Coerced consent is not consent and would threaten us all.

 

Torbay CAB

Torbay Citizens Advice Bureau is launching a new initiative aimed at people in Torbay facing poverty and hardship.

Weekly drop in sessions are going to be held at The Edge, Bolton Street, Brixham on Thursdays between 1-4pm starting from Thursday August 6th.

The drop in sessions provide a whole range of services that offer information on a variety of different issues such as: benefits, budgeting, debt, housing, employment, family and personal issues.

Advisors can also offer further support on issues such as food banks and crisis support.

A similar initiative has been launched in Paignton at the Centre Peace, 56 Palace Avenue on Tuesdays between 1-4pm starting from July 28th and in Torquay at The Living Room, St Mary Magdalene Church, Union Street on Wednesdays and Fridays between 11am – 2pm starting from August 12th.

 

E-Petitions

This week, Parliament has launched a new way for the public to create and sign online petitions. Petitions can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government.

Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated.

All petitions which are accepted will also be examined by the Petitions Committee – a cross-party group of MPs – to look at the issue in greater detail and see whether there are also other ways to take the matter forward. This could include pressing the Government for action or asking a parliamentary committee to look into the topic raised by the petition.

You can sign current petitions or create a new one at https://petition.parliament.uk/

Information about how the petitions system works and what can be included in one can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/help

 

Summer Budget 2015

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his post-election Budget to the House of Commons – setting out taxation and spending plans including the introduction of a compulsory National Living Wage for those aged over 25. Starting at £7.20 an hour from next April, it is expected to reach £9 an hour by 2020 – meaning that someone working full time on minimum wage today will earn an extra £5,000 a year by the end of the decade.

I know that some small business owners will have concerns about the impact that this increase will have on their businesses. I was pleased to see that the Chancellor set out measures to offset the increased costs, by announcing further cuts in Corporation Tax and an increase in the NIC Employment Allowance. The increase to £3000 per year means businesses will be able to take on up to 4 employees without paying any national insurance contributions.

Tax cuts were also announced, with the Chancellor confirming that the personal tax allowance will increase to £11,000 from April 2016 – meaning that the typical taxpayer will be paying £905 less tax each year than they would have been in 2010. The higher rate of tax was designed to target only the richest in society and it is wrong that people like nurses and policemen have been dragged into that tax band over the past two decades. It is therefore right that the Chancellor announced an increase in the higher rate tax threshold to £43,000 from 2016. These two measures will mean that in the Totnes constituency, 40,452 people will be better off and 778 of the lowest paid will be taken out of paying tax entirely.

In addition, the effective inheritance tax threshold for most couples will be raised to £1m, meaning that the vast majority of family homes can be passed on tax-free to your family.

I was pleased to see that my concerns about housing support being removed from young people who were unable to move back home were addressed. The Chancellor announced that there will be exemptions from the under-21 housing benefit changes for vulnerable young people and those who cannot return to live with their parents. I was also pleased to see that this will not apply to 21-25 year olds.

The Chancellor also provided an update on the state of the country's economy – confirming that Britain is grew faster than any other advanced economy last year and is forecast to do so again this year. The deficit has been cut by more than half since 2010 and is forecast to fall to 3.7% of GDP this year before being eliminated completely by 2019/20.

I know that many people will also be pleased to see a firm commitment to our NATO pledge to spend 2% of our national income on defence.

The Chancellor also reaffirmed his important commitment to invest £7.2bn in the South West's transport infrastructure over the next 5 years as well as his clear commitment to fund the NHS's own long term plan.

You can read the Summer Budget Red Book which sets out the full details

 

Harberton Dog Show August 16th

After last year's success, you are all invited to the second Harberton Dog Show! The show is on the 16th August at Harberton Village Playing Field. Registration starts at 11am and should finish around 4pm. There will be a variety of categories from best puppy through to best veteran, along with funny categories too. There will also be stallholders, a beer tent, cake and tea tents, bacon sandwiches and a BBQ later on.

To find out more about the Dog Show visit their Facebook page

 

Poverty; why measurement matters

There has been some controversy over the proposed changes to the way that we record poverty. We currently use relative poverty, defined as earning below 60% of median income. This means however, that the income below which people are classified as living in poverty is constantly changing, in line with changes to levels and distribution of wealth. To read more on this issue please click here

 

 

Broadband Update

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation tasked with delivering superfast broadband to hard-to-reach rural areas – have announced that they will not be awarding BT one of the two contracts which make up 'Phase Two' of broadband rollout across Devon. This phase aims to have 95% coverage across Devon by the end of 2017 and BT had bid for a £35m contract to target the hardest-to-reach areas. It was judged that they would not be capable of achieving this important target.

