Campaigns. It is important that I continue to know the strength of feeling on an issue and I prefer to respond to every inquiry, but the sheer size of campaign correspondence means that it is hard to justify to the tax payer the cost and time taken for individual written replies, so regrettably I will no longer reply to every item of campaign correspondence.  I will  post a response to the campaign on the "Responses to campaigns" page of my website.

I am sorry to do this, as it is rather impersonal, but can see no other way of maintaining a good service for all my constituents unless I approach campaigns this way.


12 OCT 2017

Care Home Choice

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the quality of elderly care and the choice of care homes.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

Improving the quality of elderly care in the UK should be one of our highest priorities. 1.4 million people work in the country's social care sector and caring for the elderly is one of the most significant challenges facing our ageing society. The independent Care Quality Commission (CQC) rightly holds our care system to the highest possible standards, and has recently completed a comprehensive survey of social care in England. CQC ratings are authoritative and independent, and publicly available, so people can make well-informed choices when they come to choosing a care home.
The latest report from the CQC, which has found that, despite financial pressure, four out of five adult social care services in England rated good or outstanding. The CQC report has, however, highlighted areas for concern, such as the regional disparity in quality of care, and the rate of improvement of care services.
Whilst it is clear that money alone will not solve all the difficulties faced by our care sector, the Chancellor's announcement in the 2017 Spring Budget to invest an additional £2 billion in 2017-18 and 2019-20 to aid councils in England improve social care and relieve pressure on the rest of the NHS is welcomed. This funding will be supplemented by measures to rapidly improve areas in need of greatest improvement. Over the following three years, councils will have access to £9.25 billion funding for social care.
Furthermore, the Department of Health is implementing Quality Matters, a vital scheme committed to improving the care sector for patients, families, and carers alike. This scheme makes it clear care home providers must be transparent and work closely with the public, to develop care homes which are not only of the highest quality possible, but adapted to the needs of their locality.


12 OCT 2017

Gaza

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about medical care for those in Gaza.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The British Government regularly raises its concerns over Gaza with the Israeli authorities, emphasising the importance of improving daily life for ordinary Gazans, for example, facilitating travel in and out of Gaza.
Of course, this is particularly important to enable medical treatment, or to allow family members to visit those hospitalised outside Gaza.
In addition to raising its concerns with Israel, the Government also continues to call on the Government of Egypt to show maximum flexibility in opening the Rafah Crossing into Gaza to help facilitate travel in and out of Gaza. It has been mostly closed since October 2014, and this impacts on urgent medical cases in Gaza.
The Government continues to press the Israeli Government to facilitate travel in and out of Gaza. The Government also supports the UN Access Coordination Unit to work with the Israeli Government, Palestinian Authority and aid agencies to help facilitate humanitarian access in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


12 OCT 2017

Fair Votes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about electoral reform and the debate on this on the 30th of October.

I understand many would like to see proportional representation introduced. However, people voted to keep our First Past the Post (FPTP) system in a referendum in 2011 and I respect that decision.


11 OCT 2017

Local Housing Allowance

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the impact of the Local Housing Allowance freeze.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Reforms to Housing Benefit are a central part of the Government's plan to create a welfare system that supports the most vulnerable and is fair to taxpayers.
Around £24 billion a year is spent on Housing Benefit to support people with their housing costs, with over £800 million in Discretionary Housing Payments provided to local authorities to help support vulnerable claimants.
In addition, around 30 per cent of potential savings from the LHA freeze will be used to create further Targeted Affordability Funding to help tenants in those areas where local housing allowance rates have diverged the most from local rents. That this has already been used to increase 48 LHA rates by 3 per cent in areas with high rental costs this year. Further funding will be available for this purpose in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Ultimately, however, the key to improving affordability in the private rented sector across England is to build more homes. That is why the Housing White Paper, which was published in February this year, outlined an ambitious plan to fix the broken housing market and build the homes Britain needs. This includes getting the right homes built in the right places, speeding up house building, and diversifying the market.


11 OCT 2017

Fuel Duty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about FairFuelUK's driving survey.

I understand the concerns about fuel costs and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

Fuel costs remain a significant part of business and household costs. In order to reduce living costs, and support those who are just about managing to get by, fuel duty was frozen at the 2016 Autumn Statement for the seventh successive year.
The Government has recently published a draft plan to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide levels. Local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, but will now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on motorists.
The Prime Minister is very conscious of the fact that past governments have encouraged people to buy diesel cars, and Ministers will take this into account when they look at what to do in the future. The Government is not in the business of penalising drivers who use diesel cars.
As was noted in the Conservative Party manifesto, Ministers are currently working through one of the largest-ever investment programmes in our roads and railways, putting some £40 billion into transport improvements across the UK across the rest of this decade. The manifesto included a commitment to continue developing the strategic road network, providing extra lanes on our motorways and improving key routes whilst also paying attention to parts of the country left behind because of poor transport connections. The manifesto also pledged to invest in roads to fix pinch points and open up opportunities for new housing and local growth.
With regards to consumer price protection, the Government monitors fuel prices, and that both rises and falls in crude oil price reach the pumps within 7 weeks.


10 OCT 2017

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

Ministers and officials continue to make representations on all consular cases involving British nationals in Iran, including Mr Foroughi's and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's, at all levels with the Iranian Government.
In February the Foreign Secretary discussed both these cases with the Iranian Foreign Minister. The Minister for the Middle East also raised them with Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Ravanchi in August and in a meeting with the Iranian Ambassador previously on 6 July.
The Government has repeatedly requested consular access so that it can be assured of the detainees' welfare and their access to any appropriate medical treatment. However, Iran does not recognise dual nationality and therefore does not grant the Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular access. Nevertheless the British Government will continue to lobby the Iranian authorities about these cases at the highest levels at every opportunity.


10 OCT 2017

EDM 66 and Animal Testing

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 66 and animal testing.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 66, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, please be assured that I agree that animal testing should be kept to a minimum and only under strictly controlled conditions.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of interest:

The carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving the understanding of how biological systems work and in the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies.
At the same time, animals should only be used when there is no practicable alternative and the support and funding for the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs) is welcomed.
Without animal testing, it is considered highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials. However, encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.

Advances in biomedical science and technologies are all providing new opportunities to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research. As part of this, a Non-animal Technologies Road map for the UK has been produced which offers an approach for the UK to develop, exploit and deploy new non-animal technologies for long-term economic and societal benefit.
The EDM rightly draws attention to the UK life science sector's Concordat on Openness in Animal Research which was launched in 2014, and it provides new opportunities for transparency and debate in this area. Ultimately, however, EU and UK law requires safety testing on animals before human trials for new medicines can begin and animal research still plays an important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines.


06 OCT 2017

Good Childhood Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Good Childhood campaign.

I understand your wish to improve the lives of children and young people and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

All forms of abuse and exploitation of children by anyone is taken extremely seriously and is treated as a priority. Ministers are continuing with the urgent work of overhauling how police, social care and other agencies work together to protect vulnerable children. This includes from the kind of organised grooming and sexual exploitation that has come to light in Rotherham, Rochdale and other towns and cities across the UK.
To reduce the stigma attached to mental health it is crucial that children are taught about the importance of mental health awareness. The vast majority of secondary schools are already teaching their pupils about mental health through subjects such as Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) and drama. The Department for Education has provided funding for the PSHE Association to produce guidance and age-appropriate lesson plans to help teachers and schools teach about mental health. The Government made amendments to the Children and Social Work Act that would require all secondary schools in England to teach relationships and sex education, including a focus on mental wellbeing.
Some form of 'breathing space' is being explored to understand if it would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions that are currently offered. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to investigate and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.


03 OCT 2017

Energy Cap

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about energy bills and for your kind words about me adding my name to John Penrose MP's letter to the PM on this issue.

I will continue to bang the drum on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

Suppliers are protected from recent fluctuations in the price of wholesale energy as they buy their energy up to two years in advance, and prices remain significantly lower than in 2015. It is therefore expected energy companies to treat their customers fairly.
The Government made a proposal to extend the price protection currently in place for some vulnerable energy consumers to more of those on the poorest value tariffs. Rest assured, the Government is committed to doing so and the Energy watchdog Ofgem has accepted the call for further action.
More specifically, the Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, has written to Ofgem asking what action the regulator intends to take to safeguard customers. Ofgem has committed to taking prompt action, in consultation with consumer experts, to develop proposals including a safeguard tariff. The Government wants to see rapid progress on this commitment and has not ruled out taking further action if necessary.
There is already a prepayment price cap in place protecting households least able to benefit from competition. On 1 April 2017 a prepayment price cap came into force protecting over four million households using pre-payment meters. The temporary cap, which will remain in place until the end of 2020, is expected to reduce bills across Britain and will save the average household £80 a year.
Ultimately, Government policy costs make up a relatively small proportion of household energy bills and they cannot by themselves explain price rises announced by energy suppliers. Indeed, a recent report from the independent Committee on Climate Change shows that policies driving energy efficiency improvements have offset the cost of energy policies and have, on average, resulted in lower energy bills for households.


