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Written Question
Recreation Spaces: Urban Areas
11 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to promote access to nature in cities.

Answered by Rebecca Pow

The Government's 25 Year Environment Plan made major new commitments to connect people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing, including access to green spaces in urban areas.

Work undertaken includes the Green Recovery Challenge Fund which has invested £80 million to nature-based projects across England to support a green recovery from Covid-19. The fund has "connecting people with nature" as one of its three objectives, and many of these projects are working in urban areas. An example of one of the projects delivered is Green Space for Health, which aims to make NHS sites greener and provide outdoor wellbeing sessions for NHS staff.

We are leading a £5.77 million cross-Governmental project to test nature-based social prescribing in seven test and learn sites, run national research work to understand its scalability, and deliver a robust project evaluation. This will help improve mental health and wellbeing by connecting more people to nature. The project is working in both rural and urban locations and will help connect those living in cities with nature; for example, several of the test and learn sites are in and around cities such as Greater Manchester.

We are also investing £9 million through the Levelling Up Parks Fund to regenerate 100 green spaces across the UK as part of our Levelling Up agenda. Further details on the Fund will be announced shortly.

Natural England's England-wide map of green infrastructure launched in December 2021, as part of the emerging Green Infrastructure Framework, will help local areas identify priorities for creation and enhancement, including to address inequalities in access to greenspace. The full Framework to be launched later this year will include a green infrastructure design guide with advice on designing to promote access and to maximise the benefits that access provides. This will work alongside biodiversity net gain to encourage greater inclusion of nature into our cities and built environments.

The England Trees Action Plan committed to treble tree planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament, supported by the Nature for Climate Fund (NCF) which has more than £750 million by 2025 for work on peat restoration, woodland creation and management. Through the NCF the Government is also increasing tree planting in urban areas. Local authorities have access to several NCF grant schemes, including the £4.4 million Local Authorities Treescape Fund and the £6 million Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF). Over the next two years, the UTCF fund will provide up to £6 million for planting around 44,000 large trees in towns and cities. Meanwhile, the Local Authority Treescapes Fund will increase tree planting and natural regeneration in local communities, including urban areas and beside roads and footpaths.


Written Question
Tax Avoidance
11 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many people subject to the Loan Charge have declared bankruptcy as of 15 December 2021.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

I refer the Honourable Member to the answer that was given to PQ UIN 87576 and PQ UIN 87577 on 9 December 2021.


Written Question
Tax Avoidance
11 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many people seeking refunds as a result of the changes made in response to the Morse Review have been refunded by HMRC as of 15 December 2021.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

Following Lord Morse’s Independent Loan Charge Review, the Government introduced legislation requiring HMRC to establish a scheme to repay relevant Voluntary Restitution elements of disguised remuneration settlements.

These amounts were voluntary payments that taxpayers had agreed to make as part of settlements concluded before changes were made to the scope of the Loan Charge. Individuals and employers had until 30 September 2021 to apply to HMRC for a refund or waiver.

HMRC repays amounts that were paid in disguised remuneration scheme settlements, and/or waives amounts of instalments due that have not yet been paid if certain conditions are met.

As of 17 December 2021, HMRC had processed approximately 1330 applications, of which approximately 925 had received either a repayment, a waiver, or both. Approximately 405 of the applications processed at that date were either invalid or ineligible.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Disease Control
11 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment she has made of the potential merits of requesting a meeting of the G20 to discuss a co-ordinated response to (a) the omicron variant of covid-19 and (b) any future covid-19 variants.

Answered by Amanda Milling

The UK Government is working closely with international partners, including through the G7, G20 and other fora, to respond to the spread of new variants. The Secretary of State for Health convened two urgent G7 Health Ministers meetings following the emergence of the Omicron variant under the UK's G7 presidency in 2021, and on 30 December the UK pledged up to £105 million to help vulnerable countries respond. We will continue to work through the G20 under the Indonesian presidency to deliver a robust response to COVID-19, deliver rapid, equitable and global distribution of vaccines, and strengthen global health and finance coordination for effective pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.


Written Question
Transport for London: Finance
11 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of a failure to secure a long-term funding deal for Transport for London beyond 4 February 2022 on (a) bus and (b) tube services.

Answered by Trudy Harrison

We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London's transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4bn in emergency funding to Transport for London to keep essential services running, to enable businesses to continue to operate and key workers to continue their critical work in the capital. This is in addition to this year’s Spending Review settlement for London, which provided over a billion pounds of capital investment per year, in line with previous funding.

The Government remains committed to providing further extraordinary funding to mitigate fare revenue loss as a result of the pandemic and ensuring all TfL services, including the bus and tube network, keep running in a way that is fair to the national tax payer. The current funding deal was only temporarily extended until February due to the Mayor being late in terms of providing future options.


Written Question
Educational Visits
10 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent assessment she has made of trends in the number of short-stay educational visits to the UK from EU schools; and what steps she is taking to encourage more visits from EU schools to the UK.

Answered by Nigel Huddleston

As set out in the government’s Tourism Recovery Plan, we are committed to supporting the tourism industry’s return to pre-pandemic levels across England, including tourism for educational purposes.

So far, the government has provided over £35 billion in support to the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors over the course of the pandemic in the form of grants, loans and tax breaks.

The continuing desirability of English language skills drives the UK’s soft power on the world stage. The Tourism Recovery Plan recognises educational travel as an important part of the visitor economy and highlights the 2021 updates to the International Education Strategy, which sets out how we will promote English Language Training in the UK.


Written Question
Educational Visits: EU Nationals
10 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment she has made of the potential merits of accepting EU group passports or identity cards to increase bookings for school trips to the UK from EU countries.

