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.


15 FEB 2019

Pancreatic Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about tackling pancreatic cancer.

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

We all know someone close to us who has been affected by cancer. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is a common form of cancer with a higher mortality rate than others. Tackling this is a top priority for the Government.
There was a debate on Cancer Targets in 2018, at which Members of Parliament raised the devastating impact of Pancreatic Cancer in particular. They discussed work being done in Birmingham to establish a 'fast-track pathway', which sees a dedicated specialist nurse prepare a patient to receive surgery within 16 days of referral. The results of this pilot scheme are being examined by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
In February 2017, Public Health England launched 'Be Clear on Cancer', a campaign targeted at identifying symptoms of pancreatic cancer earlier - early diagnosis is key to improving outcomes. This regional pilot included symptoms like persistent diarrhoea, bloating and discomfort. More than 90 per cent of the target audience reported that the campaign made them realise these symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. More than 80 per cent reported they were more likely to visit a GP as a result.
In October 2018, the Prime Minister launched a new Cancer Strategy, outlining aims for tackling cancer. These priorities include lowering the screening age for bowel cancer, facilitating earlier detection, and establishing a cervical cancer screening programme.
DHSC are working hard to examine the work being done by clinicians to improve treatment timelines across the country.


14 FEB 2019

Minimum Income

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the minimum income requirement concerning spousal visas.

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

It is fair to have rules on bringing spouses from abroad into this country and on family reunion. Indeed, The Supreme Court has upheld the lawfulness of the minimum income requirement for spouse visas, which prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration. The Supreme Court agreed that it strikes a fair balance between the interests of those wishing to sponsor a spouse to settle in the UK and of the community in general. However, the Home Secretary has been clear that the Home Office constantly reviews the rules to ensure they continue to be fair.


13 FEB 2019

Dubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, otherwise known as the Dubs Amendment.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The Government has approached the implementation of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the Dubs amendment) in such a way that best protects vulnerable unaccompanied children.
The Government consulted with local authorities to determine the number of unaccompanied children who could be relocated to the UK and supported by local authorities under section 67 in addition to the over 4,500 unaccompanied children already in the care of local authorities across the UK. This exercise was essential for ensuring that the children would receive the support required upon arrival in the UK. Following the consultation, the Government concluded that there was capacity for 480 unaccompanied child refugees to be transferred to the UK through section 67. On 3 October the Court of Appeal confirmed that the consultation to determine the specified number of children to be relocated was lawful. UK authorities have worked closely with their French, Greek and Italian counterparts to ensure the smooth transfer of eligible children.
The Government has also introduced an additional provision called 'Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 leave'. This allows unaccompanied children who are relocated to the UK under section 67 but who do not qualify for international protection to remain in the UK long-term.

The Home Office has also taken note of the Court of Appeal ruling's criticism of the way in which decisions were communicated to children who were refused relocation from Calais to the UK under Section 67 and is consulting with its legal team.


11 FEB 2019

Probate

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

I understand your concerns over the change to fees for a grant of probate and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is reassuring:

Fees are a vital part of protecting access to justice through the funding of modern courts and tribunal service.
To ensure the courts continue to receive the necessary funding, a banded fee structure for grants of probate has been announced. Ministers have listened to a variety of concerns raised about these changes and, in fact, the most recent proposals have been revised to ensure fees will not amount to more than 0.5 per cent of the value of an estate. This is a welcome change to keep the system fair and proportionate.
It is important to recognise that the rise in estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000 will lift around an additional 25,000 estates out of fees altogether every year. This means that after the Government's reform, fifty per cent of people will not pay fees at all. Of those who do pay, around 80 per cent of estates will pay £750 or less and the money raised will be invested into the courts and tribunal service.
The new banded fee system is a fair and progressive replacement to the current flat fee structure and ensures the courts system is properly funded without placing an excessive burden on other taxpayers. The Government is set to release guidance to help applicants choose the option to pay which best suits their circumstances.


07 FEB 2019

Toxic Air

I understand your concern about air pollution and the Health Select Committee, which I chair, has held a joint inquiry on improving air quality and you may be interested to read more about this via the following link

In addition, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

Air quality has improved significantly since 2010, but sixty years on from the Clean Air Act air pollution is still making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.
The Government's new Clean Air Strategy which aims to cut air pollution and save lives, backed up by new primary legislation is welcomed. The Strategy details how the UK will go further and faster than the EU in reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution.
The Strategy has been consulted upon and forms a key part of the 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment. It sets out a goal to halve the number of people living in locations with concentrations of particulate matter above WHO guidelines, legislate to give councils more powers to improve air quality and ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels and stoves can be sold.
Other measures include requiring and supporting farmers to invest in reducing emissions of ammonia, working with international partners on new standards for tyres and brakes to reduce emissions of harmful microplastics, investing in research and innovation and a personal air quality messaging system to keep the public informed.
This action supplements the £3.5 billion plan to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles as set out last year. The investment includes £1 billion to support the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, nearly £0.5 billion to help local authorities implement local air quality plans and about £90 million through the Green Bus fund.


05 FEB 2019

St Mungo's

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about rough sleeping and the St Mungos campaign.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and it is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in society, including homeless people and rough sleepers, are helped to get their lives back on track. Over £1.2 billion has been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through to 2020.

St Mungo's does excellent work in tackling rough sleeping and homelessness, and is a member of the Government-backed rough sleeping advisory panel set up in 2018, which focusses on rough sleeping prevention, intervention, recovery and support. Whilst the number of rough sleepers declined in 2018 compared to the previous year, more needs to be done to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. This is why in January 2019 the Government announced a £500 million boost in funding for housing associations to build 11,000 more affordable homes, including properties for social rent. This will help reach the target of building 300,000 properties each year by the mid-2020s.

The launch of a new £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers is welcomed. This will complement the £28 million Housing First pilots which are supporting the most entrenched rough sleepers off the streets by providing them with stable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support.

Furthermore, the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislative reform for tackling homelessness in decades, has recently come into force. This Act, praised by St Mungo's, requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of homelessness.

These measures will reduce homelessness across our country and help to achieve the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.


05 FEB 2019

World Cancer Day

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about World Cancer Day.

I agree we need to improve outcomes for cancer sufferers and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

Cancer is a priority for the Government and survival rates are at a record high. Since 2010 rates of survival from cancer have increased year-on-year. Around 7,000 people are alive today who would not have been had mortality rates stayed the same as then.
In October 2018 the Prime Minister announced measures that will be rolled out across the country with the aim of seeing three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028 (currently just over half). The plan will overhaul screening programmes, provide new investment in state of the art technology to transform the process of diagnosis, and boost research and innovation. This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, and forms part of how the Government will achieve its ambition to see 55,000 more people surviving cancer for five years in England each year from 2028.
The 2015 Cancer Strategy for England, prepared by the independent Cancer Taskforce, set out a vision of what cancer patients should expect from the health service: effective prevention; prompt and effective diagnosis; informed choice and convenient care; access to the best effective treatments with minimal side-effects; always knowing what is going on and why; holistic support; and the best possible quality of life, including at the end of life.
NHS England has confirmed funding of over £600 million to support delivery of the Cancer Strategy for England. £200 million of this funding was used in 2017 and 2018 on a transformation fund for Cancer Alliances to encourage local areas to find new and innovative ways to diagnose cancer earlier, improve the care for those living with cancer and ensure each cancer patient gets the right care for them.


04 FEB 2019

Horse Whipping

Thank you for taking the time to email me about horse races being whipped.

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

The British Horseracing Association, the governing and regulatory body for the sport, requires that whips used in horse racing must be used responsibly, for safety reasons and only to encourage the horse.
Its policy on this issue was drawn up in consultation with animal welfare groups including the RSPCA, as was the approved energy absorbing design of the whip itself. Full details can be found on its website at www.britishhorseracing.com.
In addition to sanctions from the sport, using the whip indiscriminately on horses could lead to a prosecution under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, which makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal. Anyone with evidence that a racehorse has suffered unnecessarily from being whipped to report it to the local authority.
The provisions of the 2006 Act, coupled with the BHA's rules on the use of the whip, provide adequate protection for racehorses.


01 FEB 2019

Yemen UK

Thank you for taking the time to email me about UN Security Council Resolution 2451 concerning Yemen.

