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.


21 SEP 2017

NHS

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

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

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


20 SEP 2017

Macmillan Coffee Morning

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

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

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


19 SEP 2017

Refugee Children

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

PIP Assessments

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Children's Societies

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Holiday Food Provision Bill

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Anthony Nolan

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Bees

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

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

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

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


14 SEP 2017

Nominations of Members to Committees

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


13 SEP 2017

Alzheimer's Party Conference

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

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

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


12 SEP 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Home is Here

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Repeal Bill Environment

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

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Support Pubs

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

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

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

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Bottle Deposit System

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Scrutiny of Trade Deals EDM 128

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 128, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


04 SEP 2017

Factory Farming

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

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

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


01 SEP 2017

Executive Pay

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

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

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


29 AUG 2017

British Lung Foundation

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

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

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


24 AUG 2017

Game Birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


18 AUG 2017

Venezuela

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

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

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


17 AUG 2017

EDM 152

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 152, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


14 AUG 2017

EDM 158

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 158, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


14 AUG 2017

Refugee Repeal Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


11 AUG 2017

Tobacco Control

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

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

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

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

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


10 AUG 2017

EDM 176

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 176, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


09 AUG 2017

Energy

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

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

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


09 AUG 2017

Pubs

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

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

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

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

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

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


03 AUG 2017

Dignity Not Destitution

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 190 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


03 AUG 2017

Philip Hammond

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

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

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


01 AUG 2017

Christian Solidarity

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

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

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


31 JUL 2017

Grenfell

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

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

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


31 JUL 2017

Children At Risk

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

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

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


31 JUL 2017

Guide Dogs

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

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

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


27 JUL 2017

Sky TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


27 JUL 2017

Gaza EDM 208

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

I understand that you would like me to sign EDM 208 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


27 JUL 2017

Cuban Students

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

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

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


25 JUL 2017

Precarious Contracts

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

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

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


25 JUL 2017

Energy Efficient Homes

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

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

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


25 JUL 2017

Environmental Laws

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

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

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


24 JUL 2017

Prisoners in Iran

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

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

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


20 JUL 2017

Puppies

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

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

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


20 JUL 2017

Ivory

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

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

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


19 JUL 2017

Health Visitors

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

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

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


18 JUL 2017

Bees and Neonicotinoids.

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

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

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


17 JUL 2017

United Against Terror

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

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

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


13 JUL 2017

Environmental Protection

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

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

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


13 JUL 2017

Housing Allowance

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

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

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


12 JUL 2017

Brexit Creative Industries

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

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

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

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


12 JUL 2017

Arms Sales

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

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

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

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

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 124, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.


11 JUL 2017

Blood Cancer

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

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

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


11 JUL 2017

Leveson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


10 JUL 2017

Wrasse Fishing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the live wrasse fishery in Devon.

I understand your concern on this matter and the Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, the body responsible for managing these waters, have stated the following on this matter:

"Devon and Severn IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) is taking the lead in the South West to manage a developing fishery to ensure its sustainability and the protection of the marine environment.

Under careful management by the Devon and Severn IFCA, a short-term fishery based in the South West is providing a source of Wrasse, natural feeders of fish lice and parasites, to replace the use of chemical cleaners used on farmed salmon and provide a base breeding stock for hatcheries. It is envisaged that by 2019 there will be no further requirement to use wild caught fish as the hatcheries will sustainably supply the required Wrasse and other cleaners, such as lumpsuckers.

To achieve this and ensure that the fishery is sustainable and a healthy marine environment is maintained, Devon and Severn IFCA has introduced management, creating one of the most restrictive fisheries both nationally and the South West. Multiple management measures should ensure there will be no significant impact on the marine environment or wrasse populations. All three IFCAs in the SW are working closely together to harmonise management of the Live Wrasse Fishery."


06 JUL 2017

Walking Britain

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the future of UK agricultural policy.

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

Being outside in nature benefits people physically and mentally, so it is important to protect access to the countryside.
Our network of public rights of way plays an important role in this effort, so the process of recording them is being simplified to ensure no historic rights of way are lost. Work is also ongoing with Natural England to establish the England Coast Path. We must also ensure that our countryside remains inviting to visit.
The vote to leave the EU, and as such the Common Agricultural Policy, gives us an unprecedented opportunity to design policies tailored to our needs. The Secretary of State will shortly launch a consultation exercise that will give all interested parties the chance to share their views and ambitions for the future. This will provide an ideal opportunity for the Ramblers' call for a Walking Britain to be heard.


06 JUL 2017

Dementia

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Alzheimer's Society parliamentary drop in on the 10th of July at 10.30 am, it is much appreciated.

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

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


05 JUL 2017

Cancer Research UK

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Cancer Research UK's drop in session on the 12th of July at 3pm.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that afternoon so I will be unable to attend but I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:

This Government is committed to improving cancer outcomes throughout the UK, and Ministers recognise that investing in research is vital in order to increase survival rates.
Cancer survival rates are at a record high and we are on track to save an estimated 12,000 more lives a year for people diagnosed between 2011 and 2015. As of March 2017, figures show that at least 7,000 more people per year are surviving cancer than three years previously.
In light of this, it is encouraging that the National Institute for Health Research spending on cancer research has risen from £101 million in 2010/11 to £135 million in 2014/15. The Government along with Cancer Research UK, are jointly funding a network of 18 experimental cancer medicine centres aimed at driving the development and testing of new anti-cancer treatments.
The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity, along with a national training programme for an additional 200 staff to carry out endoscopy tests by 2018.


04 JUL 2017

Israel and Palestine

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the debate being held on Israel and Palestine.

I understand your concerns about the ongoing issues in the area and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers an independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.
Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal and an obstacle to peace. The Israeli Government is well aware of the UK position on settlements, which has not changed. British Ministers have repeatedly called on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law. They have a regular dialogue with Israel on legal issues relating to the occupation, including settlements.
It is not believed that we should ban the importation of products that originate from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The advice issued by the Government to UK retailers and importers recommends that agricultural produce originating from Israeli settlements in the West Bank should bear an indication which makes this clear. Furthermore, the Occupied Territories are not covered by the current EU-Israel Association Agreement, which governs our trade with Israel. It is up to individual businesses whether they undertake business dealings with companies operating in the settlements.
The UK Government continues to press for an end to restrictions and for urgent measures to relieve the humanitarian suffering of those in Gaza. The Department for International Development is helping to build Palestinian institutions and promote economic growth, so that any future state will be prosperous and an effective partner for peace.


04 JUL 2017

Abortion Law Northern Ireland

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland.

There have been a number of cases recently that have highlighted how the abortion law in Northern Ireland is different to the rest of the UK.

Abortion in Northern Ireland itself is a devolved issue, I understand, however, that in the particular case that you mention, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn.


03 JUL 2017

Ancient Woodlands

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the meeting of the APPG on Ancient Woodland.

I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend, however I understand the wish for veteran trees to be protected. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Ancient woodland is a precious habitat, and would note that the National Planning Policy Framework already contains protections for it. It states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.
Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century.


30 JUN 2017

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

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

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

Ministers and officials continue to make representations on all consular cases involving British nationals in Iran, including Mr Foroughi's and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's, at all levels with the Iranian Government.
On 17 February the Foreign Secretary discussed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case with the Iranian Foreign Minister, and her family have confirmed she has legal representation. However, the fact that Iran does not recognise dual nationality makes progress difficult. Most recently, the new Minister for the Middle East raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case in a telephone call with the Iranian Foreign Minister on 21 June.
Concerns are shared for Mr Foroughi. It is vitally important that we continue to uphold the human rights of all the citizens in Iran with our international partners.


28 JUN 2017

War on Want

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Queen's Speech.

I understand your concerns on this and hope the following information on this topic from the government is of interest:

This Queen's Speech is about recognising and grasping the opportunities that lie ahead for Britain as we leave the European Union. We need to get Brexit right, delivering the result of last year's referendum in a way that commands maximum public support. To this end, the Government will work to build a stronger economy so we can improve people's living standards and fund public services.
Ministers have said Parliament will have the fullest possible opportunity to scrutinise Brexit legislation - It is absolutely right that MPs debate our future approach to Brexit. On human rights, the UK signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee human rights long before it joined the EU. Strong workers' rights similarly existed in this country long before the UK became a member of the EU, and the Prime Minister has promised to protect workers' rights in full.
As the Secretary of State for International Trade has made clear, it has never been the UK's approach to enter into agreements that sacrifice the Government's right to regulate public services. Ministers take the UK's environmental obligations very seriously, and the UK will continue to be bound by around 30 international agreements and treaties when it leaves the EU.
Finally, Britain will continue to play an active, leading role in the world, spending 0.7 of cross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies. Britain's aid spending has achieved many successes, of which we can all be proud.


28 JUN 2017

Repeal Bill

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

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

The Prime Minister has been clear that she wishes to minimise disruption to businesses and individuals as the UK leaves the EU. That is why a Repeal Bill is being introduced. This bill will transfer EU law, including the case law of the European Court of Justice, into UK law at the point of the UK's departure from the EU. This will make sure that the UK has a functioning statute book when it leaves the EU.
Workers' rights, consumer protection and environmental laws will not change and businesses will benefit from this certainty. Parliament will, of course, be free to keep, amend and repeal laws as it sees fit after this date. There may also be some laws which no longer operate as intended and the bill will provide the power for corrections to be made so that the UK legal system can continue to operate.
At the same time, the Government wants to ensure that power is returned as close as possible to communities as laws are returned to the UK.
The UK will not convert the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into EU law. The UK will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights because this is entirely separate from the EU.


27 JUN 2017

UK Aid Budget

Thank you for taking the time to email me about our aid budget.

