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Written Question
Parliament: Coronavirus
Thursday 7th April 2022

Asked by: Lord Goodlad (Conservative - Life peer)

Question

To ask the Senior Deputy Speaker what changes he will propose, if any, to the recommendation to wear face masks on the parliamentary estate in light of the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Answered by Lord Gardiner of Kimble

Regular communications are issued to members and staff to provide guidance in relation to Covid-19. The latest guidance, published on 5 April, states that from 25 April when the House returns from recess, the wearing of face masks is a matter of personal choice. All Covid-related measures are kept under review as appropriate.


Written Question
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: Telephone Services
Thursday 24th March 2022

Asked by: Gill Furniss (Labour - Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough)

Question to the Department for Transport:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the average waiting time was for customers to speak to a DVLA agent over the telephone in (a) each of the last five years and (b) in 2022; and what steps he is taking to reduce that waiting time.

Answered by Trudy Harrison - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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

However, many people still choose or have to make a paper application and the DVLA receives around 60,000 items of mail every day. To help reduce waiting times for paper applications, the DVLA has introduced additional online services, recruited more staff, increased overtime working and has secured extra office space in Swansea and Birmingham. There may be additional delays in processing more complex transactions, for example if medical investigations are needed. The latest information on turnaround times for paper driving licence applications can be found here.

The large majority of applicants renewing an existing licence will be able to continue driving while their application is being processed, providing the driver can meet specific criteria. More information can be found online here.

In 2021, the DVLA received 16,972 items of correspondence from Members of Parliament. Of these, 36% were answered within the DVLA’s target of eight working days. The DVLA has allocated extra resource to the team that deals with enquiries from Members of Parliament and we expect that this will start to show an improving picture going forward.

The table below shows the average processing time for ordinary driving licence applications between 1 April 2021 and 28 February 2022 in working days, by (a) new applications, (b) renewal applications, and (c) replacement applications.

(a) new applications

(b) renewal applications

(c) replacement applications

Online application

2.33

1.56

1.62

Paper application

25.08

30.56

33.70

The table below shows the average waiting time for customers to speak to a DVLA agent by telephone in each of the last five years and during the current year.

Year

Minutes

2016-17

0.5

2017-18

1.0

2018-19

1.1

2019-20

1.3

2020-21

7.3

2021-22

11.1

Since 1 April 2020, the DVLA’s contact centre has recruited and trained 166 extra staff with 20 more due to join during March and a further 150 being recruited. In addition, the DVLA’s new customer service centres in Swansea and Birmingham have recruited extra staff who are processing medical driving licence applications as well as supporting customers who call the contact centre.


Written Question
Driving Licences: Applications
Thursday 24th March 2022

Asked by: Gill Furniss (Labour - Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough)

Question to the Department for Transport:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps is he taking to tackle the backlog in paper applications to the DVLA.

Answered by Trudy Harrison - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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

However, many people still choose or have to make a paper application and the DVLA receives around 60,000 items of mail every day. To help reduce waiting times for paper applications, the DVLA has introduced additional online services, recruited more staff, increased overtime working and has secured extra office space in Swansea and Birmingham. There may be additional delays in processing more complex transactions, for example if medical investigations are needed. The latest information on turnaround times for paper driving licence applications can be found here.

The large majority of applicants renewing an existing licence will be able to continue driving while their application is being processed, providing the driver can meet specific criteria. More information can be found online here.

In 2021, the DVLA received 16,972 items of correspondence from Members of Parliament. Of these, 36% were answered within the DVLA’s target of eight working days. The DVLA has allocated extra resource to the team that deals with enquiries from Members of Parliament and we expect that this will start to show an improving picture going forward.

The table below shows the average processing time for ordinary driving licence applications between 1 April 2021 and 28 February 2022 in working days, by (a) new applications, (b) renewal applications, and (c) replacement applications.

(a) new applications

(b) renewal applications

(c) replacement applications

Online application

2.33

1.56

1.62

Paper application

25.08

30.56

33.70

The table below shows the average waiting time for customers to speak to a DVLA agent by telephone in each of the last five years and during the current year.

Year

Minutes

2016-17

0.5

2017-18

1.0

2018-19

1.1

2019-20

1.3

2020-21

7.3

2021-22

11.1

Since 1 April 2020, the DVLA’s contact centre has recruited and trained 166 extra staff with 20 more due to join during March and a further 150 being recruited. In addition, the DVLA’s new customer service centres in Swansea and Birmingham have recruited extra staff who are processing medical driving licence applications as well as supporting customers who call the contact centre.


