Ian Mearns Portrait

Ian Mearns

Labour - Gateshead

Liaison Committee Sub-committee on the effectiveness and influence of the select committee system
13th Feb 2019 - 6th Nov 2019
Liaison Committee (Commons)
6th Nov 2017 - 6th Nov 2019
Education Committee
11th Sep 2017 - 6th Nov 2019
Backbench Business Committee
12th Jul 2017 - 6th Nov 2019
Backbench Business Committee
24th May 2016 - 3rd May 2017
Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee
25th Nov 2015 - 3rd May 2017
Liaison Committee (Commons)
10th Sep 2015 - 3rd May 2017
Education Committee
6th Jul 2015 - 3rd May 2017
Backbench Business Committee
18th Jun 2015 - 12th May 2016
High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill (Commons)
29th Apr 2014 - 7th Jul 2015
Backbench Business Committee
30th Jun 2014 - 30th Mar 2015
Education Committee
12th Jul 2010 - 30th Mar 2015
Backbench Business Committee
10th Jun 2013 - 14th May 2014
Backbench Business Committee
12th Jun 2012 - 25th Apr 2013
Backbench Business Committee
8th Nov 2010 - 1st May 2012


There are no upcoming events identified
Division Votes
Wednesday 9th June 2021
Investing in Children and Young People
voted Aye - in line with the party majority
One of 193 Labour Aye votes vs 0 Labour No votes
Tally: Ayes - 224 Noes - 0
Speeches
Thursday 22nd July 2021
Business of the House

I am afraid to say that today is the second of two days running that are sad days for the …

Written Answers
Thursday 22nd July 2021
Network Rail: Recruitment
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many additional station staff Network Rail has hired during the covid-19 …
Early Day Motions
Wednesday 14th July 2021
BBC regional political monitoring of Parliament
That this House is deeply concerned by proposals to reduce the number of staff working in the BBC Regional Political …
Bills
Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Zero Hours Contracts Bill 2014-15
A Bill to limit the use of zero-hours contracts; and for connected purposes.
MP Financial Interests
Tuesday 1st June 2021
8. Miscellaneous
From 1 May 2021, a Guardian (trustee) of Newcastle United Supporters Trust - Pledge 1892 Trust, which collects donations with …
EDM signed
Wednesday 21st July 2021
Safety and employment on cross Channel ferries
That this House is concerned by safety and employment standards on cross Channel ferry services; notes that Irish Ferries’ crew …
Supported Legislation
Wednesday 5th February 2020
Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021
A Bill to impose duties on certain education and training providers in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of …

Division Voting information

During the current Parliamentary Session, Ian Mearns has voted in 256 divisions, and 2 times against the majority of their Party.

25 Mar 2021 - Coronavirus - View Vote Context
Ian Mearns voted No - against a party majority and against the House
One of 21 Labour No votes vs 176 Labour Aye votes
Tally: Ayes - 484 Noes - 76
30 Dec 2020 - Sittings of the House - View Vote Context
Ian Mearns voted Aye - against a party majority and in line with the House
One of 7 Labour Aye votes vs 183 Labour No votes
Tally: Ayes - 335 Noes - 212
View All Ian Mearns 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
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative)
Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(96 debate interactions)
Lindsay Hoyle (Speaker)
(17 debate interactions)
Boris Johnson (Conservative)
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union
(12 debate interactions)
View All Sparring Partners
Department Debates
Leader of the House
(58 debate contributions)
Department for Education
(8 debate contributions)
Cabinet Office
(5 debate contributions)
Department for Transport
(4 debate contributions)
View All Department Debates
Legislation Debates
Ian Mearns has not made any spoken contributions to legislative debate
View all Ian Mearns's debates

Gateshead 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).

Ian Mearns has not participated in any petition debates

Latest EDMs signed by Ian Mearns

21st July 2021
Ian Mearns signed this EDM as a sponsor on Wednesday 21st July 2021

Safety and employment on cross Channel ferries

Tabled by: Grahame Morris (Labour - Easington)
That this House is concerned by safety and employment standards on cross Channel ferry services; notes that Irish Ferries’ crew on the Dover-Calais route conduct five times more Channel crossings before a period of leave than colleagues at P&O Ferries; further notes that roster patterns on P&O and DFDS ferries …
14 signatures
(Most recent: 22 Jul 2021)
Signatures by party:
Labour: 9
Scottish National Party: 2
Independent: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 1
12th July 2021
Ian Mearns signed this EDM on Tuesday 20th July 2021

Dame Carol Black's independent review of drugs

Tabled by: Grahame Morris (Labour - Easington)
That this House thanks Professor Dame Carol Black for her comprehensive Independent Review of Drugs, Part 2 which outlines a clear way forward on drug treatment and recovery to bring hope and real change to the many individuals, families and communities whose lives are blighted by drug addiction and by …
21 signatures
(Most recent: 22 Jul 2021)
Signatures by party:
Labour: 7
Scottish National Party: 6
Alba Party: 2
Conservative: 2
Independent: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1
View All Ian Mearns's signed Early Day Motions

Commons initiatives

These initiatives were driven by Ian Mearns, 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.


Ian Mearns has not been granted any Urgent Questions

Ian Mearns has not been granted any Adjournment Debates

2 Bills introduced by Ian Mearns


A Bill to limit the use of zero-hours contracts; and for connected purposes.


Last Event - 2nd Reading: House Of Commons
Friday 21st November 2014

The Bill failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session. This means the Bill will make no further progress. A Bill to require police forces to register hate crimes committed against people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities including autism; and for connected purposes.


Last Event - 1st Reading: House Of Commons
Wednesday 30th October 2013

192 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
24th Mar 2021
What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Education on the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on educational inequalities.

Disadvantaged pupils have always been at the heart of education policy. We have taken unprecedented action to address educational inequalities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 24 February, we announced a £700 million Education Recovery package, building on the £1bn from last year. As well as a range of measures to support all pupils to recover lost learning, the package includes significant funding aimed at addressing the needs of disadvantaged pupils. This includes a one-off £302 million Recovery Premium for the next academic year that will be allocated to schools based on the same methodology as the pupil premium. Schools with more disadvantaged pupils will therefore receive larger allocations. Within this package is a £22m accelerator fund, towards evidence-based approaches that support children and young people in disadvantaged areas.

In June 2020 as part of the £1 billion Covid catch up package, we announced £350 million to fund the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) for disadvantaged students for the academic years 2020/21 and 2021/22. The programme will provide additional, targeted support for those children and young people who have been hardest hit from disruption to their education as a result of school closures.

There is extensive evidence that tutoring is one of the most effective ways to accelerate pupil progress, and we want to extend this opportunity to disadvantaged and vulnerable learners. We are also funding small group tuition for 16 to 19-year-olds and early language skills in reception classes.

The Education Endowment Foundation was founded in 2011 to research and promote the most effective ways of accelerating pupil progress. They have published guidance to help schools make the most of this additional funding.

We are investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services. To date, over 1.2 million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers. Since 2011 we have continued to provide Pupil Premium funding – worth £2.4bn again this year – for school leaders to use, based on the needs of their disadvantaged pupils.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
5th Mar 2021
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, what assessment she has made of the prevalence of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy providers; and what plans she has to bring forward legislative proposals to prevent the (a) advertising and (b) delivery of conversion therapy services.

We are following through with our commitment to end conversion therapy in the UK and will bring forward plans to do so shortly. We have undertaken research to understand practices, experiences and impacts associated with conversion therapy and will publish this in due course. Officials are also in discussion with international policy counterparts, to fully understand the detail and impact of other jurisdictions’ measures, in order to inform the UK’s next steps.

Alongside this work, officials are reviewing the current legislative framework and engaging a number of relevant departments across Whitehall. We have engaged experts and survivors to understand how Government action may impact them and continue to engage with key stakeholders.

The Government is working at pace on ending conversion therapy and will outline in due course how it intends to proceed with an effective response.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
5th Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether his Department plan to temporarily suspend the requirement for physical signatures on Local Election Candidate Nomination forms for the elections in May 2021 to (a) prevent transmission of covid-19 infection between households and (b) help ensure a level playing field for all candidates including those who may be classified as vulnerable.

The Government has published a clear Delivery Plan for the May elections, setting out how the Government will support local elections teams to deliver effective polls that are covid-secure for voters and staff.

I refer the Hon Member to the statement of 8 February 2021 HCWS773 which gave details of the measures to reduce the number of signatures required by candidates as part of the nominations process to stand at the elections being held in May 2021.

Julia Lopez
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with reference to the Green Homes Grant scheme and the latest data release of 24 June 2021, what assessment he has made of the reasons for the difference between the number of vouchers issued and the number of measures actually installed; and what assessment he has made of the main challenges with delivery of measures under that scheme once a voucher has been issued.

Official statistics published on 24 June for the Green Homes Grant Voucher scheme describe installations completed prior to 03 June. More installations are being completed every day.

As per the release, 59,704 vouchers, worth over £273 million, have been issued (excluding those that have expired). 20,557 measures have been installed, giving a conversion rate of 34.4%.

Once a voucher has been issued, it is the responsibility of the customer and installer to schedule the installation and ensure work is undertaken. Installations for some measures will take longer and vary based on the size and structure of the property, along with the timing of the installation.

Vouchers continue to be issued with a three-month validity period. To ensure measures are installed as quickly as possible, we have also updated voucher extension policy for the scheme.

The Department regularly reviews information about the number of vouchers that have been issued and how many installations have been completed and vouchers paid. We are in frequent discussion with the scheme administrator in relation to this and maintain regular contact with stakeholders to understand possible issues and delays.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth)
26th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of reviewing every three years the Debt Relief Order monetary eligibility criteria to ensure that those criteria are appropriate.

No assessment has been made of the potential merits of reviewing the Debt Relief Order monetary eligibility criteria every three years. However, the Government does keep the legislative framework for insolvency under regular review.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
26th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether he plans to increase the financial cap for eligibility for a Debt Relief Order; and whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of increasing that financial cap to £50,000.

The Government has recently consulted on proposals to increase the eligibility criteria for Debt Relief Orders to help more people deal with their financial difficulties and to provide a fresh start. The consultation includes increasing the total amount of debt allowable in a Debt Relief Order. The consultation proposes an increase from the current debt limit of £20,000 to £30,000 but also seeks views on whether a different limit should be implemented. The consultation closed on 26 February 2021 and the Government is currently reviewing the responses.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
4th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to introduce more stringent supply chain employment requirements for the offshore wind industry ahead of the next Contract for Difference auction process.

The Government is eager to deliver supply chain investment and jobs from CfD contracts. We have confirmed our intention to align the Supply Chain Plan process with government priorities, and we are currently consulting[1] on proposals to introduce consequences for non-delivery of commitments that developers put forward in their Supply Chain Plans, which are approved before they enter the CfD Allocation Round. We are also strengthening the Supply Chain Plan monitoring process to support compliance.

These measures should be seen alongside my Rt. Hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s announcement on £160 million of new funding towards investment to upgrade ports and infrastructure and long-term ambitions to increase renewable energy capacity in the next CfD auction, which, together, will support new UK content, jobs and investment.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/contracts-for-difference-cfd-changes-to-supply-chain-plans-and-the-cfd-contract - Closing date 18th January 2021.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
4th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to ensure that the next Contract for Difference auction process assists the offshore wind industry in meeting its commitment to 60 per cent UK content in the supply chain for offshore wind farms on the UK Continental Shelf before 2030.

The Government is eager to deliver supply chain investment from CfD contracts. We have confirmed our intention to align the Supply Chain Plan process with government priorities, and we are currently consulting[1] on proposals to introduce consequences for non-delivery of commitments that developers put forward in their Supply Chain Plans, which are approved before they enter the CfD Allocation Round. We are also strengthening the Supply Chain Plan monitoring process to support compliance.

These measures should be seen alongside my Rt. Hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s announcement on £160 million of new funding towards investment to upgrade ports and infrastructure and long-term ambitions to increase renewable energy capacity in the next CfD auction, which, together, will support new UK content, jobs and investment.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/contracts-for-difference-cfd-changes-to-supply-chain-plans-and-the-cfd-contract - Closing date 18th January 2021.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will review the Crown Estate’s licensing process for offshore wind farms to ensure that (a) employment and (b) port activity in the supply chain is reserved for UK based (i) workers and (ii) ports after the EU transition period expires.

The Crown Estate is an independent commercial business, created by Act of Parliament, and the Department does not have powers to review their licensing process. However, Ministers and officials of the Department work closely with the Crown Estate to ensure that offshore wind leasing process are consistent with the Government’s renewable ambitions to achieve net zero by 2050 while boosting the UK economy.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will make it his policy to amend the Contracts for Difference auction process for offshore wind farm projects on the UK Continental Shelf to weight the process in favour of developers who commit to use Tier 1-3 contractors who employ (a) seafarers and (b) other maritime workers in the domestic supply chain.

The Government is currently consulting on proposals to strengthen Contracts for Difference (CfD) Supply Chain Plans, to align them more closely with government priorities. We propose to introduce consequences for non-delivery of commitments that developers put forward in their Supply Chain Plans and strengthen the monitoring process to support compliance.

These measures should be seen alongside my Rt. Hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on £160 million of new funding towards investment to upgrade ports and infrastructure to ensure UK ports have the necessary facilities and capabilities to meet the future needs of offshore wind developers. Together with other commitments on offshore wind, this will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will make it his policy to amend the Contracts for Difference auction process for offshore wind farm projects on the UK Continental Shelf to weight the process in favour of developers who commit to the exclusive use of UK ports by their Tier 1-3 contractors.

The Government is currently consulting on proposals to strengthen Contracts for Difference (CfD) Supply Chain Plans, to align them more closely with government priorities. We propose to introduce consequences for non-delivery of commitments that developers put forward in their Supply Chain Plans and strengthen the monitoring process to support compliance.

These measures should be seen alongside my Rt. Hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on £160 million of new funding towards investment to upgrade ports and infrastructure to ensure UK ports have the necessary facilities and capabilities to meet the future needs of offshore wind developers and remain competitive.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
8th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, when he plans to launch revised local content methodology for the offshore wind industry; and whether that methodology will apply to supply chain contractors.

The Offshore Wind Industry committed to updating its UK content methodology and a longer-term move towards increased transparency as part of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal. The industry has committed to reviewing the methodology and they will publish this once agreed.

The methodology applies to every developer, who are obliged to seek UK content data from their suppliers, using the same methodology, for all contracts above £10m.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
28th Aug 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what plans his Department has to review the (a) weekly income limit, (b) maximum number of qualifying years and (c) other eligibility criteria and limitations on the Statutory Redundancy Pay Scheme.

Any employee who is dismissed due to redundancy and who satisfies certain qualifying conditions has a statutory entitlement to a lump sum from their employer, based on their age, length of service and contractual weekly earnings, subject to a statutory upper limit, payable at, or soon after, the dismissal date.

The statutory redundancy scheme is intended to provide a minimum “safety net” of entitlement for vulnerable employees, and the legislation leaves the parties free to negotiate and agree improvements on the statutory entitlement according to their own priorities, needs and circumstances.

We introduced new legislation which commenced on 31 July to ensure that furloughed employees who are subsequently made redundant receive statutory redundancy pay, statutory notice pay, unfair dismissal compensation and pay for short-time working based on the employee’s normal pay, rather than their furlough pay (potentially 80% of their normal wage). The Government has always urged employers to do the right thing and not seek to disadvantage furloughed employees who are facing redundancy.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
12th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether his Department has any plans to increase the protections afforded to those who buy gift cards for businesses in cash, in line with those offered through the Chargeback scheme and Consumer Credit Act, in circumstances where businesses enter administration.

The Department asked the Law Commission to examine the protection given to consumer prepayments, including gift vouchers, and consider whether such protections should be strengthened. The Law Commission concluded that gift voucher losses were relatively uncommon, and mandatory regulation on gift vouchers in an insolvency context would be disproportionate. Costs arising to businesses from regulation could also be passed on to consumers.

The Government has worked with the industry and consumer groups to publish better guidance for insolvency practitioners on the information that should be made available to consumers when a retailer becomes insolvent.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of introducing a scheme similar to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to encourage people to access health and fitness facilities to support public health and businesses in that sector.

Sports and physical activity are crucial for our mental and physical health. That’s why we continued to make sure that people can exercise throughout the national restrictions, and why we ensured that grassroots sport was front of the queue when easing those restrictions.

