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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Q
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Special Educational Needs
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking in response to (1) the finding of the National Autistic Society publication School report 2015, in particular on parents' and carers' views of the new system for children and younger adults with special educational needs and disabilities introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014; and (2) the October 2015 Driver Youth Trust report Joining the Dots.
A
Answered by: Lord Nash
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department is monitoring the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) reforms and securing a wide range of feedback. This feedback is collected through statutory data collection; regular surveys of local authorities, parents and carers; regular inputs for the Special Educational Consortium (which represents more than 30 organisations); and reports from contractors such as the Council for Disabled Children, which provides Independent Support services in all local authority areas, and Contact a Family, which runs a national helpline for parents of children with SEND. The reports from the National Autistic Society and the Driver YouthTrust have added to this picture.

The Department has already demonstrated its willingness to listen and respond to questions of national policy and policy implementation. In 2015, the Department adjusted the time allowed for the process of transfer from a statement of SEN (or post-16 Learning Difficulty Assessment) to a new Education, Health and Care Plan.

From May 2016, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) plan to begin an inspection of the effectiveness of local areas in fulfilling their new SEND duties. The SEND inspections will evaluate local areas’ effectiveness in identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people with special educational needs or a disability. Inspections are expected to begin in May 2016 and all local areas will be inspected over a five year period. Feedback from these inspections will also add to the national level picture.

Q
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Special Educational Needs
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to increase the take-up of personal budgets and direct payments, in particular for educational provision, in line with section 49 of the Children and Families Act 2014, the Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014, and Chapter 9 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2015.
A
Answered by: Lord Nash
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department is monitoring the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) reforms and securing a wide range of feedback. This feedback is collected through statutory data collection; regular surveys of local authorities, parents and carers; regular inputs for the Special Educational Consortium (which represents more than 30 organisations); and reports from contractors such as the Council for Disabled Children, which provides Independent Support services in all local authority areas, and Contact a Family, which runs a national helpline for parents of children with SEND.

The Department provides support to local areas in a range of ways, such as voluntary and community sector experts and a team of specialist SEND Advisers.

Local authorities must include information about Personal Budgets in their Local Offers, including information on how to request one. Parents and young people have the right to request a Personal Budget for elements of an Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan; local authorities are under a duty to prepare a budget when requested. Our termly surveys collect responses on the number of EHC plans which carry a Personal Budget.

Since April 2013, the Government has provided nearly £1.5 million in funding to a number of projects with voluntary sector organisations to develop materials to support local areas to introduce Personal Budgets. We regularly promote these projects in our communications to families and to organisations in the sector. For example, KIDS produced guidance in 2015, through the Making it Personal 2 project. The Department is currently funding KIDS to build on this project, to develop further guidance and training resources, including some specifically aimed at young people with SEND, in a range of accessible formats. The SEND Gateway, which is run by the National Association for Special Educational Needs, also offers practical resources on Personal Budgets to assist both users and professionals.

Through our regional support networks, we have funded a number of workshops aimed at local authorities, parents and others about Personal Budgets and we will continue to offer support for of this kind.

Following publication of the Children and Families Act 2014, the Government set out the statutory duties to which local authorities and those working with children and young people must adhere, in the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years[1]. The Code of Practice includes clear information on the processes of EHC plan assessment and production. The Department’s team of specialist SEND Advisers are working with local areas to improve the quality of EHC plans, and are currently leading workshops on this across England.

The SEND Code of Practice includes clear requirements that all local authorities must meet when developing, publishing and reviewing their Local Offer. All local areas have Local Offers in place, but we recognise that the quality varies. This is another area we are monitoring through our termly surveys, our voluntary and community sector experts and specialist SEND Advisers. We have provided regular advice to local areas about how to improve the quality of Local Offers. We are confident that local authorities are working with their partner bodies and with families and young people to continue to improve their Local Offers to ensure they respond to local needs.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398815/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf

SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years (PDF Document, 3.23 MB)
Q
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Special Educational Needs
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to ensure that Education Health and Care plans, in particular for young people transferring to post-16 and post-19 provision, meet the requirements for what must be specified under sections 37–48 of the Children and Families Act 2014.
A
Answered by: Lord Nash
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department is monitoring the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) reforms and securing a wide range of feedback. This feedback is collected through statutory data collection; regular surveys of local authorities, parents and carers; regular inputs for the Special Educational Consortium (which represents more than 30 organisations); and reports from contractors such as the Council for Disabled Children, which provides Independent Support services in all local authority areas, and Contact a Family, which runs a national helpline for parents of children with SEND.

The Department provides support to local areas in a range of ways, such as voluntary and community sector experts and a team of specialist SEND Advisers.

Local authorities must include information about Personal Budgets in their Local Offers, including information on how to request one. Parents and young people have the right to request a Personal Budget for elements of an Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan; local authorities are under a duty to prepare a budget when requested. Our termly surveys collect responses on the number of EHC plans which carry a Personal Budget.

Since April 2013, the Government has provided nearly £1.5 million in funding to a number of projects with voluntary sector organisations to develop materials to support local areas to introduce Personal Budgets. We regularly promote these projects in our communications to families and to organisations in the sector. For example, KIDS produced guidance in 2015, through the Making it Personal 2 project. The Department is currently funding KIDS to build on this project, to develop further guidance and training resources, including some specifically aimed at young people with SEND, in a range of accessible formats. The SEND Gateway, which is run by the National Association for Special Educational Needs, also offers practical resources on Personal Budgets to assist both users and professionals.

Through our regional support networks, we have funded a number of workshops aimed at local authorities, parents and others about Personal Budgets and we will continue to offer support for of this kind.

