Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi

Labour - Slough

Shadow Minister (Transport)

(since April 2020)

Department Event
Thursday 9th September 2021
09:30
Department for Transport
Oral questions - Main Chamber
9 Sep 2021, 9:30 a.m.
Transport (including Topical Questions)
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Note: This event involves a Department with which this person is linked, and does not guarantee their actual attendance.
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, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Time and again, I have urged Government to fairly fund areas most in need, not create competitions that are often …

Written Answers
Thursday 29th July 2021
Afghanistan: Females
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, how much the UK Government has spent in …
Early Day Motions
Tuesday 19th December 2017
NATIONAL SIKH WAR MEMORIAL
That this House appreciates the extraordinary bravery and sacrifices of Sikh soldiers in service of Great Britain, including during both …
Bills
None available
MP Financial Interests
Saturday 11th January 2020
1. Employment and earnings
Until 12 March 2019, Councillor, Kent County Council, County Hall, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1XQ. I received an annual allowance of …
EDM signed
Monday 18th January 2021
Godfrey Colin Cameron
That this House is deeply saddened by news of the death of Godfrey Colin Cameron, a hardworking member of Parliamentary …
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, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has voted in 257 divisions, and never against the majority of their Party.
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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
Gavin Williamson (Conservative)
Secretary of State for Education
(17 debate interactions)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative)
Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(14 debate interactions)
Boris Johnson (Conservative)
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union
(13 debate interactions)
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Department Debates
Cabinet Office
(35 debate contributions)
Department for Education
(31 debate contributions)
Home Office
(19 debate contributions)
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View all Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi's debates

Slough Petitions

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

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

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

Petitions with highest Slough signature proportion
Petitions with most Slough signatures
Petition Open
3,441
of 387,574 signatures (0.89%)
Petition Open
1,481
of 194,881 signatures (0.76%)
Petition Open
1,351
of 54,817 signatures (2.47%)
Petition Debates Contributed

Undocumented Migrants are suffering in silence, with no access to adequate Financial support, or any help. The Government should grant an urgent Amnesty of 5years to those with no criminal record so that they could live their lives as normal human beings and pay tax to help the UK economy.

As a country we see many water-related fatalities every year. We see many more call outs to water related incidents. Throughout lockdown year our coastguards were tasked to almost double the call outs than in the previous year. Our children NEED to learn about Cold water shock & rip currents.

The Government must make a public statement on the #kissanprotests & press freedoms.

India is the worlds largest democracy & democratic engagement and freedom of the press are fundamental rights and a positive step towards creating a India that works for all.

The Home Secretary said what happened to victims of child sexual exploitation gangs was “one of the biggest stains on our country’s conscience.” Last year local authorities identified 18,700 suspected victims of child sexual exploitation. We want an independent public inquiry into Grooming Gangs.

The Government is refusing to release official research on the characteristics of grooming gangs, claiming it is not in the “public interest”.

We, the British public, demand the release of the official research on grooming gangs undertaken by the Government in full.

A significant number of students will sit their final 2021 examinations. The outcome of which undoubtedly will be their passport, for many of their future life chances and successes. In order for this to be done fairly, it is imperative that the amount of content they are tested on is reduced.

We want the Education Secretary and the Government to step in and review the exam board’s decision on how GCSE and A-Level grades will be calculated and awarded due to the current coronavirus crisis. We want a better solution than just using our previous data to be the basis of our grade.


Latest EDMs signed by Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi

14th January 2021
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi signed this EDM on Monday 18th January 2021

Godfrey Colin Cameron

Tabled by: Chris Stephens (Scottish National Party - Glasgow South West)
That this House is deeply saddened by news of the death of Godfrey Colin Cameron, a hardworking member of Parliamentary security staff and member of the PCS trade union who passed away aged just 55 after contracting covid-19; extends our sincere condolences to his devoted wife Hyacinth, children Leon and …
139 signatures
(Most recent: 8 Feb 2021)
Signatures by party:
Labour: 117
Scottish National Party: 15
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 2
Alba Party: 1
Democratic Unionist Party: 1
4th June 2020
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi signed this EDM on Wednesday 17th June 2020

Legal Aid and Advice

Tabled by: David Lammy (Labour - Tottenham)
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 515), dated 15 May 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18 May 2020, be annulled.
138 signatures
(Most recent: 11 Feb 2021)
Signatures by party:
Labour: 115
Liberal Democrat: 9
Scottish National Party: 5
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 2
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Green Party: 1
Alba Party: 1
Democratic Unionist Party: 1
Alliance: 1
View All Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi's signed Early Day Motions

Commons initiatives

These initiatives were driven by Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, 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.


Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has not been granted any Urgent Questions

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has not been granted any Adjournment Debates

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has not introduced any legislation before Parliament


1199 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
13 Other Department Questions
16th Jul 2021
To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps the House of Commons Commission is taking to protect the safety of all Parliamentary staff from covid-19.

The House of Commons Commission has ensured that the House Service has implemented the working safely during coronavirus guidance to ensure we remain a Covid-secure workplace.

At every stage of the Government roadmap, or when updated guidance has been published, the Parliamentary Covid risk assessment has been reviewed and updated to ensure the appropriate mitigations are put in place. The latest version of the risk assessment was published in the last week, incorporating Government guidance on ‘how to stay safe and help prevent the spread from 19 July’ and the sector specific guidance published on the 14th July.

The risk assessment has been made available to all and can be found at

https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/transparency-publications--hoc-transparency-publications/health-and-safety/hop-v1-hop-covid-risk-assessment-issued.pdf

To complement the Parliamentary Covid risk assessment the individual risk assessment tool has been in use since November 2020, to allow the House Service to identify those at higher risk and ensure appropriate measures are in place.

17th Jun 2021
To ask the Prime Minister, with reference to WhatsApp communications dated 27 March 2020, published by Dominic Cummings on 16 June 2021, if he will publish his WhatsApp communications with (a) Dominic Cummings and (b) the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care between 1 February 2020 and 16 June 2021 on the roll out of covid-19 testing.

I refer the Hon Member to the response I gave him on 21 June, UIN 16936.

Boris Johnson
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union
16th Jun 2021
To ask the Prime Minister, with reference to WhatsApp communications dated 27 March 2020, published by Dominic Cummings on 16 June 2021, whether his assessment on that date was that the roll out of covid-19 testing was totally hopeless.

Throughout this pandemic, the whole of Government’s priority has been to save lives, protect the NHS, and support people’s jobs and livelihoods, right across the United Kingdom. We have stood side-by-side with the private sector, procuring enormous volumes of goods and expertise with extreme urgency – often, these were literally matters of life and death. This has delivered:

  • The biggest vaccination programme we have ever undertaken.

  • The largest diagnostic network in British history – with over 190 million tests conducted.

  • A stockpile of over 32 billion items of PPE as a result of a phenomenal cross-government, international purchasing effort.

Boris Johnson
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union
19th May 2021
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, if she will hold discussions with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on collecting data on domestic abuse survivors’ access to Discretionary Housing Payments.

Equalities Ministers meet frequently with Ministerial colleagues across government to discuss a range of issues.

Since 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions has provided local authorities (LAs) with Discretionary Housing Payments funding of over £1 billion, to support vulnerable groups. The allocation of these payments is for LAs to decide, in line with their own priorities and reflecting government guidance aimed at targeting funds to those most in need, including domestic abuse survivors.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
15th Apr 2021
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, with reference to the Department of Health and Social Care’s press release on uptake of covid-19 vaccinations within the Black community published on 30 March 2021, what steps she is taking to tackle low levels of trust in institutions and authorities within the Black community; and what information her Department holds on levels of trust amongst the Black community in those institutions and authorities.

The Government has access to, and regularly monitors, data with breakdowns by ethnicity on trust in public institutions, trust in government, attitudes towards the vaccine programme and wider government policy on COVID-19. The Government also carefully monitors data on vaccine uptake, intention to take a vaccine and reasons for hesitancy. This is from a number of sources, including data from the ONS and other surveys.

There is a significant cross-government programme of work underway to increase confidence in the vaccination programme and to drive uptake among ethnic minority groups. This includes hosting vaccination centres in places of worship, tackling misinformation through the Counter Disinformation Unit and, through the Government's Community Champions scheme, using trusted local voices to encourage uptake.

There is also a wider government communications campaign using media medics and recognised voices across ethnic minority and faith communities to build trust and encourage vaccine uptake.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
18th Jan 2021
To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, pursuant to the Answer of 18 January 2021 to Question 136593, whether Members' staff working on the parliamentary estate or in a constituency office incur a work-related expense that is additional to usual living costs by needing to purchase food at that location.

As is common in most employment arrangements, Members' employees are expected to provide for their own nourishment and refreshment at work, whether they purchase that or bring it in from home. The position is different for volunteers as they are not employed and provided with a salary from which to provide that sustenance. For that reason, volunteers can claim for the additional costs associated with volunteering for an MP, for example when on the parliamentary estate or in a constituency office (which includes food) which Members' staff cannot.

18th Jan 2021
To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, pursuant to the Answer of 18 January 2021 to Question 136594, for what reasons IPSA recognise that Members' staff incur additional costs while working at home through introducing a monthly working from home payment, but do not consider volunteers to be similarly incurring additional costs while volunteering from home for an hon Member.

The payment the Hon Member refer's to is IPSA's administration of the tax-free allowance which can be paid to employees who are required to work from home, under HMRC rules. As a tax mechanism, this does not apply to people who volunteer.

12th Jan 2021
To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, pursuant to the Answer of 11 January 2021 to Question 133126, for what reasons IPSA has not included the geographical restrictions of volunteer subsistence expenses within the wording of the (i) scheme as it relates to volunteers and (ii) IPSA model volunteer contract; what steps IPSA has taken to ensure that policy complies with section 5(1) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009; where previously IPSA has published its policy of geographical restrictions of volunteer subsistence costs; when and with whom IPSA consulted ahead of introducing that policy; what steps IPSA took to communicate that policy; on what dates that communication occurred; and whether IPSA has undertaken an assessment of the appropriateness of that policy position during the covid-19 outbreak.

IPSA has informed me that the arrangements for volunteer expenses were updated in March 2014 when the new model volunteer agreement was produced. This was communicated through the IPSA bulletin at the time and is available on the IPSA website. The Hon. Member is correct that there is no geographical stipulation in the volunteer expenses rules. There is a balance to strike when drawing up policy and guidance between on the one hand brevity and clarity and on the other detailing all possible scenarios. There will always be an element of judgement and interpretation when unusual situations such as the Covid19 pandemic occur.

12th Jan 2021
To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, on which dates in January 2021 the directors of IPSA (a) met and (b) plan to meet to discuss volunteer subsistence costs; and if IPSA will publish minutes relating to (i) those meetings and (ii) other senior IPSA management meetings in the past six months on volunteer subsistence costs.

There have not been any specific director meetings on volunteer expenses but the policy team and the Chief Executive of IPSA considered carefully the issue of food costs for volunteers who are working from home. A guiding principle in the stewardship of the use of public funds is that reimbursement is appropriate where there is a work-related expense that is additional to usual living costs. In this case, volunteers working on the parliamentary estate or in a constituency office would be incurring additional expense by needing to purchase food. This is not the case when the volunteer is at home as they would not incur additional food costs whilst working for an MP.

30th Dec 2020
To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, if IPSA will provide volunteers working at home during the covid-19 outbreak with the lunch expenses as provided for in the model volunteer agreement.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) provides funding for staffing and business costs to support MPs in their parliamentary functions, in line with the rules and general conditions set out in its Scheme.

MPs may claim for the cost of reasonable food and travel expenses to be paid to volunteers who are supporting their parliamentary work, to ensure they are not out of pocket as a result of their volunteer activities. This may include, for example, the purchase of lunch when working away from home. Volunteer expenses may only be reimbursed to cover actual costs incurred as a result of supporting the MP and are not intended to be used as a daily food allowance to fund the consumption of food and drink in a volunteer's own home.

24th Jan 2020
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, what steps the Government is taking to reduce the gender pay gap in the public sector.

We are working across government and with representative bodies to address the gender pay gap in different public sector workforces.

This includes supporting the Department of Health and Social Care and the independent review of the gender pay gap in medicine led by Dame Jane Dacre. We are also encouraging initiatives in other public sector workforces, including policing and different parts of the education sector.

To support all employers, we have published evidence-based guidance on practical actions they can take to create more inclusive workplaces.

Victoria Atkins
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
24th Jan 2020
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, what recent steps she has taken to ensure that more women are appointed to (a) leadership and (b) executive roles in companies.

The Government has commissioned and supports the business led, independent Hampton-Alexander Review which has a 33% target for women on boards and in senior leadership positions across the FTSE350 by close 2020.

The Government also supports the recently launched Leaders As Change Agents board which is working to increase diversity in critical decision-making roles.

Women hold a higher percentage of senior leadership positions than ever before. I am pleased to report the good news that the FTSE100 have achieved their 33% target ahead of schedule. The FTSE350 have 31.5% women on boards and 28.2% of women in executive positions and their direct reports.

Victoria Atkins
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)
31st Mar 2021
To ask the Attorney General, what estimate she has made of the number of CPS prosecutions that have been classified as no longer in the public interest as a result of delays in criminal trials beginning in each of the last five years.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) case outcome records compiled in the Case Management System include an allocation of a principal reason for finalised prosecutions not resulting in a conviction (non-conviction outcomes), including the numbers which failed for public interest reasons.

The CPS does not have a specific reason accounting for delays in criminal trials. However, the category ‘Other charge/indictment; loss/harm minor from single incident; delay between offence/charge and trial’ may be allocated. This can apply where there has been a delay since the commission of the offence, or since the defendant was charged, leading either to the case being dropped by the CPS, or stopped by the court on the grounds of abuse of process. It is not possible to further disaggregate these reasons.

The table below shows the number of defendants allocated this reason in each of the last five years, and the six months April to September 2020

2015-2016

2016-2017

2017-2018

2018-2019

2019-2020

April - Sept 2020

Other charge/indictment, loss/harm minor from single incident, delay between offence/charge and trial

5,706

4,711

4,011

4,194

4,417

6,107

% Other charge/indictment, loss/harm minor from single incident, delay between offence/charge and trial

0.9%

0.8%

0.8%

0.8%

1.0%

4.3%

Total Non-Conviction Outcomes

107,579

94,692

84,834

80,474

70,816

21,857

% Non-Conviction Outcomes

16.9%

16.1%

15.9%

16.3%

15.7%

15.4%

Total Completed Prosecution Outcomes

637,778

588,021

533,161

494,811

451,046

141,885

Data Source: CPS Case Management Information System

Between April and September 2020, the volume of completed prosecution outcomes reduced due to court closures and social distancing. However, the volume of cases dropped by the CPS are not as reliant on court hearings and were less impacted.

In response to COVID-19 the CPS introduced an Interim Case Review Guidance on the Application of the Public Interest, as part of the COVID-19 crisis response. The guidance is to be applied for charging decisions, including decisions on whether to continue or discontinue a case that has already been charged. The guidance advises that when considering the question of whether a prosecution is a proportionate response, prosecutors should do so in the context of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the potential delay to criminal proceedings. Application of the principles set out in this guidance may have contributed to an increase in the proportion of cases dropped under the category of ‘Other charge/indictment; loss/harm minor from single incident; delay between offence/charge and trial’.

Lucy Frazer
Minister of State (Ministry of Justice)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Attorney General, what proportion of the vehicles used by her Department on Government business are electric vehicles.

The Department for Transport is responsible for all government vehicles managed by the Government Car Service.

The Attorney General’s Office, Government Legal Department, Serious Fraud Office and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate have no other vehicles to report.

The Crown Prosecution Service currently lease 4 vehicles, none are currently electric vehicles.

Michael Ellis
Attorney General
6th Jul 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, for what reason press conferences from his office are not offered with a British Sign Language translator; and if he will make a statement.

As a matter of practice, the BBC has, since March 2020, provided BSL interpretation on its News Channel in respect of the vast majority of Covid media briefings, and continues to do so. A clean feed of the BSL interpretation has, since May, been made available for use on government social media channels.

In the relatively rare event that the BBC chooses not to provide BSL interpretation, we will be notified in advance of the briefing. We will then arrange for an independent organisation to provide BSL interpretation of the briefing in question, further to an arrangement that came into effect on 26 November. That BSL interpretation will be made available on government social media channels (including the No 10 YouTube channel). It will also be made available to broadcasters and other media outlets for TV and social media channels.

Julia Lopez
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)
25th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the Civil Service management code, what his Department's guidance is on personal relationships between (a) employees and (b) line managers.

The Ministerial Code states: "Working relationships, including with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff should be proper and appropriate". Ministers are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in the light of the Code and for justifying their actions and conduct to Parliament and the public.

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants. Departments and agencies are responsible for defining the standards of conduct they require of their staff.

Notwithstanding, the Government also recognises that all individuals have a right to a private life, and does not seek to restrict the personal relationships and friendships between adults.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
25th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the Ministerial Code, what his Department's guidance is on personal relationships between Ministers and (a) officials and (b) advisers.

The Ministerial Code states: "Working relationships, including with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff should be proper and appropriate". Ministers are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in the light of the Code and for justifying their actions and conduct to Parliament and the public.

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants. Departments and agencies are responsible for defining the standards of conduct they require of their staff.

Notwithstanding, the Government also recognises that all individuals have a right to a private life, and does not seek to restrict the personal relationships and friendships between adults.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what assessment he has made of the (a) Prime Minister's and (b) Government's compliance with section 9.1 of the Ministerial Code.

The Government throughout the pandemic has been extremely mindful of the importance of keeping both Parliament and the public informed when decisions are taken.

The Prime Minister met with the Speaker last week and agreed that Parliament will be informed as announcements are made, and that we also reach as many members of the public as possible.

The Government has provided more than 80 Covid-19 statements to Parliament since the first on 23 Jan 2020. This is in addition to the various debates in government, backbench and opposition time, oral questions, urgent questions and legislation debates.

The regulations to keep England in step 3 of the Roadmap were debated and approved by both Houses on 16 June.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
11th Jun 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

The information requested on spend is not held centrally.

The opportunities and considerations associated with the use of AI continue to be explored, as outlined in the guidance on building and using artificial intelligence in the public sector, published on GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/a-guide-to-using-artificial-intelligence-in-the-public-sector

Julia Lopez
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)
27th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 26 May 2021 to Question 3121 on Emergencies: Mobile Phones, whether he has plans to assess the potential effect of the Emergency Alerts Service issued alert on telecommunication capacity in emergency areas as a result of any significant increase in access to the telecommunication demand following recipients' receipt of an alert, including a significant surge in (a) phone calls, (b) messages and (c) access to data and links provided through the alert.

Further to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021, we will consider how best to inform Hon. Members as part of the ongoing development of protocols for use.

To date, experience in other countries indicates that phone networks can handle a rise in calls made after an alert is sent. The number of phones which receive an alert has no impact on the Emergency Alert system - a number of countries conduct similar nationwide tests with no negative impact. Links embedded in alerts will always refer to the gov.uk website, which has been designed in a way to handle significantly higher rates of visits than normal websites and has been proven to be able to handle millions of visits in the seconds after announcements are made.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
27th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 26 May 2021 to Question 3121 on Emergencies: Mobile Phones, if he will make it his Department's policy that hon. Members are notified of alerts issued to their constituents through the Emergency Alerts Service either simultaneously or immediately afterwards, whichever ensures that there is no delay to constituents' receipt of that alert.

Further to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021, we will consider how best to inform Hon. Members as part of the ongoing development of protocols for use.

To date, experience in other countries indicates that phone networks can handle a rise in calls made after an alert is sent. The number of phones which receive an alert has no impact on the Emergency Alert system - a number of countries conduct similar nationwide tests with no negative impact. Links embedded in alerts will always refer to the gov.uk website, which has been designed in a way to handle significantly higher rates of visits than normal websites and has been proven to be able to handle millions of visits in the seconds after announcements are made.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
20th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what estimate he has made of the value of (a) buildings, (b) nuclear power stations and (c) other UK assets owned outside the UK; and which countries' residents rank highest in terms of their ownership of such UK assets.

The information requested falls under the remit of the UK Statistics Authority. I have, therefore, asked the Authority to respond.

Julia Lopez
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)
18th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether he has made an assessment of the potential effect of the Emergency Alerts Service issued alert on telecommunication capacity in emergency areas as a result of any significant increase in access to the telecommunication demand following recipients' receipt of an alert.

I refer the Hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021. No personal data is used at any stage of the message sending process. The Government is committed to ensuring Emergency Alerts reach members of the public during an emergency as quickly as possible; as such it is not possible to provide advance notice to Hon. Members prior to transmission of an alert, similar to other local responses.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
18th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether individuals will be able to opt-out of the UK's Emergency Alerts Service.

I refer the Hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021. No personal data is used at any stage of the message sending process. The Government is committed to ensuring Emergency Alerts reach members of the public during an emergency as quickly as possible; as such it is not possible to provide advance notice to Hon. Members prior to transmission of an alert, similar to other local responses.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
18th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what estimate he has made of the average number of alerts that will potentially be issued through the UK's Emergency Alerts Service on an annual basis; and what safeguards will be in place to ensure that only serious emergencies trigger the alerts so as to ensure messages are always taken seriously.

I refer the Hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021. No personal data is used at any stage of the message sending process. The Government is committed to ensuring Emergency Alerts reach members of the public during an emergency as quickly as possible; as such it is not possible to provide advance notice to Hon. Members prior to transmission of an alert, similar to other local responses.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
18th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, if he will make it his Department's policy to ensure that hon. Members are notified of alerts issued to their constituents through the Emergency Alerts service at the time of those alerts.

I refer the Hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021. No personal data is used at any stage of the message sending process. The Government is committed to ensuring Emergency Alerts reach members of the public during an emergency as quickly as possible; as such it is not possible to provide advance notice to Hon. Members prior to transmission of an alert, similar to other local responses.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
18th May 2021
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether the Emergency Alerts service will send the personal user data of the recipient of an alert through that service to the Government.

I refer the Hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement published on 17 May 2021. No personal data is used at any stage of the message sending process. The Government is committed to ensuring Emergency Alerts reach members of the public during an emergency as quickly as possible; as such it is not possible to provide advance notice to Hon. Members prior to transmission of an alert, similar to other local responses.

Penny Mordaunt
Paymaster General
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what proportion of the vehicles used by the Prime Minister's office on Government business are electric vehicles.

Further to the answer given to PQ 112105, the Cabinet Office uses vehicles from the Government Car Service, alongside other providers.

The Government Car Service is already electrifying its vehicles, with nearly 50% of their fleet either full battery electric or plug-in hybrid.

Julia Lopez
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what proportion of the vehicles used by his Department on Government business are electric vehicles.

Further to the answer given to PQ 112105, the Cabinet Office uses vehicles from the Government Car Service, alongside other providers.

The Government Car Service is already electrifying its vehicles, with nearly 50% of their fleet either full battery electric or plug-in hybrid.

Julia Lopez
Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)
4th Nov 2020
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on ensuring veterans can access mental health services when the November 2020 covid-19 restrictions come into effect.

In line with the practice of successive administrations, details of internal discussions are not normally disclosed.

Throughout the pandemic, NHS England and NHS Improvement have ensured those who require NHS services have been able to access them as easily and safely as possible. This includes veteran specific services, such as the Veterans Trauma Network, Transition Intervention and Liaison Service and Complex Treatment Service which continued with the majority of care being delivered through on-line and telephone consultations. Providers continue to look at how face-to-face appointments can be delivered safely whilst maintaining a video and digital offer throughout November 2020.

The charity sector also provides support for veterans seeking support with their mental health and wellbeing. The Government recognises this important role and £10m of additional funding was made available to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust in the Budget specifically for veterans wellbeing support and a further £6m through the COVID-19 Impact Fund. In addition to this the Government has funded research to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of our veterans.

16th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 16 March 2020 to Question 23469, whether any of the Prime Minister's special advisers had developed vetting level security clearance as of 2 March 2020.

I refer the Hon. Member to the answer I gave to PQ 23479 on 16 March 2020 with regards to vetting of Special Advisers.

Data related to the number and costs of special advisers is published annually. Publication of the costs for the most recent reporting period will follow in due course.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
16th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 13 March 2020 to Question 25183 on Ministerial Policy Advisors: Dismissal, if he will publish the payments that specialist advisers received on termination of their employment which (a) were and (b) were not in accordance with section 14b of the Model Contract for Special Advisers in each of the last six months.

I refer the Hon. Member to the answer I gave to PQ 23479 on 16 March 2020 with regards to vetting of Special Advisers.

Data related to the number and costs of special advisers is published annually. Publication of the costs for the most recent reporting period will follow in due course.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
13th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, with reference to the ONS data on the well-being of adults, if he will make it his policy to collect data on the well-being of children at the same (a) level and (b) frequency and (c) data size as for adults.

The information requested falls under the remit of the UK Statistics Authority. I have therefore asked the Authority to respond.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
13th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, what sample size the Office for National Statistics uses to produce well-being data for (a) adults and (b) children.

The information requested falls under the remit of the UK Statistics Authority. I have therefore asked the Authority to respond.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
12th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, when he plans to respond to Questions 23469 and 25181 tabled on 4 March 2020 by the hon. Member for Slough.

I refer the Hon. Member to the answer which I gave to PQ 25181 on 13 March 2020 and to PQ 23469 on 16 March 2020.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
12th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 9 March 2020 to Question 25185, for what reasons only figures for the Home Office were supplied and not figures for all government departments; whether those figures provided include grievances against Ministers; for what reasons grievances against those in Government who hold public office are not recorded separately to grievances against Government employees; and if he will publish information on grievances against all Ministers (a) individually or (b) by Department.

As I set out in my answer to Question 25185, the annual report of the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests sets out details of investigations undertaken by the Adviser into alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. The next annual report will be published in due course.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
4th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 3 March February 2020 to Question 22028, how much money has this Government spent on (a) recruiting and (b) dismissing special advisers since the Prime Minister took office.

Special advisers are appointed in line with the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Model Contract for special advisers sets out notice and severance pay entitlements for special advisers upon termination of their employment.

Data related to the number and costs of special advisers are published annually. The most recent report was published 20 December 2019 and is available online and in the Library of the House.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
4th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 3 March February 2020 to Question 22028 on Ministerial Policy Advisors, for what reason costs relating to the (a) recruitment and (b) dismissal of special advisers are not contained in his Department's Annual Report on Special Advisers.

Special advisers are appointed in line with the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Model Contract for special advisers sets out notice and severance pay entitlements for special advisers upon termination of their employment.

Data related to the number and costs of special advisers are published annually. The most recent report was published 20 December 2019 and is available online and in the Library of the House.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
4th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pursuant to the Answer of 03 March February 2020 to Question 22028 on Ministerial Policy Advisors, whether any special advisors received payment as a result of a termination of their employment which was not in accordance with section 14b of the Model Contract for Special Advisers in the most recent reporting period for which figures are available.

Special advisers are appointed in line with the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Model Contract for special advisers sets out notice and severance pay entitlements for special advisers upon termination of their employment.

Data related to the number and costs of special advisers are published annually. The most recent report was published 20 December 2019 and is available online and in the Library of the House.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
4th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, how many allegations of (a) bullying and (b) harassment have been made against each Minister holding office in his Government by (i) civil servants and (ii) other Ministers, in each of the last twelve months.

I refer the Hon. member to the answer given by my Rt. Hon. friend, the Member for Louth and Horncastle, to PQ 251302 on 15 May 2019 and to the answer given by my Rt. Hon. friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in response to an urgent question on the 2nd March 2020 (Official Record, Vol. 672 Col.609)

The annual report of the independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests sets out details of investigations undertaken by the adviser into alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
3rd Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether all of the Prime Minister's special advisers had developed vetting level security clearance as of 2 March 2020.

As with all civil servants, special advisers are subject to National Security Vetting. Vetting requirements are determined for each role on a case by case basis.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
27th Feb 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, how much money has been spent on (a) recruiting, (b) employing and (c) dismissing special advisers since he took office.

A report on the numbers and costs of special advisers is provided to Parliament and published on an annual basis. The report for financial year 2018/2019 was published in December 2019 and can be accessed here: Annual Report on Special Advisers 2019.

The report covering the current financial year will be published in due course.

Chloe Smith
Minister of State (Cabinet Office)
4th Feb 2020
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, whether his Department plans to update the National Cyber Security Strategy on the use of artificial intelligence.

Our current National Cyber Security Strategy (2016-2021) is delivering transformational change, building new capabilities and intervening to address the cyber threat.

Our manifesto has committed to investing more in cyber security, embracing new technologies and legislating to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

The government's future approach to cyber security will form part of the Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review, which will consider all aspects of our defence and security capabilities, including ways in which technological changes could have implications for our security.

Oliver Dowden
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
20th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if his Department will take steps to improve the workplace treatment of app-based courier drivers.

The UK has one of the best employment rights records in the world. We have made good progress in bringing forward measures that add flexibility for workers while ensuring the protection of employment rights, such as banning the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

An individual’s entitlement to rights at work is determined by their employment status, employee, worker or self-employed. App-based courier service workers can be classed under any of these depending on their employment relationship. Employees are entitled to all rights including unfair dismissal (subject to qualifying periods) and have responsibilities towards their employer. So-called “limb (b) workers” are only entitled to some rights such as the National Minimum Wage but have increased flexibility and fewer obligations to their employer. The self-employed generally have no employment rights but have complete flexibility in their work.

We understand the importance of clarity around employment status and to ensure that individuals and businesses in the gig economy are aware of their rights and responsibilities. The Government is currently considering options to improve clarity around employment status, and we are working with stakeholders and cross-Government on how best to address it in a post-Covid scenario.

The Health and Safety Executive recently updated its guidance to cover gig economy, agency and temporary workers, which can be found here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/gig-agency-temporary-workers/index.htm.

For health and safety purposes, gig economy workers should be treated no differently to other workers.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
20th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the prevalence of app-based courier services dismissing their couriers as a result of (a) technical issues, (b) traffic delays and (c) app malfunctions.

The UK has one of the best employment rights records in the world. We have made good progress in bringing forward measures that add flexibility for workers while ensuring the protection of employment rights, such as banning the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

An individual’s entitlement to rights at work is determined by their employment status, employee, worker or self-employed. App-based courier service workers can be classed under any of these depending on their employment relationship. Employees are entitled to all rights including being protected against unfair dismissal (subject to qualifying periods) and have responsibilities towards their employer.