On Monday 22 February, the Prime Minister announced a roadmap out of the current lockdown in England. The government has introduced a step approach to the return of outdoor and indoor sport areas across England. From 8 March, sport can take place in school for all children, or as part of wraparound activities if children are attending in order to enable their parents to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care, or attend a support group. Organised outdoor sport restarted on 29 March and indoor leisure facilities including gyms re-opened for indoor use on 12 April.

The Government has provided unprecedented support to the sport sector to ensure these facilities are able to open. Beyond elite level sport, on the 22nd October 2020, the government announced a £100 million support fund for local authority leisure centres. Sport England are also providing £220 million directly to support community sport clubs and exercise centres through this pandemic, including their £35 million Community Emergency Fund. Sport England’s new strategy, ‘Uniting the Movement’, dedicated an additional £50 million to support grassroots sports clubs and organisations.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
10th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with reference to the Government's Covid-19 Response and Roadmap and guidance on the re-opening of indoor fitness facilities and gyms; at what stage will one to one personal training or rehabilitation sessions be permitted to resume indoors.

Sports and physical activity are crucial for our mental and physical health. That’s why we have continued to make sure that people can exercise throughout the national restrictions and why we have ensured that grassroots and children’s sport is front of the queue when easing those restrictions.

On Monday 22 February, the Prime Minister announced a roadmap out of the current lockdown in England. One to one coaching and personal training can continue outdoors under the same rules as during national restrictions. As part of step 2, the majority of indoor leisure facilities will be able to open for individual use including one to one coaching and personal training. As part of step 3, we expect exercise classes to be able to resume.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
30th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with reference to his oral evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of 22 April 2020, HC157, what assessment his Department has made of whether Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the Private Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia are separate entities.

As the Secretary of State said during his evidence at the select committee, it is for the Premier League alone to make assessments of potential acquisitions of football clubs under its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
8th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues to secure support for the Sport of Association Football and clubs at all levels of the game.

Football clubs are the bedrock of our local communities and it is vital they are protected at all levels of the game. That is why we have provided unprecedented support to businesses through tax reliefs, cash grants and employee wage support, which many football clubs have benefited from. Sport England’s Community Emergency Fund has also provided £210 million directly to support community sport clubs and exercise centres through this pandemic.

The government has also been consistently clear that it expects football to support itself through this time. The Premier League and English Football League were some of the first elite competitions to return "behind closed doors", which enabled vital broadcast revenue to flow into the sport to look after the wider football family, retained competitive integrity and brought joy to millions of sports fans. The government also ensured Project Restart was shared with everyone by getting Premier League football on the BBC for the first time ever.

The government recognises the implications for sports clubs of not being able to admit spectators to stadia from 1 October, and are working urgently on what we can do now to support them. The Department will continue to work with colleagues across Whitehall to support the sector.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
2nd Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what plans his Department has to (a) allow the reopening of five-a-side football premises and (b) permit small numbers of people to take part in contact sport as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

Sports and physical activity facilities play a crucial role in supporting adults and children to be active. The Government has made it clear that it will adopt a phased approach based on scientific and medical advice, and that the primary goal is to protect public health. The Government is in discussions with representatives from the sport and physical activity sector about the steps required to restart grassroots sport and will update the public when it is deemed safe to reopen indoor sports venues and facilities, including five-a-side football premises.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support disabled children and their families to recover from effects of the covid-19 outbreak.

Supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families is a priority for this government, and their educational, physical and mental wellbeing remains central to our cross-government response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

We have provided £40.8 million for the Family Fund in 2020-21 to support over 80,000 families on low incomes raising children with disabilities or serious illnesses. This includes £13.5 million to specifically respond to needs arising from the outbreak.

We have published guidance for children's social care services, making clear that parents or carers of disabled children and young people may continue to access respite care, and have communicated best practice to Directors of Children's Services and local authorities to ensure that as many disabled children and young people as possible can continue to access these services during the COVID-19 outbreak. This guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-childrens-social-care-services/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-local-authorities-on-childrens-social-care.

The government has provided £4.6 billion of additional funding in financial year 2020-21 to support councils through the COVID-19 outbreak to respond to local needs, including to deliver services to support vulnerable children.

We have and continue to develop plans for COVID-19 recovery. As part of this, both special schools and alternative provision will be able to access funding to provide summer schools and the National Tutoring Programme, and we recognise the additional costs associated with offering provision to pupils in specialist settings. This means that eligible pupils in special schools, special units in mainstream primary and secondary schools and alternative provision settings will attract a higher rate of the new one-off Recovery Premium funding worth £302 million, as well as funding for summer schools. We have consistently prioritised children who attend specialist settings in our Recovery Premiums to schools by providing additional uplifts both in 2020 and in 2021.

Young people with SEND aged 19 to 24 who have an education, health and care plan will be eligible for support via the 16 to 19 Tuition Fund, where they meet the fund criteria. Providers are asked to have regard to the needs of students with SEND when prioritising students that would benefit most from small group tuition. Furthermore, the proposals to support early language and literacy recovery will benefit all children, including those with SEND.

£200 million will be available to all secondary schools, including specialist settings, to deliver face-to-face summer schools. Schools will be able to target provision based on pupils’ needs. The size and shape of the summer schools will be decided by school leaders who know best what the most effective summer school will look like for their pupils, allowing them to tailor support for pupils, including those with SEND.

Sir Kevan Collins has also been appointed as the Education Recovery Commissioner and is considering how schools and the system can more effectively target resources and support at pupils in greatest need.

The department will continue to assess the impact of the outbreak and its subsequent COVID-19 recovery plans on all pupils, including those with SEND, to ensure it targets support across the system most effectively.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of implementing a COVID-19 recovery plan for disabled children and their families.

Supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families is a priority for this government, and their educational, physical and mental wellbeing remains central to our cross-government response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

We have provided £40.8 million for the Family Fund in 2020-21 to support over 80,000 families on low incomes raising children with disabilities or serious illnesses. This includes £13.5 million to specifically respond to needs arising from the outbreak.

We have published guidance for children's social care services, making clear that parents or carers of disabled children and young people may continue to access respite care, and have communicated best practice to Directors of Children's Services and local authorities to ensure that as many disabled children and young people as possible can continue to access these services during the COVID-19 outbreak. This guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-childrens-social-care-services/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-local-authorities-on-childrens-social-care.

The government has provided £4.6 billion of additional funding in financial year 2020-21 to support councils through the COVID-19 outbreak to respond to local needs, including to deliver services to support vulnerable children.

We have and continue to develop plans for COVID-19 recovery. As part of this, both special schools and alternative provision will be able to access funding to provide summer schools and the National Tutoring Programme, and we recognise the additional costs associated with offering provision to pupils in specialist settings. This means that eligible pupils in special schools, special units in mainstream primary and secondary schools and alternative provision settings will attract a higher rate of the new one-off Recovery Premium funding worth £302 million, as well as funding for summer schools. We have consistently prioritised children who attend specialist settings in our Recovery Premiums to schools by providing additional uplifts both in 2020 and in 2021.

Young people with SEND aged 19 to 24 who have an education, health and care plan will be eligible for support via the 16 to 19 Tuition Fund, where they meet the fund criteria. Providers are asked to have regard to the needs of students with SEND when prioritising students that would benefit most from small group tuition. Furthermore, the proposals to support early language and literacy recovery will benefit all children, including those with SEND.

£200 million will be available to all secondary schools, including specialist settings, to deliver face-to-face summer schools. Schools will be able to target provision based on pupils’ needs. The size and shape of the summer schools will be decided by school leaders who know best what the most effective summer school will look like for their pupils, allowing them to tailor support for pupils, including those with SEND.

Sir Kevan Collins has also been appointed as the Education Recovery Commissioner and is considering how schools and the system can more effectively target resources and support at pupils in greatest need.

The department will continue to assess the impact of the outbreak and its subsequent COVID-19 recovery plans on all pupils, including those with SEND, to ensure it targets support across the system most effectively.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to tackle social isolation in disabled children and their families.

Supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families is a priority for this government, and their educational, physical and mental wellbeing remains central to our cross-government response to the COVID-19 outbreak. That is why education settings have remained open for children and young people with an education, health and care plan throughout periods of national lockdown.

The return to school for all pupils was prioritised due to the significant and proven impact caused by being out of school, including on wellbeing. The support schools provide to their pupils as they return to face-to-face education should include time devoted to supporting wellbeing, which will play a fundamental part in supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing recovery. The expectations for schools in this regard are set out clearly in the main Department for Education guidance to schools, which also signposts further support, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

We have worked with our partners, including the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Health Education England, Public Health England and other key voluntary sector organisations to deliver the Wellbeing for Education Return programme, which has provided training and resources to help school staff respond to the wellbeing and mental health needs of pupils. This £8 million government backed programme provided schools and colleges all over England with the knowledge and access to resources they need to support children and young people, teachers and parents.

The return to school on 8 March 2021 has been supported with a new £700 million package, which includes a Recovery Premium for state primary, secondary and special schools to use as they see best to support disadvantaged students. This will help schools to provide academic and pastoral support for disadvantaged pupils that has been proven most effective in helping them recover from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

£200 million will be available to all secondary schools, including specialist settings, to deliver face-to-face summer schools. Schools will be able to target provision based on pupils’ needs. The size and shape of the summer schools will be decided by school leaders who know best what the most effective summer school will look like for their pupils, allowing them to tailor support for pupils, including those with SEND.

Additionally, we have expanded the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018. From 2021, the programme will cover the Easter, Summer and Christmas school holidays at a cost of up to £220 million. It will be available to children in every local authority in England, building on previous programmes and we are working to ensure that the programme is fully inclusive and accessible for children with SEND.

Sir Kevan Collins has been appointed as the Education Recovery Commissioner and is considering how schools and the system can more effectively target resources and support at pupils in greatest need. Additionally, Dr Alex George was appointed on 4 February as Youth Mental Health Ambassador to advise government and raise the profile of mental health education and wellbeing in schools, colleges and universities. He will use his clinical expertise and personal experience to champion government’s work on children’s and young people’s mental health and shape policy on improving support for young people in schools, colleges and universities.

In the long term, we remain committed to our joint green paper delivery programme with DHSC and NHS England, including introducing new mental health support teams for all schools and colleges, providing training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges, and testing approaches to faster access to NHS specialist support.

The department will continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and its subsequent COVID-19 recovery plans on all pupils, including those with SEND, to ensure it targets support across the system most effectively.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, from what date university students will be able to return to campus and resume in-person teaching.

Following the review into when the remaining higher education students can return to in-person teaching and learning, the government has announced that the remaining students should return to in-person teaching no earlier than 17 May 2021, alongside Step 3 of the roadmap. Students and institutions will be given at least a week’s notice of any further return in accordance with the timing of Step 3 of the roadmap.

The government roadmap is designed to maintain a cautious approach to the easing of restrictions to reduce public health risks and ensure that we can maintain progress towards full reopening. However, the government recognises the difficulties and disruption that this may cause for many students and their families and that is why the government is making a further £15 million of additional student hardship funding available for this academic year 2020/21. In total we have made an additional £85 million of funding available for student hardship.

We are supporting universities to provide regular twice weekly asymptomatic testing for all students and staff on-site and, from May, at home. This will help break chains of transmission of the virus.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
2nd Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 25 January 2021 to Question 140051, what assessment he has made of the potential risk of covid-19 transmission in school classrooms where staff and pupils have had to use the face covering exemption to remove face coverings to assist the learning of a pupils who rely on lip reading, clear sound or facial impressions to communicate.

The Department continues to work closely with other Government Departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector. We continue to work to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to continue to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils, and parents.

The Department has recently published updated guidance for schools to support the return to full attendance from 8 March, which includes updated advice on face coverings. The guidance can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/964351/Schools_coronavirus_operational_guidance.pdf.

The system of controls as outlined in our guidance have been developed with PHE to reduce risk in schools. Implementing the system of controls creates a safer environment for staff and pupils where the risk of transmission of the infection is substantially reduced. The use of face coverings in recommended circumstances is one element of the system of controls and should be implemented alongside other measures, including maintaining social distancing wherever possible and regular hand washing.

As the guidance outlines, where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, the Department recommends that face coverings should be worn by adults, pupils and students when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

In addition, from 8 March, the Department now also recommends that in schools where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms unless social distancing can be maintained.

In primary schools, face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in primary schools do not need to wear a face covering.

Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This includes people who cannot put on, wear, or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate. The same legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply in schools.

Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. There is currently very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of transparent face coverings, but they may be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The Department is recommending these additional precautionary measures for a for a time limited period until Easter. As with all measures, we will keep this under review and update guidance as necessary.

To safeguard the health of the teaching workforce and keep as many staff, pupils and students in school and college as possible, we have introduced rapid lateral flow COVID-19 tests available to schools and colleges to help catch asymptomatic cases and reduce transmission. Further information on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-asymptomatic-testing-in-schools-and-colleges/coronavirus-covid-19-asymptomatic-testing-in-schools-and-colleges.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
2nd Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of requirements for face coverings in class rooms on the learning of (a) all children and (b) deaf children since September 2020.

The Department continues to work closely with other Government Departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector. We continue to work to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’, and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils, and parents.

On 22 February, the Department published its evidence summary, ‘COVID-19 - children, young people and education settings’, which includes a section on face coverings. It can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/963639/DfE_Evidence_summary_COVID-19_-_children__young_people_and_education_settings.pdf.

The Department has also recently published updated guidance for schools to support the return to full attendance from 8 March, which includes updated advice on face coverings. The guidance can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/964351/Schools_coronavirus_operational_guidance.pdf.

As the guidance outlines, where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, the Department recommends that face coverings should be worn by adults, pupils, and students when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

In addition, from 8 March the Department now recommends that in schools where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms unless social distancing can be maintained.

The same legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply in nurseries, schools, and colleges. This includes people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate. The Department expects teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.

Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. There is currently very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of transparent face coverings, but they may be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The Department is recommending these additional precautionary measures for a for a time limited period until Easter. As with all measures, we will keep this under review and update guidance as necessary.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
2nd Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to help ensure that schools make reasonable adjustments to requirements for face coverings to be worn for people who (a) rely on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate and (b) provide support to such individuals when schools reopen in March 2021 as covid-19 restrictions are eased.

The Department continues to work closely with other Government Departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as stakeholders across the sector. We continue to work to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to develop comprehensive guidance based on the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’, and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils, and parents.

On 22 February, the Department published its evidence summary, ‘COVID-19 - children, young people and education settings’, which includes a section on face coverings. It can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/963639/DfE_Evidence_summary_COVID-19_-_children__young_people_and_education_settings.pdf.

The Department has also recently published updated guidance for schools to support the return to full attendance from 8 March, which includes updated advice on face coverings. The guidance can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/964351/Schools_coronavirus_operational_guidance.pdf.

As the guidance outlines, where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, the Department recommends that face coverings should be worn by adults, pupils, and students when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

In addition, from 8 March the Department now recommends that in schools where pupils and students in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms unless social distancing can be maintained.

The same legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply in nurseries, schools, and colleges. This includes people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate. The Department expects teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.

Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. There is currently very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of transparent face coverings, but they may be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The Department is recommending these additional precautionary measures for a for a time limited period until Easter. As with all measures, we will keep this under review and update guidance as necessary.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
26th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of (a) school closures during the covid-19 outbreak, (b) access to good quality teaching and (c) internet access and appropriate IT equipment on pupils from all backgrounds preparing to take the 11-plus exam in the 2021-22 academic year; and what steps his Department has taken to ensure that the disruption to education as a result of the covid-19 outbreak does not disproportionately affect pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds sitting and passing that exam.

We know that receiving face-to-face education is best for children’s mental health and educational achievement. We have resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown, but in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS we needed to use every lever at our disposal to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have expected schools to remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, whilst limiting attendance for the majority of children to help slow the spread of the virus. Schools have also been offering wraparound provision, such as breakfast and afterschool clubs, for those children eligible to attend. The system of controls set out in our guidance provides a set of principles for infection control. The guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak. We expect schools to follow this advice and maximise the use of these control measures, so that they will effectively minimise risks of viral transmission.

Where it is needed, schools are expected to offer pupils in Key Stage 2 a minimum of 4 hours of remote education that includes either recorded or live direct teaching alongside time for pupils to work independently to complete assignments that have been set.