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 am afraid I am unable to attend the Global Citizen reception on the 28th of June at 6.30pm as I have prior commitment. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is of interest:

Spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies - alongside our commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence - delivers in our national interest. Britain should continue to play an active, leading role in the world, because our leadership in the world is the surest way to defend and advance the interests of the British people, and to extend around the world those values that we believe to be right.
Britain's aid spending has achieved many successes, of which we can all be proud. By building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world, we can also protect our own people from disease, conflict and instability. The Government is committed to ensuring UK Aid is invested firmly in our national interest, while keeping the promises it has made to the world's poorest people.


26 JUN 2017

Refugee Family Reunion

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The Government's refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK.
There are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Three discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is the most appropriate answer. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR: Gateway; Mandate; and the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
The Government continues to work with key EU Member States to ensure the family reunification process works effectively. The UK and France have committed to ensuring that the provisions of the Dublin III Regulation are used efficiently and effectively. To assist the handling of such cases, the two Governments have established a permanent official contact group, agreed single points of contact within respective Dublin Units and the UK has seconded an asylum expert to the French administration to facilitate the improvement of all stages of the process. The UK and France are running regular joint communication campaigns in northern France which inform unaccompanied children and others of their right to claim asylum in France and of the family reunion process.
The Government is also providing support to the Dublin Units in Greece and Italy bilaterally and through the European Asylum Support Office.


26 JUN 2017

Eating Disorders

Thank you for taking the time to email me about eating disorders.

I agree that early intervention in this area is key and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

Eating disorders primarily affect the young, and often prove to be family, as well as personal, tragedies if left untreated. However, with the right treatment, delivered on-time, these tragedies can be avoided, and full recoveries achieved.
NHS England has sent an ambitious new access standard by 2020: 95 per cent of patients are to be treated within four weeks of their first contact with a healthcare professional. Urgent cases will be treated within one week, and the worst emergency cases in children should find support within 24 hours. In May 2017, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its updated guideline on eating disorders, covering a range of age groups, including adults.
The Government is investing an additional £30 million per year, until 2020, to improve community care for eating disorders, which has funded 67 new or extended Community Eating Disorder Teams across England. The clinical guidelines put forward by NICE have recommended that patients will be treated at an age appropriate facility, which will ensure patients are cared for in the most comfortable environment possible.
Additionally, more money is being invested in wider mental health care than ever before, with over £1 billion extra funding into crisis care and perinatal services, as well as £1.4 billion devoted to transforming mental health and eating disorder services for children and young people over the next five years.


23 JUN 2017

Grenfell Tower

What has happened at Grenfell Tower is a devastating tragedy for all those involved and a national shame. So many circumstances combined to lead to a terrible and avoidable loss of life. We must rapidly assess then follow the evidence to take immediate action to protect residents in blocks with similar risks.

The PM has already announced that there will be a full public inquiry as there are so many issues that will need to be examined in addition to the cladding which appeared to allow the fire to spread with such deadly speed. Many of these will have relevance in other settings too; the role of fire alarms and sprinklers, the advice given to residents to stay in their flats, inadequate fire exits and the fire hazards posed by electrical appliances.

The issue of corporate responsibility will be investigated and a criminal investigation has already been launched. The role of local and national government both before and after the blaze will also be examined. These issues require full investigation and public inquiries properly set up need not delay urgent action as they can produce interim recommendations which must be followed.

I realise you would have liked to have seen plans for improved fire safety laws included in the Queen's Speech and I do appreciate the calls for this. However, I think that we first need to understand all aspects of what went wrong in this instance before we can take action to ensure something like this never happens again. Nonetheless, you may be interested in the following from the Queen's Speech concerning the tragedy:

My government will initiate a full public inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.

To support victims, my government will take forward measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.

The PM also provided this further update yesterday(22.06.17)


22 JUN 2017

Refugee Family

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The Government's refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK.
There are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Three discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is the most appropriate answer. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR: Gateway; Mandate; and the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
The Government continues to work with key EU Member States to ensure the family reunification process works effectively. The UK and France have committed to ensuring that the provisions of the Dublin III Regulation are used efficiently and effectively. To assist the handling of such cases, the two Governments have established a permanent official contact group, agreed single points of contact within respective Dublin Units and the UK has seconded an asylum expert to the French administration to facilitate the improvement of all stages of the process. The UK and France are running regular joint communication campaigns in northern France which inform unaccompanied children and others of their right to claim asylum in France and of the family reunion process.
The Government is also providing support to the Dublin Units in Greece and Italy bilaterally and through the European Asylum Support Office.


22 JUN 2017

Environment

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

As the MP for a rural area I appreciate your concern for the future our countryside and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

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


22 JUN 2017

Rough Sleeping

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

Homelessness has been one of the factors leading to avoidable tragedies and the government at both national and local level have to play their part in reducing this risk. Earlier this year I met with members of the Torbay's End Street Homelessness Campaign and homelessness is an area in which I would be happy to join you in calling for further action.

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

In the 2010-2015 Parliament, significant progress was made in tackling homelessness across the country. £500 million was provided to councils and charities to deal with homelessness and help the most vulnerable in society get their life back on track. This helped to prevent over one million people from becoming homeless.
In December last year, the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary announced the areas set to benefit from new homelessness prevention funding. This consists of £20 million for Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers to pilot new initiatives; £20 million in rough sleeping grants, to provide targeted support for those at imminent risk of sleeping rough or those new to the streets; and £10 million in locally commissioned Social Impact Bonds, to help long-term rough sleepers with the most complex needs.
It is important to recognise that sleeping rough is rarely the result of a housing crisis alone, and many rough sleepers and homeless people have complex needs, such as mental health difficulties. That is why I am encouraged that the Department of Health is providing £40 million for the Homeless Change and Platform for Life programmes. This will help address mental health issues by providing decent accommodation and health support for homeless people, and highlights the importance of services coming together to help those on the street with complex needs.
The Government has also encouraged local areas to develop and improve hospital discharge arrangements for people who are homeless through the £10 million Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund, including by more effective multi-agency working. In addition, £1 billion a year has been put in place to help alleviate mental health problems more generally.

I will do everything I can to hold the government to the manifesto pledge of halving rough sleeping by 2020.


22 JUN 2017

Open Doors

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about religious freedom and the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

I agree that we need to protect religious freedom across the world and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The British Government supports the right of people of all religions, and non-religious people, to practise their beliefs in peace and safety. The British Government works bilaterally to lobby host governments to raise individual cases and highlight laws that discriminate against people on the basis of religion or belief. Multilaterally, the Government works to sustain consensus support for United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions which promote freedom of religion. The UK also supports a number of projects at grass roots level. In 2017/18, the FCO will spend approximately £760,000 on freedom of religion and belief projects.
In Syria and Iraq, where religions have suffered such appalling persecution and violence at the hands of Daesh, the UK's main contribution to ending the persecution of religious minorities is by taking part in the campaign to defeat Daesh and return the region to stability and peace.
Last year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) hosted a conference on freedom of religion or belief here in London bringing together inspiring speakers from across the world to share very practical examples of how they are working to build a more open society. The FCO has also made available to staff a new Freedom of Religion or Belief toolkit to assist officials on how to promote freedom of religion or belief in their local context.


21 JUN 2017

Global Britain

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the reception in Westminster on the 28th of June at 7pm concerning What the World Needs from a Global Britain.

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

The Government's vision for Britain outside the EU is clear: a fully-independent, sovereign country with the freedom to make our own decisions. We are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. The Government will build a global Britain that will trade around the world, build new alliances with other countries and deliver prosperity for its people.
As an outward-looking, globally engaged nation, I believe that the UK should work to tackle international problems at their source - not wait for them to arrive on our doorstep. The UK will continue to play a leading role in international development: the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development assistance, and to achieving the UN's Global Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030. We can help developing countries leave aid dependency behind and become our trading partners of the future.
Withdrawing from the EU will give us the opportunity to shape our own international trade and investment opportunities, drive even greater openness with international partners and put Britain firmly at the forefront of global trade and investment. The Department for International Trade is working closely with counterparts across a wide range of markets in order to promote the UK as a great place to do business and with which to trade. The Government is taking advantage of all the opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes the global leader in free trade once we leave the EU.]
We live in a stable and liberal democracy, we are one of the world's largest economies, we have a significant role in maintaining international peace and security and we are open to the world for business.


21 JUN 2017

A Woman's Choice

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

I assure you as your MP that I will never agree to any erosion to the rights for women to access safe termination of pregnancy.

With regard to abortion in Northern Ireland, this is a devolved issue and one over which the Government in Westminster therefore has no jurisdiction. It is for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives in Stormont to bring about change.


20 JUN 2017

Save the Children

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

I am pleased to support our commitment to spending 0.7% of our GNI on aid and agree about the importance of early year's education. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Education is of interest:

Poverty reduction is core to the Department for International Development's strategy and the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies. Over the last five years, UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. For example, between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) supported over 11 million children in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries.
Nurseries and other providers of early education in the UK are required by law to employ staff who are qualified to support the learning and development of young children. The Department for Education is also supporting the growth of the specialist early years graduate workforce by providing funded places and bursaries for eligible students, and financial support to employers to help them release staff to undertake early years initial teacher training.
There are a record number of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders rated as 'Good' or 'Outstanding' and I am encouraged that the proportion of children reaching the expected learning and development standards continues to rise.


20 JUN 2017

Unicef

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Unicef event in Parliament at 7.00pm on the 28th of June.

I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend, however I hope the following information from the Home Office concerning the relocation of child refugees from Europe is of interest:

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 480 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued into the next financial year the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers


16 JUN 2017

Children's Society

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supporting young people and families in debt.