I welcome the positive outcomes of the UN peace talks in Stockholm in December. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeidah and to commit to withdraw troops from the port and city. Additionally, shortly before Christmas, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt Security Council Resolution 2451, a UK resolution to bolster the UN Yemen peace process, designed to build on the momentum generated by the UN peace talks in Stockholm. It was the first resolution passed on the conflict in Yemen since 2016 and is an important step along Yemen's peace process.

Furthermore, the UN Security Council has now unanimously adopted the UK-drafted resolution 2452 which established a special mission to support implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached in Stockholm. The UK has also recently announced an additional £2.5 million in funding to support the UN peace process in Yemen.


01 FEB 2019

Close the Loophole

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Close The Loophole campaign,

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is reassuring:

The protection of children and young people must remain a priority. I want to pay tribute to those who have spoken out about child sex abuse.
Sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 is a serious criminal offence, regardless of whether consent is given. It is also the case that any non-consensual sexual activity is a crime. It doesn't matter the age of the victim or the relationship between the victim and perpetrator. It is also the case that where a manipulative offender grooms a child under the age of consent and then engages in a sexual relationship with them when they are over 16, offences are in place to deal with this such as Section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 also provides increased protection for younger people aged 16 and 17. Offences criminalise those in a position of trust who sexual abuse young people in their care. The offences target relationships where the young person has some dependency on the adult involved and often combined with an element of vulnerability of that young person.
Ministers across Government are keeping this sensitive and important area of the law under review and working together to ensure our young athletes feel safe in their training environment.


31 JAN 2019

Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, which will introduce legislation to replace the current system known as 'Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards' (DoLS).

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

DoLS is an assessment currently carried out on people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care, for example because they are living with dementia. However, the current system is broken and is ultimately failing to provide vulnerable people with the protections they need. More than 48,000 people have been waiting more than a year for an assessment, and we urgently need to act to tackle this injustice.
That is why the Government has brought forward a new system, known as 'Liberty Protection Safeguards', which will become law through the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill. These reforms will introduce a simpler, streamlined process that is essential to tackling the backlog of vulnerable people waiting for an assessment, but, crucially, robustly upholds the rights of the individual at all stages. Giving more power to the individual, the new Safeguards ensure their thoughts and feelings are taken into account throughout.
The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Far from being rushed, the Bill builds on the Law Commission's three years of engagement with vulnerable people, carers, local government and providers.
There has been some concern over the role of care home managers in this system. Care home managers, as in the current system, will continue to play a role in identifying a need for safeguards, as well as playing a role in flagging when someone has objections to their arrangements. The Minister for Care has made clear that care home managers will never be responsible for authorising arrangements or conducting reviews. This will rightly be the sole duty of responsible bodies such as local authorities or hospitals.
For people with long-term progressive conditions, starting the process from scratch every year can be cumbersome and unnecessary. The Liberty Protection Safeguards model therefore triples the maximum authorisation length from one year to three years, as recommended by the Law Commission. This will only be granted to people who have already received two prior assessments and authorisations, and whose circumstances are unlikely to change. Every authorisation will also be supported by a programme of reviews which can take place regularly within an authorisation period to ensure that the care arrangements in place remain appropriate for the individual.
The Government is steadfastly committed to tackling this broken system while ensuring the rights of those affected are robustly protected throughout.


29 JAN 2019

One Campaign for Real Aid

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the ONE campaign for Real Aid.

I support our aid budget as it helps to reduce future costs to the UK by helping to stop countries becoming failed states and thereby adding to the humanitarian disasters unfolding around the world. I believe in particular in trying to support projects which support women and children's health, education and choice based contraception for women as limiting family size makes a real difference to the life chances of children.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of International Development is reassuring:

Between April 2015 and March 2018, DFID reached 26.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, supported 11.4 million children to gain a decent education, and supported 40.3 million people to access clean water and/or better sanitation.
We need to ensure that our aid budget is spent in the best way possible. This is not only vital for those that UK aid helps, but also for the British taxpayers who deserve the best value for money and deserve the highest levels of transparency. UK aid works to achieve the Global Goals and the priorities set out in the 2015 UK Aid Strategy, to create a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for us all, regardless of which department is responsible for the spending. Efficiency and value for money are at the centre of all this work.
Poverty reduction remains at the heart of UK aid spending and the Government remains committed to the 0.7 per cent target and to untied aid. The challenges the world faces are changing and by working across government we can make use of a greater range of skills and expertise to deliver on our development goals. All UK official development assistance (ODA) spend meets the international ODA rules and DFID experts provide advice to the cross-government funds and departments to ensure this criteria is understood and met.
As the Spending Review approaches, the Government remains committed to improving the lives of the world's poorest and marginalised, and Ministers continue to work to ensure all UK aid spending meets the highest standards of efficiency and transparency.


29 JAN 2019

Assisted Dying

Thank you for taking the time to email me about assisted dying.

I will continue to listen to views on both sides of this debate, however there is currently no legislation on this topic being taken through the Commons.


29 JAN 2019

Health and Social Care Committee and Long Term Plan

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the questioning of the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, on the NHS Long Term Plan by the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which I chair.

You can now view the entire session here

In addition, the committee is currently holding an inquiry in to The Budget and The NHS Long Term Plan and you can find out more about this here.


28 JAN 2019

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)

I welcome ME Awareness Week, and I hope it helps more people understand this condition, which can be so frustrating and distressing for many. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

There is currently no cure for ME/CFS, there are treatments that may help to ease symptoms, although no one form of treatment may suit every patient. Patients should be involved in decision-making throughout every stage of their care. Furthermore, patients should be offered information about local and national self-help groups and support groups for people with ME/CFS and their carers. The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research welcome high quality applications for research into all aspects of ME/CFS. ME/CFS research is a current MRC priority area and so far over £2 million has been invested into this research area.
The majority of services for people with ME/CFS are the responsibility of local clinical commissioning groups. To assist diagnosis, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produced clinical guidance on the diagnosis, treatment care and support of children and adults with ME/CFS.
NICE is currently reviewing these guidelines. This process will require thorough and careful consideration, and NICE expect to publish new guidelines on ME/CFS in 2020. These new guidelines will take into account patients' concerns about the PACE trials and the effectiveness of some existing recommendations.


20 JAN 2019

Brexit and Confidence

I voted against the PM's Brexit deal on Tuesday not only because of concerns about the Withdrawal Agreement itself but because the accompanying political declaration on the Future Framework delivered nothing but uncertainty and the prospect of years of wrangling to come. The scale of the government defeat has made it absolutely clear that this deal cannot pass the House of Commons. It is not just a matter of a few tweaks, the Deal fundamentally pleased neither remainers nor the majority of those who had campaigned for leave.

Far from being the easiest deal in history, the reality was always going to be that compromises and trade offs would be necessary during negotiations. Brexit reality is very far from the sunlit uplands promised during the campaign.

Parliament has reached a complete impasse and I do not believe there will be a majority for any of the alternative proposals and least of all for leaving with no deal at all. In the meantime the days are counting down to March 29th and we risk falling into a chaotic No Deal Brexit unless an alternative is in place. No responsible government could knowingly and deliberately allow that to happen given the serious real world harm to individuals, communities and our economy. The term 'clean Brexit' is a misnomer, it would leave a great deal of avoidable misery for too many of our fellow citizens. No doubt the comfortably off leaders of the Leave campaign would be fine but the economic fallout would hit the poorest the hardest. It has taken a decade to recover from the effects of the 2008 crash and that involved many tough choices about government spending. I want to see an end to austerity, not see us deliberately crashing out with no deal and putting that recovery in jeopardy.

I believe that the only alternative way out of this mess will be to seek an extension of Article 50 and a People's Vote.

My feeling is that a People's Vote should at least include the only negotiated deal as well as an option to remain. I know many people would also like to see No Deal included. The Electoral Commission would advise and Parliament would debate and decide on the question if a decision was made to go ahead with a Referendum Bill. The following report from the Constitution Unit at University College London on the mechanics of a referendum sets out the mechanics of organising a referendum and how this could be achieved in far less than a year https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/sites/constitution-unit/files/the_mechanics_of_a_further_referendum_on_brexit_-_constitution_unit_report_183_revised.pdf

Due to a recent amendment which I supported, the PM must now announce her next steps on Monday, rather than having 21 days as she would otherwise have been able to do. Reports are that the government is now in listening mode but I struggle to see any changes to the Deal that would unite enough backbenchers and secondly be approved by the EU to see it succeed. Others a pushing for a Norway Style deal which would allow us to continue membership of the Single Market, alongside a customs arrangement. This would be the softest type of Brexit and whilst far less economically damaging than No Deal, would again run into the problem of pleasing neither remainers nor leavers. It is likely that many leave campaigners would find it even less acceptable than the PM's Deal given that so called 'Norway plus' would prevent an independent trade policy and see the continuation of free movement of people.