There is a wide range of resources available to support schools to meet the expectations we have set. The Get Help with Remote Education page on gov.uk provides a one-stop-shop for teachers, signposting the support package available: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-remote-education. This includes helping schools to access technology that supports remote education, as well as peer-to-peer training and guidance on how to use technology effectively. We have also updated the remote education guidance to clarify and strengthen expectations in cases where on-site attendance is restricted: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/remote-education-good-practice/remote-education-good-practice.

To make up for lost teaching time and to stop pupils falling behind, our £1 billion catch up package remains in place, including the £650 million catch-up premium and in-school support through the National Tutoring Programme for the most disadvantaged. We are also looking ahead to the arrangements for the 2021 exam series and how, working closely Sir Kevan Collins, our new Education Recovery Commissioner, we can support catch-up and make up for lost learning over the summer: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-commissioner-appointed-to-oversee-education-catch-up.

The Government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. As of Monday 8 March 2021, over 1.2 million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, academy trusts, local authorities and further education colleges. The Department has based allocations on estimates of the need of disadvantaged children in Years 3 to 13. We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering over 70,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.

Last year, we strongly advised admission authorities to test in October or November 2020 rather than in the first weeks of September, as is the normal practice, to give all pupils, including disadvantaged pupils, the chance to get back into the routine of education before being tested: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-assessment-processes-for-selective-school-admissions. We will consider whether guidance is needed for the 2022 testing round, which will take place in autumn 2021.

If a child is refused admission their parent has a right of appeal, even if they have failed the selection test. The Appeals Code then says that the panel can look at other evidence of a child’s ability, for example, SATS or report from the primary school, to establish whether they are of the required standard. Parents who consider their child did not perform to their utmost ability because of disruption can appeal on this basis. Please see the relevant sections of the Appeals Code: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/275897/school_admission_appeals_code_1_february_2012.pdf.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
26th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance his Department has published to support the (a) holding and (b) taking of the 11-plus exam in 2021.

Guidance was published in July 2020 on selection testing for entry for September 2021. The Department updated it to offer amended advice on late and in-year testing on 23 February 2021. We will keep the need for further guidance for this year and for entry in September 2022 under review as we receive further scientific advice on the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-assessment-processes-for-selective-school-admissions.

Selection tests are part of the admission arrangements of individual grammar schools. They are administered locally, and the Department does not routinely collect information on individual test results or those entering tests. We do not intend to undertake such a data collection exercise at this time. Data is available, within the National Pupil Database, on the number of disadvantaged children on roll within grammar schools.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
26th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department has plans to ensure that Grammar schools collect data on the performance of pupils eligible for the pupil premium who enter into the 11-plus exam.

Guidance was published in July 2020 on selection testing for entry for September 2021. The Department updated it to offer amended advice on late and in-year testing on 23 February 2021. We will keep the need for further guidance for this year and for entry in September 2022 under review as we receive further scientific advice on the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-assessment-processes-for-selective-school-admissions.

Selection tests are part of the admission arrangements of individual grammar schools. They are administered locally, and the Department does not routinely collect information on individual test results or those entering tests. We do not intend to undertake such a data collection exercise at this time. Data is available, within the National Pupil Database, on the number of disadvantaged children on roll within grammar schools.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
26th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what information his Department holds on the proportion of students who enter the 11-plus exam who are eligible for the pupil premium; and whether his Department has made a comparative assessment of such pupils' performance in that exam with the performance of pupils not eligible for the pupil premium.

Guidance was published in July 2020 on selection testing for entry for September 2021. The Department updated it to offer amended advice on late and in-year testing on 23 February 2021. We will keep the need for further guidance for this year and for entry in September 2022 under review as we receive further scientific advice on the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-assessment-processes-for-selective-school-admissions.

Selection tests are part of the admission arrangements of individual grammar schools. They are administered locally, and the Department does not routinely collect information on individual test results or those entering tests. We do not intend to undertake such a data collection exercise at this time. Data is available, within the National Pupil Database, on the number of disadvantaged children on roll within grammar schools.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
21st Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that university students who have entered contracts for accommodation and who are now prevented from travelling to as a result of covid-19 restrictions are freed from their contractual obligation to pay.

The government plays no role in the provision of student residential accommodation. Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own rent agreements. Whether a student is entitled to a refund or to an early release from their contract will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between them and their provider.

This has been a very difficult time for students, and we encourage universities and private landlords to review their accommodation policies to ensure that they are fair, clear and have the interests of students at heart.

We recognise that, in these exceptional circumstances, some students may face financial hardship. The department has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to draw on existing funds, worth around £256 million for the academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support. The government is making available up to a further £20 million on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students. As my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, said on 7 January, we are considering what more we can do to provide further support to students.

Maintenance loans are available as a contribution towards a student’s living costs while attending university. The system targets the most living cost support at those from the lowest income families, who need it most.

Students undertaking courses that would normally require attendance on-site, but for which learning has moved either fully or partially online due to the COVID-19 outbreak, will qualify for living costs support in the 2020/2021 academic year as they would ordinarily, provided that they continue to engage with their higher education (HE) provider. This also applies when the student is prevented from attending the course physically and is required to study online due to shielding.

If students have concerns about their accommodation fees, they should first raise their concerns with their accommodation provider. If their concerns remain unresolved, and their HE provider is involved in the provision of the accommodation, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

If a student thinks their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/, https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain, and https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
21st Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to provide additional funding to higher education establishments to allow them to reduce the course fees charged for academic year 2020-21.

Universities are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees, up to a maximum of £9,250 for standard full-time undergraduate courses offered by approved (fee cap) providers. However, the government has been clear that universities are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop. Universities should seek to ensure all students, regardless of their background, can access their studies remotely.

The government has provided significant support to the higher education sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. Alongside access to the business support schemes, we brought forward £2 billion worth of tuition fee payments, provided £280 million of grant funding for research and established a loan scheme to cover up to 80% of a university’s income losses from international students for the academic year 2020/21, up to the value of their non-publicly funded research activity support research.

We are working closely with the Office for Students, and the sector to maintain an up-to-date understanding of issues arising during this academic year and are extremely grateful for the work of universities and other higher education providers.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
19th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department plans to amend the guidance on face coverings in educational settings to include the use of transparent face coverings where possible, to assist with learners who rely on lip reading to learn.

During the national lockdown, in education settings where Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Face coverings can make it more difficult to communicate with children with additional needs or children who may rely on lip reading or facial expressions for understanding. The Department expects staff to be sensitive to these needs when teaching and interacting with children.

As the Department’s guidance outlines, some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This includes people who cannot put on, wear, or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound, or facial expressions to communicate. The same legal exemptions that apply to the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport also apply in schools, nurseries and colleges.

Based on current evidence and the measures that schools are already putting in place, such as the system of controls and consistent bubbles, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom.

Children in primary schools do not need to wear a face covering, and older children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities may be exempt from wearing them, depending on their need.

The Department’s guidance on face coverings can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-in-education/face-coverings-in-education.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
2nd Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to ensure that young people due to sit GCSE exams in summer 2021 will continue to have access to high quality education from their schools when school attendance is interrupted by (a) a local or national outbreak of covid-19 and (b) class or school level isolation is required in response to a school covid-19 outbreak.

The Government has announced a package of support to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time. This includes a universal catch up premium for schools of £650 million and a new £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged pupils.?This £1 billion package is on top of the £2.6 billion increase in school budgets for academic year 2020-21 that was announced last year, as part of a £14 billion three-year funding settlement, recognising the additional work schools will need to do to help students to catch up.

Schools have been working extremely hard over the summer to prepare for full reopening, as well as to develop remote education contingency plans. This is testament to their commitment to ensuring any missed education is recovered and that we minimise any disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. We have a shared responsibility for working to ensure this generation of young people do not face long-term disadvantage.

To ensure that there is no doubt about the roles and responsibilities within the system for providing remote education, the Government published a Temporary Continuity Direction on 1 October, which makes it clear that schools have a duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children unable to attend school due to COVID-19. This will come into effect from 22 October 2020. The direction poses no additional expectations on the quality of remote education expected of schools beyond those set out in the Department’s guidance.

The Department also announced further remote education support intended to support schools in meeting the remote education expectations set out in the schools guidance for full opening published in July. Further details of the support package can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

For schools, this support package includes an additional 250,000 laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and development resources for staff including a good practice guide and school-led webinars. The Department is also investing £1.5 million of additional funding to expand the EdTech Demonstrator programme, which provides peer-to-peer support for schools and colleges. The package is designed to help schools build on and deliver their existing plans in the event that pupils are unable to attend school because of COVID-19, in line with guidance and the law. This adds to existing support including the resources available from Oak National Academy.

The Department is engaging with Ofqual and representatives from schools and colleges in order to consider possible contingency arrangements for next year so that as many students as possible are able to enter exams.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
21st Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 10 July 2020 to Question 64157, and with reference to the Parentkind survey results published on 16 July 2020, what steps he is taking to inform parents and carers that it is safe for children to return to school in September; and whether he plans to suspend fines for parents and carers who do not send children to school in September.

All pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full time from the beginning of the autumn term. The Department has published guidance for parents and carers detailing what they need to know about education settings in the autumn term. The guidance is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-in-the-autumn-term.

On 2 July the Government published guidance on the full opening of schools, including a Public Health England endorsed system of controls which, when implemented alongside the school’s own risk assessment, will create an inherently safer environment for children and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced.

On 17 August, the Government launched a ‘Back to School’ campaign which seeks to reassure parents and explain measures that nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges are taking to reduce the risk of transmission. The Department has worked closely with Department for Transport and Cabinet Office to support and inform parents.

It is vital that children and young people return to school for their educational progress, for their wellbeing, and for their wider development. School attendance will again be mandatory from the beginning of the new academic year. For parents and carers of children of compulsory school age, this means that the legal duty as a parent to send a child to school regularly will apply.

Schools should work with families to ensure children are attending full time from September. As usual, fines will sit alongside this, but only as a last resort and where there is no valid reason for absence.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
14th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to tackle the issue identified in his speech to the Social Market Foundation of 9 July 2020 that participation in undergraduate part-time study in higher education has fallen significantly.

The government recognises the importance of studying part-time and the benefits it can bring to individuals, employers and the wider economy.

In recent years we have already made a number of changes to support part-time and mature learners. Students starting to attend a part-time degree level course from 1 August 2018 onwards are able to access full-time equivalent maintenance loans. We have removed the “equivalent or lower qualification” restrictions for all STEM part-time degree courses. Students on these courses who already hold a degree can now access support through student loans. We have also supported higher education providers to offer part-time provision.

We have also made funding available through the Teaching Grant to providers to recognise the additional costs of part-time study. In the academic year 2020/21, £66 million will be made available for this.

These changes have resulted in us reversing the decline in part-time undergraduates. Over the last two years we have seen an increase in the number of entrants to part-time undergraduate degree level study at English higher education providers (it has increased from 33,980 in 2016/17 to 40,095 in 2018/19).

The Independent Panel set up to provide input into the Review of Post 18 Education and Funding considered different ways to support learners who want to study higher education more flexibly. The government is considering the Independent Panel’s report carefully but have not yet taken decisions with regards to the recommendations put forward. The government will conclude the review alongside the next Spending Review.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
9th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the ability of (a) people to access appropriate further education skills training and (b) of employers to recruit skilled workers to support recovery after the covid-19 outbreak..

Training is vital in order to provide the highly skilled workforce that employers need to support the recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.

We have supported further education providers and introduced a range of flexibilities, including encouraging online delivery, so that as many learners as possible can successfully complete their courses. We have also ensured that furloughed workers are able to start apprenticeships.

We have frequently engaged with further education providers to monitor the level of training that they are able to deliver and we have been actively working with them to address issues. From 15 June, providers should begin to offer some face to face contact to 16 to 19 learners in the first year of a 2-year study programme. We want to have all learners back into education settings, as soon as the scientific advice allows, because it is the best place for them to learn and because we know how important it is for their mental wellbeing to have social interactions with their peers and teachers.

We will also continue to work with providers and employers to ensure that they deliver the skills that our workers and economy need. This includes looking at ensuring that we support employers, especially small businesses, to take on new apprentices this year. In addition, we have launched a new online Skills Toolkit to provide free high quality digital and numeracy courses, the skills most sought after by employers. We have also already announced that we are providing an extra £3 billion over the course of this Parliament for a new National Skills Fund to help people learn new skills.

Our latest guidance on COVID-19 for the post-16 sector and all other educational settings is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings. Guidance for education and training that is due to begin in September 2020 will be published in due course.

These are rapidly developing circumstances; we continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

Gillian Keegan
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
9th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made on the effect of covid-19 on the availability of support and training for post-16 students; and whether his Department plans to publish guidance on post-16 education and training due to begin in September 2020.

Training is vital in order to provide the highly skilled workforce that employers need to support the recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.

We have supported further education providers and introduced a range of flexibilities, including encouraging online delivery, so that as many learners as possible can successfully complete their courses. We have also ensured that furloughed workers are able to start apprenticeships.

We have frequently engaged with further education providers to monitor the level of training that they are able to deliver and we have been actively working with them to address issues. From 15 June, providers should begin to offer some face to face contact to 16 to 19 learners in the first year of a 2-year study programme. We want to have all learners back into education settings, as soon as the scientific advice allows, because it is the best place for them to learn and because we know how important it is for their mental wellbeing to have social interactions with their peers and teachers.

We will also continue to work with providers and employers to ensure that they deliver the skills that our workers and economy need. This includes looking at ensuring that we support employers, especially small businesses, to take on new apprentices this year. In addition, we have launched a new online Skills Toolkit to provide free high quality digital and numeracy courses, the skills most sought after by employers. We have also already announced that we are providing an extra £3 billion over the course of this Parliament for a new National Skills Fund to help people learn new skills.

Our latest guidance on COVID-19 for the post-16 sector and all other educational settings is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings. Guidance for education and training that is due to begin in September 2020 will be published in due course.

These are rapidly developing circumstances; we continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

Gillian Keegan
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
11th May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what safeguards are in place to ensure that people that apply to be foster carers during the covid-19 outbreak are (a) vetted and (b) trained to ensure the safety of the children in their care.

The Fostering Services Regulations 2011 provide a regulatory framework for fostering agencies and local authority fostering services for how they should deliver their functions. The regulations set out the information that fostering service providers must gather about prospective foster carers in order to satisfy themselves of an individual’s suitability to foster. This includes background, health, relationships and criminal checks, for example. It is for these providers to determine how they assess and approve their foster carers locally, within the regulations. The regulations are available here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/581/contents/made.

We recognise that fostering services may want to bring in more foster carers to help build capacity within their services in case of additional demand at this time. In order to assist fostering providers to do this, we have amended parts of the regulatory framework, as described in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, which are available here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/445/pdfs/uksiem_20200445_en.pdf.

These allow different parts of the assessment to be undertaken simultaneously, avoiding unnecessary delays. However, the information required in assessing potential foster carers has not been changed nor have the expectations around the preparation of approved foster carers, prior to their first placement.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
1st May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether the Government's agreement with Edenred for the provision of the free school meal voucher scheme contains an exclusivity clause which prevents his Department engaging alternative or additional suppliers.

As both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19.

We are encouraging schools to use existing catering arrangements to provide meals or food parcels to pupils who are eligible for free school meals while they are staying at home. Where this is not possible, the Department for Education has developed a national voucher scheme as an alternative.

The government’s contract agreement with Edenred for the provision of the free school meal voucher scheme does not include an exclusivity clause and we are able to engage with alternative or additional suppliers, should this be required. We have no plans to do this at this time.

Schools are best placed to determine what's most appropriate locally, and are free to make their own arrangements outside the national voucher scheme. Our guidance for schools sets out that they can be reimbursed for costs incurred where that scheme is not suitable for their families, including where none of the eight participating supermarkets have branches nearby.

These are rapidly developing circumstances; we continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department plans to (a) increase (a) regulation and (b) powers of enforcement to restrict and reduce the use of wood burning stoves in private properties where the emissions are shown to contribute to poor air quality.

Domestic solid fuel burning is a major contributor to fine particulate matter emissions and, in line with our Clean Air Strategy, we recently introduced new legislation to restrict the sale of the most polluting solid fuels used in domestic burning. The aim of this legislation is to drive a transition to cleaner fuels: from wet wood to dry wood (which can reduce emissions by 50%), and from traditional house coal to smokeless coal and low sulphur manufactured solid fuels. We will also be ensuring that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022.