03 OCT 2017

Universal Credits

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Universal Credit.

I do understand the concerns about the roll out of Universal Credit and was one of the MPs that signed the letter to David Gauke MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling for this to be paused until we can be certain that all claimants will receive payments without delays. I support the principle of UC as this has many advantages over the existing system and recognise that there are now arrangements in place to allow advances to those who are experiencing delays. I have met with the Citizens Advice Bureau and will continue to follow this carefully.

I hope the following information on this issue from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Universal Credit is a major reform that will transform the welfare state in Britain. At the heart of Universal Credit is a belief that work should always pay. Under the new system, benefit will be withdrawn gradually as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income always goes up.

Rightly for a programme of this scale, the priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of Universal Credit started in April 2013 and significant progress has been made to date. Universal Credit is now available for single claimants in every jobcentre in the country.

Figures have shown that people claiming Universal Credit are 13 per cent more likely to be in work than people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, earning more money and more willing to take a job.

The taper rate has also been reduced since April of this year to help people to progress in work, this change means people will keep more of what they earn and will be better rewarded for increasing their hours or pay.

Under Universal Credit, support worth up to 85 per cent of childcare costs is now available regardless of hours worked, significantly higher than the support that was available under tax credits. This will give parents more flexibility to work and earn more money.


03 OCT 2017

Breast Cancer Care Reception

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Breast Cancer Care reception being held on the 11th of October at 4pm, it is much appreciated.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this disease, which has taken so many lives over the years. In 2015, Public Health England launched Be Clear on Cancer, a national scheme which has significantly improved awareness of breast cancer in women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease.

Ministers are making great efforts to improve cancer services, and ensure that the NHS provides some of the world's best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020 It is working closely with Health Education England and Macmillan Cancer Support to understand the best ways developing and implementing cancer services by the same date.

These developments will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care. The NHS is implementing the independent Cancer Taskforce's recommendation that all breast cancer patients shall receive access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or other key workers. This will enable greater detection of any recurrence or secondary breast cancer, and enable a quick and effective return to care. This is part of the NHS's ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes, and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020.


03 OCT 2017

UN and Israel

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the UN and Israel.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

The British Government is proud of the role the UK played in the birth of the state of Israel. Following an invitation from the Prime Minister, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be visiting the UK on the centenary of the Balfour declaration.
There have been a number of country-specific resolutions passed regarding Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UK Government does not support the singling out of Israel, nor the politicisation of UN institutions by the Palestinians.
The UK has already warned the UN Human Rights Council over its disproportionate bias against Israel. The persistence of bias, particularly the disproportionate volume of resolutions against Israel, undermines the Council's credibility as the objective human rights body we all want and need.
The UK co-hosted a meeting on reform of the UN Human Rights Council during the recent UN General Assembly, where it was agreed that reform is urgently needed to ensure that the Council's status as a respected advocate for human rights is secured.


02 OCT 2017

Refugees

Thank you for taking the time to email me about refugees and CARE International's campaign.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has indeed been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake dangerous journeys. By 2020, the UK will have resettled 20,000 refugees through our Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, as well as a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region under the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme.
Over 33,000 asylum claims were received in the UK in 2016, and according to EU figures, in 2016 the UK resettled the highest number of refugees of any EU country, a response that the UN has described as 'remarkable' and comprehensive'. The UK provides support to its European counterparts, providing an expert who has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support those countries' asylum systems. The UK has so far spent £28 million to support migrants and refugees in Greece through key partners such as UNHCR, IOM, the Red Cross, and a consortium of NGOs. This support has reached more than 250,000 people.
The Government has been clear that it is determined to fulfil its commitments post Brexit. As negotiations with the EU are currently ongoing, it is too soon to say exactly what technical format that will take.


02 OCT 2017

Fishing, Farming and Brexit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about future standards in food, farming and fishing once the UK has left the EU.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

In order to provide legal certainty over our withdrawal, the Great Repeal Bill will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert all EU law into UK law. This will mean the immediate conversion of EU law into domestic law on the day of the UK's departure from the EU, including on food, farming and environmental standards. Parliament will then be free to keep, amend or repeal any law as it sees fit.
To inform future policy, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is engaging with farmers, environmentalists, members of the public and other stakeholders to hear their views and ambitions for the future. Leaving the EU means we can tailor our new arrangements to the needs of our farmers, fishermen, precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries.
Ministers will keep sustainability at the forefront of their efforts, as they consistently have in previous EU negotiations. In particular, the manifesto commitment to maintain the ban on the economically and environmentally-damaging practice of fish discards will be kept. Within the Common Fisheries Policy, the UK played a leading role in securing this important reform.
Our food producers should be freed to grow more, sell more and export more great British food, while upholding our high standards for plant and animal health and welfare. Our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


02 OCT 2017

Inefficient Homes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about reducing energy waste in homes.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

The sustainability of buildings is crucial to tackling climate change in the UK, and energy efficiency and decarbonising buildings will be key to meeting our domestic commitments.
All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements so there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations. All homes are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. In addition, a package of changes incentivise energy suppliers to deliver more heating and insulation measures in non-gas fuelled homes, including oil fired boiler replacements. Over two million energy efficiency measures have been installed in over 1.6 million homes since 2013, and a further 1 million homes will be insulated by 2020.
For non-fuel poor households, however, the priority is to help create a sustainable market for energy efficiency and low carbon products, rather than rely primarily on subsidy. That is why the Government commissioned the Each Home Counts review of quality, standards and advice in home energy efficiency and renewables, which reported in December 2016. Ministers are now working with industry on its approach to implementing the findings of that review.
On a final note, in the last six years, energy performance for new homes has increased. The Government is carrying out a review to determine whether minimum standards should be further strengthened. It has always been clear, however, that carbon reduction needs to be achieved in the most practical and cost-effective way possible


02 OCT 2017

Back Off Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Back Off campaign and buffer zones.

I remain supportive of a woman's right to choose and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. However, the policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police, the law does currently provide protection against such acts.
The police have a range of powers to deal with protests outside clinics. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, makes it an offence to display threatening, or abusive words or images that, within the sight of someone, is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on the location, duration or numbers attending a public assembly. This can be applied where the police believe that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose by the assembly organisers is to intimidate others to compel them not to do an act that they have a right to do.
The police also have dispersal powers (in public places) under sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or to prevent local crime or disorder. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 includes criminal offences that protect individuals, who are conducting lawful activities, from harassment by protestors.


02 OCT 2017

Breast Cancer

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about breast cancer.

I agree we need to do more to prevent and treat breast cancer and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this disease, which has taken so many lives over the years. In 2015, Public Health England launched Be Clear on Cancer, a national scheme which has significantly improved awareness of breast cancer in women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease.
Ministers are making great efforts to improve cancer services, and ensure that the NHS provides some of the world's best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020 It is working closely with Health Education England and Macmillan Cancer Support to understand the best ways developing and implementing cancer services by the same date.
These developments will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care. The NHS is implementing the independent Cancer Taskforce's recommendation that all breast cancer patients shall receive access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or other key workers. This will enable greater detection of any recurrence or secondary breast cancer, and enable a quick and effective return to care. This is part of the NHS's ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes, and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020.


02 OCT 2017

Royal British Legion

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Royal British Legion's 2017 manifesto.

I agree that we need to support our Armed Forces personnel and their families and hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Defence is of interest:

The Government supports the RBL's aspiration to include a veteran's marker in the 2021 census. In light of this, the Office of National Statistics and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have established a working group to review this matter.
The MOD continues to keep a watching brief on gulf veterans illness but in line with the Medical Research Council review carried out in 2003, which confirmed that no discrete diagnosis was present, there are no plans to institute further research either on causation or clinical management.
An independent review of the Covenant pledges made by business and the third sector is being undertaken in 2018 which will identify and document positive examples of how a range of organisations are delivering on their Covenant commitments. These examples of best practice will then be shared, along with appropriate guidelines, to support organisations in drafting and implementing Covenant pledges.
With regard to regard to veterans' healthcare including the treatment of Non-Freezing Cold Injuries, the MOD continues to work with the Department of Health, NHS England, and the Devolved Administrations to ensure that the specific healthcare needs of injured personnel continue to be met when they leave the Services.
The MOD works closely with Local Authorities to make provision for separated or divorced spouses or civil partners as they transit out of the Armed Forces community, and Ministers will consider whether additional measures are necessary. A number of Local Authorities have amended their housing policy to waive the requirement for a local connection to recently divorced and separated spouses, on their first move out of Service family accommodation.


