Written Question
Industrial Health and Safety: Coronavirus
28 May 2020, 3:09 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Hendy

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Lord Callanan on 14 May (HL Deb, cols 781–2), whether they will now answer the question put, namely, what plans they have to review their guidance Working Safely during COVID-19, published on 11 May, to ensure that it is compatible with the statutory duty to provide personal protection equipment to any employee who may be at risk. [T]

Answer (Lord Callanan)

The Government continues to work with stakeholders on developing sensible guidance for businesses that will give UK workers the utmost confidence on their return to work. We will now focus on sectors that are not currently open to help them plan for when they can open. The Government is keen to stay in close contact with other business sectors so we have the right information ahead of any further guidance publications.

We will keep the guidance under review and will consider updating it as circumstances change. We are being led by the science and we will make changes to the guidance when they are needed as determined by the science and as we learn best practices from businesses. We welcome views on the guidance. If there are specific points you would want to make about safer working, contact details can be found on the gov.uk/workingsafely webpages.

The guidance outlines where an employer’s risk assessment identifies that certain steps need to be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19, such as ensuring social distancing is maintained or providing additional handwashing facilities, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that these steps are taken. This is already an existing obligation for employers, which this guidance does not change. If an employer’s risk assessment does show that PPE is required, employers must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it, and any PPE must fit properly.


Written Question
Housing: Construction
28 May 2020, 3:08 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Stunell

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, following the Court of Appeal judgement in C Spencer Ltd vs MW High Tech Projects Ltd, what plans they have to consult on bringing forward legislation to include all construction operations in connection with process industry operations within the ambit of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

Answer (Lord Callanan)

The Government has no plans to consult on bringing forward legislation to include all construction operations in connection with process industry operations within the remit of Part 2 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.


Written Question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
28 May 2020, 1:31 p.m.

Questioner: Mr Stephen Morgan

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment the Government has made of the potential economic effects of employees who have accrued large amounts of holiday while furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme utilising that entitlement immediately on the lifting of covid-19 lockdown measures.

Answer (Paul Scully)

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, almost all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave, which should be paid as if workers were still at work and working. Annual leave continues to accrue as long as the worker maintains their employment relationship with their employer, which is the case whilst an employee is on a period of furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Workers on furlough are able to take annual leave, and employers are able to require them to do so. This will prevent large build-ups that would need to be used at the end of the lockdown measures.

The Government has been clear that employment rights remain unchanged under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Therefore, as holiday rights are unaffected by the scheme, no assessment has been made.


Written Question
Prices: Coronavirus
28 May 2020, 12:44 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Tyler

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Competition and Market Authority's (CMA) recent request for emergency time-limited legislation to give the CMA powers to crack down on companies profiteering from the COVID-19 pandemic by 'price gouging'.

Answer (Lord Callanan)

The Government is committed to tackling consumer rip-offs and bad business practices, including profiteering.

My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has spoken with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), business and consumer organisations and retailers to review the impact of profiteering and action taken to address it.

The Government are working with the CMA, Which?, and other organisations to monitor the extent of profiteering, and will update the law if it is proportionate to do so.


Written Question
Consumers: Protection
28 May 2020, 12:37 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Tyler

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they have responded to the Competition and Market Authority's (CMA) 2019 proposal that the CMA's powers to enforce consumer protection law should be improved.

Answer (Lord Callanan)

As outlined in our manifesto, the Government is committed to giving the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) enhanced powers to tackle consumer rip-offs and bad business practices.

The Department and the CMA have been working closely together to develop the proposals made by the CMA in 2019. For example, following a commitment made in June 2019 by the previous Secretary of State, we are looking into the possibility of putting the CMA’s powers on an administrative basis. This would allow the CMA to decide itself if a breach of consumer law has happened, rather than going to court.

Furthermore, we have announced that we will introduce a new power to impose fines of up to a maximum of 10% global turnover on businesses who have breached consumer law.


Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Chief Scientific Advisers
27 May 2020, 5:19 p.m.