An employer needs to have a valid reason and take appropriate steps if they are to dismiss an employee. Employees who consider that their dismissal was unfair can complain to an employment tribunal, generally subject to a qualifying period of continuous service. While this does not go into details, the Government publishes quarterly tribunal statistics, including on unfair dismissal claims.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
20th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the workplace treatment of (a) app-based courier drivers and (b) other gig economy workers.

The UK has one of the best employment rights records in the world. We have made good progress in bringing forward measures that add flexibility for workers while ensuring the protection of employment rights, such as banning the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

An individual’s entitlement to rights at work is determined by their employment status, employee, worker or self-employed. App-based courier service workers can be classed under any of these depending on their employment relationship. Employees are entitled to all rights including unfair dismissal (subject to qualifying periods) and have responsibilities towards their employer. So-called “limb (b) workers” are only entitled to some rights such as the National Minimum Wage but have increased flexibility and fewer obligations to their employer. The self-employed generally have no employment rights but have complete flexibility in their work.

We understand the importance of clarity around employment status and to ensure that individuals and businesses in the gig economy are aware of their rights and responsibilities. The Government is currently considering options to improve clarity around employment status, and we are working with stakeholders and cross-Government on how best to address it in a post-Covid scenario.

The Health and Safety Executive recently updated its guidance to cover gig economy, agency and temporary workers, which can be found here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/gig-agency-temporary-workers/index.htm.

For health and safety purposes, gig economy workers should be treated no differently to other workers.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 21 May 2021 to Question 1169, whether he has (a) considered that evidence from Acas' fact finding exercise and (b) drawn any conclusions from that evidence.

Last year, we asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to collect evidence into how fire and rehire is being used by employers. This report was published on 8 June and is available from https://www.acas.org.uk/fire-and-rehire-report.

The Government has considered the findings of the report. We remain clear that we expect all employers to treat their employees fairly and in the spirit of partnership. Using threats about firing and rehiring as a negotiation tactic is unacceptable. We expect employers and employees to negotiate new terms and conditions and there are laws around how this must be done, and protections in place when firms are considering redundancies.

This is clearly a complex area for both businesses and workers. That is why we have asked Acas to produce better, more comprehensive, clearer guidance to help employers explore all the options before considering “fire and rehire” and encourage good employment relations practice.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
15th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the sale and use of fireworks on pets and other animals.

The Government takes the issues associated with the sale and use of fireworks seriously and we understand the concerns that some people have about the potential for distress to be caused to animals. That is why there is a comprehensive regulatory framework in place for fireworks, that aims to reduce the risks and disturbances to both people and animals.

Through our public awareness campaign for the 2021 fireworks season, we will also be promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks to the general public, to ensure that those using them do so safely and considerately.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pursuant to the Answer of 15 June 2021 to Question 12262, what steps is the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) taking to promote its call to evidence on the UK product safety review to (a) leading e-commerce companies and (b) consumer rights organisations; and what is the timeframe for the OPSS to (i) complete and (ii) report on that review.

The OPSS has undertaken extensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders to promote the Call for Evidence and to hear their views. This has included engagement with leading e-commerce companies and consumer rights organisations, who have participated in a number of thematic roundtable meetings across the Call for Evidence. A crosscutting consumer-focused roundtable was also held as part of our programme of engagement.

Following closure of the Call for Evidence on 17 June, submissions will be assessed and analysed, alongside wider evidence, to inform the Government’s review of the product safety framework and a response, including a list of contributors, will be provided in due course. The OPSS will continue to engage with a wide range of stakeholders as it takes forward its review.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
11th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

Any spend by the Department on external facing digital services are subject to Cabinet Office digital and technology spend controls. Artificial Intelligence is treated as novel and contentious, and as such subject to additional scrutiny. This means threats associated with any application of Artificial Intelligence by the Department will be considered and assessed as part of this governance process.

In July 2020, Cabinet Office tasked all government departments to produce an Automation Blueprint. As part of this the Digital directorate within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy identified potential opportunities for the application of Artificial Intelligence. There are a number of projects currently being undertaken or considered by the Department, in some cases the progression will be dependent on availability of budget from next financial year. BEIS Analysts use machine learning techniques, under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, where appropriate as part of analysis supporting policy development.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
10th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to what extent their Department makes use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies; and how much was spent from their Department’s budget on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years.

There are a number of projects currently being undertaken or considered by the Department.

BEIS Analysts use machine learning techniques, under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, where appropriate as part of analysis supporting policy development.

Machine Learning projects are being

(i) undertaken:

  • Identifying the location of industrial strengths;
  • Pilot for targeting communications about business support;
  • Categorising internal documents by subject.

(ii) considered:

  • Project to understand the labour market through analysing job adverts;
  • A pilot for organising internal processes;
  • A pilot for predicting economic impacts using real time indicators.

The Department’s expenditure on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years will only be obtainable at disproportionate cost.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether the Government has a strategy to help ensure that the UK becomes a world leader in (a) research and development, (b) regulation and (c) safe adoption of artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform our lives, unlock high-skilled jobs, and increase productivity. My Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced in his Ten Tech Priorities that the UK will be building on our work in AI and publishing our National AI Strategy later this year.

In particular, the AI Strategy will focus on

○ Growth of the economy through widespread use of AI technologies;

○ Ethical, safe and trustworthy development of responsible AI;

○ Resilience in the face of change through an emphasis on skills, talent and R&D.

The AI strategy will align with the Government’s plans to boost R&D investment, helping our AI pioneers to accelerate bringing new technologies to the market.

The independent Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) has been appointed to scan the horizon for new technological innovations and provide the Government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reform required to support its rapid and safe introduction, while protecting citizens and the environment.

The RHC is to provide recommendations for fusion energy; unmanned aircraft (incl. drones); gene-based technologies and medical devices and have identified provisional future work including AI in Healthcare and Space and Satellites.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether he is taking steps to review intellectual property legislation as it relates to the protection of (a) artificial intelligence technology and (b) inventions made by artificial intelligence.

The Government conducted a call for views on artificial intelligence (AI) and intellectual property (IP) in 2020, inviting stakeholders to share their thoughts on how AI impacts on the IP framework and help our understanding of any impact IP might have for AI, in the near to medium term.

In March this year, the Government published its response and proposed eleven actions to explore issues raised in the call for views process, with the aim of providing a system better equipped to meet the Government’s wider ambition for the UK to be a leader in AI technology. These include consulting on a range of possible policy options, including legislative change, for protecting AI generated inventions which would otherwise not meet inventorship criteria and commissioning an economic study to enhance our understanding of the role the IP framework plays in incentivising investment in AI.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to ensure home teeth-whitening kits sold online do not contain dangerous levels of hydrogen peroxide.

Cosmetic products such as teeth whitening kits sold in the UK must meet some of the strictest safety requirements in the world and may only be placed on the market if they meet strict safety requirements, including specific restrictions on the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) works with colleagues in local Trading Standards to take effective enforcement action where products are identified online that do not meet the UK’s product safety requirements and expects online platforms to act quickly to remove them from sale.

Through its Call for Evidence, OPSS is reviewing the UK’s product safety framework to ensure it is fit for purpose, protects consumers, and enables businesses to safely innovate and grow. The implications of non-traditional models of supply, including e-commerce, and how it has changed the way products are distributed, forms of part of the review.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether the Government has (a) undertaken a recent review and (b) plans to review any national security implications arising from Chinese-based ownership of £143 billion of UK assets.

As set out in the Integrated Review, the UK will continue to pursue a positive trade and investment relationship with China, while ensuring our national security and values are protected.

The Government currently has powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 to intervene in certain mergers and takeovers on public interest grounds, including national security. The National Security and Investment Act 2021, due to come into force later this year, will modernise and strengthen our national security investment screening powers.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether the Government has (a) made contingency plans and (b) undertaken any cross-government exercises to respond to a scenario where there is a significant deterioration in or complete loss of all satellite capability and the operational use of space.

The UK Space Agency, as an executive Agency of BEIS, is the lead department assessing and mitigating space-based risks to Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). There are heavy dependencies between the CNI sectors such as defence operations, communications, aviation and shipping, which we are engaged in identifying, as well as working to ensure the impact of disruptions to space services is understood and mitigated.

The UK Space Agency is developing a comprehensive response framework that includes processes to follow for a range of incidents, including those that may cause deterioration in or complete loss of all satellite capability. We are continuing to mature our risk-specific plans.

In 2020 we ran our first UKSA-led cross-government discussion exercise which focussed on the risk of conjunctions and explored impacts such as significant loss of satellite capability. We are continuing to develop our exercising package and hope to exercise a wider range of scenarios, including a potential scenario that explores complete loss of all satellite capability, in due course.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions the Government has had with (a) Government and inter-governmental space agencies and (b) Governments of countries with an active space programme on their efforts to support clean space and reduce the amount of human-made orbital debris.

The Government actively participates in multi-lateral intergovernmental fora, including the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Subcommittees and the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee. Within these forums, the Government continues to work collaboratively with its international partners to define best practice, develop associated guidelines and support initiatives to promote sustainability and limit the generation of orbital debris.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps the Government is taking to (a) prevent and (b) reduce the amount of space debris.

The Government is committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space and has taken proactive measures to prevent, mitigate and remove space debris.

In carrying out safety assessments under its licensing process for activities in outer space, the UK Space Agency considers operators’ collision avoidance and debris mitigation measures as applied over the entire time the spacecraft remains in orbit around the Earth.

The Government also actively participates in a number of multi-lateral fora, including the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Subcommittees (UN COPUOS) and the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), as well as a number of bodies defining safety standards. Within these fora, the Government works collaboratively with international partners to define best practice and the associated guidelines that will ensure space remains accessible for future generations.

Finally, the UK plays a leading role in supporting the development of technology for the sustainable and responsible use of space, having invested strongly in European Space Agency (ESA) programmes aimed at preventing collisions in space, improving detection and tracking of objects in space and fielding demonstration missions of active capture and safe de-orbiting of spent satellites. The UK Government has also licensed a number of UK-operated technology demonstration missions for active debris removal in orbit.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment the Government has made of the potential effect of a Kessler Syndrome type of occurrence in space on the UK's (a) national security, (b) domestic and international defence operations, (c) economy, (d) communications capability, (e) scientific research capability, (f) weather forecasting, (g) aviation and shipping sectors, (h) GPS needs; and what assessment the Government has made of the level of risk of an event of that kind occurring.

The UK Space Agency, as an executive Agency of BEIS, is the lead department assessing and mitigating space-based risks to Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), covering the aspects including those highlighted in (a) to (h). There are heavy dependencies between the CNI sectors such as defence operations, communications, aviation and shipping, which we are engaged in identifying as well as working to ensure the impact of disruptions to space services is understood and mitigated. A Kessler Syndrome incident is a theoretical risk which has the potential to significantly impact operational services, up to and including a total loss. This has never been experienced, but we are working to understand the likelihood, assess the impacts and mitigate the risk.

The Government is committed to regularly reviewing and assessing risks to ensure that they are accurately prioritised in our resilience framework. Our Space Surveillance and Tracking function is dedicated to reducing the risk from orbital hazards. We supplement US data with UK sensors and analysis to monitor orbital collisions and other events, working in conjunction with MOD Space Operations Centre. We also support several programmes and initiatives looking at options for safely removing orbital debris.

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to ban fire and rehire practices.

We have been very clear that using threats about firing and re-hiring simply as a negotiating tactic is completely unacceptable. We continue to emphasise that we always expect employers to treat employees fairly and in the spirit of partnership.

As we have been concerned by reports of inappropriate use of fire and rehire during negotiations, we engaged Acas to conduct a fact-finding exercise about how fire and rehire has been used in practice. We are now giving this evidence full consideration.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps the Government is taking to better understand the changing risks from the expansion of small satellite constellations that use cheaper commercial components and the increased reliance on space-enabled technologies, to allow the Government to better plan for and mitigate the impact of severe space weather.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) works closely across Government and other infrastructure operators to ensure that the impacts of a severe space weather event are well understood, and the appropriate steps are taken to ensure Great Britain’s preparedness for major space weather events.

BEIS is due to publish a new space weather strategy later this year, which proposes undertaking targeted work to better understand the impact of space weather on space-enabled technologies.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on the travel photography industry.

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has sought to keep as many business sectors open as we can to protect the economy, whilst delicately balancing the need to protect the NHS and save lives. The Department engages regularly with business representatives, stakeholders and local partners to understand the impact of Covid-19 across all sectors of the economy.

In addition, the Government has provided an unprecedented package of support to businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic, including those in the travel photography industry. This support includes grants, loans, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, the trade credit insurance guarantee and tax deferrals.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
11th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on which date the Government last undertook a cross-departmental exercise on responding to a simulated severe space weather event; and what lessons were learnt from that exercise.

The Government last held a cross-departmental exercise on responding to a simulated severe space weather event on 23rd July 2015. This exercise was held by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and was hosted by the Government Chief Scientific Advisor.

The key lessons learnt include the need for more coordinated work in understanding and planning for impacts to passengers and operators across a range of transport sectors; the need for a clear narrative on secondary impacts; and the need to define the role of a Lead Government Department during a space weather emergency. Following this exercise, it was determined BEIS to be designated the Lead Government Department for a severe space weather event.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth)
11th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whether the Government plans to conduct a cross-government exercise to respond to a simulated severe space weather event.

BEIS is due to publish a new space weather strategy later this year, which will set out a five-year road map for how we intend to boost resilience and continue to increase our preparedness for a severe space weather event.

The space weather strategy will set out further details on assurance of resilience to a severe space weather event, including appropriate exercising.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of financial support available to serviced office providers during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government has introduced an unprecedented package of support for businesses including grants for those businesses that are required to close or which are severely affected by the restrictions put in place to tackle Covid-19.

For those businesses who have not been mandated to close under the National Restrictions, support may be available through the discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant. Local Authorities are encouraged to support businesses from all sectors that may have been severely impacted by restrictions but are not eligible for the Restart Grant scheme. Local Authorities can use their local expertise to target businesses to support in their local area. Local Authorities are responsible for the administration for the Grant Scheme.

My Rt. Hon. Friend Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced an additional £425m will be made available via the Additional Restrictions Grant meaning that more than £2bn has been made available to Local Authorities since November 2020.

Businesses and entrepreneurs that have not been able to access support, or who are unsure about the support that may be available, can also contact their nearest Business Growth Hub. Government has supported the establishment of a network of 38 of these hubs, led by each Local Enterprise Partnership area in England. Expert advisers can offer businesses of all sizes free, tailored 1-1 guidance on areas such as planning, building resilience, and funding. The hubs can also signpost further resources such as webinars and networking opportunities. LEP and Growth Hub contact details are listed online: www.lepnetwork.net/local-growth-hub-contacts/. Firms based in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can access similar business support through the devolved governments.

The Government’s free Business Support Helpline FREEPHONE 0800 998 1098 also provides impartial advice and can often signpost firms to further specialised sources of information.  The Government publishes online all information detailing the support available to businesses who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. This can be found online: www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
8th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the proportion of coal from the proposed coal mine in Cumbria which will be (a) burned for energy, (b) exported, and (c) used in domestic steel production.

In their planning application to Cumbria County Council (https://planning.cumbria.gov.uk/Planning/Display/4/17/9007), West Cumbria Mining have stated that at full annual production the Whitehaven Mine will produce and sell 2.78 mega tonnes per annum of premium metallurgical coal for the use in steel making. Of this, 360,000 tonnes per annum is destined for use in the UK steel industry and the remaining 2.42 mega tonnes per annum is destined for European steel makers.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth)
15th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of financial support available to businesses affected by the covid-19 outbreak that are not eligible for an Additional Restrictions Grant.

The Government understands the considerable difficulties faced by UK businesses that have been adversely affected by a drop in business or closure due the coronavirus pandemic.

In November, at the beginning of the second national lockdown, the Government made available £1.1bn in discretionary funding allocated to each local authority to support businesses via the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG). This was topped up with a further £500m in January 2021. Local authorities have significant discretion in the businesses they support and the amount of grant funding per business based on local priorities.

Since March 2020, we have made available a range of business support measures including loans, small business grants through local authorities, mortgage holidays and VAT deferral.

We have also updated the support available to fit the restrictions necessary: we have increased the overall level of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme grant to 80% of trading profits covering November to January for all parts of the UK.

We have also extended the Bounce Back Loan Scheme application deadline to the end of March 2021, to further support eligible firms who need it during this ongoing period of difficulty.

We would always encourage businesses that have not been able to access support, or who are unsure about what support is available, to contact their nearest Business Growth Hub for advice. Government has established a network of 38 of these hubs, one in each Local Enterprise Partnership area in England. Businesses of all sizes are able to access free, tailored guidance from expert advisers who make up the Hub teams. All contact details are online at www.lepnetwork.net/local-growth-hub-contacts/.

The free Business Support Helpline offers impartial advice to businesses across England (FREEPHONE 0800 998 1098) provides with free, impartial business support.

Firms based in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can access business support through their devolved Governments.

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 recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of support available to small businesses in Slough during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government is making substantial business grants available through Local Authorities to support businesses that have been mandated to close or had their trade affected by national or local Covid-19 restrictions.

The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) will offer grants of up to £1,500 per two-week period, available to all businesses in England that have been required to close due to local and national restrictions.

The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open) is a discretionary fund designed to support those businesses that whilst not mandated to close, are severely impacted by restrictions.

On top of the support being provided centrally, the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership has committed £11.3 million of capital to create a funding escalator of loans and equity. This will support expansion plans and help with short-term cash flow issues. In addition, Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub Recovery and Growth Programme is supporting businesses to help them plan their recovery, build resilience and maximise opportunities to grow.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what proportion of the vehicles used by his Department on Government business are electric vehicles.

BEIS currently contracts with the Government Car Service, which is a division within the Department for Transport, for the provision of two cars.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-car-service.

The vehicle fuel type can vary depending on which car has been allocated to cover on that day. Generally, the cars are electric or hybrid

Amanda Solloway
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
15th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what financial support is available for the warehouse industry as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

The UK government announced in March 2020 an initial package of support to protect businesses and workers against the economic emergency caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. This included around £300bn in the form of guarantees and loans aimed at eligible businesses from all business sectors (including the distribution and storage sectors) across the UK.

The financial support includes the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes (the CBILS, Bounce Back Loan scheme), the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and funds allocated by Local Authorities – the Small Business Grant Fund and the additional Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund.

Eligible businesses from all sectors can apply for support under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is helping businesses avoid having to lay staff off during the worst of the outbreak. By midnight 14 June, 9.1m jobs had been furloughed, with 1.1m employers furloughing. In total, £20.8bn has been claimed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme up to this point. This system will last until end of October 2020, with government contributions gradually decreasing.

Government continues to engage with businesses and their representative organisations to monitor the operation and success of the business support schemes.

Paul Scully
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
19th Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what advice and support the Government is providing to businesses that have taken on planned seasonal debt in the low season in the expectation of being able to repay that debt in the high season but may be unable to do so as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

The Government has made a package of temporary measures available to support public services, people, and businesses through this period of significant disruption. These measures are intended to help businesses that may experience cashflow problems and include:

Grant funding of up to £10,000 for small businesses in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief, administered through local authorities in England.

  • Grant funding of up to £25,000 for retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses that own property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which offers loans of up to £5 million for small and medium-sized enterprises through the British Business Bank.

We would also encourage businesses to consult their creditor in the first instance. If businesses have an existing loan or asset purchase, such as a lease or hire purchase agreement, they may wish to ask for a repayment holiday.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
27th Feb 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps the Government is taking to protect the supply security of critical materials.

In order to ensure UK industrial consumers have continued access to the critical materials they need, our approach is based on free, fair, and open trade internationally.

We continue to monitor the situation closely as we engage with our industrial base on this important matter.

Nadhim Zahawi
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
27th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment she has made of the adequacy of progress on decarbonising energy for (a) heat and (b) transport.

We have committed to publishing a heat policy roadmap in 2020. This will set out our plans to deliver the low carbon heat needed to meet our climate targets, and a programme of work to enable key strategic decisions in the first half of the 2020s on how we achieve mass transition to low carbon heating.

In the meantime, we continue to support low-carbon heating through the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Heat Networks Investment Programme, and we are developing policies to deliver low carbon heating in the 2020s and meet our climate targets. A Future Homes Standard, introduced by 2025, will require new build homes to be future proofed with low carbon heating and world leading levels of energy efficiency. We are also committed to phasing out the installation of fossil fuel heating systems in off gas grid properties and accelerating the decarbonisation of our gas supplies by increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid. We will be consulting on these commitments in due course.

We are preparing an ambitious, cross-modal Transport Decarbonisation Plan to step up our efforts and deliver the carbon emission reductions needed for the sector to play its part in reaching net zero by 2050. On roads, delivering on our Manifesto commitment, we will soon consult on the earliest date we can phase out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
27th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment she has made of trends in the level of jobs in the low carbon and renewable economy.

We want to deliver on our net zero commitment in a way that maximises the economic benefits of our transition to cleaner economic growth, creating green jobs and new business opportunities across the country. There are now over 460,000 people working in low carbon businesses and their supply chains across the country, up from the revised 2017 estimate of 447,000 and low carbon exports are worth billions of pounds each year. According to a recent estimate, the UK low-carbon economy could grow more than four times faster than the rest of the economy between 2015 and 2030 – delivering £170 billion of exports and supporting up to 2 million jobs.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
27th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what estimate she has made of the rate of reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in each of the last five years.

The UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory publishes assessments of annual greenhouse gas emissions. The table below shows the annual percentage change in the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide for the years 2014-2018. Data are not yet available for 2019 emissions.

Year

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Change in UK carbon dioxide emissions from previous year

-8.4%

-3.9%

-5.5%

-3.3%

-2.4%

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
23rd Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps her Department is taking to encourage employers to offer flexible working to their employees.

All employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer have the right to request Flexible Working.

The Government wants to take this further and, subject to further consultation, we will look to introduce steps in an employment bill to make flexible working the default - unless employers have good reason not to.

The Government has also consulted on proposals for large employers (with over 250 employees) to publish their parental leave and pay and flexible working policies and to advertise jobs as open to flexible working.  We are considering next steps.

15th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the expansion rate of offshore wind deployment.

We have provided more support for offshore wind than any other country in the world, helping us to reach record levels of renewable electricity generation in 2019. In 2010 offshore wind generated 0.8% of the UK’s annual electricity. In 2018 it was 8% and by 2030 is projected to account for more than a third of generation.

The UK accounts for around one third of world’s offshore wind capacity and has the world’s largest offshore wind market with 9.8GW of installed capacity which is expected to rise to 14GW by 2023 and 19.5GW by 2026. The most recent (September 2019) Contract for Difference auction brought forward 5.5GW of new offshore wind capacity, 2.5 GW more than the 2017 auction.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
6th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what plans the Government has to negotiate alignment with the EU on employment rights after the UK leaves the EU.

The Government is committed to protecting workers’ rights and enhancing these where it is right for the UK. The Political Declaration sets out the UK’s ambition on employment provisions in our future trade agreement with the EU. In order to prevent either Party gaining an unfair trade advantage, the UK will seek a reciprocal agreement to maintain social and employment standards at the current high levels. This will both help maintain fair and open competition in trade and protect workers’ rights in the UK.

11th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

The Government is aware of a broad range of views on the potential of artificial intelligence but is also informed of the technology’s risks and threats.

The Office for AI (a joint DCMS and BEIS unit) commissioned GDS to conduct a root-and-branch review of AI adoption in the public sector, to identify opportunities to increase productivity and service quality through the application of AI and related technologies.

The findings of the review revealed that leaders across the public sector could benefit from better understanding the technology, the opportunities it presents and the limitations of its use. A guide to using artificial intelligence in the public sector was published to meet this need, drawing on best practice from the commercial sector and public sector.

Accompanying the AI Guide are the Guidelines on AI Procurement co-published in collaboration with the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These guidelines will inform and empower buyers in the public sector, helping them to evaluate suppliers, then confidently and responsibly procure AI technologies for the benefit of citizens.

Furthermore, the Office for AI, co-published with the Central Digital & Data Office, the Ethics, Transparency and Accountability Framework for Automated Decision-Making. This is a seven-point framework - aimed at civil servants - to help government departments use automated or algorithmic decision-making systems safely, sustainably and ethically.

To help identify and address the risks and threats of AI the government commissioned the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to review the risks of bias in algorithmic decision-making. The review, which was published at the end of last year, identified a number of potential areas for further action, and I’m pleased that progress has already been made on a number of them.

As we look to ‘Build Back Better’ from the pandemic the government is committed to improving vital public services and driving efficiencies across the public sector through the ethical, safe and trustworthy deployment of responsible AI. Later this year we will publish a new National AI Strategy to help us achieve that ambition. I am pleased that officials from across the civil service and the wider public sector have been contributing to the strategy’s development.

Matt Warman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
10th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to what extent their Department makes use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies; and how much was spent from their Department’s budget on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years.

The opportunities and considerations associated with the use of AI continue to be explored, as outlined in the guidance on building and using artificial intelligence in the public sector, published on Gov.uk at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/a-guide-to-using-artificial-intelligence-in-the-public-sector

The specific information requested on Artificial Intelligence spend within digital budgets is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate costs.

Matt Warman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether the Government is seeking international regulatory standards and safeguards on the development of artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform our lives, unlock high-skilled jobs, and increase productivity.

The UK has a history of innovation-friendly approaches to regulation, in areas such as FinTech, HealthTech and online harms, and is committed to ensuring the necessary regulations exist to provide assurance and confidence around the development and use of new and emerging technologies.

The UK is playing a leading role in international discussions on AI ethics and potential regulations, including work at the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the OECD and the Global Partnership on AI , and we will continue to work with international partners including the European Union and the US to support the development of the rules around the use of AI for the benefit of our economies and societies.

Furthermore, the UK recently published Guidelines on AI Procurement in collaboration with the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These guidelines will inform and empower public sector buyers across nations, helping them to evaluate suppliers, then confidently and responsibly procure AI technologies, which meet high ethical standards, for the benefit of their citizens.

Matt Warman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to improve data connectivity in the South East.

The Government is committed to delivering nationwide gigabit connectivity as soon as possible. It is the Government's view that the best way to achieve this is to create a competition-friendly environment in areas where deployment is commercially viable while focussing government funds on the 20% of the country where commercial deployment is unlikely. As a result of this approach, there is now a thriving market of over 80 providers rolling out gigabit broadband all over the UK. We are also investing £5bn to ensure the hardest-to-reach areas in the UK receive coverage through Project Gigabit.

This approach is working. According to ThinkBroadband, in the South East, gigabit connectivity has increased from just 8% at the start of 2020 to 35% today. Average download speeds have also increased by 40% in the same period, from below 40 megabits per second to over 56 megabits per second.

There are 23 Superfast projects in the Government’s Superfast Broadband Programme in the South East, which have already provided coverage to 497,000 premises. Local Full Fibre Network projects have been completed in both Mid and West Sussex. 94 Rural Gigabit Connectivity hub sites have been contracted in the South East area and 48 sites, including schools have been delivered. The South East has benefited from the Voucher scheme which has seen 6,466 voucher connections with a value of over £13m invested in connectivity in the area coupled with a further £8.8m Top Up Vouchers issued. There are also a further 11,069 issued vouchers that are pending connections, totalling more than £19m.

Areas in the South East will also be amongst the first to benefit from our £5 billion Project Gigabit programme. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are in Phase 1b of the delivery plan, with Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, East and West Berkshire, Oxfordshire, East Sussex, Kent and Surrey all currently in line for Gigabit-capable rollout through Phase 2.

Furthermore, on 9 March last year, the Government agreed a £1 billion deal with the Mobile Network Operators to deliver the Shared Rural Network. This will see the operators collectively increase 4G mobile phone coverage throughout the UK to 95% by the end of the programme, underpinned by legally binding coverage commitments. The South East will benefit from the operator-led element of the Shared Rural Network which will see operators collectively invest over £530 million in a shared network of new and existing phone masts. This will help tackle partial not spots - areas where there is currently coverage from at least one, but not all operators. There have already been 700 new and upgraded sites announced by the operators this year and they are on track to eliminate the majority of these partial not spots by mid-2024.

Matt Warman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to increase participation and representation of people from Asian backgrounds in football (a) nationally and (b) within their local communities.

The Government is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in sport and physical activity, including football. Our strategy ‘Sporting Future’ sets out a clear ambition to increase levels of physical activity amongst under-represented groups, working closely with our arm’s length and national bodies to achieve this. We are in regular dialogue with the football authorities across a range of matters, including increasing diversity.

We support the efforts of The FA in their work with Asian communities, as the largest ethnic minority group in the country, through the FA Asian Inclusion Plan. The plan focuses on tackling Asian underrepresentation at all levels of the game, both locally and nationally. The five pillars of the strategy work to ensure that intersectional participation, and representation, is occurring from grassroots all the way through to elite pathways and governance. Further details about the plan can be found here: https://www.thefa.com/news/2021/may/06/fa-asian-inclusion-strategy-update-20210506

We also welcomed the launch of The FA’s ‘Football Leadership Diversity Code’ last year, which is a step in the right direction to ensure English football better represents our modern and diverse society, on and off the pitch. The FA has committed to following this with a version adapted for the National League System and grassroots clubs this year.

Opportunities for participation are crucial too. The Government invests £18m a year into football facilities, through the Football Foundation, to improve access to quality facilities across the country with an additional £25m announced at Budget for this year as well. Inclusivity forms a part of the assessment criteria for any application for funding from the Foundation, with it being a core value of the organisation.

However, there is still progress to be made and the Government will continue to liaise closely with the football authorities on their efforts to improve diversity in the sport.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
22nd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether he plans to (a) expand the eligibility criteria and (b) increase the funding available for Arts Council England grants.

There are no current plans to change the eligibility criteria or increase funding for Arts Council England grants.

Alongside regular Arts Council England funding, such as National Portfolio and Project Grants funding, last year the government announced the unprecedented £1.57 billion support package for the culture sector. Over £1.2 billion worth of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund has already been allocated across all four nations of the UK. A further £300 million of support was announced by HM Treasury at the Spring Budget and criteria for applicants will be announced shortly.

Rigorous criteria have rightly been applied to all applicants to the first and second rounds of the Culture Recovery Fund, to ensure support is provided to organisations that have national and local importance. Our Arms Length Bodies, including Arts Council England, have the delegated authority to take decisions on grant applications due to their long established grant delivery role, their expertise and understanding of the sectors in which they operate.

DCMS works closely with the sector, Arm’s Length Bodies, the Culture Recovery Board, HM Treasury and the National Audit Office to keep the progress of fund allocations and the level of need in the sector under close review.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
21st Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what further financial support seasonal businesses in the exhibition industry that are affected by the covid-19 outbreak will receive from April 2021 to the end of 2021.