Following publication of the Children and Families Act 2014, the Government set out the statutory duties to which local authorities and those working with children and young people must adhere, in the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years[1]. The Code of Practice includes clear information on the processes of EHC plan assessment and production. The Department’s team of specialist SEND Advisers are working with local areas to improve the quality of EHC plans, and are currently leading workshops on this across England.

The SEND Code of Practice includes clear requirements that all local authorities must meet when developing, publishing and reviewing their Local Offer. All local areas have Local Offers in place, but we recognise that the quality varies. This is another area we are monitoring through our termly surveys, our voluntary and community sector experts and specialist SEND Advisers. We have provided regular advice to local areas about how to improve the quality of Local Offers. We are confident that local authorities are working with their partner bodies and with families and young people to continue to improve their Local Offers to ensure they respond to local needs.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398815/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf

Q
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Special Educational Needs
Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to ensure that local offers published under the statutory duty on local authorities in the Children and Families Act 2014 meet the two key purposes set out in Chapter 4 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2015.
A
Answered by: Lord Nash
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department is monitoring the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) reforms and securing a wide range of feedback. This feedback is collected through statutory data collection; regular surveys of local authorities, parents and carers; regular inputs for the Special Educational Consortium (which represents more than 30 organisations); and reports from contractors such as the Council for Disabled Children, which provides Independent Support services in all local authority areas, and Contact a Family, which runs a national helpline for parents of children with SEND.

The Department provides support to local areas in a range of ways, such as voluntary and community sector experts and a team of specialist SEND Advisers.

Local authorities must include information about Personal Budgets in their Local Offers, including information on how to request one. Parents and young people have the right to request a Personal Budget for elements of an Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan; local authorities are under a duty to prepare a budget when requested. Our termly surveys collect responses on the number of EHC plans which carry a Personal Budget.

Since April 2013, the Government has provided nearly £1.5 million in funding to a number of projects with voluntary sector organisations to develop materials to support local areas to introduce Personal Budgets. We regularly promote these projects in our communications to families and to organisations in the sector. For example, KIDS produced guidance in 2015, through the Making it Personal 2 project. The Department is currently funding KIDS to build on this project, to develop further guidance and training resources, including some specifically aimed at young people with SEND, in a range of accessible formats. The SEND Gateway, which is run by the National Association for Special Educational Needs, also offers practical resources on Personal Budgets to assist both users and professionals.

Through our regional support networks, we have funded a number of workshops aimed at local authorities, parents and others about Personal Budgets and we will continue to offer support for of this kind.

Following publication of the Children and Families Act 2014, the Government set out the statutory duties to which local authorities and those working with children and young people must adhere, in the SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years[1]. The Code of Practice includes clear information on the processes of EHC plan assessment and production. The Department’s team of specialist SEND Advisers are working with local areas to improve the quality of EHC plans, and are currently leading workshops on this across England.

The SEND Code of Practice includes clear requirements that all local authorities must meet when developing, publishing and reviewing their Local Offer. All local areas have Local Offers in place, but we recognise that the quality varies. This is another area we are monitoring through our termly surveys, our voluntary and community sector experts and specialist SEND Advisers. We have provided regular advice to local areas about how to improve the quality of Local Offers. We are confident that local authorities are working with their partner bodies and with families and young people to continue to improve their Local Offers to ensure they respond to local needs.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398815/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf

SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 years (PDF Document, 3.23 MB)
Q
Asked by Adam Afriyie
(Windsor)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Financial Services
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what steps he plans to take to widen access to sources of alternative finance.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

Alternative finance is a rapidly growing sector. Latest figures from the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association (P2PFA) show that new SME loans originated by their members increased by 89% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2015. Equity crowdfunded deal numbers and investment totals have also been steadily rising. The British Business Bank is an active participant in the sector and during the last 12 months has supported 3,301 businesses through the peer-to-peer platforms Funding Circle, RateSetter and Zopa.

A key element in the growth of the UK alternative finance sector has been a regulatory environment that supports innovation while protecting both investors and businesses. In addition, government is bringing into effect provisions in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 which will require the largest banks - where they decline lending requests from small business customers - to offer those customers the opportunity for their details to be referred to a government-designated funding platform. These platforms will help match SMEs with alternative finance providers and will be brought into operation later this year.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what plans his Department has to ensure that a privatised Green Investment Bank will work to open major new investment options for investors in the UK's low carbon economy while making a material contribution to decarbonisation.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

Details of why the Government believes moving UK Green Investment Bank plc (GIB) into private ownership represents the best way to enable the company to deliver its ambitious green business plan and have a greater impact on green investment while minimising burdens on the UK taxpayer are provided in our November 2015 policy statement on the future of GIB and are further set out in the Government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on the future of GIB which was laid in Parliament on 2 February. Both documents can be found on the GIB pages of the GOV.UK website.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what effect the European Commission's decision to grant the Green Investment Bank scope to operate with aided capital until mid-2017 has had on his Department's policy on privatising that bank.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The original European Commission state aid decision on the Green Investment Bank (GIB) gave approval for GIB to operate until October 2016. While we expect to move GIB into private ownership during the course of 2016, the Government has obtained an updated state aid approval that provides the scope for GIB to operate as a state funded enterprise until the end of March 2018. This ensures GIB could continue to operate should the sale process extend beyond October.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what plans his Department has to ensure that a privatised Green Investment Bank will support the UK's cities, regions and nations in creating robust low carbon economies.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Green Investment Bank (GIB) can best contribute to UK green policy objectives by doing what it does best – achieving the demonstration effect and mobilising much needed private capital into green sectors.