Questioner: Greg Clark

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how many meetings (a) he and (b) his predecessor had with his Department’s Chief Scientific Adviser (i) from 1 September to 30 November 2019 and (ii) from 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020.

Answer (Amanda Solloway)

The Department’s Chief Scientific Adviser ensures that the department’s policies are supported by the best science and engineering advice available by advising senior officials, as well as ministers, on science and engineering matters, and working with the wider community of Chief Scientific Advisers to share good practice and resolve cross departmental problems.

The Secretary of State’s predecessor, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire, did not meet with the Department’s Chief Scientific Adviser from 1 September to 30 November 2019 and from 1 December 2019 to 13 February 2020.

My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not meet with his department’s Chief Scientific Adviser from 13 February to 29 February 2020.


Written Question
Construction: Mental Health
27 May 2020, 2:48 p.m.

Questioner: Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Chartered Institute of Building Understanding Mental Health in the Built Environment, published on 11 May; and what steps they are taking in response.

Answer (Lord Callanan)

The health and wellbeing of our construction workforce is of the utmost importance. The Government welcomes the Chartered Institute of Building’s report on mental health in the sector, and will consider its recommendations.


Written Question
Postal Services: China
27 May 2020, 12:48 p.m.

Questioner: Scott Benton

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions he is having with Royal Mail on ensuring their bilateral agreements with (a) China and (b) other countries do not provide terms for the international postage of retail goods into the UK that allow businesses in those countries with an unfair advantage over UK online retailers.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The UK, with its designated postal operator, Royal Mail, is a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which sets international remuneration rates.

Bilateral agreements with other countries are commercial matters for Royal Mail, and the Government does not play a role in these agreements.

Ministers and officials have regular discussions with Royal Mail on postal matters, including international postal services.


Written Question
Post Office: Apprentices
27 May 2020, 12:47 p.m.

Questioner: Marion Fellows

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how much Post Office Ltd paid towards the apprentice levy in each of the last five years.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Government recognises the critical role that post offices play in communities and for small businesses across the UK.

While the Government sets the strategic direction for the Post Office, it allows the company the commercial freedom to deliver this strategy as an independent business. As such, the amount paid toward the apprentice levy in each of the last five years is an operational matter for Post Office Limited.

I have asked Nick Read, the Group Chief Executive of Post Office Limited, to write to the Hon Member about this matter. A copy of his reply will be placed in the Libraries of the House.


Written Question
Post Offices: Closures
27 May 2020, 12:45 p.m.

Questioner: Marion Fellows

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how many post offices are temporarily closed in each council area of (a) Scotland, (b) Wales, (c) Northern Ireland and (d) England.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Government recognises the critical role that post offices play in communities and for small businesses across the UK.

While the Government sets the strategic direction for the Post Office, it allows the company the commercial freedom to deliver this strategy as an independent business. As such, the number of Post Offices which are temporarily closed across the UK is an operational matter for Post Office Limited.

I have asked Nick Read, the Group Chief Executive of Post Office Limited, to write to the Hon Member about this matter. A copy of his reply will be placed in the Libraries of the House.


Written Question
Postal Services: China
27 May 2020, 12:43 p.m.

Questioner: Scott Benton

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions he is having with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) on ensuring that businesses in (a) China and (b) other countries do not have an unfair advantage over UK retailers through cheaper postage costs.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy represents the UK at the UPU’s Council of Administration. It attended the UPU Extraordinary Congress in September 2019 where an agreement on international remuneration rates for bulky letters and small packets was reached. Under this agreement, the terminal dues chargeable in the UK for deliveries from countries such as China will rise from 2020 onwards at a faster rate than previously approved.


Written Question
Renewable Energy: Exports
27 May 2020, 12:16 p.m.

Questioner: John Spellar

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the level of electricity exported from renewable sources in the UK to Europe via the interconnector.