I agree that this is an important issue and hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:

The Government has committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions that are currently offered. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.
The Government has also taken a number of steps to reform consumer credit, including taking action on high-cost short-term credit, and a comprehensive Financial Conduct Authority study into the credit card market.
It is also important to improve the help and advice available to those who may face debt problems. In 2016-17 the Money Advice Service put £45 million towards debt advice in the UK, which funded over 380,000 appointments.
Measures have also been taken to encourage household saving, including the Help to Save scheme for those on low incomes, and the new personal savings allowance.


18 APR 2017

Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) and climate change.

The PCPF is a funded defined benefit pension scheme, managed by Trustees in line with scheme rules and any relevant legislation. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is responsible for oversight of the scheme. Therefore, changes related to divestment would not be a decision for the Government.

Following concerns being raised in this area previously, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Brian Donohoe, stated that he had received legal advice indicating that to exclude a sector would be incompatible with the Trustees' legal and fiduciary duties of investment.


06 APR 2017

Ivory

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the ivory trade.

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

Just how seriously the Government takes this issue was demonstrated when it held the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking. Over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species, including elephants, from being poached to the brink of extinction. The Buckingham Palace Declaration followed with a range of commitments to help the private sector tackle this illegal trade.
The UK made available £13 million for various projects through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and is now doubling that funding. It is also training rangers in Gabon, home of Africa's largest population of forest elephants, to combat poaching.
UK law does not permit trade in raw ivory tusks of any age, and Ministers are pressing for this approach to be taken internationally. The Government has also announced plans to ban sales of modern-day ivory, which will put the UK's rules on ivory sales among the toughest in the world. This is an important step as we press for a complete ban and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has adopted a proposal calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets.
Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.


05 APR 2017

Issa Amro

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Issa Amro.

I understand your concern with regard to Mr Amro's treatment and I hope the following information on this matter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The charges brought against Mr Amro cumulatively could lead to imprisonment for up to three years. Mr Amro has a long history working in the human rights arena. In 2010 he was named Human Rights Defender of the Year for Palestine by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in 2013 he was recognised as a human rights defender by the EU.
While, of course, it is not for the UK Government to intervene in the justice system of another sovereign state, the UK Government is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as compliance with international humanitarian law.
The UK Government regularly discusses those obligations with the Israeli authorities, and the UK Government is following this case closely, including sending representatives from the UK embassy to the trial.


31 MAR 2017

Ancient Woodland

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

I understand the wish for veteran trees to be protected and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Ancient woodland is a precious habitat, and would note that the National Planning Policy Framework already contains protections for it. It states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.
The recent Housing White Paper went further, announcing a proposal to clarify planning policy on ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees, upgrading their protection to the same level as the green belt. Ministers will consider everyone's views and develop this further.
Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and there is a pledge to plant a further 11 million in this one. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century.


31 MAR 2017

ONE Campaign

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the ONE Campaign.

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 for International Development is of interest:
The UK's aid commitment means we can be proud to be a country that not only meets its responsibilities to the world's poorest, but in doing so best serves and protects its own security and interests. Our commitments on overseas aid were part of the 2015 manifesto. By continuing to meet the 0.7 per cent target on overseas aid, we are keeping our promise to the electorate.
Recent crises show why aid is so important for us in the UK as well as for developing countries. Whether it is helping to prevent deadly diseases like Ebola from threatening the UK, or enabling Syrian refugees and other migrants to build a life in their home region, our aid tackles the root causes of global problems that affect all of us.
Overseas development assistance saves lives and transforms lives. Over the last five years, UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) has supported over 11 million children in school and helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. DFID is also leading the global effort to save millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.


30 MAR 2017

Enough is Enough

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria.

I understand the concerns about the impact the conflict has had on children and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

This is a terrible conflict, which has seen hundreds of thousands of lives lost, millions more driven into chaos and a country systematically laid waste. A recent report from UNICEF documents the horrendous suffering of children in Syria, showing many children killed or injured near schools, including schools the UK is supporting to give Syria's future generation some hope.

Over the last six years, the UK has led the international response to the crisis in Syria. In a war that has seen the civilians used as a weapon of war, we have ensured food, shelter and medicine is there for those caught up in the violence. The UK has pledged more than £2.3 billion to support those affected by the conflict, our largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.
The London Conference on Syria last year saw the largest amount ever raised for a humanitarian crisis in a single day. Next month, the UK will co-host the follow-up conference in Brussels, where we will push the international community to once again dig deep to deliver the long-term funding needed to relieve Syria's downward spiral.
The UK continues to urge the Syrian regime to grant unhindered access to independent human rights monitors, including the UN Commission of Inquiry. The International Criminal Court should have a mandate in Syria and the UK Government continues to make the case for this. The UK Government has pursued this at the UN, but unfortunately, this was vetoed by the Russians and the Chinese.
The only way to establish lasting peace in Syria is through a credible and inclusive political transition away from the Assad regime that is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths in the country. The international community must redouble its efforts to support Syrians to negotiate a stable future through the UN-led talks in Geneva and bring about peace for all Syrians.


30 MAR 2017

British Aid

Thank you for taking the time to email me about investment in renewable energy in developing nations.

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

Better access to energy is important for poor people to improve their lives. It is often the world's poorest who suffer most from the negative effects of burning fossil fuels. It is the UK's aim to help low-income countries generate renewable energy. It is also important that Britain continues to move towards a low-carbon energy future.
The Climate Investment Fund (CIF) is designed to help the world's poorest people cope with extreme weather which can cause life-threatening crises such as floods, droughts and famine. This is in all our interests, as it reduces the number of people displaced by natural disasters and associated civil unrest, and boosts the economic growth of potential trading partners.
Ministers have been assured that all programmes are on course to meet published performance targets for 2023, and that UK funding alone has already helped over a million people to cope with the effects of climate change.
One CIF programme works in poor and vulnerable countries to support the delivery of innovative renewable energy projects. The majority of these projects are still in the construction phase, as large infrastructure projects such as these take time to design, implement, and then become fully operational. Once more of the projects are completed and fully up and running, it is expected that the resulting benefits will be more apparent.
It is right that Ministers keep all spending under constant review to make sure Britain's investments are delivering results and value for money.


30 MAR 2017

Yemen's Children

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

I understand your concern for the children affected by this conflict and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

There is a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, sadly exacerbated by conflict. Yemen has historically been a fragile state, characterised by high population growth, food and water scarcity, female illiteracy and widespread poverty and economic stagnation. Clearly the conflict has contributed to further instability in Yemen, with extensive damage to infrastructure. According to the UN, 18.8 million Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in Yemen in support of the legitimate Government of President Hadi. The UK is not part of this Saudi-led coalition but we do support its aims, which are backed by a UN resolution and a legitimate request for help from the Government of Yemen.
The first point to make is that Saudi Arabia has a right to defend itself and to answer the call of the legitimate Government of Yemen in coming to their aid. The second point is that we have a very tough arms export control regime. Each successive licence is weighed up against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. The key test is whether there is a clear risk that the items concerned might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The situation is kept under careful and continuous review, and international humanitarian law is at the forefront of Ministers' minds when they weigh up each successive licence.
The UK Government continues to urge all parties to the conflict to take all reasonable steps to allow the delivery and distribution of aid, and to facilitate rapid and safe humanitarian access, as well as calling upon all sides to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
It remains the case, however, that a political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office assure me that the UK is playing a leading role in diplomatic efforts, supporting the UN Special Envoy's tireless efforts to achieve this.


30 MAR 2017

Yemen Arms

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

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

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

The UK supports the Saudi-led campaign to restore the legitimate Government in Yemen. This is a campaign that has the backing of the legitimate President of Yemen, as well as the United Nations. Ultimately, a political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and end the conflict. We need to build resilience and protect key institutions to help lay the foundations for post-conflict recovery.
The Government is working in Yemen to address the urgent humanitarian needs and support an effective international humanitarian response. Ministers have more than doubled our humanitarian funding to Yemen over the last year, making the UK the fourth largest donor to the humanitarian crisis. We are providing vital medical supplies, water, food and nutrition, and emergency shelter to those most in need and have so far supported more than 1.3 million Yemenis
The UK has been consistently clear with all sides to the conflict in Yemen about the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The UK operates one of the most rigorous and transparent export control regimes in the world, and all export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Risks around human rights violations are a key part of this assessment. The UK Government does not export equipment where it assesses there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, that it might provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or where it may be used aggressively against another country.
The Government has the power to suspend or revoke any export licence should it consider that this is a necessary and appropriate step.


29 MAR 2017

Loneliness

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

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

We all have a responsibility at an individual, family, and community level to identify people with care needs such as loneliness, and provide support to improve their health and wellbeing. There is no single solution that can tackle loneliness and I think that it is useful to have a range of solutions.
Local commissioners are responsible for ensuring that health services match the needs of the population. Since 2012, local authorities have been expected to identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effects.
The Department of Health has also supported the development of a 'digital toolkit' for local commissioners, developed by the Campaign to End Loneliness, to support them in understanding and commissioning services to tackle loneliness and social isolation in their communities.
The Government also funded the Social Care Institute for Excellence to develop and run the Prevention Library, which includes examples of how to prevent, reduce or delay people's care and support needs from deteriorating. Local authorities can learn from emerging practice, and exchange ideas and experience of the impact that information, advice and befriending services can have on tackling loneliness.
The Government recognises the current pressures facing social care in local areas. That is why the Government is giving local authorities greater funding and flexibility so that they will have access to up to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament.


29 MAR 2017

Pavement Parking

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with your concerns about pavement parking.