In addition, the Environment Bill contains measures to help further reduce emissions from domestic burning by creating a simpler mechanism for local authorities seeking to reduce smoke emissions within their areas.

My department will continue to review emissions from these sources and will monitor the impact of the new legislation, considering in due course any additional legislative measures that may be needed to reduce emission levels further.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has plans to bring forward legislative proposals on preventing dogs from being released from a leash or leader in public spaces and neighbourhoods, beyond the powers already in place for decisions to be made at local authority level.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 it is an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in any place. For the purposes of the 1991 Act, this includes any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that a dog will injure someone, whether or not it actually does so.

Defra’s statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs asks owners to ensure that they prevent their dogs from chasing or attacking any other animals, including livestock and horses; for example, through use of a lead or avoidance of such situations.

The Government takes the issue of livestock worrying very seriously, recognising the distress this can cause farmers and animals, as well as the financial implications. We are currently engaging closely with key stakeholders to improve our understanding of the scale of the issue and the views of both livestock keepers and dog owners.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
9th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, with reference to her Chatham House speech which set out the vision for values-driven free trade on 29 October 2020, what steps she has taken to promote higher animal welfare standards with regard to the UK trade in animal fur; and what negotiating position her Department proposes to take with regard to trade agreements with countries that export animal fur to the UK.

HM Government shares the British public's high regard for animal welfare. There are restrictions on some skin and fur products, which cannot be legally imported into the United Kingdom. These include fur from cats and dogs, seal skins and products from commercial hunts. Legislation has prohibited farming of animals for their fur since 2000 in England and Wales, and 2002 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in our trade negotiations. All products imported into the United Kingdom will, as now, have to comply with our import requirements, including the above bans.

Ranil Jayawardena
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many additional station staff Network Rail has hired during the covid-19 outbreak; at what (a) locations, (b) job grades and (c) salaries; and whether those staff have been employed (i) on a temporary or permanent basis and (ii) directly or via a recruitment agency.

There are currently 1011 Network Rail staff working at the 20 stations it is responsible for managing. This is an increase of 45 from 23 March 2020, at the start of the pandemic. Of these 1011 staff, 982 are employed on permanent contracts and 29 have been employed on fixed term or contingent contracts.

The number of contingent staff deployed at Network Rail's stations has fluctuated throughout the course of the pandemic. The number of contingent agency staff deployed at Network Rail's stations peaked in May / June 2020 at approximately 500, when additional customer assurance was provided following the relaxation of Covid restrictions and timetable changes at that time. The salaries of agency staff is held by the agencies.

The table in the attached document sets out a comparison of staff numbers at Network Rail managed stations between March 2020 and July 2021. This is broken down by location.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many additional station staff London North Eastern Railway has hired during the covid-19 outbreak; at what (a) locations, (b) job grades and (c) salaries; and whether those staff have been employed (i) on a temporary or permanent basis and (ii) directly or via a recruitment agency.

London Northern Eastern Railway (LNER) have not hired additional station staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at the start of pandemic, LNER redeployed staff from other frontline roles to provide additional support at stations. These staff helped to manage queuing and helped to ensure social distancing was maintained at stations. Additionally, LNER’s cleaning contractor redeployed some of their furloughed cleaning staff to provide enhanced cleaning at LNER stations.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many additional station staff Northern Trains has hired during the covid-19 outbreak; at what (a) locations, (b) job grades and (c) salaries; and whether those staff have been employed (i) on a temporary or permanent basis and (ii) directly or via a recruitment agency.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Northern Trains Limited has worked with its services contractor to recruit and train additional staff, across its network, to facilitate a heightened cleaning regime.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he plans to take to ensure that railway passengers are consulted on potential ticket office closures.

Schedule 17 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA) sets out the process for making changes to ticket offices, which includes changing the hours they are open or proposing any closures. The TSA requires consultation with Transport Focus and London Travel Watch. This agreement is still in place and rail operators must follow this as it is a requirement of their Office of Rail and Road operating licence.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he plans to take to ensure that Transport Focus and London TravelWatch consult with passengers on proposals to close ticket offices.

Schedule 17 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA) sets out the process for making changes to ticket offices, which includes changing the hours they are open or proposing any closures. The TSA requires consultation with Transport Focus and London Travel Watch. This agreement is still in place and rail operators must follow this as it is a requirement of their Office of Rail and Road operating licence.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when his Department plans to publish the results of the Managing Pavement Parking consultation, which closed on 22 November 2020.

The Department received over 15,000 responses to the consultation. We are carefully considering the consultation findings and will be publishing a response when we have completed this work, which is a priority.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
14th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, on what dates his Department wrote to the Public Accounts Committee regarding the progress of franchise termination negotiations since 4 November 2020; and whether that correspondence will be published.

The Department wrote to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee on 17 February 2021. At the moment, this correspondence remains confidential as it contains commercially sensitive information.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, under the terms of the contracts between Hitachi, the Government and Train Operators, who is liable for the financial costs of the disruption resulting from the recent withdrawal of services after the discovery of cracks in electric and electro-diesel trains constructed by Hitachi Rail.

In total, 182 Hitachi trains have been impacted by this issue. 122 of these trains have been procured via the Department’s Intercity Express Programme contract with Agility Trains as the service provider, and the remaining 60 trains have been procured under conventional rolling stock leases. All 182 trains are maintained by Hitachi as the appointed manufacturer.

Under the Intercity Express Programme contract, if Agility Trains is unable to offer the train for service on a given day, they are not paid and must pay to resolve the issue to ensure trains are made available.

The agreements in place contain provisions that protect the taxpayer. I have been clear with the industry that I expect those who have the contractual performance and train availability obligations including Agility Trains, to fully compensate the taxpayer in this matter.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the effect Highways England's policy to infill bridges which spanned railway lines using permitted development powers on the Government's policy to (a) increase walking and cycle routes and (b) reinstate disused railway lines.

Highways England manages the Historical Railways Estate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport and has been in touch with all the local authorities affected, to advise them of its plans, and to see if they have any use for the structures. Highways England are pausing works where local authorities have raised queries about the works, and where there is credible interest for possible re-purposing and transfer of ownership of the assets. The Department has also asked Highways England to consult with the relevant local authorities concerning the retention, where practicable, of access for pedestrians and cyclists. In addition, Highways England has arranged for seven structures to be transferred to local authorities which wish to use them for cycle routes.

Permitted Development Orders exist in order to prevent an emergency from occurring and Highways England would only use these powers for that purpose. Where the need for emergency works has been identified, letters are sent to the relevant planning authorities to check if there are any requirements or restrictions. Highways England uses permitted development rights (where appropriate) to undertake some of the infilling and demolition schemes where issues of overriding public safety are in play. Most of the works completed to date have been granted full planning permission

The Department and Highways England are working together to ensure opportunities for the reinstatement of disused railway lines are identified and considered wherever possible.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
24th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department plans to amend the reasonable excuses for international travel from the 29 March 2021 to include visits to see family members and long term partners in the UK.

The intention behind this question is unclear. Government does not set out reasonable excuses for individuals entering England. There are no plans to amend reasonable excuses for international travel from England to include visits to see family members and long term partners overseas where there are not otherwise legally permitted reasons for travel.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
10th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the new covid-19 travel restrictions and requirements on people arriving in the UK announced by the Government in February 2021, what assessment he has made of the effect of those new restrictions and requirements on international seafarers arriving, on schedule, on a merchant ship in a UK port and requiring transit to their home country in line with their contract of employment.

The UK Government’s border health measures are part of our strategy to tackle Variants of Concern, and to protect both the progress we have made in bringing cases down and the effectiveness of our vaccination programme

Therefore, on top of the travel ban for all on non-residents coming from the 33 countries on the red list, all UK/Irish residents arriving from the 33 red-list countries must now quarantine in a government assigned hotel for 10 days from arrival, or longer if they test positive during their stay. There is currently not an exemption for seafarers who arrive in the UK having travelled through a ‘red list’ country in the 10 days before arrival.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has provided exemptions for seafarers from the need to self-isolate where it has been safe to do so. We have also taken a global lead in efforts to protect the welfare of all seafarers, regardless of their nationality or the flag of the vessel they serve on.

If non-UK or Irish resident seafarers have not been in a red list country in the 10 days before arrival in the UK, they will be exempt from the requirement to quarantine at a private address.

Full details on quarantining can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-quarantine-when-you-arrive-in-england

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
10th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with officials of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the (a) conclusions and (b) recommendations of the World Maritime University’s report, A culture of adjustment, evaluating the implementation of the current maritime regulatory framework on rest and work hours (EVREST), published in November 2020; and if he will make a statement.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) welcomes the World Maritime University’s report which provides evidence for concerns the United Kingdom has raised about the risk of fatigue on board ships at the International Maritime Organization over the last ten years. The MCA is considering its response to the recommendations, including how they might be implemented (or where measures are already in place, implementation may be improved) within the United Kingdom, within the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control and internationally (at the International Maritime Organization and International Labour Organization).

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
10th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on trends in the levels of seafarers' hours of work and rest; and what steps he is taking at (a) domestic and (b) international level to help tackle seafarer fatigue in the shipping industry.

There have been no formal assessments of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on trends in the levels of seafarers' hours of work and rest. The Department of Transport is aware of the pressures that many seafarers are under, as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is evidence, including from the Seafarers’ Happiness Index, compiled by The Mission to Seafarers, that this is resulting in increased levels of stress and fatigue.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) requires shipowners to report significant extensions to seafarer employment agreements for seafarers on UK ships and assesses the mitigating measures put in place, including increased hours of rest. MCA surveyors and inspectors continue to carry out flag State surveys and port State control inspections where the risk of COVID-19 transmission permits, including checking for compliance with minimum hours of rest.

The UK led the way internationally in designating seafarers as key workers. This helped to facilitate repatriation and ensure access ashore for their wellbeing where compatible with local restrictions. The UK has also supported international initiatives such as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains which was adopted on 1 December 2020. The UK has also supported the International Maritime Organization’s adoption of the industry protocols for safe crew changes.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
10th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will take steps to review the adequacy of the enforcement of the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) (Hours of Work) Regulations 2018 for seafarers working on internationally registered merchant ships in UK (a) waters and (b) ports; and if he will make an assessment of the effectiveness of those regulations in preventing seafarer fatigue.

The Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) (Hours of Work) Regulations 2018 implement minimum standards for hours of rest in accordance with the International Maritime Organization’s Convention on Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, 1978 as amended and the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. As such, they provide a framework for enforcement, but they are not sufficient on their own effectively to prevent fatigue which can be affected by a number of factors, including time spent as sea, the type of work, quality of sleep and even the comfort of the ship.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency therefore seeks to promote education about prevention, recognition and mitigation of fatigue through guidance on human factors and safe working practices.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
10th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will take steps to monitor international covid-19 vaccination programmes in countries that supply seafarer labour to the UK shipping industry.

Vaccination programmes are still nascent in many of our major seafarer supply markets. We will take account of information emerging from other countries concerning their vaccination programmes, when this data is made available by verified sources.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
8th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when his Department plans to update the guidance for UK driving licence holders resident in France.

UK licence holders resident in France can continue to use their UK licence until 1 January 2022, provided that it remains valid in the UK. My officials are making every effort to reach an understanding with France regarding long-term licence exchange arrangements for UK nationals resident in France. Guidance on gov.uk is regularly reviewed and I will ensure that pages are updated as soon as future arrangements are finalised

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many infrastructure assets Network Rail has yet to inspect and assess as a proportion of total assets for weather-related infrastructure impacts in respect of (a) bridge scour, (b) earthworks susceptibility, (c) flood sites, (c) heat, (d) rainfall, (e) snow and (f) wind, since the Stonehaven derailment in August 2020.

Network Rail inspects its infrastructure assets in line with its published engineering standards.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, which infrastructure assets identified by Network Rail in 2020 as requiring action to be taken to protect or repair the asset as a result of weather-related infrastructure impacts have (a) had that work completed and (b) work outstanding.

In the three weeks following the Carmont derailment, Network Rail inspected 584 locations which were assessed because they shared similar characteristics to the areas in which the Carmont derailment took place. 1% of these sites required remedial work sooner than was originally planned and that work has been completed.

However, there will be many more instances across the network where teams have completed weather resilience works on assets which fall outside of this bracket. That information is held by Network Rail’s regional teams and would take a large amount of time to collate. Therefore, the information requested can only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many infrastructure assets were identified by Network Rail as requiring action to protect or repair the asset as a result of weather-related infrastructure impacts in 2020.

Network Rail inspected more than 1,000 assets in the last year, including 584 sites in the three weeks following the Carmont derailment. Of these sites, only 1% were identified as having defects that had deteriorated and required action sooner than planned.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many infrastructure assets were determined by Network Rail to require assessment for weather-related infrastructure impacts in respect of (a) bridge scour, (b) earthworks susceptibility, (c) flood sites, (d) heat, (e) rainfall, (f) snow and (g) wind in 2020.

Network Rail inspected more than 1,000 assets in the last year, including 584 sites in the three weeks following the Carmont derailment. Of these sites, only 1% were identified as having defects that had deteriorated and required action sooner than planned.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
2nd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the financial costs of the potential redundancies at Hitachi Rail UK Ltd’s Bounds Green and Craigentinny Train Maintenance Centres will be borne by Hitachi Rail Ltd or the public purse.

LNER directs the day to day operation of their railway services and as a result they are responsible for the management of their contract with Hitachi Rail. However, as LNER is owned and overseen by the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Public Sector Operator, DfT OLR Holdings Ltd the Government ultimately holds full cost and revenue risk.

The negotiations between Hitachi Rail and LNER are currently ongoing and so any potential cost to the taxpayer is yet to be confirmed.

We are in regular contact with both Hitachi Rail and LNER and are monitoring their ongoing discussions with regards to this matter closely. We are working with both parties to ensure that any redundancies at Hitachi Rail does not adversely impact LNER. However, these discussions are ultimately a commercial and contractual matter for both parties to negotiate. LNER and Hitachi will need to work together to resolve this issue in a manner that ensures the best outcome for passengers, employees and the taxpayer.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
2nd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with Hitachi Rail UK Ltd on the potential effect of redundancies at Bounds Green and Craigentinny Train Maintenance Centres on the rail operator LNER.

LNER directs the day to day operation of their railway services and as a result they are responsible for the management of their contract with Hitachi Rail. However, as LNER is owned and overseen by the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Public Sector Operator, DfT OLR Holdings Ltd the Government ultimately holds full cost and revenue risk.

The negotiations between Hitachi Rail and LNER are currently ongoing and so any potential cost to the taxpayer is yet to be confirmed.

We are in regular contact with both Hitachi Rail and LNER and are monitoring their ongoing discussions with regards to this matter closely. We are working with both parties to ensure that any redundancies at Hitachi Rail does not adversely impact LNER. However, these discussions are ultimately a commercial and contractual matter for both parties to negotiate. LNER and Hitachi will need to work together to resolve this issue in a manner that ensures the best outcome for passengers, employees and the taxpayer.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
13th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the increased shipping costs for businesses in the UK importing products from Taiwan using shipping containers, and what steps he is taking to reduce the cost to those businesses.

We have not conducted an assessment on imports from Taiwan. Government has been working closely with the freight sector and wider business to mitigate the impact on UK supply chains of this global container issue.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
1st Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department plans to (a) review and (b) increase the provision of electric vehicle charging points across the UK.

Our vision is to have one of the best infrastructure networks in the world for electric vehicles (EVs), and we want chargepoints to be accessible, affordable and secure. We are investing £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure targeting support for charging on longer journeys, at home, workplace and on street to make charging as easy as refuelling a petrol or diesel car. We regularly review and publish numbers of EV chargepoints. Since 2015, the number of public chargepoints has grown rapidly to October 2020, with a near ten-fold increase in rapid charging points. As set out in the National Infrastructure Strategy, we will produce an EV infrastructure strategy in 2021. We will ensure we engage with local authorities and stakeholders across the EV and energy sector in early 2021 to inform the development of the vision and strategy.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will take steps to introduce cabotage legislation in order to regulate (a) employment, (b) merchant ship registration and (c) port activity in the coastal shipping sector which includes the offshore energy supply chain.

