QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS

 

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 19 March 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Houseboats: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to support people living on the waterways during the covid-19 outbreak; what plans he has to lift the current requirements for boaters vessels to not stay moored in one place longer than two weeks; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Rebecca Pow
Answered on: 27 March 2020
The Government is clear that the single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. We have announced a range of measures to support people and communities, including: a £500 million fund for households experiencing financial hardship; a coronavirus Job Retention Scheme where small and large employers will be eligible to apply for a Government grant of 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 a month; deferral of the next quarter of VAT payments for firms; and £330 billion of Government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses. We have also made significant changes to the operation of statutory sick pay, universal credit, and employment and support allowance to ensure that people have quicker and more generous access to a support system, and we have taken further immediate steps to give businesses access cash to pay their rent, salaries or suppliers.

The Government is continuously reviewing decisions to reflect the rapidly changing environment in response to Covid-19. Responsibility for inland waterways, including their operation, development or restoration, rests with the bodies that own them and with the relevant navigation authority. The two largest navigation authorities, the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency, are following Government guidance.

Boaters should limit movement to all but essential travel to access services and continue to follow Government guidance. The Canal and River Trust is suspending the requirement to move every 14 days; the suspension will be kept under review in line with revised Government guidance. The Environment Agency and other navigation authorities will also be updating their guidance and mooring conditions for boaters to reflect and enable only essential travel, and will be reviewing this position on an ongoing basis in line with Government guidance on movement. Those who are unable to move as a result of self-isolation or other virus-related impacts are asked to contact the relevant navigation authority directly to discuss their circumstances on a case by case basis. The Government will continue to review the situation.

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 19 March 2020
Department for Transport
Govia Thameslink Railway: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make it his policy to fund the cost of providing season ticket refunds to season ticket holders on GTR during the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Chris Heaton-Harris
Answered on: 27 March 2020
Season ticket holders across all franchises are already entitled to claim a refund if they no longer need their season ticket. Affected passengers should contact their retailer for details of refunds available.
Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 20 March 2020
Department for Work and Pensions
State Retirement Pensions: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will issue guidance to pensioners who collect their state pension payments in cash on how they can collect their pension safely in the event they need to self-isolate during the covid-19 outbreak.
 
A
Answered by: Guy Opperman
Answered on: 27 March 2020
As both the Prime Minister and Chancellor have made clear, the Government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID 19 and we have been clear in our intention that everyone should be supported to do the right thing. We are urgently looking into ways to provide payments to those at home without access to mainstream banking during these unprecedented times and are working tirelessly to find solutions.
Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 20 March 2020
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Homelessness: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what financial support the Government plans to offer to homelessness service providers facing (a) increased demand and (b) reduced fundraising income during the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Luke Hall
Answered on: 30 March 2020
The Government recognises the challenges faced by those who are homeless or sleeping rough during the Covid-19 outbreak. We are working closely with local authorities and the sector to minimise the risk for vulnerable people and as a first step we have announced £3.2 million in emergency funding for local authorities to help rough sleepers and those at risk of sleeping rough to self-isolate. 


A further £1.6 billion of additional funding will be allocated to local authorities to enable them to respond to Covid-19, including stepping up support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

We will be working closely with local authorities to develop an ongoing assessment of costs.

Q: Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Self-employed: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the level of need of solo self-employed people without access to human resources support during the covid-19 outbreak; what steps he is taking to support people in that position; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Paul Scully
Answered on: 26 March 2020
Government is clear that we must support people in work to do the right thing during a Covid-19 outbreak. The Government has already made it easier for those who are sick or self-isolating to access support through Universal Credit and contributory Employment and Support Allowance. We want to make sure our welfare system works quickly and effectively to provide security for people. We are also supporting the self-employed through the tax system, with the next self-assessment payments deferred until the end of the year.

The Government recognises that those who are self-employed might not have HR support, but they can get advice on individual employment issues by calling Acas. They can also ring the BEIS Business Support Line for further advice on support for business.

HMRC have also set up a dedicated helpline for self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

 

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 20 March 2020
Treasury
Public Houses: Coronavirus
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will take steps to require (a) private and (b) Pub Co landlords to grant a three month business rents holiday to pubs that are in financial difficulties as a result of the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Jesse Norman
Answered on: 26 March 2020
The Government has already moved to support residential renters by ensuring landlords are unable to start eviction proceedings for at least a three-month period; this now applies to businesses renting commercial properties.