Separately, CDS announced that the second 'Phase Two' contract, to cover hard to reach areas of Dartmoor will be awarded to wireless broadband specialists, Airband. The £4.6m contract will allow the company to lead on the use of wireless technologies to overcome the challenges of providing superfast connections on the moor. The technology passes a broadband signal from a transmitter to a radio attached to the property – allowing the user a high speed connection to the internet.

While BT will continue to work under its existing contract to deliver 90% coverage across Devon and Somerset by the end of 2016, the contract for the next phase of delivery has been put out to tender again to finding a provider who can meet the Government's new 95% targets for superfast broadband delivery.

While I am pleased that Airband has signed the contract to begin work on Dartmoor, the situation with the other contract is clearly a setback and Devon MPs are working together to press for further broadband rollout to rural areas to be prioritised before increasing speeds within large metropolitan centres.

 

Great Western Mainline

The Managing Director of First Great Western, Mark Hopwood, has confirmed "work is progressing well and, subject to DfT agreement, remains on track for the new trains to be rolled out on the network from summer 2018." This will be the biggest fleet upgrade in a generation, with new or more modern trains across the whole network delivering faster, more frequent journeys and millions more seats per year.

Reassuringly, the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has stated "electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right."

These upgrades in both the line and rolling stock are essential to improving the transport links to the South West.

 

Great British High Street Awards 2015.

The Great British High Street Awards 2015 celebrate local groups working together to support their high streets and make them even better places to shop and socialise.

This is the second year that the competition has been running and will now include a special recognition award for a person or project that has made a particularly special or unique difference to their high street and a 'Rising Star' award.

Entries are open until September 1st

For further details and how to nominate one of our local High Street heroes click here

 

Bob the Bus has begun weekly trips to Dartmoor National Park.

Moorland Bob takes passengers to some of the most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty that the moors have to offer giving you the chance to visit and explore the ancient clapper bridge at Dartmeet, go for some truly beautiful walks and have lunch or picnics at the very heart of the ancient moorlands.

This exciting development gives people the chance to explore the unspoilt wildlife and landscape of the moors. Such as the famous Dartmoor Pony and Dartmoor's most famous landmark, Haytor or visit the truly lovely village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Take a picnic or visit the local pub, the Rugglestone Inn, which offers a cosy traditional atmosphere for any weary traveller.

Bob the Bus is available every Sunday from Totnes and tickets are available for booking from Totnes Tourist Information Centre or on the Bus itself.

Click here to find out more about Bob the Bus, his journeys and ticket prices.

 

The Daisy Garland


I met Sara and David Garland to hear about the inspirational charity, The Daisy Garland, started by them in memory of their daughter Daisy who died in her sleep at the age of 6 from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients). The Daisy Garland work tirelessly, offering help and support some of the 18,000 children in the UK who suffer from drug resistant epilepsy.

In the last 11 years they have funded 13 specialist Daisy Garland ketogenic dietitians to work within NHS hospitals countrywide, successfully treating children with difficult to control epilepsy. Each full-time dietitian costs c.£46,000 p.a. to fund.

In the addition to the above they also provide grants for night-time breathing (SATs/epilepsy) monitors for use in the home, reducing the risk of SUDEP. Each SATs monitor retails at £880 and they have provided over 243 monitors, keeping children safe at night while they sleep.

For further information about The Daisy Garland and the important work they do for children with drug resistant epilepsy, please contact Sara Garland on 01803 847999 or at thedaisygarland@btinternet.com  www.thedaisygarland.org.uk

 

Cycling

Britain's passion for cycling is growing; more than 5.1 million people in England cycle at least once a week and Government road traffic estimates suggest that in 2013 the distance travelled by bike was 12% greater than the 2005–2009 average. Unfortunately, this is still far lower than many other European countries. In the Netherlands, 27% of journeys are made by bike, followed by Denmark on 19% and Germany managing 10%. Britain languishes behind, with less than 2%.