The EU Regulation 3577/92 which guarantees market access to maritime cabotage in the EU will cease to apply in the UK at the end of the transition period. The UK would, at that point be able to introduce its own regulation on maritime cabotage for foreign flagged vessels operating in UK waters. However there are no plans to do this. The UK has historically operated and benefited from an open coast policy. Some aspects of maritime cabotage in UK waters fall under other legislation. For instance, some UK employment rules may already apply to all seafarers regardless of nationality working on ships that are operating predominantly within UK territorial waters, and will continue to do so after the end of the transition period.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to ensure that the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 does not reduce UK seafarer employment levels in (a) 2021 and (b) subsequent years.

We continue to engage with industry and representative bodies to understand where Government can help to ensure job security to UK seafarers. The Department’s Maritime 2050 Strategy comprehensively sets out the current and future issues and opportunities for the UK seafarer workforce, as well as short- and medium-term recommendations for how these opportunities might be realised. One of those recommendations was the amendments to the National Minimum Wage which has recently been extended to all domestic operations in the UK territorial waters and to offshore activity in the UK continental shelf. It allows UK seafarers to compete against seafarers from lower cost markets and provides greater protection to UK operators in the offshore sector who may face competition from low cost operators.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
16th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will review his policies on increasing the (a) employment and (b) training of UK (i) Ratings and (ii) Officers in the shipping industry after the EU transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

The people chapter of Maritime 2020 made recommendations to government and industry regarding employment and training of the UK maritime workforce. These recommendations were made with full consideration for the UK’s departure from the EU. Policies are kept under review and may be amended to account for new evidence or thinking or where there have been significant changes in the domestic and/or international landscape. For example, a Cadet Review is currently underway looking at the number of officer cadets the sector needs in the future.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
12th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, on what date the changes to rail fares from 2 January 2021 will be published.

Government is considering plans for regulated rail fares and further details will be communicated in due course.

This year the industry, commuters and society are all facing unusual pressures due to the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. Taxpayers have been very generous in their support to keep trains running throughout the pandemic, and it’s only fair that passengers also contribute to maintaining and improving the services they use. Any fares rise will help fund crucial investment in maintaining railway services to enable social distancing and support our economic recovery.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether any restrictions are placed on train operating companies’ increasing director remuneration during periods of application of (a) Emergency Measures Agreements and (b) Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements.

Train operators subject to either an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) or Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement (ERMA) remain the employer of their respective employees and have ultimate responsibility for employee remuneration. However, under both the EMAs and ERMAs train operators are only reimbursed for employee remuneration costs that have been approved by the Department or would have been incurred by a ‘Good and Efficient Operator’.

It should be noted that any bonuses paid to staff, including directors, will be held back against any fees payable unless prior approval has been provided.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Written Statement of 21 September 2020, HCWS460, if he will publish the tougher performance targets for operators under the Emergency Recovery Management Agreements referred to in that statement.

The performance targets will be specific to each franchise operator. The Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements will be published in redacted form on gov.uk in due course, as will any variations made to them.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if his Department will publish the Emergency Recovery Management Agreements signed with Train Operating Companies.

The Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements will be published in redacted form on gov.uk in due course.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the Management Fee Performance Payment was at the end of the initial Emergency Measures Agreement period for each train operating company; and how that payment was calculated.

Management and Performance Fees in relation to the Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) have not yet been paid, pending final assessment of performance by my Department and final assessment of the financial performance of the franchises under EMAs. Payments will be calculated based on the requirements of the EMAs, which are published online.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the cost of extending the Operator of Last Resort to each rail franchise as an alternative option to Emergency Recovery Management Agreements.

My Department considered the options to maintain rail services after the end of the Emergency Measures Agreements, including potential scope for use of the Operator of Last Resort in view of the legal framework, and the costs and benefits of multiple options. My Department decided to offer Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements to the relevant franchised train operators as the best solution to secure outcomes for passengers, taxpayers and the wider industry.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
21st Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for each Train Operating Company with which his Department has agreed an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA), what figure will be used to calculate the Management Fee covering the term of the EMA and Reporting Period 13.

EMA Fees are based on a fixed 1.5% management fee based on the historical costs of a TOC. Details of payments made by the Department to franchised passenger rail operators under the Emergency Measures Agreements can be found on the government’s website and shall be updated regularly.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/payments-to-passenger-rail-operators-march-to-june-2020

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
21st Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for each Train Operating Company with which his Department has agreed an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA), what the Performance Payment amounts are for (a) each of the three EMA criteria and (b) each score.

The Performance Payments in relation to an EMA Performance Period are calculated based on the number of Reporting Periods within that EMA Performance Period. The amount of Performance Payment in relation to each Reporting Period comprised in an EMA Performance Period will be the sum of the three amounts corresponding to the Franchisee's EMA Review score for the three EMA Criteria (operational performance, customer experience and acting as a Good and Efficient Operator). Details of payments made by the Department to franchised passenger rail operators under the Emergency Measures Agreements can be found on the government’s website and shall be updated regularly.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/payments-to-passenger-rail-operators-march-to-june-2020

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department has plans to increase capacity for (a) practical and (b) theory driving tests throughout the UK to tackle backlogs accrued as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

From 14 September 2020, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) extended the period in which practical driving tests are available to book from six to eighteen weeks ahead between 14 September 2020 and the end of 21 January 2021. This has added up to 375,000 new and rescheduled tests. As well as increasing available tests up to 18 weeks ahead, from 19 October 2020, driving examiners will be conducting six car tests a day rather than five. This will help to reduce the backlog for candidates wanting to book a practical driving test in the UK, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Theory tests in England resumed on 4 July 2020 and in Wales they resumed on 3 August, with new social distancing and safety precautions in place. Theory test centres in England and Wales have reduced social distancing to one metre plus, which has increased the number of theory tests available. Theory tests in Scotland resumed on 22 July. The DVSA’s ability to increase theory testing capacity in Scotland is being affected by the current social distancing rules of two metres. Since 4 July 2020, the DVSA has delivered 406,395 theory tests in England, Scotland and Wales.

Testing capacity has now increased across all the 151 theory test sites in England, Scotland and Wales, where the DVSA is able to do so, and the number of theory tests sites available has also increased to a total of 172 across the UK, with an increase of four more theory test sites in England and seven more theory test sites available in the more remote areas of Scotland. In Wales there are currently 10 open sites.

The DVSA will continue to provide regular updates on its Twitter and Facebook pages whilst the booking service is live to keep everyone updated on the availability of driving tests. It has also created an information page on GOV.UK that is updated every half an hour where candidates can check the availability of tests at their local test centre.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
10th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the total cost to the public purse of all emergency measures agreements on rail franchises.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the government has approved £3.5 billion of additional expenditure to ensure that vital rail services continue to operate. Of this additional expenditure, £2.9 billion relates to the 2020/21 financial year. It is not yet possible to provide an estimate of the total cost incurred to date.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
10th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what arrangements will be made for Parliamentary scrutiny in the event that his Department seeks to extend emergency measures agreements on rail franchises.

Work is underway within government to determine the most effective approach at the end of the initial 6 months period of the Emergency Measures Agreements. This work will take account of the impact of COVID-19 on demand for passenger rail travel in both the short and long term, and the associated economic and financial impacts on the railway. The Secretary of State shall continue to keep Parliament informed of developments.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
10th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of extending the emergency measures agreements on rail franchises.

The Emergency Measures Agreements provide franchise operators with a temporary suspension of their existing franchise agreement’s financial mechanisms for an initial period of 6 months, with options for further extension or earlier cancellation as agreed. Work is underway within government to determine the most effective approach once this 6 month period ends. This work will take account of the impact of COVID-19 on demand for passenger rail travel in both the short and long term, and the associated economic and financial impacts on the railway.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
10th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what provisions have been made for operators of last resort to take over rail franchises that become financially unviable.

The Department routinely monitors the financial health of all operators in accordance with their respective franchise agreements. The Department’s Operator of Last Resort team also has the capacity and capability to step into Train Operating Companies where necessary in accordance with Section 30 of the Railways Act 1993.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
10th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what formula is used to determine the fee paid to train operating companies as part of the emergency measures agreements in place during the covid-19 outbreak.

Franchisees will be paid a maximum of 2% of the cost base of the franchise before the COVID-19 pandemic began, payable as a lump sum at the end of the initial 6-month Emergency Measures Agreement period. A proportion of the fee will be conditional on operators meeting performance, passenger experience and efficiency targets.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what (a) discussions and (b) other engagement his Department has had with train operating companies on the extension of Emergency Measures Agreements on rail franchises; and if he will make a statement.

The Emergency Measures Agreements provide franchise operators with a temporary suspension of their existing franchise agreement’s financial mechanisms for an initial period of 6 months, with options for further extension or earlier cancellation as agreed. Ministers and officials have regular engagement with rail franchisees and the wider rail industry, to inform the work underway within government to determine the most effective approach once this 6 month period ends.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of whether the Emergency Measures Agreements on rail franchises will need to be extended beyond the current agreed date of September 2020.

The Emergency Measures Agreements provide franchise operators with a temporary suspension of their existing franchise agreement’s financial mechanisms for an initial period of 6 months, with options for further extension or earlier cancellation as agreed. Work is underway within government to determine the most effective approach once this 6 month period ends. This work will take account of the impact of COVID-19 on demand for passenger rail travel in both the short and long term, and the associated economic and financial impacts on the railway.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of how much each train operating company will receive as payment during the six months of Emergency Measures Agreements.

Franchisees will be paid a maximum of 2% of the cost base of the franchise before the COVID-19 pandemic began, payable as a lump sum at the end of the initial 6-month Emergency Measures Agreement period. A proportion of the fee will be conditional on operators meeting performance, passenger experience and efficiency targets.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how frequently LNER trains and stations were deep cleaned (a) before and (b) during the covid-19 outbreak.

As my Department does not hold this information, I have asked LNER to meet with the Honourable Gentlemen to discuss its cleaning regime; the operator will contact him shortly to arrange this.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the (a) headcount and (b) Full Time Equivalent were for cleaners employed to clean LNER’s trains and stations in each year since 2017.

As my Department does not hold this information, I have asked LNER to meet with the Honourable Gentlemen to discuss its cleaning regime; the operator will contact him shortly to arrange this.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what payments have been made by LNER beyond those already agreed in the contract to enhance the cleaning regime on its trains and stations in response to the covid-19 pandemic.

This is a commercial matter between LNER and its sub-contractors. I have asked LNER to meet with the Honourable Gentlemen to discuss its cleaning regime; the operator will contact him shortly to arrange this.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will publish the (a) headcount and (b) Full Time Equivalent of cleaners employed by (i) Mitie and (ii) Interserve to clean Network Rail’s stations and estates in each year since 2017.

On average, 597 cleaners were working at Network Rail managed stations in the February 2017 - January 2018 period. In 2018, this number averaged 599. As Network Rail took over cleaning responsibilities for Clapham Junction, in the February 2019 - January 2020 period, the number of cleaners increased to 651.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the number of cleaners employed by (a) Mitie and (b) Interserve to clean Network Rail’s stations and estates has increased as part of the response to tackle the covid-19 outbreak.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the total number of cleaners, including Mitie and Interserve staff working across the Network Rail station estate totalled 653. To cope with an increase in demand, this number has increased to 674.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what payments, in addition to agreed contracts, have been made by Network Rail to (a) Mitie and (b) Interserve as a result of the need to increase the cleaning regime on Network Rail stations and estates in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Network Rail has made additional payments to cleaning providers to cover the provision of an anti-viral product used in public areas of stations, incidents where emergency cleans have been required and to enable an implementation of a sick pay uplift to ensure that cleaning staff are able to self-isolate if necessary.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what hygiene and health targets are used for the cleaning of railway stations; and on what occasions (a) Interserve and (b) Mitie have failed to meet those targets.

Train operators are responsible for managing contracts with cleaning suppliers. In response to the current crisis, operators are implementing enhanced cleaning regimes at stations and on trains, and we are regularly monitoring this as part of the franchise management process.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent assessment his Department has made of scientific evidence on the comparative levels of health risks associated with outsourced cleaning.

No scientific assessment has been made on the comparative levels of health risks associated with outsourced cleaning. There is SAGE evidence that standard cleaning techniques will be effective against SARS-COV-2 on surfaces.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department made as to whether it would be more (a) economical, (b) efficient and (c) safe for LNER to bring cleaning services in-house, rather than outsourcing it to Atalian Servest; and if he will publish that assessment.

It is for LNER to decide how best to resource support functions such as cleaning, and subcontracting these tasks to specialist suppliers is standard practice in the rail sector.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the number of cleaners employed to clean LNER’s trains and stations has increased in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

To help prevent the transmission of coronavirus, all rail operators are taking measures to ensure our trains and stations are clean. Steps include a greater focus on cleaning high-touch areas in trains and at stations (such as hand rails and ticket machine screens), more intensive cleaning and ensuring toilets are well stocked with soap. In light of the lower number of trains in service LNER refocused its cleaning contractor’s resources on more intensive cleaning of stations and the trains remaining in service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he has taken to ensure that there are a sufficient number of cleaners working enough hours on LNER’s trains and stations to ensure a safe environment for passengers and staff during the covid-19 outbreak.

LNER is responsible for ensuring a safe environment for passengers and staff during the covid-19 outbreak. The Department has held regular discussions with LNER to understand its response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the cleaning of LNER trains and stations, what hygiene and health targets are used; and on which occasions sub-contractors have not met those targets since OLR took over the franchise.

LNER is obliged to meet the requirements set out in the Services Agreement at Schedule 1.4 Paragraph 7, available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/879806/london-north-eastern-railway-limited-east-coast-franchise.pdf

LNER meets this requirement in part by subcontracting cleaning to a specialist contractor. Effective management of this contract is a matter for LNER.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how frequently Network Rail trains and stations were deep cleaned (a) before and (b) during the covid-19 outbreak.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Network Rail conducted deep cleans at different frequencies depending on each station’s requirements. Since the outbreak, Network Rail have cleaned stations in line with Public Health England guidance. Accordingly, all high touch points are being cleaned every three hours whilst each Network Rail station is in use, and all public areas are being treated with an anti-viral product that lasts 30 days at least once every three weeks. Network Rail are not responsible for trains.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he has taken to ensure that there are a sufficient number of cleaners working enough hours on Network Rail’s trains and stations to ensure a safe environment for passengers and staff during the covid-19 outbreak.

The cleanliness of Network Rail stations is closely monitored on a daily basis by the Network Rail station management team. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the total number of cleaners, including Mitie and Interserve staff working across the Network Rail station estate totalled 653. To cope with an increase in demand, this number has increased to 674. Options exist to increase the number of cleaners provided by contractors further if required.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of Network Rail ending the outsourcing of cleaning.

We have been clear that our priority remains ensuring the safety of staff and passengers alike. We have issued comprehensive guidance to employers, which includes Network Rail, on the steps they should take to make their workplaces COVID-secure. It is for employers to decide on the way in which they can discharge their obligations most effectively.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
13th May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, which trades unions representing bus workers (a) he, (b) his Ministers and (c) officials of his Department have held meetings with to discuss the effect of covid-19 on those workers; and on what dates each of those meetings took place.

The Department has been meeting with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Unite the Union regularly to discuss the issues affecting the transport sector due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
13th May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many workers have died of covid-19 in (a) the rail industry, (b) London Underground, (c) the bus industry outside of London, (d) the maritime industry and (e) the taxi and private vehicle hire sector.

It is of great sadness that transport workers have died as a result of this virus and our thoughts are with their friends and families at this difficult time.

We are working to understand precisely how many transport workers have died as a result of the virus, but we are not currently able to definitively provide this data across the transport sector. While we have data for many areas and operators, achieving a sector-wide consistent level of data is more complex given the vast numbers of operators. We are continuing to work to obtain this data across the sector.

Transport workers and members of their households, have been able to access testing and we are working closely with operators to ensure their staff are able to take up these tests wherever necessary. Guidance has been published regarding those who should be at work, including particular advice for those who are most vulnerable.

1st May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate his Department has made of the reduction in passenger capacity that will be required for (a) rail services and (b) bus services to ensure that social distancing can be maintained in event of a resumption of normal passenger timetables during the covid-19 outbreak.

Officials are working closely with train and bus operators to understand the levels of capacity on trains and buses whilst maintaining social distancing and, in doing so, keeping passengers and staff safe. The reduction in capacity necessary to maintain social distancing will vary according to the layout of each vehicle.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
1st May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate his Department has made of the amount of non-essential work on (a) rail and (b) bus services that will be paused to ensure that social distancing can be maintained when normal passenger timetables are resumed following the covid-19 lockdown.