21 SEP 2017

NHS

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about private sector involvement in the NHS.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department of Health is of interest:

The Government is committed to protecting the NHS and that is why NHS spending has increased and Ministers have guaranteed that it will always provide treatment free at the point of need, regardless of ability to pay. The Government will not privatise the NHS.
The use of private providers and the voluntary sector in the delivery of NHS services is not a new concept. The Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 introduced the independent sector and competition into the NHS. The focus throughout the NHS is to provide the highest quality of care to patients - and that is completely shared by the Government. The use of private providers in the NHS represents just over seven pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of just two and a half pence in the pound since 2010, and a slower rate of growth than under Labour. Charities and social enterprises, such as Macmillan Nurses, continue to play an important role in the NHS, as they have done for many years.
What the Government's health reforms actually do is provide the framework to enable patients to be treated by the providers best able to meet their needs and give patients greater individual choice and control over their care. It is right for local doctors and nurses to decide who provides the best care for patients. In fact, under the Act, it would be illegal for the Secretary of State to try to deliberately increase the share of private sector work carried out at the expense of other providers.
The NHS compares well with the best health systems around the world. This year's Commonwealth Fund report put the NHS at the top of its league table of health systems, repeating its success in 2014. This does not mean that the NHS has nothing to learn from other health systems. In order to improve services for patients many of our best Trusts are keen to learn from international peers, drawing on insights from leading organisations such as Ribera Salud of Spain and Kaiser Permanente in the U. S. On occasions, NHS organisations work in formal partnership with their peers, to the benefit of the NHS and the peers themselves.
The NHS is something to be valued and protected and the Government has committed to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. This will enable the NHS to implement its own plan for the future to further improve health care in the Five Year Forward View.
The NHS should act as a means to an end in improving services for patients, never as an end in itself.


20 SEP 2017

Macmillan Coffee Morning

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Macmillan Coffee Morning and improving outcomes for cancer survivors.

I understand your concern on this matter and I know this is a major priority for the government. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity, along with a national training programme for an additional 200 staff with the skills and expertise to carry out endoscopy tests by 2018. NHS England has also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy across England.
Early diagnosis of cancer is key and that is why the Government has run a series of Be Clear on Cancer campaigns in order to raise public awareness of the symptoms of cancer.
The Government is working closely with highly-regarded stakeholders in order to fulfil its ambition of achieving world-class cancer outcomes. Health Education England is developing a cancer workforce strategy, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, amongst others, to ensure that all cancer patients receive access to specialist nursing staff throughout the course of their treatment and recovery.
The Government remains committed to the £1.2 billion Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people to access the life-extending drugs they need.


19 SEP 2017

Refugee Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Unicef's campaign concerning family reunion.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

It is important to note that there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely that are not dependent on our EU membership. The UK's family reunion policy is generous, granting over 23,000 family reunion visas over the last five years, and the Government will continue to reunite refugees with their immediate family.
The EU Dublin Regulation determines the Member State with responsibility for assessing an asylum claim. Under the Regulation unaccompanied children present in another EU Member State can be transferred to the UK to have their asylum claim assessed where they have a qualifying family member or relative legally present and transfer is in their best interests. Cooperation on asylum and migration with our European partners is expected to continue after the UK leaves the EU, and will follow this topic with interest as the exact nature of this cooperation becomes clear during the negotiations.
Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has indeed been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake dangerous journeys. By 2020, the UK will have resettled 20,000 refugees through our Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, as well as a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region under the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme.


18 SEP 2017

PIP Assessments

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments.

I understand the concerns on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Every year around £50 billion is spent to support people with disabilities and health conditions, over £3 billion more than in 2010. We should focus support on those who need it. PIP is designed to ensure support is focused on those with the greatest barrier to independence. Since its introduction, 27 per cent of claimants are now on the highest level of support, up from 15 per cent previously.
The Department for Work and Pensions is continually reviewing and refining the PIP process in order to improve its efficiency, effectiveness and the claimant experience. Weekend appointments are utilised when appropriate to improve the customer journey and reduce waiting times for appointments.
New claims are now being cleared in under a third of the time they were in July 2014, at a current average of 13 weeks from registration to decision. The Government is committed to further improving this process. Assessments are independently audited to ensure that they are accurate and fair. There is a legislative requirement that two independent reviews of PIP are carried out, the Government has formally responded to the first's recommendations and is currently considering the second's.
A public consultation has just closed which asked how the assessment process could be made easier and quicker, with particular focus on how information can be shared between decision makers, lessening the amount of paperwork for claimants. A new feedback system will be introduced for claimants to talk about their experience claiming PIP, which will help focus reforms where they matter to claimants.


18 SEP 2017

Children's Societies

Thank you for taking the time to email me about visiting The Children's Societies stall at the party conference.

Unfortunately, I am not attending conference this year, so will be unable to do so. However, I hope the following information on improving the lives of young people from the Department of Education is of interest:

All forms of abuse and exploitation of children by anyone is taken extremely seriously and is treated as a priority. Ministers are continuing with the urgent work of overhauling how police, social care and other agencies work together to protect vulnerable children. This includes from the kind of organised grooming and sexual exploitation that has come to light in Rotherham, Rochdale and other towns and cities across the UK.
To reduce the stigma attached to mental health it is crucial that children are taught about the importance of mental health awareness. The vast majority of secondary schools are already teaching their pupils about mental health through subjects such as Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) and drama. The Department for Education has provided funding for the PSHE Association to produce guidance and age-appropriate lesson plans to help teachers and schools teach about mental health. The Government made amendments to the Children and Social Work Act that would require all secondary schools in England to teach relationships and sex education, including a focus on mental wellbeing.
Some form of 'breathing space' is being explored to understand if it would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions that are currently offered. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to investigate and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.


18 SEP 2017

Holiday Food Provision Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Holiday Food Provision Bill.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

No child should have to go hungry and it is important to ensure every child, regardless of their background, has the very best start in life. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission recommended a number of measures to help children. Child poverty is best addressed by helping the parents find good jobs. That is why the Government continues to roll out the Universal Credit system, which provides personalised financial and other support for parents while helping them to find and stay in work. Other measures to help parents include the doubling of free childcare hours and the raised personal allowance which has lifted millions of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether.
Measures have been introduced to ensure children are offered nutritious meals to help improve their health and development. Universal infant free school meals are an excellent way of ensuring children receive a nutritious meal during the day. This not only boosts educational achievement, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but also saves hard-working families hundreds of pounds a year. Many children from disadvantaged backgrounds are entitled to receive free school meals throughout their full time education.
Colleagues are considering the findings of the Hungry Holidays report.


15 SEP 2017

Anthony Nolan

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Anthony Nolan campaign and the event being held on the 11th of October.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day and will be unable to attend but I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is very important to increase the number of stem cell (cord blood and bone marrow) donors in the UK and so the vital work undertaken by Anthony Nolan is welcomed.
In 2015 the Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services, part of £19 million in additional investment that the Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK. This funding is being used to encourage young adult donors as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.
A single unified bone marrow donor registry has been created streamlining the provision of stem cells and reducing the time to provide cells from adult donors. It is encouraging that the total number of registered stem cell donors continues to expand. In 2010 the total number of registered United Kingdom donors was 770,000, which increased to in excess of one million by the end of 2014. This led to more UK patients receiving a stem cell transplant in 2014 than ever before.
As of February 2017, NHS England has confirmed that it will fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer relapses following a first transplant.


15 SEP 2017

Bees

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about bees and neonicotinoids.

I understand your concern on this matter and realise you would like to know how the UK will vote in the upcoming European Commission vote on this. However, as a matter of routine policy the government does not comment in advance on how it plans to cast votes on international issues such as this.

Nonetheless, I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. The work the Government has done over the last few years to protect them, most recently through its National Pollinator Strategy is welcomed.
While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.
As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.


14 SEP 2017

Nominations of Members to Committees

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.