Some British cities are performing well. Having put cycling closer to the heart of transport policy for decades, Oxford and Cambridge boast continental levels of journeys made by bike (17% and 30% respectively). Across the country some local authorities are showing that by working with communities, real improvements can be made and substantial benefits delivered to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. In 2009, the six cycling demonstration towns, including Exeter and Darlington, recorded an increase in cycling of almost a third.

The potential benefits are tremendous. Keeping active through cycling improves the chances of living longer and increases well-being.

We know however, that the single greatest deterrent for those considering cycling to work or school is the fear of collisions.

Following the tragic death of Ying Tao in central London this week, the risk from HGVs especially to women cyclists, is back under the spotlight. Of the 33 women cyclists killed on London's roads since 2009, 27 have been killed by lorries. Cycling to work in Westminster I know that riding more slowly and politely makes me more vulnerable to left-turning HGVs at busy junctions. I also know that I cannot compete with the Lycra racers who push past to the front of the queue. To encourage more people to ride to work or school, metropolitan areas could look at excluding HGVs during rush hour or to giving cyclists a safer head start with phased lighting at high risk junctions. Better still we need to move further on creating segregated cycle lanes or quiet routes within our towns and cities.

Per mile cycled, rural A roads still pose the greatest danger as a result of the speed of collisions and we need to further increase the network of reduced speed routes and off road segregated cycle paths.

Transforming lives with continental levels of cycling however, takes continental levels of investment of at least £10 per head per year as part of a coordinated and prioritised cycling and walking strategy. This would still be a drop in the ocean compared to the overall level of investment in our roads.

Getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes benefits all road users, but Government needs to do more to make it as safe as possible.

The following link will provide further information on cycling and the other recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Cycle Group's report Get Britain Cycling

 

Broadband

On average, the South West has the lowest broadband speeds in England. This matters because it is holding back new and established business alike, especially in rural areas. Sluggish connections are also hugely frustrating for individuals and families wanting to benefit from the kind of access taken for granted elsewhere.

Figures published last year show that the UK comes out top for superfast, standard and mobile broadband coverage, with 83 households per 100 broadband connected. These figures also showed that (as of March 2014) superfast broadband coverage had increased with 70-75% of households covered. This means that the UK now has the highest level of coverage amongst the EU5: Germany (65-70% of households covered), Spain (60-65%), France (20-25%) and Italy (10-15%).

This is all good news but we are leaving England's rural communities further behind their urban competitors. Currently £1.7 billion is being invested in extending superfast broadband provision across the UK, with the aim that by 2017 95% of the country should be connected. We need this to be fairly spread so that before government commits to yet higher speeds in towns, they make sure that everyone in rural Britain can benefit from a decent connection.

The Government wants rural Britain to have "near universal" superfast broadband by the end of this Parliament but local families and businesses know that there is a long way to go to realise the estimated potential to boost rural economies across the country by £275 million every month or around £9 million every day by 2024.

I am grateful to everyone for keeping me updated on actual speeds across the patch and for pointing out practical issues such as the shortcomings of satellite connections because of its inherent latency. This information is very helpful when pressing for improvements.

This link will provide further information on broadband in our area.

 

Education and Adoptions Bill

This week, the Education and Adoptions Bill was passed by the House of Commons on its second reading,

To read more about this Bill click here

 

 

 

Dr Sarah Wollaston is elected Chair of the Health Select Committee 18th June 2015

I am delighted to have been elected by Parliament to Chair the Health Committee for the next five years. Throughout the recent general election campaign it was clear how much people care about the quality and future of our NHS and care services. I do too, and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves on behalf of the public to hold to account, not only the government but those who commission, deliver and regulate those services.

 

 

 

AmnesTEA, Dartington 5th July 2015

On Sunday 5 July 2015 from 11.00-4.00pm at the East Wing Lounge, Dartington Hall the South Devon Amnesty Group will be hosting their annual fund-raising tea-and-cakes-day.

Come and have a sociable time, talk to members and have a cup of tea with homemade biscuits, buns and cakes

Free entry, tea and cakes by donation.

 

 

Wind Turbines

I am delighted that the government has made an early start on one of its election promises. A key subsidy scheme that has fuelled the spread of wind turbines, the Renewables Obligation, will end a year earlier than originally planned. Energy firms had been facing an end to the subsidy on the 1st April 2017 but now this will be cancelled on the 1st April 2016.