I think it is unlikely that the Commons will agree a compromise that the majority of MPs can support and I would only agree to back Norway Plus if the public were also given the opportunity to weigh up its risks and benefits and have the final say.

For further information on this you may like to read my recent blogs and contributions in Parliament and you can do so via the following links:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah's-blog/

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches

I realise that Brexit remains a highly contentious issue and I hear passionate views from both sides of the argument.

I did support the government in the confidence vote on Wednesday and I do not think this lies in contradiction with my vote against the Brexit deal the day before. A general election will not resolve the single most contentious issue before us.

I believe that a People's vote would allow us to move forward together with confidence that the nation had given its consent based on the facts and Brexit reality rather than unrealistic promises. It is now over two years since the original referendum, longer than the period between our two most recent general elections and it is nonsense fo some to suggest it is somehow anti democratic to allow people to change their minds and express a democratic opinion. I fully accept that the result could be the same but it would at least be a settled decision based on all the facts and we could finally move forward together rather than tearing ourselves apart.


17 JAN 2019

Immigration and the NHS

Thank you for taking the time to email me about immigration and the NHS.

I understand the concerns about how Brexit may impact the NHS and have spoken about this often. EEA nationals also play an increasingly important role in social care, where the numbers employed grew by 68 per cent, or 30,600 people, between 2011 and 2016.

It is likely that there will be provision for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, albeit at extra cost and bureaucracy, if the government—as it has indicated—follows the guidance of the Migration Advisory Committee. But the effect on the social care workforce and those who rely on them for care will be particularly significant because of the salary threshold of £30,000.

Just over 5% of the regulated nursing profession, 16% of dentists, 5% of allied health professionals, and around 9% of doctors are from elsewhere within the EEA. We cannot afford to lose or further demoralise those who have given so much to our health service. That so many colleagues now feel unwelcome, as a result of the divisive and xenophobic rhetoric of the last campaign, shames us all.

Thank you for getting in touch and I will be continuing to push for a People's Vote.


16 JAN 2019

Faith Schools

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

I understand why many parents want to have the choice to apply to faith schools and support that choice being available but no child in my view should ever be excluded simply because their parents are of the 'wrong' faith or none.

I also have concerns about the segregation 100% faith schools can create and think we should be moving to increase cohesion and mutual understanding not separate communities by faith.


15 JAN 2019

Trafficked Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about providing support for trafficked children.

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

The Government is committed to tackling every form of modern slavery, including human trafficking. The Government has secured commitment from other governments and institutions, including the UN, the Commonwealth and the EU, to tackle modern slavery, and has successfully lobbied for the establishment of the first ever UN Sustainable Development Goal to end modern slavery. It is also working bilaterally with priority countries to deepen law enforcement cooperation.
The Prime Minister has announced a new taskforce to accelerate progress on tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. At the same time £33.5 million of development assistance funding was also pledged to tackle slavery in countries from where we know victims are regularly trafficked to the UK.
In July 2018, the Home Office announced a review of the Modern Slavery Act, which will incorporate the section on Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs), as you have outlined. This review will be published in spring 2019 and will inform the adoption of any additional methods to protect and support trafficked children. The independent review team has consulted with expert advisers in child trafficking including Professor Ravi Kohli, a Professor of Child Welfare and a qualified social worker. Professor Kohli is responsible for gathering evidence from Child Trafficking interest groups.

If you would like more information on this process you can contact the secretariat by emailing info@modernslaveryactreview.independent.gov.uk

I will monitor the progress of this independent review closely.


15 JAN 2019

Child Refugees

Thank you for taking the time to email me about section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, otherwise known as the Dubs Amendment.

I understand your concern about child refugees and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The Government has approached the implementation of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the Dubs amendment) in such a way that best protects vulnerable unaccompanied children.
The Government consulted with local authorities to determine the number of unaccompanied children who could be relocated to the UK and supported by local authorities under section 67 in addition to the over 4,500 unaccompanied children already in the care of local authorities across the UK. This exercise was essential for ensuring that the children would receive the support required upon arrival in the UK. Following the consultation, the Government concluded that there was capacity for 480 unaccompanied child refugees to be transferred to the UK through section 67. On 3 October the Court of Appeal confirmed that the consultation to determine the specified number of children to be relocated was lawful. UK authorities have worked closely with their French, Greek and Italian counterparts to ensure the smooth transfer of eligible children.
The Government has also introduced an additional provision called 'Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 leave'. This allows unaccompanied children who are relocated to the UK under section 67 but who do not qualify for international protection to remain in the UK long-term.
Broadening the scheme will help speed up transfers and allow other states to identify children for transfer as soon as possible. The Home Office continues to work with local authorities to ensure children are placed as quickly as possible and in a location where their needs are met.
The Home Office has also taken note of the Court of Appeal ruling's criticism of the way in which decisions were communicated to children who were refused relocation from Calais to the UK under Section 67 and is consulting with its legal team.
The UK Government is also committed to allowing refugees to apply for their partners and / or children to join them in the UK if they were separated when forced to leave their country of origin.


10 JAN 2019

NHS Long Term Plan

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the NHS Long Term Plan.

I welcome the NHS Long Term Plan, which is wide ranging and ambitious. It rightly celebrates the successes of the NHS but is realistic about the scale of the challenge to meet relentlessly rising demand and to improve services. It acknowledges the pressure on staff as a result of the workforce shortfall and the urgent need to upgrade facilities including digital resources.

It is one of the greatest triumphs of our age that we are living longer but more of us are living with complex and long term conditions and there are widening inequalities in the degree to which both young and old are living in poorer health. There also remains an unacceptable variation in outcomes and experiences for patients from one area to the next even where that cannot be accounted for by resources or local challenges.

The Plan sets a number of priorities such as making sure that a greater share of NHS resource goes to mental health, especially for children and young people as well as to GP and wider community services. It lays out a number of proposed improvements to major areas such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease as well as a welcome focus on children and young people.

I'm glad to see the Plan accept the recommendations of the Health and Social Care Committee on closer joined up working across the NHS. Not only to bring truly integrated services with social care but to break down unnecessary barriers between GPs and hospitals, and between mental and physical health. Some of these artificial barriers could be better cleared if there were changes to legislation, including to help reduce wasteful and bureaucratic competitive procurement rounds and to allow a greater priority for joint cooperative working rather than competition. The HSCC recommended that any legislative proposals should be designed by and come from those working in and alongside the NHS, rather than as top down proposals from government.

The success of the Plan will depend on having the NHS and Social Care workforce to deliver it and much will also depend on the Spending Review settlement ahead. The 3.4% average annual uplift for NHS England over the next 5 years does not include the public health grants which are central to prevention of ill health and reducing inequality, grants which this year are continuing to fall. Nor does the NHS settlement include the crucial funding for Health Education England which covers education, training and professional development.

The Plan also makes clear that it cannot deliver without a stable and realistic long term settlement for social care. The government's Social Care Green Paper is expected within weeks and it is not possible to fully assess the NHS Long Term Plan without also seeing the long term proposals, including the financial settlement, for social care.

Likewise for capital funding, which is also due to be announced in the Spending Review later this year, because this will underpin new facilities, technology and equipment as well as tackle a worrying maintenance backlog.

The Plan proposes to fund evidence-based NHS prevention programmes, including to cut smoking; to reduce obesity, doubling enrolment in the successful Type 2 NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme; to limit alcohol-related A&E admissions; and for the NHS to contribute to lowering air pollution for example. But for these to be successful there will also need to be cross government action with a willingness to be prepared to look at tackling health inequality and prevention in all areas of policy as these big issues cannot be properly tackled in isolation by the NHS.

In many ways the Plan mirrors themes and priorities that were also set out in the last long term plan, the 5 Year Forward View, many of which remain unfinished business. The last plan was undermined by the cuts to social care, public health, capital and training budgets and it is important not to see this repeated. It is also important to recognise the many important changes that did get underway and a number of successful pilots are highlighted as pointing the way ahead for what delivers better and more joined up health and care for patients. This new plan will be trying to make sure that the best care is delivered everywhere rather than as scattered examples of best practice and that Integrated Care Systems make sure that all parts of the wider health system are working together more effectively.