There are several types of committees which have been the subject of intense debate in Parliament over the past fortnight. I spoke in the debate on the EU withdrawal bill to highlight my serious concerns about the way that secondary legislation committees are conducted and appointed as this has long been a problem. I hope, over the course of the bill, to help to take a leading role in reforming this and attach a very helpful Hansard Society briefing on this and the kind of reforms that I hope to help put in place through a process open to Parliament by revising our Standing Orders: https://assets.contentful.com/xkbace0jm9pp/4mZb6S8t3yukaqAqKYkskC/955ff1e64ba499649e2bc72f9a942059/Taking_Back_Control_FINAL.pdf

The second area that has been contentious is the balance of opposition and government side on bill committees examining primary legislation. It may be of interest to read the following from a letter to MPs which sets out the government position on this. Unlike secondary legislation which does not have to be approved by a vote in the Commons, anything agreed in bill committees regarding primary legislation can be overturned by the House of Commons when it returns for its final stages. This is an important check on the government's powers:

I am writing to you to set straight some of the inaccurate commentary surrounding the Business of the House motion on the Order Paper for this evening.

These motions have been designed to ensure that the Government's working majority is available right across Parliament - both on the floor of the House and in Committees. To suggest that this is either a 'power grab' or unprecedented is misleading. Where there is an even number of members on a committee there will be parity with other parties. A committee with an odd number of members will see a majority of one.

This is simply about ensuring that detailed legislation can be dealt with in Committee, as usual, rather than the Commons having to laboriously reverse amendments made by an Opposition-controlled committee. This would significantly restrict the amount of business Parliament can consider at this crucial time.

The Government acknowledges the important role that Parliament plays in scrutinising - and often enhancing - legislation. However it is also important that we are provided with the opportunity to implement the legislative commitments made in the Queen's Speech as well as to ensure that we leave the European Union in an orderly fashion.

In practical terms, one of the functions of the Bill Committees is to provide an opportunity for Government to make technical changes that improve the legislation. A majority is required to ensure that these happen. Simply overturning or amending at Report will mean frustrating other important legislation.

The Opposition have made clear that their intentions are not to engage with Parliament in a constructive manner, nor to work with us in the national interest. Their single aim is to oppose every measure that the Government puts forward in the hope of forcing another general election. When the Labour government was faced with a similar situation in 1976 they passed a motion for a majority of one in Standing Committees. We are taking a similar, necessary measure, but we are putting it to a vote, unlike how it was handled then.

As Members of Parliament it is important that we not only deliver on Brexit but also provide the economic security and fairness that is inbuilt to our legislative programme. This evening's motions are a vital tool to achieving those aims and I hope that you will join me in voting for them.


13 SEP 2017

Alzheimer's Party Conference

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Alzheimer's drop in event at party conference.

I am not attending party conference this year so will be unable to go along, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health of interest:

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
In March 2016, the Government published an Implementation Plan to support the 2020 Challenge which has been co-produced with key partners across the health and care sectors. Alongside this, a joint declaration has been published setting out an ambition to improve the quality of post-diagnostic care.
Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before.
Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training.
It is important to increase public awareness of dementia and there are over 1.7 million Dementia Friends and 175 Dementia Friendly Communities in England.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia and the Government has doubled research spending on dementia. This will be maintained to total over £300 million by 2020, with the UK's first ever Dementia Research Institute receiving £150 million.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives, increasing NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. Furthermore, following the 2017 election, the Government is committed to a comprehensive public consultation into developing a social care policy which is sustainable and accessible in the long term.


12 SEP 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

An EU withdrawal bill is necessary if Parliament is to respect the outcome of the referendum by repealing the European Communities Act 1972. Given the sheer volume and complexity of EU law that currently applies, it will need to be adopted into U.K. law on the day that we leave in order to prevent legal chaos.

I accept that the Government will need relatively wide delegated powers to amend them but there is a distinction between necessary amendments as a consequence of our leaving the EU, many of which will be technical or minor and those which will implement entirely new policies. The delegated powers in the European Union Withdrawal Bill will touch every aspect of our lives and I have made it clear during the debate in the Commons that there must be a commitment to listen and respond to concerns. You can view my contribution here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-09-11/debates/B10868CD-F096-47A2-84EE-A902C8A271BE/EuropeanUnion(Withdrawal)Bill#contribution-7A481CD3-31EF-4A40-B6C5-C6A6971A0A82

Together with other Conservative MPs, including four other Select Committee Chairs, I have added my name to a number of amendments that would address those concerns. These include limiting the so-called Henry VIII powers to amend primary legislation through delegated powers and to support reform of the procedures for handling delegated legislation so that Parliament rather than Government is able to decide on the level of scrutiny that is appropriate. I have also supported amendments on setting a single exit date and giving Parliament a final say on the agreement. I also feel that the Charter of Fundamental Rights should be restored to the bill and have added my name to an amendment that would achieve this.

Without these amendments to the way we handle secondary legislation, we will not be able to 'bring back control' over our laws to Parliament.

Without reform, secondary legislation will remain, as now, little more than an expensive rubber stamping exercise with little or no meaningful scrutiny. That would be unacceptable given that there could be an estimated 800-1000 of these Statutory Instruments over the coming years.

The bill will return to Parliament in around four weeks for these important issues and amendments to be further debated by the whole House of Commons. Amendments will have to be made if the bill is to pass its final stages.

Thank you for getting in touch and you may also like to look at the following link which will allow you to track the bill's passage through the commons and lords and to view the text of the bill, explanatory notes and amendments: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal.html


08 SEP 2017

Home is Here

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Home is Here campaign and the lobby of parliament on the 13th of September.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments, but I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

A fair and serious offer which maintains EU citizens' rights here in the UK has been made by the Prime Minister and will be enshrined in UK law. It is important now that these proposals be part of a reciprocal agreement for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in Europe, which should be agreed as soon as possible to give certainty to the three million EU citizens in the UK and the more than one million UK citizens in the EU.
EU citizens are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and their rights should be protected. The policy paper released by the Government makes clear how EU citizens looking to remain in the UK can do so, and confirms the creation of a new 'settled status' for EU citizens who arrive before a cut-off date, which is yet to be specified and will be agreed as part of the negotiations with the EU. This cut-off date will not be before the date of triggering article 50.
Applicants who already have five years' continuous residence in the UK will be immediately eligible for settled status. Those who arrived before the specified date but do not yet meet the five year threshold by exit day will be allowed to stay until they reach that milestone and can also secure settled status. Those EU citizens who are granted settled status will be treated like a comparable UK national, entitled to broadly the same rights and benefits. There will also be a grace period, expected to be around two years for all EU citizens, including those who arrive after the cut-off date, allowing them to regularise their status to remain in the country.
EU citizens looking to remain in the UK will be asked to apply for documentation under a new simplified and more accessible scheme. There will also be protection for the existing healthcare arrangements for both EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. This includes seeking continued participation in the European Health Insurance Card scheme for all UK nationals and EU citizens, including for temporary visits.


08 SEP 2017

Repeal Bill Environment

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the environment post Brexit.

As an MP for a rural area I appreciate your concern on this matter and you may be interested to know that I only recently met with the Devon Wildlife Trust.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Exiting the European Union of interest:

The Repeal Bill will transpose all EU law into UK law. This will make sure that the environmental protections currently in place across the country remain in place after the UK leaves the EU. Any future changes to environmental policy will be for Parliament to decide.
The powers given to ministers in the Repeal Bill will be limited in both time and scope. They can only be used to make technical corrections to the law for two years after exit day. Parliament will also be able to scrutinise legislation made under these powers. The Bill is not a vehicle for major policy changes.
The Government has committed to leaving the natural environment in a better state than in which it inherited it. Both the courts and Parliament will continue to make sure that the Government complies with environmental regulations. EU principles, such as those you mention, have had an important influence on the direction of EU legislation and this is being converted into UK law.
More generally, leaving the EU gives the Government an opportunity to design policies that will allow the UK to become a world leader in environmental standards and environmental science. My colleague, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, has stated that this is the ambition of his department.


08 SEP 2017

Support Pubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about keeping our pubs afloat, unfortunately I will be unable to attend the drop in photo opportunity on the 12th of September due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I quite agree that pubs are often at the heart of the local community and I was delighted to open the Tally Ho at Littlehempston which has reopened due to the support and dedication of the villagers.

I would like to see more support for pubs, which in a rural area such as this one, often serve as a community hub and local shop also. I will continue to speak up for rural businesses of all kinds and to level the playing field between pubs and the ultra-cheap booze sold in supermarkets which pub landlords tell me is the chief reason for the decline in their business.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is of interest:

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that each pub contributes £80,000 each year to its local economy.
Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. There are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.
New measures also ensure that tied pubs have rights under a statutory code with an independent adjudicator to resolve disputes. Many pubs have also benefited from the Government's package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for 90 per cent of pubs.

Tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented freeze in beer duty.
There is also greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes. It easier now for pubs to play live music and £350,000 has been provided for the Pub is The Hub initiative and the Plunkett Foundation to help landlords diversify and provide essential services such as village shops and post offices.