In line with government guidance all rail staff who can work from home are doing so. Where this is not possible, Network Rail and train operators are following Public Health England advice, including ensuring staff who cannot work from home are able to maintain social distancing through adapting working arrangements where possible. This will remain the case for as long as social distancing is necessary.

The Department expects bus operators in England to follow Public Health England guidelines when running services and amend processes as necessary.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
12th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what calculation is used to determine the appropriate capital threshold limits for welfare benefits which are means tested and which are not payable in the event that a claimant holds savings or capital above the set threshold.

The capital thresholds strike a balance between protecting less well-off people and the taxpayer, whilst at the same time recognising the conscientious efforts of people who have built up capital. This limit also ensures that the help which comes from taxpayers, many of whom are themselves on low incomes and have limited capital, is directed to people who need it most. Whilst it is important to encourage saving, it has never been thought right for substantial amounts of capital to be ignored, therefore it is also reasonable that there should be a capital limit above which benefits are not available. The current system allows people to continue to receive benefit even though they may have an amount of capital, by gradually reducing the level of their entitlement.

Will Quince
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
8th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether she plans to change the measure for the Cold Weather Payment scheme from the actual temperature to the feels like temperature.

There are no plans to use the “feels like” temperature as a basis for Cold Weather Payments. Feels like temperature is the perception of external temperature rather than a measured air temperature. Cold Weather Payments are designed to contribute to the additional costs of heating homes in unseasonably cold weather, while “feels like” temperature does not impact on the amount of heating that homes require.

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
3rd Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether her Department plans to increase the state pension allowance to account for the increased utility costs of people spending an increased amount of time in their homes during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government is committed to ensuring that older people are able to live with the dignity and respect they deserve, and the State Pension is the foundation of state support for older people. In response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the Government has introduced an Uprating Bill to ensure we can increase State Pension and Pension Credit rates for 2021/22.

In April 2020, full amounts of the basic and new State Pensions increased by 3.9%, in line with average earnings growth. The full yearly rate of the basic State Pension is now worth over £1,900 more than it was in 2010.

The Government has committed to keeping the Winter Fuel Payment. The payment gives reassurance, particularly to poorer pensioners that they can keep warm during the colder months. We will continue to pay £200 for households with somebody who has reached State Pension age and is under age 80 or £300 for households with somebody aged 80 and over. This is a significant contribution towards a household’s winter fuel bill.

Pensioners whose financial circumstances have been affected by the pandemic may be eligible for Pension Credit. Pension Credit tops up a person’s other income to a standard minimum weekly amount – £173.75 for single people or £265.20 for a couple. Extra amounts are also payable in respect of disability, caring (including for children) and certain housing costs. An award of Pension Credit can also provide access to a range of other benefits such as help with housing costs, council tax, heating bills or health costs.

Pension Credit customers who are in receipt of the Pension Credit Guarantee Credit element, are also entitled to the warm home discount providing their energy supplier is part of the scheme. Further details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme

Guy Opperman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
30th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether her Department plans to apply the temporary £20 weekly uplift to universal credit to (a) existing legacy benefits and (b) job seekers' allowance.

The Government introduced a package of temporary welfare measures worth around £9.3 billion this year to help with the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the £20 weekly increase to the Universal Credit Standard Allowance rates as a temporary measure for the 20/21 tax year. There are no plans to extend this to legacy benefits.

Will Quince
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)
23rd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the mandatory covid-19 vaccination program for social care workers announced on 16 June 2021, whether he plans to exempt employees who are shown to already have covid-19 antibodies in their system from mandatory vaccination; and if he will publish the advice to support that decision.

The regulations to make vaccination a condition of deployment, laid on the 22 June, require care home providers to deploy only those staff and volunteers who have received a complete course of their COVID-19 vaccination, unless they are medically exempt.

There will be a small number of people where the clinical advice is that the COVID-19 vaccination is not suitable for them. Further details on this will be outlined in guidance, which we will provide in due course. This guidance will give more detail about exemptions, which will reflect the Green Book on Immunisation against infectious disease and clinical advice from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
16th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if his Department have a process in place for consumers to complain about private medical providers offering covid-19 testing in line with the travel quarantine requirements.

Any complaints should be raised with the provider in the first instance. If the issue cannot be resolved, the consumer should to contact their local trading standards office. Consumers are able to complain directly with the Department about private providers as we monitor these complaints and address these directly with the provider.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish the criteria used to determine which countries fall into the (a) red, (b) amber and (c) green categories for the purposes of international travel under covid-19 restrictions.

A traffic light system is used to categorise countries based on risk. The decisions on red, amber or green list assignment are taken by the Government, informed by evidence which includes risk assessments undertaken by the Joint Biosecurity Centre alongside other wider public health factors.

A summary of the methodology used to inform these decisions is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-risk-assessment-methodology-to-inform-international-travel-traffic-light-system/risk-assessment-methodology-to-inform-international-travel-traffic-light-system

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he has plans to reduce the cost of PCR testing for people travelling for the purposes of visiting loved ones and family.

Since requirements were introduced for international travel testing, the costs have fallen significantly. We are committed to working with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the cost of this testing.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the effect of the closure of gym and fitness facilities as a result of the covid-19 restrictions on (a) physical and (b) mental public health.

We have made no assessment.

The Chief Medical Officer is clear that being physically active is important to long-term health and crucial for keeping people healthy. The Government ensured that people could exercise throughout the national restrictions and will also ensure that grassroots sport can resume as soon as restrictions ease.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he plans to take to (a) reduce the number of people with eating disorders and (b) tackle the stigma attached to people who suffer from conditions such as bulimia and anorexia.

In 2021/22 the National Health Service will receive approximately an extra £500 million, which will support people with a variety of mental health conditions, including eating disorders. This will include programmes to significantly expand children’s mental health services, including allowing 2,000 more children and young people to access eating disorder services and accelerating the expansion of integrated primary and secondary care for adults with severe mental illness, including eating disorders.

NHS England has also announced additional early intervention services for young people aged 16 to 25 years old with eating disorders in 18 areas across the country, so young adults seeking support could be contacted within 48 hours and begin treatment within two weeks

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of covid-19 restrictions on the prevalence of diagnosed eating disorders in the UK.

No such assessment has been made.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans his Department has to increase (a) diagnosis, (b) treatment and (c) support for people suffering from eating disorders in the UK.

We have announced that in 2021/22 the National Health Service will receive approximately an additional £500 million, which will support people with a variety of mental health conditions, including eating disorders. Of this extra funding, £79 million will be used to significantly expand children’s mental health services, including allowing 2,000 more children and young people to access eating disorder services. £58 million will be allocated to accelerate the adult community support to bring forward the expansion of integrated primary and secondary care for adults with severe mental illness, including eating disorders. In addition, NHS England has announced additional early intervention services for young people aged 16 to 25 years old with eating disorders in 18 areas across the country, so young adults seeking support could be contacted within 48 hours and begin treatment within two weeks.

In addition, the Department is working with NHS England and NHS Improvement, Health Education England and other partners to procure eating disorder training courses that will improve understanding and identification of this condition and increase the capacity of the existing workforce to allow them to provide evidence-based treatment to more people.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies on care home visiting during the covid-19 outbreak of the restriction by some private sector care homes of visits to residents by friends and families despite guidance from his Department that visits are permitted; and what steps his Department is taking to ensure that all care homes allow visits unless there is a reasonable reason not to.

Care home visiting must be supported wherever and whenever it is possible and safe to do so. Our guidance makes clear that care homes should support visiting as the default. We are supporting the care home sector to encourage and enable care homes to do so, to avoid care homes or local areas restricting visiting where that is not justified. We are currently working with our regional assurance team, local authorities and the Care Quality Commission to make sure that guidance is followed. This approach allows us to move swiftly in changing circumstances and to accommodate all care homes.

Helen Whately
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he has plans to ensure that asthma sufferers who are prescribed daily medication are prioritised for the covid-19 vaccination.

An individual with a more severe case of asthma may have been included in the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) group, in which case they will be vaccinated in priority group four.  For those with asthma not identified for inclusion in the CEV group, people with asthma that requires continuous or repeated use of systemic steroids or with previous exacerbations requiring hospital admission will be vaccinated in priority group six.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish the evidence from Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that supports the change in guidance on covid-19 vaccination priority for people suffering with asthma.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not altered its advice on vaccination of those with asthma, which is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020

Phase one includes an offer of vaccine in those 50 years of age and over and those 16 years of age and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) or in a COVID-19 clinical risk group. Those with severe asthma and considered CEV should be offered vaccine in priority group four, those with asthma that requires continuous or repeated use of systemic steroids or with previous exacerbations requiring hospital admission and who are not considered CEV should be offered vaccine in priority group six.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to tackle (a) age and (b) socio-economic inequalities in alcohol treatment service provision.

Local authorities are responsible for assessing local needs and commissioning services to meet these needs, including substance misuse treatment services for people with alcohol dependence.

Public Health England supports local authorities in this work by providing data, guidance and advice. This includes the Local Alcohol Profiles for England (LAPE) which provide local data alongside national comparisons to support local health improvement and an intelligence-driven approach to understanding and meeting local need. Inequalities data is included wherever possible to allow local government, health organisations, commissioners and other agencies to assess the extent of variation in alcohol-related harm. The LAPE is available at the following link:

https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the implications for his policies of the recommendations for service provision presented in the qualitative study on addressing the needs of older adults receiving alcohol treatment during the covid-19 pandemic, published by the Drink Wise, Age Well programme in November 2020.

The Department will consider the recommendations made in the study.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
5th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many and what proportion of people that have been offered a covid-19 vaccination appointment have been offered that appointment at a vaccination centre within 10 miles of their home address.

The data is not held in the format requested. In England, currently more than 98% of the population is within 10 miles of a vaccine service. In a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccination centre will be a mobile unit.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
19th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the covid-19 lockdown restrictions announced in January 2021 permit travel from a person's main property to a second home or caravan, within a similar locality, where their home or caravan is suitably distanced from other caravans and they would not require contact with anyone outside of their household while they were there.

Our guidance states that people cannot leave their home or the place where they are living for holidays or overnight stays without a reasonable excuse for doing so. Holidays in the United Kingdom and abroad are not permitted. This includes staying in a second home or caravan, if that is not the primary residence.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
19th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant to the Answer of 10 December 2020 to Question 125991 on Hearing Impairment: Protective Clothing, whether his Department plans to extend the pilot of clear face coverings to educational settings.

The ClearMask pilot is now complete. Based on the feedback provided, we will be running an assessment of a broader array of products from a range of manufacturers. This assessment will test different types of transparent masks currently at prototype stage against a new technical specification being developed by the regulatory bodies. We are engaging users, so they may assess the appropriateness of different masks for each end-user setting, including those in education.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
18th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the accessibility of covid-19 vaccination centres for people who suffer from sight loss, including information sent to patients in a format they can understand; and what steps his Department took to ensure accessibility for people with sight loss when selecting venues for vaccination clinics.

The Department is working to ensure that simple accessible advice and information is available to everyone who needs it. All material will be available in a range of formats, including translations, easy read, braille and is accessible for those with hearing impairment.

Vaccine deployment will take account of disabled people in various care settings, as accessibility is part of the assurance process for all delivery models for the COVID-19 vaccine. All vaccination venues will be accessible and will meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
18th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department plans to introduce an exemption to the existing covid-19 regulations to clarify what (a) contact and (b) travel is permitted between a non-cohabiting couple in England, in circumstances where the couple (i) cannot live together and (ii) live in households with other people.

If a non-cohabiting couple fulfil the eligibility criteria for a support bubble, they have the choice to form a bubble and can then travel and have contact with each other during this national lockdown. If both partners live with other people, they will not be able to form a support bubble. This is because the formation of a support bubble and therefore the ability to have close contact with those they do not live with, carries transmission risks. As such the eligibility criteria is necessarily limited to smaller households most at risk of isolation.
The Government keeps the social contact restrictions under continual review and will make changes as and when the data and science supports it.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
7th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he plans to (a) provide transparent face coverings to front line service workers and (b) encourage workers required to wear a face covering, to wear something transparent, to help people who are deaf or rely on lip reading to communicate.

The Government is guided by the scientific evidence emerging in this area. Separately, clear face masks are being piloted in some health and social care settings and the lessons will be taken on board for future policy.

If workers are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate, they have a reasonable excuse to not wear a face covering. Employers must undertake risk assessments to ensure their business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy guidance to inform decisions and control measures including social distancing rules and screens, which is available on GOV.UK.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
7th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the Covid-19 priority vaccination list published on 2 December 2020, whether people classed as frontline health and social care workers includes those currently studying who are working on the frontline during educational placements.

The Green Book chapter on COVID-19 states that all staff who have frequent face-to-face clinical contact with patients and who are directly involved in patient care, in either secondary or primary care/community settings, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes temporary staff, such as those working in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, students, trainees and volunteers who are working with patients.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether (a) parents and (b) carers of clinically vulnerable children will be prioritised for the covid-19 vaccine.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) consists of independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine(s) the United Kingdom should use and provide advice on prioritisation at a population level. The JCVI has advised that the first priorities for any COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems.

Therefore, in line with the recommendations of the JCVI, the vaccine will be initially rolled out to these priority groups, including care home residents and staff, people over 80 years old, and health and care workers. The vaccine will then be prioritised amoungst the rest of the population in order of age and risk, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and all individuals aged 16-64 years old with underlying health conditions.

As the first phase of the programme is rolled out in the UK, additional data will become available on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. This data will provide the basis for consideration of vaccination in groups that are at lower risk of mortality from COVID-19.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
27th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish the methodology that was used to determine which tier of covid-19 restrictions apply to each region of England.

Decisions on tiers are made by Ministers based on public health recommendations informed by the case detection rate in all age groups and in particular, among those over 60 years olds; how quickly case rates are rising or falling; positivity in the general population; pressure on the National Health Service; and local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreaks.

As decisions are informed by a range of factors, it is possible for variation between individual factors when comparing areas.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
27th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish the scientific evidence that supports the distinction between allowing pubs that serve a substantial meal to open in tier 2 while those that do not should remain closed.

Unfortunately, we know that the virus spreads readily in indoor environments where members of different households and/or support bubbles spend time together. These restrictions do not single out restaurants, pubs or gyms, but apply to a wide range of settings where the risk of transmission is high. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies provided advice to the Department and considered the risks of transmission through different routes and environments in a paper which is available at the following link:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/933225/S0824_SARS-CoV-2_Transmission_routes_and_environments.pdf

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
19th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to his speech at the PinkNews summer reception on 4 July 2019, when his Department intends to (a) complete and (b) publish the review into IVF treatment equality for all, including the LGBT community.

The internal review of National Health Service fertility services has been delayed due to prioritisation issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect the review to be commissioned and report in 2021.

Helen Whately
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
12th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the implications for its policies of the findings and recommendations of the publication, Understanding high mortality rates among people with multiple and complex needs: exploring underlying factors and opportunities for prevention in Newcastle and Gateshead, published in October 2020.

This report is an important addition to the evidence base around a complex subject, which as the report suggest requires a whole systems approach to support people. The Government announced £46 million from the Shared Outcomes Fund to provide improved support to individuals overcoming multiple complex needs, such as homelessness, reoffending and substance misuse. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government-led programme will undertake a two-year pilot to support eight to 15 local areas to deliver new interventions and systems change to better support up to thousands of individuals with multiple complex needs.

Jo Churchill
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care)
2nd Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what estimate he has made of the number of excess deaths due to lack of access to (a) diagnosis and (b) treatment during the covid-19 outbreak restrictions since 16 March 2020.

The Department and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) jointly produced the paper ‘Direct and Indirect Impacts of COVID-19 on Excess Deaths and Morbidity: Executive Summary’ for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies in which the ONS estimated that of the 32,000 COVID-19 deaths, which occurred between 21 March and 1 May 2020, 25,000 of them were deaths that would not have occurred otherwise within 12 months. Therefore, 7,000 of the 32,000 COVID-19 deaths are deaths which would have likely occurred within 12 months, had they not contracted COVID-19.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
1st Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he plans to encourage the NHS to introduce a £6 per month payment for employees working from home to cover the increased costs of working in that way.

There are no plans to introduce a £6 per month payment for National Health Service staff working from home. Employers do have local flexibility to pay an extra £6 per week for weekly paid employees or £26 per month for monthly paid employees should they choose to do so.

If required to work from home on a regular basis, it is possible for employees to claim tax relief for additional household costs for things like heating and water bills; this does not include costs that would remain the same regardless of working at home or in an office, like rent and council tax.