My view is that there will need to be access to the up-front resources to transform services in the same way as is often available to pilot projects for them to succeed, and to cover the double running costs that make sure that new facilities are in place before old services are dismantled. It is also important to allow time for changes to demonstrate an effect. In the short term new ways of working may even appear to increase costs but if in the longer term they help to prevent conditions worsening and reduce the need for more expensive treatments down the line that is in the best interests of individuals as well as reducing long term demand.

It is easy to end up talking about systems but all those tasked with delivering this ambitious Plan must above all keep the needs of patients, families and communities at the heart of everything they do.


03 JAN 2019

UK Aid and Palestine

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Palestinian curriculum and UK aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is reassuring:

The Government strongly condemns all forms of violence and incitement to violence. Both the PA and the Government of Israel need to prepare their populations for peaceful coexistence, including by promoting a more positive portrayal of each other. The Government shares your deep concern about the textbook content revealed in the IMPACT-SE report into the PA's new curriculum. A thorough UK review of textbook content will be carried out this year, and the PA has agreed to take account of its findings.
The Government has also been very clear that the UK does not fund Palestinian terrorism and Palestinian terrorists do not receive UK aid money. Our support for the PA is only used to pay the salaries of health and education public sector workers on a vetted list. This enables the delivery basic services and helps around 25,000 young Palestinians go to school each year. The vetting process covers a large number of different risk categories including terrorism financing, and checks that all UK funds reach the intended beneficiaries.
The UK continues to support a two-state solution that would see a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. By building strong institutions to help create a Palestinian government, as well as continuing to help them to educate a generation of young people and provide vital health services, our support for the PA is essential for promoting stability and reducing poverty.


20 DEC 2018

Childrens Services

Thank you for taking the time to email me about children's services.

I appreciate your interest in this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is reassuring:

Local authorities receive funding through local taxes, fees and charges, as well as from central government. They make decisions on spending for social care for children and young people based on their local needs and priorities. Councils will receive more than £200 billion for local services, including children's social care up to 2020. This forms part of a historic four-year settlement which means councils can plan ahead with certainty.
There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of children. Many councils are already doing excellent work, but too many young people and their families are being let down by poor quality services. It is clear that decisive action must be taken where performance is not good enough.
Ensuring children get the best possible support is a top priority for the Department for Education and the investment of £200 million through the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme is encouraging. This provides councils and the voluntary and community sector with funding and support to develop new and better ways of delivering services. £20 million of investment has been announced for an improvement programme for children's social care services, with a sharp focus on making sure that those at risk of failing can make vital improvements. As well as this, the Budget announced that over the next five years £84 million of social care funding will go to expanding children's social care programmes to 20 further councils with rising numbers of children in care.


18 DEC 2018

Dementia Care

Thank you for taking the time to email me about dementia care.

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

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and I know that the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
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. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
It is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia, which is why the Government has doubled research spending on dementia and remains committed to maintaining the current expenditure on dementia research of at least £60 million a year through to 2020. Over £83 million was spent on dementia research by the Government in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, well in excess of the £60 million target.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. Furthermore, the Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper this year, which will outline a new social care policy, which is financially sustainable, accessible, and properly integrated with the NHS. To this end, the establishment of the Department of Health and Social Care this year is encouraging, which will oversee the intelligent integration of health and social care, which I believe will be vitally important with Alzheimer's, on which so much important research is undertaken in the NHS.


17 DEC 2018

Proportional Representation

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Proportional Representation.

I have noted your support for this and the government position on this topic is as below:

First Past the Post ensures stability and clear governance, preventing disproportionate influence by minority parties with minimal public support, who typically end up holding the balance of power in PR systems.
The British people were clear on this matter in 2011. The system is clearly well established and understood by voters, and also provides a very clear link between constituents and their representatives in Parliament.
More often than not, FPTP results in a Government with a working majority in Parliament, making decisive government possible. It allows the formation of a clear opposition that can provide an alternative to, and a check on, the Government of the day. The Government therefore has no plans to change the voting system for elections to the House of Commons.


17 DEC 2018

Universal Credit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Universal Credit (UC) and poverty in the UK.

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

The best route out of poverty is work, which is being supported through welfare reform. Over 3.3 million jobs have been created in the UK since 2010, of which three quarters are permanent, full time and in higher level occupations. There are now 637,000 fewer children growing up in workless households since 2010, a record low. With this Government's changes, household incomes have never been higher, income inequality has fallen, and there are now one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010.
The UK is spending £54 billion this year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions, a record high and up more than £7 billion since 2010. Disabled people should have every opportunity to thrive in the workplace, and it is really encouraging that 973,000 more disabled people have entered work in the last five years.
Universal Credit (UC) is supporting people into work faster, but the Government is listening to feedback and has made numerous improvements to the system. This includes ensuring 2.4 million households will be up to £630 better off a year as a result of raising the work allowance, and providing 1.1 million claimants on income-Jobseekers' Allowance, income-Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support Housing Benefit claimants with an additional payment providing a fortnight's worth of support during their transition to UC.


17 DEC 2018

Ancient Woods

Thank you for taking the time to email me about protections for ancient woods and the proposals for an M4 corridor around Newport.

I understand your concern on this matter and the following is the government's position:

Ministers in the Welsh Government have said they will not push ahead with the plans unless they get the Assembly's approval in a Senedd vote - something that has been delayed with the change of First Minister.
Extending the M4 is considered to be a vital project and has been a longstanding manifesto commitment of the Welsh Government. The M4's strategic position offers the potential to unlock new business opportunities for South Wales, and the abolition of tolls on the Severn Bridge is likely to lead to an increase in traffic on the M4 at Newport. At the 2018 Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced that the next Spending Review will consider increasing the Welsh Government's borrowing cap for this project by £300 million.


17 DEC 2018

Pancreatic Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about pancreatic cancer treatment timelines.

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

We all know someone close to us who has been affected by cancer. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is a common form of cancer with a higher mortality rate than others. Tackling this is a top priority for the Government.
Ministers have discussed work being done in Birmingham to establish a 'fast-track pathway', which sees a dedicated specialist nurse prepare a patient to receive surgery within 16 days of referral. The results of this pilot scheme are being examined by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
In February 2017, Public Health England launched 'Be Clear on Cancer', a campaign targeted at identifying symptoms of pancreatic cancer earlier - early diagnosis is key to improving outcomes. This regional pilot included symptoms like persistent diarrhoea, bloating and discomfort. More than 90 per cent of the target audience reported that the campaign made them realise these symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. More than 80 per cent reported they were more likely to visit a GP as a result.
In October 2018, the Prime Minister launched a new Cancer Strategy, outlining aims for tackling cancer. These priorities include lowering the screening age for bowel cancer, facilitating earlier detection, and establishing a cervical cancer screening programme.


17 DEC 2018

EDM 1854

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 1854.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1854, 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 reassuring:

President-elect Bolsonaro received a mandate from the Brazilian people. It is not for the UK Government to interfere in the democratic processes of another country.
However, the Government is committed to tackling all forms of extremism, including extremism with a far-right influence. It will continue to raise concerns as part of our bilateral agreements with international partners and explore opportunities to work together to address the wide spectrum of risks associated with extremism. The UK Government will endeavour to work with the incoming Brazilian Administration while making these concerns clear.
The UK Government view on racism, homophobia and misogyny is clear-it would never be acceptable. The UK is also the strongest champion of human rights on the international stage. It is right that we do not shy away from expressing that view where we disagree with other Governments, even where they are close allies.
Standing up for human rights is part of the Government's strategy for creating a more secure and prosperous world. The UK regularly funds human rights projects around the world through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy. This year £11.1 million of funding was allocated, supporting over 100 human rights projects, human rights defenders and civil society organisations. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also highlights human rights abuses in its Annual Human Rights Report.


17 DEC 2018

Nurses

Thank you for taking the time to email me about reforms to the health education system and the effect on nurses.