08 SEP 2017

Bottle Deposit System

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to email about your wish for a Bottle Deposit System to be created.

I understand your concern about littering and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

There is no excuse for littering. All businesses are encouraged to work in partnership with their local communities to tackle this problem, and great progress has been made in boosting plastic bottle recycling. Their collection for recycling has increased dramatically, from less than 13,000 tonnes in 2000 to over 330,000 tonnes in 2015, and almost all local councils now collect them routinely.
Considering all product packaging, recycling rates have risen from around 46 per cent in 2005 to 60 per cent in 2015. There is still more to be done, and work continues with the industry and the Waste & Resources Action Programme to build on this progress. Ministers recently announced the intention to increase obligated businesses' packaging recycling targets to over 75 per cent by 2020.
Councils have a legal duty to remove litter from beaches above the high water mark, and are advised to monitor and clean below it where appropriate. Beaches present unique challenges because of the terrain, conditions, accessibility and the need to be sensitive to habitats, but land managers should do as much as they can. The UK's Marine Strategy Part Three sets out comprehensive measures to reduce marine litter.
The Litter Strategy for England, published in April, includes a new working group looking at voluntary and economic incentives to improve the recycling and reuse of packaging. It will consider regulatory options including the full costs, benefits and impacts of drinks container deposit, reward and return schemes. While Ministers would prefer businesses to take voluntary action, they do not rule out regulation.


08 SEP 2017

Scrutiny of Trade Deals EDM 128

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals and the related EDM, number 128.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 128, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Trade is of interest:

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union, the Government has made clear that we will be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. This means that the UK will be able to operate a fully independent trade policy. The Department for International Trade is examining options to ensure continued access to trade agreements negotiated by the European Union which the UK is already party to. In addition, the Government has committed to making new free trade agreements more transparent and inclusive.
The Government is determined that the UK will become a world leader in free trade, and ensure that we secure the right deals for the United Kingdom. These bespoke deals will be scrutinised by our Parliament, as are all treaties.


04 SEP 2017

Factory Farming

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about factory farming.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

The UK's strong commitment in this area is reflected in World Animal Protection's recent Animal Protection Index, which judged 50 countries on their policy and legislation for animals and saw the UK ranked joint top alongside New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland. Recent changes to legislation regulating the quality of cages for hens shows this protection in action.
Animals should be slaughtered locally wherever possible. The Government has announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses. However, under European Union single market rules, it is illegal to ban the export of animals to other EU countries; there are instead EU and UK laws to protect the welfare of live animals during transport. As the UK withdraws from the EU, there are great opportunities to re-evaluate existing structures.
Mandatory labelling for method of production has to be weighed against the costs involved for businesses, which could be significant. Legislation already provides scope for producers to label their products voluntarily, and several assurance schemes are also in place. Consumers who have a preference for a particular farming method can therefore readily find meat products labelled with information to inform their choice.
Ministers are fully committed to ensuring that antibiotics are used responsibly. In September 2016 further plans were announced to tackle the issue, including a commitment to reduce antibiotic use in animals significantly. Long term, sector-specific reduction targets are being set that will bring sustainable change across the agricultural industry, from farm to fork.


01 SEP 2017

Executive Pay

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about executive pay.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

The Government has now announced its plans on corporate governance reform following a thorough consultation process. A large focus of these reforms will be to tackle abuses and excesses in the boardroom, specifically that of executive pay.
Previous reforms introduced by the Government in 2013 have gone some way to strengthening and increasing transparency in the UK executive pay framework - in particular the requirement to gain shareholder approval for executive pay policies every three years and the need to disclose the pay of each director as a single figure. However, executive pay has continued to be a key factor in public dissatisfaction with large businesses, and a source of frustration to UK investors.
That is why action is being taken which will address concerns that a minority of companies are not responding adequately when they encounter significant shareholder opposition to levels of executive pay. Under new measures the Government will name listed companies on a public register if 20 per cent or more of their shareholders revolt over proposals for executive pay package.
In addition, the Government will require listed companies to reveal the pay ratio between bosses and workers. At the same time, remuneration committees will be made to do more to engage with the workforce to explain how pay at the top relates to wider company pay policy. The Financial Reporting Council has also been asked to revise the UK Corporate Governance Code to extend the recommended minimum vesting and post-vesting holding period for executive share awards from three to five years to encourage companies to focus on longer-term outcomes in setting pay.
As the consultation findings highlight, the reforms introduced in 2013 already give shareholders sufficient power and oversight over executive pay, and average executive pay increases have been broadly in line with inflation over the same period. The Government has also taken into account that new powers in this area would be disproportionate, given that only a relatively small number of companies have experienced significant shareholder dissent on pay in recent years.


29 AUG 2017

British Lung Foundation

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about lung disease.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

There are currently no plans to set up a taskforce on lung health. However, the Government has instructed NHS England to achieve a significant reduction in avoidable deaths by 2020. Reducing premature mortality rates among patients with lung disease will play an important part in this. There are a range of initiatives being taken forward that will support reducing mortality rates amongst patients with lung disease.
Early diagnosis of lung disease is important as timely treatment can help slow down its progression. In March 2016, the NHS concluded a national pilot programme which aimed to improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis in patients experiencing the symptom of breathlessness, test new models of care in various settings and improve the outcomes of patients experiencing breathlessness.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently updated its advice on the management of acute and chronic breathlessness, including the identification of patients who may require emergency admission.
NHS England's National Clinical Director for Respiratory Disease, Professor Mike Morgan, continues to work on improving outcomes for lung disease with charities such as the British Lung Foundation. Work is also being carried out on how to share best practice in order to address variation in care.
NHS England also funds the Respiratory Futures programme, which is a resource to support innovation and sharing of best practice on respiratory conditions.
A recent Be Clear on Cancer campaign took place to raise awareness of respiratory symptoms, including breathlessness or a persistent cough, which can be a symptom of lung disease. This will help support increased early identification and diagnosis of patients suffering from possible lung disease.


24 AUG 2017

Game Birds

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me.

I understand the concern about the use of battery cages for pheasant and partridge production. I am afraid I would not support a ban on grouse shooting but I do think that any illegal practices should be prosecuted.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

The Government is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, so the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already makes it clear that gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering.
A Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes was drawn up based on research carried out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, advised by a working group that included animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. Stock-keepers who fail to follow it could be found to have committed an offence. The Code specifies that these birds must:

1. have an environment appropriate to their species, age and the purpose for which they are being kept, including adequate heating, lighting, shelter, ventilation and resting areas;

2. have ready access to fresh water and an appropriate diet to maintain growth, health and vigour;

3. be provided with appropriate space and facilities to ensure the avoidance of stress and to allow the exhibition of normal behaviour patterns;

4. be provided with company of their own kind as appropriate for the species concerned; and

5. be adequately protected from pain, suffering, injury, or disease. Should any of these occur a rapid response is required, including diagnosis, remedial action and, where applicable, the correct use of medication.

The full Code can be found at www.gov.uk by searching on the term 'Gamebirds'.

These rules are enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which carries out routine welfare inspections and investigates complaints; prosecutions can be brought where necessary.


18 AUG 2017

Venezuela

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this matter from the Foreign Office is of interest:

It is absolutely imperative that human rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers and the integrity of democratic institutions are respected, and our Foreign Secretary has made that clear.
This situation is evolving fast and one of the first items on the agenda for debate when Parliament returns after the summer recess is the political situation in Venezuela.


17 AUG 2017

EDM 152

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS Professionals and the related EDM, number 152.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 152, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:

NHS Professionals is the largest single supplier of flexible staffing to the NHS. The NHS should maintain a flexible workforce, with adequate supplies of temporary staff, which can meet the shifting needs of the health service.
The Government wants to maintain a healthy supply of permanent and flexible labour to the NHS, which will tackle agency staffing costs, and ensure maximum value for the taxpayer. Agency spend came down by £700 million last year. NHS Professionals helps by saving £70 million a year through supplying staff to hospitals at more affordable rates.
The Government's aim is always to improve patient care, its actions to reduce agency spend will be focused on that objective, and that every pound of the NHS budget is spend as efficiently as possible.