Written Question
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: Members
Thursday 24th March 2022

Asked by: Gill Furniss (Labour - Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough)

Question to the Department for Transport:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what information his Department holds on the (a) number of enquiries made to the DVLA from Members of Parliament and (b) proportion of those queries answered within that agency's service standard on enquiry response time.

Answered by Trudy Harrison - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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

However, many people still choose or have to make a paper application and the DVLA receives around 60,000 items of mail every day. To help reduce waiting times for paper applications, the DVLA has introduced additional online services, recruited more staff, increased overtime working and has secured extra office space in Swansea and Birmingham. There may be additional delays in processing more complex transactions, for example if medical investigations are needed. The latest information on turnaround times for paper driving licence applications can be found here.

The large majority of applicants renewing an existing licence will be able to continue driving while their application is being processed, providing the driver can meet specific criteria. More information can be found online here.

In 2021, the DVLA received 16,972 items of correspondence from Members of Parliament. Of these, 36% were answered within the DVLA’s target of eight working days. The DVLA has allocated extra resource to the team that deals with enquiries from Members of Parliament and we expect that this will start to show an improving picture going forward.

The table below shows the average processing time for ordinary driving licence applications between 1 April 2021 and 28 February 2022 in working days, by (a) new applications, (b) renewal applications, and (c) replacement applications.

(a) new applications

(b) renewal applications

(c) replacement applications

Online application

2.33

1.56

1.62

Paper application

25.08

30.56

33.70

The table below shows the average waiting time for customers to speak to a DVLA agent by telephone in each of the last five years and during the current year.

Year

Minutes

2016-17

0.5

2017-18

1.0

2018-19

1.1

2019-20

1.3

2020-21

7.3

2021-22

11.1

Since 1 April 2020, the DVLA’s contact centre has recruited and trained 166 extra staff with 20 more due to join during March and a further 150 being recruited. In addition, the DVLA’s new customer service centres in Swansea and Birmingham have recruited extra staff who are processing medical driving licence applications as well as supporting customers who call the contact centre.


Written Question
Driving Licences: Applications
Thursday 24th March 2022

Asked by: Gill Furniss (Labour - Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough)

Question to the Department for Transport:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the average processing time is for driving licence applications by (a) new applications, (b) renewal applications and (c) replacement applications.

Answered by Trudy Harrison - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

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

However, many people still choose or have to make a paper application and the DVLA receives around 60,000 items of mail every day. To help reduce waiting times for paper applications, the DVLA has introduced additional online services, recruited more staff, increased overtime working and has secured extra office space in Swansea and Birmingham. There may be additional delays in processing more complex transactions, for example if medical investigations are needed. The latest information on turnaround times for paper driving licence applications can be found here.

The large majority of applicants renewing an existing licence will be able to continue driving while their application is being processed, providing the driver can meet specific criteria. More information can be found online here.

In 2021, the DVLA received 16,972 items of correspondence from Members of Parliament. Of these, 36% were answered within the DVLA’s target of eight working days. The DVLA has allocated extra resource to the team that deals with enquiries from Members of Parliament and we expect that this will start to show an improving picture going forward.

The table below shows the average processing time for ordinary driving licence applications between 1 April 2021 and 28 February 2022 in working days, by (a) new applications, (b) renewal applications, and (c) replacement applications.

(a) new applications

(b) renewal applications

(c) replacement applications

Online application

2.33

1.56

1.62

Paper application

25.08

30.56

33.70

The table below shows the average waiting time for customers to speak to a DVLA agent by telephone in each of the last five years and during the current year.

Year

Minutes

2016-17

0.5

2017-18

1.0

2018-19

1.1

2019-20

1.3

2020-21

7.3

2021-22

11.1

Since 1 April 2020, the DVLA’s contact centre has recruited and trained 166 extra staff with 20 more due to join during March and a further 150 being recruited. In addition, the DVLA’s new customer service centres in Swansea and Birmingham have recruited extra staff who are processing medical driving licence applications as well as supporting customers who call the contact centre.


Written Question
Non-domestic Rates: Airports
Wednesday 26th January 2022

Asked by: Henry Smith (Conservative - Crawley)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with reference to the Business Rates Relief Fund, whether his Department made an assessment of the potential value of discounts that would have been awarded to airports in England in the event that airports had been permitted to pursue covid-19-related Material Change of Circumstance appeals with the Valuation Office Agency.

Answered by Kemi Badenoch - Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Parliament recently passed legislation to rule out coronavirus as grounds for a ‘material change of circumstances’ appeal of rateable value. It is a core principle of the business rates system that market-wide economic changes affecting property values, such as the pandemic, should only be considered at general revaluations.

