Written questions and answers

Written questions allow Members of Parliament to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments.

Historical written answers can be found in Hansard.

Find the latest written questions and answers for the 2015-16 session below. This is a new service and we welcome your feedback so we can improve it.

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Unique Identifying Number – Every written question in the House of Commons has a UIN per Parliament. In the House of Lords each written questions has a UIN per parliamentary session.
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Q
(Hammersmith)
[N]
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Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 09 December 2015
Ministry of Justice
Courts: Closures
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what the monthly cost is of (a) each court building which has been closed but not disposed of since May 2010 and (b) the 91 courts considered for closure in his Department's recent consultation on that subject.
A
Answered by: Mr Shailesh Vara
Answered on: 15 January 2016

Details of the operational costs of courts considered for closure can be found in the consultation document on the provision of the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales, which can be accessed via the following website:


https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/proposal-on-the-provision-of-court-and-tribunal-es/consult_view


The Department is committed to disposing of surplus property assets expeditiously and reducing holding costs. As of 10 December 2015 a total of 80 courts closed under the Court Estate Reform Programme have been sold attracting disposal receipts of £49.6m.


The disposal of surplus property assets is dependent on a number of factors, such as the market, potential future use, location and the fact that some are occupied in part by the police and local authorities which also make disposal difficult. Nine of the closed court buildings which have not been disposed of are either under offer or on the market. Of those which have not yet been brought to the market, two court buildings have shared locations with the police, which means the future of the building is tied in with the Police Station, one has a site contamination issue and the other three were closed only within the last seven months. We are working on bringing all of them to the market as soon as possible.


There are temporary costs associated with making sure unused buildings are kept secure, protecting the fabric of the building and property rates payable to local councils. In addition, decommissioning the buildings to make them ready for sale results in some costs which cannot be disaggregated from the overall running costs. However, these are significantly lower than the costs of running the courts when open, which will have included estates costs, staffing costs and the cost of the judiciary.


Table: Monthly cost of each court building which has been closed but not disposed of since May 2010 as at 10 December 2015


Court building

Average monthly cost1

Abergavenny Magistrates’ Court4

Not available

Alton Magistrates’ Court2

£9,828

Bracknell Magistrates’ Court

£5,319

Cirencester Magistrates’ Court

£1,472

Coleford Magistrates’ Court

£1,561

Keighley Magistrates’ Court (sitting at Bingley)

£2,011

Knutsford Crown Court2

£9,274

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court5

Not available

Lyndhurst Magistrates’ Court

£1,783

Oswestry Magistrates’ Court / County Court

£2,269

Pontefract Magistrates’ Court

£1,957

Stourbridge County Court6

Not available

Spalding Magistrates’ Court2

£3,909

Totnes Magistrates’ Court3

£790

Towcester Magistrates’ Court3

£445


Footnotes:

  1. Monthly cost based on financial year data 2014/15 (unless otherwise stated). Holding costs include rates, fuel and utilities, facilities management, telephony and other property costs.
  2. These courts closed in financial year 2014/15 and the stated average monthly cost is therefore based on the last three months of 2014/15. The stated costs for these 3 courts are abnormally high because maintenance costs are likely to include decommissioning costs which are incurred shortly after closure. It is not possible to strip out any decommissioning costs from this answer without incurring disproportionate costs.
  3. Monthly cost based on financial year data 2013/14 and 2014/15 in order to address accounting adjustments made in 2014/15.
  4. Abergavenny Magistrates Court closure was announced on 9 July 2015 but has not yet been decommissioned.
  5. Liverpool (Dale Street) Magistrates' Court was integrated into the QEII Law Courts as of 30 June, creating a single centre for crime in the city of Liverpool. It is not possible to disaggregate the costs of the Dale Street premises from those of the operational court without incurring disproportionate costs.
  1. Stourbridge County Court was being used for the back office function for Dudley County and Family Court until 7 August 2015.
Q
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 16 December 2015
HM Treasury
Taxation: Crime
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many people were (a) prosecuted and (b) convicted for (i) off-shore tax evasion, (ii) in-shore tax evasion, (iii) tax credit fraud, (iv) VAT fraud, (v) smuggling and (vi) other tax-related offences in each financial year since 2010-11.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The information is not held in the format requested. HM Revenue and Customs’ centrally held data records the primary reason for the court case. The central data does not separately identify smuggling cases or use the term ‘in-shore evasion’ when recording the number of prosecutions or convictions.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 04 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Copyright: Internet
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what plans he has to bring forward legislative proposals on increasing penalties for online copyright infringement.
A
Answered by: Mr Edward Vaizey
Answered on: 15 January 2016


A consultation was held during summer 2015 on proposals to increase the maximum custodial sentence for online copyright infringement from two to ten years, to harmonise it with the penalty available for physical infringement. The responses to that consultation have been analysed and officials at the IPO are now giving consideration to future direction and timing and will advise Ministers accordingly.

