded the list of occupations which are eligible for the Health and Care Visa, meaning more skilled workers will be able to benefit from this offer. The new visa will be a key part of our immigration system going forward.

Those who are not eligible for the Health and Care Visa, and are working in eligible roles due to having rights to work in the UK which are not tied to a health and care role, may still benefit from the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) surcharge reimbursement scheme which was launched on 1 October 2020.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
27th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of permanently removing the immigration health surcharge for all key workers contributing to the response to the covid-19 outbreak.

The overall purpose of Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is to ensure a contribution to our magnificent NHS is made by those who can access its services.

Health and social care workers from overseas are doing this already through their work. This is why the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care have worked to exempt these groups from payment of the IHS through the introduction of the Health and Care Worker visa and the launch of the IHS reimbursement scheme.

However, it is only fair on UK taxpayers to expect people arriving in the UK, to work in non-healthcare roles, to contribute to the comprehensive range of NHS services available to them from their arrival. IHS payments help to sustain vital NHS services and provide comprehensive access to those services, regardless of the amount of care needed during their stay.

Many other countries require those migrating to them to take out private health insurance and they can face charges if they need to access services, which can be far more expensive than the IHS and does not always provide the comprehensive cover the NHS does, especially for pre-existing conditions.

The IHS ensures those who choose to come to the UK to work, study or live do not need to worry about insurance or pay for unexpected treatment whilst they are here. This represents a fair deal for migrants, for the UK taxpayer and for our world-class NHS.

To date, the IHS has raised over £1.5 billion for the NHS throughout the UK. Income from the IHS is distributed to the devolved administrations, including the Scottish Government, in line with the Barnett formula.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
27th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of extending visas for health and social care workers for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic.

The UK Government recognises the vital contribution overseas NHS, health and social care workers have and continue to make in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier in the year we offered free visa extensions for key, frontline health professionals whose visas were due to expire between 31 March 2020 and 1 October 2020.

On 20 November, we announced we will renew this offer for those eligible health professionals and their family dependants whose visas expire between 1 October 2020 until 31 March 2021.

More details of this announcement can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-more-health-workers-to-benefit-from-visa-extensions

We will keep the free extension offer under review to ensure we continue supporting the health and care sector in tackling this pandemic.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of allowing mitigations for people facing delays in receiving biometric residence permits during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government has implemented a range of measures to help foreign nationals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We exchanged expired 30-day entry clearance vignettes free of charge. We also replaced the 30-day entry clearance vignettes with ones which are valid for 90 days to provide foreign nationals with a longer window of opportunity to travel to the UK in light of travel limitations due to global covid-19 restrictions. Where expired vignettes were reissued, we also reissued the biometric residence permit (BRP) to reflect the updated leave start and end dates.

Upon arrival in the UK, anyone who cannot collect their BRP from the Post Office because of Covid-19 restrictions will not be penalised, and we have extended the Post Office’s period for retaining uncollected BRPs from the current 30 days to 90 days to give people more time to collect them.

We have also put in place arrangements to reuse biometrics from certain foreign nationals who have previously provided them to speed up the processing of their applications for further leave and enable them to obtain a new BRP.

Advice and guidance for visa applicants during the pandemic is available on GOV.UK by searching ‘Covid-19 visa’.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
26th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the effect on household income of circumstances in which the UK national sponsoring a spousal immigration visa application falls ill, and is unable to work, and their spouse has no recourse to public funds.

The Government remains committed to protecting vulnerable people and has acted decisively to ensure that we support everyone through this pandemic.

We have?introduced?a?range of measures?to ensure people can stay safe and many of these are available for those with a?no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition. The Coronavirus job retention scheme, self-employment income support and statutory sick pay are not classed as public funds for immigration purposes.??Contribution-based benefits are also not classed as public funds for immigration purposes.

Support is also in place for those with mortgages. Borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.

Furthermore, migrants on spousal visas are permitted to work in the UK in order to support themselves and their family, and UK nationals who are unable to work are entitled to apply for government support.

Local authorities may also provide basic safety net support, regardless of immigration status, if it is established that there is a genuine care need that does not arise solely from destitution, for example, where there are community care needs, migrants with serious health problems or family cases where the wellbeing of a child is in question.

The Government has provided additional funding for the devolved administrations under the Barnett formula as part of the wider government response. Funding provided to local authorities under the Covid-19 emergency response will be paid through a grant that is not ring-fenced, recognising that local authorities are best placed to decide how this funding is spent.

23rd Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the effect on operational transparency of the use of confidentiality agreements issued to volunteers by the contractors running immigration detention operations at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone on behalf of her Department.

We have worked closely with our accommodation provider Clearsprings Ready Homes and stakeholders to ensure the Napier site is safe and secure.