Events and exhibition businesses will continue to be able to apply for Government support during this period, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until September. Events businesses can apply for a variety of generous Government backed loan schemes, including the Recovery Loan scheme from 6 April. In addition, the discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant guidance for Local Authorities specifically refers to mobile businesses and suppliers in the events sector.

We continue to engage with stakeholders, including through the Tourism Industry Council and the Events Industry Senior Leaders Advisory Panel, to monitor the situation facing the sector.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
21st Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he has taken to provide financial support for businesses within events and exhibitions sector that will be affected by the covid-19 outbreak over the next 12 months.

Events and exhibition businesses will continue to be able to apply for Government support during this period, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until September. Events businesses can apply for a variety of generous Government backed loan schemes, including the Recovery Loan scheme from 6 April. In addition, the discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant guidance for Local Authorities specifically refers to mobile businesses and suppliers in the events sector.

We continue to engage with stakeholders, including through the Tourism Industry Council and the Events Industry Senior Leaders Advisory Panel, to monitor the situation facing the sector.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
15th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what financial support is available to events and exhibition businesses (a) currently and (b) between 15 April 2021 and the end of 2021.

The Government has extended a number of financial support schemes, which events businesses can continue to access well into 2021.

Events and exhibition businesses will continue to be able to apply for Government support during this period, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until September. Events businesses can apply for a variety of generous Government backed loan schemes, including the Recovery Loan scheme from 6 April. In addition, the discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant guidance for Local Authorities specifically refers to mobile businesses and suppliers in the events sector.

We continue to engage with stakeholders, including through the Tourism Industry Council and the Events Industry Senior Leaders Advisory Panel, to monitor the situation facing the sector.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
11th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on news outlets in Slough.

The Government recognises the vital role of local newspapers in supporting communities and local democracy through their provision of reliable, high-quality information. The government has been engaging closely with the sector, including publishers present in Slough, and with market experts to continue to inform our understanding of the financial pressures the industry has been facing, including with respect to the reduction in advertising revenues, and the impact of this on business continuity. Many local newspapers have been able to benefit from a unique and unprecedented government advertising partnership, designed to deliver important messages to UK citizens. Newspapers received up to £35 million additional government advertising revenue as part of the first phase of our coronavirus communications campaign. The campaign has subsequently been extended with at least 60% funding going to smaller regional and local titles.

We are aware that the pandemic has had a significant effect on many local newspapers and, in some cases, has led publishers to make difficult decisions with regard to title closures or suspensions and staff redundancies. We will maintain our dialogue with the sector as the situation continues to develop, ensuring that we have the information needed to inform the development of effective support measures.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what information his Department holds on the effect of reduced advertising revenues during the covid-19 outbreak on local newspapers.

The Government recognises the vital role of local newspapers in supporting communities and local democracy through their provision of reliable, high-quality information. The government has been engaging closely with the sector, including publishers present in Slough, and with market experts to continue to inform our understanding of the financial pressures the industry has been facing, including with respect to the reduction in advertising revenues, and the impact of this on business continuity. Many local newspapers have been able to benefit from a unique and unprecedented government advertising partnership, designed to deliver important messages to UK citizens. Newspapers received up to £35 million additional government advertising revenue as part of the first phase of our coronavirus communications campaign. The campaign has subsequently been extended with at least 60% funding going to smaller regional and local titles.

We are aware that the pandemic has had a significant effect on many local newspapers and, in some cases, has led publishers to make difficult decisions with regard to title closures or suspensions and staff redundancies. We will maintain our dialogue with the sector as the situation continues to develop, ensuring that we have the information needed to inform the development of effective support measures.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent assessment has he made of the effect of (a) suspension and (b) permanent closure of local newspapers during the covid-19 outbreak on local democracy.

The Government recognises the vital role of local newspapers in supporting communities and local democracy through their provision of reliable, high-quality information. On 6 October last year, the government published Research into Recent Dynamics of the Press Sector in the UK and Globally, a report on the importance of newspaper provision to local communities which explored the impact of suspensions and closures on local democracy. The research, which was conducted before the onset of Covid-19, found that changes in news provision and consumption over time had a direct impact on participation levels in local elections in England, underlining the vital importance of a sustainable local news industry to a properly functioning democracy.

Throughout the pandemic, I have kept in close contact with stakeholders from across the sector to understand the financial pressures they have been facing and how these are impacting business continuity. We do not hold comprehensive figures on the number of titles suspended or closed but are continuing to develop our understanding of the impact of Covid-19-related title closures and suspensions on local news provision and democratic engagement in the light of the findings of our research.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether he plans to introduce sector-specific financial support for (a) public interest journalism and (b) local newspapers affected by the covid-19 outbreak.

The government recognises the vital role of newspapers in supporting communities and democracy at a local and national level through ensuring the provision of reliable, high-quality information.

We understand the acute financial pressures newspapers have been facing due to steep drops in advertising revenues and the particular implications of lockdowns on print circulation. To support news publishers to date, the government has introduced a series measures including the extension of business rates relief for local newspapers in England for an additional five years; and the zero-rating of VAT on e-newspapers, which was brought forward to May 2020 in response to the effects of the pandemic. The introduction of further Covid-19-related financial support is the responsibility of the Treasury.

Many newspapers have benefitted from a unique and unprecedented government advertising partnership, designed to deliver important messages to UK citizens. Newspapers received up to £35 million additional government advertising revenue as part of the first phase of our coronavirus communications campaign. The campaign has since been extended, with at least 60% funding going to smaller regional and local titles. Some publishers have also made use of wider government measures as well, such as the job-retention scheme which we have extended until the end of April 2021.

Longer term, we will continue to consider all possible options in the interests of promoting and sustaining high-quality news journalism, including pursuing options for financial support such as funding for innovation in the sector and tax reliefs.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
2nd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps the Government is taking to ensure that individuals in the UK who publish criminal acts or statements on social media can be brought to justice.

Whilst the vast majority of social media usage has nothing to do with serious violence, we know there is evidence of harmful and/or illegal content available online which glorifies violence and criminality.

That is why we have provided £1.5million to the Metropolitan Police Service to deliver the Social Media Hub which includes a dedicated team of police officers and staff. This additional police resource is taking action against online gang related material, focusing on investigative, disruption and enforcement work against specific gang targets, as well as making referrals to social media companies so illegal and harmful content can be taken down.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
29th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent support he has made available to National League football clubs in (a) Slough and (b) England to ensure they can continue playing for the rest of the season.

On 19 November 2020, the government announced a £300 million Sports Winter Survival Package (SWSP) to provide a lifeline to organisations that would otherwise not survive the winter as a result of the restriction on spectators announced from 1 October. A provisional allocation of £25 million was made to support the National League, covering steps one to six, aiming to protect the immediate future of non-league football in England. A further announcement on 27 January 2021 confirmed that Steps 3-6 of the National League system will receive up to £10 million of grant support from the Package to protect the immediate future of approximately 850 clubs over the winter period. Sport England and the Independent Board are currently finalising the details of this support, which will include any support for National League clubs in Slough, should they be eligible.

The SWSP support is in addition to the £10 million emergency package we facilitated for the National League from the National Lottery, in October last year, has benefitted the 66 clubs in the steps 1 and 2, and has enabled them to continue playing behind closed doors after the return of fans was paused last autumn.

The support packages that have been available to the National League are in addition to the multi-billion pound package of cross-sector business support from the Government that has enabled many sports clubs and leisure businesses to survive, including the furlough scheme and business interruption loan scheme. Sports have accessed many hundreds of millions of pounds of support through this.

The Government remains committed to engaging across the sector to maintain a complete picture of the financial impact of Covid-19 to ensure sports venues survive this difficult period wherever possible.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
11th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the effect of the Government's fiscal policy on the continued operation of local newspapers.

The government is committed to supporting local and regional newspapers as vital pillars of communities and local democracy, ensuring the provision of reliable, high-quality information. Local newspapers have benefited from a number of recent fiscal interventions, including the extension of business rates relief for local newspapers in England for an additional five years; the investment of £2 million in the Future News Fund, which sought to explore new ways of sustaining the industry in a changing landscape; and the zero-rating of VAT on e-newspapers, which was brought forward to May 2020 in response to the effects of the pandemic. In addition, many newspapers have benefitted from a unique and unprecedented government advertising partnership, designed to deliver important messages to UK citizens. Newspapers received up to £35 million additional government advertising revenue as part of the first phase of our coronavirus communications campaign. The campaign has since been extended to also cover business readiness for the end of the transition period and the value of the Union, with at least 60% funding going to smaller regional and local titles.

Some news publishers have made use of wider government measures as well, such as the job-retention scheme which we have extended until the end of March 2021.

Longer term, we will continue to consider all possible options in the interests of promoting and sustaining high-quality news journalism.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
11th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the financial support available to local newspapers during the covid-19 outbreak.

The government is committed to supporting local and regional newspapers as vital pillars of communities and local democracy, ensuring the provision of reliable, high-quality information. Local newspapers have benefited from a number of recent fiscal interventions, including the extension of business rates relief for local newspapers in England for an additional five years; the investment of £2 million in the Future News Fund, which sought to explore new ways of sustaining the industry in a changing landscape; and the zero-rating of VAT on e-newspapers, which was brought forward to May 2020 in response to the effects of the pandemic. In addition, many newspapers have benefitted from a unique and unprecedented government advertising partnership, designed to deliver important messages to UK citizens. Newspapers received up to £35 million additional government advertising revenue as part of the first phase of our coronavirus communications campaign. The campaign has since been extended to also cover business readiness for the end of the transition period and the value of the Union, with at least 60% funding going to smaller regional and local titles.

Some news publishers have made use of wider government measures as well, such as the job-retention scheme which we have extended until the end of March 2021.

Longer term, we will continue to consider all possible options in the interests of promoting and sustaining high-quality news journalism.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what proportion of the vehicles used by his Department on Government business are electric vehicles.

The department uses four vehicles overall, two main and two support. Both of the main vehicles are listed as electric on the Vehicle Enquiry Service via gov.uk. Both of the support vehicles are older models and are not electric.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
23rd Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on supporting people who live with problem gambling.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) work closely together on matters related to gambling harm, including on measures and services in place to support problem gamblers. The government has committed to review the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure it is fit for the digital age and further details will be announced in due course. In addition, at the time of the General Election the government committed to developing a strategy on addictions, including gambling, although this has been delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. DCMS and DHSC will continue to work closely together and with wider government in the delivery of these commitments.

Nigel Huddleston
Assistant Whip
21st Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if he will make an assessment of the adequacy of the Government support made available for people who were in temporary and freelance roles in the live music industry prior to start of the covid-19 outbreak.

Over two thirds of eligible people in the cultural sectors have benefitted from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). We’ve supported the self-employed with over £13 billion in grants and the Chancellor has doubled the generosity of the self-employed grant extension scheme from 20% to 40% of people’s profits. The expanded Jobs Support Scheme, announced by the Chancellor on 22 October, will include more generous and frequent cash grants, and more help for the self-employed.

DCMS continues to engage with HMT to feed into their assessment of the potential impacts of Government support. We will ensure the needs of our sectors are also factored into the developing economic response, and that DCMS sectors, including the live music industry, are supported throughout this time.

The Arts Council England has made £119 million available to individuals, with £23.1 million already distributed and £95.9 million currently available to apply for via open funds.

The £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund will benefit freelancers, because it will invest in organisations and help them to reopen, and restart performances. So far, over £500m has been announced from the Culture Recovery Fund to protect cultural organisations across England, almost a fifth of which has gone to the music sector.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
21st Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if he will make an assessment of the implications for his policies of the recent Concert Promoters Association report which states that 26,100 jobs are expected to have been made redundant in the live music industry by the end of 2020 without further Government intervention.

DCMS continues to engage with HMT to feed into their assessment of the potential impacts of Government support. We will ensure the needs of our sectors are also factored into the developing economic response, and that DCMS sectors, including the live music industry, are supported throughout this time.

An unprecedented £1.57 billion support package for the cultural sector has benefitted the creative industries by providing support to venues and many other cultural organisations to stay open and continue operating. So far, over £500m has been announced from the Culture Recovery Fund to protect cultural organisations across England, almost a fifth of which has gone to the music sector. This support package will benefit employment, because it will invest in organisations and help them to reopen, and restart performances.

As part of this package, £3.36 million has been shared among 136 venues across England who applied for the Emergency Grassroot Music Venues Fund. This funding has supported grassroots venues to survive the imminent risk of collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The expanded Jobs Support Scheme, announced by the Chancellor on 22 October, will include more generous and frequent cash grants, and more help for the self-employed.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
21st Sep 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the funding allocated from the public purse to the National Citizens Service.

Around 600,000 young people have taken part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme since its inception, with almost 100,000 young people taking part in 2019. Consecutive, independent evaluations have demonstrated the positive impacts that NCS delivers both to its participants and their communities. The most recent evaluation shows that for every £1 of taxpayer money spent on the 2018 summer programme, £3.49 is provided back to society in terms of the economic benefit.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
10th Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what funding his Department has allocated to stand-up comedy performers who have been unable to work as a result of the covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The Government appreciates that the Covid-19 pandemic presents a significant challenge to many of DCMS’ sectors, including the live comedy sector, which is why we announced unprecedented support for business and workers to protect them against the current economic emergency.

The Government’s response has been one of the most generous and comprehensive in the world, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The Government has adapted the welfare system so that the self-employed can access Universal Credit in full, to help people get quicker and more generous support when they need it most.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
3rd Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what plans he has to mitigate the effect of the covid-19 guidelines on the development of grassroots theatre.

We have announced a major £1.57 billion support package for key cultural organisations to help them through the coronavirus pandemic. This funding will provide targeted support to organisations across a range of sectors, including performing arts and theatres, museums and galleries, heritage sites, live music venues and independent cinema.

Alongside this, DCMS continues to work with representatives from the cultural sector, including theatre, to develop supporting guidance and remains committed to getting the curtain up at venues across the country as soon as it is safe to do so.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
2nd Jul 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the economic effect of covid-19 guidance on self-employed make-up artists in the film and television industry.

No assessment has been made. However, we appreciate that the Covid-19 pandemic presents a significant challenge to many of DCMS’ sectors including the creative industries which is why the Government has announced unprecedented support for businesses and workers to protect them against the current economic emergency.

Government supported the publication last month of the British Film Commission’s guidance on working safely during Covid-19. This includes information for hair and make-up artists and will help productions restart, with associated economic benefits.

We are also pleased to see that the film and television industry have developed initiatives to support self-employed workers in these sectors to get back to work safely, in line with Covid-19 guidance. For example, ScreenSkills recently launched free ‘Coronavirus basic awareness on production’ training via their website, and the Film and TV Charity has established a package of support for workers in the industry including financial advice and the Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

Caroline Dinenage
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
12th Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer of 20 January 2020 to Question 3870, for what reasons that answer did not include an assessment of the effect of the policy to no longer fund free TV licences for people aged over 75 on loneliness among older people.

Following the licence fee settlement agreement in 2015, the future of the over 75 licence fee concession is the responsibility of the BBC, not of the government. Therefore, the BBC is responsible for conducting an assessment of the effect of the policy to no longer fund free TV licences for all people aged over 75 on loneliness among older people from 1 June 2020.

The BBC acknowledged the impact of loneliness when, following public consultation, it set out its decision on the future of the concession. This can be viewed online: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/reports/consultation/age/decision-document.pdf

You will also be aware that, recognising the exceptional circumstances of the national Coronavirus situation, the BBC Board has decided to change the start date of the new policy. The current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August and the BBC will keep the issue under review.

John Whittingdale
Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
15th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what estimate he has made of the proportion of homes that will have full-fibre broadband by 2025.

The Government’s Manifesto set out its ambition to bring full fibre and gigabit capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025.

Matt Warman
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
15th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the effect of the policy to no longer fund free TV licences for people aged over 75 on loneliness among older people.

Following the licence fee settlement agreement in 2015, the future of the over 75s concession and how it is funded is the responsibility of the BBC, not of the government.

The government is disappointed with the BBC's decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit.

We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC.

Nigel Adams
Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
13th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she is taking to increase the availability of youth services.

This government is investing £500 million over five years through the new Youth Investment Fund to increase the availability of youth services. The fund will be used to build new youth centres across the country, refurbish existing youth facilities, provide mobile facilities for harder to reach areas, and invest in the youth work profession and frontline services. Government is funding up to £7 million through the Youth Accelerator Fund that will expand existing successful projects delivering positive activities, and address urgent needs in the youth sector by delivering extra sessions in youth clubs.

Helen Whately
Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)
15th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when his Department plans to publish its plans for alternative student finance for students whose religion prohibits them from taking out a student loan payment.

The government has been considering Alternative Student Finance carefully, alongside its other priorities, as it concludes the Post-18 Review of Education and Funding and responds to the detailed recommendations of the independent panel chaired by Sir Philip Augar.

We will provide an update on this matter when we conclude the Post-18 Review.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the Government's announcement that schools in the United Kingdom will be encouraged to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June 2021, what assessment he has made of potential difficulties of implementing that announcement given that (a) Northern Ireland is not located in Great Britain and (b) many schools in Scotland will be closed for the summer holidays on that day.

The Department is supportive of One Britain One Nation’s broad aims to help children learn about equality, kindness and pride. The Government believes in the importance of these shared values which are taught and reinforced every day in schools across the UK.

Participation, and the nature of it, is a matter for schools.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
11th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

Guidance for public sector organisations on how to use automated or algorithmic decision-making systems in a safe, sustainable and ethical way is available on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ethics-transparency-and-accountability-framework-for-automated-decision-making.

The Government Automation Taskforce, with the Government Digital Service and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (AI), have developed a 7-point framework to ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI and intelligent automation across the public sector: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ethics-transparency-and-accountability-framework-for-automated-decision-making/ethics-transparency-and-accountability-framework-for-automated-decision-making. It builds on existing Government and third-party guidance and legislation.

This framework is intended to significantly reduce the likelihood of an algorithmic or automated decision-making related incident. It should help to build trust, send clear intent and progress the Government’s effort to ensure the safe and ethical use of algorithms and automated systems.

The Department uses elements of automation, robotics and machine-learning, although much of the work remains experimental. The majority of automation that has been developed is for internal use. It is aimed at improving our operational processes across the Department and not to aid implementation of policies.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
10th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, to what extent their Department makes use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies; and how much was spent from their Department’s budget on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years.

The Department uses elements of automation, robotics, and machine learning, although much of the work remains experimental. Most of the automation that has been developed is for internal use and is aimed at improving operational processes across the Department, not directly to aid implementation of policies. Automation and robotics work is used to reduce the administrative burden brought about from back office processes and the processes involved in exchanging data and information with providers, employers, and other Government Departments. Machine learning is used as a technique to inform an evidence base. Neither our robotics, automation, or machine learning work are used in isolation to make decisions and do not drive decisions or actions directly or in an automated fashion.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to support teachers to deal with instances of sexual abuse in the classroom.

The Department is updating statutory guidance for Keeping Children Safe in Education for this September, ensuring schools have even clearer guidance on how to deal with reports of sexual abuse.

The Department has already introduced the new compulsory Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) curriculum, and from next term we expect the RSHE curriculum to be implemented in full and have asked head teachers to dedicate time from inset days to consider how best to do this.

The Department will also be investing additional money to further test the impact of support and supervision models for designated safeguarding leads in up to 500 more schools.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of Swim England’s recent findings that a quarter of a million children are unable to swim the length of a standard swimming pool on water safety risks on rivers and lakes over the summer period.

Water safety is a vital life skill, which is why it is a mandatory part of the curriculum for Physical Education at primary school. The Department has discussed the ‘Impact of Coronavirus on school swimming and water safety’ report with Swim England. We recognise that children have missed out on opportunities to learn to swim due to COVID-19 restrictions and we are working closely with Swim England and other swimming and water safety organisations to support pupils returning safely to swimming and promoting water safety education.

This includes an additional £10.1 million to improve use of school sport facilities, including swimming pools. Water safety education is a priority for the summer period to enable children to know how to be safe and in around water. This is why the Department has made new virtual water safety lessons available through Oak National Academy and will support the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Drowning Prevention Week 2021.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he is taking steps to ensure that children who have missed out on swimming lessons as a result of school and leisure centre closures are able to learn about water safety.

Water safety is a vital life skill, which is why it is a mandatory part of the curriculum for Physical Education at primary school. The Department has worked with Oak National Academy and swimming and water safety organisations to make virtual lessons on water safety available to all schools.

The Department is also working with the Royal Life Saving Society UK to continue to support the Drowning Prevention Week in June 2021 in order for as many schools as possible to have access to these water safety resources.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions his Department has had with academy schools charging parents for school meals (a) over period where schools were closed as a result of covid-19 restrictions and (b) at increased rates while schools were open compared with pre-pandemic rates.

Schools are responsible for setting the prices at which they charge parents for the provision of school meals. This must, however, be within the parameters set under the law.

State-funded schools, including all academies apart from 16-19 academies, must provide meals for all registered pupils upon request and meals must be provided free of charge for those who meet the entitlement conditions for free school meals.

Where schools charge for meals, the prices they charge should not exceed the costs they have incurred in providing those meals.

If parents or pupils at a school feel they are being charged unfairly, they should contact the school at first instance and follow the steps in the school’s complaints procedure. If, having done this, they feel that their complaint was not dealt with correctly, they can ask the Department for Education to consider their complaint using the following link: https://form.education.gov.uk/service/Contact_the_Department_for_Education.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will take steps to help ensure that no maintained nursery school closes in Slough constituency as a result of reductions in the Maintained Nursery School supplementary funding; and what steps he is taking to provide financial support to maintained nursery schools at risk of closure.

Maintained nursery schools (MNSs) are an important part of the early years sector and provide valuable services, especially in disadvantaged areas. This government remains committed to the long-term funding of MNSs. Early years providers, including MNSs, have continued to receive early education entitlements funding during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the financial year 2021-22, we have increased the hourly funding rates for all local authorities by 8p an hour for the two-year-old entitlement and, for the vast majority of areas, by 6p an hour for the three- and four-year-old entitlement. This funding rate increase is paid for all the hours of childcare delivered by all types of providers in the local authority’s area, including MNSs. In addition to the hourly funding rate increase, we have also re-confirmed circa £60 million, nationally, in supplementary funding for MNSs for the financial year 2021-22, to allow local authorities to preserve MNS funding levels.

Details of funding paid to local authorities can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-funding-2021-2022.

The supplementary funding is demand-led, so the amount of funding local authorities will receive will follow the number of three- and four-year-olds taking up the universal 15 hours at MNSs in their area.

There is a presumption against the closure of maintained nursery schools, and any alternative provision must be of equal quality, preserve expertise and be more accessible for parents. The guidance that sets this out can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/851585/Opening_and_closing_maintained_schools1012.pdf.

This does not mean that MNSs can never close, and it is important to note that this decision is for a local authority to take, but it means that there are safeguards in place where closure cannot be avoided.

Like private nurseries, MNSs typically rely on private income for a proportion of their income, unlike most state-funded schools. Therefore, we have ensured that access to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is also available to MNSs, in line with published guidance. On 3 March 2021, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that the CJRS will be extended until the end of September 2021. As long as the staff meet the other criteria for the scheme, schools and early years providers are able to furlough their staff if they have experienced a drop in either their income from parents or government. MNSs were also able to access free school meals vouchers via Edenred.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the covid-19 advice on face coverings in educational settings, what steps he is taking to support students who rely on lip reading.

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 to support the full opening to education 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, we recommend 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, we now also recommend that in schools and colleges 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, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in primary school 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 or 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 education settings.

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 precautionary measures for a limited time during this period of high COVID-19 prevalence in the community. These measures will be in place until Easter, and as with all measures, we will keep this under close review.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure the (a) accuracy and (b) availability of covid-19 test at-home kits for secondary school pupils, as required twice a week when they return to school.

Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests have been widely and successfully used to detect asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. The speed and convenience of the tests supports the detection of the virus in asymptomatic individuals, who would not otherwise have been tested. LFD tests are approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and are highly specific, with a low chance of false positive test results. They are also very sensitive and able to identify the majority of the most infectious yet asymptomatic individuals. These tests are an additional layer of health protection in addition to hand washing, face covering and social distancing.

For students, they will need to be tested 3 times at an onsite asymptomatic testing site, upon their return to school or college. The Department is aware that LFD tests are more effective when individuals are used to swabbing so this will give students the opportunity to become used to swabbing in a supervised environment first. They will then be provided with home test kits for twice weekly testing.

Test kits are being delivered to secondary schools and colleges from 24 February 2021. There will be a sufficient number of kits for the first 3 to 4 weeks of testing. Secondary schools and colleges will then automatically receive a re-stock of test at home kits between 8 March and 15 March so pupils can collect them after test 3. Schools can provide testing kits in 2 packs of 3, or 1 pack of 7 to each member of staff or student so that they are able to test twice a week.

Students aged 18 and over should self-test and report the result, with assistance if needed. Students aged between 12 and 17 should self-test and report with adult supervision. The adult may conduct the test if necessary. When testing at home, children aged 11 who attend a secondary school, should be tested by an adult.

From 15 March onwards there will be a reordering process for schools and colleges to receive more test stock. It will be the responsibility of the school or college to manage test stock and reordering, as well as exercising appropriate oversight and governance of the testing programme.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 12 February 2021 to Question 149320, what assessment he has made of the timeframe for the mobile data offer and 4G wireless routers to end.

The Department has delivered over 70,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home and continues to deliver them where children require remote education. More information on the number of routers delivered can be found by clicking on the ‘download associated files’ link here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data. Data for these routers is also being funded by the Department until the end of July 2021, to align with the end of the academic year.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile network operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families, which will support access to educational resources. Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021, and schools are able to request free mobile data uplifts via the Get Help with Technology service: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 12 February 2021 to Question 149320, what estimate he has made of the number of 4G wireless routers delivered to pupils without connection at home in (a) Slough, (b) the South East and (b) England.

The Department has delivered over 70,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home and continues to deliver them where children require remote education. More information on the number of routers delivered can be found by clicking on the ‘download associated files’ link here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data. Data for these routers is also being funded by the Department until the end of July 2021, to align with the end of the academic year.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile network operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families, which will support access to educational resources. Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021, and schools are able to request free mobile data uplifts via the Get Help with Technology service: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
24th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 4 February 2021 to Question 145105, what steps he is taking to ensure that families, schools and staff are informed of the support available to pupils with autism and other special educational needs and disabilities.

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, we have issued guidance for all schools and colleges including specialists settings, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings. Our guidance sets out how schools can best support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The department has worked closely with stakeholders, including the Council for Disabled Children, Contact, Nasen and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums in developing this guidance.

The department regularly signposts guidance, announcements and publications that are relevant to children and young people with SEND, including through email alerts to key stakeholders such as commissioners, providers, and voluntary and community sector organisations. This has included issuing several ministerial open letters to families and stakeholders.

We have also announced over £42 million to continue funding projects in the 2021-22 financial year to support children and young people with SEND. This includes investment to continue strengthening participation of parents and young people in the SEND system, ensuring they have a voice in designing policies and services and have access to high quality information, advice, and support.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department is taking steps to help ensure that all children in (a) Slough and (b) England have access to (i) a device, (ii) broadband and WiFi, (iii) stationery and (iv) space for home schooling.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

As of Monday 15 February, over one million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities, and further education providers. This includes over 490,000 laptops and tablets delivered since the 4th January 2021. We are making further deliveries all the time and expect to achieve our overall commitment of delivering 1.3 million devices by the end of the spring term.

We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 60,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.

A number of these laptops, tablets and routers have been delivered to Slough local authority and academy trusts in Slough, details of which are available through this link: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-7.

Where pupils continue to experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to work to overcome these barriers. This could include distributing school-owned laptops or supplementing digital provision with different forms of remote education, such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.

Guidance, resources and support for teachers and school leaders on educating pupils and students during the current COVID-19 restrictions are available on the get help with remote education page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-remote-education.

We know this is a challenging time for parents, carers, and children and that many parents and carers are balancing various responsibilities while supporting their children with education at home. We have published information for parents and carers on remote education and how they can best support their child while learning from home, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/supporting-your-childrens-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25. This includes resources and advice to help parents and carers on how to establish a routine with their child, and how best to support mental health and wellbeing during this period.

Some pupils and students who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children and young people and therefore eligible to attend provision. It is up to the child or young person’s education provider or local authority to make this decision. The decision would be based on the needs of the child or young person and their family, and a range of other factors as set out in the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision#vulnerable-children-and-young-people. Lack of access to a device and/or the internet in itself does not automatically mean that the child is vulnerable.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the press release published by his Department on 20 December 2020 entitled One million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people, what progress has been made on distributing the 440,000 devices to assist pupils with home learning.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

As of Monday 15 February, over one million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities, and further education providers. This includes over 490,000 laptops and tablets delivered since the 4th January 2021. We are making further deliveries all the time and expect to achieve our overall commitment of delivering 1.3 million devices by the end of the spring term.

We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 60,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.

A number of these laptops, tablets and routers have been delivered to Slough local authority and academy trusts in Slough, details of which are available through this link: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-7.

Where pupils continue to experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to work to overcome these barriers. This could include distributing school-owned laptops or supplementing digital provision with different forms of remote education, such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.

Guidance, resources and support for teachers and school leaders on educating pupils and students during the current COVID-19 restrictions are available on the get help with remote education page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-remote-education.

We know this is a challenging time for parents, carers, and children and that many parents and carers are balancing various responsibilities while supporting their children with education at home. We have published information for parents and carers on remote education and how they can best support their child while learning from home, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/supporting-your-childrens-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25. This includes resources and advice to help parents and carers on how to establish a routine with their child, and how best to support mental health and wellbeing during this period.

Some pupils and students who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children and young people and therefore eligible to attend provision. It is up to the child or young person’s education provider or local authority to make this decision. The decision would be based on the needs of the child or young person and their family, and a range of other factors as set out in the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision#vulnerable-children-and-young-people. Lack of access to a device and/or the internet in itself does not automatically mean that the child is vulnerable.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he has taken to ensure that school pupils and their families have access to the educational resources they need to support learning at home in (a) Slough, (b) the South East and (c) England during the covid-19 outbreak.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

As of Monday 15 February, over one million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities, and further education providers. This includes over 490,000 laptops and tablets delivered since the 4th January 2021. We are making further deliveries all the time and expect to achieve our overall commitment of delivering 1.3 million devices by the end of the spring term.