Currently there are 5,061 onshore wind turbines in the United Kingdom, producing 18,000 gigawatt hours of electricity which is enough to power 5.5million homes. This is an industry that is now capable of moving forward without financial support from the government but in my view it must do more to seek the support of local communities perhaps by offering them more of a share in the profits. We know that roof top solar continued to thrive even when subsidy levels were adjusted as costs came down.

My colleague Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, announced on the evening of the 17th June that "it was time to shift subsidies from onshore wind to other technologies that needed it more."

In 2014 the British government supplied £800million worth of subsidies to the onshore wind turbine industry which produced 5% of Britain's energy needs. From April 2016 these changes will free up resources to other green energy projects and I would like to see more support for community energy schemes and marine renewables.

To find out more information about the cancellation of the Renewables Obligation please visit the following link

 

Who should vote in the referendum on our membership of the EU?

The European Union Referendum Bill has cleared its first hurdle through the House of Commons and this week will continue its progress as MPs debate a series of proposed amendments. There is now little disagreement on the principle that we hold a binding in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership and the debate now moves to issues such as whether the government or their agencies should be able to send out literature in the month before the referendum and who should have the right to vote. The Bill also sets out much of the detail for the referendum and finalises the referendum question, which will be 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?'

The negotiations with our European partners have begun with the aim of securing a better deal not only for Britain but for the whole EU. Opening up our trade and allowing a greater say for national parliaments is in all our interests. It is clear that the majority of British people have no interest in an 'ever closer union', as set out in the Treaty of Rome, and don't believe EU migrants should have full access to welfare until they've paid their way for a number of years. As other nations do move to greater union however, it is vital that protections are in place for those such as Britain, which do not. I'm proud to be supporting the Bill, as I have always believed that it should be the wider electorate, rather than politicians, deciding on the final settlement. Some of my colleagues have already made up their minds how they will be campaigning but I would prefer to wait until I know the outcome of those negotiations.

I do however, feel that the vote should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds. Having watched the energy, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of their involvement in the Scottish referendum campaign I would find it impossible to argue that 16 and 17 year olds should be denied the opportunity to have their say. This decision will have the greatest impact on their generation and they will be living with the consequences for far longer. I have no doubt that they have the capacity to weigh the arguments on the EU and I also feel that this is an important opportunity to reverse young people's disengagement with politics. Debate on the issues around our EU membership need not bring divisive Party politics into our schools but giving 16 and 17 year olds both a voice and a vote would help to make sure that young people's perspective is taken into account.

For additional information on the European Union Referendum Bill please click here:

For additional information on the passage of the European Union Referendum Bill through Parliament please click here:

 

May 2015 Election

I am delighted to have been re elected as the MP for the Totnes constituency. Thank you so much to every one of the 24,941 people who supported me to return to Parliament having more than tripled the majority from 2010.

However you voted, I am keen to listen and learn from your experience in order to represent our wonderful area of South Devon.

My email now returns to the following contact: sarah.wollaston.mp@parliament.uk

The full results of the national and local elections can be found on the following link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E1400100

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea vs Land Tandem Challenge!

Congratulations to the amazing

Lang brothers

on their extraordinary achievement

Thank you to everyone for joining us at Oxen Cove, Brixham on Good Friday for the start of the Sea vs Land Tandem TopGear style challenge across the Bay.

Andy and Chris Lang raced across the Bay on their Sea Tandem to Torquay Harbour whilst Adrian and I took the hilly 21 mile inland route via Totnes on our land tandem.

Congratulations to Andyand Chris for raising £2500 all in aid of the RNLI.

 

Flood Prevention

This week, the Government announced that £60m will be used to bring forward a number of flood prevention programmes, including a number of projects in South Devon. These works are part of the Government's £2.3bn national Flood Risk Management programme and this latest announcement will mean that protection for over 2,000 homes in the South-West will be accelerated.

Projects being brought forward include the Brixham Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will be brought forward by a year, the Salcombe Town Tidal Gates project and the Victoria Stream defence improvements in Dartmouth.

The ac

I have received a number of emails about the amendment tabled by John Mann to the Serious Crime Act.