Prior to this legislation being introduced, the Valuation Office Agency were at an early stage of considering their response to the material change of circumstances appeals. Although discussions had taken place no valuations had been agreed.


Written Question
Big Ben: Repairs and Maintenance
Friday 21st January 2022

Asked by: Alan Brown (Scottish National Party - Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

Question

To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, pursuant to the Answer of 11 January 2022 to Question 96953 on Big Ben: Repairs and Maintenance, what the estimated additional cost is for (a) the four-month site closure in 2020, (b) investment in covid-19 secure measures and (c) the reduced productivity on site until November 2020.

Answered by Charles Walker

The total cost to date of covid-19 impacts on the project, including the four-month site closure in 2020, investment in covid-19 secure measures and the reduced productivity on site until November 2020, is £5.7m, including VAT. These costs are met from the approved £9m provision, listed in the answer to Question 96953.

This figure has been scrutinised by independent consultants, who are confident in the financial projections that have been developed by teams in the House Service, recognising the exceptionality of the project and its highly specific requirements.

Parliament’s teams have mitigated against the financial impact of coronavirus, working collaboratively and positively with contractors to reduce the impact to the taxpayer, and ensuring that costs paid by Parliament are proportionate to its contractual obligations. The project’s teams continue to meet the challenges posed by this complex conservation and enjoy the support of the leadership of both Houses in their delivery and approach.


Written Question
National Insurance Contributions
Monday 17th January 2022

Asked by: Ruth Jones (Labour - Newport West)

Question to the HM Treasury:

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether it remains his policy to increase the rate of National Insurance in April 2022.

Answered by Lucy Frazer - Financial Secretary (HM Treasury)

The Government announced the Health and Social Care Levy on 7 September 2021 and passed the legislation on 20 October 2021.

The Levy will allow the Government to implement necessary adult social care reform, tackle the elective backlog in the NHS as it recovers from Coronavirus, develop our pandemic response and preparedness, and ensure the NHS has the resources it needs throughout this Parliament.

The Government is committed to responsible management of the public finances and it is important that this spending is fully funded, particularly in the context of record borrowing and debt to fund the economic response to COVID-19.

A levy charged on the National Insurance Contributions base is the fairest way to raise the funds needed to support health and social care. It ensures the lowest earners are protected from increases as National Insurance has a threshold to protect the lowest paid. The highest earning 15 per cent will pay over half the revenue raised from the Levy and 6.1 million people earning less than the Primary Threshold (£9,880 in the year 2022-23), will not pay the Levy. In addition, using National Insurance as the basis ensures businesses will also pay the Levy. Businesses benefit from having a healthy workforce, so it is only fair that they contribute.


Written Question
NHS and Social Services: Coronavirus
Wednesday 5th January 2022

Asked by: Rachael Maskell (Labour (Co-op) - York Central)

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make it his policy to ensure that before anyone is dismissed for being unvaccinated in the health and care sector that he will (a) bring a report to Parliament on the number of people who are yet to have a vaccine and (b) assess alternative potential provisions to protect patients from covid-19.

Answered by Edward Argar - Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No.2) Regulations 2021 regulations were approved by parliament on 14th December. The Government’s policy is to now implement the regulations. This will include continuing to monitor COVID-19 vaccination uptake levels.

The Government is not considering bringing such a report to Parliament or considering alternative potential provisions to the regulations.


Written Question
Overseas Aid
Monday 8th November 2021

Asked by: Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Labour - Life peer)

Question to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the potential effect of reductions in the Official Development Assistance budget on (1) poverty, (2) inequality, and (3) the UK's reputation, in the global south.

Answered by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is a world leader in development, committed to the global fight against poverty and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In 2020 we spent £14.5 billion Official Development Assistance (ODA) fighting poverty and helping those in need, despite the seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK and global economy. This included £1.7 billion supporting the effort to fight coronavirus, £1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance, and we gave more than half of our regional bilateral aid to countries in Africa.

In 2021, the UK will still spend over £10 billion and remain one of the largest ODA spenders in the world. Based on 2020 OECD data, the UK will be the third largest ODA donor in the G7 as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2021 and will spend above the average for OECD Development Assistance Committee members (0.41%). As we move through the spending cycle, as is standard, we will review the impact of projects and our spend, in order to inform future spending decisions and policy making.

On 13 July the Government gave Members of Parliament the opportunity to debate its proposed course of action and a pathway back to 0.7%. The House voted clearly with a majority of 35 votes to approve the approach set out in the Treasury's Written Ministerial Statement. Improving economic forecasts shows that HMG may meet its fiscal tests to return to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid in financial year 2024/25.