We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 60,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.

A number of these laptops, tablets and routers have been delivered to Slough local authority and academy trusts in Slough, details of which are available through this link: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-7.

Where pupils continue to experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to work to overcome these barriers. This could include distributing school-owned laptops or supplementing digital provision with different forms of remote education, such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.

Guidance, resources and support for teachers and school leaders on educating pupils and students during the current COVID-19 restrictions are available on the get help with remote education page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-remote-education.

We know this is a challenging time for parents, carers, and children and that many parents and carers are balancing various responsibilities while supporting their children with education at home. We have published information for parents and carers on remote education and how they can best support their child while learning from home, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/supporting-your-childrens-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25. This includes resources and advice to help parents and carers on how to establish a routine with their child, and how best to support mental health and wellbeing during this period.

Some pupils and students who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children and young people and therefore eligible to attend provision. It is up to the child or young person’s education provider or local authority to make this decision. The decision would be based on the needs of the child or young person and their family, and a range of other factors as set out in the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision#vulnerable-children-and-young-people. Lack of access to a device and/or the internet in itself does not automatically mean that the child is vulnerable.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to support school pupils and families with access to (a) technology and (b) broadband and WiFi in (i) Slough and (ii) England (A) during the covid-19 outbreak and (B) in the long term.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

As of Monday 15 February, over one million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities, and further education providers. This includes over 490,000 laptops and tablets delivered since the 4th January 2021. We are making further deliveries all the time and expect to achieve our overall commitment of delivering 1.3 million devices by the end of the spring term.

We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 60,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.

A number of these laptops, tablets and routers have been delivered to Slough local authority and academy trusts in Slough, details of which are available through this link: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-7.

Where pupils continue to experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to work to overcome these barriers. This could include distributing school-owned laptops or supplementing digital provision with different forms of remote education, such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.

Guidance, resources and support for teachers and school leaders on educating pupils and students during the current COVID-19 restrictions are available on the get help with remote education page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-remote-education.

We know this is a challenging time for parents, carers, and children and that many parents and carers are balancing various responsibilities while supporting their children with education at home. We have published information for parents and carers on remote education and how they can best support their child while learning from home, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/supporting-your-childrens-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25. This includes resources and advice to help parents and carers on how to establish a routine with their child, and how best to support mental health and wellbeing during this period.

Some pupils and students who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children and young people and therefore eligible to attend provision. It is up to the child or young person’s education provider or local authority to make this decision. The decision would be based on the needs of the child or young person and their family, and a range of other factors as set out in the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision#vulnerable-children-and-young-people. Lack of access to a device and/or the internet in itself does not automatically mean that the child is vulnerable.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
9th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what financial support is available for families on low incomes in (a) Slough and (b) England that are required to purchase educational resources as a result of school closures during the covid-19 outbreak.

The Department continue to expect all primary schools, secondary schools, and further education (FE) institutions in England to provide remote education for the majority of their pupils and students.

The Government is providing over £400 million to support remote education and online social care, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. This includes over one million laptops and tablets that were delivered to schools, FE institutions, academy trusts and local authorities by 15 February 2021. More information on the number of devices delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities can be viewed here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-7.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing the laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

The Department has also made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy both for the summer term of the academic year 2019-20, and then for the 2020-21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception up to Year 11.

All four major mobile network operators, Vodafone, O2, Three and EE, have also committed to working together to make access to Oak National Academy free for school children. The Department is grateful to BT and EE, who have made access to BBC Bitesize resources free from the end of January 2021.

The BBC has adapted their education support for the 2021 spring term and is making educational content available on the television. This helps to ensure all children and young people can access curriculum based learning from home, even if they do not have access to the internet.

The Department is aware that this is a challenging time for parents, carers, and children and that many parents and carers are balancing various responsibilities while supporting their children with education at home.

The Department has published information for parents and carers on remote education and how they can best support their child while being taught from home. This includes resources and advice to help parents and carers on how to establish a routine with their child, and how best to support mental health and wellbeing during this period. The published information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/supporting-your-childrens-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25.

Parents and carers should not feel that they need to set work and/or are required to purchase educational resources for their child. If parents or carers feel they need further support or additional materials for their children, they are encouraged to discuss this with their school or FE institution first.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to implement the recommendations from the January 2021 briefing by the Child Poverty Action Group on Digital exclusion during the covid-19 pandemic.

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. The Government is providing this significant injection of laptops and tablets on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of Monday 8 February 2021, over 986,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, academy trusts, local authorities and further education providers.

Laptops and tablets are owned by schools, academy trusts, local authorities or further education providers who can lend these to the children and young people who need them most, during the current COVID-19 restrictions.

We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.

We are grateful to EE, Lycamobile, O2, Sky Mobile, Smarty, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile and Vodafone for supporting the mobile data offer. We are currently engaged with additional mobile network operators and continue to invite a range of mobile network providers to support the offer.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
4th Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that early years providers are covid-19 secure.

Keeping children and staff safe is our utmost priority. The department has published ‘Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’ guidance and ‘Education and childcare settings: national lockdown from 5 January 2021’ guidance for early years settings to follow, which can be accessed via these links: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures and https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/958670/Education_and_childcare_settings_national_lockdown_from_5_January_2021.pdf.

The public health advice in the guidance includes a Public Health England-endorsed system of controls, building on the hierarchy of protective measures that have been in use throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. When implemented in line with a revised risk assessment, these measures create an environment where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced for children and staff.

The system of controls provides a set of principles that, when followed, will effectively minimise risks. All elements of the system of controls are essential. All settings must cover them all, but the way different settings implement some of the requirements will differ based on their individual circumstances.

Setting leaders will be best placed to understand the needs of their settings and communities, and to make informed judgments about how to balance delivering high quality care and education with the measures needed to manage risk.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to support children and young people who are home-schooled to access (a) a laptop and (b) broadband and WiFi in (i) Slough and (ii) England.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing the laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online, as well as delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home to support online learning.

As of Monday 8 February 2021, over 986,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers.

More information on the number of devices delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities, can be viewed here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data.

The Department has been investigating an issue with malware that was found on a small number of the laptops provided to schools. In all known cases, the malware was detected and removed at the point schools first turned the devices on.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously and any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that children and young people in education have access to (a) a laptop and (b) broadband and WiFi in (i) Slough and (ii) England.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing the laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online, as well as delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home to support online learning.

As of Monday 8 February 2021, over 986,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers.

More information on the number of devices delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities, can be viewed here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data.

The Department has been investigating an issue with malware that was found on a small number of the laptops provided to schools. In all known cases, the malware was detected and removed at the point schools first turned the devices on.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously and any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many laptops to support online learning during the covid-19 outbreak have been provided to school pupils in Slough.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing the laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online, as well as delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home to support online learning.

As of Monday 8 February 2021, over 986,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers.

More information on the number of devices delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities, can be viewed here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data.

The Department has been investigating an issue with malware that was found on a small number of the laptops provided to schools. In all known cases, the malware was detected and removed at the point schools first turned the devices on.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously and any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what representations he has received on incidences of computers allocated to support online learning during the covid-19 outbreak being infected with malware.

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. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the outbreak.

The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing the laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

The Department has partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online, as well as delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home to support online learning.

As of Monday 8 February 2021, over 986,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers.

More information on the number of devices delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities, can be viewed here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data.

The Department has been investigating an issue with malware that was found on a small number of the laptops provided to schools. In all known cases, the malware was detected and removed at the point schools first turned the devices on.

The Department takes online safety and security extremely seriously and any schools that have concerns about devices should contact the support desk at https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
28th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps he has taken to ensure that pupils with autism and other special educational needs and disabilities are adequately supported while schools are closed during the January 2021 covid-19 lockdown period.

During this period of national lockdown, primary schools, secondary schools, further education (FE) colleges, alternative provision and special settings will remain open to vulnerable children and young people, including those with education, health and care plans (EHCPs).

Where, for any reason, it is not possible for a child or young person with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – including children both with an EHCP and those who are supported through SEND support – to attend their education setting during this period, they should receive remote education and support. The legal duty on schools and FE colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the special educational needs of their pupils and students, including those supported through SEND support, remains unchanged, whether they are attending school or FE college or are at home for any period.

To support remote learning, the department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy, both for the summer term of the academic year 2019-20, and then for the 2020-21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception up to year 11. This includes specialist content for pupils with SEND, along with therapy-based lessons and resources across occupational therapy, physical therapy, sensory therapy and speech and language therapy. A link to the Oak National Academy’s specialist resources can be found here: https://classroom.thenational.academy/specialist.

To support schools to make up for lost learning time, the department has also provided a £1 billion package of support. This includes a £650 million catch up premium directly allocated to schools, with additional weighting for specialist settings, recognising the significantly higher per-pupil costs that they face. The package also includes a £350 million National Tutoring Programme, which will increase access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged pupils, helping to accelerate their academic progress and tackling the attainment gap between them and their peers.

To specifically support children and young people with autism, the department has funded the Autism Education Trust (AET) since 2011 to deliver autism awareness training to staff in early years settings, schools and colleges. To date, the AET has trained more than 287,000 people – promoting a whole-school approach to support for pupils with autism. Resources and training via the AET have been available throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
28th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he has taken to ensure mental health support is available for secondary schools pupils in (a) Slough and (b) England.

We know that the COVID-19 outbreak and the associated measures and restrictions, such as social distancing and school closures, will be impacting on the mental wellbeing of many people, including children and young people. The government has made pupil wellbeing and mental health a central part of our response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the support we have already put in place for schools will be critical during this time.

We have ensured that schools have the flexibility to offer a place in school as a vulnerable child to any pupils for whom being in school will help them to manage their mental health or to access support more easily. Decisions will be informed by the school’s experience of how pupils have been affected so far.

Schools will also continue to offer pastoral support to pupils working remotely at home, informed and supported by training and expert advice that we have made available, including through the £8 million Wellbeing for Education Return scheme. Wellbeing for Education Return is an initiative led by the Department for Education alongside the Department for Health and Social Care, Health Education England, Public Health England and key voluntary sector organisations. Wellbeing for Education Return has trained local experts to provide additional advice and resources for schools and further education (FE) providers to help support the wellbeing, resilience and recovery of pupils, students, parents and carers and staff in light of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown.

Slough Borough Council received Wellbeing for Education Return funding of £22,850 on 30 September 2020 to fund local mental health experts in the 2020-21 financial year. Across the whole of England, over 85% of local authority areas reported that they are delivering additional training and support into local schools and FE providers because of the Wellbeing for Education Return funding.

Nationally, our information indicates that more than 15,000 education settings are being offered this additional training and support. The information and support made available through Wellbeing for Education Return is relevant to remote provision as well as to those attending school.

Schools should make sure that parents and pupils know who to contact if they have new concerns about mental health and wellbeing, and that they understand what pastoral support is available. This is backed up by guidance that the department has issued for schools, which includes information and sources of further advice on supporting mental health and wellbeing: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

We have also put in place a £1 billion COVID-19 catch-up package, with £650 million shared across early years, schools and 16-19 providers over the 2020-21 academic year to support education settings to put the right catch-up and pastoral support in place. The Education Endowment Foundation have published a COVID-19 support guide to support schools to direct this funding, which includes further information about interventions to support pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

Whole-school approaches will include the new requirement for schools to teach about mental wellbeing as part of relationship, sex and health education (RSHE). The department is committed to supporting all schools in their preparations to teach RSHE, and has developed an online service featuring innovative training materials and an implementation guide. This support will cover all of the teaching requirements in the statutory guidance and will be inclusive of all pupils. We prioritised the production of the training module covering mental wellbeing, so that it was available before the end of the summer term last year: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teaching-about-mental-wellbeing.

To expand access to mental health support for children and young people with emerging mental health issues, we have committed to establishing new Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) in 20% to 25% of the country by 2023, as part of the additional support for children and young people’s mental health in the NHS Long Term Plan. MHSTs have been created to strengthen existing mental health support in education settings and to provide early intervention on mild to moderate challenges to mental health as well as helping staff within a school or college setting to provide a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Where already established, MHSTs are adapting their services to continue supporting children and young people remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For those that need specialist support, the government continues to invest in and prioritise mental health. The NHS will receive around an additional £500 million this year to address waiting times for mental health services, give more people the mental health support they need and invest in the NHS workforce. The department will also be convening a task force to look at the effects on children, young people and staff in the education system and we will confirm the next steps as soon as possible.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
28th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps he has taken to ensure examinations for pupils who are currently in Years 10 and 12 will be able to go ahead in 2022.

The Government remains clear that exams are the fairest method to assess students. We know that students and teachers will be working hard in preparation for exams or assessments in 2022, and we will make sure that the interests of students are at the centre of our considerations. It is important that students in this cohort are able to get a grade safely and fairly. We will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 on all students to ensure that those due to take exams in 2022 are supported to move to the next stage of their lives fairly.

To support students to catch up with their education, the Government has announced a catch-up package worth £1 billion to support children and young people. This includes a catch-up premium worth £650 million and a £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged pupils. We have also announced that we will provide a further programme of catch-up over the next financial year. This will involve a further £300 million for early years, schools and providers of 16-19 further education for tutoring. We will work in collaboration with the education sector to develop, as appropriate, specific initiatives for summer schools and a COVID-19 Premium to support catch up.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
20th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support is available for parents who, as a result of the covid-19 outbreak, are homeschooling a child with a hearing impairment.

Where pupils with hearing impairment are not in school, we expect schools to provide suitable remote learning materials, consistent with the Children and Families Act 2014. Schools and other institutions must use their best endeavours to secure the provision called for by the pupil’s or student’s needs.

Our published guidance is clear that schools should work collaboratively with families, putting in place reasonable adjustments as necessary, so that pupils with SEND, which will include those with hearing impairment, can successfully access remote education alongside their peers. The guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak. To help support this, a one-off universal £650 million catch up premium for the 2020/2021 academic year to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time. Schools can use their funding in a way that suits their cohort and circumstances. The department is also, for the 2020/2021 academic year, providing laptops and tablets to schools to help children and families in need to access remote education during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
20th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the covid-19 guidance and regulations for mainstream schools, what sources of funding and support are available for (a) shielding children, (b) vulnerable children and (c) children with hearing impairments and their parents who are homeschooling.

We are continuing to provide local authorities with their high needs funding allocations, which provide for children with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including those with hearing impairments. These allocations include an additional £730 million in the 2021-22 financial year, on top of the additional £780 million we provided in the 2020-21 financial year. In the 2021-22 financial year, Slough will receive £28.3 million of high needs funding, an 8% increase per head of the 2-18 population compared to the 2020-21 financial year.

Last year, we announced an additional package worth £1 billion to ensure that schools have the resources they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time, with extra support for those who need it most. £650 million will be spent on ensuring all pupils have the chance to catch up and supporting schools to rise to the challenge. Each mainstream school will receive £80 per place, and each special, alternative provision and hospital school will receive £240 for each place, across the 2020/21 academic year. We have applied this additional weighting to specialist settings in recognition of the significantly higher per-pupil costs they face.

Where pupils are not in school, we expect schools to provide suitable remote learning materials, consistent with the Children and Families Act 2014. Schools and other institutions must use their best endeavours to secure the provision called for by the pupil’s or student’s needs.

Our published guidance is clear that schools should work collaboratively with families, putting in place reasonable adjustments as necessary, so that pupils with SEND, which will include those with hearing impairment, can successfully access remote education alongside their peers.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of free school meal packages provided to children in Slough.

We know there is, understandably, concern about free school meal support during the period that schools will be restricted from opening. Schools in Slough can decide how best to support eligible free school meal pupils who are at home. We have not had any direct queries regarding lunch parcels from parents of children in Slough.

We will provide extra funding to support schools to provide lunch parcels, or locally arranged vouchers. We have also re-opened the national voucher scheme from the week commencing 18 January 2021.

The photos of poor-quality lunch parcels shared on social media are completely unacceptable and do not reflect the high standard of free school meals we expect to be sent to children.

We expect a high standard of free school meals to be provided to eligible pupils. We are working with caterers to ensure that they meet the standards set and are delivering high quality lunches to pupils who are eligible for benefits related free school meals and who are at home during term time.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
6th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on keeping early years settings open under the new January 2021 national covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on 4 January 2021 that early years settings remain open for all children during the national lockdown. Details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home.

Schools have been restricted because additional measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus. The wider significant restrictions in place as part of the national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the community enable us to continue prioritising keeping nurseries and childminders open, supporting parents and delivering the crucial care and education needed for our youngest children.

Early years settings remain low risk environments for children and staff. Current evidence suggests that pre-school children (0 to 5 years) are less susceptible to infection and are unlikely to be playing a driving role in transmission. There is no evidence the new strain of the virus causes more serious illness in either children or adults and there is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus disproportionately affects young children.

PHE advice remains that the risk of transmission and infection is low if early years settings follow the system of controls, which reduce risks and create inherently safer environments.

Early years settings have been open to all children since 1 June 2020 and there is no evidence that the early years sector has contributed to a rise in virus cases within the community. Early modelling evidence from SAGE showed that early years provision had a smaller relative impact on transmission rate when modelled with both primary schools and secondary schools.

Early years childcare providers were one of the first sectors to have restrictions lifted last summer, in recognition of the key role they play in society. Childminders and nursery staff across the country have worked hard to keep settings open through the COVID-19 outbreak so that young children can be educated, and parents can work. The earliest years are the most crucial point of child development and attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development. We continue to prioritise keeping early years settings open in full because of the clear benefits to children’s education and wellbeing and to support working parents. Caring for the youngest age group is not something that can be done remotely.

These plans are being kept under review in the light of emerging scientific evidence. We are working with the scientific community to understand the properties and dynamics of the new variant VUI-202012/01 in relation to children and young people.

The department has been working closely with local authorities to assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, setting up dedicated regional teams that are in frequent contact. Bringing together expertise from across the department, these teams monitor the challenges local authorities are facing. Our London regional team is in close contact with Havering and will be assessing the situation for early years settings in the authority.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
6th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps his Department has taken to help protect early years practitioners from contracting covid-19.

The Department for Education has worked collaboratively with Public Health England to develop a system of controls, which when implemented in line with a revised risk assessment, create an inherently safer environment where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced for children and staff.

Settings must comply with health and safety law, which requires them to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures.

Settings should thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessment and draw up plans on re-opening, in the event that they have to close. Settings should have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are effective, working as planned, and updated appropriately, for example when any issues are identified, or when there are changes in public health advice.

When conducting risk assessments, settings should ensure consideration is given to staff and children with protected characteristics from groups where a disparity has been shown by the review of disparities in risks and outcomes (for example, age and sex, where someone lives, deprivation, ethnicity and/or people’s occupation).

The department has published the ‘Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’ guidance, which provides details on the system of controls and how they work in practice. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures.

The department is working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure rapid asymptomatic testing for all early years staff, to support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s announcement for early years settings to remain fully open.

Furthermore, regarding vaccinations, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age.

Under the priority groups for the first phase of vaccine rollout, those over 50 years of age, and all those 16 years of age and over in a risk group, would be eligible for vaccination within the first phase of the programme. This prioritisation captures almost all preventable deaths from COVID-19.

Regarding the next phase of vaccine rollout, the JCVI have asked that the Department of Health and Social Care consider occupational vaccination in collaboration with other government departments. The Department for Education will input into this cross governmental exercise.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
8th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that students can return safely to university after the Christmas period safely.

On 2 December, the Department published guidance related to the return of students to higher education (HE) for the spring term: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/students-returning-to-higher-education-from-spring-term.

The guidance sets out that all HE providers should offer asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return. Improved access to asymptomatic testing for the initial return of students in the spring term provides further support to universities to manage the risk of transmission and take swift action to respond to any cases.

Universities have put a wide range of measures in place to make teaching and learning environments as safe as possible. We have not seen evidence of an increased transmission risk in these carefully managed teaching environments.

To help reduce the risk of transmission from mass movement we have advised that students return to university during a period staggered over five weeks. This will reduce the number of people travelling at once while balancing the importance of reducing disruption to education. The staggered return approach will also support testing capacity.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
8th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of covid-19 restrictions on the ability of university students to access their course content.

As I set out in a letter to MPs on 9 October and in a letter to Vice-Chancellors on 2 November, the government’s clear and stated expectation is that, whether providers are delivering face-to-face, online or blended provision, the quality and quantity of tuition, and accessibility for all students, is maintained. The OfS has made it clear that all higher education providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards, which set out requirements to ensure that courses are high-quality, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes and that standards are protected. They have also set out that providers must continue to provide sufficient and appropriate facilities, learning resources and student support services to deliver a high-quality academic experience.

Higher education providers must continue to comply with their legal obligations under the Equality Act (2010), ensuring that education and learning is accessible to all students. When making changes to the delivery of their courses, higher education providers need to consider how to support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes.

The OfS is taking very seriously the potential impacts of COVID-19 on teaching and learning and is regularly engaging with all registered providers. It is actively monitoring those providers which have moved provision predominantly online due to COVID-19 restrictions to ensure: that they maintain the quality of their provision, that it is accessible for all and that they have been clear in their communications with students about how arrangements for teaching and learning may change throughout the year. The OfS is also following up directly with providers where they receive notifications from students, parents or others raising concerns about the quality of teaching on offer and requiring providers to report to them when they are not able to deliver a course or award a qualification. If the OfS has concerns, it will investigate further.

The government is aware of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on some students. That is why the government has already worked closely with the OfS to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers can use the funding, worth around £256 million for the academic year 2020/21, starting from August, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment or connectivity services where students would not otherwise be able to secure these. On 2 December, we announced that the government will also be making available up to £20 million of hardship funding on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students.

Students have rights under consumer law that they may be able to rely on if they are dissatisfied with their provider’s response to COVID-19. In the first instance, students should speak to their provider to see if they can resolve their issue. We expect student complaints and appeals processes to be operated flexibly, accessibly, and sympathetically by providers to resolve any concerns. If a student at a provider in England or Wales is not satisfied with their provider’s final response, they can make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, which has published guidance on this issue, available at: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/students/.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
8th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to prevent the spread of covid-19 in university accommodation when students return after the Christmas break.

The safety and wellbeing of staff and students in higher education is always our priority. The government is doing all it can to minimise the risks to those working and studying in our higher education institutions during this unprecedented situation, whilst mitigating the impact on education.

The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university as safely as possible. On 2 December 2020 we published guidance on students returning to higher education for spring term, which sets out our plans for staggering the return of students over a 5-week period. This guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/students-returning-to-higher-education-from-spring-term.

Universities have responded well to COVID-19 outbreaks and continue to learn lessons on how to minimise the risks and support students. Improved access to asymptomatic testing for the initial return of students in the spring term provides further support to universities to manage the risk of transmission and take swift action to respond to any cases.

I have also written to universities asking them to ensure that self-isolating students have a range of choices available for access to food and other essential supplies. This includes providing food to those that need it and facilitating deliveries that will not require students to leave the accommodation where they are self-isolating, thereby preventing the spread of COVID-19.

We strongly encourage students to take a test when they return to university, to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, and keep themselves and others safe.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
3rd Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what proportion of the vehicles used by his Department on Government business are electric vehicles.

The Department does not operate any fleet vehicles for official use. All Ministers have access to the Government Car Service provided by the Department for Transport.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
19th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to support schools and colleges with covid-19 related financial costs.

The Department appreciates the continued and significant efforts made by schools and their staff to keep schools open this term. Returning to school full time has been vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing and has rightly been a national priority. Latest figures show that over 99% of state-funded schools are open.

The Department published guidance to support schools to welcome back all children full time. The guidance can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

Schools have also continued to receive their core funding allocations throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Following last year’s Spending Round, school budgets are rising by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. This includes an additional £780 million this year and £730 million next year for high needs, taking total high needs funding to over £8 billion. As stated in our guidance, schools should use their existing resources, including these funding increases, when making arrangements to support children this term.

Ministers and officials continue to engage regularly with school leaders and their representatives on a wide range of issues around COVID-19, including discussions in relation to costs faced by schools at this time.

The Department also recognises the great efforts made by further education (FE) colleges and their staff to keep colleges open this term, and the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the sector. We have protected grant funding to the FE sector, worth over £3 billion, for a full year through paying scheduled monthly profiled payments for the remainder of the 2019/20 funding year and paying allocations for 2020/21 in line with the national profile. This year, the Department has increased investment in education and training of 16-19 year olds by £400 million, including an increased base rate, and more funding for high cost and high value subjects. We have also brought forward £200 million of the £1.5 billion for capital funding in colleges. For other providers with Education, Skills and Funding Agency contracts, we set up a Provider Relief Scheme.

For colleges in significant financial difficulties, the existing support arrangements remain in place, including short-term emergency funding. The Department adapted and opened the College Collaboration Fund to support colleges to respond to current challenges, and we have announced the 20 colleges whose bids were successful on GOV.UK.

My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced an extensive and unprecedented package of support measures for businesses and employees. FE colleges can apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for non-grant-funded employees, which has been extended until March 2021.

The Department is working closely with colleges to monitor the financial impacts of COVID-19 and ensure that any colleges facing financial difficulties are able to access relevant support. Financial forecasts for the current year were submitted by colleges in July, and updated cashflow projections are due to be provided this month.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
18th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the financial implications of covid-19 related expenditure for (a) schools and (b) colleges.

The Department appreciates the continued and significant efforts by schools and their staff to keep schools open this term. Returning to school full time has been vital for children’s education and wellbeing, and has rightly been a national priority. The latest published figures show that over 99% of state-funded schools are open. The Department published guidance to support schools to welcome back all children full-time. The guidance can be viewed at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

On 27 November, the Department announced a new COVID-19 workforce fund for schools and colleges to help them remain open. It will fund the costs of teacher absences over a threshold in schools and colleges, for those with high staff absences that are also facing significant financial pressures. The fund will help schools and colleges to meet the cost of absences experienced during the period from the beginning of November until the end of this term. More information is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-funding-to-support-schools-and-colleges-during-covid-pandemic.

Schools have also continued to receive their core funding allocations throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Following last year’s Spending Round, school budgets are rising by £2.6 billion in the 2020-21 financial year, £4.8 billion in 2021-22, and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. This includes an additional £780 million this year and £730 million next year for high needs, taking total high needs funding to over £8 billion.

As stated in our guidance, schools should use their existing resources, including these funding increases, when making arrangements to support children this term. Ministers and officials continue to engage regularly with school leaders and their representatives on a wide range of issues around COVID-19, including discussions in relation to costs faced by schools at this time. The Department will continue to review the pressures schools are facing into next term.

The Department appreciates the continued and significant efforts by further education (FE) colleges and all staff to keep colleges open this term. We recognise the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on FE colleges and have protected grant funding to the FE sector, worth over £3 billion for a full year, through paying scheduled monthly profiled payments for the remainder of the 2019-20 financial year and paying allocations for 2020-21 in line with the national profile. This year, the Department has increased investment in education and training of 16 to 19 year olds by £400 million, including an increased base rate, and more funding for high cost and high value subjects. We have also brought forward £200 million of the £1.5 billion for capital funding in colleges. For other providers with contracts with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, we set up a Provider Relief Scheme.

For colleges in significant financial difficulties, the existing support arrangements remain in place, including short-term emergency funding. The Department has also adapted and opened the College Collaboration Fund to support colleges to respond to current challenges, and we have announced the 20 colleges whose bids were successful.

My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced an extensive and unprecedented package of support measures for businesses and employees. FE colleges can apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for non-grant-funded employees, which has been extended until March 2021.

The Department is working closely with colleges to monitor the financial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure that any colleges facing financial difficulties are able to access relevant support. Financial forecasts for the current year were submitted by colleges in July, and updated cashflow projections are due to be provided this month.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
11th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he has taken to protect clinically vulnerable people who teach in schools from covid-19.

The Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) to publish guidance to support schools to welcome back all children from the start of the autumn term.

The guidance provides a framework for school leaders to put in place proportionate protective measures for pupils and staff. These measures include regular handwashing, promoting good respiratory hygiene, and schools minimising contact between individuals.

Where schools implement the system of controls outlined in our guidance, in line with their own workplace risk assessment, PHE and DHSC confirm that these measures create an inherently safer environment for children and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. It is therefore appropriate for teachers and other school staff to attend their workplace setting. This includes staff who are clinically vulnerable. School leaders should explain to staff the measures the school has put in place to reduce risks.

While the national restrictions introduced from 5 November are in force, school staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (as opposed to clinically vulnerable) are advised to work from home and not to go into work. Individuals in this group will have been identified through a letter from the NHS or their GP and may have been advised to shield in the past. Staff in this group should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home where possible, during the period of national restrictions. All other staff should continue to attend work, including those living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

The guidance for schools on full opening can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

The guidance on the new national restrictions can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/education-and-childcare-settings-new-national-restrictions-from-5-november-2020#schools.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
23rd Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on equality of access to opportunity for 16 to 24 year olds.

We know that young people’s employment prospects in particular are expected to be disproportionately affected in the coming months. When a young person is not in education, employment or training (NEET) it is rarely temporary. When 18-24 year-olds are NEET for 3 months, three-quarters of them will stay NEET for at least a year.

That is why in July, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced £1.6 billion of investment to scale up employment support schemes and training for people affected by Covid-19. This includes over £500 million in a package of support to ensure young people have the skills and training to go on to high quality, secure and fulfilling employment. This includes:

  • A new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021. Employers can start claiming for payments from 1 September.
  • £111 million to triple the scale of traineeships: with three times more funding available to providers in 2020-21 to support 30,000 new places. We have also introduced – for the first time - payments of £1,000 per trainee for employers who offer new or additional work placements (up to 10 trainees).
  • £101 million for a brand new offer to give 18 and 19-year-old school and college leavers the opportunity to study high value Level 2 and 3 courses when there are not employment opportunities available to them.
  • £32 million over two years to help 269,000 more people receive advice from the National Careers Service.
  • £17 million to triple the number of sector-based work academy programme placements in 2020/21, enough funding to support an extra 40,000 job seekers with additional training opportunities and the chance of a job.

It is also more crucial than ever before that we tap into the brilliant talent that our country has to offer, and make sure that university places are available to all who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.

Gillian Keegan
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
23rd Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps he has taken to help improve the affordability of childcare.

We want parents to have access to a range of affordable childcare, giving them increased flexibility in their working hours and helping children thrive in the crucial early years. That is why the department is investing a planned £3.6 billion in our early education entitlements this year.