14 AUG 2017

EDM 158

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about transparency of loans issued to impoverished country governments by UK-based banks or under UK law and the related EDM, number 158.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 158, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Treasury of interest:

The UK continues to be at the forefront of international efforts to promote responsible lending and borrowing practices. This includes ongoing support for the IMF-World Bank Debt Sustainability Framework and OECD lending principles covering official export credits.
The UK also supports the African Legal Support Facility, which provides legal advice to countries facing litigation, and the World Bank's Debt Reduction Facility (DRF), which enables countries to buy back their commercial debt at a deep discount with donor backing. Since its inception, the DRF has played a significant role in extinguishing commercial external debt from the books of the public sector of low-income countries.
Ultimately, the regulation of UK banks is a matter for the independent Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA has robust powers to investigate potential cases of misconduct and to enforce UK financial rules; this includes any issues around the lending practices of UK financial firms.


14 AUG 2017

Refugee Repeal Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the relocation of unaccompanied children from Europe.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.

In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 480 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.

The Dubs amendment was never meant to be an open ended scheme. The legislation obliged the Government to consult local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 530 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.

The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued into the next financial year the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.

While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.


11 AUG 2017

Tobacco Control

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the tobacco control plan.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is vital the Government reduces smoking in our society. Smoking is still the leading individual cause of preventable death in the country; it exacerbates existing inequalities in our society, and must be tackled.
In July 2017 the Government published a new Tobacco Control Plan. The last plan ran from 2011 to 2015, and exceeded its ambitions, reducing adult smoking rates from 20.2 per cent, to 15.5 per cent. I believe there is still more progress to be made, and this plan will play a central role in ushering in a smoke-free generation.
This ambitious plan, will bring together local authorities and the Department of Health in efforts to reduce the total rate of smoking, drastically cut smoking in teenagers, provide stop-smoking services and support for those with mental health issues, and eliminate the damaging inequalities long- associated with smoking.
As things stand, there are over 200 smoking-related deaths per day, and although smoking rates have fallen, still 10 per cent of pregnant women smoke, as do 8 per cent of fifteen year olds. Smoking remains stubbornly commonplace amongst the disadvantaged, with those earning less than £10,000 a year almost twice as likely to smoke as those earning £40,000 or more.
The Prime Minister spoke about the burning injustice that sees the poorest die nine years earlier on average than the richest. Smoking accounts for around half of this variation in life expectancy, and it is vital that the Government builds on its successes and uses the latest tobacco control plan to further tackle smoking and eradicate one of the most pernicious inequalities in public health.

You may also be interested in the following answer to a parliamentary question that was asked on this topic:

"Councils will receive £16 billion of public health funding between 2016 and 2021 to provide vital services for their local population including smoking cessation services. As there is such a wide variety in smoking across the country, local councils must have the flexibility to consider how best to respond to the needs of their populations."
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-03-28/69400/


10 AUG 2017

EDM 176

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about civilian enforcement officers and EDM 176.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 176, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Ministry of Justice of interest:

The Government takes the recovery and enforcement of court fines extremely seriously. It is committed to ensuring that offenders with outstanding fines either pay or are brought back before the court. It is encouraging therefore that a record £440.5 million was recovered in 2016/17. However, it is also important that the Government continues to look at how it can improve this service and provide the best value for the taxpayer in the years to come.
It is for this reason that the Government is considering a range of options about how best to deliver this service. A tender process has now started which will allow the Government to make informed decisions about which steps to take. As part of this process, discussions are also being had with providers to consider extending the current use of Approved Enforcement Agencies for warrants of arrest. However no decision has been made at this current time.


09 AUG 2017

Energy

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about fossil fuels.

I understand your concerns about climate change and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. The UK is already the third best country in the world at tackling climate change, but the Government is working hard to further reduce emissions and increase generation from renewables, while at the same time ensuring a reliable, secure source of energy and protecting consumers from excessive costs.
The Government supports the G20's initiative to reform inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. It is important to distinguish, however, that the Government does not provide subsidies to fossil fuel production or consumption. The sums argued by some are features of the tax regime intended to promote the industries concerned. For instance, the UK oil and gas sector which has made a huge contribution to the economy and supports thousands of jobs.
The Government has also made clear, through its Bioenergy Strategy, that only biomass from sustainable sources should be used in the UK. Under new biomass sustainability criteria bioenergy suppliers must report on the sustainability of their operations if they want to claim Government subsidy, and any generators that do not comply will lose this support.
Ultimately, Britain is already leading the way on tackling climate change and building an energy system fit for the 21st century. We will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the energy mix completely, with the announcement that all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions are not being captured and stored will be closed by 2025. Renewable capacity has trebled since 2010, and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses about the shift to a low-carbon economy.


09 AUG 2017

Pubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about keeping our pubs afloat.

I quite agree that pubs are often at the heart of the local community and I was delighted to open the Tally Ho at Littlehempston which has reopened due to the support and dedication of the villagers.

I would like to see more support for pubs, which in a rural area such as this one, often serve as a community hub and local shop also. I will continue to speak up for rural businesses of all kinds and to level the playing field between pubs and the ultra-cheap booze sold in supermarkets which pub landlords tell me is the chief reason for the decline in their business.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is of interest:

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that each pub contributes £80,000 each year to its local economy.
Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. There are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.
New measures also ensure that tied pubs have rights under a statutory code with an independent adjudicator to resolve disputes. Many pubs have also benefited from the Government's package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for 90 per cent of pubs.

Tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented freeze in beer duty.
There is also greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes. It easier now for pubs to play live music and £350,000 has been provided for the Pub is The Hub initiative and the Plunkett Foundation to help landlords diversify and provide essential services such as village shops and post offices.


03 AUG 2017

Dignity Not Destitution

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Refugee Action Campaign.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 190 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

The Home Office has discussed Refugee Action's report with the charity itself, and will continue this dialogue as it examines the detailed findings. Complaints about performance failures are taken seriously, and there are robust procedures in place to inspect, investigate and resolve issues when specific information is received.
Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute can apply for free accommodation and cash support to cover their essential living needs. If they have an emergency need for accommodation they can ask to be put in initial accommodation while their applications are being processed and the vast majority of such requests are processed on the same day.
On the issue of asylum seekers being granted the right to work, permission is granted for an asylum seeker to work in one of the jobs on the shortage occupation list if their claim has not been decided after 12 months, through no fault of their own. This is fair and reasonable, as it protects the resident labour market and ensures that access to jobs is prioritised for British citizens and those with leave to remain, including refugees.


03 AUG 2017

Philip Hammond

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Chancellor of the Exchequer's position on leaving the EU.

I have noted your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department for Exiting the European Union is of interest:

Every member of the Cabinet, including the Chancellor, is fully committed to taking the UK out of the EU by March 2019. The Government has always been consistent in its view that we need a good deal with the EU.
As the Chancellor and Government have made clear, we will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, and that means leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market at that point. This means that the UK will regain control over all the issues you mention including immigration and the laws that affect the people of this country.
It is sensible to have an implementation period so that businesses and individuals have time to adjust to our new arrangements with the EU. The Prime Minister has said that instability and a cliff-edge for business would not be in anyone's interests. There will not be an unlimited transition period. This would not be good for the UK or the EU. The Government has been clear about this and this remains the position. While there has been some uncertainty since the vote to leave the EU, economic news remains positive. Unemployment is at its lowest since 1975, retails sales have increased by nearly 3 per cent since last year and manufacturing orders are at their highest level since 1988. This is no small part due to the hard work of everyone in the Government.


01 AUG 2017

Christian Solidarity

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about judicial harassment of Iran's religious and ethnic minorities.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

It is fair to say that the Iranian Government has an appalling human rights record. That is a matter of great sadness, given the richness and diversity of Iranian civilisation and culture, and the fact that its best traditions accord respect to religious minorities.
President Rouhani pledged to improve the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Iran when he was elected in 2013. He also promised reforms on discrimination against members of ethnic minorities, and greater space for freedom of expression and opinion. However, there has been little evidence of positive change.
The British Government does all it can to encourage the Iranian Government to adopt the kinds of human rights standards that we would expect from a country with a rich civilisation.


31 JUL 2017

Grenfell

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government of interest:

The Grenfell Tower tragedy was one of the worst this nation has experienced in many years. It is impossible to comprehend what those affected by the fire have had to deal with. The response of people who provided help, compassion and support, once again showed the fantastic spirit of London and the best of Britain.
The Government has been working with local government officials and organisations to provide support to the victims, both in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and in the long term. Everyone whose home was destroyed will be guaranteed a new one on the same terms as the one they lost, and nobody will be forced to move somewhere they do not want to go.
The Government will also do everything possible to seek justice for those people who have been failed. A full, judge-led public inquiry will investigate what happened and who was responsible for the disaster, to give people the answers they deserve. It is vital that the voices of survivors are heard: they will have their legal representation funded. An independent expert advisory panel has also been appointed to advise the Government on any immediate action that should be taken on fire safety.
The disaster at Grenfell Tower should never have happened: the police investigation and public inquiry will find out why it did, to ensure this can never happen again.