GIB will continue to perform that role in private ownership - getting more investment into green sectors that are relatively mature but nevertheless suffer from a lack of investment

In private hands, GIB will have access to much more capital than if it remained in Government hands – and will be able to have a bigger impact.

Q
Asked by Ruth Smeeth
(Stoke-on-Trent North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Tableware
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what proportion of the tableware used in his Department is made in the UK.
A
Answered by: Joseph Johnson
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has 2 suppliers of restaurant services in the core Department buildings: EC Harris and Baxter Storey.

EC Harris

Currently, 40% of tableware supplied by EC Harris is manufactured in the UK. The policy is to buy UK manufactured tableware to replace existing tableware. The 60% of tableware not manufactured in the UK has been inherited from previous suppliers.

Baxter Storey

Currently, 70% of tableware supplied by Baxter Storey is manufactured in the UK and the remaining 30% is Chinese.

Q
Asked by Ruth Smeeth
(Stoke-on-Trent North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Overseas Trade: China
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on the UK ceramics industry of China being granted Market Economy Status.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

We are awaiting a European Commission proposal on granting Market Economy Status (MES). We understand that the Commission will also be undertaking a detailed assessment of the economic impacts of granting MES as part of their consideration of this issue. We will examine any proposal and assessment carefully. In considering the Commission’s proposal it will be important to take into account the wider trade and international context including China’s compliance with international commitments. If China is granted MES, the Commission will still be able to pursue anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases and impose measures where evidence of dumping or subsidy is found; this is the case with the US and Russia, both of whom have MES status.

Q
Asked by Ruth Smeeth
(Stoke-on-Trent North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
EU Emissions Trading Scheme: Ceramics
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what discussions he has had with representatives of the UK ceramics industry on the effect of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

I can confirm that I met on 3 February 2016 the British Ceramics Confederation. BIS officials are also in regular contact with the sector on all energy and environment matters.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Public Sector: Redundancy Pay
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department has carried out benchmarking of the public sector exit payment cap against comparable private sector roles.
A
Answered by: Greg Hands
Answered on: 04 February 2016

At the 2015 Spending Review the Government announced it will consult on further cross public sector action on exit payment terms. This consultation will provide a good opportunity to collect further information on the trends in the level of exit payments between the private and public sector.

Exit payment terms vary significantly across the private sector, and there will be examples of terms that match or even exceed those in the public sector. However, the Government has seen no evidence that redundancy terms such as employer-funded early retirement, which are widely available across the public sector and often cost employers tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds per person, are replicated to anything like the same extent in the private sector.

The precise number of those affected by the public sector exit payment cap will depend on the number and type of exits in coming years.

However, as the average cost of an exit in the public sector in recent years has been around £25,000 the vast majority of exits are below the level of the cap. For example, less than 2% of recent exits in local government were above the level of the cap.

Grouped Questions: 24562
Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, whether he has made an assessment of the projects with which the Green Investment Bank has been involved which would not have gone ahead without investment from that Bank.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

One of the UK Green Investment Bank’s (GIB’s) objectives is to invest in green projects that would not go ahead, or would not go ahead as quickly, without investment from GIB. The majority of the projects GIB supports fall into this category.

Where GIB has invested in projects that are already operational, this has been for the purpose of building a secondary market for such assets which releases the funds of project developers to invest in new construction projects

Q
(South Derbyshire)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Motor Vehicles: Trade Competitiveness
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what recent assessment he has made of the relative competitiveness of the UK automotive industry.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

In November last year the Automotive Council published a comprehensive report called The International Competitiveness of the UK Automotive Industry.

The report is intended to illustrate where the UK has a competitive advantage over other countries, and to identify where additional attention from government and industry is needed. It will assist the Automotive Council in ensuring it focuses its resources on the areas that will offer the greatest return for the UK automotive sector, and in ensuring that the UK remains one of the most attractive places for investment.

Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, whether he plans to invest any unallocated funding held by the Green Investment Bank at its point of privatisation into green projects in the UK.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Government has put paying down our debt while investing in infrastructure at the heart of our long term economic plan. Proceeds from a sale of UK Green investment Bank plc (GIB) will help us deliver on both those objectives. Any proposal to allocate Government funding to other types of intervention to achieve green policy objectives would need to be considered individually on its merits.

GIB’s remit has always been to invest in green projects on fully commercial terms to help demonstrate green investment can be profitable and attract additional private sector investment into green sectors from mainstream finance providers. GIB will continue to perform that role in private ownership. Details of the other Government policy mechanisms in place aimed at promoting investment in more high risk projects and early stage technologies are provided at paragraphs 31 – 36 of our November 2015 policy statement on the future of GIB which can be found on the GIB pages of the GOV.UK website.

Grouped Questions: 24583
Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Public Sector: Redundancy Pay
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department has made an assessment of the number of workers who would be affected if the exit payments cap for public sector workers was set at any other amount than £95,000.
A
Answered by: Greg Hands
Answered on: 04 February 2016

At the 2015 Spending Review the Government announced it will consult on further cross public sector action on exit payment terms. This consultation will provide a good opportunity to collect further information on the trends in the level of exit payments between the private and public sector.

Exit payment terms vary significantly across the private sector, and there will be examples of terms that match or even exceed those in the public sector. However, the Government has seen no evidence that redundancy terms such as employer-funded early retirement, which are widely available across the public sector and often cost employers tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds per person, are replicated to anything like the same extent in the private sector.

The precise number of those affected by the public sector exit payment cap will depend on the number and type of exits in coming years.

However, as the average cost of an exit in the public sector in recent years has been around £25,000 the vast majority of exits are below the level of the cap. For example, less than 2% of recent exits in local government were above the level of the cap.