I do appreciate the impediment that pavement parking cases those with visual impairments and have met previously with Devon County Council Highways officers to discuss road safety including the issue of pavement parking.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport of interest:

Vehicles parked on pavements can cause particular problems for people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, as well as those with pushchairs.
Improving access for disabled people is a key priority for the Government. During 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) worked with a range of stakeholders to examine the legal and financial implications of an alternative pavement parking regime, and the likely impacts on local authorities. This included a roundtable between Ministers and key stakeholders, to help inform the DfT's evidence base on this issue. A key issue identified was the process for putting in place Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) for the enforcement of pavement parking. The DfT is therefore now considering how best to address the general improvement of the TRO-making process and will provide further information once this is available.
More broadly, the Conservatives in Government have already taken steps to make it easier for councils to tackle pavement parking. While there is an historic ban on pavement parking throughout London, elsewhere any local authority that has taken up civil enforcement powers may introduce a ban on pavement parking where it sees fit. In 2011, Conservative Ministers gave all councils authorisation to use a sign banning parking on the pavement, removing the need to ask Whitehall first for permission.
Ministers have written to councils on several occasions, encouraging them to use their available powers to prevent parking on the pavement where it is a problem. The Department has also published guidance for traffic authorities, highlighting the difficulties that pavement parking causes for pedestrians and detailing ways that it can be prevented.


29 MAR 2017

Animal Welfare Debate

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the debate on animal welfare being held on the 30th of March.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I understand that some are calling for a ban on third party pet sales and I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if of interest:

A ban on third-party pet sales will not be pursued because such a measure would be extremely difficult to enforce. It would require local authorities, already under pressure to enforce licensing requirements, to expend further resources verifying that all sales to end customers were being handled directly by the breeder. There is also concern that such a ban would drive sales onto the black market, leading to worse outcomes for the animals involved.
It is instead proposed that anyone operating a business selling pets will need a licence, irrespective of the number of animals they sell.


29 MAR 2017

Animal Cruelty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about sentencing for offences of animal cruelty.

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

We have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
The courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. Currently, in addition to the maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, the courts can also disqualify offenders from keeping animals for as long as they consider appropriate.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in regular contact with the Ministry of Justice in relation to sentencing policy for animal welfare offences, but current sentencing practice does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate.


28 MAR 2017

Bottle Deposit

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

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

The Department for the Environment assessed of the costs and benefits of introducing such a scheme in its 2008 Review of Packaging Deposits System for the UK. It found that although it might increase recycling rates for some materials and reduce litter, the running costs would be much higher than alternative measures. It was therefore decided not to take forward this option for the time being and instead to concentrate on other ways to increase recycling and address litter.

To support this important objective the Government is developing a National Litter Strategy, advised by a Litter Strategy Advisory Group which includes representatives from local government, campaign groups and independent experts, as well as the packaging and fast-food industries.

This will complement existing work, including actions to address litter in the marine environment. It will promote action to reduce litter and littering on land, which should lead to a reduction in the amount of litter reaching the sea. The UK's Marine Strategy also sets out actions to tackle marine litter, and the Government is working closely with other countries sharing our seas.

The recently introduced 5p charge on single use carrier bags has brought about an 80 per cent reduction in the use of plastic bags, which will also help to address the issue of litter in the marine environment.


27 MAR 2017

Turning the Corner

Thank you for taking the time to email me about cycling safety.

As an avid cyclist, I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Transport is of interest:

The number of cyclists killed on our roads fell to its lowest level on record in 2015. Ministers remain fully committed to creating a safe environment for all road users, and in particular vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Sections 204 - 225 of the Highway Code aims to educate and remind drivers of the needs of more vulnerable road users, including both cyclists and pedestrians.
A revised Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) came into force in April 2016, which contains a number of measures designed to improve the safety of cyclists on the road, including low level cycle signals, a new type of crossing and changes to advanced stop lines. TSRGD also includes changes that make it easier for local authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas.
The Department for Transport is also working on wider cyclist safety in other ways, including changes to vehicle design, publicity, campaigns, as well as mandatory training for HGV drivers and optional training for cyclists.
The Department for Transport is looking at the issues raised in the Turning the Corner campaign, and that they are currently determining the best way forward.


27 MAR 2017

Breathing Spaces

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about families in debt.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on this matter on the 29th of March due to prior commitments. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:

The Families with Children and Young People in Debt (Respite) Bill, introduced by Kelly Tolhurst MP, would place a duty on lenders to provide financial respite for families with children and young people in debt.
The Government is committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.
Further to this, action has been taken to reduce levels of personal debt. Household debt as a proportion of income has fallen to 142 per cent in 2016, down from a peak of 160 per cent in 2008. The Government's plan for a higher wage, lower welfare society makes it easier for families and working people to save, and includes the new National Living Wage which will mean a pay boost for 1.7 million workers this year.


22 MAR 2017

World Water Day

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

I agree that more needs to be done to ensure everyone has access to basic sanitation and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development reassuring:

Access to clean drinking water and effective sanitation is a basic human need and is vital to give people in developing countries the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilled, and productive lives. It means they can work, driving economic growth and ultimately helping developing countries become self-sufficient.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) helped 64.5 million people access clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions. DFID helps build wells, standpipes, pumps, toilets and sewage systems, and encourages the private sector in developing countries to do more. Ministers are intent on matching this success by helping at least another 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation by 2020, to stop terrible diseases and boost economic opportunity. This was a 2015 Conservative manifesto commitment.
The adoption of the Global Goals in 2015 is welcomed. The UK successfully pushed for Goal 6 on water and sanitation for everyone. The global community must work to achieve this and other goals by 2030, so that in the next 15 years we see access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all.
A more healthy, productive and prosperous world is clearly in our national interest, and access to water and sanitation is a key part of this.


22 MAR 2017

Tax Havens

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about tax havens.

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

The Government is committed to a proportionate, tailored response to improve global tax transparency, including in tax havens. Since 2010, HM Revenue and Customs has secured £140 billion in additional tax revenue by taking robust action to tackle avoidance, evasion, and non-compliance. These actions have helped the UK achieve one of the lowest tax gaps in the world.
Due to steps taken since 2010, crown dependencies and overseas territories are already sharing account information automatically with the UK. They will also start to provide UK law enforcement with access to information on the beneficial ownership of companies. This progress puts the UK and the crown dependencies and overseas territories well ahead of others in their transparency, including major international partners such as the United States.
The Government's next objective is to establish a comprehensive and effective model of public country-by-country reporting, to improve transparency over businesses' tax affairs and build public trust in the tax system. The best way to achieve this is through multilateral agreement, which is why the UK is continuing to work with our international partners to deliver this. The UK continues to support and push for the European Commission's proposal on this matter.


22 MAR 2017

Hedgehog Traps

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Goodnature model A24 animal trap.

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

No spring trap, including the Goodnature model A24, is approved for use against hedgehogs. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to use any trap or snare to kill or take a hedgehog, or set a trap or snare in a way that is likely to injure one.
Any new spring traps offered for sale must first be approved for use through a Spring Trap Approval Order. Before it can be approved, the Animal and Plant Health Agency must assess its humaneness and recommend any conditions of use (for example, placement criteria or permitted target species).
The order that applies to the Goodnature A24 states that it may only be used to kill rats and stoats. The trap must also be placed so that it can only be entered through an artificial tunnel suitable for that purpose.
All approved spring traps must, so far as is practicable, be used in a manner that minimises the likelihood of killing, taking or injuring non-target species. It is for the trapper to make sure they comply with these conditions of use, and do not commit any offence. Where the safety of protected species cannot be reasonably assured, non-lethal methods of capture, such as cage trapping, should be used so that non-target species can be released unharmed if they are captured accidentally.


22 MAR 2017

Israel Human Rights

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the recent Israeli law concerning people who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements.

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

On 6 March 2017, the Israeli Parliament passed a law giving authority to deny entry to Israel to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice on Israel accordingly.
It is the case, of course, that Israel, like every other country, is ultimately responsible for determining its own rules on immigration and on visits.
The Government is seeking urgent clarification from the Israeli authorities as to what the application of this new policy might be and I will be following closely how this law will be applied, and what diplomatic pressure can be exerted to ensure that this does not unduly affect British citizens.


14 MAR 2017

Bus Services Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Bus Services Bill.

I understand you are concerned about the implications for local authorities and their ability to set up bus companies and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

It is understood that establishing a company for the purposes of operating local bus services may be something that some local authorities would like to do. However, this is not something that has happened for many years, and no local authority has indicated to Ministers that they wish to pursue such a course of action.
Private sector bus operators have been delivering local bus services for the last 30 years and we do not want to lose their experience and know-how. We want to ensure that we get the right balance of local authority knowledge and private sector experience. Local authorities, with their knowledge of the local area, local needs, and controls over other aspects such as local roads and parking policies, are well placed to help shape and influence the services that are provided, with private sector bus operators using their operational experience on the road.
Local authorities have other, more pressing priorities to attend to, and that they should therefore focus on partnership with private operators. The Bill will provide local authorities with a number of opportunities to influence the provision of local bus services in their area, whether through enhanced partnerships or franchising.
There is no doubt that, in a small number of places, municipal bus companies continue to play an important role in the local transport system. However, the creation of further municipal bus companies would stifle the private sector investment that has made such a significant difference. For these reasons the commissioning and provision of services are best kept separate, and that local authorities should not be able to set up new companies to run bus services.


13 MAR 2017

Nuclear Conference

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about nuclear weapons and the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

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

To be clear, Britain is widely recognised as the most pro-active of the nuclear weapon states on nuclear disarmament. We have reduced our nuclear forces by over half from the Cold War peak in the late 1970s and recently reduced the number of deployed warheads on each submarine from 48 to 40, as well committing to reduce our overall stockpile to no more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s. The UK possesses around 1 per cent of the total global stockpile of approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.
In addition, the UK plays a leading role on disarmament verification with the US and Norway and continues to press for key steps towards multilateral disarmament, including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and successful negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.
However, given the unpredictable international security environment, and the risk that nuclear weapons may proliferate further in the future, it is right that the Government remains committed to maintaining a minimum credible deterrent. For this reason, the UK does not support the UN conference at the end of March which seeks to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
It is the Government's view that 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.