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

While there are over 13,000 more nurses on wards since 2010, more remains to be done to boost the training of nurses in the NHS. Nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (AHPs) are absolutely essential to our NHS, and everybody with the qualifications and commitment to undertake these degrees should have the chance to do so.
The previous system of NHS-funded bursaries had the cost of training nurses, midwives and AHPs largely borne by the NHS. This led, in effect, to an artificial cap on the numbers in training, limited to only those numbers needed as a minimum to meet NHS workforce requirements in line with Health Education England's annual workforce plan. Under the bursary system, over 30,000 people who applied to be a nurse were rejected.
In order to deliver more nurses and health professionals for the NHS, a better funding system for health students and a more sustainable model for universities, it was necessary to move health students' grants and bursaries onto the standard student support system, in line with all other degrees. This change came into force in August 2017.
The Government recognises that nursing students in particular often have unique circumstances. Following a consultation on these reforms, the Government will look to provide extra funding to help cover additional expenses like travel and more support for students with children. Ministers will work with the Royal College of Nursing, hospitals and other partners in taking this forward.
After lengthy public consultation, it was decided to maintain a limited number of postgraduate bursaries for the 2017 to 2018 academic year, with all postgraduate courses coming into line with the wider funding model from September 2018. Before reforms to the funding model for postgraduates, just 2,500 students successfully entered postgraduate routes to nursing, midwifery and AHPs, compared to 28,000 undergraduates. The new model will help to drive up the number of nurses coming from postgraduate routes.


17 DEC 2018

Sources of Electricity

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the cheapest new sources of electricity.

I understand you support a move towards renewable energy and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy of interest:

The UK has played a leading role as the world has worked towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Paris Agreement.
Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation. The Government's Energy Act puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent and underpins the remarkable investment that the UK has seen in its low carbon economy since 2010.
The UK is a world leader in clean growth and the Government has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010. The Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy identify and target the huge potential opportunity for the UK from clean growth and transition to low carbon economy, while the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 sets out a strategy for dealing with the effects of a changing climate. The Government has also agreed to support and expand offshore wind and made the historic commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.
Government support has driven down the cost of renewable energy. Solar, for example, has seen costs fall by 35 per cent in the last three years. Support should help low-cost, low-carbon technologies to stand on their own two feet, rather than create dependence on public subsidies, which ultimately drive bills up for consumers.


17 DEC 2018

Save Our Paths

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Save Our Paths campaign.

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 reassuring:

Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time; bringing in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare.
The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods. The principal public good it anticipates the system promoting is environmental enhancement, but the Agriculture Bill also provides for financial assistance to be granted to promote "supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment."
Outside the Common Agricultural Policy we will have an opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. We will make the very most of this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


14 DEC 2018

Brexit

This week's confidence vote has clearly demonstrated that there is no majority in the Conservative Party in the Commons, let alone across Parliament, for the hard Brexiteer's vision of Brexit. The inescapable truth is that the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework will not pass the Commons either but it is the only realistic negotiated version of Brexit. We have reached deadlock and sooner or later the PM will have to take her deal direct to the people or risk us crashing out in a chaotic Brexit with inadequate transition arrangements in place. Britain is woefully unprepared for that and no responsible government could allow that to happen.

This whole episode was unwelcome and unnecessary but at least we will all be spared the weekly threats of the '48' letters for at least a year and the PM should now stop trying to appease the right wing of the Party. At the time of the original referendum, Brexit was sold on a false prospectus of unrealistic promises and at a time when no one could say which of the many versions would be the final outcome.

We now know what Brexit looks like and people are in a position to weigh up the risks and benefits of the negotiated deal as opposed to unrealistic promises that cannot be delivered. I hope the PM will take her deal to the people with a simple question about whether they wish to proceed on these terms or stick with the deal we already have. I will be continuing to support a People's Vote.


06 DEC 2018

EDM 66

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

I realise 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, I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The UK was the first country in the world to ban cosmetics testing in animals, which was implemented on a voluntary basis in 1998. Similarly this country was instrumental in introducing this ban across Europe under the 2009 cosmetics regulations, and it has been illegal to test cosmetics or their intended ingredients on animals in the EU since 2010. In addition, a ban on the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals came into force in 2010.
The Government maintains a strong commitment to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). The regulatory system ensures that animal research and testing is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists, and under controls which keep suffering to the minimum.
This is achieved through robustly applying the principles of the 3Rs which require that, in every research proposal that is submitted to the Home Office, animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible; that the number of animals used is reduced to the minimum needed to achieve the results sought; and that, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined as much as possible to minimise their suffering.

In terms of the UK's international leadership on this issue, the Government is always keen to encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practice with other countries, in order to support the ending of cosmetics testing on animals in favour of alternatives across the world.


04 DEC 2018

Break the Chain

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

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

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to animals, or for a responsible party to fail to provide for their welfare.
The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids, includes advice on how to tether these animals where necessary in a manner that meets their welfare needs. It outlines that tethering is not suitable for long-term use, but it can be used exceptionally in the short term on suitable animals given an appropriate site and equipment. Any failure to adhere to the Code can be used in court to demonstrate neglect.

If anyone is concerned about the way a horse is tethered, I would urge them to report it to the local authority, which has powers under the Animal Welfare Act to investigate such matters. The RSPCA and World Horse Welfare can also investigate.


03 DEC 2018

Brexit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Brexit.

My view is that the Withdrawal Agreement helps prevent an immediate chaotic exit because of transition but kicks the can down the road on what we are left with thereafter, taking us out of the EU but on a road to nowhere. The Withdrawal Agreement is a profoundly depressing document for anyone concerned about the future loss of rights and freedoms built up over decades. As such, I will be continuing to support a People's Vote.

Neither the 'Deal' nor a General Election motion will pass the Commons and wasting time at this point is inexcusable, it is time to extend Article 50 and take a vote on the 'Deal' versus remaining in the EU to the people. You may like to read the letter I signed on this topic.

In addition, the my blog sets out my views on this matter in more detail.


30 NOV 2018

Air Pollution

Thank you for taking the time to email me about air pollution.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the Defra questions as they clashed with a sitting of the Liaison Committee, which I chair. Nonetheless, the issue of air pollution was raised and you can view the exchange here.


28 NOV 2018

Children's Services

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about funding for Children's Services.

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

Local authorities receive funding through local taxes, fees and charges, as well as from central government. They make decisions on spending for social care for children and young people based on their local needs and priorities. Councils will receive more than £200 billion for local services, including children's social care up to 2020. This forms part of a historic four-year settlement which means councils can plan ahead with certainty.
There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of children. Many councils are already doing excellent work, but too many young people and their families are being let down by poor quality services. It is clear that decisive action must be taken where performance is not good enough.
Ensuring children get the best possible support is a top priority for the Department for Education and I am encouraged by the investment of £200 million through the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme. This provides councils and the voluntary and community sector with funding and support to develop new and better ways of delivering services. £20 million of investment has been announced for an improvement programme for children's social care services, with a sharp focus on making sure that those at risk of failing can make vital improvements. As well as this, the Budget announced that over the next five years £84 million of social care funding will go to expanding children's social care programmes to 20 further councils with rising numbers of children in care.


28 NOV 2018

Section 21

Thank you for taking the time to email me about support for private renters.

I know that housing remains a key issue for South Devon and that relatively low wages to high house prices leave too many people with no option but private rented accommodation. We not only need to help more individuals and families own their own home but also make sure there are better protections for tenants to feel more secure. Our current system is heavily weighted in favour of landlords and I am pleased that the government is taking action to address this imbalance.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Action is being taken to help the 4.7 million households in the private rented sector by protecting them from rogue landlords, banning unfair fees, and ensuring they have access to longer-term tenancies.
While rogue landlords account for a minority of private rented sector proprietors, Government action to put dodgy rogue landlords on notice is welcomed. In April, a national database of rogue landlords was brought in, with landlords convicted of a range of criminal offences to be included so that councils can keep a closer eye on those with a poor track record. Furthermore, landlords convicted of offences under the government's new law may also be given banning orders preventing them from leasing accommodation for a period of time, ranging from 12 months to life.
The landmark Tenants Fee Bill, currently being considered by Parliament, will ban letting agent fees and cap tenancy deposits at six weeks' rent. This will make renting fairer and more affordable for tenants by reducing costs and improving transparency at the outset of a tenancy. The Bill is expected to save tenants between £25 and £70 a year.
The Government has also taken steps to improve private renters' access to longer-term, family-friendly tenancies, publishing a Model Tenancy Agreement which landlords and tenants can use as the basis for longer tenancies. The Government is currently consulting on proposals to introduce minimum three-year tenancy agreements to help to provide certainty and stability to renters in the private sector.
On the specific issue of Section 21 evictions, landlords may only evict a tenant outside of a fixed term period after complying with certain legal obligations. This includes protecting their tenants' deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme.