Asylum seekers are not being detained at Napier Barracks; it is temporary contingency initial asylum accommodation.

There is no secrecy about our use of Napier as asylum accommodation, but privacy of individuals must be maintained. The accommodation itself is entirely adequate for its purpose, with the same standards applied as for other asylum accommodation. We are taking great care to ensure that we provide safe, secure accommodation and that everyone has access to the support they need. This includes providing asylum seekers with privacy and confidentiality as would be expected for those seeking sanctuary in the UK where it would be damaging for their identities to be revealed.

18th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the effect of No Recourse to Public Funds conditions on the number of people sleeping rough since the start of the covid-19 outbreak.

The Home Office does not hold data on the number of people rough sleeping in the UK who are subject to no recourse to public funds (NRPF).

The Government remains committed to protecting vulnerable people and has acted decisively to ensure that we support everyone through this pandemic. Many of the wide-ranging COVID-19 measures the Government has put in place, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme have been made available to migrants with NRPF. We have published guidance and support for migrants affected by COVID-19 at

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-get-support-if-youre-a-migrant-living-in-the-uk.

A discretionary fund akin to the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, in the form of a £500 discretionary payment, paid by local?authorities is available to those with NRPF, provided they meet the criteria set by the local authority for discretionary payments in their area.

Local authorities may also provide basic safety net support, regardless of immigration status, if it is established that there is a genuine care need that does not arise solely from destitution, for example, where there are community care needs, migrants with serious health problems or family cases where the wellbeing of a child is in question.

The Government has provided councils with £6.4 billion to support their communities through this pandemic, which includes their work to support rough sleepers. This includes £4.6 billion in un-ringfenced funding, £1.1 billion from the Infection Control Fund, £300 million to support Test and Trace as well as funding allocated to councils from the new Local Alert Level system and a number of grants to support communities and vulnerable people.

We are spending over £700m on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping this year. This is on top of the unprecedented resources already committed to help councils support their communities through the pandemic, which includes their work to support children. This funding includes over £4.6 billion in un-ringfenced grants, £485m Contain Outbreak Management Fund and additional funding for authorities to support care homes, high streets and the most vulnerable in their communities.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has worked closely with local authorities and the sector to offer vulnerable people safe accommodation and support. That work is ongoing and by September over 29,000 people had been successfully supported, with over 10,000 still in emergency accommodation and nearly 19,000 provided with settled accommodation or move on support.

NRPF is applied to migrants who are expected to maintain and accommodate themselves in the UK, without recourse to public funds. However, individuals whose basis of stay in the UK is based on their family life or human rights can apply to have the NRPF condition lifted by making a ‘change of conditions’ application if there are exceptional circumstances related to financial circumstances, to avoid destitution and rough sleeping.

To avoid destitution and sleeping rough, those without immigration status should regularise their stay or leave the UK. There is support available to do this through the Voluntary Returns Service.

The Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS) offers an enhanced service for Local Authorities and registered charities to establish whether a rough sleeper has access to public funds. Part of this service includes the RSSS contacting casework teams (where there is an open application) to request that the case is prioritised. The Home Office remains committed to working with Local Authorities in their work with non-UK national rough sleepers.

30th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of adding the details of which English language testing centres are operational to her Department's webpage entitled UK Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

The Home Office will update the published list of approved English Language test centres (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prove-your-english-language-abilities-with-a-secure-english-language-test-selt) to include reference to which centres are currently operational and which are temporarily closed due to Covid-19 related issues.

It will also update the webpage giving advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents) to include a link to the update list of test centres.

Kit Malthouse
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
30th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of further (a) visa extensions and (b) reduced visa costs for NHS workers during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government recognises the vital contribution which overseas NHS, health and social care workers have made and continue to make in fighting the pandemic. That is why we automatically extended the visas of thousands of health professionals who had visas expiring between 31 March and 1 October, free of any charges.

On 4 August, the Government also introduced the Health and Care visa. Those who are eligible can expect a decision within three weeks of enrolling their biometrics. They, and their dependants, also pay significantly reduced visa fees and are exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Charge.

Those who are not eligible for the Health and Care Visa may still benefit from the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) reimbursement scheme which was launched on 1 October.

We are keeping all measures under review and continuing to work closely with the DHSC to ensure individuals working in the health and care sector are supported fully.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
21st Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she made of the affordability of armed forces dependents' leave to remain visa applications for armed forces service personnel and their families prior to publishing the proposed 5 October 2020 Immigration and Nationality Fees.

The Government highly values the service of all members of HM Forces,

Given this we explicitly provide for non-UK veterans discharged from HM Forces to obtain settlement in the UK after having served for four years or more or having been discharged for medical reasons due to their service.