Q
Asked by Stephen Timms
(East Ham)
Asked on: 05 January 2016
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Broadband: Rural Areas
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer of 14 December 2015 to Question 19214 and with reference to Chapter 3 of the National Audit Office Report, entitled The Superfast (Rural) Broadband Programme: update, published in January 2015, for what reason the amount spent per cabinet is approximately double the amount estimated by the National Audit Office.
A
Answered by: Mr Edward Vaizey
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The costs reported in the January 2015 National Audit Office Report were based on average direct cabinet costs in September 2014, which were lower than envisaged at the time of the contract. Underspends at the end of the projects will be available for further investment in superfast broadband roll-out.

Q
(Birmingham, Northfield)
Asked on: 05 January 2016
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Mobile Phones
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what his Department's policy is on capping exceed costs on mobile phone contracts for consumers.
A
Answered by: Mr Edward Vaizey
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The UK mobile network operators (Vodafone, Three, O2 and EE, together with Virgin Mobile) have signed a Code of Practice on Consumer Billing, which sets out a number of ways help customers to avoid excess charges when exceeding their monthly allowance. The code outlines the need for regular updates on usage, so customers can manage spend. For example, operators committed to sending alerts to customers - usually SMS messages - when they are nearing their bundle limits.

In addition, for contracts entered into after 23 January 2014, consumers can exit contracts without penalty, and hence can switch to another provider or tariff, when the agreed core price (usually the monthly subscription) increases. All communications providers have to comply with these rules when increasing prices.

Q
(North East Fife)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: UK Membership of EU
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what steps he is taking to prepare for the outcome of the EU referendum.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 15 January 2016


The Government is fighting hard to fix the aspects of our EU membership that cause so much frustration in the United Kingdom - so we get a better deal for our country and secure our future. We are confident that the right agreement can be reached.

Q
(Hornsey and Wood Green)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Transport: Apprentices
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, with reference to paragraph 3.22 of English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision, what estimate his Department has made of the proportion of the planned 30,000 transport-related apprenticeships which will be taken up by apprentices with special educational needs or disabilities.
A
Answered by: Nick Boles
Answered on: 15 January 2016

Apprenticeships are full time jobs with training. We do not interfere in employers’ recruitment decisions or set specific quotas for the number of apprenticeships to be taken up by people with special educational needs or disabilities.


All employers must fulfil their duties as set out in the Equality Act 2010 for apprentices as they would for other employees. We believe that the overwhelming majority of young people with special educational needs and disabilities are capable of sustainable, paid employment with the right preparation and support. For many, apprenticeships are the best route into paid employment. To support this, people aged 16 and over can apply for Access to Work funding for adjustments to the workplace. In addition, reasonable adjustments are available for any qualifications within apprenticeships to ensure the apprentice has every opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.


Q
(Southend West)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
HM Treasury
Revenue and Customs: ICT
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, how much HM Revenue and Customs spent on IT contractors in 2015.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 15 January 2016

HM Revenue and Customs’ financial management systems do not hold the information requested because all costs relating to IT Contractors are classed within the generic value for IT Services and Project Development, so individual contractor costs are not identified separately.


Q
(Glasgow Central)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
HM Treasury
Small Businesses: Finance
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will prepare contingency plans for flexible funding for small and medium-sized enterprises to replace JEREMIE funding in the event of UK withdrawal from the EU.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The Government is fighting hard to fix the aspects of our EU membership that cause so much frustration in the United Kingdom - so we can get a better deal for our country and secure our future. We are confident that the right agreement can be reached.

Q
Asked by John Healey
(Wentworth and Dearne)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
New Towns: Northstowe
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what steps he plans to take to ensure that the new town of Northstowe will be developed to schedule.
A
Answered by: Brandon Lewis
Answered on: 15 January 2016

We are committed to the first housing starts on the land owned by the Homes and Communities Agency at Northstowe by the end of 2018, following the necessary infrastructure and other preparatory works. We envisage around 400 homes being started by March 2020 and the cumulative total rising to around 3,000 by March 2025. The detail of the tenure mix will be confirmed following the conclusion of negotiations with the local authority but there will be a very strong focus on the delivery of starter homes.