28 NOV 2018

EDM 158

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 158 and the issue of loans to developing countries.

I realise 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 the following information on this topic from the Treasury is 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.


27 NOV 2018

Trophy Hunting

Thank you for taking the time to email me about trophy hunting imports and the related EDM, number 1829.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1829, 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 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

It is important we protect endangered animals across the world, the UK Government is committed to conserving the world's wildlife.
The wildlife trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, whose approach is to ensure that the trade is conducted legally and sustainably, not necessarily to reduce or end it. At its most recent conference the UK played a key role in developing a proposal for enhanced global rules on hunting and trade. The resulting tightening of controls are a very positive step towards ensuring sustainability.
Import controls are managed at an EU-wide level and stricter controls on the import of six species subject to hunting, including lions and African elephants, were introduced in 2015. Following our withdrawal from the EU, the Government will be in a position to consider future UK policy in this area.
As part of its efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, the UK hosted a fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, building on previous conferences in held London, Kasane and Hanoi. It has also set up the £13 million Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund to support projects in the developing world, and in 2012 funded a conference in Johannesburg to consider conservation of the African lion with other interested countries.


23 NOV 2018

EDM 1744

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the related EDM, number 1744.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1744, 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 reassuring:

It is important to note that, for the time being, the INF Treaty remains in force. While that remains the case, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue in their efforts to bring back Russia into full and verified compliance.
There is no question that the INF Treaty has played a valuable role in supporting Euro-Atlantic security. The Government is clear that it wishes the Treaty to remain in place. Despite this, the UK shares the concerns of the US at certain new Russian missiles. Russia must respect the obligations of the Treaty in order to safeguard global security.
The UK has a close dialogue with the US at all levels on foreign and security policy questions and will continue to work alongside the US and other Allies on next steps.


21 NOV 2018

EDM 1527

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 1527, 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 agree that people should know how animals were slaughtered through clear labelling as to whether it is halal or kosher.


19 NOV 2018

World Watch List

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the launch of the Open Doors world watch list, I will endeavour to attend.

I do appreciate your concerns about freedom of religion and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

It is completely abhorrent that millions of Christians worldwide are persecuted for seeking to practise their beliefs openly, in peace and safety. Here in the UK our freedoms are all too often taken for granted. The Prime Minister has shown a longstanding commitment to address the persecution of religious minorities around the world.
The UK's multiple overseas programmes are an important part of this work to promote and protect religious freedoms. This includes raising concerns over provisions that are being used to limit the freedom to adopt, change or practise a religion around the world. Almost £1 million of funding has been allocated to pursue the Government's freedom of religion and belief policy objectives through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy.
The Government will continue to defend the fundamental right of religious freedom, alongside its commitment to promote and defend human rights more generally. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has recently reissued its toolkit on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) to all of our overseas embassies and missions across the world and encouraged them to promote and defend this important human right. Additional funding of £12 million has also been made available through UK Aid Connect, to work with faith groups, NGOs and academics to promote religious diversity and help countries worldwide embed FoRB policies alongside poverty reduction and development.
The UK acts both multilaterally, through institutions such as the UN, striving to build and maintain consensus, and bilaterally, though the UK's diplomatic network to address the persecution of religious minorities.


19 NOV 2018

S106 Equality Act

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

I will be supporting the campaign concerning S106 and parliamentary seats for women.


16 NOV 2018

Arms Sales

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

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 Department for International Trade is of interest:

The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.
By adhering to the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will continue to ensure that UK arms exports are not used for internal repression, violating international humanitarian law, or for provoking or prolonging conflict.


16 NOV 2018

Race Horse Welfare

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the safety and welfare of horses during races.

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

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is the independent body responsible for regulating the sport of horseracing. It works closely with animal charities such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare to ensure that the highest of standards are upheld. As a consequence, Britain is regarded as having one of the best regulated racing environments across the world.
It is always upsetting to hear about the death of a horse during a race, but the BHA has a number of policies to ensure that racing is as safe as possible for horses. These include not licencing any racecourse in the UK which is not welfare approved, ensuring all races have veterinary surgeons on hand to administer treatment and investigating any course showing an increase in fatalities. In the last 20 years horse fatalities during races have fallen by a third, to 0.2 per cent of runners.
The Retraining of Racehorses is the official charity dealing with the welfare of retired racehorses. It raises funds through regulatory and licence fees from racing, as well as from donations. It runs a nationwide programme find new homes and roles for these horses, including in other recreational activities.


16 NOV 2018

Guide Dogs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about discrimination against guide dog owners.

I appreciate your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is reassuring:

Everyone deserves the right to travel with comfort and dignity. Guide dogs give people with disabilities the freedom and confidence to work and visit friends independently. There are already, as you are aware, strict laws against the discrimination of those who rely on guide dogs.
The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. People who use guide dogs currently enjoy the legal right to travel on routes that other animals or pets are not allowed. This is absolutely the right thing as independence is an important aspect in the lives of many people and should be extended to as many people as it is possible.
The use of guide dogs is encouraged by the clear guidance which clarifies the rights of guide dog owners, and outlines the options available to those who have been discriminated against when using a guide dog. This includes the ability to report those who do not make reasonable adjustments to make a disabled person's journey easier. Distinctive jackets for guide dogs to wear are issued to help clearly identity them. It is also advised that any identification cards, if given, are carried by a person with disabilities to help ensure they are not discriminated against.
The Government's Inclusive Transport Strategy commits to enhancing disability equality and awareness training for transport staff, which will better equip them to safely and confidently assist those with mobility challenges, including guide dog owners.


15 NOV 2018

Red Wednesday

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Red Wednesday with CSW and Aid to the Church.

I share your concern about the persecution of Christians worldwide and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The Prime Minister has consistently reiterated the UK's commitment to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and to allow them to practice their beliefs in peace and safety.
We have recently celebrated International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day and promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is a foreign policy priority for the Government.
The appointment of Lord Ahmad as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on FoRB is welcome, which will promote our firm stance on religious intolerance abroad. Additional funding of £1 million will provide support to places of worship that have been subjected to hate crime attacks, underscoring the Prime Minister's commitment to tackling religious discrimination in all its forms.
The UK worked alongside international partners to maintain consensus on the adoption and implementation of both the Resolution on FoRB and the Resolution on Combating Religious Intolerance at the UN Human Rights Council in March. More recently, the Government has committed £12 million of additional funding to champion FoRB worldwide, working with faith groups, NGOs and academics to promote religious diversity and helping countries embed FoRB policies alongside poverty reduction and development.
The UK, will now, and in the future maintain a firm commitment to promoting and defending FoRB for individuals around the world.


15 NOV 2018

Defend Israel

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

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

The recent activities of Hamas in Gaza, including attempts to rearm and rebuild tunnel infrastructure undermine efforts to improve the situation in Gaza and harm prospects for the Middle East peace process. Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements. Ministers have been clear that any investigation into the recent violence in Gaza must examine the role of non-state actors, including Hamas.
The Government's policy towards Hamas is clear - it does not have contact with Hamas, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation. Hamas must make a credible movement towards the conditions set out above, which remain the benchmark against which their intentions are judged, before we consider a change in our stance.
Israel, like any state, has the right to ensure its own security, and its citizens also have the right to live without fear of attack. The UK will continue to support Israel's right to defend itself. The UK Government has called on Iran to end its financial support for Hamas as well as its supply of military equipment.
There is an urgent need for all parties to reach an agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel, that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance, and that Israel lifts its restrictions to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians.
The UK remains focussed on securing progress towards a two-state solution, with a sovereign and democratic Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel. Only a negotiated settlement can achieve this.


15 NOV 2018

EDM 1761

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the water industry and EDM number 1761.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1761, 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 Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

Properly regulated private markets are the best way to meet the ongoing needs of water customers and the environment.
Since privatisation we have seen £140 billion of investment in water supply, thanks to which consumers are five times less likely to suffer from interruptions to their supply. Ministers have, however, been putting pressure on the water companies to do more to enhance the environment and provide customers with the reliable and resilient service they expect. As a result, water companies now plan to invest £50 billion on improving services, while reducing customer bills on average by 4 per cent in real terms by 2025.
The industry regulator, Ofwat, will scrutinise the water companies' plans to ensure they go far enough, and my ministerial colleagues will hold them to their promises. They submitted draft business plans for the 2019 Price Review in September, and these give an early indication that water companies are responding positively to the Secretary of State's challenge. The industry is raising its game on several fronts, such as cutting prices, investing more and paying lower dividends to shareholders.
Reforming industry governance and empowering the regulator is the best way to secure a water industry that works for everyone, including both customers and the environment.