The Ministry of Defence makes clear to foreign and Commonwealth recruits into the Forces the process by which they and their families can attain settlement in the UK and the costs involved.

Additionally, fee waivers are available for Leave to Remain applications for those making Article 8 claims, based on Family and Private Life, if an applicant is destitute or could be rendered destitute in paying the fee, or where there are exceptional financial circumstances which mean the fees and charges cannot be afforded without detriment to the applicant or their family. This provides for an individual or family to remain here lawfully and to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and pay the fees, when the funds become available.

Discussions continue between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence about how we can build on the provisions which already exist in our immigration and nationality system for foreign and Commonwealth nationals serving in the Armed Forces and will confirm further news in due course.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
21st Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she made of the cost of the UK citizenship application process for armed forces service personnel prior to publishing the proposed 5 October 2020 immigration and nationality fees.

The Government highly values the service of all members of HM Forces,

Given this we explicitly provide for non-UK veterans discharged from HM Forces to obtain settlement in the UK after having served for four years or more or having been discharged for medical reasons due to their service.

The Ministry of Defence makes clear to foreign and Commonwealth recruits into the Forces the process by which they and their families can attain settlement in the UK and the costs involved.

Additionally, fee waivers are available for Leave to Remain applications for those making Article 8 claims, based on Family and Private Life, if an applicant is destitute or could be rendered destitute in paying the fee, or where there are exceptional financial circumstances which mean the fees and charges cannot be afforded without detriment to the applicant or their family. This provides for an individual or family to remain here lawfully and to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and pay the fees, when the funds become available.

Discussions continue between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence about how we can build on the provisions which already exist in our immigration and nationality system for foreign and Commonwealth nationals serving in the Armed Forces and will confirm further news in due course.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
17th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what the projected timeframe is for the restoration of the main visa application service centre in Iran.

As global travel and public health restrictions imposed as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have started to lift, UKVI began a phased approach to resuming visa services overseas from 1 June, where local conditions allowed and it was safe to do so. We have worked closely with our commercial partners to ensure visa application centres (VACs) can reopen safely and customers and staff are protected and have now reopened over 130 VACs globally.

The VAC in Tehran is in the next phase and is scheduled to reopen on Sunday 26 July, with new appointments being made available from 20 July.

Further information can be found on: https://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/ir/en/news/temporary-closure-of-the-uk-visa-application-centre-in-iran

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
9th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of implementing an additional visa extension beyond 31 July 2020 for people from countries with continuing high rates of covid-19 infection.

The Home Office has put in place a range of measures to support those affected by the covid-19 outbreak. We recognise further adjustments are likely to be required to cater for all scenarios, and we are working to ensure people are not unduly affected by circumstances beyond their control.

The latest information in respect of advice for visa holders can be found on GOV.UK at: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents.

This is being kept under review, including whether further extensions will be necessary. We will confirm the position for those affected shortly.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
9th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to support people whose visas are due to expire and are unable to return to their nations of origin as a result of ongoing covid-19 travel restrictions.

The Home Office has put in place a range of measures to support those affected by the covid-19 outbreak. We recognise further adjustments are likely to be required to cater for all scenarios, and we are working to ensure people are not unduly affected by circumstances beyond their control.

The latest information in respect of advice for visa holders can be found on GOV.UK at: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents.

This is being kept under review, including whether further extensions will be necessary. We will confirm the position for those affected shortly.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
2nd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of removing No Recourse to Public Funds visa stipulations for people applying to courses in the health and social care sectors during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government does not believe it is necessary to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds condition. We have acted decisively to ensure we support people through this crisis and are confident we have measures in place to support those who have no recourse to public funds at this difficult time.

Many of the wide-ranging Covid-19 measures the government has put in place are not public funds and therefore are available to migrants with no re-course to public funds (NRPF). The Coronavirus job retention scheme, self-employment income support and statutory sick pay are not classed as public funds for immigration purposes. Contribution-based benefits are also not classed as public funds for immigration purposes. Similarly, the support the Government is providing to the rented sector and in respect of mortgages is available to all regardless of their immigration status.

The Government has temporarily lifted restrictions in the hours that Tier 4 students or Tier 2 workers in the NHS can work or volunteer. It has also extended the deadline for pre-registration nurses to sit the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination to 31 December 2020. Tier 4, Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders are also being allowed to start courses or employment before their visa applications have been determined.

The Government has published guidance on the support available for migrants living in the UK, including those with NRPF on Gov.uk.

22nd Apr 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of removing the Immigration Health Surcharge for NHS workers during the covid-19 outbreak.

We welcome the vital contribution NHS staff from across the globe make to our healthcare system.