Grouped Questions: 24536
Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what assessment he has made of the ability of a privatised Green Investment Bank to address market failures in the low carbon economy.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Government’s position on this matter was set out in paragraphs 31 – 36 of our November 2015 policy statement on the future of the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) which can be found on the GIB pages of the GOV.UK website.

This makes clear that GIB’s remit has always been to invest in green projects on fully commercial terms to help demonstrate green investment can be profitable and attract additional private sector investment into green sectors from mainstream finance providers. GIB will continue to perform that role in private ownership.

There are other Government policy mechanisms in place aimed at promoting investment in more high risk projects and early stage technologies.

Grouped Questions: 24582
Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, if he will allocate all funds raised by privatisation of the Green Investment Bank to green technologies in the UK.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Government has put paying down our debt while investing in infrastructure at the heart of our long term economic plan. Proceeds from a sale of UK Green investment Bank plc (GIB) will help us deliver on both those objectives. Any proposal to allocate Government funding to other types of intervention to achieve green policy objectives would need to be considered individually on its merits.

GIB’s remit has always been to invest in green projects on fully commercial terms to help demonstrate green investment can be profitable and attract additional private sector investment into green sectors from mainstream finance providers. GIB will continue to perform that role in private ownership. Details of the other Government policy mechanisms in place aimed at promoting investment in more high risk projects and early stage technologies are provided at paragraphs 31 – 36 of our November 2015 policy statement on the future of GIB which can be found on the GIB pages of the GOV.UK website.

Grouped Questions: 24626
Q
Asked by Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Green Investment Bank: Privatisation
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what recent assessment he has made of the differences in the ability of the Green Investment Bank to invest in higher risk emerging green technologies as a (a) public and (b) private sector bank.
A
Answered by: Anna Soubry
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Government’s position on this matter was set out in paragraphs 31 – 36 of our November 2015 policy statement on the future of the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) which can be found on the GIB pages of the GOV.UK website.

This makes clear that GIB’s remit has always been to invest in green projects on fully commercial terms to help demonstrate green investment can be profitable and attract additional private sector investment into green sectors from mainstream finance providers. GIB will continue to perform that role in private ownership.

There are other Government policy mechanisms in place aimed at promoting investment in more high risk projects and early stage technologies.

Grouped Questions: 24571
Q
(Lanark and Hamilton East)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Welfare Tax Credits: Lone Parents
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many lone parents have received letters from Concentrix since 1 January 2015 questioning their reported living arrangements and requesting proof that they are not cohabiting in order to assess their continued eligibility to receive tax credits.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 04 February 2016

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) routinely carries out checks on tax credits claims to make sure people are receiving the right amount of money and identify fraudulent claims. Since November 2014, Concentrix has been carrying out routine tax credit checks on behalf of HMRC, in addition to the checks HMRC carry out themselves. There are more than 4 million tax credit claimants overall.

From the number of claimants contacted by Concentrix, HMRC and Concentrix do not categorise data under the heading of lone parent cases.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Stock Market: China
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions he has had with his Chinese counterpart on developments in the stock market in that country.
A
Answered by: Harriett Baldwin
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Chancellor, as well as other HM Treasury ministers and officials regularly meet with their international counterparts to discuss a range of issues, including economic developments in China.

As the Chancellor said during his trip to China in September 2015, the UK should “support and encourage China on this journey of economic change… Both Britain and China also recognise the importance of rebalancing our economies. It’s another way we can partner each other on the journey ahead… As the home to the world’s global financial centre, Britain can support China’s important financial reforms”.

Q
Asked by Tom Tugendhat
(Tonbridge and Malling)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Work and Pensions
Pensions: Fees and Charges
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps his Department has taken to ensure transparency of commission and other charges, levied by private pension funds on individuals.
A
Answered by: Justin Tomlinson
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department has regularly commissioned surveys on the types and levels of charges faced by savers in defined contribution workplace pension schemes. The latest pension charges survey was published on 17 December 2015 and can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pension-charges-survey-2015-charges-in-defined-contribution-pension-schemes

It is important that savers know what costs and charges they are paying. As a first step towards achieving this, most occupational pension schemes offering money purchase benefits are now required to report the charges levied on members and, as far as they are able, transaction costs, via an annual Chair’s Statement. The Chair’s Statement, which must be given to beneficiaries and recognised trade unions on request, must also report the trustees’ view on the extent to which these costs present value for members.

Similarly, the Financial Conduct Authority have made rules requiring Independent Governance Committees to report annually on the value for money offered by workplace personal pension schemes, taking into account scheme charges and transaction costs.

The Government is also actively considering how to make the costs of pension schemes more visible to savers, and is committed, in line with the duties of the Pensions Act 2014, to make regulations which require information on transaction costs to be given to members and both costs and charges to be published. To help achieve this, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Financial Conduct Authority published a joint call for evidence last year on disclosure of transaction costs.

In addition, the Chancellor recently announced that the Government will take action to limit early exit fees by introducing a new duty on the Financial Conduct Authority to cap early exit charges in relation to contract-based schemes, and will mirror these requirements in relation to trust-based schemes. This will ensure that individuals do not face financial barriers where they wish to access their pension benefits flexibly.

Grouped Questions: 24461
Q
Asked by Paul Flynn
(Newport West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Companies: Taxation
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, which companies have had meetings with Ministers of his Department since May 2015 to discuss those companies' tax status.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 04 February 2016

Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

Details of ministerial and permanent secretary meetings with external organisations on departmental business are published on a quarterly basis and are available on Gov.uk.