15 NOV 2018

Brexit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Brexit.

I understand that there are many different views on the Withdrawal Agreement and you may like to read the outline of the future relationship

The draft Withdrawal agreement can also be viewed here:

My own stance is that there is simply not enough detail in the Framework for the Future Relationship for anyone to make any sensible judgement. Shockingly, there is absolutely nothing in the Future Framework document about health, care, public health or research. Yet this is an area which profoundly touches the lives of every citizen in the UK and across our partner EU nations.

There are repeated references throughout the Withdrawal Agreement to "the end of the transition period" which hammers home the extent of what we are losing without any detail in the future framework document on which to make a judgement. The Withdrawal Agreement helps prevent an immediate chaotic exit because of transition but kicks the can down the road on what we are left with thereafter, taking us out of the EU but on a road to nowhere.

The Withdrawal Agreement is a profoundly depressing document for anyone concerned about the future loss of rights and freedoms built up over decades. It is now time for MPs to put aside narrow party political or personal interest and unite to demand a People's Vote on the final deal.


15 NOV 2018

Subsidies For Burning Wood

Thank you for taking the time to email me about subsidies for burning wood.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1771 on this topic, 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.

I hope the following information on this matter from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is reassuring:

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 and this commitment is welcome. 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 quadrupled since 2010, and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses about the shift to a low-carbon economy through its Clean Growth Strategy.


13 NOV 2018

Palestinian Human Rights

Thank you for taking the time to email me about violence in Gaza and Palestinian human rights.

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

The Palestinian right to protest is important, however these protests must remain peaceful. Extremist elements may have used the protests to further their own violent and deplorable aims against the State of Israel. This is another reason why there is an urgent need to establish the facts. Above all, it is important that this violence is not repeated and that all those involved commit to peaceful protest, restraint and observe international law.
There is a pressing need for all parties to reach a wider agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel, that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance, and that Israel lifts its restrictions to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians.
The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers a safe and secure Israel alongside an independent Palestine. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.
The Government is deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The UK is providing humanitarian support through a number of programmes including those of UNICEF. Of this support, £2 million is helping to support up to a million people in Gaza by providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities in order to prevent the spread of disease. The recent announcement of a new £38.5 million programme to support economic development in Gaza and the West Bank is also welcome.


13 NOV 2018

MS

Thank you for taking the time to email me about multiple sclerosis.

I appreciate how challenging this condition can be to live with and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health and Social Care is reassuring:

With more than 100,000 people across the UK diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, helping those suffering from this condition to lead as normal lives as possible remains a key commitment of the NHS.
Diagnosis in the early stages of multiple sclerosis can be difficult, with some of the symptoms often similar to other conditions. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines to assist clinicians in diagnosing the condition. This guidance also provides clinicians with best practice for treating the many possible symptoms of multiple sclerosis, including mobility problems and fatigue.
Those suffering from multiple sclerosis may also have specific long-term social care needs. £9.4 billion in dedicated funding has been made available for adult social care through to 2020. Better integration between health and social care provision, creating genuinely people-centred coordinated care, is also required.
Almost £288 million has been spent on research into neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, since 2010 through the publicly-funded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). With the NIHR's annual spending on neurological conditions up by more than £22 million since 2010.


12 NOV 2018

Universal Credit Child Disability Addition

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Child Disability Addition under Universal Credit (UC).

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

Raising a child with a disability is as challenging as it is inspiring and rewarding. That is why parents should receive support from the state to help them raise children with disabilities.
To clarify, there are two rates of extra monthly amount a parent with a disabled or severely disabled child is entitled to under UC. They are £126.11 and £383.86 for, respectively, children who receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and children who receive the highest rate of the care component of DLA or the enhanced rate for daily living of PIP or is registered blind. Parents also receive extra amount for disabled or severely disabled child, no matter how many children they have.
It is important to remember that the Child Disability Addition under UC is only one part of the broader welfare system which is helping everyone with a disability. For example, the Budget announced a £1,000 increase to the UC work allowances for households with children, and people with disabilities. This means that 2.4 million households will keep an extra £630 of income each year.
On top of this, Tax-Free Childcare is also available to over 1.5 million families to help with the cost of childcare. Working parents are able to access up to £4,000 for disabled children. Furthermore, 30 hours of free childcare per week is available for working parents of three and four year olds in England and 15 hours for parents of disadvantaged two year olds. Additionally, UC claimants can have up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs reimbursed with their UC award each month.


12 NOV 2018

Children's Futures

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the upcoming replenishment of the Global Financing Facility.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is reassuring:

Supporting poor and vulnerable children to access affordable healthcare should remain a priority for UK aid spending. Investing in health services not only saves lives but also helps the most marginalised people to realise their full potential. The UK's £50 million commitment to the World Bank's Global Financing Facility (GFF) at the recent replenishment event is welcome. This will help close the global funding gap for maternal, newborn and child health services.
The GFF has a unique way of working, so that the UK's contribution, and those of other donor countries, will be used to help encourage investment from the private sector and recipient governments. This will help to make medicines, equipment and life-saving resources more available for pregnant women, babies and children in 27 countries across Africa and Asia until 2023.
The UK's new commitment builds on our £30 million investment in the GFF made at the 2017 Family Planning Summit in London, which is designed to enable the GFF to try new financing methods to expand sexual and reproductive health services. Improving access to contraception empowers adolescent girls and women to choose whether or when they have children, giving girls more control over their health and futures.


12 NOV 2018

NHS Funding

Thank you for writing to me and I have long campaigned for funding for the NHS and social care.

As chair of the Health and Social Care Committee in Parliament I will shortly be chairing an inquiry into the funding commitments and will also be looking at the new ten year plan when this is finalised as well as the proposals in the social care green paper.

These hearings will be available to watch online or to read our reports via this link


12 NOV 2018

Universal Credit and Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about people with cancer who claim Universal Credit (UC).

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:

Cancer is a terrible condition for people to go through, and it is crucial that people who suffer from health conditions like this should receive as much support as possible to help reduce stress and anxiety.
There are people who may struggle with access to the benefits system, which is why £200 million has been invested in Universal Support. From April 2019 it will be delivered by the independent charity Citizens Advice, to support people with every step of making a new UC claim. All Jobcentres across the UK have free Wi-Fi and there are more than 8,000 computers available to support customers with making their claim online. If someone cannot get online then there is a Freephone UC helpline.
There are safeguards in place to ensure people with a terminal illness can access UC more quickly. Any household that needs it will be able to access a full month's payment as an advance within five days of applying, and the repayment period will be increased to 16 months from 2021. If someone is in immediate need, then their payment would be fast tracked, so that they receive it on the same day. The initial seven-day waiting period has been removed so that entitlement to UC starts on the first day of the application.
There is also the Special Rules for Terminal Illness procedure, which allows people with terminal illnesses to be fast-tracked without the need for a face-to-face assessment.


12 NOV 2018

Wild Animals In Circuses

Thank you for taking the time to email me about wild animals in circuses.

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

The Government remains committed to introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses.
Currently, a ban would impact on two travelling circuses in England that continue to operate. Conditions of the remaining wild animals at both circuses are closely monitored under Defra's interim Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012, through regular announced and unannounced welfare inspections.
These regulations expire on 19 January 2020. The Government does not plan to renew them because it intends to ensure that a legislative ban is introduced by then. The Regulations will then be allowed to expire.
The draft Bill states that an offence would be committed under the law if an animal 'performs or is exhibited' as part of a travelling circus, a term whose definition is well understood. There is no exemption for businesses claiming that the exhibition is 'for educational purposes' or similar. In any case of doubt, the Bill also allows for the appointment of inspectors who could make a determination.


09 NOV 2018

Devon Wildlife Trust

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

I understand you are a supporter of the Devon Wildlife Trust and have noted your position that there should be set targets in law for improving the environment. I can assure you that I meet regularly with the Devon Wildlife Trust and as your MP I will be pressing for environmental standards to be at least equivalent or higher in the event that we do leave the EU.

I hope the following information from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which sets out the Government's general approach to environmental policymaking as we leave the jurisdiction of EU environmental regulations is of interest:

Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. The Government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an 'agricultural transition' period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.
Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement.
Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. They are keenly aware of the importance of seasonal labour, so will work with the industry to ensure it has the right people with the right skills.
We must take this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. We will harness this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.