We offer parents a range of free early education entitlements for children aged 2 to 4 years old, giving them increased flexibility in their working hours and helping children thrive in the crucial early years. This includes 15 hours a week free childcare for 38 weeks of the year for all 3- and 4-year olds, with an additional 15 hours (30 hours free childcare) for working families. Working parents may also be eligible for help with up to 85% of their childcare costs through Universal Credit Childcare. This is subject to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children, payable in arrears.

Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) is available for children from 0-11 years old, or up to 16 if disabled. The TFC scheme means that for every £8 parents pay their provider via an online account, the government will pay £2. This is up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child each year (up to £500 every 3 months), or £4,000 if disabled.

The early years sector has received significant financial support throughout the coronavirus pandemic to provide stability and reassurance. We continue to provide extra security to nurseries and childminders that are open by ‘block-buying’ childcare places for the autumn term at the level we would have funded before the COVID-19 outbreak, regardless of how many children are attending.

In addition, temporary measures have been put in place to protect parents who would normally be eligible for Tax Free Childcare or 30 hours free childcare, or both, but who, due to the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, temporarily do not meet the income thresholds.

These were introduced in May. On 26 October, the government announced that working parents who are eligible for TFC or 30 hours but have temporarily fallen below the minimum income requirement, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, will continue to be entitled to TFC or 30 hours of free childcare, or both if they are receiving income from the Job Support Scheme or Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grants. This will continue until at least April 2021.

Critical workers who may exceed the income threshold for TFC or 30 hours for the 2020-21 tax year as a result of working more to play a vital role in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak will also continue to be eligible this tax year as a result of these temporary measures.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
13th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions his Department had with early years providers on the potential merits of a phased return in September 2020 for young children and their parents.

Departmental officials and I are in regular contact with early years stakeholders across a wide range of matters.

As of 1 June, early years providers have been able to open to all children and since 20 July settings have been able to return to their normal group sizes.

We continue to work with the sector to understand how early years providers can best be supported to ensure that sufficient, safe, appropriate and affordable childcare is available for those returning to work now and for all families who need it in the longer term.

We have published guidance on actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 outbreak, which is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures.

Early education plays a crucial role in early learning and development, but we recognise that some parents may be worried about sending their children back to nursery. Parents and childcare settings should always work together to make sure that children settle in well. For some children, it may be appropriate to build up their attendance over several weeks.

The School Admissions Code requires admissions authorities to provide for the full-time admission of all children in the September following their 4th birthday. Parents are able to defer the date that their child is admitted to school until later in the school year, but not beyond the point which their child reaches compulsory school age.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
13th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the effect of covid-19 on wraparound care providers.

The department does not hold a central register of all wraparound provision and so does not routinely collect data on providers.

However, our Regional Education and Children’s Teams, comprising education and social care staff from both the department and Ofsted, are working closely with local authorities, and will act as a valuable source of intelligence on the sufficiency of wraparound childcare places in local areas. In addition, we have been in close communication with various stakeholders, including several wraparound providers since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and we will continue this communication over the coming months.

We have ensured that, as of 4 July, wraparound care providers and other providers of out-of-school activities to children have been able to open, both on or away from school premises, with protective measures in place. We have published further updated guidance for providers who run before and after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings for children on the protective measures that should be put in place to ensure they are operating as safely as possible. This is to also ensure that with the introduction of our new local COVID-19 alert levels, that wraparound childcare is able to remain open to support parents, and in particular critical workers, to continue to work. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.

We also know that many schools operate their own breakfast and after school clubs, and they should be working to resume this provision, if they have not already. As part of our guidance to schools on full opening, we have provided schools with guidance to support them in reopening this valuable provision. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools#wraparound-provision-and-extra-curricular-activity.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
13th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to ensure that key workers are able to access childcare throughout the covid-19 outbreak.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 25 September 2020 to Question 95158.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
13th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the availability of wraparound childcare for the children of key workers.

The department does not hold a central register of all wraparound provision and so does not routinely collect data on the number of providers in operation.

However, as of 4 July, wraparound care providers and other providers of out-of-school activities to children have been able to open, both on or away from school premises, with protective measures in place. We have published further updated guidance for providers who run before and after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings for children on the protective measures that should be put in place to ensure they are operating as safely as possible. This is to also ensure that with the introduction of our new local COVID-19 alert levels, that wraparound childcare is able to remain open to support parents, and in particular key workers, to continue to work. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.

Limitations on childcare will be a last resort, and we will ensure that priority is given to vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers for this provision in all cases.

We also know that many schools operate their own breakfast and after school clubs, and they should be working to resume this provision, if they have not already. As part of our guidance to schools on full opening, we have provided schools with guidance to support them in reopening this valuable provision. The guidance is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools#wraparound-provision-and-extra-curricular-activity.

In addition, our Regional Education and Children’s Teams, comprising education and social care staff from both the department and Ofsted, are working closely with local authorities, and will act as a valuable source of intelligence on the sufficiency of wraparound childcare places in local areas.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
24th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the proportion of primary school children who have been taught water safety during academic year 2019-20.

Swimming and water safety are compulsory elements of the PE curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2. The curriculum sets out the expectation that pupils should be taught to: swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres; use a range of strokes effectively; and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.

The Department does not collect data centrally on the proportion of pupils at Key Stages 1 to 3 that have been taught swimming and water safety lessons, but all primary schools are required to publish information on the percentage of their pupils in year 6 who met each of the three swimming and water safety national curriculum requirements. Further details are available in the online reporting section of guidance on the Primary PE and Sport Premium, available here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pe-and-sport-premium-for-primary-schools#online-reporting.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
24th Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the proportion of KS3 school children who have been taught water safety during academic year 2019-20.

Swimming and water safety are compulsory elements of the PE curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2. The curriculum sets out the expectation that pupils should be taught to: swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres; use a range of strokes effectively; and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.

The Department does not collect data centrally on the proportion of pupils at Key Stages 1 to 3 that have been taught swimming and water safety lessons, but all primary schools are required to publish information on the percentage of their pupils in year 6 who met each of the three swimming and water safety national curriculum requirements. Further details are available in the online reporting section of guidance on the Primary PE and Sport Premium, available here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pe-and-sport-premium-for-primary-schools#online-reporting.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
3rd Jun 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to support the families of pupils on free school meals in Slough constituency during the school summer holidays in 2020.

I refer the hon. Members to the answer I gave on 23 June 2020 to Question 54195.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
23rd Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to ensure that young people maintain access to free period products whilst schools are shut as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

The department introduced the Period Products Scheme to ensure that everyone has access to period products when they need them at school or college.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, schools and colleges will be able to order products through the established route and distribute them to learners who need them.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment the Government has made of the potential merits of having a Minister responsible for the effect of all Government policies on children; and which Department is responsible for Government policies that relate to children not connected to health, education or social care.

This Government is committed to levelling up opportunity for all children. Responsibility for this rightly falls across a number of government departments – to ensure that all policies affecting children receive the focus and dedication they deserve. The provision of high quality education and care services is one part of the work this government is doing to unlock the potential of all children and there is a dedicated Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families. The Cabinet Office plays a critical role in supporting this collective and coordinated effort and ensuring that government policy delivers for society as a whole, including children. In addition, the government supports a number of arms length bodies – such as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Social Mobility Commission – to consider the effect of policies on children and young people.

Vicky Ford
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education)
12th Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the reasons why the UK ranked 40th for children’s well-being out of the 44 countries that took part in the OECD’s PISA 2018 rankings; and what steps the Government is taking to improve its position in those rankings.

Good mental wellbeing is a priority for this Government. The Department is looking carefully at the evidence about children and young people’s mental wellbeing and how to support it. In October 2019, we published the first ‘State of the Nation’ report on children and young people’s wellbeing to bring together the evidence for England, which has shown a slight fall in recent years. The full report is available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/state-of-the-nation-2019-children-and-young-peoples-wellbeing.

The Department is taking forward a wide range of work to ensure that wellbeing is at the forefront of our approach to supporting children and young people in schools. This includes teaching pupils about looking after their mental health and wellbeing through the introduction of the new subjects of relationships, sex and health education. This will include the importance of sleep, understanding the benefits of rationing time online and the risks of excessive time spent on electronic devices, including how the content can affect their own and others’ mental and physical wellbeing.

The Department is also improving collaboration with external agencies, to ensure those pupils that need specialist support and treatment get it quickly. In particular, we have a major joint programme of work with NHS England to introduce new mental health support teams linked to schools and colleges, and to support schools and colleges to put in place senior mental health leads.

The Department has several further initiatives in place to support schools to develop and implement whole school approaches to mental health and wellbeing. These include trialling approaches to promoting positive mental wellbeing to ensure pupils have access to evidence based early support and interventions – the largest trial in the world of its kind, piloting different approaches to peer-to-peer support, and rolling out Mental Health Awareness Training to all state-funded secondary schools, to improve capability to identify potential issues.

The Public Health England Rise Above programme in schools and online provides advice for children and young people on coping strategies for modern life. These strategies include dealing with difficult emotions and situations that can lead to problems such as stress, bullying and self-harm. Details can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-launches-rise-above-for-schools-programme.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
9th Mar 2020
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, if she will take steps to tackle organisations that discriminate against disabled employees.

We expect employers to comply with the law in their treatment of disabled employees. Employers who discriminate against such employees rightly run the risk of claims for disability discrimination against them being taken to employment tribunals, which have power to award unlimited damages (including compensation for injured feelings) in addition to any award made in relation to employment law claims (such as loss of earnings).

Employment tribunal judgments, including those involving disability discrimination, are publicly available at https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions. Guidance for employers to help them avoid claims for disability discrimination against them are available from Acas and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In 2019 the EHRC published two pieces of guidance; a guide to help employees including disabled staff challenge discrimination at work, and a guide to help employers understand their responsibilities to provide disabled staff with additional support and workplace adjustments.

Elizabeth Truss
Minister for Women and Equalities
21st Feb 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect on the level of poverty of the affordability of school uniform costs.

No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply to a school. The Government is pleased to support the Private Members' Bill to ‘make provision for guidance to schools about the cost aspects of school uniform policies’, which was recently introduced to Parliament on 5 February 2020. This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring that school uniform costs are reasonable.

It is for the governing body of a school (or in the case of academies, the academy trust) to decide whether there should be a school? uniform, what it will be and how it should be sourced. To support them to do this the Department currently issues non-statutory guidance which can be found here:?https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-uniform.

Our current guidance states that? school uniform? items should be easily available for parents to purchase and schools should keep compulsory branded items to a minimum. It also states that schools should avoid single-supplier contracts, but where schools do choose to enter into such contracts, they should be subject to a regular competitive tendering process. This makes clear that we expect schools to ensure ?uniform? costs are reasonable.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
23rd Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to encourage more employers to offer apprenticeships to people with disabilities.

We are working to ensure that a Learning Difficulty or Disability (LDD) is not a barrier to people who want to realise the benefits that an apprenticeship offers or to employers who want to make a long-term investment in the skills they need to grow. We have seen increases in the proportion of apprenticeship starts by people declaring an LDD in recent years, rising to 12% of starts in 2018/19 from 11.2% in 2017/18 and 10.3% in 2016/17.

To ensure that employers are supported to create new apprenticeship opportunities, we provide targeted financial support directly to training providers to help remove barriers for people with a LDD. This includes paying £150 a month to providers for additional support. In specific circumstances, this amount can rise to a maximum of £19,000 per year where necessary. Providers and employers recruiting an apprentice aged 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) receive an additional payment of £1000. We also pay 100% of the cost of training for small employers with fewer than 50 employees who take on apprentices who have an EHCP. Disabled apprentices may also receive help from Access to Work to pay for workplace adaptations, job coaches, transport, special equipment and other forms of support.

We are also prioritising sharing good practice. Our Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network has grown to 75 members and brings together employers committed to improving diversity in their apprenticeship programmes, including for those with disabilities:

https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/apprenticeship-diversity-champions-network.

We have integrated the Department for Work and Pensions Disability Confident campaign into the apprenticeship recruitment service. Therefore, the Disability Confident logo is displayed on apprenticeship vacancies for registered employers.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
20th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the level of funding for maintained nursery schools.

The Department recognises that Maintained Nursery Schools (MNS) are an important part of the early years sector and provide valuable services to disadvantaged children.

Last October we announced increases in hourly funding rates paid to local authorities for the early education entitlements for 2020-21.

In 2020-21, all local authorities will see an increase of 8p an hour to the hourly funding rates for the 2-year-old entitlement and an increase of 8p an hour for the vast majority of areas for the 3- and 4-year-old entitlement.

In addition to the hourly funding rates above, the Department invests approximately £60 million in ‘maintained nursery school supplementary funding’ each financial year, to allow local authorities to preserve MNS funding levels and last October we announced that this additional funding will continue at its current level for the whole of the 2020-21 financial year.

Details of funding paid to local authorities can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-funding-2020-2021.

The Department remains committed to funding for MNS in the longer term. Any reform to the way they are funded in the future will be accompanied by appropriate funding protections. The Department plans to spend more than £3.6 billion on early education in 2020-21.

Nick Gibb
Minister of State (Education)
20th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he plans to introduce free school meals for all primary schoolchildren.

This government is committed to ensuring that children are well nourished and develop healthy eating habits that stay with them for the rest of their lives. Healthy eating not only supports children’s health but also has an important contribution to make in ensuring children are able to concentrate and learn in schools, and therefore achieve their potential in life.

Under the benefits-based criteria, around 1.3 million of the most disadvantaged children are eligible for and claiming free school meals. Benefits-related free meals were extended to disadvantaged further education students in September 2014. A further 1.4 million infants receive a free nutritious meal under the Universal Infant Free School Meals scheme.

We do not currently have plans to extend free school meals to all primary pupils. We believe in prioritising the policy so it is focused on children that are most in need. We will review the eligibility criteria for free school meals at the end of the roll-out of Universal Credit. We have increased access to free meals through the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals and Further Education Free Meals. Our amended free school meal criteria, introduced in April 2018 mean we expect more pupils to benefit from benefits-related free school meals in 2022, compared to the legacy system.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
20th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on the number of children on child protection plans.

​The department has not made any assessment on the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on the number of children on child protection plans. However, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education and the department regularly meet with other government ministers and their departments to discuss their policies, including the impact of changes to the welfare system and children’s social care. The department recognises the importance of a cross-government approach to tackling social issues.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
20th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policy on SEND funding of the recommendations of paragraph 15 of the Local Government Association's report entitled, Have we reached a ‘tipping point’? Trends in spending for children and young people with SEND in England.

No child or young person should be held back from reaching their potential, including those with complex special needs. This is why we have announced £780 million of additional high needs funding next year (2020-21), an increase of 12% compared to this year, bringing the total amount for supporting those with the most complex needs to £7.2 billion. This will be the largest year-on-year increase since the high needs funding block was created in 2013. Allocations for future years will be announced in due course.

Every local authority will see an increase in high needs funding, of at least 8% per head of population aged 2 to 18, with some seeing gains of up to 17% per head. This will provide valuable extra resources so that support is in place to make sure that no pupil or student is left behind.

However, the response to cost pressures cannot simply be about the amount of funding available. We have launched a review of the special educational needs and disabilities system to see what further improvements are necessary to make sure every child gets the education that is right for them.

Michelle Donelan
Minister of State (Education)
14th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the (a) adequacy of the level of competition within the residential water management industry and (b) effect of that level of competition on the amount customers pay in water bills.

In November 2015, the UK Government asked Ofwat to assess the costs and benefits of extending retail competition to residential water customers in England. Ofwat's report did not indicate significant benefits for household customers and highlighted initial bill increases to fund the extension of the retail market.

The industry is regulated to protect customers. As part of the recent Price Review process for 2020-2025, Ofwat challenged companies on efficiency and set out a package that will enable water companies to deliver more for people today, invest for future generations and reduce the average household bill by 2025.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
12th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the affordability of water bills for residents in (a) Slough and (b) Thames Valley.

Ofwat, the independent economic regulator, is responsible for ensuring that water companies charge fair prices and deliver quality services, through a process called the Price Review. Ofwat has set spending budgets over the next five years - reducing the average household water bill. While there are systems in place to deliver value for money to consumers, we acknowledge that some households struggle with their water bills.

We are committed to ensuring all customers receive reliable water and waste services. All water companies offer reduced bills for eligible customers via the WaterSure scheme and social tariffs. In addition, water companies also offer a range of other financial support measures such as payment holidays, bill matching and advice on debt management and water efficiency.

Each year the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) publishes its Water for All report, which examines the efforts made by each water company in England and Wales to support customers who need financial help or other forms of assistance if they’re in vulnerable circumstances.

Last October, Defra commissioned CCW to review the effectiveness of existing support schemes in water to ensure they are fit for purpose now and in the future. Their report sets out ten key recommendations that could result in better outcomes for the most vulnerable customers. Defra is working with CCW and industry to explore these recommendations further and a number of water companies have already established pilots to improve their support measures.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 11 June 2021 to Question 7904 on Plastics: Supermarkets, what steps he is taking to incentivise supermarkets and other companies to reduce their use of (a) single-use and (b) general plastics in each of the financial years (i) 2021-22, (ii) 2022-23, (iii) 2023-24 and (iv) 2024-25.

The Government's 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, which encompasses single-use plastic waste. I would also refer to the Answer of 11 June 2021 to Question 7904, as many of the actions set out there will incentivise businesses. We are making great strides to tackle plastic pollution across the country. In December 2018, we published the Resources and Waste Strategy, which set out how we want to achieve this and move towards a circular economy which keeps resources in the system for as long as possible. The Resources and Waste Strategy also sets out a timeline for action, although in some instances the impact of Covid-19 has led to delays. In clearly laying out the Government's position and direction, we intend to provide industry with the confidence to take action to reduce their use of plastics.

Indeed, industry is acting. The UK Plastics Pact was jointly founded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Ellen McArthur Foundation and is supported by the Government. The Pact brings together organisations from across the plastics supply chain, with four key targets for 2025 that aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. Members of the Pact account for two-thirds of consumer plastic packaging in the UK.

Alongside our support for voluntary action by industry, the Government is taking regulatory action. The single-use carrier bag charge, which has led to a 95% reduction in the use of single-use carrier bags by the main supermarkets, has been increased to 10p and extended to all retailers to encourage customers to bring their own bags to carry shopping and reduce the volumes of single-use plastic being used.

We have included a number of measures in the Environment Bill to enable us, through regulations, to tackle plastics and plastic waste. These include measures to impose charges on single-use plastic items; introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers; and make producers cover the costs of collecting and managing plastic packaging waste. As well as this, the Bill gives us powers to provide consistent recycling services for household and businesses; ensure all packaging is labelled either 'recyclable' or 'not recyclable'; set requirements regarding design and material usage for products; and allows for us to control the export of plastic waste better.

The Government is also reforming the packaging producer responsibility regulations and developing extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging. Our proposal is for the first phase of EPR to be established in 2023. EPR for packaging will see packaging producers paying for the waste management costs associated with the packaging that they place on the market. This will ensure producers are thinking about the necessity of any packaging they use. In developing EPR for packaging, we will also take consideration of how EPR for packaging could be used to encourage packaging reuse and refill systems. The Government consultation on EPR for packaging closed on 4 June 2021:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/extended-producer-responsibility/extended-producer-responsibility-for-packaging/.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
11th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

Defra maintains a high-level, persistent watch on emerging technologies via our Digital, Data and Technology Services innovations team’s emerging technologies radar and the Chief Scientific Adviser’s Office Futures team. As such, Defra both recognises the potential for artificial intelligence to play an important part in ensuring that data and science are at the heart of decision making, and is also aware of the general threats and opportunities afforded by AI.

The opportunities and considerations associated with the use of AI continue to be explored, as outlined in the guidance on building and using artificial intelligence in the public sector, published on gov.uk at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/a-guide-to-using-artificial-intelligence-in-the-public-sector

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
10th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to what extent their Department makes use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies; and how much was spent from their Department’s budget on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years.

Defra recognises the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to play an important part in ensuring that data and science are at the heart of decision making.

Defra recognises the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to play an important part in ensuring that data and science are at the heart of decision making.

All of Defra’s ongoing and previous research projects, including a number involving AI and machine learning (ML), are published on Defra’s research and development website: randd.defra.gov.uk. Planned projects are advertised on Bravo: defra.bravosolution.co.uk. The specific information requested is not held centrally and to obtain it would incur disproportionate costs.

Areas particularly benefitting from these tools include the interpretation of Earth Observation and automated sensor data, the development of advanced modelling techniques, and improved customer service. We are further developing our data science capabilities (data linkage, advanced tooling and platforms) to ensure our scientists and analysts are able to effectively exploit data using advanced analytic techniques which include AI components, such as ML and other novel innovative approaches that will inform decision making.

We will continue to work in partnership across Government, with academia and industry to develop the use of AI and ML for Defra.

The opportunities and considerations associated with the use of AI continue to be explored, as outlined in the guidance on building and using artificial intelligence in the public sector, published on gov.uk at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/a-guide-to-using-artificial-intelligence-in-the-public-sector

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of encouraging or requiring restaurant chains to introduce information on the carbon cost of menu items.

The environmental impacts of food are complex, with the whole food chain having a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting both domestic and international climate targets. There are currently no legal requirements for UK restaurant chains to display information related to carbon emissions from food production on their menus. However, the Government is supportive of work being done in this area. Examples include Defra's funding of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (known as WRAP) to work across the supply chain to cut carbon and food waste in the sector by one fifth between 2015 and 2025.

The Government will continue to work with the hospitality industry to help it reduce its environmental impacts and provide this information clearly to consumers in an efficient manner, without creating unnecessary burdens that can result in increased prices for consumers.

Defra will investigate the opportunity to review aspects of food labelling following the outcomes of Henry Dimbleby's independent review of the food system, due this summer. The Government will respond to this with a Food Strategy White Paper within six months.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will is take steps to encourage the expansion of refill stations in supermarkets to reduce the generation of non-recyclable waste.

The Government's 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

Industry is already taking action. The UK Plastics Pact jointly founded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Ellen McArthur Foundation is supported by the Government. The Pact brings together organisations from across the plastics supply chain, including all the major supermarkets, with four key targets for 2025 that aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. Current Pact business members are responsible for 80% of plastic packaging sold through UK supermarkets.

Through the Pact, work has been done to increase the sale of unpackaged products. The WRAP Fresh Produce Guidance was published in November 2019 which includes advice for retailers to help determine if fresh produce can be provided loose. In June 2019, Waitrose & Partners unveiled a new trial, 'Waitrose Unpacked', to explore alternative ways of shopping. It included a dedicated refillable zone, the UK's first supermarket frozen 'pick and mix' station, and the first borrow-a-box scheme are among a series of ideas being looked at in a unique test in order in order to potentially save thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic and packaging. Since its initial introduction in their Botley Road branch in Oxford this initiative has been extended to three other stores in Wallingford, Abingdon, and Cheltenham and they continue to extend the range of products available unpacked.

Alongside supporting voluntary action by industry, the Government is taking regulatory action to reduce the use of non-recyclable waste. For instance, the single-use carrier bag charge, which has led to a 95% reduction in the use of single-use carrier bags by the main supermarkets, was increased to 10p and extended to all retailers on 21 May 2021. This will further encourage customers to bring their own bags to carry shopping and reduce the volumes of single-use plastic being used.

The Government is also reforming the packaging producer responsibility regulations and developing extended producer responsibility for packaging. Extended producer responsibility for packaging will see packaging producers pay the waste management costs associated with the packaging they place on the market. This will encourage producers to consider the necessity of any packaging they use. In developing extended producer responsibility for packaging, we will also consider how the use of packaging reuse and refill systems can be encouraged. The Government has stated its intention to bring forward proposals for reuse/refill targets by the end of 2023 and introduce targets or obligations on producers from 2025. The Government consultation on extended producer responsibility for packaging closed on 4 June 2021, more details can be found at:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/extended-producer-responsibility/extended-producer-responsibility-for-packaging/.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether he has (a) made an assessment of the potential merits of and (b) had discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on introducing a tax or levy on peat based composts in order to incentivise the use of peat free alternatives.

In the recently published England Peat Action Plan we have committed to undertake a full consultation in 2021 on banning the sale of peat and peat containing products in the amateur sector by the end of this Parliament. The consultation will also examine other measures, including the feasibility of introducing a point-of-sale charge for the purchase of growing media containing peat (this could use the plastic bag charge as a model).

As outlined in the Action Plan, we are committed to working with the industry to understand the implications of our proposals, identify blockages and to working with the private sector to develop and enact solutions, thus making the transition to peat alternatives as seamless as possible.

The England Peat Action Plan can be found at:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/987859/england-peat-action-plan.pdf

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to reduce the volume of waste exported out of the UK.

The UK Government has not made any assessment of CO2 produced by the export of UK waste. The UK monitors and reports emissions from the shipping industry through the National Emissions Inventory but this information is not disaggregated to the level of individual cargo movements.

The export of UK waste for disposal is generally prohibited, save for the strictly limited exceptions which are laid out in the UK Plan for Shipments of Waste. Under the UK legislation on waste shipments, businesses involved in the export of wastes are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. All waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and we have a system of inspections in place to verify compliance. The regulators mount targeted inspections at UK ports working with the shipping sector to help detect and prevent illegal waste shipments. Individuals and businesses found to be exporting waste in contravention of the requirements in the legislation waste can face a two-year jail term and an unlimited fine.

We have pledged to introduce tougher controls on waste exports, and the Environment Bill includes a power to introduce mandatory electronic tracking of waste which will make it harder for criminals to obtain and export waste illegally.

We are also taking action to reduce the volume of waste generated in the first place. Our approach is focused on encouraging greater uptake of reusable alternatives and increasing supply and demand for secondary materials to be recycled in the UK. The Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in December 2018, sets out the Government’s plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle more than we do now. Our target is to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the life of the 25 Year Environment Plan, but for the most problematic plastics we are going faster - which is why we have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that waste exported for recycling is recycled and not disposed of in another manner.

The UK Government has not made any assessment of CO2 produced by the export of UK waste. The UK monitors and reports emissions from the shipping industry through the National Emissions Inventory but this information is not disaggregated to the level of individual cargo movements.

The export of UK waste for disposal is generally prohibited, save for the strictly limited exceptions which are laid out in the UK Plan for Shipments of Waste. Under the UK legislation on waste shipments, businesses involved in the export of wastes are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. All waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and we have a system of inspections in place to verify compliance. The regulators mount targeted inspections at UK ports working with the shipping sector to help detect and prevent illegal waste shipments. Individuals and businesses found to be exporting waste in contravention of the requirements in the legislation waste can face a two-year jail term and an unlimited fine.

We have pledged to introduce tougher controls on waste exports, and the Environment Bill includes a power to introduce mandatory electronic tracking of waste which will make it harder for criminals to obtain and export waste illegally.

We are also taking action to reduce the volume of waste generated in the first place. Our approach is focused on encouraging greater uptake of reusable alternatives and increasing supply and demand for secondary materials to be recycled in the UK. The Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in December 2018, sets out the Government’s plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle more than we do now. Our target is to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the life of the 25 Year Environment Plan, but for the most problematic plastics we are going faster - which is why we have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the amount of CO2 produced by transporting waste produced in the UK outside of the UK.

The UK Government has not made any assessment of CO2 produced by the export of UK waste. The UK monitors and reports emissions from the shipping industry through the National Emissions Inventory but this information is not disaggregated to the level of individual cargo movements.

The export of UK waste for disposal is generally prohibited, save for the strictly limited exceptions which are laid out in the UK Plan for Shipments of Waste. Under the UK legislation on waste shipments, businesses involved in the export of wastes are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. All waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and we have a system of inspections in place to verify compliance. The regulators mount targeted inspections at UK ports working with the shipping sector to help detect and prevent illegal waste shipments. Individuals and businesses found to be exporting waste in contravention of the requirements in the legislation waste can face a two-year jail term and an unlimited fine.

We have pledged to introduce tougher controls on waste exports, and the Environment Bill includes a power to introduce mandatory electronic tracking of waste which will make it harder for criminals to obtain and export waste illegally.

We are also taking action to reduce the volume of waste generated in the first place. Our approach is focused on encouraging greater uptake of reusable alternatives and increasing supply and demand for secondary materials to be recycled in the UK. The Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in December 2018, sets out the Government’s plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle more than we do now. Our target is to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the life of the 25 Year Environment Plan, but for the most problematic plastics we are going faster - which is why we have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
26th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to encourage supermarkets to reduce their use of plastics.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

Industry is already taking action on this. The UK Plastics Pact was jointly founded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Ellen McArthur Foundation and is supported by the Government. The Pact brings together organisations from across the plastics supply chain, including all the major supermarkets, with four key targets for 2025 that aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. Current Pact business members are responsible for 80% of plastic packaging sold through UK supermarkets.

Through the pact, work has been done to increase the sale of unpackaged products. The WRAP Fresh Produce Guidance was published in November 2019 which includes advice for retailers to help determine if fresh produce can be provided loose.

Alongside supporting voluntary action by industry, the Government is taking regulatory action. For instance, the single-use carrier bag charge, which has led to a 95% reduction in the use of single-use carrier bags by the main supermarkets, was increased to 10p and extended to all retailers on 21 May 2021. This will give greater encouragement to customers to bring their own bags to carry shopping and reduce the volumes of single-use plastic being used.

The Government is also reforming the packaging producer responsibility regulations and developing extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging. EPR for packaging will see packaging producers paying for the waste management costs associated with the packaging that they place on the market. This will ensure producers are thinking about the necessity of any packaging they use. In developing EPR for packaging, we will also take consideration of how EPR for packaging could be used to encourage packaging reuse and refill systems. The Government consultation on EPR for packaging closed on 4 June 2021:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/extended-producer-responsibility/extended-producer-responsibility-for-packaging/.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
26th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department takes steps to ensure that waste sent abroad to be recycled is recycled.

The UK Government is committed to banning the export of plastic waste for recycling to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Government will consult on this measure and work is underway to make this happen.

Under the UK legislation on waste shipments, businesses involved in the export of wastes are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.

All waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and we have a system of inspections in place to verify compliance. The Environment Agency mounts targeted inspections at UK ports working with the shipping sector to help detect and prevent illegal waste shipments. Recycling facilities in other countries are permitted and regulated by that country’s authorities.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he plans to take to increase domestic recycling capacity.

The 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy sets out the Government's ambitions for increased resource efficiency and a more circular economy in England. These ambitions require changes in how we produce and consume products and materials, as well as how we treat and dispose of them at end-of-life.