Answer (Kwasi Kwarteng)

We do not hold that information as it is not possible to identify the original generation source for electricity exported via interconnectors connecting to other European countries. However, in terms of electricity generated in the UK in 2019, 37.4 per cent came from renewable sources, which was the highest level achieved to date. Total electricity exports from the UK in 2019 were 3.4 TWh.

Source: Section 5 – UK electricity generation, trade and consumption, October to December 2019


Written Question
Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund
26 May 2020, 5:19 p.m.

Questioner: Thangam Debbonaire

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying to remove the EU State Aid cap on the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Scheme for sectors that are not affected by state aid rules.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Government keeps its business support schemes including the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality scheme under constant review. This is why we have updated guidance to Local Authorities administering the scheme, and why, based on feedback from our stakeholders, we launched the Discretionary Grant Scheme to allow Local Authorities to support businesses which did not meet the criteria for the Small Business Grant Fund or Retail Leisure and Hospitality scheme.


Written Question
Remote Working: Coronavirus
26 May 2020, 5:15 p.m.

Questioner: John Nicolson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to support businesses in the (a) transition to homeworking and (b) procurement of remote technology and office supplies to maximise homeworking during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Paul Scully)

Government is clear that, where people can, they should work at home during the current coronavirus outbreak. In order to support this, and homeworking more generally, the ACAS and HSE websites provide extensive advice on employers responsibilities and duties, and guidance on best practice, including on addressing some of the negative impacts which can be associated with homeworking – such as loneliness and mental health. Both websites have been updated to take account of the current circumstances.

The Government is working with the private sector and business representative organisations to explore how to rapidly improve utilisation and increase adoption of existing technologies to help businesses return to work safely and adapt to new ways of operating and doing business. For example, we are supporting Be the Business, the business-led independent charity which launched in 2017 with the aim of helping UK SMEs to improve their productivity. In response to the COVID19 outbreak, Be the Business have published a range of online advice and guidance to help SMEs adapt their business practices, including transitioning to homeworking.

The Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS) allows small businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, interest free for the first 12 months. At the discretion of the lender, this can be used to provide working capital for the business, such as investment in new technology.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Research
26 May 2020, 9:12 a.m.

Questioner: Chi Onwurah

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what estimate he has made of the amount of (a) public and (b) private research and development funding that has been spent on coronavirus research over the last 10 years; and who the principal recipients were of the public research and development spend.

Answer (Amanda Solloway)

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has funded a total of £23,694,655 for activities directly related to coronavirus between 2010 and the current COVID-19 crisis. This covers 34 projects across 23 organisations including the Pirbright Institute, the MRC Human Immunology Unit, and the University of Glasgow.

UKRI, along with other government departments, also funds a large amount of research and innovation across connected areas including the social sciences, vaccine manufacturing, and into fundamental biological sciences that are not directly aimed at coronavirus but have a huge impact on our understanding of and ability to respond to infectious diseases and epidemics.

These areas are also supported, in collaboration with other public funders, through groups such as The UK Vaccine Network, which was established in June 2015 with £120 million from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and UKRI ODA funding, to support the development of vaccines and vaccine technologies for diseases with epidemic potential.

Since the outbreak of the current pandemic the Government has made a series of further interventions specifically targeted at COVID-19 including:

  • £24.6 million for a joint UKRI-DHSC rapid response call for public and clinical research on COVID-19. Funding for this has been announced across 27 projects
  • £20m through UKRI, Public Health England, NHS, and Wellcome Trust for the Whole Genome Sequence Alliance
  • £28m through UKRI, Genomics England, DHSC, NIHR, and Illumina for the GenOMICC consortium
  • UKRI have launched an open call for short-term multi-disciplinary research projects of up to 18 months into tackling and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.
  • In addition to the £40m already given to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Prime Minister announced in March that the UK has invested an additional £210m of funding in the CEPI global vaccine initiative.

The latest ONS Business Enterprise Research and Development release suggests that businesses in the UK performed over £43 billion worth of R&D on pharmaceuticals in the ten years from 2009 to 2018, the most recent 10-year data range available.[1] Specific figures on private sector research into coronavirus within pharmaceutical research are not specified in this release.