First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that the government protects children from abuse and addresses concerns that public bodies and other institutions may have failed to act to protect children in the past or deliberately covered up abuse. These must be fully investigated without any fear that anyone could be deterred from giving evidence as a result of the Official Secrets Act

The government has made it clear that John Mann's amendment was not necessary as the Official Secrets Act does not prevent disclosures about abuse being made, this point being clarified by the Home Secretary in the Commons & by the following statement by the Home Office:

The Official Secrets Act is intended to protect certain classes of particularly sensitive information such as security and intelligence matters, and it provides for a number of offences that prevent current or former Crown servants or Government contractors from disclosing certain information without lawful authority. It does not prevent protected information from being disclosed to an officer of an official investigation or inquiry into historical child abuse. In particular, information may be disclosed where the disclosure is made in accordance with that person's official duty or is otherwise authorised. Departments and Ministers can permit current and former civil servants and Government contractors to share knowledge and documentation with an inquiry.

For example, in the case of the Kincora investigation - the Hart Inquiry in Northern Ireland - it has been made absolutely clear by the Attorney-General that prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act will not take place where people are giving evidence of child abuse to the inquiry. The Home Secretary has made it clear that official authorisation would be given for the Goddard Inquiry if a request were made, in a manner similar to that for the Hart Inquiry, and has written to Justice Goddard to suggest that she make such a request to the Attorney General.


Click here to see me being interviewed by Women2Win

 

Click  to listen to BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewing Sarah and discussing "Do Westminster Primaries Work?"

 

 

 


17 JUL 2015

Totnes Advice Surgery

Another packed surgery at my Totnes Office. If you would like an appointment, please contact nina.smith@parliament.uk or telephone 01803 868378


17 JUL 2015

Active Devon

Thank you to Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Devon's Public Health and Sarah Jennings to discuss Natural Devon's Naturally Healthy work.


17 JUL 2015

Plymouth Community Healthcare CIC

I met today with Stephen Waite, the Chief Executive of Plymouth Community Healthcare CIC when we discussed a wide range of topics



21 JUL 2015

Health Select Committee

The Health Committee heard oral evidence from Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England today. To watch the meeting click here


20 JUL 2015

Children in Care: Mental Health

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if she will implement the recommendations of the report published by the NSPCC in June 2015 entitled Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children, on the mental health needs of children in care. Edward...


16 JUL 2015

NHS Reform

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, TotnesĀ  Click here to watch Sarah speak I welcome the Secretary of State's vision of an NHS that is empowered to focus more fully on the people and communities it serves and that is more transparent, less bureaucratic and as safe on a Sunday as it is on a Wednesday,...


15 JUL 2015

Asylum: Finance

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will make it her policy to commission an independent review of support rates paid to asylum applicants under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 before making changes to that level of...


14 JUL 2015

Fire Services: Pensions

Written Answer Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, when he plans to publish the revised commutation factors for the firefighters pension scheme. Mark Francois Minister of State (Communities and Local Government) The...





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Sarah's Personal Blog

Click here for Sarah's full blog and to leave comments

Care Cost Lottery

For anyone hit with a debilitating illness, it comes as a huge shock to find that there is no entitlement whatever to receive help with the costs of social care if their assets are worth more than £23,250.

Through no fault of their own, around one in 10 people aged over 65, many of whom have saved all their lives, face catastrophic costs especially if they need long-term residential care. This was not an issue at the general election in May because, during the last Parliament, the Government responded to the Dilnot Commission and passed ground-breaking legislation through the Care Act to place a cap on the total amount that anyone would have to pay, alongside a major increase in the asset threshold. (Click here for the full blog)

Coerced Consent is no Consent

There is a dark question at the heart of Professor Black's call for evidence on the work challenges facing benefit claimants who are struggling with addiction and obesity and it should worry us all. She asks, 'What are the legal, ethical and other implications of linking benefit entitlements to take up of appropriate treatment or support?

The inclusion of this question calls into doubt the independence of her review as Professor Black cannot be in any doubt about the fundamental principles of medical consent; that it must be freely given and informed. There are only a few strictly limited circumstances, covered by the Mental Health Act, when people may receive medical treatment against their wishes. It would be abhorrent for the State to extend that to others in order to tackle a perceived reluctance to accept help for conditions of which society disapproves.

A threat to remove benefits unless a claimant accepts treatment, would represent coerced consent to that treatment and that is no consent at all because it would not be freely given. Treating a patient without valid consent would put any clinician in breach of their duty as a doctor let alone in breach of the law.

Any proposal to change the law to allow such coerced consent would be a seismic change and threaten us all. Where would it stop?