In the Resources and Waste Strategy, we have committed to taking actions which will help to stimulate private investment in reprocessing and recycling infrastructure. The Collection and Packaging Reforms (Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging (EPR), consistency and a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)) are expected to increase and incentivise appetite for commercial infrastructure investment, giving investors greater confidence in the growing UK reprocessing market. Our ambition to recycle 65% of municipal waste and reduce waste to landfill to no more than 10% will help to drive investment. Also, the HMT plastic packaging tax is expected to increase demand for secondary material plastic and increasing reprocessing infrastructure will help meet this demand.

Further capacity is likely to be required if the UK was to reprocess domestically the increased levels of packaging material expected to be captured for recycling as a result of the reforms.

We are already seeing a response from the sector to increase reprocessing capacity.
Defra is also working with other departments (e.g. BEIS and DIT) and the waste sector to highlight the investment opportunities that result from the reforms.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how much recyclable waste (a) in tonnes and (b) as a proportion of total recyclable waste has been sent overseas in each of the last five years.

Data on exports of waste materials is collated and published by HMRC and is available at the following link https://www.uktradeinfo.com/trade-data/ots-custom-table/

Defra does not hold data on the amount of waste suitable for recycling generated in the UK.

Year

Waste exported for recycling (tonnes)

2020

12,879,137

2019

11,373,916

2018

15,843,470

2017

16,431,888

2016

16,265,212

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether the Government's proposals to ban imports and exports of hunting trophies will include an exemption allowing hunters to import their trophies of animals in the event that they pay a fee.

The Government takes the conservation of endangered species in the UK and internationally very seriously, which is why we will be banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered species. Our approach will be comprehensive, robust and effective and will deliver the change we promised to help protect thousands of species worldwide. We will be setting out plans soon.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the reasons for the increase in the number of hunting trophies entering the UK in 2019.

In 2019, the UK recorded 63 imports of hunting trophies from species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The UK recorded 33 imports in 2018, 69 in 2017, and 143 in 2016. Defra has not made an assessment of the reasons for this increase in 2019 but imports fluctuate year-on-year for many reasons including fluctuations in the number of animals hunted, and how hunting trophies are recorded and counted on permits.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
12th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of establishing a National Flood Resilience Centre.

The National Flood Response Centre (NFRC) was developed in response to the National Flood Resilience Review, after the flooding in the winter of 2015/16. The review recommended that the Government should establish a single national flood emergency operations room to improve shared situational awareness between Government departments during severe flooding events.

The strategic objectives for the NFRC are to develop and maintain shared situational awareness between departments, Devolved Administrations and agencies, optimise central government’s response to flooding and to support COBR, providing Ministers with accurate information and recommendations to address any challenges or decision points.

Typically, relevant Government departments and agencies move all or part of their crisis team and emergency operations to the NFRC when severe flooding has occurred or is expected. Where co-location is not possible then partners will be represented virtually. Recent use of the NFRC includes November 2019 (flooding in North England), February and March 2020 (Wales, West Mercia and Yorkshire) and in January 2021 it was scaled up virtually in response to Storm Christoph.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
8th Mar 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters.

Tackling the harm caused by sewer overflows is a top priority for this Department.

Since the privatisation of water companies, around £25 billion has been invested to reduce pollution from sewage, covering improvements in sewage treatment and in sewer overflows.

During periods of significant rainfall untreated sewage diluted by rainwater will discharge through storm overflows to avoid streets, premises and sewage treatment plants from being flooded. Water companies are committed in the five-year business planning period (2020-25) to a significant programme of improvements to the monitoring and management of storm overflows at a cost of around £1.1 billion. This investment includes undertaking 800 investigations and 798 improvement schemes to provide environmental improvements by reducing spills from frequently spilling overflows.

I recognise that there is more to do to manage sewage pollution. I met water company CEOs in September last year and made clear that the volumes of sewage discharged into rivers and other waterways in extreme weather must be reduced. To achieve this, I have set up a new Taskforce - bringing together Government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs - which has agreed to set a long term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows. The Taskforce is now working on plans to start making progress towards that goal, and they have commissioned research to gather evidence on the costs, benefits and feasibility of different options.

Water companies are currently producing for the first time comprehensive Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans to assess the capacity of their wastewater networks. We are also taking key steps through the Environment Bill to require water companies to produce such Plans on a statutory basis. These plans will be another tool to help address the risks that storm overflows pose to the environment.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
15th Jan 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when he plans to bring forward legislative proposals to ban supertrawlers from Marine Protected Areas.

We are reviewing our policy on access for supertrawlers. This review will be driven by evidence. We will need to consider how any measures fit with our obligations under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU and avoid taking any action against individual vessels which could be construed as discriminatory.

Under the Fisheries Act 2020, vessels permitted to fish in UK waters have to be licensed and comply with UK rules and regulations including those on sustainability. Licence conditions set by UK Sea Fisheries Authorities apply to both UK and foreign vessels alike.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
30th Dec 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with supermarkets on reducing their usage of non-recyclable packaging for foodstuffs.

We are currently developing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging. EPR for packaging will see producers paying for the waste management costs associated with the packaging that they place on the market. In addition to this, EPR for packaging will see those costs modulated (varied) to account for various criteria, including recyclability. This will provide an incentive to producers who use recyclable packaging, as they could be paying less than those who don't. We will be consulting in early 2021 on our proposals for introducing EPR for packaging.

In developing these proposals and in preparation for the upcoming consultation, engagement with stakeholders, including supermarkets, has been a priority. As part of this focus on engagement, a joint project was recently launched to develop a key element of the new EPR for packaging system. This project is developing an approach to the modulation of producer fees and will run until July 2021. It is being led jointly between the Government and the Devolved Administrations, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), and the British Retail Consortium (BRC). At all stages of the project, stakeholder engagement will be central to our approach.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
20th Nov 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what proportion of the vehicles used by his Department on Government business are electric vehicles.

Victoria Prentis

As of 12 November 2020, the proportion of electric cars operated by Defra is 6.0%. The table below shows the proportion split by organisation.

Organisation

Diesel / Petrol

Hybrid

Plug-in hybrid

Fully Electric

Total

Fully Electric Proportion

Animal and Plant Health Agency

162

90

7

4

263

1.5%

Defra

87

27

22

14

150

9.3%

Environment Agency

2,172

1,078

432

251

3,933

6.4%

Marine Management Organisation

17

5

1

1

24

4.2%

Natural England

4

0

0

0

4

0.0%

Rural Payments Agency

84

33

6

1

124

0.8%

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

5

0

0

0

5

0.0%

Total

2,531

1,233

468

271

4,503

6.0%

All of the cars above are managed by Defra Group Fleet Services (Environment Agency). There are other cars within Defra (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Sea Fish). However, they manage their own fleets and we do not hold the information requested.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
13th Oct 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps is he taking to ensure the resilience of the supply of food to (a) schools, (b) hospitals and (c) care homes.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Harrow East on 7 October 2020, PQ UIN 98702.

[questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-10-02/98702]

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
19th Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that food prices are affordable for consumers during the covid-19 outbreak.

We have a highly resilient food supply chain and representatives of our leading supermarkets and throughout the supply chain are working to ensure that people have the food and products they need. The industry continues to monitor the situation closely and is taking necessary steps to address issues where they arise. Retailers are working hard to mitigate any disruption to their supply chains that could impact on their costs, to keep customer prices down as far as possible.

The Government is in regular engagement with industry leaders. We have already introduced a wide range of new measures to make sure businesses can continue to keep food supply flowing, such as relaxation of competition laws to allow retailers to work together to ensure stores are open and stocked. We have also extended delivery hours to supermarkets and are flexing rules on drivers’ hours for all sectors.

The Government does not set consumer food prices or comment on day-to-day commercial decisions by industry.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
9th Mar 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which supermarkets his Department has met to discuss planning in response to covid-19; and on which dates those meetings took place.

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry on potential disruptions to the supply chain. The Secretary of State hosted calls with supermarket Chief Executives on Friday 6 March and Monday 9 March. In addition, officials have held meetings with public affairs and communications leads this week.

Victoria Prentis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
25th Feb 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to improve the resilience of (a) national infrastructure and (b) local communities in the face of extreme weather events.

The Government recognises the importance of identifying and preparing for a wide range of emergencies that could occur in the UK including extreme weather events.

The Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat undertakes an assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different civil emergency risks (including naturally and accidentally occurring hazards and malicious threats) that may directly affect the UK in the short term. A public version of this assessment known as the National Risk Register is available online at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-risk-register-of-civil-emergencies-2017-edition.

Lead Government departments and Local Resilience Forums use these risk assessments to plan for, and improve the resilience of national infrastructure and local communities to, extreme weather events, alongside a wide range of other risks.

The National Risk Register also signposts advice and guidance on what members of the public can do to prepare for these events.

The National Infrastructure Commission has been commissioned to produce a resilience study, to be published this year, which should support the integration of resilience approaches into infrastructure policies and plans.

Our second National Adaptation Programme (NAP), published in 2018, sets out how we will address climate change risks, including risks relating to extreme weather events, in the following five years. The NAP includes actions in a wide range of areas, including dedicated chapters on Infrastructure, and People and the Built Environment. Our second NAP is available online here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/climate-change-second-national-adaptation-programme-2018-to-2023.

The Government is currently providing support to over 90 organisations which have committed to report under the third round of the Adaptation Reporting Power, on actions they are taking to strengthen preparedness for climate change risks. This includes infrastructure providers, utilities and regulators across energy, water, transport and telecommunications sectors.

Over the current six-year programme of work, the Government is investing £2.6 billion to better protect the country from flooding. This is funding over 1,000 flood defence schemes, which will better protect 300,000 homes by 2021.

The Government pledged £4 billion over five years for flood defences in its manifesto. Defra will continue to work with the Environment Agency to consider future investment needs ahead of the Budget announcement on future floods funding on 11 March.

Rebecca Pow
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
20th Oct 2020
To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on accessibility on the rail network.

Officials in my Department have recently been in discussions with the Department for Transport on its Transport Regulatory Review, in which the Government Equalities Office and the wider Equalities Hub has an interest, particularly in relation to disability.

This builds on publication in 2018 of our Inclusive Transport Strategy which sets out what we are doing to improve access across all transport modes and we will continue to seek further improvements.

Kemi Badenoch
Exchequer Secretary (HM Treasury)
9th Jan 2020
To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the effect on NHS staffing levels of the UK leaving the EU.

DExEU Ministers continue to hold regular discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care Ministers. The Government hugely values the contribution of EU staff to the NHS. We have taken steps to ensure that existing staff are able to remain working and living in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme; and we will seek to ensure qualifications from the EU will continue to be recognised after we have exited the European Union.

Since the referendum, there are almost 7,300 more EU nationals working in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups.1 Furthermore, the Government has pledged to increase nurse numbers by 50,000 in the next five years, and give all nursing students on courses from September 2020 a payment of at least £5,000 which they will not need to pay back.

Recruitment for the NHS does not stop at the EU, we recruit talented individuals from all over the globe. The Government will launch a new visa to ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to work in the United Kingdom. This will help ensure that there will be sufficient numbers of staff following the UK’s exit from the EU to enable the delivery of the high-quality services on which the public relies.

The Department for Health and Social Care continues to monitor and analyse staffing levels across the NHS and social care.

1 NHS Hospital and Community Health Service (HCHS) Workforce Statistics in England, NHS Digital, (Dec 2019). Figure based on comparison between June 2016 and September 2019.

James Duddridge
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
11th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

The opportunities and considerations associated with the use of Artificial Intelligence continue to be explored, as outlined in the guidance on building and using artificial intelligence in the public sector, published on GOV.UK at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/a-guide-to-using-artificial-intelligence-in-the-public-sector

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
10th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, to what extent their Department makes use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies; and how much was spent from their Department’s budget on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years.

The Department for International Trade does not make use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
3rd Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, whether the Government is taking steps to ensure that no UK made weapons or arms are exported to India where such weapons may be used in repressing the ongoing farmers protests in that country.

Arms exports require an export licence, and all export licence applications are assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria (the “Consolidated Criteria”).

The Consolidated Criteria take into account our obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and other relevant rules of international law. They provide a thorough risk assessment framework and require us to think hard about the possible impact of providing equipment and its capabilities.

These are not decisions we take lightly and HM Government will not grant an export licence if to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria.

Ranil Jayawardena
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)
1st Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that (a) trade deals which include trade on food and drink and (b) other trade deals support the UK's domestic and international climate commitments.

Our manifesto is clear that in all our trade negotiations we will maintain our high environmental protection standards, which includes clean growth and climate change objectives, animal welfare and food standards.

To inform trade deals and feed into all our negotiations, the Government has run a series of public consultations with the food and drink industry and has established key fora for industry stakeholders such as the Trade and Agriculture Commission and Trade Advisory Groups. As negotiations progress, we will bring together the best evidence from across Government, insight from external stakeholders and a range of data and analytical tools.

Our outline approaches to free trade agreements (FTAs) with the US, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, have committed to securing provisions that will help trade in low carbon goods and services, support research and development, innovation in green sectors, and maintain our right to regulate in pursuit of decarbonisation. We will continue to pursue a range of mechanisms in the design of future trade policy, both bilateral and multilateral, working with partner nations to tackle climate change.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
1st Feb 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, whether UK steel producers face any tariffs or quotas to export steel into the EU market.

The Department for International Trade and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy worked closely with the UK steel sector to ensure the European Commission provides UK steel exports into the EU with tariff-free quota allocations from 1 Jan 2021.

As a result, HM Government has successfully secured from the EU country-specific allocations for some steel products within the Tariff Rate Quotas (by which the EU imposes its steel safeguard measures) to enable UK companies to trade tariff-free into the EU. These tariff-free allocations came into operation on 1 January 2021.

Greg Hands
Minister of State (Department for International Trade)
20th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 23 June 2021 to Question 16199 on Railway signals: Surbiton, what progress has been made on (a) Network Rail's review to understand the cause of the signal failure and limit the impacts of a similar future event; (b) South Western Railway's review of their communications plan to ensure that passengers are kept well informed in the event of any future disruption; and what recent assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the implementation of those reviews.

Following the recent disruption at Surbiton, Network Rail undertook a review of the causes and mitigations to avoid a similar event occurring in future. Consideration is being given to whether the signalling system needs upgrading earlier than currently planned. At the same time South Western Railway are progressing a number of projects to improve their messaging to customers.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 23 June 2021 to Question 16196 on Railways: North Yorkshire, whether part of the 28 single track kilometres of new overhead line electrification will be installed between Colton Junction and Church Fenton.

Work is underway to install the 28 single track kilometres of new overhead line equipment between York and Church Fenton, this includes the section between Colton Junction and Church Fenton.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment the Government has made of the potential merits of adding rail as an eleventh point to the ten point Green Industrial Plan.

Rail plays a key role in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. In the section on ‘Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking’, the plan included commitments to: invest tens of billions of pounds in enhancements and renewals of the rail network; electrify more railway lines; end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective system; expand rail routes around our big regional cities; restore many of the rail links removed in the Beeching era; and progress the Midlands Rail Hub scheme in Birmingham and improvements in Manchester and Leeds, alongside Northern Powerhouse Rail to improve east-west links across the Pennines.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when the Class 701 Arterio fleet will be introduced on the South Western Railway network.

South Western Railways will be introducing their new Class 701 units from late 2021.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what support he is providing to (a) train operators and (b) local authorities in the event that they decide to continue requiring the use of face coverings after the final step of the Government's covid-19 roadmap has been implemented.

It is for train operators and local authorities, including those with devolved powers relating to public transport such as Transport for London, to decide how to manage the transport services they provide, taking account of the Government guidance on safer transport as well as local needs and situations. Government recommends and encourages the use of face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces where people come into contact with others they don’t normally meet, including on public transport.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will commit to commencing bilateral international negotiations on the creation of new high-speed rail routes between the UK and Europe.

The Government already engages with international partners, as well as private operators, to encourage the future growth and expansion of international rail passenger services from the UK. It also stands ready to engage with other partners and private operators to facilitate potential new routes where there is a commercial proposition to do so.

The UK is also actively participating in discussions through multilateral organisations, such as the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Working Party on Rail, regarding the promotion and development of international rail.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he has taken to assess how to achieve cost reductions in rail electrification.

We welcome the work of the Rail Industry Association and others on this. When delivering future schemes, we need to ensure that the supply chain has the capability to deliver electrification effectively, at pace, and at the reduced costs that the rail industry says it can deliver at.

For our part, as individual schemes are developed and bottom-up costs identified, we and Network Rail must learn the lessons from previous schemes and implement them to ensure that electrification is delivered more efficiently than in the past.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the Integrated Rail Plan will be published before the parliamentary summer recess.

We intend to publish the Integrated Rail Plan soon. Given the long-term significance of the IRP, it is important that Government carefully considers the priorities and evidence from metro mayors, council leaders, and representatives from the North and Midlands as well as the National Infrastructure Commission’s Rail Needs Assessment, ahead of setting out our plans.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions he has had with rail operating companies to ensure service levels will match a potential increase in rail passengers following the fourth step of the covid-19 roadmap.

The success of vaccine deployment has paved the way for the gradual lifting of restrictions. Whilst many of the legal restrictions that the Government has imposed during the pandemic have been lifted at Step 4 of the roadmap, cautious guidance remains. Guidance sets out that the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.

Throughout the pandemic, the Department has continued to work with the rail industry to ensure passenger confidence remains high. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from COVID-19, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers safe and maintain and increase passenger confidence. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings.

The safety of passengers and staff has been a priority for the Department throughout the pandemic. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from coronavirus, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers and rail staff safe. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings. The Government has also published guidance for passengers which advises people on how to keep themselves, fellow passengers, and staff safe while travelling.

Since the start of the pandemic, travel patterns have shifted significantly. The Department is working with industry partners to develop attractive timetables that reflect changing travel habits, deliver excellent performance, and offer good value for money for the taxpayer. As we are implementing a further easing of restrictions, the industry will continue to collaborate to ensure key flows, including commuter routes, benefit from appropriate levels of service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent steps he has taken to ensure passenger and staff safety on the rail network, in the context of the fourth step of the covid-19 roadmap.

The success of vaccine deployment has paved the way for the gradual lifting of restrictions. Whilst many of the legal restrictions that the Government has imposed during the pandemic have been lifted at Step 4 of the roadmap, cautious guidance remains. Guidance sets out that the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.

Throughout the pandemic, the Department has continued to work with the rail industry to ensure passenger confidence remains high. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from COVID-19, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers safe and maintain and increase passenger confidence. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings.

The safety of passengers and staff has been a priority for the Department throughout the pandemic. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from coronavirus, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers and rail staff safe. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings. The Government has also published guidance for passengers which advises people on how to keep themselves, fellow passengers, and staff safe while travelling.

Since the start of the pandemic, travel patterns have shifted significantly. The Department is working with industry partners to develop attractive timetables that reflect changing travel habits, deliver excellent performance, and offer good value for money for the taxpayer. As we are implementing a further easing of restrictions, the industry will continue to collaborate to ensure key flows, including commuter routes, benefit from appropriate levels of service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to increase levels of passenger confidence on the rail network as covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The success of vaccine deployment has paved the way for the gradual lifting of restrictions. Whilst many of the legal restrictions that the Government has imposed during the pandemic have been lifted at Step 4 of the roadmap, cautious guidance remains. Guidance sets out that the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.

Throughout the pandemic, the Department has continued to work with the rail industry to ensure passenger confidence remains high. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from COVID-19, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers safe and maintain and increase passenger confidence. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings.

The safety of passengers and staff has been a priority for the Department throughout the pandemic. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from coronavirus, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers and rail staff safe. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings. The Government has also published guidance for passengers which advises people on how to keep themselves, fellow passengers, and staff safe while travelling.

Since the start of the pandemic, travel patterns have shifted significantly. The Department is working with industry partners to develop attractive timetables that reflect changing travel habits, deliver excellent performance, and offer good value for money for the taxpayer. As we are implementing a further easing of restrictions, the industry will continue to collaborate to ensure key flows, including commuter routes, benefit from appropriate levels of service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
16th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for what reason mandatory face coverings will no longer be required on the rail network after 19 July 2021.

The success of vaccine deployment has paved the way for the gradual lifting of restrictions. Whilst many of the legal restrictions that the Government has imposed during the pandemic have been lifted at Step 4 of the roadmap, cautious guidance remains. Guidance sets out that the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.

Throughout the pandemic, the Department has continued to work with the rail industry to ensure passenger confidence remains high. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from COVID-19, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers safe and maintain and increase passenger confidence. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings.

The safety of passengers and staff has been a priority for the Department throughout the pandemic. The Government has published updated Safer Travel guidance which sets out steps operators can take to identify risks arising from coronavirus, which should inform decisions on controls put in place to keep passengers and rail staff safe. Such measures can include increasing the ventilation and airflow through vehicles and carriages where possible, continuing with increased cleaning regimes, in particular around high focus touch points, as well as encouraging and recommending the use of face coverings. The Government has also published guidance for passengers which advises people on how to keep themselves, fellow passengers, and staff safe while travelling.

Since the start of the pandemic, travel patterns have shifted significantly. The Department is working with industry partners to develop attractive timetables that reflect changing travel habits, deliver excellent performance, and offer good value for money for the taxpayer. As we are implementing a further easing of restrictions, the industry will continue to collaborate to ensure key flows, including commuter routes, benefit from appropriate levels of service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department has met with representatives from Westbourne Communications.

Westbourne Communications have previously been paid for works by both DfT and HS2 Ltd but that they are no longer working for either the Department or HS2 Ltd.

Our financial records do not contain details of meetings held. Details of meetings with Ministers and Special Advisers are regularly published online.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jul 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether Westbourne Communications has ever been awarded a contract by (a) his Department and (b) HS2 Ltd.

Westbourne Communications have previously been paid for works by both DfT and HS2 Ltd but that they are no longer working for either the Department or HS2 Ltd.

Our financial records do not contain details of meetings held. Details of meetings with Ministers and Special Advisers are regularly published online.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the William-Shapps Plan for Rail, what plans his Department has to continue to consult passengers on 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, whether he has received briefing on the collision of a car and an LNER Azuma at Rossington Level Crossing in Doncaster on 13 June 2021.

The investigation into the incident is being undertaken by the British Transport Police. I have been kept informed appropriately.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the Office of Rail and Road will be tasked with ensuring that costs in the procurement of rolling stock will be controlled; and if he will make a statement.

The Office for Rail and Road is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the operation of the remedies put in place by the Competition Commission in 2009 in respect of the passenger rolling stock market. This includes a package of remedies that ensures effective competition in the rolling stock market which the ORR is responsible for monitoring.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate his Department has made of the predicted total cost to the public purse of payments to the rolling stock leasing companies for (a) 2020, (b) 2021, (c) 2022 and (d) 2023.

The Office of Rail and Road publishes annual statistics on rail industry finances here:

https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/statistics/finance/rail-industry-finance/

These statistics show that total rolling stock costs paid by those operators under franchise contract with the Department for Transport were £2.534bn in 2019/20.

However, please note that:

During 2019/20 these costs were not borne directly by the public purse as the train operators were classified to the private sector in that year. They were reclassified to the public sector with effect from 1 April 2020, as a consequence of the emergency agreements introduced at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rolling stock costs include not only unit rentals, but also a range of support services such as train maintenance and stabling, not all of which are provided by the lessor of the train fleet. No estimates are available for later years.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the ability of passengers to customise their flexible season tickets.

The flexible season ticket is a national product, priced to provide better value and convenience for commuters travelling two to three days a week.

For most 2 and 3 day a week commuters, the flexible season ticket will offer savings against buying daily tickets or traditional seasons, provided that they are following this commuting pattern.

For those with different commuting patterns, existing tickets such as traditional seasons or dailies may be the best choice.

Commuters should always consider which product best suits their journey and travel pattern. This is easier than ever with the updated season ticket calculator.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 8 June 2020 to Question 49664, how the rolling stock companies agreed to support the industry and the country during the covid-19 pandemic; and what assessment he has made of the effect on the public of that support.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the rolling stock companies have supported the rail industry in a number of ways. They have continued and in some cases accelerated maintenance work for the supply chain. They have ensured prompt payment and in some cases have made advance payments to support the supply chain. They have continued to provide very substantial investment to refurbish fleets, invest in decarbonisation and innovation to benefit both passengers and the wider public. We have seen continued development of low-carbon initiatives such as Porterbrook’s hydrogen-powered HYDROFlex train, Eversholt’s SWIFT express freight train as well as interior refurbishment of the West Coast Pendolino fleet by Angel Trains.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 20 May 2021 to Question 4680, what progress has been made on installing platform edge tactile strips on every platform in Great Britain.

Network Rail is developing a programme to aim to install platform edge tactile strips on every platform in Great Britain.

I will be making a further announcement in due course.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 14 June 2021 to Question 11630 on Railways, on what dates those meetings were held.

The number of meetings that would come within the scope of the question means the information requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the incident at Rossington Level Crossing in Doncaster on 13 June 2021, what steps he plans to take to prevent similar incidents at level crossings in the future.

Network Rail have operational responsibility for rail infrastructure, including level crossings. These are risk assessed and appropriate protective measures put in place to ensure the safety of the travelling public and users. It appears that the incident at Rossington was caused by a stolen car crashing through the fence next to the level crossing. The level crossing and the fence had been identified as suitable protection by a risk assessment undertaken by Network Rail. The investigation into the incident is for the British Transport Police, who are currently investigating.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether operator names such as LNER and GWR will be permitted under the establishment of Great British Railways.

Great British Railways will be a single, familiar brand with accountable leadership, responsible for delivering better value and flexible fares, alongside the punctual and reliable services passengers deserve. A coherent, consistent and clearly branded railway network will give passengers confidence in using it. Great British Railways will use updated versions of the classic ‘double arrow’ logo, which remains the most widely recognised symbol of the railway in this country. Variants to the national brand will be developed to reflect the English regions, Scotland and Wales, while emphasising that the railway is one network serving the whole of Great Britain and so it is entirely feasible that the names the Hon Gentleman refers to will continue to figure on our railways.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the cost to the public purse was of the disruption on the South Western Railway network on 11 June 2021 as a result of multiple signal failures in the Surbiton area.

The cost to the public purse is estimated to be £200,000 due to both loss in revenue and delay repay costs for South Western Railway (SWR). Network Rail will also have incurred further costs. The Department has asked Network Rail to provide details of its incident learning review and has asked SWR to provide details of its customer response and communications.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
22nd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 13 May 2021 to Question 1178, Railways: Infrastructure, what estimate he has made to the public purse of introducing infrastructure changes to ensure all rail journeys are fully accessible, following the publication of the William-Shapps Plan for Rail.

As set out in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, Great British Railways will be given a statutory duty to improve accessibility - ensuring a joined-up and system-wide approach across the network. A comprehensive audit of station facilities will also be undertaken to provide robust and consistent information, and identify where improvements are needed. Further detail will be announced in due course.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
22nd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what his timescale is for the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan.

We intend to publish the Integrated Rail Plan soon. Given the long-term significance of the IRP and the scale of investment it represents, it is important that the Department carefully considers the priorities and evidence from representatives from the North and Midlands as well as the National Infrastructure Commission’s Rail Needs Assessment.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
22nd Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 13 May 2021 to Question 1178, if he will increase the rate to 100 per cent of journeys.

We are committed to improving rail access for all disabled passengers. By 2030, the Department’s ambition is to have equal access for disabled people using the transport system, with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier.

In addition to the measures set out in the recent rail reform White Paper, I will be bidding for further rounds of funding for Access for All schemes in the forthcoming Spending Review.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 2 June 2021 to Questions 7247 and 7248 on South Western Main Line: Rolling Stock, for what reasons the class 442 fleet were reintroduced and refurbished when they were not DDA compliant for people with reduced mobility.

The Class 442s were originally conceived to be the best solution in increasing capacity at the beginning of the South Western Railway (SWR) franchise. The units where exempt from the rules on Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) compliance until August 2024. They were removed from service following COVID-19 in March 2020 and they have not been reintroduced since. SWR decided to withdraw the fleet and cease the programme of modifications that were underway to avoid incurring further costs.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he has plans to increase running capacity on train lines in the South East to above 100mph.

Currently no infrastructure plans exist to increase line speeds beyond 100mph on the Southeastern network.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking with the Home Secretary and (a) French and (b) EU authorities to help ensure progress towards delivering a frictionless border for international train travel in and out of the UK.

The Department for Transport is working with Home Office and Border Force to ensure the UK is border ready for the restart of international travel. This includes improving automation to meet the new biosecurity check requirements and deploying additional Border Force officers to reduce queue times as much as possible.

Ministers and officials meet regularly with their French counterparts to discuss matters concerning the UK-France border and have established a joint UK and France technical working group.

Government has also established a rhythm of regular engagement fora with industry across all modes of transport to support the effective flow of information and active dialogue across both short and longer term border priorities. This includes bi-annual, joint Border Force and DfT-led roundtables with senior officials and quarterly Border Facilitation groups.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for what reasons the Government decided to continue the operation by FirstGroup of (a) South Western Railway and (b) TransPennine Express under the new National Rail Contract.

The Department has awarded the new National Rail Contracts to the incumbent operators to replace the temporary Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements, which were introduced September 2020, this will ensure that continuity of service will be maintained in line with the Railways Act 1993.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether there are plans for an investigation to be undertaken into the multiple signal failure in the Surbiton area on Friday 11 June 2021.

Following the disruption to train services at Surbiton on 11 June, Network Rail has undertaken a review to understand the cause of the signal failure and limit the impacts of a similar future event. South Western Railway are reviewing their communications plan to ensure that passengers are kept well informed in the event of any future disruption. The Department has asked to be kept fully informed about the implementation of these reviews.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 13 May 2021 to Question 1177 on Railways: Disability, what steps the Government is taking to advertise and raise public awareness of his Department's inclusive transport campaign entitled It's everyone's journey.

The ‘it’s everyone’s journey’ campaign first ran in February/March 2020 promoted through partner channels alongside radio, out of home and online media spend. Despite finishing early due to COVID-19 restrictions, the campaign saw nearly 4 in 10 public transport users take action as a result.

As lockdown restrictions ease the campaign has worked with partner organisations to develop a toolkit of materials to support disabled people with the return to public transport. The toolkit, available from 25 May, includes print and digital assets plus tannoy announcements and key messages for wider communications. Coinciding with Step 3 of the roadmap, the toolkit has been promoted through social channels and via a network of social influencers and key stakeholder groups. Partner response and engagement with the free materials has been positive with many operators and disability organisations sharing the assets both on and offline.