[1] ONS Business Enterprise Research and Development Release, UK: 2018 https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/governmentpublicsectorandtaxes/researchanddevelopmentexpenditure/bulletins/businessenterpriseresearchanddevelopment/2018


Written Question
Global Navigation Satellite Systems
26 May 2020, 9:10 a.m.

Questioner: John Healey

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent progress has been made on the creation of a satellite navigation system.

Answer (Amanda Solloway)

This Government has made clear its ambitions in space through a new ministerial level National Space Council and by developing a Space Strategy to bring long term strategic and commercial benefits for the UK. The Government recognises the contribution the space sector makes to our economy, national security, global influence and in helping the nation to tackle the COVID crisis.

The GNSS programme is currently in its Engineering Design and Development Phase to research and understand what would best suit the UK's requirements. The programme is taking the appropriate time to investigate the requirements, design specifications and costs as fully as possible. This includes assessing value for money, scope for innovation, new markets and how much a system could meet the UK's assured positioning navigation and timing requirements as part of an ambitious new space strategy.

The programme has recently proceeded with a number of technical contracts from April to September to deliver key engineering work whilst protecting skills and technical GNSS sector jobs.

A project led by the Cabinet Office is developing the UK's positioning navigation and timing (PNT) requirements, bringing together expertise from across Whitehall, industry and the PNT community to consider requirements across military, civil and Critical National Infrastructure sectors.

In addition to other technologies, a UK GNSS capability could form part of the mix of solutions needed.


Written Question
Construction: Coronavirus
26 May 2020, 9:06 a.m.

Questioner: Rachel Hopkins

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what support his Department is providing to construction companies to enable them to meet health and safety guidelines in respect of covid-19.

Answer (Nadhim Zahawi)

The Government has worked with industry to produce guidance for those who work in or run outdoor working environments, including construction sites. This guidance will help to ensure that workplaces are as safe as possible and give workers the confidence to return to work. The guidance is published at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/construction-and-other-outdoor-work.

The Government has also worked with the Construction Leadership Council to develop Site Operating Procedures, which provide practical advice to those seeking to implement Public Health England’s guidance.

Organisations must have effective arrangements in place for monitoring and reviewing their compliance with Government and industry guidance.


Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Carbon Emissions
22 May 2020, 12:57 p.m.

Questioner: Damien Moore

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the non-financial effect on his Department of changes required for his Department to move to net zero carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement.

Answer (Kwasi Kwarteng)

The Department is committed to becoming net zero by 2050 at the latest and work is in progress to meet that target. It is too early to give an assessment of the non-financial effect on the Department.

The Department undertook an energy audit in 2019 and we are currently undertaking a range of works, including installation of LED lighting, to reduce our energy consumption. We have established a sustainability board to oversee our planning on net zero. Since 2010 we have:

- Reduced carbon emissions by 65%

- Reduced waste production by 72%

- Eradicated the majority of single-use plastics, including preventing 120,000 single use coffee cups from going to landfill in 2019.


Written Question
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Carbon Emissions
22 May 2020, 12:54 p.m.

Questioner: Damien Moore

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what estimate he has made of the financial effect on his Department of moving to net zero carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement.

Answer (Kwasi Kwarteng)

The Department is committed to becoming net zero by 2050 at the latest and work is in progress to meet that target. It is too early to give an estimate of the financial effect on the department.

The Department undertook an energy audit in 2019 and we are currently undertaking a range of works, including installation of LED lighting, to reduce our energy consumption. We have established a sustainability board to oversee our planning on net zero. Since 2010 we have:

- Reduced carbon emissions by 65%

- Reduced waste production by 72%

- Eradicated the majority of single-use plastics, including preventing 120,000 single use coffee cups from going to landfill in 2019.


Written Question
Bounce Back Loan Scheme and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
22 May 2020, 11:44 a.m.