The full guidance on tax relief can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home

Helen Whately
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
29th Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to encourage employers to follow the Government's guidance pertaining to allowing employees to work from home in response to increased covid-19 cases.

The Government made the announcement on 22 September that people should work from home if they can. It is expected that employers will follow this advice, where it is appropriate to do so. A number of guidance documents are available, targeted at specific sectors, on working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Helen Whately
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
23rd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the risk of spread of covid-19 at (a) organised weddings and (b) organised funerals; and what the reason is for the different numbers allowed at those events.

The Government recognises the significance of life events, particularly funerals, and treats them with sufficient sensitivity therefore there are different exemptions to the rule of six for weddings and funerals. The grieving process and related formal and informal rituals through which we mourn the passing of loved ones are important for the health and wellbeing of the bereaved.

Although gathering in larger groups does increase the risk of transmission, we have been clear that people should follow social distancing rules when gathering with people they do not live with. People should continue to follow this advice at these events, making sure to wash their hands, cover their face and maintain space. We continue to keep these restrictions under constant review and will ensure they remain proportionate to the threat to public health posed by COVID-19.

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
23rd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the changes to covid-19 restrictions, announced on 22 September 2020, whether the (a) national and (b) local lockdown restrictions allow (i) established long-term partners who do not live in the same household to see each other and (ii) long-term partners who live in different households to meet with people from other households.

Under the new gatherings limit of six people that applies nationally, individuals can meet anyone they want, whether they live with them on not.

Under the local restrictions that apply in parts of the country, individuals must not host or meet with people they do not live with in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected area, unless they are in a support or childcare ‘bubble’. Individuals can still enter a home or garden for specific purposes set out in the regulations, which are available at the following link:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/828/regulation/5

Nadine Dorries
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
19th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effect of the proposed reduction in the foreign aid budget on (a) the Voluntary Service Overseas and (b) other charities and schemes that help people volunteer on projects around the world.

The impact of the global pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take the tough but necessary decision to temporarily reduce our aid budget. We are now working through the implications of these changes for all individual programmes and partners, including Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

Volunteers and volunteering organisations like VSO make an important contribution. We have offered VSO a short-term funding extension for the Volunteering for Development programme, while the review process continues.

Wendy Morton
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
19th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of (a) the effect of reductions to the Overseas Development Assistance budget on the ability of the UK to fund research across the world and (b) the effect of that matter on the credibility and reliability of the UK as a research funding partner.

The Covid pandemic's economic impact has forced the government to take the difficult decision to temporarily reduce ODA to 0.5% of GNI. Despite this reduction, we will remain a world-leading ODA donor, spending around £10 billion on ODA in 2021-22. The Foreign Secretary has set out a strategic approach to ensure maximum impact for our aid spend for 2021-22, laying a Written Ministerial Statement for Parliament in January, summarising overall departmental cross-government allocations of ODA. FCDO and other departments are working through the implications of their allocations for the research programmes they manage.

The UK has led funding for scientific advances that have helped drive significant reductions in extreme poverty, increases in agricultural productivity, declines in childhood mortality, and increases in life expectancy across the developing world. We remain committed to the use of ODA to support research that can provide new solutions to critical challenges in development.

James Duddridge
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
3rd Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the alleged human rights abuses carried out by members of the military in Myanmar following the Military coup; and what steps his Department is taking to ensure that these allegations are investigated and sanctions brought against those found responsible.

The UK is deeply concerned by ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar. We have been clear that the state of emergency, and all restrictions on rights and freedoms, should be lifted immediately. The people's right to peaceful protest should be respected. The coup must end. We urge the military to exercise utmost restraint and respect human rights and international law. The military must be held accountable for their actions.

I formally summoned the Myanmar Ambassador twice to register the UK's extreme concern regarding the alleged human rights abuses and stressed that the security forces must exercise restraint and not use deadly violence against peaceful protestors.

The UK continues to lead international efforts in pursuing those responsible for the serious human rights violations in Myanmar. Working with partners, including the US and Canada, we have sanctioned 9 military officers, including the Commander-in-Chief, for their role in the coup. This includes cabinet ministers and members of the State Administration Council, established to run the functions of state following the coup. We are exploring options for further sanctions and are working with partners to ensure any sanctions are sufficiently targeted and do not impact the wider population.

Nigel Adams
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of (a) downgrading the UK's diplomatic relations with Iran and (b) closing the Iranian Embassy in the UK until the UK has received assurances from Iran that they will not engage in acts of state terrorism.

Hostile activity such as the bomb plot against a conference in Paris in 2018 is unacceptable and must have consequences. The UK, along with our European partners, has directly condemned such attacks and in 2019 the EU adopted sanctions against those responsible. Following the end of the Transition Period, these sanctions are now enforced under the UK autonomous Counter-Terrorism sanctions regime. The IRGC also remains sanctioned in its entirety by the UK. We strongly condemn the targeting of civilians and welcome that those responsible have been held to account.

We continue to work closely with our European partners on security and counter-terrorism issues. We expect diplomatic and consular missions in the UK to respect our laws and regulations in line with their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and UK law.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
19th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment his Department has made of the role of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the bomb plot against an opposition gathering in Paris in June 2018, reported during the recent trial of an Iranian diplomat in Belgium.

Hostile activity such as the bomb plot against a conference in Paris in 2018 is unacceptable and must have consequences. The UK, along with our European partners, has directly condemned such attacks and in 2019 the EU adopted sanctions against those responsible. Following the end of the Transition Period, these sanctions are now enforced under the UK autonomous Counter-Terrorism sanctions regime. The IRGC also remains sanctioned in its entirety by the UK. We strongly condemn the targeting of civilians and welcome that those responsible have been held to account.

We continue to work closely with our European partners on security and counter-terrorism issues. We expect diplomatic and consular missions in the UK to respect our laws and regulations in line with their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and UK law.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
17th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 9 December 2020 to Question 124724 on Saudi Arabia: Newcastle United Football Club, on what grounds the English Premier League requested (a) advice, (b) intervention and (c) a meeting with officials from his Department.

This is a matter for the English Premier League. FCDO officials held virtual meetings with the Premier League following a request by the latter. FCDO officials were clear, in their communication with the English Premier League, that any prospective takeover of Newcastle United was a matter for the two parties concerned. FCDO officials routinely meet UK businesses at their request.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
17th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 9 December 2020 to Question 124724 Saudi Arabia: Newcastle United Football Club, which representative from his Department met with the English Premier League; and if he will publish the (a) job title and (b) area of responsibility in his Department of that representative.

Officials from the Middle East and North Africa Directorate and the British Embassy Riyadh met the Premier League virtually.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
17th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 9 December 2020 to Question 124724 on Saudi Arabia: Newcastle United Football Club, how many meetings representatives of his Department held with the English Premier League where the issue of the proposed takeover of Newcastle United Football Club was discussed.

FCDO officials hosted two virtual meetings with the English Premier League.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
17th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 9 December 2020 to Question 124724 on Saudi Arabia: Newcastle United Football Club, if he will publish the correspondence between his Department and the English Premier League referred to in that answer.

We are not able to disclose detailed correspondence between the UK Government and the English Premier League. This would contravene the General Data Protection Regulation relating to third party data. FCDO officials were clear with the Premier League that any prospective takeover of Newcastle United Football Club was a matter for the two parties concerned.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether (a) he and (b) representatives of his Department (i) held meetings and (ii) exchanged correspondence with representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between 1 January 2020 and 31 October 2020 on the proposed takeover of Newcastle United football club by a consortium including the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Secretary did not discuss the bid, nor exchange correspondence, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this issue. The proposed takeover was discussed in meetings between FCDO officials and representatives of the Saudi Arabian Government. I have also discussed the issue with representatives of the Saudi Arabian Government. FCDO officials were clear, in their communication with the English Premier League, that any prospective takeover of Newcastle United Football Club was a matter for the two parties concerned.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether (a) he and (b) representatives of his Department (i) held meetings and (ii) exchanged correspondence with representatives of the English Premier League between 1 January 2020 and 31 October 2020 on the proposed takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium including the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Secretary did not discuss, nor exchange correspondence, with the English Premier League on this issue. FCDO officials exchanged correspondence and held meetings with the Premier League following a request by the latter. FCDO officials were clear, in their communication with the English Premier League, that any prospective takeover of Newcastle United Football Club was a matter for the two parties concerned.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether (a) he and (b) representatives of his Department issued advice to the English Premier League on the proposed takeover of Newcastle United football club by a consortium including the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia; and if he will make a statement.

The Foreign Secretary did not discuss, nor exchange correspondence, with the English Premier League on this issue. FCDO officials were clear, in their communication with the English Premier League, that any prospective takeover of Newcastle United Football Club was a matter for the two parties concerned.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
19th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what representations he has made to the Iranian authorities on the arrested Iranian diplomat Assadolah Assadi in Belgium.

We are aware of the trial of four Iranians in Belgium in relation to the 2018 plot against a conference in Paris. We are deeply concerned by reports that an Iranian diplomat is one of those standing trial in connection with the incident. While the legal process is ongoing, however, it would be inappropriate to comment further and we have not made specific representations to the Iranian Government. The UK strongly condemns the targeting of civilians and welcomes steps taken to hold those responsible to account. We continue to work closely with our European partners on security and counter-terrorism issues. We are not aware at this stage of a link to the UK.

James Cleverly
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
20th Apr 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care's Answer of 15 April 2021 to Question 179033, on Coronavirus: Gyms, whether his Department has plans to introduce incentives similar to the Eat out to help out scheme for gyms and fitness facilities.

The Government recognises the significant disruption the necessary actions to combat Covid-19 are having on sectors like the fitness industry.

During this difficult time the Treasury is working intensively with employers, delivery partners, industry groups and other government departments to understand the long-term effects of social distancing across all key areas of the economy.

The Chancellor has already announced unprecedented support for individuals and businesses, to protect against the current economic emergency. By the end of March 2021, the Government made up to £20 billion available for business grants. At Budget 2021, the Government announced a further £5 billion of business grant support, including the Restart Grants Scheme, in which hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym business premises in England will be eligible for grants up to £18,000, subject to their rateable value. The Restart Grants will replace the monthly Local Restrictions Support Grant and Local Restrictions Support Grant, which both closed at the end of March.

There are no current plans to introduce incentives like the Eat Out to Help Out scheme for gyms and fitness facilities. We will continue to monitor the impact of government support on public services, businesses, individuals and sectors, including the leisure, gyms and fitness sector, as we respond to this pandemic, and keep all policies under review.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
1st Feb 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department has plans to extend the 12 month interest and payment holiday under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme for (a) hospitality and (b) other businesses that may still be closed or operating at a reduced capacity when the first payment is due.

Under the Bounce Back Loan scheme, no repayments are due from the borrower for the first 12 months of the loan, giving businesses the breathing space they need during this difficult time. In addition, the Government covers the first 12 months of interest payments charged to the business by the lender.

In order to give businesses further support and flexibility in making their repayments, the Chancellor has announced “Pay as You Grow” (PAYG) options. PAYG will give businesses the option to repay their Bounce Back loan over ten years. This will reduce their average monthly repayments on the loan by almost half. Businesses will also have the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times), or to pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments).

Together, the 12-month payment holiday and interest-free period for borrowers, along with the PAYG options, form part of the Government’s unprecedented £280 billion support package for businesses to protect jobs - including paying wages through the furlough schemes and self-employed support payments, generous grants, tax deferrals.

John Glen
Economic Secretary (HM Treasury)
26th Jan 2021
What estimate he has made of the level of infrastructure investment required to support the potential contribution of the (a) North and (b) Midlands to post covid-19 economic recovery.

In November, the government published the first ever National Infrastructure Strategy, setting out our comprehensive plan to transform infrastructure across the UK. The NIS announced a number of measures which will support the North and Midlands in their economic recovery from COVID 19, including: a new £4bn Levelling Up Fund to invest in local infrastructure priorities; £5bn to support UK-wide gigabit broadband roll-out; and a share of £4.2bn for intra-city transport settlements.

The NIS also announced that the government will set up a new UK infrastructure bank, which will be headquartered in the North and will support the UK’s economic recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
4th Dec 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to his Department's policy paper, National Infrastructure Strategy, published on 25 November 2020, when he plans to consult on the introduction of more stringent supply chain plan requirements in the Contract for Difference process.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a consultation on the introduction of more stringent supply chain plan requirements, including a consequence for the non-delivery of Supply Chain Plan commitments, on 24 November. This consultation will close on 18 January 2021.

BEIS intend to consult separately on the proposed Supply Chain Plan Questionnaire in early 2021.

Jesse Norman
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
26th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he (a) plans to make an assessment of the effectiveness of the vehicle excise duty scheme and (b) has made an assessment of the potential merits of a scheme whereby the number of miles driven is a factor in the annual cost for the user.

The Government uses the tax system to encourage the uptake of vehicles with low carbon dioxide emissions to help meet our legally binding climate change targets. This is why zero emission cars and electric vans are liable to pay no Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), either at first registration, or subsequently. At Budget 2020, the Government published a call for evidence on VED, which considers a range of changes to VED, including how to strengthen its environmental incentives. This closed in September and the Government will announce next steps in due course.

VED is a tax on vehicle ownership and, as such, does not vary with the number of miles driven. Motorists pay fuel duty on the petrol or diesel they purchase so those who complete significant mileage will pay more in fuel duty than those who drive fewer miles.

As with all taxes, the Government keeps VED under review. The Government is committed, as the UK transitions towards the phase out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, that revenue from motoring taxes keeps pace with this change, to ensure it can continue to fund first-class public services and infrastructure. Any changes to the tax system will be considered by the Chancellor and any further steps will be announced in due course.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
13th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department have provided any guidance to mortgage lenders on the potential merits of including SEISS payments as income for the purposes of assessing affordability of a mortgage applicant.

HM Treasury is in regular conversations with mortgage lenders about market conditions. However, the decision of a lender to offer products to customers is a commercial one, in which the government does not seek to interfere.

In 2014 the FCA introduced regulations under the Mortgage Market Review which required lenders to conduct a rigorous affordability assessment for new borrowers, obtaining evidence of income and expenditure. Lenders have significant flexibility in determining how to assess the affordability and circumstances of individual customers.

John Glen
Economic Secretary (HM Treasury)
18th Sep 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 25 March 2020 to Question 31557, what steps his Department has taken to protect consumers' credit ratings being affected by the financial effects of the covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier this year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published guidance on what it expects mortgage and consumer credit lenders to do for customers facing temporary cashflow disruptions as a result of COVID-19. The guidance states that firms should exercise forbearance by offering the customer a payment deferral period (payment holiday) meaning the customer makes either no, or small, token payments during that period.

The guidance sets out that there should be no worsening of arrears status on a consumer’s credit file from taking out a payment holiday. This was reconfirmed in the FCA’s updated guidance and continues to be the case for any borrower taking out a payment holiday until 31 October.

It is important that lenders act responsibly when deciding whether or not to accept a credit application, to ensure that consumers are not lent to in an unaffordable way. Therefore, outside of payment holidays, the FCA expects firms to reflect repayments and arrears on the consumer’s credit file in the usual manner.

John Glen
Economic Secretary (HM Treasury)
10th Jun 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he plans to extend the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund to provide additional assistance to businesses that continue to suffer significant disruption as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government recognises that this is a very challenging time for businesses in a wide variety of sectors, and that retail, hospitality and leisure properties are likely to have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis due to their reliance on customer footfall. That is why the Government has provided enhanced support to these sectors in the form of a twelve-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure properties; and via the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund for properties used for these purposes which have a rateable value below £51,000.

The Government has also allocated up to an additional £617 million to Local Authorities to enable them to provide discretionary grants to businesses which have been excluded from the RHLGF and the Small Business Grant Fund because of the way they interact with the business rates system.

In addition, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses can benefit from other measures in the Government’s unprecedented package of support for business, including:

  • An option to defer VAT payments by up to twelve months;
  • The Bounce Back Loan Scheme, which will ensure that small and micro businesses can quickly access loans of up to £50,000 which are 100 per cent guaranteed by the Government;
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, now extended to cover all businesses including those which would be able to access commercial credit;
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to support businesses with their wage bills; and
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, to provide support to the self-employed.

The Government continues to review the economic situation and consider what support businesses need.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
29th Apr 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for what reason the Expanded Retail Discount Scheme excludes bureaux de change premises.