There are future plans to repeat the campaign with supporting media spend, subject to central budget approvals.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the recent station roof collapse at Northwich station and pursuant to the Answer of 2 June 2021 to Question 6425 on Railway Stations: Safety, when the last (a) visual and (b) detailed inspection of that station roof was undertaken.

Network Rail is investigating this matter, in accordance with strict protocols, and is not currently in a position to comment on the specific questions. Additional inspections of comparable buildings are also being undertaken, to mitigate the risk of similar incidents across the North West route. The independent ORR is also conducting its own investigation into the Northwich incident.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the cost to the public purse has been of the electrification project between Church Fenton and York.

The £317m funding announced on 26th May 2021 will not only deliver electrification and upgrades including track enhancements and improvements to signalling on one of the busiest stretches of track in the North. It also enables further design and development work for the broader programme, which will build a more reliable railway, with more capacity and better connectivity.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
15th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many miles of rail are planned to be electrified between York and Church Fenton; and how many miles of those rails will be newly electrified lines.

The Transpennine Route Upgrade will install 28 single track kilometres, or just over 17 miles, of new overhead line electrification between York and Church Fenton.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether Transport for the North will have the power to appoint a public sector operator to run TransPennine Express and Northern passenger services.

As currently envisaged the tendering and appointment of operators in England will be carried out by Great British Railways, in partnership with their key local and regional stakeholders.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department (a) plans to undertake a tendering process for the new National Rail contracts or (b) allocate those contracts by direct award.

National Rail Contracts are directly-awarded contracts. The first two were awarded and commenced operation in May 2021. Their purpose is to bridge the gap from existing emergency agreements, as they expire, to the new Passenger Service Contracts (PSCs) outlined in the recently published Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. Passenger Service Contracts will be competed at regular intervals.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions he has had with rail operators with reservation-only services to ensure that they have alternative procedures in place in the event that social distancing and other measures cannot be adhered to.

The Department and operators are encouraging passengers to make a reservation on board long distance services to help passengers maintain social distancing during their journey. Some seats on each service are kept available for passengers who are unable to book a seat before travelling, preserving the flexibility of the walk-up railway for those who need it. This policy remains under regular review, with the level to which passengers are able to practice social distancing on board regularly discussed with operators. Passengers are urged to check before they travel and to plan ahead, as services are likely to be busier as restrictions ease. They are reminded to follow safer travel guidance when they travel, including wearing a face covering unless exempt, sanitising their hands regularly and keeping their distance where possible.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with train operators with reservation-only bookings on (a) ensuring social distancing measures are (i) applied and (ii) adhered to on their services and (b) other steps required to comply with covid-19 regulations.

The Department and operators are encouraging passengers to make a reservation on board long distance services to help passengers maintain social distancing during their journey. Some seats on each service are kept available for passengers who are unable to book a seat before travelling, preserving the flexibility of the walk-up railway for those who need it. Passengers are urged to check before they travel and to plan ahead, as services are likely to be busier as restrictions ease. They are reminded to follow safer travel guidance when they travel, including wearing a face covering unless exempt, sanitising their hands regularly and keeping their distance where possible.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether Transport for the North will have the power to specify and tender rail passenger services jointly with Great British Railways.

The goal is to develop new partnerships between Great British Railways and local and regional government as appropriate, but this will take time to establish. As we plan for the transition to Great British Railways, in the interim we’ll make the best use of the existing Rail North Partnership.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what progress he has made on the (a) rollout of class 701 Arterio units and (b) withdrawal of Class 455, 456, 458 and 707.

South Western Railway (SWR) is responsible for oversight for entry into passenger service of ninety Class 701 units which are being built and tested by train manufacturer Alstom. Once SWR and Alstom have completed the testing programme, the Class 701 units will be phased into service allowing for the withdrawal or cascade of other units as appropriate.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what support he is providing to (a) train operators, (b) British Transport Police and (c) other officials to ensure that covid-19 safety measures are being adhered to by passengers.

During the course of the pandemic, the Department has worked closely with train operating companies and Network Rail to ensure that staff and passengers are kept safe when travelling on the railway. Government has published safer transport guidance for operators which sets out measures to assess and address the risks of coronavirus for passengers and staff. This includes guidance on steps operators can take to encourage high rates of compliance with safety measures.

The Department has provided additional funding to support the costs of enhanced levels of policing by the British Transport Police required in response to changes in COVID-19 travel restrictions as well as other additional Covid-related costs (including PPE).

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 15 April 2021 to Questions 181397, 181398, 181399, 181400, 181401, 181402, 181403, what discussions he has had with train operators on increasing service levels beyond 75 per cent; and when that planned increase will happen.

On 17 May service levels increased to around 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels as further easing of restrictions took place. The Department continues to work closely with operators and Network Rail to ensure that services are appropriate to passenger demand, as well as delivering good performance and value to the tax payer.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
14th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 15 April 2021 to Questions 181397, 181398, 181399, 181400, 181401, 181402, 181403, what changes in (a) services and (b) safety procedures have been made by each train operator to ensure safe travel for passengers as passenger numbers increase in line with the implementation of the roadmap of easing covid-19 restrictions.

On 17 May service levels increased to around 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels as further easing of restrictions took place. The Department continues to work closely with operators and Network Rail to ensure that services are appropriate to passenger demand, as well as delivering good performance and value to the tax payer.

The Department continues to work with industry to provide safe travel to passengers and staff. Operators are also providing information on how busy services are likely to be so that passengers can plan ahead and use quieter services where possible.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
11th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment they have made of the potential (a) threats and (b) opportunities of artificial intelligence in respect of their Department’s responsibilities.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have many potential applications including in the transport sector. Innovation teams across the DfT support research and development initiatives conducted both within and outside of DfT. The role of these initiatives is primarily to investigate the potential for AI in predictive modelling on transport use and their potential for using data across transport modes to support analysis on transport use. For the most part these are academic initiatives at the research stage and are not used in the implementation of policies. The Digital Services team also pilots AI solutions for automated IT management.

As part of the overall development of the digital and data capability with the central Department, we regularly consider the scope and opportunities and threats which deployment of AI solutions may bring in our work. When identifying options, we will often pilot and protype solutions to explore their full value and potential or may use alongside existing services as augmented intelligence.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
10th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, to what extent their Department makes use of artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies; and how much was spent from their Department’s budget on artificial intelligence in each of the last three years.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have many potential applications including in the transport sector. Innovation teams across the DfT family support research and development initiatives conducted both within and outside of DfT. The role of these initiatives is primarily to investigate the potential for AI in predictive modelling on transport use and their potential for using data across transport modes to support analysis on transport use. For the most part these are academic initiatives at the research stage and are not used in the implementation of polices.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether under the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail Great British Railways will have the ability to run services directly in the public sector.

We want to ensure that Passenger Service Contracts will attract the widest range of new and innovative bidders and can support a competitive market that delivers benefits for users and taxpayers.

Public sector operators are currently prohibited from operating franchised contracts in England & Wales except as an operator of last resort. The government is committed to maintaining and expanding opportunities for private business in supporting Britain’s railways in the future.

As we move to implementing the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail we will take the opportunity to review existing legislation to ensure it is still up to date and appropriate. However, we expect the current provisions to continue.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 8 June 2021 to Question 49664 on Rolling Stock: Coronavirus, how many times and on what dates he or his officials have met with (a) Angel, (b) Porterbrook and (c) Ever rolling stock companies since March 2020.

I met with Angel, Porterbrook and Eversholt to discuss rolling stock related matters on nine occasions since March 2020. Officials also have standing meetings on a monthly basis, ad-hoc meetings as required, or meetings as part of wider stakeholder groups.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions he has had with the rolling stock companies on limiting the increasing costs of their operating leases; and if he will make a statement.

I met with the main rolling stock companies to discuss how they can support industry and the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. These meetings, and those with officials, have included sensitive discussions around leasing arrangements, liabilities and also future opportunities that will continue to deliver benefits to passengers and the public purse alike.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many civil servants employed within his Department have also been employed at the same time by other organisations in the last five years; and who those organisations are.

There is no central database where a record is kept of instances when Department for Transport employees are employed at the same time by other organisations.

The Department for Transport Staff Handbook requires staff to seek permission for appointments and roles in addition to their civil service employment. The general principles of these rules are:

  • Individuals must seek the Department's permission.
  • The Department's interests must not be likely to suffer as a result of the appointment or role.
  • Individuals must not take part in activities inconsistent with their official position.

If an employee is considering taking up an outside offer of employment, approval is required under the business appointment rules. The following approach should be taken and the outcome of the decision followed;

  1. Permanent Secretaries must inform the Secretary of State.

  1. Other members of the Senior Civil Service (or their equivalents) must inform the Permanent Secretary, but may wish to consult Human Resources before doing so.

  1. All other employees must inform their countersigning officer (or a senior line manager), who may wish to consult Human Resources.’

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
9th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for what reasons the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail White Paper does not include proposals for controlling the increasing costs of rolling stock leases; and if he will make a statement.

Private sector investment in rolling stock will continue. Great British Railways will be able to take a strategic overview while private sector Train Operating Companies will retain responsibility for procuring value from the market in respect of rolling stock to meet service requirements and improve the passenger experience in reliability accessibility and comfort.

The government will take forward work to assess options to ensure reliable delivery and value for money for the taxpayer and users of rolling stock. This work will also consider supply chain sustainability and how to sustain and generate high-value jobs and economic activity.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the public sector is prohibited from operating rail passenger services except as an operator of last resort; and whether the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail will propose bringing forward legislative proposals to amend the Railways Act 1993.

As we move to implementing the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail we will take the opportunity to review existing legislation, including the rules on who is able to provide passenger services to ensure it is still up to date and appropriate.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, (a) when he plans to set a growth target for rail freight; (b) how that target will be determined; and (c) whether he plans to consult ahead of developing that target.

The Government is setting up a Rail Transformation Programme within the Department for Transport and working with the rail sector to ensure a common understanding of the vision, establish the phases of delivery, and work collectively with the sector to design and implement this major project.

Following the publication of the White Paper, we are commencing detailed engagement and consultation across the industry, including the freight sector so we can deliver the Government’s commitment to the rail freight industry and maximise the environmental and economic benefits that rail freight delivers.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will set out a timetable for agreeing the new (a) National Rail Contracts and (b) Passenger Service Contracts.

The first NRCs were awarded at the end of May 2021 for Trans Pennine Express and South West Rail, with a rolling programme of awards to March 2022. PSCs will gradually replace NRCs. The Government will work with potential commercial partners and investors to design Passenger Service Contracts in a way that will create a healthy, sustainable commercial market, and will launch initial competitions by the time the emergency recovery agreements end in 2022.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will publish the cost of (a) his plans on flexible season tickets and (b) offering a three-day and four-day season ticket.

The revenue impacts of this innovative rail product that passengers and the rail industry have called for will depend on future travel patterns and the uptake of the new product by passengers, both of which are uncertain.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the health of the rolling stock market following the ORR’s determination in April 2020 that the original competition concerns identified by the Competition Commission in 2009 have not been alleviated.

In April 2020, the ORR determined that rolling stock owners continued to comply with a Transparency Order imposed by the Competition Commission in 2009. The rolling stock market remains buoyant with the private sector continuing to offer rolling stock to train operators in a competitive and transparent manner.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to reduce antisocial behaviour and assaults on trains.

The Government is committed to reducing crime, anti-social behaviour (ASB) and the fear of crime wherever it occurs in the transport system. We want to see more and more people using public transport - one of the key ways of encouraging this is to make sure it is a safe option.

The Department works with the British Transport Police (BTP) to tackle crime and ASB on the railways in Great Britain. Train Operating Companies are required to work with BTP to manage and reduce railway crime.

BTP has dedicated public order and violent crime officers who are deployed to some of the more challenging locations on the rail network.

BTP has run a number of successful initiatives in recent years to encourage more reporting of crimes, which is also likely to be a factor in the increase in numbers of crimes reported. BTP has a popular dedicated crime reporting text service - ‘61016’ – which allows people to report offences to the police easily and discreetly.

During the pandemic the British Transport Police have worked closely with rail industry colleagues to ensure that ASB, assaults and staff aggression have been kept to a minimum whilst restrictions have been in place. The rail industry has been encouraged to promote Body Worn Video as a safety feature, as there is evidence that it deters aggressive behaviour to the wearer and supports the evidential chain in the event of an assault or aggression.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many British Transport Police officers there are; and how many he estimates there will be in (a) 2022, (b) 2023, (c) 2024, (d) 2025 and (e) 2026.

At the end of May 2021, the British Transport Police (BTP) had 3,105 officers. It is not possible to confidently estimate future numbers.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
8th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 7 June 2021 to Question 7907 on Trains: Hitachi, what data he holds on the number of instances in which Hitachi's Intercity Class 800 series trains were found to have failings or structural defects in three or more joints; and for what reason he has not provided that number in response to previous written parliamentary questions.

The Department does not collate information on failings in three or more joints. Train Operators are responsible for ensuring trains are fit for service as part of their safety duties. This is supported by conditions within the train supply contracts to ensure they meet required safety standards when in use.

Inspections for each train look at critical locations. If the inspection fails at any one of those points the train is immediately prevented from service. I have asked officials to contact Hitachi for this information and respond to the Hon Gentleman as soon as possible.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether it is his Department's policy to publish new National Rail Contracts.

It is the Department’s policy to publish redacted versions of the National Rail Contracts.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what potential conflicts of interest Departmental officials have declared in each of the last five years.

Department of Transport employees are instructed that ‘if they should come into official contact with matters concerning a business organisation (including any professional practice) in which they knowingly have an interest then they must disclose the fact to their line manager, and follow any Departmental instructions regarding the management of such interest’.

During 2021 there have been no conflicts of interest declared for Senior Civil Servant Department officials.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether officials in his Department in the last five years have received payment from rail or bus companies for consultancy services and advice during that time.

The Department’s officials are required to declare any conflicts of interest. We do not have any records of actual or potential conflicts of interest relating to provision of services between officials and rail and bus companies over the last five years.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what consultants have been used to advise on Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail; and how much his Department has spent on consultancy fees on that matter to date.

The following external consultants have provided services in relation to The Williams Rail Review and the subsequent Willams-Shapps Plan for Rail: Ashurst; PWC; Rail Delivery Group; Eversheds Sutherland; Britain Thinks; Steer Davies Gleave; Jacobs; and Deloitte

The total associated external consultancy spend by financial year is as follows:

2018-19 - £647,791

2019-20 - £2,576,541

2020-21 - £878,014

2021-22 - £145,793 (year to date)

Consultancy is defined as the provision of objective advice relating to strategy, structure, management or operations of an organisation, in pursuit of its purposes and objectives. Such advice is provided outside the ‘business-as-usual’ environment when in-house skills are not available and is time-limited. The numbers provided here are from unaudited internal management information.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the cost has been to the public purse of payments made to rolling stock leasing companies since March 2020.

Under the Emergency Agreements that were introduced early in the Covid-19 pandemic, train operators have been reclassified from the private to the public sector for statistical purposes from April 2020. As such, all rolling stock costs incurred by operators now represent spending by the public sector.

During the 2020/21 financial year, total rolling stock costs for train operators working under contracts with the Department for Transport were approximately £2.1bn. This remains a provisional figure as full audited accounts for the year are not yet available.

Most rolling stock on the network was financed and procured by the private sector rolling stock companies to meet the needs of train operators as part of their bids in respect of the former franchise process. Rolling stock was then leased to private sector train operators, although a wide range of lease terms are in use and contracts can often cover services such as train maintenance and stabling, as well as train rentals.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what performance indicators and other criteria will trigger a bonus payment under the terms of new National Rail Contracts his Department has signed for the (a) TransPennine Express and (b) and South Western Rail franchise.

Under the National Rail Contracts, performance of an operator is measured against four criteria – Operational Performance; Customer Experience; Financial Performance; and Business Management. The assessment is as objective as possible, using a mix of criteria-based, qualitative scorecard assessments and quantified target measures, where practical. Performance payments are achieved solely on meeting outcomes defined within the contract – for example delivering a punctual service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how much and what proportion of the £40 million dividend paid by LNER to his Department's OLR Holdings Limited in 2019-20 for financial year 2018-19 (a) has been reinvested into the railways, (b) accrued to his Department and (c) accrued to the Exchequer.

The £40m dividend paid by LNER to DfT OLR Holdings Limited was recognised in the Departments Accounts and Estimates in the 2019/20 year.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many times he or officials in his Department have met with (a) First group, (b) Go Ahead, (c) Arriva, (d) Trenitalia, (e) Serco, (f) Keolis, (g) Abellio, (h) MTR and (i) Mitsui railway holding groups in the last 18 months; and on what dated those meetings were held.

Officials and Ministers have regular meetings with all owning groups as part of our duties to ensure effective management of the contracts held.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether Great British Railways is planned to be responsible for (a) a long-term rolling stock strategy and (b) the efficient use of public funds in the procurement of rolling stock; and if he will make a statement.

Private sector investment in rolling stock will continue.

Great British Railways will be able to take a strategic overview while private sector Train Operating Companies will retain responsibility for procuring value from the market to meet service requirements and improve the passenger experience in reliability accessibility and comfort.

The government will take forward work to assess options to ensure reliable delivery and value for money for the taxpayer and users. This work will also consider supply chain sustainability and how to sustain and generate high-value jobs and economic activity.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, what plans the his Department has for the funding for the how the British Transport Police; and what assessment he has made of the potential effect of changes to the funding model for the railway on the British Transport Police.

The Government is setting up a Rail Transformation Programme within the Department for Transport and working with the rail sector to ensure a common understanding of the vision, establish the phases of delivery, and work collectively with the sector to design and implement this major project.

Following the publications of the White Paper, we are commencing detailed engagement and consultation across the industry, including with organisations such as British Transport Police.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
7th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether a tendering process will be undertaken by Great British Railways for the new Passenger Service Contracts.

Great British Railways will aim to compete all contracts. The new Passenger Service contracts will reduce barriers to entry for bidders and reinvigorate the competitive market for rail.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether (a) Northern and (b) LNER services currently being run in the public sector will be transferred to Great British Railways to be run in the public sector.

The government is committed to maintaining and expanding opportunities for the private sector in supporting Britain’s railways in the future.

The new Passenger Service Contracts will be competed and should increase innovation and competition.

As set out the in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail operators will be held accountable and risk termination of their contracts if they are not delivering punctual, efficient and high-quality services. The government will retain its operator of last resort function to enable services to continue seamlessly for passengers in such cases.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether the operator of last resort functions currently performed by his Department will subsumed by Great British Railways.

The government is committed to maintaining and expanding opportunities for the private sector in supporting Britain’s railways in the future.

The new Passenger Service Contracts will be competed and should increase innovation and competition.

As set out the in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail operators will be held accountable and risk termination of their contracts if they are not delivering punctual, efficient and high-quality services. The government will retain its operator of last resort function to enable services to continue seamlessly for passengers in such cases.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether the (a) Scottish and (b) Welsh Governments will be able to opt to run their rail passenger services in the public sector without the need to appoint an operator of last resort.

As set out in The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, devolved authorities in Scotland and Wales will continue to exercise their current powers and to be democratically accountable for them. This includes the ability for both governments to use their operator of last resort when appropriate.

The Scottish Government currently has the ability to contract services to a public sector bidder. The Department will work with Transport Scotland to enable Scotland to benefit from reforms on the wider network of Great Britain.

Public sector operators are currently prohibited from bidding for rail services in England & Wales. The government is committed to maintaining a major role for private business in supporting Britain’s railways.

As we move to implementing The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail we will take the opportunity to review existing legislation, including the rules on who is able to bid to provide passenger services in England and Wales to ensure it is still up to date and appropriate.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether the (a) Scottish (b) and Welsh Governments will be able to opt to run their rail passenger services in the public sector, without the need for a tendering process.

As set out in The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, devolved authorities in Scotland and Wales will continue to exercise their current powers and to be democratically accountable for them. This includes the ability for both governments to use their operator of last resort when appropriate.

The Scottish Government currently has the ability to contract services to a public sector bidder. The Department will work with Transport Scotland to enable Scotland to benefit from reforms on the wider network of Great Britain.

Public sector operators are currently prohibited from bidding for rail services in England & Wales. The government is committed to maintaining a major role for private business in supporting Britain’s railways.

As we move to implementing The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail we will take the opportunity to review existing legislation, including the rules on who is able to bid to provide passenger services in England and Wales to ensure it is still up to date and appropriate.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether trade unions have been consulted on the proposal for the Office of Rail and Road to publish data on rail workers salaries.

A modern and sustainable rail industry will benefit from increased transparency and the ability to compare its practices with similar sectors.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the proposal that the Office of Rail and Road will publish data on rail workers salaries in the policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether that data will include salaries of (a) employees of Great British Railways, (b) employees of operators of Passenger Service Contracts, (c) subcontracted staff on passenger service contracts, (d) employees of railway infrastructure sub-contractors, (e) workers on zero hours contracts, (f) railway infrastructure workers who are classified as self-employed, (g) agency railway workers, (h) workers on zero hours contracts and (i) employees of open access operators.

A modern and sustainable rail industry will benefit from increased transparency and the ability to compare its practices with similar sectors.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for what reasons the policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, proposes that the Office of Rail and Road will publish data on rail workers salaries.

A modern and sustainable rail industry will benefit from increased transparency and the ability to compare its practices with similar sectors.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, what estimate he has made of the total number of ticket offices broken down by ticket office category that (a) are operational in June 2021 and (b) are planned to be open in 2025.

In respect of Part (a)

As collected by Network Rail, the current number of ticket offices by station category, is shown in the following table:

Network Rail Categories Key

Number of Ticket Offices

A National Hub

87

B Regional Interchange

209

C Important Feeder

280

D Medium staffed Station

317

E Small Staffed Station

404

F Small Unstaffed

53

Total

1,350

In respect of Part (b) This will be a future consideration for Great British Railways.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the findings of the report entitled Transport User Community – role of staff in passengers feeling safe, published by Transport Focus on 7 October 2020 that there is a strong sense that the ideal response to the pandemic would be to see more staff on trains and at the station, rather than less.

During the course of the pandemic, the Department has worked closely with train operating companies and Network Rail to ensure that staff and passengers are kept safe when travelling on the railway, and recognises the important role which rail staff play in ensuring passengers feel safe when travelling. Government has published Safer Travel guidance, which supports transport operators to understand how to provide safer environments for both staff and passengers. Train operators understand their markets and their customers’ travel patterns and have redeployed rail staff whose work has been affected by the pandemic into different roles, including into stations to support passengers.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether the proposal that the Office for Road and Rail will publish data on rail workers salaries will include the mandatory publication of (a) directors pay and (b) rail company profits.

This information is already in the public domain due to Train Operating Companies' legal obligations as private limited companies.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many staff are employed by (a) Network Rail and (b) the Train Operating companies currently; and what estimate he has made of the number of staff that will be employed by those organisations in 2023.

According to Network Rail’s Annual Report and Accounts published in 2020, there were around 42,000 staff employed at the organisation in 2019/20. The Office of Rail and Road’s key statistics regarding Train Operating Companies, also published in 2020, indicates there were around 62,000 full-time equivalents across the operators in Great Britain over the same period. No estimates have been made as to the potential number of staff that will be directly employed by Network Rail or the individual Train Operating Companies by 2023.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, what plans he has to hold discussions with trade unions on creating an integrated workforce strategy.

An integrated workforce strategy will benefit both the industry and passengers and will be led by Great British Railways. The Rail Transformation Programme will undertake further work to establish the scope of the strategy. Trade Unions, who met with Keith Williams multiple times during the review period, will continue to be consulted.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether proposals to create an integrated workforce strategy will include providing for rail workers to be promoted or transferred between different railway companies.

An integrated workforce strategy will benefit both the industry and passengers and will be led by Great British Railways. The Rail Transformation Programme will undertake further work to establish the scope of the strategy. Trade Unions, who met with Keith Williams multiple times during the review period, will continue to be consulted.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to policy paper entitled Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail, published by his Department on 20 May 2021, whether Transport for the North’s existing powers in respect of (a) Northern and (b) TPE rail passenger services will be (i) maintained and (ii) increased when contracts transfer to Great British Railways.

Under the Rail North Partnership, Transport for the North (TfN) and the Department for Transport jointly manage the Northern and Transpennine contracts.

New partnerships between Great British Railways and local and regional government will give greater control to towns, cities and regions. Further detail on the involvement of local leaders in rail and other transport services and the levers available to them will be set out in the levelling up white paper in due course.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
4th Jun 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 24 May 2021 to Question 4014 on Railway Stations: Visual Impairment, whether he will publish data on facilities at stations in a database or other accessible format.

The Rail Delivery Group are currently responsible for collating station data which is published on the National Rail Enquiries website:

https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/default.aspx

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to tackle carbon emissions from transport in the South East.

Our Transport Decarbonisation Plan, due to be published shortly, will set out a holistic and cross-modal approach to decarbonising the entire transport system, including in the South East. We recognise that different decarbonisation solutions will be required and will work best in different places across the UK, which is why place-based solutions is one of the six strategic priorities for the plan.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to Answer of 25 May 2021 to Question 2401 on Railways: Livestock, what estimate he has made of the cost to Network Rail of preventing livestock incursions onto the rail network in each of the last 5 years.

Network Rail do not hold specific data on the costs of preventing livestock intrusions onto the network. The costs have not been estimated in this manner because issues such as fencing to prevent incursion will generally not be related specifically to livestock, but to preventing incursion onto the rail network more widely. The funding for activities to safeguard the railway is provided for out of the maintenance and renewals budgets within each of Network Rail’s regions.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how regularly railway station roofs are inspected for safety.

Network Rail advises that visual inspections take place every twelve months and detailed inspections every five years with additional examinations as necessary.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
27th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the station roof collapse at Northwich station, whether he has received recent assurances on the structural integrity of railway station roofs.

Network Rail advises that it does not report on station maintenance directly to the Department for Transport or the Transport Secretary.

However, Network Rail does report on its compliance with its agreed standards to the independent safety regulator, the Office of Rail and Road. The Office of Rail and Road reports on Network Rail’s compliance in its annual health and safety assessment.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
26th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to Answer of 25 May 2021 to Question 2411, since 13 May 2021, in how many instances were Hitachi's Intercity Class 800 series trains found to have failings or structural defects in three or more joints.

Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series are inspected each day. If a train shows any risk to safe operation, be it from a single, or from multiple failures, it is recorded as unfit and prevented from entering service. The regime for checking structural defects has been cleared by Hitachi, all train operators, and has been overseen by the independent Office of Rail and Road.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
26th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 25 May 2021 to Question 4674, for what reason there is provision in the contract for trains operating on London North Eastern Railway for the operator to engage with Hitachi in relation to potential redundancies; when that provision was agreed; and what assessment he has made of the effect of that matter on value for money.

When the InterCity Express Trains were introduced on the East Coast line, daily train maintenance responsibilities passed from the train operator to Hitachi.

As part of that transfer, staff previously engaged in train maintenance underwent Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) into Hitachi, but the contract allowed for Hitachi to review how it managed its maintenance teams and had provision for Hitachi to restructure if necessary. To mitigate any uncertainties around the impact of any changes being reflected in additional unknown costs to Hitachi, (which would have resulted in a risk premium from Hitachi), the Department agreed that some of the costs in restructuring would be funded by London North Eastern Railway, in its role as the previous employer.

From a Value for Money perspective, these were unknown costs at the time of the contract award, and therefore the decision was made (in part for Value for Money, which was considered at an overall contract level) that it is better that these costs be priced as / when / if they occur, rather than priced seven plus years ahead by Hitachi.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
26th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to Answer of 25 May 2021 to Question 2401, how many incursions by livestock onto the rail network have occurred in each of the last five years; and how many of those incursions resulted in investigations by Network Rail.

In the last five years there have been 4,431 incidents on Network Rail infrastructure involving livestock. These can be broken by year into the following:

2016-17 – 965 incidents

2017-18 – 941 incidents

2018-19 – 1,162 incidents

2019-20 – 684 incidents

2020-21 – 679 incidents

Network Rail undertakes investigations of all incidents of livestock incursions as a matter of course.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Office of Rail and Road’s 2020 annual safety report into the rail industry, whether Network Rail has spent any money on consultant services in connection with meeting the requirements of safety legislation in the financial year 2020-21.

Safety of the rail network is the operational responsibility of Network Rail, which is regulated by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). Network Rail has invested significantly in meeting its health and safety requirements during 2020-21, including through the £70m fund for improving track worker safety announced in 2019. It has not spent money on consultancy services during this period in relation to the ORR’s 2020 annual safety report.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the previously deployed Heathrow Express Class 332 units will be re-deployed for use elsewhere on the UK rail network.

The Class 332 Heathrow Express units were privately owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited and the Department understands that these units have now been disposed of by their owner.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what progress is being made on the (a) delivery and (b) rollout of West Midlands Trains' (i) Class 196 CAF Civity diesel multiple units and (ii) Class 730 Bombardier Aventra electric multiple units.

The Class 196 and Class 730 units are currently being built and tested by their respective manufacturers with introduction of the Class 196 units expected to begin later in 2021 and the Class 730 units in 2022.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the average age is of Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series fleet (a) that operate on the UK rail network and (b) that are affected by cracking.

The average age of the Class 800 fleet is 2.5 years. Engineers are undertaking detailed root cause analysis of the fleet to determine if the cracks are linked to the age of the fleet, and mileage operated

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many commercial flights (a) originating from Belarus and (b) operated by Belarusian-based airlines have entered UK airspace in the last two years.

The Department does not hold statistical data on flights entering UK airspace. Data on commercial air services collected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) only covers flights departing and arriving at UK airports and therefore does not include flights that pass-through UK airspace without landing at a UK airport.

The total number of commercial flights arriving into UK airports from Belarus was 205 in 2019, and 191 in 2020.

Robert Courts
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for what reason Network Rail continues to operate without use of the Office of Rail and Road’s risk management assessment tool as introduced to rail industry in 2011; whether the alternative service it receives from third party companies provides Network Rail with industry specific advice; and how much that alternative service costs Network Rail on average per year.

Network Rail does use the Office of Rail and Road's risk management assessment tool, RM3. Network Rail is currently incorporating the tool into its existing systems and is rolling it out across its regions and functions.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how much has been spent on inspecting railway station roofs in the UK in the last five years.

Train Operators and Network Rail are responsible for conducting visual inspections at the stations they manage every twelve months and detailed inspections every five years.