The Government is also temporarily increasing the Business Rates retail discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for all properties in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, including pubs, in response to Covid-19.

Finally, the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme is in place for all businesses and self-employed people in financial distress to provide support with their tax affairs.

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 20 March 2020
Treasury
Business: Coronavirus
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will take steps to require equipment leasing companies to give customers that are in financial difficulties as a result of the covid-19 outbreak a three month payment holiday; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: John Glen
Answered on: 25 March 2020
The Government has introduced an unprecedented £350bn package of measures to support businesses access the finance they need during this difficult period, and announced significant measures to directly provide support for SMEs including grants, business rates relief and other tax measures.

Any customer who is concerned about their current financial situation should get in touch with their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the best option for their them.

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 23 March 2020
Treasury
Insurance: Coronavirus
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will make it his policy to require insurance companies to define covid-19 as a notifiable disease for the purposes of claims made by businesses affected by the Government’s order to close; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: John Glen
Answered on: 31 March 2020
The Government is in continual dialogue with the insurance sector about its contribution to handling this unprecedented situation.

For those businesses which have an appropriate policy that covers government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable diseases, the Government’s social distancing instructions are sufficient to allow businesses to make a claim against their insurance, provided the other terms and conditions in their policy are met.

 

The FCA’s rules require insurers to handle claims fairly and promptly; provide reasonable guidance to help a policyholder make a claim, and appropriate information on its progress; not reject a claim unreasonably; and settle claims promptly once settlement terms are agreed.

 

However, it is important to note that most businesses have not purchased insurance that covers losses from unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19. Some policies cover losses arising from any disease classed as notifiable by the government, however most policies only cover a specific list of notifiable diseases.

 

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 20 March 2020
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Council Housing: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, whether local authority housing officers are classified as key workers during the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Christopher Pincher
Answered on: 30 March 2020
The Government published guidance on GOV.UK on 19 March setting out how the children of those whose work is critical to the Covid-19 response can continue to receive support from schools if they cannot be safely cared for at home.

Housing Officers undertake a wide range of roles and their responsibilities can vary significantly between local authority landlords, so it is for local authorities to determine whether their role is considered to be critical under the terms of the guidance.

The guidance is clear that if workers think they fall within the critical categories, they should confirm with their employer that their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 23 March 2020
Department for Transport
Motor Vehicles: Testing
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what guidance he plans to issue on the deep cleaning of cars following MOTs when those cars are needed by (a) people in high risk groups to attend urgent medical appointments and (b) essential workers involved in the response to the covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 30 March 2020
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published guidance on GOV.UK for providing MOT tests during the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, as announced on 25 March 2020, the Government is introducing a six-month exemption for all light vehicles due for an MOT test from 30 March 2020 onwards to allow people to continue to travel where essential.
Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 16 March 2020
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Homelessness: Coronavirus
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, if he will publish urgent guidance on steps people should take if they are (a) street homeless, (b) sofa-surfing and (c) otherwise in homeless accommodation without a space to self-isolate, if they develop covid-19 symptoms; and if he will take steps to ensure that guidance is communicated effectively to people who need to receive it; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: Luke Hall
Answered on: 19 March 2020
The Government recognises the challenges faced by those who are homeless or sleeping rough during the Covid-19 outbreak. We are working closely with local authorities and the sector to minimise the risk for vulnerable people and those currently unable to self-isolate.

As an initial first step we have announced £3.2 million in emergency funding for local authorities to help rough sleepers and those at risk of sleeping rough to self-isolate. This funding will assist local authorities with providing accommodation and support to vulnerable people who are at risk of, or who have been diagnosed with, Coronavirus.

Public Health England have also published guidance for those working in hostel and day centre environments.

These actions represent the first steps to help local authorities and frontline services put emergency measures in place. We recognise that more support will be required and are working to develop this as a matter of urgency.

 
Q
Asked by Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 17 March 2020
Treasury
Leisure: Businesses
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the effect on the ability of (a) pubs, (b) restaurants, (c) hotels and guest houses, (d) event planners and suppliers, (e) theatres and cinemas and (f) other hospitality businesses affected by social distancing measures announced by the Prime Minister during the press conference on 16 March 2020 to access insurance in the absence of an order to close; and if he will make a statement.
 