Q
Asked by Tom Tugendhat
(Tonbridge and Malling)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Work and Pensions
Pensions: Fees and Charges
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what information his Department holds on charges other than commission payments levied on private pension funds by individuals.
A
Answered by: Justin Tomlinson
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department has regularly commissioned surveys on the types and levels of charges faced by savers in defined contribution workplace pension schemes. The latest pension charges survey was published on 17 December 2015 and can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pension-charges-survey-2015-charges-in-defined-contribution-pension-schemes

It is important that savers know what costs and charges they are paying. As a first step towards achieving this, most occupational pension schemes offering money purchase benefits are now required to report the charges levied on members and, as far as they are able, transaction costs, via an annual Chair’s Statement. The Chair’s Statement, which must be given to beneficiaries and recognised trade unions on request, must also report the trustees’ view on the extent to which these costs present value for members.

Similarly, the Financial Conduct Authority have made rules requiring Independent Governance Committees to report annually on the value for money offered by workplace personal pension schemes, taking into account scheme charges and transaction costs.

The Government is also actively considering how to make the costs of pension schemes more visible to savers, and is committed, in line with the duties of the Pensions Act 2014, to make regulations which require information on transaction costs to be given to members and both costs and charges to be published. To help achieve this, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Financial Conduct Authority published a joint call for evidence last year on disclosure of transaction costs.

In addition, the Chancellor recently announced that the Government will take action to limit early exit fees by introducing a new duty on the Financial Conduct Authority to cap early exit charges in relation to contract-based schemes, and will mirror these requirements in relation to trust-based schemes. This will ensure that individuals do not face financial barriers where they wish to access their pension benefits flexibly.

Grouped Questions: 24449
Q
Asked by Patrick Grady
(Glasgow North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Multinational Companies: Taxation
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the merits of making public the rules for country-by-country reporting of tax and profits by multinational companies.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The UK supports efforts to improve tax transparency. The UK initiated the international work on country-by-country reporting during its G8 Presidency in 2013, calling on the OECD to develop a template for country-by-country (CbC) reporting as part of the BEPS project.

The UK was the first out of 44 to commit to implement the OECD model for CbC reporting with legislation in Finance Act 2015.

We understand that the Commission is also undertaking an analysis of the various tax transparency requirements for multinationals as part of its public consultation, and we look forward to the outcomes of this work.

The Government recognises the case for publishing country-by-country reports on a multilateral basis.

Grouped Questions: 24621
Q
Asked by Patrick Grady
(Glasgow North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
HM Treasury
Multinational Companies: Taxation
Commons
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions he has had with (a) Members of the European Parliament, (b) EU Commissioners and (c) EU finance ministers on making public the rules for country-by-country reporting of tax and profits by multinational companies.
A
Answered by: Mr David Gauke
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The UK supports efforts to improve tax transparency. The UK initiated the international work on country-by-country reporting during its G8 Presidency in 2013, calling on the OECD to develop a template for country-by-country (CbC) reporting as part of the BEPS project.

The UK was the first out of 44 to commit to implement the OECD model for CbC reporting with legislation in Finance Act 2015.

We understand that the Commission is also undertaking an analysis of the various tax transparency requirements for multinationals as part of its public consultation, and we look forward to the outcomes of this work.

The Government recognises the case for publishing country-by-country reports on a multilateral basis.

Grouped Questions: 24622
Q
Asked by Oliver Dowden
(Hertsmere)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Local Plans
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what guidance his Department provides to local planning authorities on whether (a) a Local Plan and (b) other local planning policies can be amended following the granting of planning permission on appeal for substantive development.
A
Answered by: Brandon Lewis
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The National Planning Policy Framework says that Local Plans can be reviewed in whole or in part to respond flexibly to changing circumstances. Our planning guidance also indicates that a local planning authority should review the relevance of the Local Plan at regular intervals to assess whether some or all of it may need updating. It is for the local planning authority to decide whether and when to review its planning policies.

Q
Asked by Oliver Dowden
(Hertsmere)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Green Belt
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what guidance his Department has issued on whether the existence of extant planning permission for development in the Green Belt would count as exceptional circumstances to permit a planning application for an alternative, less intrusive form of development in that location.
A
Answered by: Brandon Lewis
Answered on: 04 February 2016

An extant planning permission does not prevent consideration of a further planning application for the same site. It would be for the local authority to assess each proposal on its merits, in the light of all material considerations, including the protections for Green Belt set out in our National Planning Policy Framework. If the development proposed would be inappropriate in Green Belt, the Framework states that planning permission should generally be refused. However, if the local authority finds that any harms caused by the development would be clearly outweighed by other considerations, and that very special circumstances justify planning permission, permission may be granted. If necessary the local authority can impose planning conditions or require design changes to mitigate any adverse impact.

A Local Development Order or Supplementary Planning Guidance would also have to be designed by the local authority to accord with policies in the Framework, including the need to protect the openness of Green Belt land.

Grouped Questions: 24535
Q
Asked by Oliver Dowden
(Hertsmere)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Green Belt
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what guidance his Department issues to local authorities on (a) a Local Development Order and (b) Supplementary Planning Guidance to facilitate alternative, less intrusive development on a specific location in the Green Belt where there is already extant planning permission for development in that location.
A
Answered by: Brandon Lewis
Answered on: 04 February 2016

An extant planning permission does not prevent consideration of a further planning application for the same site. It would be for the local authority to assess each proposal on its merits, in the light of all material considerations, including the protections for Green Belt set out in our National Planning Policy Framework. If the development proposed would be inappropriate in Green Belt, the Framework states that planning permission should generally be refused. However, if the local authority finds that any harms caused by the development would be clearly outweighed by other considerations, and that very special circumstances justify planning permission, permission may be granted. If necessary the local authority can impose planning conditions or require design changes to mitigate any adverse impact.