If you would like to come and see me at a constituency surgery to discuss this further then please do call my office on 01803 868 378. However, it would be helpful to collate with other supporters of this campaign so a joint meeting could be held.


09 NOV 2018

Fair Funding for Mental Health

Thank you for taking the time to email me about mental health and funding.

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

While it is hugely welcome that we are on the road to parity of esteem there is still more to do. As part of the five-year funding offer that will see the NHS budget grow by over £20.5 billion a year, mental health services will receive an additional £2 billion per year.
A new mental health crisis service with comprehensive mental health support will be available in every major A&E, alongside new children and young peoples' crisis teams across the country. The additional funding will also deliver more mental health ambulances, "safe havens" in the community; and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline when people are in urgent need of help.
These new services help end the stigma surrounding mental health, offering crucial support to people suffering from crisis and those who have suffered in silence for too long. As you may also be aware, the Prime Minister recently announced the creation of a Minister for Suicide Prevention, who will help continue the progress made in suicide prevention, with suicide rates at their lowest for seven years. The Government is working to ensure mental health spending is spread across the whole country. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are required to achieve the Mental Health Investment Standard, to demonstrate they have increased their mental health spending in line with the growth in their overall budgets. In 2016/17, 85 per cent of CCGs achieved this standard, and NHS England continues to work with CCGs to improve this figure.


09 NOV 2018

Ovarian Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about ovarian cancer.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Health and Social Care is reassuring:

Early diagnosis makes a huge difference in survival and this is a priority for the Government which is why Public Health England (PHE) is working with cancer charities to pilot and assess the feasibility of an ovarian cancer audit over the next two years.
The NHS is developing new models of care and pathways that will transform services by speeding up diagnosis. This includes a commitment to roll out a new Faster Diagnosis Standard by 2020 to ensure that patients referred for an investigation with a suspicion of cancer are diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days. NHS England has also committed more than £200 million in cancer services between 2017 and 2019, to accelerate diagnosis, improve survival and enhance quality of life.
In October, the Prime Minister announced that NHS England is introducing Rapid Diagnostic and Assessment Centres which will operate as one-stop shops to reduce time-to diagnosis and time-to-first treatment. This is a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated.
More broadly, the Government is delivering the largest single upgrade in NHS cancer treatment for the last 15 years. The £130 million radiotherapy modernisation programme is upgrading and replacing radiotherapy equipment in hospitals across England. Through this programme, patients will have access to the most modern, innovative radiotherapy techniques to create better health outcomes and improve patient experience.
The Government is closely working with PHE to develop an approach to raise awareness of generic symptoms that can indicate a wider number of cancers, including ovarian cancer, and the need to visit the doctor promptly with these symptoms.


09 NOV 2018

Horses and the Highway Code

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

I did manage to attend and speak in the Road Safety debate: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/road-safety/2952

On the topic of horse riders and the Highway Code review, I hope the following information from the Department of Transport is reassuring:

Ministers are aware of the points made by horse riders about the scope of the review. A review of the Highway Code was recently announced to help keep vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, safe on the roads.
It is important to recognise that horse riders are also vulnerable road users and so Highway Code advice on, for example, overtaking or passing cyclists applies equally to them.
When the review was first announced, it was encouraging to see the Government committing to update the Highway Code in relation to close passing. This is a dangerous practice which is the root cause of many road incidents involving horses.
The full scope of the review has yet to be determined, but it will be conducted in consultation with those representing horse riders.
In addition to the Highway Code review, work has taken place with the British Horse Society to support its 'Dead Slow' campaign to encourage drivers to pass horses safely.
It is also welcome that the driving theory test contains questions about how drivers should interact with vulnerable road users, including horse riders. The hazard perception test includes a number of clips where horse riders are the hazard, either directly or indirectly.


08 NOV 2018

St Mungo's

Thank you for taking the time to email me about homelessness and the St Mungo's campaign.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and it is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in society, including homeless people and rough sleepers, are helped to get their lives back on track. Over £1.2 billion has been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through to 2020.
The Government has a strong record of preventing and relieving homelessness. Across England, since 2010, there have been over 1. 6 million cases of homelessness prevention and relief.
The launch of a new £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers is welcomed. This will complement the £28 million Housing First pilots which are supporting the most entrenched rough sleepers off the streets by providing them with stable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support.
Furthermore, the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislative reform for tackling homelessness in decades, has recently come into force. This Act, praised by both Shelter and Crisis, requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of homelessness.


08 NOV 2018

Agroecology

Thank you for taking the time to email me about agroecology.

I have noted your support for this and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

A UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies was launched in 2013, designed to examine how the UK can meet the challenge of feeding a growing population without damaging the natural environment.
Central to the strategy is using basic research and applied science to allow our farmers to access agri-tech expertise and use innovative techniques. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on agri-food research and development, plus further money to accelerate innovation by UK food and farming businesses. There has also been significant spending on agricultural systems research, which includes agroecology. This has included a range of studies in areas such as agricultural landscapes and systems, soil science and the effects of agriculture on ecosystems and the environment.
Evidence and advice on the issue has been published in the Land Use Policy Group commissioned study The Role of Agroecology in Sustainable Intensification (2015) which reviewed the evidence on issues such as productivity, soils, biodiversity from other European countries (notably France and Germany) and North America.
The UK is supporting a research partnership with scientists from India. In February 2015 a three-day event held at the Centre for Pollination Studies, University of Calcutta brought together agro-ecologists from our two countries, with the aim of facilitating knowledge exchange and collaborative research. This was the first step towards establishing joint research.
A range of actions is planned that will enable the UK to regain its world-leading role in the race for better, more efficient and more sustainable agricultural production.


08 NOV 2018

Agriculture Bill.

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

As your MP I will be pressing for environmental standards to be at least equivalent or higher in the event that we do leave the EU and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. The Government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an 'agricultural transition' period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.
Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement.
Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. They are keenly aware of the importance of seasonal labour, so will work with the industry to ensure it has the right people with the right skills.
We must take this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. We will harness this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


08 NOV 2018

FOBTs

I very much hope that the Chancellor will listen to the strength of feeling across the Commons and agree to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs in April 2019. This is a point of principle about the power of industry lobbying in our politics and frankly it is not good enough for the Chancellor to speak of reducing the tragedy of lives lost to suicide if that is not followed up by timely implementation of the policy levers to make a difference.

The October 19 date is not a 'compromise', it leaves more families and communities unnecessarily facing the misery caused by these machines. The date can and should be brought forward.


06 NOV 2018

Nuclear Weapons

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the UN treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

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

The UK has not taken part in negotiation of this treaty, and does not intend to sign, ratify or become party to it. It will not be binding on the UK. The UK is committed to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons risks weakening the consensus around the near-universal NPT, which has played an unparalleled role in curtailing the nuclear arms race.
The Government is committed to a world without nuclear weapons. It is of the firm belief that the best way to achieve that goal is through gradual, multilateral disarmament, negotiated using a step by step approach within the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The UK has tried over the years to lead by example, with our nuclear warhead stock being much reduced. The UK continues to discuss and negotiate with our international partners on the best way to proceed.
Given the unpredictable international security environment we face today, however, it is right that the Government remains committed to maintaining a minimum credible deterrent for the foreseeable future. For this reason, the UK does not support a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Productive results can only be ensured through a consensus-based approach that takes into account the wider global security environment. However, as a responsible Nuclear Weapons State, the UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.


06 NOV 2018

Changing Places Toilets

Thank you for taking the time to email me about accessible toilet facilities.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Many people take the availability of toilets for granted. Yet for adults and children whose needs are not met by standard public toilet provision, the availability of appropriate facilities is central to planning any activity that takes place outside the home.
Campaigns such as Changing Places have done much to increase awareness of this issue in recent years. The Government has worked with Changing Places, as well as with PAMIS, Mencap and the British Toilet Association, to improve the provision of accessible toilets. In 2007, when the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government became involved, there were only around 140 Changing Places toilets in the UK: the 1000th facility in the UK opened in 2017. In addition, guidance on Changing Places was introduced into the Building Regulations in England in 2013.
The Government has also helped fund the development of a website, which has information on the location and details of every registered Changing Place in the UK, to help disabled people and their carers to find the nearest Changing Places toilet more easily.


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