Questioner: Preet Kaur Gill

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that banks are providing fair advice in the interests of small businesses on whether they should apply for financial support through the (a) Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme or (b) Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

Answer (Paul Scully)

Accredited lenders are responsible for providing loans under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). Businesses should approach accredited lenders in the first instance, providing information about the type and amount of finance they need to access. The lender will determine the right type of finance for a business’s needs. A full list of accredited lenders can be found on the British Business Bank website.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) allows business with a turnover of less than £45 million to access working capital (including loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance) of up to £5 million for up to six years.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000.

Full details of both the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) can be found on GOV.UK and the British Business Bank websites.

Decision-making on whether a business is eligible to access the CBILS or the BBLS is fully delegated to the accredited lenders, and individual lending decisions remain at the discretion of these lenders.

The Government continues to work closely with lenders to help SMEs access the finance they need.


Written Question
Retail Trade: China
22 May 2020, 11:41 a.m.

Questioner: Scott Benton

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to (a) ensure the quality of online retail products sold to UK consumers from China and (b) enforce appropriate UK quality standards on online retail websites.

Answer (Paul Scully)

When foreign companies and traders sell goods online and target UK consumers, they must comply with UK consumer protection laws. It is the responsibility of traders to ensure the products they are selling to UK consumers comply with UK law requiring that all products are safe, of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.


Written Question
Postal Services: Coronavirus
22 May 2020, 11:36 a.m.

Questioner: Alexander Stafford

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment he has made of the Royal Mail's compliance with the Universal Service Obligation as the Royal Mail has announced the temporary ending of Saturday deliveries during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Universal Service Obligation is set out in the Postal Services Act 2011.

Ministers have no role in temporary changes to the service level. The regulatory conditions that require Royal Mail to deliver letters 6 days a week as part of the universal postal service also provide that Royal Mail is not required to sustain these services without interruption, suspension or restriction in the event of an emergency. Ofcom has acknowledged in this context that the COVID-19 pandemic is an emergency.

There is a clear and transparent process for how longer-term changes to service standards would be considered and any changes would need to be made through secondary legislation and agreed by Parliament.


Written Question
Future Fund: Subsidiary Companies
22 May 2020, 10:20 a.m.

Questioner: Chi Onwurah

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how UK startups who have a US parent company as a requirement of US accelerator programmes can access the UK’s Future Fund initiative.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Future Fund opened for applications on 20 May. The Future Fund will provide UK-based companies with convertible loans, investing between £125k and £5m, on the condition that third-party investors at least match the Future Fund’s commitment.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme states that a business must be a UK incorporated limited company and if the company is a member of a corporate group, only the parent company is eligible.


Written Question
Remote Working: Recruitment
22 May 2020, 10:16 a.m.

Questioner: Dr Lisa Cameron

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will take steps to ensure that wherever possible jobs are advertised as flexible for homeworking in increase the participation of marginalised employees.

Answer (Paul Scully)

This Government is clear about the benefits of flexible working for employers and for their employees. In our manifesto we said that, subject to consultation, we would introduce measures to make flexible working the default.

We consulted last year on proposals to require large employers to publish flexible working policies and to advertise jobs as suitable for flexible working.

We are considering next steps.

Currently, we are seeing an increase in flexible working with many businesses rapidly adapting to remote working, using new technology and finding new ways of working. As we move beyond the current situation, and the economy begins to reopen, we are very keen to do more to promote flexible working in all its forms.


Written Question
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Pregnancy
22 May 2020, 10:13 a.m.

Questioner: Caroline Lucas

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 5 May to Question 39769, which paragraph of the Government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme specifies that pregnant employees can be furloughed under that Scheme (a) if they and their employer agree and (b) they meet the normal eligibility requirements.

Answer (Paul Scully)

The Job Retention Scheme has been designed to help employers retain staff during the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance explains that anyone who meets the eligibility requirements can be considered for the Scheme - where the employee and employer agree. That includes pregnant women. The limited number of exclusions are explicitly set out in the guidance.