The Home Secretary announced on 31 March 2020 the Home Office will automatically extend the visa of any NHS doctor, nurse or paramedic, where it will expire before 1 October 2020, for 12 months, free of charge. This extension will also apply to their families and includes an exemption from payment of the immigration health surcharge.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
22nd Apr 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the financial effect of increases in the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge on NHS employees making use of the 12 month covid-19 visa extension.

We welcome the vital contribution NHS staff from across the globe make to our healthcare system.

The Home Secretary announced on 31 March 2020 the Home Office will automatically extend the visa of any NHS doctor, nurse or paramedic, where it will expire before 1 October 2020, for 12 months, free of charge. This extension will also apply to their families and includes an exemption from payment of the immigration health surcharge.

Kevin Foster
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
15th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether it is his policy to offer the Ukrainian Government the inclusion of training in the Murad Code within the training provided to Ukrainian defence personnel.

Specific training on the Murad Code is not being provided to Ukrainian defence personnel. The three-week training provided to Ukrainian defence personnel does include sessions on Human Security and the Law of Armed Conflict. Human Security training provided includes awareness and understanding of Conflict Related Sexual Violence (CRSV). This training enhances understanding of how defence personnel can recognise, respond, report, and refer when dealing with Human Security related problems.

James Heappey
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
13th Jul 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether his Department is taking steps to ensure that defence manufacturers are prioritised within commercial supply chains to help avoid bottlenecks of critical materials needed for the manufacture of goods to be supplied to Ukrainian armed forces.

We are working jointly with our suppliers through the Defence Suppliers Forum on supply-chain risks and fragility in order to safeguard all critical defence outputs, and work is underway to provide industry with a clear demand signal supporting defence priorities.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
28th Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment his Department has made of potential steps that could be undertaken to support and facilitate (a) the transfer of airframes that are immediately usable by the Ukrainian Airforce from NATO allies and (b) the provision of drones for the Ukrainian military.

The UK is committed to supporting Ukraine to defend itself against Russia's ongoing aggression. Defence continues to pursue options to meet the requirements of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, including by actively convening our global partners. Decisions on what defensive air support to provide rests with individual governments.

We welcome the donations made by allies to date and the UK will host the second International Defence Donor Conference this week to encourage the international community to provide further aid to Ukraine.

James Heappey
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
23rd Mar 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether his Department has had discussions with UK defence manufacturers on additional support to increase production of defence materials for Ukraine; and what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of intervention in the semiconductor market to ensure suppliers of defence materials for Ukraine are prioritised in relation to the supply of semiconductors.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has regular conversations with our Ukrainian counterparts to determine and prioritise their requirements. As part of this process, MOD continually manages and reviews all of its stocks of weapons and munitions to ensure that it can meet its commitments, including supplying to Ukraine, whilst ensuring stocks held by UK Armed Forces are sufficiently maintained. Delivery schedules for platforms and weapons are under continual review, including with defence manufacturers, and subject to adjustment in accordance with evolving Defence requirements.

We are working very closely with government colleagues and industry experts to better understand the immediate impact of sanctions on chip supply chains. We have not identified any issues of concern, but continue to keep the situation under ongoing review.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
9th Feb 2022
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment his Department has made of the impact of trail hunting on the defence estate.

Trail hunting is a legal and licenced activity and is treated in the same manner as all other licenced activities.

Ben Wallace
Secretary of State for Defence
25th Oct 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of including injuries sustained after a service member has left the armed forces, if that injury is directly related to one sustained whilst in service, in the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme provides compensation for any injury, illness, or death which is caused by service on or after 6 April 2005. Where an injury is partly caused, or made worse, by service, compensation is payable if, on the balance of probabilities, service is the predominant cause of the injury or of the worsening of the injury.

In circumstances where an injury unexpectedly deteriorates, consequential problems develop beyond those anticipated, or a further injury develops, the award given may no longer be appropriate and the recipient can request a review. The review can result in the award being maintained or increased, but not its reduction or removal.

Leo Docherty
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)
29th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of the safety of munitions and weapons at Beaufort's Dyke.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 2 July 2020 to the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrock and Cumnock in response to Question number 65014.

Following surveys conducted by the Scottish Government in 1995 and 1996 there is better knowledge of the munitions at Beaufort’s Dyke. The overwhelming view to be found in the scientific literature is that munitions dump-sites on the sea-bed should remain undisturbed.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, if he will publish a copy of the letter sent by the former Minister of State to the Armed Forces to the former Hon. Member for Moray referred to in Official Report, HC Deb, 26 July 2000, vol 354, column 677W on UK/NATO shared assets across the UK and the location of these assets by region.

In light of the passage of time we have not been able to locate the letter.

James Heappey
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent discussions officials in his Department have had with NHS Scotland on ensuring that covid-19 vaccines are made availa