A Local Development Order or Supplementary Planning Guidance would also have to be designed by the local authority to accord with policies in the Framework, including the need to protect the openness of Green Belt land.

Grouped Questions: 24534
Q
(Leeds North West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Private Rented Housing: Repairs and Maintenance
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what progress he has made on empowering tenants in the private rented sector to ensure landlords carry out reasonable repairs.
A
Answered by: Brandon Lewis
Answered on: 04 February 2016

On 1 February 2016 we issued a new Model Tenancy Agreement and updated our How to Rent Guide which makes clear landlord responsibilities in terms of carrying out repairs. The vast majority of landlords in the private rented sector provide good quality and well managed accommodation. We know that 84% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, and stay in their homes for an average of 3 and a half years.

If a tenant feels that the property they are renting is unsafe, and the landlord fails to get the necessary repairs done, they should contact their local authority which has powers, under the Housing Act 2004, to assess the risks and hazards. If a property is found to contain serious (category 1) hazards, the local authority has a duty to take the most appropriate action, which could range from trying to deal with the problems informally at first to prohibiting the use of the whole or part of the dwelling.

The Housing and Planning Bill contains measures to tackle rogue landlords who rent out sub-standard accommodation. Proposals include a database of rogue landlords and property agents, introducing banning orders for serious or repeat offenders, a tougher fit and proper person test, extending Rent Repayment Orders and introducing civil penalties.

Q
Asked by Andrew Gwynne
(Denton and Reddish)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Regional Planning and Development: Greater Manchester
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, whether the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is legally required to consult all councillors in the 10 metropolitan district councils on the sites identified in the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Development Plan.
A
Answered by: James Wharton
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities is currently involved in the preparation of a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Development Plan working with the 10 metropolitan councils in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s area. We understand that this is intended to become a joint development plan document.

A local authority may arrange for the discharge of any of its functions by a committee, sub-committee, an officer or by any other local authority. The ten local authorities have delegated responsibility for the “coordination” of the Greater Manchester Strategic Framework to Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Executive Board, a committee of the Combined Authority. Under these current arrangements, it is for each individual authority to decide how to engage its members in the production of the document.

Each local planning authority must also comply with section 18 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which requires them to prepare a Statement of Community Involvement which should explain how they will engage local communities and other interested parties in producing development plan documents and determining planning applications. This should be published on the local planning authority’s website and it is the authority’s responsibility to ensure that any Development Plan Document is prepared in accordance with it.

It would not be appropriate for me to meet to discuss the detail of a plan in preparation.

Grouped Questions: 24412 | 24413
Q
Asked by Andrew Gwynne
(Denton and Reddish)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Regional Planning and Development: Greater Manchester
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, whether the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is legally required to consult the public on the sites identified in the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Development Plan.
A
Answered by: James Wharton
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities is currently involved in the preparation of a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Development Plan working with the 10 metropolitan councils in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s area. We understand that this is intended to become a joint development plan document.

A local authority may arrange for the discharge of any of its functions by a committee, sub-committee, an officer or by any other local authority. The ten local authorities have delegated responsibility for the “coordination” of the Greater Manchester Strategic Framework to Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Executive Board, a committee of the Combined Authority. Under these current arrangements, it is for each individual authority to decide how to engage its members in the production of the document.

Each local planning authority must also comply with section 18 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which requires them to prepare a Statement of Community Involvement which should explain how they will engage local communities and other interested parties in producing development plan documents and determining planning applications. This should be published on the local planning authority’s website and it is the authority’s responsibility to ensure that any Development Plan Document is prepared in accordance with it.

It would not be appropriate for me to meet to discuss the detail of a plan in preparation.

Grouped Questions: 24411 | 24413
Q
Asked by Andrew Gwynne
(Denton and Reddish)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Communities and Local Government
Regional Planning and Development: Greater Manchester
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, if he will meet the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish to discuss the consultation process for the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Development Plan.
A
Answered by: James Wharton
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities is currently involved in the preparation of a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Development Plan working with the 10 metropolitan councils in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s area. We understand that this is intended to become a joint development plan document.

A local authority may arrange for the discharge of any of its functions by a committee, sub-committee, an officer or by any other local authority. The ten local authorities have delegated responsibility for the “coordination” of the Greater Manchester Strategic Framework to Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Executive Board, a committee of the Combined Authority. Under these current arrangements, it is for each individual authority to decide how to engage its members in the production of the document.

Each local planning authority must also comply with section 18 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which requires them to prepare a Statement of Community Involvement which should explain how they will engage local communities and other interested parties in producing development plan documents and determining planning applications. This should be published on the local planning authority’s website and it is the authority’s responsibility to ensure that any Development Plan Document is prepared in accordance with it.

It would not be appropriate for me to meet to discuss the detail of a plan in preparation.