Answered by Kevin Foster

As part of the changes to the Immigration Rules in September 2021, we no longer accept national identity cards as a valid travel document from EU, EEA and Swiss visitors to the UK.

Almost a year’s notice was provided for this change to allow groups to plan ahead and obtain passports where they do not already have them before they travel.

The experience at the UK Border since the change has been positive, with EU, EEA and Swiss citizens making the switch to using their passport for travel. Using a passport also means most EU nationals making a short visit can also use e-gates where available for a quicker and easier arrival experience.

There are no plans to change our approach.

On group passports, the List of Travellers is an EU scheme and the EU announced in July 2020 the UK would no longer be part of it from 1 January 2021. The UK Government decided to continue accepting travel to the UK on the List of Travellers until 1 October 2021 to allow this change to be made at the same time as the change on the acceptance of EU, EEA and Swiss identity cards.

We continue to allow travel to the UK on collective passports for young people issued by Member States who have ratified the relevant 1961 Council of Europe treaty.


Written Question
Tax Avoidance: Telephone Services
10 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of establishing a 24-hour helpline for people subject to the Loan Charge.

Answered by Lucy Frazer

HMRC operates a settlement helpline and a debt helpline for taxpayers who have used disguised remuneration avoidance schemes. All call handlers are trained to identify taxpayers who might need additional support.

For taxpayers who may need specialised help, HMRC advisors encourage them to contact organisations such as Samaritans or Mind. The Samaritans are available to provide emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Government will continue to work with HMRC to consider what additional support could be provided to taxpayers who need extra help.


Written Question
Health Services: Waiting Lists
10 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of the impact of NHS staffing shortages on NHS waiting times; and what steps he is taking to ensure patients receive (a) timely and (b) quality care.

Answered by Edward Argar

The Department of Health and Social Care has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.


Written Question
Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the President of COP26, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of signing Unicef's Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.

Answered by Alok Sharma

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


Written Question
Joint Replacements: Waiting Lists
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to (a) reduce joint replacement waiting times within the NHS and (b) improve support for people waiting for joint replacement surgery.

Answered by Edward Argar

Joint replacement is being prioritised through the High Volume, Low Complexity programme. This programme shares best practice to improve and facilitate joint replacement surgeries in the National Health Service, including through new surgical hubs which offer additional capacity for surgery.

As announced in September, an additional £1 billion has been provided this year as part of the Elective Recovery Fund, which can be accessed by local trusts if they meet the eligibility criteria to tackle the backlog. A further £8 billion was announced to transform elective services and increase activity in the following three years. This funding could deliver the equivalent of approximately nine million more checks, scans and procedures and includes treatment for joint replacements.

Work is underway to evaluate patient support and to develop regional and system strategies focused on those who are waiting for elective surgery, including patients waiting for joint replacement surgery.


Written Question
Lighting: Pollution
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he taking to reduce light pollution at night in cities.

Answered by Jo Churchill

The Government recognises that light pollution may have an impact on people, affecting their health and wellbeing, as well as the environment. Through the 25 Year Environment Plan, we have committed to reducing all forms of pollution, including light pollution. My department works with colleagues across government whose policy areas affect the use of artificial light.

The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that planning policies and decisions should limit the impact of light pollution on local amenity, dark landscapes and nature conservation. This is supported by guidance which emphasises the importance of getting the right light in the right place at the right time, which helps local planners and developers to design in ways that avoid glare and intrusion.

The Government has put in place a range of measures to ensure that light pollution is effectively managed through the statutory nuisance regime which means that, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities have a duty to investigate complaints about light emitted from premises which could constitute a nuisance or be harmful to health and have powers to take action where there is a problem.

The management of street lighting in England is the responsibility of local highway authorities. Local highway authorities have a duty under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the public highways in their charge, including street lighting. The Department for Transport encourages all local authorities to replace their street lighting with LED lighting where it is economically feasible to do so. Importantly some of these new, modern luminaires can also reduce the amount of glare emitted, reducing light pollution as a result. Advice is also available from the UK Lighting Board and the Institute of Lighting Professionals.


Written Question
Tidal Power
5 Jan 2022

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what legislative steps he is taking to promote tidal energy.

Answered by Greg Hands

The Government announced in November that the fourth Contracts for Difference allocation round will feature a £20m annual ringfenced budget for tidal stream energy. This builds on a long history of government support for the sector. The Government has no plans at present to introduce legislation relating to tidal energy.


Written Question
Prescriptions: Fees and Charges
23 Dec 2021

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of adding medications related to (a) asthma, (b) depression, (c) heart disease, (d) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and (e) hypertension to the NHS prescription charge exemption list.

Answered by Edward Argar

No assessment has been made. We currently have no plans to review or extend the National Health Service prescription charge medical exemption list to include asthma, depression, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or hypertension.

Extensive arrangements are in already place to help people afford NHS prescriptions, including a range of exemptions relating to age, income or a medical condition for which people may already qualify. Approximately 89% of NHS prescription items are dispensed in the community free of charge. To support those who do not qualify for an exemption, the cost of prescriptions can be capped by purchasing a prescription pre-payment certificate, which can be paid for in instalments. A holder of a 12-month certificate can get all the prescriptions they need for just over £2 per week.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Vaccination
8 Dec 2021

Questioner: Rupa Huq (LAB - Ealing Central and Acton)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, how many covid-19 vaccinations the Government has distributed to developing countries as of 2 November 2021.

Answered by Wendy Morton

As of 2 November, the UK had distributed 11.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing countries as part of its donation programme. In addition, on 26 October, COVAX accepted 10 million doses to allocate and distribute to low and middle-income countries, with another 10 million doses accepted on the 12 November.