31 JUL 2017

Children At Risk

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the relocation of unaccompanied children from Europe.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 480 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
The Dubs amendment was never meant to be an open ended scheme. The legislation obliged the Government to consult local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 530 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.
The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued into the next financial year the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.
While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.


31 JUL 2017

Guide Dogs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about assistance dog owners and taxis.

I am afraid I will be unable to visit the Guide Dog stall at conference as I am not attending, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Transport is of interest:

Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHV) are essential for many disabled people, and drivers are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. The Equality Act 2010 places duties on taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers to carry assistance dogs at no additional charge. Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers are obliged to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair, provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance, and charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users.
Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. A driver was recently fined £1,546, including legal costs, for refusing access to a guide dog.
Although there is no legal requirement for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake disability awareness training, the Department for Transport's Best Practice Guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing recommends that local licensing authorities to work with the industry in their area to improve drivers' awareness of the needs of disabled people. This includes encouraging their drivers to undertake disability awareness training.


27 JUL 2017

Sky TV

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about 21st Century Fox's proposed purchase of Sky.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

Sky has received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own. Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.

On 16 March 2017, the Secretary of State issued a European Intervention Notice on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This decision was made after hearing representations from Sky, 21st Century Fox and many other third parties. This decision triggered action by Ofcom to assess and report on the public interest grounds specified and for the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction by 20 June.

Following this, on 29 June the Secretary of State released her minded-to - not final - decisions on whether to refer the merger to a full phase two investigation. More details of these can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/skyfox-merger

The Secretary of State then accepted representations on her minded-to positions until 14 July and she will now consider the evidence received before coming to a final decision on both grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.

In the interests of transparency, the Secretary of State gave a statement to the House on 20 July. The Secretary of State must fully consider all relevant representations before reaching a final decision, she will take the time needed to look at the many received, balancing the need for careful consideration of relevant evidence with the merger parties' legitimate need for a prompt decision. The Secretary of State is acting in a quasi-judicial basis under the Enterprise Act, and one of the things she is required to do is act without undue delay, in the interests of all parties. Therefore, it is expected that a final decision on referral will be made in the coming weeks.


27 JUL 2017

Gaza EDM 208

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the situation in Gaza.

I understand that you would like me to sign EDM 208 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

There will ultimately be no relief for the people in Gaza, until there is a political solution. The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers an independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel.
In tandem with that effort, the UK is continuing to provide aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. British aid is helping to build strong institutions and enabling the Palestinian Authority to deliver essential services such as policing, health and education. UK funding provides around 25,000 young Palestinians with access to an education, up to 3,700 immunisations for children, and 185,000 medical consultations each year.
Ministers are fully engaged with the situation on the ground in Gaza. Earlier this month the UK participated in a joint mission with the UN to Gaza. The UK will continue to closely monitor the situation in Gaza and will work with our international partners in order to bring tangible change and improvements to the lives of those living in Gaza and peace to the wider region.


27 JUL 2017

Cuban Students

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Open University's use of a restricted countries list in its application process.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Education is of interest:

The Open University is an autonomous institution and it is for them to make decisions about how best to meet the needs of their students and structure their workforce. As such, the Secretary of State has not held any meetings with the Open University regarding its use of a restricted countries list in its application process. However, higher education institutions are responsible for meeting their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
The UK welcomes international students and the number of international students studying at UK universities are at record highs. There were over 170,000 entrants to UK higher education institutions for the sixth year running. The latest Home Office data shows that university-sponsored visa applications have increased by around 11 per cent since 2011.
International students make an important contribution to the UK's higher education sector, both economically and culturally. There remains no limit to the number of international students who can come to the UK to study.


25 JUL 2017

Precarious Contracts

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about precarious contracts.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

While atypical work arrangements, alongside traditional full-time employment, play a valuable role in today's labour market, the Government is live to the issues that come with new ways of working.
That is why Matthew Taylor was asked to undertake his independent review of modern employment practices, which considered job security among a range of issues. The review highlights the recent success of British business in creating jobs, enhancing earning power and improving life chances across the UK. Employment rates are at the highest since records began, unemployment and economic inactivity are at record lows and minimum wage rates have never been higher.
The Government will now study the report's contents carefully, as well as the public consideration of Matthew's recommendations that will follow, to help inform the development of the Industrial Strategy later in the year. Through the Industrial Strategy, the Government will make sure wherever people are in the country, there are more skilled, well-paid jobs to increase productivity and earning power, benefiting both workers and business.
Ultimately, we have record numbers of people in work thanks to our flexible labour market. That said, the Government recognises that people also deserve to be treated fairly by their employers whatever work they are carrying out and will take action if necessary.


25 JUL 2017

Energy Efficient Homes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about energy waste in homes.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

The sustainability of buildings is crucial to tackling climate change in the UK, and recognise that energy efficiency and decarbonising buildings will be key to meeting our domestic commitments.
All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements and there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations. All homes are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. In addition, a package of changes incentivise energy suppliers to deliver more heating and insulation measures in non-gas fuelled homes, including oil fired boiler replacements. Over two million energy efficiency measures have been installed in over 1.6 million homes since 2013, and a further 1 million homes will be insulated by 2020.
For non-fuel poor households, however, the priority is to help create a sustainable market for energy efficiency and low carbon products, rather than rely primarily on subsidy. That is why the Government commissioned the Each Home Counts review of quality, standards and advice in home energy efficiency and renewables, which reported in December 2016. Ministers are now working with industry on its approach to implementing the findings of that review.
In the last six years, energy performance for new homes has increased. The Government is carrying out a review to determine whether minimum standards should be further strengthened. It has always been clear, however, that carbon reduction needs to be achieved in the most practical and cost-effective way possible.


25 JUL 2017

Environmental Laws

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about environmental standards and rivers.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Since privatisation, around £9 billion has been invested on the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive to reduce pollution from sewage treatment. In England, between 2015 and 2020, water companies are investing over £3 billion to improve their sewerage infrastructure. It is encouraging to see tough enforcement action when things go wrong, as with the unprecedented fine of over £20 million levied against Thames Water in March in response to six cases of avoidable sewage pollution, following an Environment Agency investigation.
The Environment Agency is also responsible for issuing licenses for water abstraction. In making these decisions the Agency is guided by regional river basin management plans, which set out how all interested parties work together to improve the water environment of the area. Collectively they set out how at least 680 waters will improve by 2022, benefitting from around £3 billion of investment.
Following the vote to leave the European Union, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.


24 JUL 2017

Prisoners in Iran

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about British prisoners in Iran and the recent debate in Westminster Hall on this matter.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the debate due to prior commitments. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The British Ambassador raises the issue of our detainees with the Iranian authorities at every opportunity and seeks to secure consular access and to ensure their welfare. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have raised all our consular cases with their counterparts and stressed the importance of resolving them as quickly as possible.
However, there are limitations on what the UK can do, particularly in the light of Iran's refusal to recognise dual citizenship (which all these detainees have). Iran considers them to be Iranian, and therefore does not recognise the British Government's right to consular access.
Britain has re-opened our embassy in Iran and new relationships are opening up, and the Government will take the opportunity to explore what this chance of a new relationship will mean for the UK.
Whilst the Government continues to work hard on behalf of these detainees, it is unfortunately the case that this is not a matter in the hands of the UK Government to resolve, it has to be resolved by the Iranian regime, but the British Government is working hard to facilitate that.
Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East, has pledged to continue to act in the best interests of the detainees, as well as constantly listening to those with other ideas and to the families, so that the Government does as much for them as it possibly can.


20 JUL 2017

Puppies

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about puppies being smuggled across borders.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Responsibility for stopping illegal movement begins in the country where puppies are born, so in response to a previous report the Chief Veterinary Officer wrote to the authorities in the highlighted countries to remind them of their duties.
An EU pet travel regulation introduced in 2014 brought further measures to strengthen enforcement. The new-style passport is harder to forge, new rules apply when more than five animals are moved together and all EU countries must carry out compliance checks. A 12-week minimum age for rabies vaccination assists compliance checking and restricts the movement of very young animals. As the UK withdraws from the EU, there will be opportunities to re-evaluate the rules.
There is a robust checking regime for pets travelling here. Every pet travelling with its owner on an approved route is checked for compliance with the travel regime and the UK Border Force carries out a wide range of checks on vehicles arriving in the UK.
It is important to recognise that we cannot expect the Government to defeat this problem by itself. As individuals, we need to take care not to fuel demand for these animals by providing a market for the unscrupulous people who exploit them. Government advice is very clear: people who buy a pet are responsible for knowing where it comes from and, if it is found to have been imported illegally, will be held responsible for any necessary quarantine and veterinary fees.