The Government has provided enhanced support to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors through business rates relief given the direct and acute impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on those sectors.

While financial services providers are excluded from business rates relief, a range of further measures to support all businesses, including those not eligible for the business rates holiday, has also been made available.

For example, the Government has launched the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help firms continue to keep people in employment, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank, and the deferral of VAT payments for this quarter.

Jesse Norman
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
28th Apr 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department plans to take steps to tackle employers that refuse to furlough employees who were on payroll on 19 March 2020 and have subsequently left that employment, in circumstances where those former employees have contacted their former employers for support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Government guidance makes clear that, as long as eligible for the scheme, employers can re-employ employees they made redundant or who stopped working for them on or after 19 March 2020, put them on furlough, and claim for their wages through the scheme from the date on which they furloughed them.

The Government encourages all those firms affected by coronavirus to do the right thing for their employees. The scheme will help firms keep millions of people in employment by covering most employers’ wage costs. Firms should receive their grant within 6 working days of submitting claims.

The Government is also supporting those on low incomes who need to rely on the welfare system, through a significant package of temporary measures which benefit new and existing claimants. The measures include a £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit (UC) standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element, and nearly £1 billion of additional support for renters through increases to the Local Housing Allowance rates for UC and Housing Benefit claimants.

Jesse Norman
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
24th Mar 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the income of long term supply teaching staff employed (a) through agencies and (b) by schools, acadamies or local authorities will have their income protected under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Government seeks, as far as possible, to protect people’s jobs and incomes. This is an unprecedented jobs retention scheme and the Government has been working hard to set out further details on the scheme. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to any individual who was on an employer’s PAYE payroll on 19 March 2020. Full details can be found in the guidance available at www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme and www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-80-of-your-employees-wages-to-claim-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme, which provides answers to these questions.

Jesse Norman
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
23rd Mar 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department plans to force employers to enrol in the Government scheme for the public purse to provide 80 per cent of an employee's salary if they are unable to work as a result of covid-19.

The Government will make sure it protects, as far as possible, people’s jobs and incomes. This is an unprecedented jobs retention scheme and the Government has been working hard over the last week to set out further details on the scheme. Full details can now be found in the guidance available at: http://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.

Employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus are encouraged to use the scheme instead of making staff redundant. Under the scheme, employers can put employees on temporary leave and the Government will pay them cash grants of 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month, providing they keep the individual employed. As set out in the guidance, the scheme does cover workers on flexible or zero-hour contracts.

Jesse Norman
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
17th Mar 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what plans his Department has to extend the financial support offered to businesses for PAYE and National Insurance contributions to include VAT payments; and what assessment he has made of the effect of VAT liability on cashflow where customers enter administration.

The Chancellor has announced an unprecedented economic response to support businesses. This includes deferment of VAT payments. No VAT-registered business will have to make a VAT payment alongside their VAT return to HMRC from now through to June. Businesses will have until the end of the financial year to pay these bills. This is a direct injection of more than £30bn of cash to businesses, equivalent to 1.5% of GDP.

Jesse Norman
Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)
22nd Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to the Answer of 10 June 2020 to Question 53408 on Drugs: Organised Crime, what work is currently being undertaken by her Department in collaboration with (a) the Department for Health and Social Care, (b) the Ministry of Justice, (c) the Department for Education and (d) local authorities to tackle county lines drug trafficking and safeguard vulnerable children from exploitation.

County lines drug trafficking is a growing threat and one that this Government is determined to tackle. A cross-government approach is essential to identify and support children and young people who are criminally exploited by these ruthless gangs.

We are working across government to enhance the response to children and young people who are subject to criminal exploitation from county lines. Through our county lines programme, the Home Office is investing £860,000 this financial year to provide specialist one-to-one support for children and young people who at risk or involved in county lines. We are also working in collaboration with other government departments to monitor and respond to the impact of COVID-19 on county lines activity and exploitation.

We are also committed to taking forward national learning and are working with the Department for Education, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Health and Social Care to examine the recommendations from the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s report ‘It was Hard to Escape’, as well as those from other safeguarding reviews relating to child criminal exploitation, in order to identify areas for improvement, put in place support for vulnerable children, raise awareness of criminal exploitation from county lines and ensure that the criminal justice response to county lines is as effective and robust as possible.

Victoria Atkins
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
3rd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what the timeframe is for the introduction of the Online Harms Bill.

The Government is committed to making the UK the safest place to be online. DCMS and the Home Office are working at pace to develop the legislation. We will publish a full government response later this year, and legislation will be ready this session.

2nd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to tackle county lines drug trafficking and safeguard vulnerable children form exploitation.

We are investing £25m to crack down on county lines gangs in 19/20 and 20/21. Through our county lines programme we are expanding the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, increasing disruption on the rail networks by British Transport Police, delivering operational intensification in the three key exporting areas, investing in new technology including Automatic Number Plate Recognition and providing increased support for victims of county lines exploitation.

Our investment is already delivering results; as a result of the first phase, between November 2019 and March 2020, police forces have made over 650 arrests, closed nearly 140 deal lines, seized cash and drugs with a total value of over £3 million, and made over 100 weapons seizures. Officers have also safeguarded scores of individuals, including 140 children, from being exploited by these gangs.

Kit Malthouse
Minister of State (Home Office)
2nd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether her Department plans to strengthen support for children in the Domestic Abuse Bill through provision of a statutory right to specialist support services.

The Domestic Abuse Bill, as introduced on 3 March, includes a new statutory duty on tier one local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse, and their children, within safe accommodation. Paragraph 207 of the Explanatory Notes which accompany the Bill provides examples of the support that may be provided, including children’s support such as play therapy and child advocacy.

To enable us to better understand the complex landscape for community-based support for all victims, including children, the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner has agreed to undertake an in-depth exploration of the current community-based support landscape over 2020/21.

The Government will then work with the Commissioner to understand the needs identified and develop options on how best to address them.

Victoria Atkins
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
2nd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to protect children and young people from child sexual abuse (a) at home and (b) online during the covid-19 outbreak.

We are acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as child sexual abuse, feeling especially vulnerable. For some children, home is not the safe-haven it should be, and more time spent online means children may be at increased risk of online harms.

We have responded swiftly to the risks posed by COVID-19, working closely with Law Enforcement, the UK Intelligence Community, safeguarding partners and the third sector to assess the threat and ensure they have the resources they need to tackle offending and provide the greatest protection for vulnerable children.

We are further working across government and agencies to ensure that teachers, parents and carers have access to the support they need to help keep children safe online. As part of this the National Crime Agency have launched the #OnlineSafetyAtHome campaign, the Department for Education has published interim safeguarding guidance for schools and colleges encouraging them to disseminate advice on online safety and we have published guidance for parents and carers on gov.uk.

As part of this the Government made £1.6 million available immediately for the NSPCC to expand and promote its national helpline for adults. We also worked across government, with the NCA and industry to ensure that teachers, parents and carers have access to the support they need to help keep children safe online.

On 21st May, the Prime Minister hosted a virtual summit focused on ‘hidden harms’, including child sexual abuse. The virtual summit brought key decision makers together to share insight, best practice and agree an approach for tackling these crimes as we move towards easing lockdown measures.

Ahead of the summit, the Home Secretary announced that £9.86 million is being allocated to the National Crime Agency to improve its ability to tackle perpetrators seeking to offend against children via the Dark Web. An additional £3.36 million is being committed to further improve our understanding and tackle all aspects of the child sexual abuse threat. We will also launch a £2.8 million transformation fund to promote and embed best practice in Child Sexual Abuse victim support.

Following the Summit, we have sought to engage stakeholders within communities who could support in identifying vulnerable children, by delivering communications that highlight how to spot the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as where to report concerns. The aim is to improve our collective ability to detect and respond to a range harms, including at home.

The Home Office will distribute £7.8 million in emergency support for charities helping vulnerable children who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. We are working closely with other government departments to identify an approach for disbursing the proportion of the £360 million charities funding allocated directly from government departments to vulnerable children’s charities, with the aim to implement the approach as soon as possible.

Victoria Atkins
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
17th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 22 February 2021 to Question 153202 on Roll-on Roll-off Ships, what effect the Integrated Review will have on demand for strategic sealift capacity to 2030.

There is a well established strategic need for the UK to be able to deploy military stores and equipment as required, globally on an assured and readily available basis. The Integrated Review has confirmed this renewed global ambition. Procurement of tonnage from 2024 onwards will be subject to the conditions of any future contract, the terms of which are yet to be determined.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
17th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, with reference to the publication of the Integrated Review on 16 March 2021, what steps he taking to procure strategic roll-on roll-off ferry services for the armed forces after the contract with Foreland Shipping expires in December 2024.

Consideration will be given in due course to the best value for money commercial strategy to deliver Sealift Capability post 2024. It would be inappropriate to comment further in advance of that work being undertaken.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what progress has been made on the procurement of new tonnage as part of the Strategic Sealift contract (a) up to and (b) beyond the end of the existing contract with Foreland Shipping Limited in 2024.

As part of the current PFI agreement, there is no contractual requirement for FSL to provide the Ministry of Defence (MOD) with any sealift capacity over and above the four Point Class vessels. Any additional MOD requirements would need to be met in the short term through commercial charters. Procurement of tonnage from 2024 onwards will be subject to the conditions of any future contract, the terms of which are yet to be determined.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of (a) extending and (b) renewing the contract between his Department and Foreland Shipping Limited for point class strategic roll-on roll-off vessels; and if he will make a statement.

The current PFI contract expires in 2024. On current plans a new contract will be required to sustain this capability from 2024 onwards. All equipment decisions are subject to the ongoing Integrated Review.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, if he will list the age of each ship in the Strategic Sealift contract between his Department and Foreland Shipping Limited; and what plans he has to order new tonnage to replace those vessels.

The four Point Class vessels range between 19 and 20 years old having been built between 2001 and 2002. As part of the current PFI agreement, there is no contractual requirement for FSL to provide the Ministry of Defence (MOD) with any sealift capacity over and above the four Point Class vessels. Any additional MOD requirements would need to be met in the short term through commercial charters.

Jeremy Quin
Minister of State (Ministry of Defence)
28th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, pursuant to the Answer of 25 January 2021 to Question 140777, when the New Homes Ombudsman is planned to be in place; and whether he plans to provide that ombudsman with the power to process complaints which arose prior to its formation.

Provision for the New Homes Ombudsman will be brought forward through the Building Safety Bill which we will introduce when Parliamentary time allows. We continue to stay in touch with the industry-led New Homes Quality Board on its plans for a voluntary New Homes Ombudsman scheme, to be in place ahead of legislation.

As there will be different requirements for developers when they are members of the New Homes Ombudsman, the legislation will not apply retrospectively. We will set out transition arrangements to the New Homes Ombudsman scheme when arrangements for the scheme are in place. Consumers will still be able to seek redress using existing routes, including through consumer codes and warranty providers.

Christopher Pincher
Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
27th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, when he plans to publish the findings of the consultation on A New Deal for Renting: Resetting the Balance of Rights and Responsibilities Between Landlords and Tenants, which closed on the 12th October 2019.

The Government remains committed to abolishing Section 21 through a Renters’ Reform Bill, which will enhance renters’ security. However, our collective efforts are currently focused on responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

Repealing Section 21 represents the largest change to renting in 30 years and it is only right that the reforms are taken forward in a considered manner. The Government’s consultation ‘A New Deal for Renting: Resetting the Balance of Rights and Responsibilities Between Landlords and Tenants’ sought views on the best way to provide tenants with greater security, but also ensure that landlords are able to recover their properties where they have valid reasons to do so. This balance is vital to ensuring the future supply of good quality housing in the rented sector.

We will publish a response to the consultation and bring forward a Renters Reform Bill to implement the reforms.

Christopher Pincher
Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
20th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, whether his Department have any plans to increase the powers available to Local Authorities to prevent house builders bring forward further developments where their previous developments have been found to be sub-standard.

It is a priority for this Government to build more high-quality, environmentally friendly homes and residents must feel confident that their property is safe. The Government is committed to improving recourse for building defects for new build homebuyers. We will ensure a New Homes Ombudsman is established and we will require developers to belong to it. We will include provision for the New Homes Ombudsman in the Building Safety Bill.

In addition, we are taking action to improve the quality of new homes and to tackle sub-standard new housing. This includes better design through the planning system, safer homes through the biggest reform to the building safety regulatory regime and being sustainable through the Future Homes Standard. Any new home needs to meet building regulations, and local authorities can take planning enforcement action if the development differs from the plans they approved when they granted planning permission.

Christopher Pincher
Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
20th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what recent assessment he has made of the (a) quality of new build housing, (b) ability of local authorities to take action in response to poor quality new build housing developments and (c) ability of buyers purchasing new build properties to seek adequate recourse for building defects.

It is a priority for this Government to build more high-quality, environmentally friendly homes and residents must feel confident that their property is safe, high-quality and sustainable. Whilst we recognise the constraints developers have on site, we expect quality to be at the heart of the new homes they deliver. We recognise that the quality of new build homes still needs to improve and Government is taking steps to ensure that new homes are better designed, safer and sustainable.

The Government has given local authorities a wide range of enforcement powers with strong penalties to tackle poor quality. However, it is for them to decide what, if any, action to take, depending on the circumstances of each case.

The Government is committed to improving new homebuyers’ recourse for building defects. We will ensure a New Homes Ombudsman is established and we will require developers to belong to it. We will include provision for the New Homes Ombudsman in the Building Safety Bill. New build homebuyers currently have access to recourse for building defects through their developers, new build warranty providers and industry-led Consumer Codes.

Christopher Pincher
Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
20th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, whether his Department plans to regulate the growing property maintenance sector to protect leaseholders from increasingly expensive and sub-standard service.

The Government is committed to ensuring that those living in the leasehold sector are protected from abuse and poor service.

Property agents can play an important role in the management and upkeep of buildings and protect the value of people’s homes. Currently, anyone can become a property agent regardless of their background, skills or experience. Many take a professional approach, but others do not. The Government has announced that it will regulate managing agents and introduce a single mandatory and legally enforceable Code of Practice to set standards across the sector. We will also require agents to be qualified to practise.

The Government established an independent working group of housing experts, chaired by Lord Best, to advise Government on the regulation of property agents. The working group has presented its final report to Government  and we are considering its recommendations.

Christopher Pincher
Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
1st May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what the timetable is for the publication of the Future Homes Standard announced by his Department in 2019; and whether that standard will apply to the whole of the UK.

The Government remains committed to meeting its target of net zero emissions by 2050 and recognises the important contribution that the energy efficiency of buildings has to make in meeting it.

We have proposed an ambitious uplift in the energy efficiency of new homes through the introduction of the Future Homes Standard from 2025. We expect that homes built to the Future Homes Standard will have carbon dioxide emissions 75-80 per cent lower than those built to current Building Regulations standards, which means they will be fit for the future, with low carbon heating and very high fabric standards.

Ahead of this, we have consulted on a meaningful and achievable increase to the energy efficiency standards for new homes to act as a stepping stone to the Future Homes Standard. The Future Homes Standard consultation closed on 7 February. The responses we received will be considered carefully, and a government response will be published in due course.

These matters relate to England only, as Building Regulations are a devolved matter.

Christopher Pincher
Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)
23rd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of providing temporary legal recognition to humanist marriage ceremonies in the same way that temporary legal recognition has been granted to outdoor civil ceremonies until April 2022.

A Law Commission report due later this year is expected to present options for wholesale reform to the law governing marriage ceremonies, which the Government will consider carefully. Options being explored by the Law Commission include offering couples greater flexibility to form their own ceremonies, allowing the ceremony to take place in a much broader range of locations, and powers to hold weddings remotely in a national emergency. The Government will decide on provision for non-religious belief marriage (including humanist marriage) on the basis of the Law Commission's recommendations.

Alex Chalk
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Justice)
19th May 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans his Department has to lift the covid-19 lockdown measures in place across the prison estate.

Our roadmap for easing restrictions in prisons has been guided by public health advice alongside an operational assessment of what can be achieved in custodial settings while keeping staff and those in our care safe.

Over the coming weeks and months we will look to bring back aspects of the prison regime, such as visits and work, in some cases adapted for safety, delivering our responsibilities and learning from the best available evidence.

Our National Framework, which sets out in detail how we will take decisions about easing coronavirus-related restrictions in prisons, has been published on gov.uk.

Lucy Frazer
Minister of State (Ministry of Justice)