It would also be completely pointless. The roots of addiction are complex and treatment is far more likely to be successful when the person affected is actively seeking help. We would also end up depriving or delaying access to the people who want to benefit in favour of those who are not yet ready or willing to change. It would be a criminal waste of time and resources to fill NHS clinics with addicts reluctantly gaming the system or issuing prescriptions for discarded medicines.

Professor Black's call for evidence also misses an important opportunity to comment on the clear evidence base for prevention of alcohol harm. There is still time to follow Scotland's lead in implementing a minimum price for alcohol. It would be perverse indeed for government to be coercing people into treatments from which they are unlikely to benefit at the same time as failing to act on the saturation access to and promotion of ultra cheap booze which fuels their addiction.

 

Time to consign hunting to history

Rural voters deserve better than to be typecast as pro blood sports by the hunting lobby. It is clear to me that most people, living in both rural and urban areas of the Totnes Constituency, would prefer to see the hunting of foxes by packs of hounds consigned to the history books. There is no clamour from the countryside to relax the ban, rather a plea for government to focus on the issues which would really make a difference to their lives, like improving infrastructure and addressing the inequality of rural funding for schools and healthcare. This week's vote on relaxing the ban will, if passed by the Commons, cast a shadow over the reputation of the Conservative Party. MPs voting in favour will have failed to listen to the majority on an ethical issue about which public opinion could not be clearer. Few people go to the polls with hunting uppermost in their minds but reputation matters. I hope my colleagues will reject the shallow narrative from the hunting lobby that the proposals are a necessary measure for the countryside; they are not.

A free vote was promised in our manifesto. I hope that Conservative MPs will use it to send a clear message that the Party has moved on from hunting and instead signal our intention to focus on the real issues facing rural Britain.

Tunisian Tragedy

30 of our citizens are amongst the dead in Tunisia and we can only imagine the grief of their families. Once again, ISIL has waged its cowardly war against the softest of targets. In times of war we should stop helping their propaganda machine to act as a gruesome recruiting sergeant.

Instead of publicising the names and smirking faces of terrorists or their sympathisers, let's see and hear the personal stories of the courageous Tunisians who formed a human shield on the beach; theirs is the true face of Islam. As David Cameron announces his resolve to end the online grooming through social media, isn't it time for the print and broadcast media to question their own editorial policies? The killers crave publicity for their crimes not just for their own vanity but because they know that this draws others to follow their example. We rightly criminalise child pornography but allow links to horrific snuff videos which are the oldest weapon in history; to terrorise and undermine the enemy.

Whilst we grieve with the families of our own dead we should counter ISIL's message of twisted grievance against the West by being clear that overwhelmingly it is Muslims who are being slaughtered by ISIL.

 

Why I will not be voting to undermine the Abortion Act

There is no room for complacency in the UK and we need to remain vigilant.

The Department of Health has updated their analysis of male to female birth rates with data from 2008-2012 and this now includes ethnicity. Without exception, birth ratios were within the expected range for all UK communities, including analysis by ethnicity and birth order.

There may be individual cases but it would be entirely wrong to stigmatise entire communities in Britain by suggesting that this is in any way a common or systematic practice here ...it is not.........To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

Remember The Real Victims of IS

Several press reports describe the latest trio of teenagers as 'jihadi brides' fleeing the country for Syria. In what sense can their actions be described as 'fleeing' when that is defined as running away from a place or situation of danger? There are risks in glamourising these girls by describing them as 'A-grade' students yet in the same paragraph portraying them as if they are merely passive victims of social media grooming.......To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

HSC's Complaints and Concerns Inquiry

Most people experience really great care in the NHS but sometimes things can go wrong. Most of those who complain about NHS services do not seek financial redress. They do so because they wish to have their concerns and experiences understood and for any failings to be acknowledged and put right so that others do not suffer the same avoidable harm....To read the full blog and leave comments, click here


We owe a debt of gratitude to returning aid workers, subjecting them all to compulsory quarantine would be counterproductive and unnecessary 2nd January 2015

As the nurse Pauline Cafferkey fights her own battle with Ebola at an isolation unit in London, questions have been raised not only about why she was allowed to board a flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, but also about whether all returning aid workers should be placed in quarantine..... To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

 

Fair Representation for England 18th December 2014

This week, William Hague set out the options to ensure fair representation for England following the agreement to devolve greater powers to Scotland. Whilst 'English Votes for English Laws' is rarely top of the priority list, the subject regularly comes up at my open meetings as people are rightly annoyed that Scottish Labour MPs regularly vote on issues which have no effect whatsoever on their own constituents. Imagine the fuss if the situation was reversed! https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/387598/implications_of_devolution_for_england_accessible.pdf

Following the Scottish independence referendum, the transfer of additional powers to Scotland will significantly worsen this injustice to English voters.