20 JUL 2017

Ivory

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the plight of elephants and the ivory trade.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the event on this matter on the 18th of July due to prior commitments. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if of interest:

Just how seriously the Government takes this issue was demonstrated when it held the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking. Over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species, including elephants, from being poached to the brink of extinction. The Buckingham Palace Declaration followed with a range of commitments to help the private sector tackle this illegal trade.
The UK made available £13 million for various projects including through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and is now doubling that funding. It is also training rangers in Gabon, home of Africa's largest population of forest elephants, to combat poaching.
The UK employs strong rules to control the sale of unworked ivory, backed up by robust enforcement from Border Force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. These go further than the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and EU law; for example, the UK will not issue certificates for the sale of raw African elephant ivory of any age. The Government is currently considering further action on worked ivory and will set this out in due course.
Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.


19 JUL 2017

Health Visitors

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about health visitors.

I agree that post-natal care is of the upmost importance and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

Health visitors play a very important role supporting parents and babies across the country.
The Government wants people to be empowered to shape and manage their own health and care and make meaningful choices, particularly for maternity services.
To help achieve this, the Government has increased the number of midwives by over 1,800. Furthermore, by the end of the Health Visitor Programme in April 2015, it had delivered almost 4,000 more health visitors compared to May 2010, an increase of around 50 per cent, with 1,000 HV students in training. Health Education England is ensuring sustainable development of the HV workforce and there are presently over 800 HV student training places commissioned.
The Government is committed to tackling perinatal mental health and that is why the HV programme funded the Institute of Health Visitors to train almost 600 perinatal mental health visitor champions to enable health visitors to identify and manage perinatal depression and other maternal mental health conditions.
In addition to the £365 million the Government has invested in improving perinatal mental health in England, it has also invested £2.24 million in new safety equipment. £1 million has been invested in improved training for staff to help deliver healthy babies more safely.


18 JUL 2017

Bees and Neonicotinoids.

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about bees and neonicotinoids.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.
As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.


17 JUL 2017

United Against Terror

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about recent terror attacks.

Clearly events in London and Manchester have been deeply shocking and I hope the following information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of interest:

Recent attacks have shown that we need to respond to a new trend in the threat we face, as terrorism breeds terrorism and perpetrators are inspired to attack by coping one another in the crudest of means. The Government remains determined to work with our international partners on security co-operation in order to defeat those who resort to acts of terrorism.


13 JUL 2017

Environmental Protection

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about protecting the environment.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

The British countryside is some of the most beautiful in the world, so Ministers are committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment. Until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. The Treasury has confirmed that any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime even if they run beyond this point.
Following the vote to leave, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.
Tackling air quality is another priority. Alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, in those cities with the most persistent air quality challenges Ministers will legislate to implement Clean Air Zones.
The UK will continue to play a leading role in combatting climate change, as we did at the Paris Conference. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.


13 JUL 2017

Housing Allowance

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supported housing.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Supported accommodation plays a vital role for many vulnerable people. The Government is committed to both building a secure long-term funding framework for the sector and encouraging further development in the sector.
The changes to Housing Benefit announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement involve aligning the rules for claimants in the social sector with those for claimants renting privately. This means extending the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules, which limit the amount of rent which Housing Benefit will cover, to the social sector. The Government recognises the importance of ensuring those who are providing supported accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society receive appropriate protections. That is why Government departments have been engaging closely with providers to better understand the issues faced by the supported housing sector.
As a result of these discussions, the Government has decided to delay the implementation of the LHA cap for all social housing to 2019. From 2019 the LHA rules for Housing Benefit will apply to social sector housing, including supported housing. However, for supported housing this will not include the Shared Accommodation Rate, in recognition of the particular challenges this would have placed on tenants. To reflect the higher average costs of offering supported accommodation, which may go above the level of Local Housing Allowance, the Government will devolve 'top up' funding to local authorities (and to the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland). This will give local authorities an enhanced role in commissioning supported housing, and allow them to take a more coherent approach to planning for housing needs in their area.
The Government has made provision for some supported housing providers to continue to be exempt from the one per cent yearly reduction in social sector rents, in cases where they do not have the capacity to offset the decrease through efficiencies or other adjustments. Specialist types of supported accommodation will be exempt from the rent reduction for the full four years of its duration.


12 JUL 2017

Brexit Creative Industries

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me about Brexit and the value of the creative industries.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the meeting on this matter, however I hope the following information from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is reassuring:

The creative industries are one of the UK's greatest success stories, contributing over £87 billion to the economy and over £19 billion in exports. Therefore, it is only right that they be given all the support necessary to continue to thrive after we have left the EU.

Ministers have been working closely with the Creative Industries Council, who represent the whole of the creative industries, to understand both the possible opportunities and impacts presented by the UK's decision leaving the EU.
A series of roundtable meetings have also been held with businesses and industry representatives from across the creative industries to discuss these matters.
These have included representations from the music industry regarding touring musicians and crews. Ministers remain committed to working closely with the music sector to ensure that its needs and views are understood.
Alongside this, Sir Peter Balgazatte is leading a sector review into the creative industries as part of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper which was published in January. This is a vital means of helping to underpin the future prosperity of the creative industries in a post-Brexit Britain.


12 JUL 2017

Arms Sales

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me.

I read your comments with interest and understand you are deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen. I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen. It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end arms sales.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The Government takes seriously its legal obligations as regards the licensing of arms for export to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The UK has one of the most rigorous licensing regimes in the world.
Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking into account the precise nature of the equipment and the identity and track record of the recipient. The Government has consistently said it does not, and will not, issue licences where it judges that the proposed export would provoke or prolong internal conflicts, or where there is a clear risk it might be used to facilitate internal repression or be used aggressively against another country.
Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it is investigating reports of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law. This is an important process and the UK is fully behind thorough investigations into all allegations of violations of International Law. Finding a political solution to the conflict in Yemen is the best way to bring long-term stability and peace talks are a top priority.
The Government is aware of legal opinion having been provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) regarding Saudi Arabia. Allegations made by NGOs are investigated by the Coalition's Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT). The outcomes of this investigation will be taken into account when assessing the Government's position. This, in turn, informs the risk assessment made during licensing judgements.
The Saudi-led coalition confirmed in December that a limited number of BL755 cluster munitions that were exported from the UK in the 1980s were used in Yemen, including by a coalition aircraft not far from the Saudi border. The coalition, whose members are not parties to the convention on cluster munitions, has said that they were used against a legitimate military target and did not therefore contravene international humanitarian law. However, Saudi Arabia has now confirmed that it will not use BL755 cluster munitions further.

The Government continues to monitor the situation closely, using cross-Departmental resources to seek further information. Additionally, the Government continues to welcome any further information NGOs can provide.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 124, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which 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. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.


11 JUL 2017

Blood Cancer

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about tackling blood cancers and stem cell donation.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the Anthony Nolan event on the 18th of July due to prior commitments, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is very important to increase the number of stem cell (cord blood and bone marrow) donors in the UK. In 2015 the Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services, part of £19 million in additional investment that the Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK. This funding is being used to encourage young adult donors as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.
A single unified bone marrow donor registry has been created streamlining the provision of stem cells and reducing the time to provide cells from adult donors. It is encouraging that the total number of registered stem cell donors continues to expand. In 2010 the total number of registered United Kingdom donors was 770,000, which increased to in excess of one million by the end of 2014. This led to more UK patients receiving a stem cell transplant in 2014 than ever before.


11 JUL 2017

Leveson

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Leveson and 21st Century Fox's proposed purchase of Sky.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

The 2017 Conservative manifesto committed to repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts 2013 and terminate Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry. The Government is committed to doing both.
The Government recently held a public consultation on the Leveson Inquiry and its implementation. Over 140,000 responses were received and Ministers will respond to the consultation in due course. You can find further information on the below webpage:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-leveson-inquiry-and-its-implementation

Sky has received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own.

Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.

On 16 March 2017, the Secretary of State issued a European Intervention Notice on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This decision was made after hearing representations from Sky, 21st Century Fox and many other third parties.

This decision triggered action by Ofcom to assess and report on the public interest grounds specified and for the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction by 20 June.

Following this, on 29 June the Secretary of State released her minded-to - not final - decisions on whether to refer the merger to a full phase two investigation. More details of these can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/skyfox-merger

The Secretary of State will now be taking representations on her minded-to positions until 14 July and she will then consider the evidence received before coming to a final decision on both grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.


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