A
Answered by: John Glen
Answered on: 23 March 2020
The Government is in continual dialogue with the insurance sector about its contribution to handling this unprecedented situation.

In addition, the Chancellor has made clear that, for those businesses which have an appropriate policy that covers pandemics, government’s medical advice of 16th March is sufficient to allow businesses to make a claim against their insurance, provided the other terms and conditions in their policy are met.

The FCA’s rules require insurers to handle claims fairly and promptly; provide reasonable guidance to help a policyholder make a claim, and appropriate information on its progress; not reject a claim unreasonably; and settle claims promptly once settlement terms are agreed.

However, most businesses have not purchased insurance that covers pandemic related losses. As such, any affected businesses should note the government’s full package of support.

The Chancellor has announced two packages to support the people and businesses of the UK. A three-point plan providing £12 billion of support for public services, individuals and businesses whose finances are affected by the outbreak, and a package to provide further support for businesses and individuals totalling £350bn.

Q

Asked by Caroline Lucas

(Brighton, Pavilion)

Asked on: 10 March 2020

Department of Health and Social Care

Public Health: Finance

27574

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for what reasons the publication of the public health grant allocations to local authorities for 2020-21 has been delayed; what assessment he has made of the effect of that delay on the planning of services for (a) the event of a covid-19 outbreak and (b) other public health issues; if he will make it his policy to raise those grant allocations to 2010 levels in line with population growth and inflation; and if he will make a statement.

A

Answered by: Jo Churchill

Answered on: 18 March 2020

Public health grant allocations for local authorities for 2020-21 were published on 17 March 2020. We have not made a specific assessment of the timing of publication on the COVID-19 outbreak or other public health issues. At the time of the Spending Round 2019, the Government announced that the public health grant would rise in real terms, enabling local government to continue to invest in the services it funds. As part of the response to COVID-19, the Government has announced a new £500 million hardship fund so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households.

document entitled Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable adults, published 16 March 2020 and other future key documents explaining Government guidance on the covid-19 outbreak are available to people who do not have access to the internet; and if he will make a statement.

 [ ]

Q

Asked by Caroline Lucas

(Brighton, Pavilion)

Asked on: 03 March 2020

Department for Work and Pensions

Social Security Benefits: Coronavirus

24307

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the process will be for self-employed people to claim contributory employment and support allowance in the event that they have to self-isolate as a result of Covid-19; whether those people will be exempt from the face-to-face work capability assessment interview required to begin payments; and if she will make a statement.

A

Answered by: Justin Tomlinson

Answered on: 11 March 2020

As part of the Government’s strategy to support people affected by the Covid-19 public health emergency, DWP is making a number of temporary changes to its benefit processes (and legislation) to ensure people who need financial help have access to the benefit system when they need it.

To avoid increasing the burden on health care professionals and the risk of further infection, we are removing the requirement for fit notes in relation to both Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) claims relating to Covid-19 only.

Everyone that claims who is infected with Covid-19 or who is required to self-isolate will be treated as having Limited Capability for Work in ESA and UC without the requirement for medical evidence or undergoing a Work Capability Assessment.

In addition to better support the needs of people (particularly the self-employed and those not eligible for SSP) and/or not entitled to Universal Credit (UC) we are removing the seven waiting days that currently apply to ESA.

This means that everyone who makes a new claim for ESA; is entitled to the benefit and is infected with Covid-19 or required to self-isolate will be paid from day one of their claim.

Staff are ready to support people who need to self-isolate.

[ ]

Q

Asked by Caroline Lucas

(Brighton, Pavilion)

Asked on: 26 February 2020

Department of Health and Social Care

Coronavirus

21223

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to provide guidance on the medical accuracy of (a) the term Wuhan coronavirus and (b) other terms related to covid-19 to (i) the media and (ii) other relevant bodies; and if he will make a statement.

A

Answered by: Jo Churchill

Answered on: 06 March 2020

The term ‘Wuhan coronavirus’ is no longer used. Since 12 February 2020, Public Health England (PHE) and the Department have used the terminology used by the World Health Organization that is: the illness is referred to as COVID-19 and the virus is SARS-CoV-2.

When communicating to the media and other relevant bodies, PHE and the Department mainly talk about the disease, using the term COVID-19.

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