12 MAR 2017

School Funding

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

I understand your concern on this matter and I was pleased to be one of the signatories of the letter that went to the Prime Minister last year supporting the Fair School Funding Campaign. For too long, the school funding model has been a complex affair which has left areas such as ours disadvantaged and MPs have been calling loudly for a better deal for the South West.

I was glad to be able to speak in the Backbench Business Debate on local government funding for rural areas because we must dispel the myth that deprivation is an urban problem. That said, the way that the new formula weights deprivation in a number of ways means that many schools in Devon stand to lose out. Some schools such as small rural schools however do benefit from the formula. Larger schools, especially those with falling numbers of pupils, or with relatively few pupils who speak English as a second language or on free school meals for example, may find that the formula leaves them worse off.

I share the concern expressed by schools which are disadvantaged by the changes and have raised these with the Secretary of State.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest in setting out their position. It also sets out how you can directly contribute your views to the consultation.

With regard to the recent campaign by the NUT and ATL on school funding, it would appear to be irresponsible scaremongering. The claims are misleading and are based on poor evidence. To suggest that money is being taken out of the schools system is simply incorrect. The schools budget has been protected and this year it totals over £40 billion which is the highest ever on record.
The unions completely ignore the fact that pupil numbers are rising. Because per pupil funding is protected at current rates, more pupils mean more money in our schools. Taking per pupil funding and rising pupil numbers together, the school budget will be protected in real terms overall in this parliament.
The Government has outlined and sought views on its vision for a new funding system that ends the historic postcode lottery. The existing system is unfair, opaque and outdated. The current disparities mean that a school could receive 50 per cent more funding if it were based in another part of the country. Clearly this cannot be allowed to continue.
The Department for Education has recently set out proposals for how the formula will be implemented including the impact on schools and local authorities and is seeking the views of interested parties. It has also confirmed the factors that will be used in the formula, and has invited responses to the weightings they should be given.

The Government's fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system. The national funding formula will be introduced from 2018-19.

If you would like to share your views on this I would encourage you to submit a response to stage 2 of the consultation which closes on the 22nd of March, you can access via the following link: https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/


10 MAR 2017

Business Rates and Community Pubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about beer duty and business rates.

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

At the 2017 Spring Budget, tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unpresented freeze in beer duty.
The Scottish whisky industry is a national success story, with exports of over £4 billion per year making up a fifth of UK food and drink exports. Local cider breweries also play a similarly vital role supporting rural communities. Duty on spirits and most ciders has also be frozen.
The introduction of a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 is also encouraging. This applies to 90 per cent of pubs and is in recognition of the valuable service they provide to our communities. Additionally, at the Budget the Chancellor also announced a £300 million fund for local authorities to deliver discretionary relief to target individual hard cases in their local areas.
The Chancellor continues to keep all taxes under review and decisions on tax policy are made as part of the Budget process.


09 MAR 2017

EU Citizens

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

With regard to the rights of EU citizens in the UK, this is something that I have raised directly with both the Prime Minister and with David Davis and I am certain that the residency rights of British and EU nationals are the highest priority for the government in the immediate aftermath of the triggering of A50.

Whilst I will continue to urge the PM to set out our comprehensive offer for the rights of citizens both sides of the Channel to be respected, the current bill is designed wholly to allow this to get underway. I am told that a unilateral offer would simply mean that the position for U.K. Nationals in other EU member states would no longer be a priority for those states, potentially resulting in a long delay for them in receiving reassurances. That would be particularly serious for those who have retired elsewhere in the EU.

I will be voting for an unamended A50 bill but I am confident that the commitment to put this at the top of the agenda will be honoured. The PM has made clear that she wants and expects those settled here to be able to remain. I am also pressing for the procedures for their residency status to be streamlined.


09 MAR 2017

Parliament Final Say on Brexit

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

I will be voting to keep the A50 bill to its original purpose to trigger Article 50 without further delay.


07 MAR 2017

Israel Apartheid

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Israel Apartheid Week campaigns.

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

Any discrimination or hostility based on religion or race is deplorable and there is no place for it in our society. Acts of hatred in any form will not be tolerated, and the Government is committed to addressing anti-Semitism wherever it occurs.
All institutions, including universities, have a responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive environment. All higher education institutions have a legal obligation for ensuring that students do not face discrimination, harassment, abuse or violence. Universities are expected to have robust policies and procedures in place to comply with the law, and to investigate and swiftly address any hate crime and anti-Semitic incidents that are reported.
In 2015 the Government asked Universities UK (UUK) to set up a Harassment Taskforce to consider what more can be done to address harassment on campus, including on the basis of religion and belief. UUK plans to establish more baseline evidence, and to assess institutions' progress in implementing the recommendations, so that the work of the taskforce makes a real difference. The Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson, recently wrote to UUK to confirm the Government's adopted definition of anti-Semitism to help clarify how anti-Semitism can manifest itself in the 21st Century.
Our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and freedom of religion. However, there is no place in any education institution for hatred and no student should face discrimination, harassment or racism - including anti-Semitism.


06 MAR 2017

Proposed Purchase of Sky

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

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

Sky has stated that it received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own.
Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.
On 3 March 2017 the European Commission confirmed that it had received formal notification of the proposed merger, following which the Secretary of State wrote to the parties informing them that she is minded to intervene on two public interest grounds - media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.
This letter does not constitute a final decision. The parties have been invited to make further representations, following which the Secretary of State will come to a final decision on whether to intervene and will aim to do so - in line with guidance - within ten working days of the merger being formally notified.


06 MAR 2017

Personal Independence Payment

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 985 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Around £50 billion of public money a year is spent to support people with disabilities and health conditions. Spending on disability benefits has risen by over £3 billion in real terms since 2010, and will remain higher in each year to 2020 than in 2010. PIP is an important part of this. It has been designed to focus more support on people who have higher costs associated with their condition. Entitlement is not based on what condition a person has, but on how their condition affects their ability to live an independent life.
Recent legal judgments have interpreted the assessment criteria for PIP in ways which are different from what was originally intended when the Coalition Government introduced the system. For example, one ruling held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as support to manage therapy, such as dialysis, which takes place in the home. A second ruling held that a person who cannot make a journey without assistance because of psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person whose need for assistance results from difficulties in navigating, for example if they are blind. The Government says it is clarifying the criteria to ensure PIP maintains its original policy objectives and support continues to be focused on those most in need.
This will not result in any claimants seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and the intention is not to make any new savings. These amendments are solely intended to reiterate the original policy intent following legal judgments in which the Tribunals commented that the existing regulations were not completely clear.
PIP has been designed to better reflect our modern understanding of disability, including giving mental health conditions the same recognition as physical ones. Over two thirds of PIP recipients with a mental health condition receive the enhanced daily living component, compared with 22 per cent who used to receive the higher rate under Disability Living Allowance. PIP claimants with mental health conditions will continue to be properly supported after these amendments have been made. The changes are simply about ensuring that the assessment criteria properly reflect the barriers to independence a claimant faces, and the costs they might incur as a result.
PIP is an important source of support for many disabled people, and these changes will ensure those people continue to be supported.


06 MAR 2017

Medical Care in Gaza

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

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

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


03 MAR 2017

Dubs Amendment

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

I abstained from the vote as it was a backbench motion and has no impact on the government's proposals.

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

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and this Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 350 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
The Dubs amendment was never meant to be an open ended scheme. The legislation obliged the Government to consult local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 400 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.
The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued into the next financial year the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.
While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.


03 MAR 2017

Bees and Neonicotinoids.

I have started to receive campaign correspondence on the Friends of the Earth campaign concerning bees and neonicotinoids.

I understand there is concern about what will happen about this following on from the EU referendum vote and I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment.
While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.
As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.
There are rules providing for the use of normally restricted products to be authorised in emergency situations to protect crops. If emergency authorisation is granted, this does not mean that the ban has been lifted: the facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an essential feature of precautionary bans.
These decisions are taken based on recommendations from the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the independent body of scientists that advises the Government. It takes all environmental factors into account, including the effects of using greater quantities of less effective alternative pesticides.
Minimising risks from pesticides is just one component of the National Pollinator Strategy, whose purpose is to lay out plans to improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators, and identify any additional actions that will be need to be taken. It also sets out new work to be done immediately, building on longer-term initiatives that were already under way.
Significant advances over the draft Strategy include raising the profile of existing initiatives to conserve and create good quality wild flower meadows, and minimising risks from pesticides. Organisations such as Network Rail, Highways Agency and the National Trust have agreed that railway embankments, motorway embankments and forests will be used to create bee and insect friendly habitats.
It also introduced the first ever wild pollinator and farm wildlife package, which makes more funding made available to farmers and landowners who take steps to protect pollinators. In its first year of its operation over half of the mid-tier applications to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which channels these payments, included this package.


01 MAR 2017

ESA

Thank you for taking the time to email me about changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

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:

In the Summer Budget 2015, it was announced that, from April 2017, new ESA claimants who are placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). This change only affects new claims made after that date and there will be no cash losers among those who are already in receipt of ESA.
The record employment levels and strong jobs growth in recent years have benefitted many, but these benefits have yet to reach those on ESA. While 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefit every month, this is true of just 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants. Those with health conditions and disabilities deserve better than this.
It is important to tackle this as, in addition to providing financial security for individuals, there are economic, social and moral arguments that, for those who are able to, work is the most effective way to improve the well-being of individuals, their families and their communities.
Those in the WRAG currently receive additional cash payments but little employment support. This fixation on welfare treats the symptoms, not the causes of poverty; and, over time, it traps people in dependency as, in the current system, the additional cash payment acts as a disincentive to moving into employment. That is why the Government has now legislated to recycle some of the money currently spent on cash payments, which are not actually achieving the desired effect of helping people move closer to the labour market, into practical support that will make a genuine difference to individual's life chances.
This new funding will be worth £60 million in 2017/18 rising to £100 million in 2020/21. It will support those with limited capability for work to take steps to move closer to the labour market, and when they are able, back to work. This additional practical support is part of a real terms increase that was announced at the 2015 Autumn Statement. How the support will be spent is going to be influenced by a Taskforce of representatives from disability charities, disabled people's user-led organisations, employers, think tanks, provider representatives and local authorities.