Grouped Questions: 24411 | 24412
Q
Asked by Maria Eagle
(Garston and Halewood)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Digital Technology
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, when his Department plans to publish the UK Digital Strategy.
A
Answered by: Mr Edward Vaizey
Answered on: 04 February 2016

We plan to publish the Digital Strategy in early 2016. The Minister for the Digital Economy launched a public call for ideas on 29 December. We are now analysing these responses, and we continue to work closely with Whitehall departments on the Strategy.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Ministry of Defence
Russia: NATO
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent discussions the Government has had with NATO on reductions to the number of Russian nuclear strike missiles.
A
Answered by: Mark Lancaster
Answered on: 04 February 2016

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) has had no recent discussions with NATO regarding reductions to the number of Russian nuclear strike missiles. However, the US provides annual reports on progress made under the Treaty for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, which is known as the New START Treaty.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Obesity: Children
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps are being taken in primary schools to address obesity.
A
Answered by: Edward Timpson
Answered on: 04 February 2016

A number of measures are already helping to address obesity in primary schools in England. The Government has committed over £600 million per year to funding free school meals for all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2, providing nutritious meals every day and helping to form good eating habits early. The School Food Standards, introduced in 2015, ensure that healthy food is provided throughout the school day and severely restrict fat and sugar. We will continue to invest £150 million per year until 2020 to improve the quality of PE and sport in primary schools. PE is compulsory at all four key stages in the national curriculum for maintained schools.

The Government will launch its childhood obesity strategy shortly. It will look at everything that contributes to a child becoming overweight and obese. It will also set out what more can be done by all sides, including schools.

Q
Asked by Chris Green
(Bolton West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
STEM Subjects: Teachers
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government is taking to work with schools and teacher training providers to (a) increase the number of science and mathematics teachers and (b) to ensure that such teachers work in the schools where they are most needed.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 04 February 2016

We recognise that increasing the number of science and mathematics teachers, particularly in some parts of the country, given the career choices available to graduates of these subjects is a challenge. We are taking a number of steps to increase their numbers further.

We are implementing a package of up to £67 million to transform mathematics and physics teaching in England. This will provide subject knowledge training to 15,000 non-specialist serving teachers and recruit up to 2,500 additional mathematics and physics teachers. The package includes programmes to encourage the brightest A level students and undergraduates into teaching; salaried part-time and abridged courses for career changers; a salaried route for post-doctoral maths and physics researchers; and support for qualified teachers wishing to return to the profession.

We have increased bursaries for science and mathematics trainee teachers; including £30,000 for physics trainees with first-class degrees. We are also offering prestigious scholarships, worth up to £30,000 for physics, and £25,000 for mathematics, chemistry and computing trainees, in partnership with the professional bodies for these subjects.

Through the School Direct route, which is specifically targeted at career changers and allows them to earn a salary whilst they train to teach, we are providing enhanced grant funding of £25,000 (up to £29,900 in inner London) to schools that pay the trainee an enhanced salary of at least £21,000 (£25,000 in inner London).

Our marketing campaign, Your Future | Their Future, includes targeted subject specific science and mathematics advertising through a range of media. Those who wish to teach secondary science or mathematics are eligible for our enhanced Premier Plus service, which provides support from a dedicated adviser to guide them through the application process. Those applicants who would benefit from it can also access funded courses to boost or refresh their subject knowledge to a level that will allow them to teach the subject.

To ensure that these teachers work in the schools where they are most needed, we have expanded school-led initial teacher training (ITT) by introducing School Direct and accrediting more school-centred initial teacher training providers. School-led ITT gives schools the leading role in responding to recruitment needs in their local area, including for science and mathematics teachers. We have also supported the growth of Teach First, a prestigious teacher training route which places trainees in some of the most deprived and challenging areas of the country. As a result of these reforms, 2015/16 is the first year in which more than half of postgraduate ITT is school-led, with 51% of trainees on a school-led route.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership has also recently changed its approach to allocating ITT places, giving individual schools and universities the freedom to recruit as many science and mathematics trainees as they need, up to the national target for each subject.

We have also recently launched the National Teaching Service (NTS). This will help schools that are finding it difficult to retain and recruit the teachers they need, such as in rural, coastal or deprived areas. We will first test aspects of the model through a pilot of 100 NTS teachers/middle leaders starting in secondary and primary schools in the North West from September 2016. Thereafter the national programme will be rolled out to other parts of the country so that by 2020 there will be 1,500 outstanding NTS teachers and middle leaders in schools that need them.

Q
(Stockton North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Further Education: Mergers
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on measures to ensure that banks and other financial institutions are not able to profit from the merging of any further education institutions as a result of his Department's area reviews.
A
Answered by: Nick Boles
Answered on: 04 February 2016

I refer the hon Member to the answer to Question UIN 02129.

Q
Asked by Chris Green
(Bolton West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
STEM Subjects: Young People
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Your Life campaign in changing the perceptions of STEM subjects amoung young people.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 04 February 2016

This Government welcomes the independently led Your Life campaign which aims to increase the number of young people studying science and mathematics at A level, and which is funded by nine corporate sponsors. We look forward to hearing from the campaign what impact it has had on young people’s perceptions.

Since 2010 the number of young people studying science and mathematics A levels has increased by around 29,000. The Government is committed to further increasing these numbers and is taking action to do so, such as recruiting top graduates into teaching.

Q
Asked by Ruth Smeeth
(Stoke-on-Trent North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Pupils: Disadvantaged
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how much of the available funding for the Pupil Premium Summer School Programme was spent in 2015; and how much was spent on food provision for children outside term time.
A
Answered by: Mr Sam Gyimah
Answered on: 04 February 2016

From 2015-16, the total expenditure by the Department on the summer schools programme was £38m. The Department does not collect data on the number of schools that provided meals for pupils as part of their summer school, nor on the amount of summer school funding spent on food provision.

Q
Asked by Ruth Smeeth
(Stoke-on-Trent North)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
Pupils: Disadvantaged
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what funding was available for the Pupil Premium Summer School Programme in 2015.
A
Answered by: Mr Sam Gyimah
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The Department made up to £46m of funding from the pupil premium available to support schools in delivering summer schools in 2015. The actual amount paid to the 2,171 secondary schools that chose to take part in the 2015 programme, which involved over 92,000 pupils, was £38m.

