Every week I submit a number of Written Parliamentary Questions to Government Ministers. These written questions allow me to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments alongside Oral Question Time sessions in the House of Commons.
Naturalisation: Fees and Charges
Jo Stevens: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether she plans to review the application fee for British citizen naturalisation; and if she will make a statement.
Victoria Atkins (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department): The Border, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS) is predominately funded by the user, and we think it is right that those who use it contribute to its cost, thereby reducing the burden on the UK taxpayer. We keep our fees for immigration and nationality applications under review and ensure they are within the parameters agreed with HM Treasury and Parliament, as set out in Section 68 (9) of the Immigration Act 2014.
Home Office: Immigration: EU Nationals
Jo Stevens: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking support EU nationals living in the UK that (a) lack mental capacity and (b) do not have a power of attorney with their application for settled status.
Brandon Lewis (Minister of State, Home Department): The Home Office has put in place a comprehensive vulnerability strategy to ensure that the EU Settlement Scheme is accessible to all.
A user group of external stakeholders who represent the needs of vulnerable individuals has been established to work with the Home Office to assess and understand relevant risks and issues and to ensure the right support arrangements are in place for applicants, including those who lack mental capacity.
The Home Office is working closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England as well as with stakeholders including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Care Provider Allice and Local Government Association. This collaboration ensures local authorities and partners can work together to identify and support those without mental capacity to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Applicants who need additional support, or those who are assisting them, can call the Settlement Resolution Centre or contact one of the 57 voluntary and community grant funded organisations who can provide immigration advice to individual applicants.
Jo Stevens: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the application process for settled status for EU nationals living in the UK that are homeless.
Brandon Lewis (Minister of State, Home Department): The Home Office has put in place measures to ensure that the EU Settlement Scheme is accessible to all vulnerable applicants, including those who are homeless.
A user group of external stakeholders who represent the needs of potentially vulnerable individuals, including those who are homeless, has been established to work with the Home Office to ensure the right support arrangements are in place.
There is provision in policy to allow for a wide range of evidence to be provided by applicants in order to prove their residence, including confirmation from a charity or support group. There is also provision for applicants to apply without the standard evidence of identity and nationality where they can not provide it due to compelling practical or compassionate reasons or circumstances beyond their control, which may include being homeless or destitute.
The Home Office has introduced a range of support including up to £9 million grant funding for 57 voluntary and community organisations, to ensure those that require the most support to apply to the scheme can access it. This includes funding allocated to charities that support the homeless.
DCMS: Television: Licensing
Jo Stevens: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department will take to ensure that (a) deaf and (b) elderly BBC licence fee payers will be adequately provided for by the BBC.
Nigel Adams (Minister of State): The BBC is editorially and operationally independent of the Government and the Government has no say on what programmes or services the BBC provides for deaf or elderly licence fee payers.
However, the Royal Charter requires the BBC to serve all audiences – including deaf and elderly licence fee payers – through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.
With regard to elderly licence fee payers, the Government is disappointed with the BBC’s decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit. We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC.
For deaf licence fee payers, Ofcom is responsible for setting a Code on Television Access Services, which includes guidance which must be observed by the BBC in relation to providing subtitles and signing on its television channels. The Code sets out 10-year statutory targets for the BBC in relation to subtitling (100%) and signing (5%). Ofcom is currently reviewing how the BBC should make its UK Public Services accessible.
DCMS: BBC: Information Services
Jo Stevens: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether his Department has undertaken an impact assessment on the effect on people who are both deaf and elderly of the decision by the BBC to end teletext pages 102 and 1610.
Nigel Adams (Minister of State): The BBC is operationally and editorially independent from the government; therefore, the government has no role in deciding whether BBC services, such as the BBC Red Button teletext service, should be continued.
It is the BBC’s responsibility to assess the potential effect of the closure of the BBC Red Button service on deaf and elderly people across the UK. The Government welcomes the BBC’s decision to pause the closure of the Red Button service, ahead of its review of the impact of the closure on the most vulnerable including the elderly, and deaf and blind licence fee payers.