It is important to improve what is on offer for these individuals because we know that most people with disabilities and health conditions want to work, including 61 per cent of the WRAG, and there is a large body of evidence showing that work is generally good for physical and mental wellbeing.
In order to do more, the Government published a Green Paper on 31st October which explores ways to improve the system of support for people with health conditions and disabilities. In addition to these reforms there is an emerging package of support which will strengthen the offer to claimants with a health condition or disability:

· Universal Credit (UC) is already beginning to transform people's lives by introducing earlier support and putting claimants in the best possible position to move into and stay in work. Under UC, claimants with health conditions and disabilities will gain more support earlier in their claim to take steps towards work with their dedicated Work Coach working alongside health professionals to ensure they receive personalised, integrated support;

· The DWP and Department of Health have created the Work and Health Unit to help support people with health conditions and disabled people back into employment. This Joint Unit has at least £115 million of funding, including at least £40m for a work and health innovation fund, to pilot new ways to join up across the health and employment systems;

· In the 2015 Autumn Statement the DWP announced that they will introduce a new Work and Health Programme to focus on providing the best possible support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities, as well as those who are long-term unemployed;

· We know that returning to suitable work can improve mental health, and that is why the Government is committed to ensuring that people with mental health conditions receive effective support to return to, and remain in, work. £43 million is being invested over the next three years in trialling ways to provide specialist support for people with mental health conditions;

These reforms are aimed at improving the quality of life of those in greatest need. It is worth noting that we spend around £50 billion every year on benefits to support people with disabilities or health conditions, this is over 6 per cent of all government spending. The Government can be proud of that and is determined to ensure that those in need get the support they require.


01 MAR 2017

Torture Survivors

Thank you for taking the time to email me about asylum for torture survivors.

I understand your concern on this matter but I am afraid I will be unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate being held on this topic on the 2nd of March due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I hope the following information from the Home Office is of interest:

Granting protection to those who genuinely need it and refusing those who do not, in as efficient, sensitive and effective a way as possible, is crucial.
In that vein all members of staff who make asylum decisions receive a comprehensive level of training. This includes a dedicated five-week Foundation Training Programme that includes training on international and domestic law and safeguarding issues, which is supplemented by a mentoring programme with an experienced caseworker that lasts from three to six months. More specifically, the Foundation Training Programme also includes a detailed section which covers torture claims involving medico-legal reports.
The course is explicit that decision makers must not make clinical judgements and must properly consider evidence and give appropriate weight to all evidence presented in order to reach an informed decision, only rejecting claims when there is a significant reason to do so. The course includes example medico-legal reports which the trainees must analyse and interpret as part of a number of practical exercises.
Similarly following training, there is a robust quality assurance process in place involving technical specialists embedded within each team, senior caseworkers within each unit and a national internal quality audit team who ensure that all policies are complied with when decisions are made.

Asylum Operations recently received funding from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to review and redevelop its training prospectus. As part of that work, Asylum Operations is liaising with a range of external stakeholders, including charities and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that there is robust and effective safeguarding training.
The cases of those who have been abused who claim asylum in the UK must be processed quickly and efficiently, and the procedures are in place to do so.


28 FEB 2017

Estimates Day

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Estimates Debate held on the 27th of February.

I did attend and you can view my contribution via the following link:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/health-and-social-care/2183


28 FEB 2017

Refugee Rights

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

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

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and this Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 350 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
The Dubs amendment was never meant to be an open ended scheme. The legislation obliged the Government to consult local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 400 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.
The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued into the next financial year the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.

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


27 FEB 2017

ONE Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about education in developing countries and the ONE campaign event being held on the 1st of March.

I am afraid I have prior commitments that day so will be unable to attend the event, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is of interest:

Investing in education is in all our interests, as education provides children with the best route out of poverty, giving them the power to improve their own lives and their country, and ultimately reduce developing countries' reliance on aid. Globally we must push for education for both girls and boys because evidence shows that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, it has a strong positive impact - she marries later and has fewer and healthier children, and is more likely to be economically productive. But it is not just about having the chance to go to school, children must be well taught and what they learn must improve their opportunities in life.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development supported over 11 million children, including 5.3 million girls, in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries. The Conservative Party committed in its manifesto to help at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education by 2020. This is a huge investment in a better future for these children.


27 FEB 2017

Abortion

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

I would like to make clear that I support the right of women to access safe termination of pregnancy and hope the following information from the Department of Health on this topic is of interest:

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged. Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament. It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes.
An update to the procedures that detail the conditions that independent sector abortion clinics must adhere to was published in 2014 to take into account a number of regulatory changes and to bring the requirements in line with current policies and guidance.
The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. This makes clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health. Full details can be found online here:
www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-doctors-on-compliance-with-the-abortion-act
The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act. The Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion.


27 FEB 2017

Bliss Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Bliss Campaign concerning care and support for families with babies born premature or sick.

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

Having a sick or premature baby can take an emotional and physical toll on any parent and well-organised, effective and responsive neonatal care can make a vital difference. That is why the Government is committed to the provision of high quality neonatal services established on evidence-based good practice.
The Government has provided over £37 million in capital funding over two years to improve facilities in maternity and neonatal care units across the country. This included projects to create parent accommodation with bedrooms, kitchen and sitting areas and en-suite bathrooms to provide a comfortable environment for parents and their families.
The Government is working hard to make the NHS one of the safest places in the world to give birth. In 2015, a national ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries occurring during or soon after birth by 2030 was announced. To support this, the Government provided £2.24 million to enable trusts to buy monitoring and training equipment to improve safety in maternity and neonatal units. The Department of Health is also investing over £1 million in training programmes to make sure staff have the skills and confidence they need to deliver world-leading safe care.
In addition, the Government has committed to investing £365 million between 2015/16 and 2020/21 to improve specialist perinatal mental health services.
The independent National Maternity Review reported in February 2016 and set out several recommendations designed to make maternity care safer and give women greater control and choice. A Maternity Transformation Programme Board has been established to drive forward this vision for maternity services.
The Government currently has no plans to extend Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for the parents of premature or sick babies who spend time in neo-natal care. SMP is designed to help working women during pregnancy and after childbirth by providing a measure of earnings replacement enabling them to stop work for a reasonable period around the birth to prepare for and recover from childbirth. Working women are generally able to choose when they want their payments to begin and this ensures sufficient time off to allow for different situations, including instances where babies are delivered at an earlier date and where babies need hospital care following birth.
The Government will work with NHS England to consider the recommendations of the Bliss report. Ministers will continue to work closely with Bliss and others to improve neonatal services, so that all premature and sick babies receive the best possible care.


27 FEB 2017

Bereavement Benefits

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about forthcoming changes to bereavement benefits.

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:

Families who lose a loved one must be supported through what will often be one of the hardest periods in their lives. Bereavement can often lead to immediate costs for the family left behind, and it is important to ensure those costs are not unmanageable.
From April 2017, the current sources of support, such as Bereavement Payments, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent's Allowance, will be replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment (BSP). This will consist of an initial higher payment followed by a series of smaller monthly payments. I think it is right that the new system concentrates on helping with the additional and more immediate costs of bereavement, and shifts the focus away from replacing the deceased spouse's earnings. Importantly, the initial lump sums will be higher under the new benefit. This focuses support on the early stage of bereavement and ensures the immediate costs, which may often have been completely unexpected, are manageable.
The BSP will be much simpler and fairer than the current system, meaning claimants will better understand their entitlements and be able to plan their finances with more certainty. Unlike some of the old sources of support, the BSP will be non-taxable and non-means tested and will not be counted as income when calculating entitlement to other benefits.
After listening to representations from the Social Security Advisory Committee and third party organisations supporting bereaved families, the Government has also decided to change its original proposals so that the BSP will be paid for 18 months instead of 12. However, bereavement benefits should be a longer-term source of support. After that initial 18 month period, there are other more appropriate welfare benefits available for those that qualify.


27 FEB 2017

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about budget changes at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

I understand you would like me to attend the Parliamentary drop in session on this matter on the 1st of March but I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend.

Nonetheless, the Government position on this matter remains as below:

The EHRC undertakes exceptionally important work, ensuring that we live in a country that upholds people's rights, values diversity and challenges intolerance. It will continue in this vital role.
It is important to note that the EHRC is an independent organisation, and so makes its own decisions about the allocation of its resources. This is also true for its procedures for planning changes to its staffing against its business needs, which it sets out in its one-year Business Plan and three-year Strategic Plan.
The EHRC will consult widely, and listen to the views of partners and critics, when it comes to developing its Strategic Plan for 2016-19. As a result it will continue to deliver its mandate to challenge discrimination, and protect and promote equality and human rights.
The EHRC has, and will continue to have, sufficient funds to enable it to fulfil its statutory functions. Ministers have been very clear on this point, and I do not believe, therefore, that the central mission of the EHRC will suffer. As now, the EHRC will continue to support people in individual cases where there are of strategic significance, for example in clarifying the relevant law. Advice for individuals more generally is available from the Equality Advisory and Support Service, which is also funded by the Government.