In the Houses of Commons, William Hague set out the three options put forward by the Conservative Party:

1. Bills that deal with English matters could only be able to be voted upon by English MPs at all legislative stages.

2. Bills that deal with English matters could be voted upon by all MPs at Second and Third Readings but only by English MPs at Committee and Report Stages.

3. There would be the creation of a new legislative stage in between Report Stage and Third Reading at which English MPs could veto and approve legislation which deals only with English matters.

I am pleased that all three options look to address the 'English question' within Parliament rather than proposing that another raft of structures and politicians be created. The idea of regional assemblies was rejected during a 2004 referendum in the North-East and I have yet to meet a constituent who asks me to campaign for more politicians.

I'm keen to hear your views.

The first proposal has the advantage that it would not add extra stages to the already lengthy legislative process. Although it is true that some parts of bills may apply to devolved nations but not others, in reality Labour oppose this as it would reduce their ability to push through unpopular, burdensome and expensive legislation should they ever return to power. The SNP have long taken the view that they should not vote on English only legislation and rarely do so, thus demonstrating that it is not the complicated morass wrongly claimed by Labour.

This is about fairness to England.

Update on meeting with Planning Minister Kris Hopkins 14th December 2014

Last week, I met with Kris Hopkins – Minister from the Department for Communities and Local Government – to discuss challenges for South Hams District Council (SHDC) with solar and wind farm planning policy.In recent years, our area has seen a significant increase in the number of applications. SHDC has either approved or is currently processing applications for solar farms covering 305 acres – the equivalent of 170 football pitches. I have received a large number of representations on this from people across South Devon who are concerned about the impact that these development have on the countryside. The South Hams is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and I am concerned that overdevelopment with vast industrialised solar arrays will impact on vital tourism and the land we need to feed the nation.

This year, the Government announced reforms to the subsidies provided to developers to remove Renewable Obligation Certificates from solar farm developments over the size of 5MW – removing the incentive for large solar farms to be built. While this news is welcome, there are concerns that this will lead to a large increase in applications in the short term, as developers seek to beat the 1 April cut off for subsidy.

At the meeting we discussed some of the problems that the Council faces when solar and wind farm applications come in. Developers have the right to appeal if applications are rejected and the associated costs for the Council can be high if their decision is then overturned. This can leave Councils with a difficult decision when rejecting an application as they need to sum up the risk to council tax-payers money if their decision is overturned on appeal. Additionally, I have concerns with the appeal process allowing unelected Planning Inspectors to overrule the decisions made by local representatives who have detailed local knowledge and opinion.

Of course all areas must take their share of renewables but it is clear that the South West has been far more attractive to developers because the returns on solar are greater. We have more than fulfilled that obligation locally and nationally we are already on course for reaching our target for energy generation from renewables. It is time to genuinely shift the balance to installations being where the public expect them to be, on rooftops or brownfield sites, not desecrating our beautiful landscape for the profit of a few at the expense of subsidies paid by those who are fuel poor.

We have asked the Minister for stronger and clearer guidance to help Councils reflect the wishes of local people and I look forward to seeing the Department's future plans to support local councils in achieving this. Councils must be able to turn down applications where they feel they are inappropriate, safe in the knowledge that council tax payers will not be doubly penalised in having to put up with these monstrosities as well as pick up the tab for the appeal.

Thank you to representatives from the council and the CPRE for coming to London to help to set out the position so clearly.

Childhood Obesity

Almost one in five children are obese before they leave primary school. 85% will go on to become obese as adults with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Do you feel that we should do more to help them?

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A Short Life: Devon based Charity Auction raising money for Little Bridge House Children's Hospice

A Short Life was set up by Jon Rowe, who recently lost his 11 year old sister to the disease Mucopolysaccharide (MPS).  Click here to find out more about the charity auction that Jon is organising to raise money for the MPS Society and Little Bridge House Children's Hospice.