As the responsibility for maintaining stations is split between Network Rail and the various Train Operating Companies, there is no central record of cost for the regular station roof inspections that are undertaken.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, who is liable for the financial costs of the withdrawal from service of South Western Railway's Class 442 Wessex Electric units.

The impact of Covid-19 on passenger numbers travelling on South Western Railway services has been significant, and is not expected to return to previous levels when restrictions are lifted for some time. The Class 442 fleet is no longer needed to deliver SWR’s planned timetable.

SWR has decided to withdraw the fleet with immediate effect and cease the programme of modifications that were underway to avoid incurring further costs to the taxpayer to reintroduce and operate these trains. The aborted cost of the 442 project is £32m and the withdrawal of the fleet is expected to save circa £8m per year.

The Class 442s would have been withdrawn in August 2024 in any event as the trains are not compliant with requirements for Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM). This decision brings this forward and removes a fleet that is not fully accessible from the Rail Network sooner than originally planned.

Under the current Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement, revenue and cost risk are borne by the DfT.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the cost to the public purse (a) was of the Class 442 Wessex Electric renovation programme and (b) is planned to be of the refurbishment of the Class 458 Juniper stock by South Western Railway.

The impact of Covid-19 on passenger numbers travelling on South Western Railway services has been significant, and is not expected to return to previous levels when restrictions are lifted for some time. The Class 442 fleet is no longer needed to deliver SWR’s planned timetable.

SWR has decided to withdraw the fleet with immediate effect and cease the programme of modifications that were underway to avoid incurring further costs to the taxpayer to reintroduce and operate these trains. The aborted cost of the 442 project is £32m and the withdrawal of the fleet is expected to save circa £8m per year.

The Class 442s would have been withdrawn in August 2024 in any event as the trains are not compliant with requirements for Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM). This decision brings this forward and removes a fleet that is not fully accessible from the Rail Network sooner than originally planned.

Under the current Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement, revenue and cost risk are borne by the DfT.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the impact of the construction materials shortage on (a) HS2 and (b) all other major rail infrastructure projects.

Working with their supply chains, the availability of construction materials is regularly reviewed by High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, Network Rail Limited, East West Rail Limited and the Department for Transport. Our latest assessments do not currently predict an impact on the cost and schedule ranges, published in the HS2 March 2021 Parliamentary Report, or Network Rail’s Control Period Budget, or those currently estimated by East West Rail Limited.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the net effect on employment in the UK was as a result of his Department's decision to award Hitachi a contract for the Intercity Class 800 series trains over competing UK suppliers.

The IEP contract led to Hitachi investing over £80million in a rail vehicle manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe in the North East, generating direct employment for over 700 people and many more in the wider local and national supply chain.

It has also created opportunities for many new suppliers to access the rail industry leading to an investment of over £1.8bn in the UK supply chain since 2013.

The opening of the factory has also created a legacy for future skills as Hitachi Rail became co-founders of South Durham University Technical College specialising in engineering skills for 14-18-year-olds.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent progress he has made on the cascading of South Western Railway's Class 455, 456 and 707 fleet.

Since the sale of Bombardier to Alstom, the Alstom team has been reviewing the production programme of the 701s in discussion with South Western Railway (SWR). This will establish when the first 701s will enter passenger service on SWR suburban lines, and at what rate the full fleet will be delivered. The new depot at Feltham is now operational in readiness for the arrival of the fleet.

Six class 707 units have been cascaded to Southeastern; the remaining are planned to be cascaded in line with the sub-lease dates (July to October 2021), while the Class 455 and 456 units are all still on lease to SWR.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
25th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent progress he has made on the delivery and rollout of the Class 701 train on the South Western Railway network.

Since the sale of Bombardier to Alstom, the Alstom team has been reviewing the production programme of the 701s in discussion with South Western Railway (SWR). This will establish when the first 701s will enter passenger service on SWR suburban lines, and at what rate the full fleet will be delivered. The new depot at Feltham is now operational in readiness for the arrival of the fleet.

Six class 707 units have been cascaded to Southeastern; the remaining are planned to be cascaded in line with the sub-lease dates (July to October 2021), while the Class 455 and 456 units are all still on lease to SWR.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how regularly railway station roofs are subject to a safety inspection.

Network Rail advises that visual inspections take place every twelve months and detailed inspections every five years with additional examinations as necessary.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions as he had with Train Operating Companies on staff recommencing ticket inspections; and what steps he is taking to ensure that staff safety is prioritised and safely managed as covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the safety of all rail workers and passengers continues to be our priority. The job of revenue protection staff is a vital one in ensuring that journeys are properly paid for and also their presence and visibility creates an essential sense of security for passengers. We have issued guidance to train operators on the steps they need to take to protect staff in line with Public Health England advice, as well as safer travel guidance for passengers, both of which are regularly reviewed and updated.

Within the context of this guidance, Train Operating Companies are expected to carry out risk assessments regularly and consider how best to implement safe methods of working, including how and when to resume revenue protection duties.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the introduction of new Hitachi-made trains onto the UK rail network will be delayed as a result of faults within the Intercity Class 800 series trains.

We expect Hitachi to take lessons learnt from this incident into future orders and expect Hitachi to deliver trains on time and to the quality and reliability contracted.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how much funding from the public has been paid to Hitachi Rail UK Ltd in each of the last five years.

Hitachi Rail UK are a significant supplier to the UK Rail Industry. The Government works in partnership with the private sector in the provision of trains for operation in the UK railway through the Rolling Stock Leasing Companies, and (in the case of the DfT procured Inter City Express fleets), Agility Trains. We do not hold data on what proportion of those lease and availability payments made by train operators to these partners ultimately flow to Hitachi Rail UK.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the East-West Rail line from Cambridge to Oxford will be an electrified line, using fully electrified trains, from the date services on that line begin.

We are keen to ensure passengers realise the benefits of East West Rail as early as possible. This means it is likely that diesel rolling stock could be used between Oxford and Bedford when services commence. This also allows East West Rail Company to explore a wider range of green energy technologies that could replace diesel rolling stock so that they can move closer towards becoming a net-zero carbon railway by the time services run from Oxford to Cambridge.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he will use a different risk assessment for Hitachi Intercity Class 800 series trains that have already been welded; and whether risk assessments will take into account that some cracks may not be visible.

We expect Hitachi to work with train operators, and the independent ORR (Office of Road and Rail) to ensure that trains are able to operate safely and to assess and refine risk assessments as the future repair program develops.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent assessment he has made of the user experience of booking a driving practical test; and whether he plans to introduce a feature to allow users to see (a) what appointments are available and (b) the next available appointment across a number of locations.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is in the early stages of work to modernise the practical driving test booking service. This will include a review of the end-to-end user experience.

The DVSA’s current booking service is already designed with flexibility in mind, so users can manage available options during the booking process. Users can check practical driving test availability by using the post code search facility. This will display the nearest four test centres and earliest dates available. That function allows the user to widen their search if there are no suitable test dates available at their first choice.

Rachel Maclean
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he has made an assessment of the vacancy level within certain functions at Network Rail at which a safety risk begins to be presented to passengers and staff using the rail network.

Network Rail is under a statutory duty to ensure the safe operation of the rail network in Great Britain. Under the Framework Agreement between Network Rail and DfT, Network Rail is required to manage its workforce to ensure that it is adequately staffed in order to fulfil its legal obligations. Where Network Rail identifies a post as safety critical it must be occupied either by a substantive post holder, by secondment or be the subject of active recruitment. All key safety posts must have nominated deputies.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the cause of the roof collapse at Northwich railway station; when the station will reopen; what the cost is of the damage, what the timescale is for fully repairing the roof; and what assessment he has made of the risk to services passing through the station.

An investigation is being carried out by Northern, Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road and this work is still ongoing. Engineers have inspected the building and trains have been cleared to use the station which reopened two days later. The operator is working with Network Rail to review temporary facilities and a proposed new station building. The costs of this incident are currently unknown.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what changes were made by Network Rail to the relationship between the Technical Authority and the Regions in assuring health and safety throughout Network Rail's devolved Functions and Regions.

As part of Network Rail’s Putting Passengers First reorganisation changes to Network Rail’s Technical Authority allowed some assurance and functional audit roles to be devolved to the regions and closer to frontline teams. The Technical Authority retains the accountability for the functional audit plan and each Region retains its own responsibility to deliver the auditing work agreed as part of that functional audit plan.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
24th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the (a) objectives and (b) outcomes were from Network Rail's Putting Passengers First reorganisation.

Network Rail’s Putting Passengers First programme was implemented to ensure that the organisation is best structured to deliver the highest level of service to passengers and freight customers. The programme specifically looked to:

  • Ensure Network Rail is on the side of passengers and freight users
  • Ensure Network Rail is easy to engage with and is an efficient and dependable partner
  • Ensure Network Rail is a company people are proud to work for
  • Ensure Network Rail is instinctively recognised as an industry leader

Network Rail now operates through five regions allowing key decisions to be made closer to the frontline.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to ensure the safety of blind and partially-sighted people while they use the railway network.

We have continued to support the Access for All programme that upgrades railway stations for disabled passengers, including those with visual impairments.

I have also asked Network Rail to develop a programme to aim to install platform edge tactile strips on every platform in Great Britain.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the current vacancy rate is within the Governance Function at Network Rail as defined by its Target Operating Model.

At Network Rail, in ‘Legal and Corporate Services’ there are 68 roles and 3 roles have the status vacancy.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, for what reason Network Rail has revised the job descriptions of its Safety, Health and Environment Specialists, reducing their required level of professional qualification and broadening their responsibilities; and whether he has made an assessment of the effect of that matter on railway safety.

The qualifications required in the role have remained unchanged.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will publish an update on the delivery and rollout of c2c's Class 720 Bombardier Aventra EMUs.

The contract for the delivery and rollout of the Bombardier Class 720 EMUs is between the c2c (train operator), Porterbrook (rolling stock leasing company) and Alstom (manufacturer). It is anticipated that these units will be delivered to c2c in the first half of 2022. It is not yet known on what part of the c2c route these units will be deployed

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he has taken to ensure that Hitachi trains newly introduced into service will not be affected by cracking issues.

Hitachi, as the manufacturer and maintainer of the trains, is undertaking a thorough investigation into the causes of the cracking that was found. It is expected that any recommendations from those investigations would be considered across the Hitachi fleet.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department (a) has over the last 12 months or (b) plans to cover redundancy payments for Hitachi Rail UK employees.

There is provision in the contract for trains operating on London North Eastern Railway for the operator to engage with Hitachi in relation to any potential redundancies but no such discussions have taken place.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether any Hitachi Intercity Class 800 series trains were suffering from cracking in other locations on inspection for cracking at the lifting points.

The cracking that caused trains to be removed from the network was found whilst hairline cracks near the yaw dampers was being investigated.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series trains (a) have been delivered into service and (b) are under order and awaiting delivery.

The number of Class 800 trains that have been delivered into service is 182. This comprises of 93 for Great Western Railway, 19 for TransPennine Express, 65 for London North Eastern Railway and 5 for Hull Trains (open access operator).

There are 61 trains that are under order and awaiting delivery.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the effect of HS2 construction on other transport infrastructure projects.

HS2 and its supply chain are working together to make sure that the company procures responsibly and minimises any potential impact on the wider availability of skills and materials across the UK. The availability of construction skills and materials is regularly reviewed by High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, Network Rail, Highways England and the Department for Transport.

Andrew Stephenson
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department plans to take to ensure the (a) safety and (b) confidence of staff and passengers in train travel and encourage that travel in the context of (a) faults discovered in Hitachi trains and (b) the covid-19 outbreak.

The safety of rail workers and passengers is our highest priority. Following maintenance checks where engineers discovered cracks in some Hitachi trains, Hitachi has implemented a detailed inspection regime that trains have to pass before entering passenger service. This regime was developed in conjunction with, and approved by, the relevant train operators working with the independent safety regulator, the Office for Rail and Road.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have issued comprehensive guidance to train operators on the steps they need to take to protect staff, in line with Public Health England advice, as well as safer travel guidance for passengers, both of which are regularly reviewed and updated. This includes a range of measures to protect and reassure passengers including enhanced cleaning regimes on high touch points, and highlighting quieter services to travel when booking tickets on its websites and apps.

Passengers are urged to check before they travel and to plan ahead, as transport services and roads are likely to be busier as restrictions ease. They are reminded to follow safer travel guidance when they travel, including wearing a face covering unless exempt, sanitising their hands regularly and keeping their distance where possible.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
20th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how much (a) his Department and (b) Network Rail has spent on external consultants in each of the last five years on matters relating to the environment or climate change.

My Department uses external consultants to support the development and delivery of its policies and priorities, but we do not categorise expenditure according to ‘environment or climate change’.

Over the last five years Network Rail expenditure on external consultants on matters relating to the environment or climate change is as follows:

Financial year

Spend (£)

2016-17

5,098,913.55

2017-18

3,376,649.06

2018-19

5,675,487.13

2019-20

7,239,941.90

2020-21

8,235,685.84

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many railway platforms (a) have and (b) do not have tactile edging on the platform to assist blind and partially sighted people.

The Rail Delivery Group collates and updates data on facilities at stations. Information is published on the National Rail Enquiries website:

https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/default.aspx

It is my ambition to install tactiles across the network. I therefore asked Network Rail to devise a plan for all mainline station platforms across England, Scotland and Wales.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how much revenue has been received by the Exchequer in tax receipts by Hitachi Rail UK Ltd in each of the last five years; and how much funding the Government has given to Hitachi Rail UK in (a) payments, (b) grants, (c) loans and (d) other financial transactions over that time period.

Hitachi is part of the wider UK rail supply chain. Typically, we do not make direct payments for the trains because they are procured by the private sector rolling stock companies or, in the case of the Intercity Express Programme (IEP), Agility Trains. The Department for Transport IEP contract with Agility (noting that Hitachi is a shareholder) is a £5.7billion contract for procurement, design, manufacture, delivery, offering into passenger service and subsequence maintenance. Although much of it does, not of all of the IEP contract costs relate to Hitachi directly.

With regard to tax receipts, the administration of the tax system is a matter for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). HMRC does not disclose details of the tax affairs of particular taxpayers.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent assessment he has made of the rate of covid-19 transmission on trains where social distancing is (a) maintained and (b) not possible; and what steps he is taking to reduce the risk of covid-19 transmission to staff and passengers.

The Department is collaborating across the UK’s research and innovation community, including with the Rail Safety and Standards Board, to build and assess a broad base of evidence to better understand transmission and interventions that help reduce transmission risk. This includes working with SAGE, industry and academia on the Transport Risk Assessment for COVID Knowledge (TRACK) project. This is an 18-month, £2 million UK Research and Innovation-funded project designed to address critical knowledge gaps around transmission of COVID19 on public transport, including on rail. Outputs from this project will continue to help inform decisions and practices for mitigating risk of transmission in public transport.

We have issued comprehensive guidance to train operators on the steps they need to take to protect staff and passengers in line with Public Health England advice, as well as safer travel guidance for passengers, both of which are regularly reviewed and updated. We have been working closely with operators to ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place and clearly communicated to passengers. Passengers are urged to plan ahead and to follow safer travel guidance.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the current vacancy rate is within Network Rail as defined by its Target Operating Model.

At Network Rail there are currently 279 positions that have the status vacancy.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what information he has received on whether the cracking issue found in the UK Class 800 fleet is limited to only the trains within that fleet.

Other Hitachi fleets were checked for faults to ensure it was safe to operate them in service.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to ensure that passenger services are restored to the South West as a result of cancellations following cracks on Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series trains.

Following safety inspections on the Hitachi Class 800 series trains, Great Western Railway focused on returning to a reliable and punctual timetable, which was in place by Monday 17 May.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps have been taken to consult residents affected by the planned East West Rail Line between Cambridge and Oxford.

East West Rail Company conducted a non-statutory consultation between January and March 2019. Over 3,500 people attended the supporting events, and 7,000 responded to the consultation. A range of promotional activities were used, including sending postcards to more than 120,000 households and businesses in the consultation zone, placing advertisements in local publications and issuing press releases to local and national publications.

East West Rail Company is currently undertaking a non-statutory public consultation on proposals for the alignment of the new section of the East West Rail route that would run from Bedford to Cambridge. The consultation also covers other improvements to the line from Oxford to Bedford.

To support this consultation, East West Rail Company has sent 270,000 summary documents to homes and businesses close to the proposed railway between Oxford and Cambridge as well as document packs to all MPs, Parish Councils and Ward and County Councillors within the consultation zone. It has also launched a set of consultation rooms, held a number of live chat events and public webinars open to the public, or hosted a number of meetings with local representatives. East West Rail Company has actively engaged with media and advertised the consultation in local community media – including radio and print – as well as social media.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he has made an assessment or has received any information as to whether the cracking of the Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series has arisen due to (a) any flaw in the design of those trains, (b) the materials used in construction, (c) trains operating outside of specified limits, (d) poor maintenance and (e) any other reason or combination of reasons.

Hitachi, as the manufacturer and maintainer of the trains, are undertaking a thorough investigation into the causes of the cracking that was found. Their findings will be reviewed by all parties concerned and until that is complete, it is inappropriate to speculate on causes or on the solutions.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the cracking of Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series affects the Government's guarantee for usage of those trains for 27.5 years.

We have a contract with Agility Trains to provide trains for passenger services for another 24.5 years. We expect them to meet that contracted obligation.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many rail workers were killed on Network Rail's infrastructure between June 2019 and November 2020.

Between June 2019 and November 2020, four Network Rail workers tragically lost their lives while working on rail infrastructure owned and managed by Network Rail. On 3rd July 2019, two Network Rail track workers were struck by a train at Margam, South Wales. On 8th April 2020, a Network Rail contractor was struck by a train at Roade, Northamptonshire. On 30th November 2020, a Network Rail employee was crushed by machinery at a depot in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Ensuring the safety of the rail workforce and reducing the risk of fatalities is a priority for Government and the rail industry. The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) identified workforce safety as a key part of its ‘Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways’ strategy, which aims to ensure greater consistency in planning and implementing safe systems of work, more use of digital technology to reduce risk, and improved monitoring, supervision and assurance. In July 2019, Network Rail launched its track worker safety task force, aimed at reducing the risk of track worker fatalities. This task force is investing £70m to improve the planning and delivery of work at the trackside, through the development and design of new protection and warning systems, improved training for managers, and measures to reduce fatigue and improve the wellbeing of staff. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), trade unions and Network Rail’s own contractors.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
19th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when the regime of welding the Hitachi Intercity Class 800 series trains is planned to take place; and whether that process will take place before a metallurgical analysis.

Hitachi, as the manufacturer and maintainer of the trains, is undertaking a thorough investigation into the causes of the cracking that was found. Its findings will be reviewed by all parties concerned and until that is complete, it is inappropriate to speculate on causes or on the solutions.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 19 April 2021 to Questions 178610, 178612, 178613, 178616, 178618, 178621, whether he will publish this scheme by scheme data in accessible formats.

Network Rail arranges for the publication of data related to electrification schemes on its website. Network Rail provides a contact point to enable users to request information in an accessible format. Network Rail’s accessibility policy can be found here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/accessibility/

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with (a) South Western Railway and (b) other rail operators to increase the number of carriages on suburban routes to 10 carriages to ensure safe social distancing.

Customer numbers on South Western Railway services are currently at approximately 30% of pre-Covid levels and the service currently operated provides 85% of pre-Covid capacity. Some instances of overcrowding have been reported this year however it is individual carriages that are overcrowded rather than the whole train.

SWR are making onboard announcements asking passengers to use the whole train. The number of 10 car trains operated in the ‘peak’ has increased by over 10% since Monday 17th May.

In preparation for the easing of restrictions, operators have already increased provision to approximately 85 per cent of pre-pandemic service levels, targeting areas of high demand. Further changes will be made this year.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department has made an assessment of whether the cracking issue identified in the Hitachi Intercity Class 800 will potentially worsen over time.

Hitachi are investigating the cause of these cracks. It is therefore too early to say if this will worsen over time until the trains are modified to prevent this issue reoccurring, that is why there is a detailed inspection regime of each train, and if there is any evidence of any cracking that could impact of the safe operation of the train it will not be used for passenger service.

My expectation of Hitachi is that they will identify the cause and rectify to prevent reocurrance.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the Government has assessed whether it is entitled to compensation as a result of cracking within the Hitachi Intercity Class 800 series trains

The agreements in place to use the affected trains contain provisions that protect the taxpayer.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether the projected lifespan of Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series trains have been shortened as a result of cracking.

In terms of the Department’s IEP Trains, we have a contract with Agility for them to be available for service for another 24.5 years. We require Agility to meet that obligation.

The remaining life of the other Hitachi Trains that were impacted by this issue will be a matter for the relevant Rolling Stock Leading Company.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
18th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the level of construction materials available to rail infrastructure projects.

The availability of construction materials is regularly reviewed by High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, Network Rail, and the Department for Transport. Our latest assessments do not currently predict an impact on the cost and schedule ranges, published in the HS2 March 2021 Parliamentary Report, or Network Rail’s Control Period Budget.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether any Hitachi Intercity Class 800 series found to have cracks in the bogies have been released back into service.

Following rigorous safety tests and mitigations, operators, working closely with Hitachi and the Office of Rail and Road, confirmed on Thursday 13 May that many trains can return to the network.

A number of trains have returned to service after further inspections, helping to safely restore the reliable and punctual services on GWR and LNER that passengers deserve.

Safety is our absolute focus, which is why Hitachi will continue to carry out a comprehensive daily testing regime on affected trains. Over time, trains will be subject to a forward repair plan, which will ensure the long-term continued safe running of the fleet.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to help ensure that farm animals cannot encroach on the UK rail network.

Network Rail, in its role as national rail infrastructure manager, has the main responsibility for preventing animals from encroaching on the rail network as part of its wider rail safety duties. It uses fences to mark the boundary of its land and to prevent unauthorised intrusions, which are checked regularly. Members of the public are encouraged to contact Network Rail if they notice fencing that is showing signs of fatigue or is unsuitable, so that Network Rail can investigate and take action, which may include repairing or replacing the affected fencing. Additionally, Network Rail will investigate any incursion by livestock onto the network and carry out the work needed to reduce the risk of encroachment happening again.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the original lifespan was of Hitachi's Intercity Class 800 series trains.

The design life of the trains is 35 years.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how much money from the public purse has been spent on Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series.

122 Hitachi Series 800 trains were procured under the Governments Intercity Express Programme. This was a £5.6bn public private partnership that was signed between the Department and Agility/Hitachi.

Disruption has been most significant on the Great Western Railway (GWR) network on intercity services, as well as some London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and a small number of TransPennine Express services.

The agreements in place contain provisions that protect the taxpayer. We have been clear with the industry that we 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)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of (a) the cost to the public purse to date including lost revenue and (b) the final cost to the public purse of the cracking within Hitachi Intercity Class 800 series trains.

122 Hitachi Series 800 trains were procured under the Governments Intercity Express Programme. This was a £5.6bn public private partnership that was signed between the Department and Agility/Hitachi.

Disruption has been most significant on the Great Western Railway (GWR) network on intercity services, as well as some London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and a small number of TransPennine Express services.

The agreements in place contain provisions that protect the taxpayer. We have been clear with the industry that we 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)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many of Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series trains were found to have failings in three or more joints; and how many of those trains have (a) been repaired and (b) remain affected.

The mitigations put in place on 13 May mean that these trains are monitored more frequently and intrusively. If any issues are found, then trains are withdrawn for further checks. These mitigations were created by Hitachi, and then independently verified, and train operators conducted their own risk assessments against these mitigations. All of this was overseen by the independent regulator.

This is a live operational issue and the numbers affected and unaffected by cracks change every day. However, no trains are put into service if they do not meet the mitigations put in place. The mitigations have been signed off by all parties involved and overseen by inspectors from the independent Office of Rail and Road.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, how many of Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series trains were found to be (a) affected and (b) unaffected by cracks.

The mitigations put in place on 13 May mean that these trains are monitored more frequently and intrusively. If any issues are found, then trains are withdrawn for further checks. These mitigations were created by Hitachi, and then independently verified, and train operators conducted their own risk assessments against these mitigations. All of this was overseen by the independent regulator.

This is a live operational issue and the numbers affected and unaffected by cracks change every day. However, no trains are put into service if they do not meet the mitigations put in place. The mitigations have been signed off by all parties involved and overseen by inspectors from the independent Office of Rail and Road.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 19 April 2021 to Question 176011 on Railways: Electrification, if he will publish the scheme by scheme data on electrification projects in an accessible format.

Network Rail arranges for the publication of data related to electrification schemes on their website. Network Rail provides a contact point to enable users to request information in an accessible format. Network Rail’s accessibility policy can be found here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/accessibility/

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
17th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if the Government will take steps to review the award of the tender for the Intercity Express Programme to Hitachi’s Intercity Class 800 series.

The Department will not be reviewing the award of the contract, but we will use the contractual levers available to us under the contract to ensure the taxpayer does not pay for the disruption caused or the rectification of the faults.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of introducing infrastructure changes to ensure all train journeys in the UK were fully accessible.

Further measures to improve rail accessibility will be included in the forthcoming rail reform White Paper, to build on progress already made – around 75% of rail journeys are now through step-free stations, which compares with only 50% in 2005.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 20 April 2021 to Questions 181389, 181390 and 181391 on Railways: Disability, what steps he is taking to increase public awareness of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard and badge scheme.

The Government is committed to ensuring that disabled people have the same access to transport services and opportunities to travel as other members of society and supports the Sunflower Lanyard and Card scheme. As part of our communications to support disabled people using and returning to the network, such as the Department’s inclusive transport campaign ‘it’s everyone’s journey’, we will be signposting the support services available, including the Sunflower Lanyard and Card scheme.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
13th May 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the Answer of 19 April 2021 to Questions 178622, 178623 and 178626, how many of the 1,110 miles of track were the (a) Government and (b) devolved Administrations responsible for.

Network Rail publish scheme by scheme data on electrification projects in table 66 of their annual return, which is available at https://www.networkrail.co.uk/who-we-are/publications-and-resources/regulatory-and-licensing/annual-return/

331 of those miles of electrification took place in Scotland, which the Scottish Government was responsible for. The remaining miles of electrification took place in England and Wales, which the UK Government was responsible for.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 19 April 2021 to Question 176005, what plans he has to electrify the route between Leeds and Church Fenton via Cross Gates, Garforth, East Garforth and Micklefield.

In July 2020, government released £589m of funding for the Transpennine Route Upgrade Programme. This has enabled further development of electrification design for the section between Church Fenton and York. We are actively reviewing the case for TRU to deliver full electrification on the route, including Cross Gates, Garforth, East Garforth and Micklefield. Construction decisions are to be taken once TRU’s full business case is approved.

Further electrification of the network will play an important role in our plans to decarbonise the railway between now and 2050. As we decarbonise the railway, we will develop individual schemes carefully to deliver both decarbonisation and other benefits in a way that delivers value for money and ensures affordability.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he has had discussions with South Western Railway on increasing the number of carriages on their suburban routes to enable social distancing.

The Department continues to work closely with all operators and Network Rail to ensure that services are appropriate to passenger demand whilst responding to the challenges of COVID-19 and delivering value for the taxpayer. From 12 April, operators have increased provision to around 75 per cent of pre-pandemic service levels and targeted areas of potentially high demand. South Western Railway will increase its peak capacity to approximately 85 per cent of pre-pandemic service levels at the next timetable change on 16 May.

The Department believes that operators know their routes and passengers best. South Western Railway is therefore best placed to deploy its available train fleet to provide sufficient socially distanced capacity on each individual service and to make adjustments in response to any observed increase to passenger numbers using its services.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 20 April 2021 to Question 181387 on South Western Railway: Rolling Stock, what was discussed in those meetings; and whether those discussions confirmed a date for the new class 701 Arterio units to be introduced to the network.

The meetings with South Western Railway and officials discuss general progress with delivery of major projects and other franchise performance matters and form a routine part of the contract management dialogue. My recent meeting discussions did not confirm a date for the new Arterio trains to be introduced, although the Department continues to apply pressure to the manufacturer and the operator to begin introducing these trains to the network as soon as possible. The recent end to the dispute between South Western Railway and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers about how these trains will be operated when introduced has removed a significant barrier to this.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what plans his Department has to continue funding for the Northumberland Line.

Northumberland County Council is in the process of submitting planning applications for the scheme.

There are no plans to remove Blyth Bebside from the programme.

Earlier this year the Government committed £34m for the restoration of passenger services between Newcastle and Ashington. I expect a Final Business Case by the end of the year.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether there are plans to remove Blyth Bebside Station from the Northumberland Rail scheme.

Northumberland County Council is in the process of submitting planning applications for the scheme.

There are no plans to remove Blyth Bebside from the programme.

Earlier this year the Government committed £34m for the restoration of passenger services between Newcastle and Ashington. I expect a Final Business Case by the end of the year.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether planning permission has been secured for the proposed Northumberland Line between Newcastle and Ashington.

Northumberland County Council is in the process of submitting planning applications for the scheme.

There are no plans to remove Blyth Bebside from the programme.

Earlier this year the Government committed £34m for the restoration of passenger services between Newcastle and Ashington. I expect a Final Business Case by the end of the year.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the letter sent to his Department by representatives of rail industry bodies, businesses and campaign groups on the need for an immediate programme of rail electrification.

I am grateful for the work done by the rail industry to learn lessons from previous electrification, and to support work led by Network Rail to develop options for rail decarbonisation.

As further electrification of the network will play an important role in our plans to decarbonise the railway, the Department will continue to consider carefully rail industry views about how to deliver electrification schemes in a way that is affordable and delivers value for money.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the total kilometres of electrified rail in the UK by 2040.

In developing the forthcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) the Department has considered advice from Network Rail and the rail industry about the pace of rail decarbonisation, including through electrification. The TDP will set out the scale and pace of rail decarbonisation necessary to deliver the government’s net zero commitment by 2050.

Electrification schemes and the use of other decarbonisation technologies will be developed individually to ensure they are affordable and provide value for money.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)
23rd Apr 2021
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 19 April 2021 to Question 176010 on Railways: Staff, for what reason he has no plans to publish the information held by his Department; and what assessment he has made of the effect of that decision on the diversity of the workforce.

As confirmed in my answer of 19 April 2021 to Question 176010, the information currently being held by the Department has only been obtained from Train Operating Companies that are on Emergency Recovery Measure Agreements and will be used for indicative analytical purposes. No agreements have been made with those companies to publish this information.

As advised in previous responses, the Government intends to publish a White Paper with details of its plan for rail reform shortly.

Chris Heaton-Harris
Minister of State (Department for Transport)