24 FEB 2017

Pledge for the Environment

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

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

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


24 FEB 2017

Microbeads

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

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

With regard to plastic microbeads, following work with the industry to achieve a voluntary phase-out, the Government has announced plans to ban them from cosmetic products completely.
The Government has launched a consultation on proposals to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing harmful microbeads. This consultation will run until 28 February. It will also gather evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, and consider what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, that also enter the marine environment.
Clearly there is an international dimension to this issue and the UK, along with several of our neighbours, is party to an international organisation known as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address marine litter, one of its most important objectives. The plan includes international action on microplastics. Manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives to plastic microbeads, including nut shells, salt and sugar. These have the same exfoliating properties but do not threaten the environment, so the products containing them should perform just as well.

I would encourage you to contribute to the consultation, which closes on the 28th of February, you can do so via the following link: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/marine/microbead-ban-proposals/


23 FEB 2017

Bees

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about plant protection products and bee health.

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

We need to find ways for farmers to improve their productivity and competitiveness while also protecting the environment. The UK has a National Action Plan to ensure that plant protection products can be used sustainably, which includes measures on the marketing and use of pesticides, residues in food and the effects of their degradation and disposal.
Importantly, the Plan takes account of the economic and environmental benefits of pesticide use, as well as their costs; it also reflects the Government's priority to reduce the costs and burdens of regulation. In my view dealing with the risks pesticides pose, and encouraging them to be used responsibly, is the best way to ensure farmers can continue to benefit from them in the future.
There is a long-run correlation between farm efficiency and reduced environmental impact; today's pesticides have after all been designed so that as little as possible is needed, and then only as a last resort. Farmers use about a third less chemical volume today than they did 30 years ago, and this is an encouraging trend.


22 FEB 2017

Private Renting

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about private renting solutions for homeless and vulnerable people.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate on this matter due to prior commitments, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is of interest:

The Government is taking steps to both tackle homelessness and make the private rented sector more affordable and secure.
The £1 billion Build to Rent fund, for example, has contracted investment worth over £636 million to deliver more than 5,600 high-quality homes specifically for private rent. This has been supported through the £3.5 billion Private Rented Sector Housing Guarantee Scheme, which will increase the stream of investment in new private rented sector housing. The recent Housing White Paper contained measures to support further Build to Rent developments.
Ministers made a significant investment of £14 million from 2010 to 2016, working with Crisis, to develop a programme for single people to access private rented accommodation. It is to be welcomed than 9,000 people were helped, and 90 per cent of those maintained a tenancy for more than six months.
In addition, £100 million is being invested to deliver low-cost accommodation for those ready to move on from a homelessness crisis, including rough sleepers leaving hostel accommodation. Details of the bidding process outside London will be announced by the Homes and Communities Agency in the spring.
The Government has established a private rented sector affordability and security working group, which includes Shelter, Crisis, Generation Rent and landlord and letting agent representatives. Policy proposals to help vulnerable people and low income households to access and maintain tenancies in the sector were discussed at recent meetings of this group, and it is now finalising its report.


16 FEB 2017

Animal Cruelty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about sentencing for offences of animal cruelty.

I understand the concern on this matter and am just sorry I will be unable to attend the debate on the 24th of February due to prior commitments in the constituency. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

We have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
The law, and the penalties for breaking it, were reviewed by the Parliamentary Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2012. At that time the Committee did not recommend increasing the maximum sentencing available to the courts. However, the previous cap in the fine charges of animal abuse can attract has been removed, and the Ministry of Justice is now looking at whether there is a case for increasing the penalties further.
The courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. There has recently been a public consultation into sentencing guidelines for these crimes, which resulted in the Council confirming the removal of the cap on the financial element of the penalty, and clarifying a range of relevant factors that would indicate a more serious offence.


15 FEB 2017

Adult Social Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about adult social care.

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

It is important to ensure that as people get older, they are able to receive the dignified care they deserve. The Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas. That is why the Government is giving local authorities additional funding and flexibility so that they will have access to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament. On 15 December, the Government announced greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so that local authorities can choose to raise extra money. Savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million, will be retained by councils for social care. Taken together, this means almost an additional £900 million will be made available over the next two years.
Money alone will not fix the problem and the Government is clear that far-reaching reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils are already providing high quality social care within their existing budgets, showing that reform can be achieved and half of all delayed discharges from hospital to home arise in just 24 local authorities. The Communities Secretary, Health Secretary and others across Government will work to ensure that long-term we have a sustainable system of social care for everyone that needs it.


15 FEB 2017

Dubs Amendment

In response to the many concerns raised about the Dubs Amendment, the Home Secretary has written to MPs with a clarification of the government's position and I am copying the text of her letter below. I have also written to our local councils to ask about local capacity to provide further support to refugees and to make it clear that I am happy to offer my help should they need this in arranging the necessary support. I will also try and attend part of the debate on this matter on the 23rd of February:

10 February 2017

Re: Implementing the Dubs amendment and supporting the most vulnerable child refugees

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and this Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition.

Our response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the region, where we can best target our support to help the most vulnerable. That is why we will resettle 20,000 Syrians over the course of this parliament and we will also resettle 3,000 children and their families from the wider region. In the last year we have granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children and of the over 4,4000 individuals resettled through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme so far, around half are children.

This week the Government announced that in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act (the so-called Dubs amendment) we will transfer 350 children to meet the intention and spirit behind the amendment. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under 67 from France, and will include a further 150 over the coming months.

The scheme has not closed, as reported by some. We were obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. This is the number that we have published and we will now be working in Greece, Italy and France to transfer further children under the amendment. We're clear that behind these numbers are children and it's vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support and care they will need.

We consulted extensively with local authorities over several months to reach this number, but if your local authority is contacting you suggesting they have extra capacity to take children then please encourage them to participate in the National Transfer Scheme. Each year we have around 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrive in Britain and currently a small number of councils are taking a disproportionate share of the burden in caring for these children.

The Government has also always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.

I'm proud of the action this government has taken, and will continue to take, to support and care for the most vulnerable children caught up in the crisis in Syria.

Yours Faithfully,

Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP

Home Secretary


14 FEB 2017

Green Investment Bank

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Green Investment Bank.

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

The GIB has proven to be a pioneering venture into sustainable investment, and has now committed £2.6 billion of capital to 79 green infrastructure projects across the UK since its launch.
However, as the Independent Chair of the Bank, Lord Smith, has said, attracting new investors is vital if the GIB is to fund its ambitious plans to double the size of its business, expand into new parts of the green economy and deliver more environmental benefits. Indeed, the Government has always been clear that the GIB was designed with a view to a possible transfer to the private sector. The company was designed to leverage the maximum amount of private capital into green sectors for the minimum amount of public money. Moving the company into private ownership is a natural development that further delivers this aim.
It is with this in mind that plans to explore the privatisation of the Bank were announced in 2013. Since then, the Government and GIB have continued to work together to facilitate the introduction of private capital into the bank, and a two stage auction process was formally launched in March 2016.
While the detail of the sale process is commercially confidential, the Government has no interest in selling to an asset stripper. Potential investors have been asked to confirm their commitment to GIB's green values and investment principles, and how they propose to protect them, as part of their bids for the company. In addition, the Government has approved the creation of a special share, held by independent trustees, to protect GIB's green purposes in future.


10 FEB 2017

Children's Funerals

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the costs of children's funerals.

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

This is an incredibly important issue, and the death of a child is always a tragedy for which families cannot plan. A number of local authorities already choose to waive fees for children's funerals. It is hoped all local authorities would carefully consider their policy in this area. As democratically elected organisations, however, they are independent of central Government and are responsible for managing their budgets in line with local priorities.
There is a role that central government can play, which is why the Department for Work and Pensions operates the Social Fund Funeral Payment scheme. This continues to provide valuable help for people in receipt of a qualifying benefit. With an average award in 2015-16 of £1,410, the scheme is making a real contribution to the funeral costs of those who need it. Indeed, the average award has increased by 27 per cent since 2006.
The scheme meets the full necessary costs of a cremation or burial. Other costs, such as the coffin, and church and funeral directors' fees, are limited to a maximum scheme payment of £700. There is, however, no restriction on the type of funeral expenses that can be claimed under this category.
A Minister is restarting a round table group with the funeral industry and bereavement charities, because it is important that the Government has a better understanding of how the industry works, and what more can be done to help.


09 FEB 2017

Article 50 Amendments

The Bill debated this week was necessary to allow the triggering of Article 50. Whilst the debate reiterated guarantees from Government that Parliament will get a final say with a vote on the deal negotiated, this is not on the face of the Bill. It was decided to keep this as straight forward as possible rather than allow it to become a complex mechanism which could bind the hands of the negotiating team. I am also satisfied that the rights of EU nationals already resident in the U.K. will be settled at the earliest possible stage after an early triggering of A50.


09 FEB 2017

NHS Continuing Healthcare

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC).

I understand you are concerned about how CHC is implemented and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

The Government is committed to delivering an NHS which provides personalised care, closer to home, according to patient need. The NHS's Five Year Forward View highlights the importance of raising standards and providing integrated services for everyone.
The National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare was established in 2007 and lays the foundations for improved standard practice. In 2013 the Government made it mandatory for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS England to follow this framework, creating a new legal obligation.
NHS England must be assured that CCGs are complying with the National Framework and from 2015/16, NHS Continuing Healthcare has been included in the assurance processes for CCGs.
One of the priority areas that the assurance process focuses on is the 'assessment and decision making processes are lawful, high quality and timely'. This ensures that CCG policies and procedures are compliant with the National Framework as well as improving the consistency of NHS CHC assessments across the NHS.


08 FEB 2017

SPUC Campaign

In response to the SPUC campaign I would like to make clear that I support the right of women to access safe termination of pregnancy and will not be supporting any change in the law to make this more difficult.


07 FEB 2017

Families in Debt

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about families in debt.