Q
(Blaydon)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Education
English Baccalaureate: Arts
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if she will ensure that creative subjects are included in the new Ebac; and if she will make a statement.
A
Answered by: Nick Gibb
Answered on: 04 February 2016

This Government’s aim is to have at least 90% of pupils taking GCSEs from the English Baccalaureate subjects of English, maths, science, humanities and languages.

These subjects are part of a broad and balanced curriculum. There is space in the wider school curriculum to teach other subjects alongside these subjects.

On 3 November 2015 the Secretary of State for Education launched a public consultation seeking views on the government’s proposals for the implementation of the English Baccalaureate[1]. The consultation closed on 29 January 2016 and the government will publish its response in the spring.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/implementing-the-english-baccalaureate

Q
Asked by Paul Flynn
(Newport West)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Department for Energy and Climate Change
Nuclear Power: Disclosure of Information
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, if she will list by title the documents requested and not released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relating to (a) nuclear power and (b) Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant since May 2010.
A
Answered by: Andrea Leadsom
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The information requested is not held centrally and can only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Q
(North Durham)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Russia: Theatre Nuclear Weapons
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with his US counterpart on Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
A
Answered by: Mr Tobias Ellwood
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The UK is not a signatory of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The US has briefed the UK on alleged violations of the Treaty by Russia. Together with our NATO Allies, the UK has called on Russia to preserve the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Continuing to uphold the Treaty strengthens the security of all, including Russia.

Q
(Glasgow Central)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Bulgaria: Religious Freedom
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will raise with the government of Bulgaria the issue of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community being denied the right to register as a religious organisation in Bulgaria.
A
Answered by: Mr David Lidington
Answered on: 04 February 2016
We are aware of the concerns of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Bulgaria. The UK supports the right to freedom of religion or belief for every individual. We would expect the Bulgarian Government to meet its international obligations to ensure freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens.
Q
(North East Fife)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Maldives: Human Rights
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in the Maldives.
A
Answered by: Mr Hugo Swire
Answered on: 04 February 2016

We are concerned by a number of recent steps taken by the Maldivian government which undermine human rights in the country. These include; signs that the death penalty is to be reintroduced, restrictions on the right to protest and the intimidation of civil society, human rights organisations and members of the media. Other concerns include the arbitrary detention of political figures and the decreasing independence of institutions and the judiciary. I raised all of these issues with the Maldives government during my visit to the Maldives on 17 and 18 January. In particular I reiterated the UK’s principled opposition to the death penalty.

Q
(Ochil and South Perthshire)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Islamic State
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 4 January 2016 to Question 20771, how many staff are employed in the Coalition Communications Cell; and what the annual operating budget of that unit is.
A
Answered by: Mr Tobias Ellwood
Answered on: 04 February 2016

There are currently nine full time equivalent members of staff working in the Coalition Communications Cell, including two secondees from Canada and the Netherlands.

The operating budget is the amount the Prime Minister announced at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 which is £10 million; this covers staff costs and all project activity over two financial years. In addition, we are working with Coalition Partners to seek additional resources.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Libya: Oil
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assistance the Government is giving to Libya for protection of oil fields and production lines in that country.
A
Answered by: Mr Tobias Ellwood
Answered on: 04 February 2016

We are extremely concerned about the growing threat from extremist groups in Libya, including Daesh. The recent attacks on the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil terminals show the threat that these groups pose to Libya’s future political and economic stability. The urgent establishment of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) is the best way to tackle the threat in the long term. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) gave this message when he spoke to Prime Minister-designate, Fayez al-Serraj, on 10 January. He also emphasised the UK Government’s commitment to supporting the GNA in tackling the threats from Daesh and people smuggling.

Effective public financial management will be crucial in helping the GNA achieve real impact on the ground and gain economic credibility. And it is why we have committed £3 million over the next two years to provide technical assistance and economic governance expertise to Libya, thereby enabling a more effective response to defending Libya’s oil facilities.

Q
Asked by Jim Shannon
(Strangford)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Hong Kong: Missing Persons
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with his counterpart in China on the recent disappearance of five people who work for a Hong Kong publishing company and bookseller.
A
Answered by: Mr Hugo Swire
Answered on: 04 February 2016

Her Majesty's Government remains deeply concerned about British citizen Mr Lee Po who went missing from Hong Kong in December and his four colleagues associated with the Causeway Bay Books bookstore. I raised the issue with the Chinese Ambassador to the UK on 22 January and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), raised the case with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on 5 January. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials are in regular contact with the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to make clear our serious concerns about this matter. As the Foreign Secretary told the House on 12 January, if allegations of Chinese security agents taking a British Citizen out of Hong Kong are correct, then this would be a serious breach of the Joint Declaration (Official Record 12 Jan 2016 : Column 693).

Q
(North Durham)
Asked on: 27 January 2016
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Russia: Navy
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Romanian government about a NATO Black Sea fleet.
A
Answered by: Mr David Lidington
Answered on: 04 February 2016

The UK holds regular discussions with our NATO Allies, including Romania, about security issues across the Euro-Atlantic space, including in the Black Sea region. In July 2015 the Deputy Permanent Representatives Committee in Brussels held a session on the security situation in the Black Sea in which the UK, Romania and a large number of NATO Allies participated.

In November 2015 HMS Duncan, the Royal Navy’s newest destroyer, visited Romania and provided a visible British and NATO presence in the Black Sea. HMS Duncan also participated in a Passing Exercise with the Romanian navy with the aim of increasing NATO interoperability.

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