Q
Asked by John Spellar
(Warley)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Ministry of Defence
Navy: Training
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether training in celestial navigation is provided for new recruits to the Royal Navy.
A
Answered by: Penny Mordaunt
Answered on: 15 January 2016

For new recruits, celestial navigational training is only undertaken by Royal Marine recruits in weeks eight and 10 of their training as part of the Royal School of Military Survey lessons. However, celestial navigational training (referred to as Astro(navigational) training within the Service) is taught to Naval Officers as part of targeted career training courses at the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood. These include: Initial Warfare Officers, the Fleet Navigation Officers Course and in a Specialist Navigation Course (for those officers undertaking specialist training in navigation at Lieutenant/Lieutenant Commander rank with a view to navigating larger vessels such as carriers and amphibious assault ships).

Q
(Stockton North)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Dogs: Smuggling
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the findings of the report by the Dogs Trust entitled, Puppy Smuggling, the Scandal Continues, published in July 2015, what steps her Department is taking to tackle the reasons for the illegal landing of puppies for commercial sale identified in that report.
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The Dogs Trust’s report highlights that responsibility for stopping the illegal movement of puppies begins in the country where they are born. The UK Chief Veterinary Officer has written to the authorities in the countries highlighted in the report to remind them of their duty to ensure that the requirements of the EU pet travel scheme must be fully complied with. This approach has previously resulted in investigations in EU Member States and appropriate action being taken, including the suspension of veterinarian licenses. We will continue to alert the authorities in any Member State where we become aware of issues in relation to the operation of the pet travel scheme.


The UK carries out more checks on pets at the border than most other EU Member States and stringent penalties are in place where people are found to be breaking the rules. Defra actively shares intelligence it gathers relating to abuse of the pet travel scheme with Local Authorities (who are enforcement bodies) and other EU countries for them to further investigate and take any necessary action.


The illegal trade is ultimately driven by demand for cheap, pedigree puppies and so we have published guidance on the steps pet owners can take to avoid buying an illegally imported pet. See: https://www.gov.uk/buying-a-cat-or-dog. Defra has also worked closely with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group to drive up standards for online advertisements.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Alzheimer's Disease
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what research his Department has assessed or commissioned on potential links between prevention of Alzheimer's disease and maintaining positive thinking into later life.
A
Answered by: Jane Ellison
Answered on: 15 January 2016

Reducing the incidence of dementia, improving dementia research, raising awareness and improving the treatment and care of people with dementia is a key priority for the Government. That is why in February 2015, the Prime Minister launched his Challenge on Dementia 2020 as a successor to the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2012-15. Under the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020, we set an ambition for:


- improved public awareness and understanding of the factors, which increase the risk of developing dementia and how people can reduce their risk by living more healthily. This should include a new healthy ageing campaign and access to tools such as a personalised risk assessment calculator as part of the NHS Health Check;

- increased identification of effective ways in which people can reduce their personal risk of developing dementia, including cardio-vascular and cognitive strategies, and ways of encouraging these approaches to improve public health and wellbeing; and

- overall spending for dementia research from all sectors to double by 2025.


Research funding for dementia research doubled under the last Government and will be maintained to total over £300 million over the period of the current government.

Q
Asked by Keith Vaz
(Leicester East)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Diabetes: Health Education
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how much funding was allocated to raising awareness of diabetes by Public Health England in each of the last three years.
A
Answered by: Jane Ellison
Answered on: 15 January 2016

There is no specific budget for diabetes awareness marketing within Public Health England.


However, Change4Life is Public Health England’s (PHE) social marketing programme which aims to inspire families with children aged five to 11 to eat well and move more in order to lower the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. More than 2.7 million people have engaged with the campaign.


Table: Costs for the delivery of the Change4Life campaign

Year

Cost

2012/13

£8,933,000

2013/14

£12,582,000

2014/15

£10,041,000

Note: These costs are total campaign costs and only exclude staffing costs.


PHE is also developing an integrated social marketing campaign to engage adults in making changes to improve their own health. The programme will encourage people to make a number of lifestyle changes including taking up more exercise, improving diet, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.






Q
Asked by Helen Hayes
(Dulwich and West Norwood)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Mental Health Services: Finance
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether full funding for the implementation of the new access target for early intervention in psychosis is included in the Government's commitment to an additional £600 million of funding for mental health in 2016-17.
A
Answered by: Alistair Burt
Answered on: 15 January 2016

No decision has yet been reached on how the additional £600 million of funding for mental health in 2016-17 will be allocated.


A key element of achieving parity across mental and physical health care is in people having timely access to evidence-based and effective treatment.


One focus of the first set of mental health standards for 2015/16 is that from 1 April 2016, 50% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis are treated with a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved package of care within two weeks of referral. This is being supported by £40 million recurrent funding from NHS England to support delivery of the early intervention in psychosis (EIP) standard. Health Education England are focusing £5 million for workforce development towards meeting the EIP standard.

Q
(South Down)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Prescription Drugs
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the processes undertaken by the NICE for approving and commissioning new medicines for cancers and ultra rare diseases; and if he will make a statement.
A
Answered by: George Freeman
Answered on: 15 January 2016

No such assessment has been made.


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body that makes recommendations to the National Health Service on the use of selected drugs and treatments through its technology appraisal and highly specialised technologies programmes. NICE does not commission new medicines and treatments.


NICE is responsible for its own processes and methodology, which it periodically reviews in consultation with stakeholders. Further information on NICE’s processes is available at:


www.nice.org.uk.


The Accelerated Access Review, chaired by Sir Hugh Taylor, is looking at speeding up access to innovative medicines and technologies for patients. NICE has been working closely with the review as it develops its recommendations which are due to be published in Spring 2016.

Q
(Jarrow)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Doctors
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many NHS doctors were employed in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) the North East and (d) the UK in each year since 2005.
A
Answered by: Ben Gummer
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The number of hospital and community health services doctors employed in the National Health Service for South Tyneside and the North East region since 2005 is in the attached table. The figures are taken from the NHS annual workforce statistics published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.


Figures are only available for recognised NHS geography and therefore no information has been provided for Jarrow constituency.


The provision of health services in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter so total figures are for England only.

Doctors in the NHS in England and NE Region (Excel SpreadSheet, 21.81 KB)
Q
(Jarrow)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Nurses
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many NHS nurses were employed in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) the North East and (d) the UK in each year since 2005.
A
Answered by: Ben Gummer
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The number of hospital and community health services nurses employed in the National Health Service for South Tyneside and the North East region in each year since 2005 is in the attached table. The figures are taken from the NHS annual workforce statistics published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.


Figures are only available for recognised NHS geography and therefore no information has been provided for Jarrow constituency.


The provision of health services in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter so total figures are for England only.

Q
Asked by John Spellar
(Warley)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Care Homes
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what contingency plans his Department has for the event of a major care home provider ceasing operations.
A
Answered by: Alistair Burt
Answered on: 15 January 2016

Local authorities retain responsibility for managing provider failure in the social care market. The Government has worked with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and partners to publish guidance to support local authorities to develop contingency plans for managing the failure of a social care provider in their local area. The guidance can be found at:


http://www.lgiu.org.uk/report/care-and-continuity-guide/


Research by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests that as of September 2015, at least 95% of councils have contingency plans in place should a major local provider go out of business. This research is available at:


http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/6869714/2015-08-11+Stocktake+4+Full+Tables+%28Final%29.pdf/f9826461-aaf1-4c86-b5aa-994d2046e80c


The Government will continue to work with local authorities to ensure they have effective and up to date plans in place.


The Care Act also gave the Care Quality Commission (CQC) a new function to oversee the finances of care providers which are either large or whose provision is geographically concentrated as their financial failure would make it difficult for local authorities to discharge their statutory responsibilities.


The oversight function will provide early warning to relevant local authorities in the event that one of these providers is likely to fail and their services cease. This will allow local authorities time to implement contingency plans.


The Government is working with the CQC and the sector to monitor risks to the system and will develop bespoke contingency plans to support local government to manage provider failure, where appropriate.


Q
(Jarrow)
Asked on: 06 January 2016
Department of Health
Hospital Beds
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what change there was in the number of NHS beds in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) the North East and (d) the UK in each year since 2005.
A
Answered by: Ben Gummer
Answered on: 15 January 2016

The average daily number of available open overnight and open day only beds under the care of a consultant in each year since 2005-06 and in each quarter since 2010-11 in (a) South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, (b) the North East and (c) England is in the attached table. Health is a devolved matter in the rest of the United Kingdom.


Average available open beds under a consultant (Excel SpreadSheet, 48.3 KB)
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