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

The Families with Children and Young People in Debt (Respite) Bill, introduced by Kelly Tolhurst MP, would place a duty on lenders to provide financial respite for families with children and young people in debt.
The Government is committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.
Further to this, action has been taken to reduce levels of personal debt. Household debt as a proportion of income has fallen to 142 per cent in 2016, down from a peak of 160 per cent in 2008. The Government's plan for a higher wage, lower welfare society makes it easier for families and working people to save, and includes the new National Living Wage which will mean a pay boost for 1.7 million workers this year.


07 FEB 2017

Settlements Debate

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Backbench Business Committee debate on illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) which is being held on the 9th of February.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day and will be unable to attend. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

It is long standing UK Government policy that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve and that is why the UK supported resolution 2234 at the UN on before Christmas.
Government Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, and the Israeli authorities are well aware of the UK's long standing position.
While there are currently no plans for legislation to ban the import of settlement products, the Government works with the EU to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products. This work includes measures to ensure that settlement produce does not enter the EU duty-free, under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and steps to ensure that EU-wide guidelines are issued to make sure that settlement products are not incorrectly labelled as Israeli produce, in violation of EU consumer protection regulations. Consumers should be in a position to make informed decisions about companies they choose to engage with.


07 FEB 2017

EDM 884

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to EDM 884 and the plight of the Rohingya in Burma.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 884, 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 you will find the following information on this matter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of interest:

With regard to the human rights and humanitarian situation in Rakhine, a range of human rights organisations report of human rights violations by the security forces. Humanitarian access is also restricted which is particularly impacting those already affected by malnutrition.
The UN Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, recently visited the region and has publicly criticised the crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority and urged the military to respect the law and human rights.
Ministers share concerns about this crisis and continue to engage with the Burmese Government on this. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary visited Burma in January and discussed the need for a restrained security approach with the Home Affairs Minister, as well as the importance of resuming humanitarian access and of ending discrimination against the Rohingya. He also raised these issues with the State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Government has considered the viability of a UN Commission of Inquiry into this issue. However establishing an inquiry would require broad international support; unfortunately this simply does not exist in the current international environment
As you may be aware, the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which is led by Kofi Annan, was put in place last year and is due to produce a report in August. Ministers have had a number of conversations with Kofi Annan about the work that is ongoing and it is hoped that it will bring about real improvements to the welfare of all in Rakhine State.


06 FEB 2017

EDM 400

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard animal testing and EDM 400.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 400 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The Government considers that the carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving the understanding of how biological systems work and in the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies.
At the same time, the Government believes that animals should only be used when there is no practicable alternative and it actively supports and funds the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs).
Without animal testing Ministers consider that it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials. However, by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science the Government will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.
Advances in biomedical science and technologies are all providing new opportunities to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research. As part of this, a Non-animal Technologies Road map for the UK has been produced which offers an approach for the UK to develop, exploit and deploy new non-animal technologies for long-term economic and societal benefit.

The EDM rightly draws attention to the UK life science sector's Concordat on Openness in Animal Research which was launched last year, and it provides new opportunities for transparency and debate in this area. Ultimately, however, EU and UK law requires safety testing on animals before human trials for new medicines can begin and animal research still plays an important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines.


02 FEB 2017

HS2

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about HS2.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport of interest:

HS2 is a vital project for the UK, which will not only promote economic growth but also tackle the looming capacity crisis that our rail network faces.
HS2 is supported by all the major conurbations that it will serve, as they recognise the key benefits that it will bring to their areas. It will provide the capacity we need by trebling the number of seats into London Euston in the peak, with up to 18 trains an hour running in each direction. Estimates suggest that, for every £1 invested in the project, the UK economy will receive over £2.50 in benefits. The construction alone will create around 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships.
The Department for Transport did assess the potential alternatives to HS2. The study concluded that the alternatives did not provide sufficient additional capacity to meet long term needs and failed to provide the same level of connectivity benefits.
HS2 Ltd has sought to design HS2 to avoid environmental impacts, including those on ancient woodlands, wherever reasonably practicable. Where this is not possible, mitigation or compensation measures will be undertaken.
HS2 is only one part of the Government's ambitious programme for improving the UK's infrastructure, and will not come at the cost of other transport investment. The 2015 Spending Review provided a total HS2 budget of around £15 billion over the next five years; this equates to less than 20 per cent of the Department for Transport's budget, including Network Rail expenditure.


01 FEB 2017

Animal Welfare

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the fur trade and the meeting about animal welfare that is being held on the 7th of February at 5pm.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day and will be unable to attend but I hope the following information on this matter from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

The importation of fur products is already tightly regulated, it is currently illegal to import furs derived from cats or dogs, or products made from them; in addition the fur and skin of endangered animals or fish cannot be imported without a valid permit.
Meanwhile, under European regulations it is prohibited to import furs or fur products from 13 wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught by leg-hold traps, or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping. Strict rules are in also place in the European Union to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely.
Once the UK has withdrawn from the EU it will be for the Government to consider future policies, taking into account the outcome of exit negotiations.


27 JAN 2017

Article 50

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

I know the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning the need for parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 has concerned many people. However, we all benefit from an independent judiciary, doing their job free from political control. Likewise a free press that's free to criticise those decisions.

To be clear, I will be supporting the decision of the majority in the referendum and voting to give the Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50.

The government position on this remains as below:

The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave its verdict in a free and fair referendum.
The Prime Minister has been clear that there must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the Government to make sure that this happens. Article 50 will be triggered no later than the end of March 2017.
Nobody should believe that the negotiation process will be brief or straightforward. It is going to require significant expertise and a consistent approach.


27 JAN 2017

Brexit Trade

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about our future trading in light of Brexit.

I agree that trade can play a role in helping the world's poorest and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of International Trade of interest:

Following our decision to leave the EU, the UK now has the ability to shape its own trade policy. There are many opportunities and responsibilities that come with this. We must now capitalise on harnessing new export opportunities, attracting inward investment and building UK dynamism by making the UK the best place in the world to do business.
Alongside the great opportunities increased trade brings to this country, we must ensure that developing nations share in these benefits free trade is one of the most powerful tools we have to help those in the greatest need around the world. Research shows that trade is one of the best liberators of global poverty, as seen in China and India. The UK will seek to be a global advocate for free trade ensuring that government works together to help eradicate global poverty, including as part of a future UK trade policy.


26 JAN 2017

Sex Education

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

I also think that sex education should be compulsory. I believe that sex education has to be about more than 'plumbing and prevention' and I think that, once it becomes age appropriate, topics such as relationships and consent should also be discussed.

I am concerned about the extent to which young people are gathering information about sex from pornography, which is often violent and distorts understanding of what constitutes as consent. In addition, it is clearly of paramount importance that future generations understand the danger of sexually transmitted diseases and how they spread. After decades of highlighting this information to combat such diseases we do not want all the progress we have made to go to waste. I quite understand that many parents wish to broach these subjects with their children themselves. However, we should make sure all children receive the information they need. On the matter of reducing unplanned pregnancy at all ages, progress is being made on this and I do think that making sex education mandatory could be of further help.

I signed a letter to this effect to the Secretary of State for Education which you may be interested to view via the following link: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Education/Correspondence/Chairs-letter-to-Secretary-of-State-re-PSHE-status-29-11-2016.PDF


25 JAN 2017

Bedouin communities

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the proposed demolition of Umm al-Hiran.

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

There is concern about reports that a violent incident occurred in the Negev Bedouin village of Um al-Hiran (in Green Line Israel) on 18 January. It is understood that the village has a demolition order issued against it.
The UK Government has called on the Israeli authorities and the Bedouin community to work together to find a solution that meets the needs and respects the rights of the people affected. This should include a robust planning process that adequately consults and addresses the needs of Israel's Bedouin communities.


25 JAN 2017

Bowel Cancer Screening

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

I understand you would like to see the screening age for bowel cancer lowered and I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Over eight in ten cases of bowel cancer occur in the over 60s and early diagnosis is key.
Under the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, people aged 60-74 years old are sent a home testing kit every two years. Those aged above the eligible age limit are also able to self-refer for screening. As part of the Programme, a new test is being introduced which is easier to complete and it is hoped that 200,000 more people per year will take up the opportunity to be screened. An additional one-off bowel scope screening test is also being introduced for those aged 55 years old.
Cancer survival rates in the UK have never been higher, however, there is still more to be done. The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. By 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks.


25 JAN 2017

Trident

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the reports into a misfire of a Trident missile last year.

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

In June 2016, the Royal Navy conducted a routine unarmed Trident missile test launch from HMS Vengeance. This was as part of an operation which is designed to certify the submarine and its crew. Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested and certified, allowing Vengeance to return into service. The capability and effectiveness of the Trident missile, should we ever need to employ it, is unquestionable. It is absolutely vital that we maintain a continuous independent nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantee of our national security, and recent developments in the construction of the Successor submarines are welcomed. The Government has consistently set out the case for maintaining our nuclear deterrent: although no state currently has both the intent and the capability to threaten the independence and integrity of the UK, we cannot know how the international environment will change in the future
The MOD does not provide further details on submarine operations for obvious national security reasons.

The Secretary of State for Defence also answered questions on this topic in the House and you can view this via the following link:


25 JAN 2017

Kadcyla

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the debate on access to Kadcyla and other breast cancer drugs being held at 2.15pm on Thursday the 26th of January.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments, however I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is currently updating its guidance on the use of Kadcyla as a treatment for secondary breast cancer.
People with cancer place great importance on drugs that can increase their life expectancy and therefore NICE applies as much flexibility as it can when looking at new life-extending treatments. Unfortunately, NICE has previously found that the price being charged for Kadcyla by the pharmaceutical company which manufacturers it was too high in relation to the benefits it gives for it to be recommended for routine commissioning in the NHS.
Draft updated NICE guidance on Kadcyla has been published for consultation and NICE's final guidance is expected in March 2017. Kadcyla will continue to be available through the Cancer Drugs Fund while the NICE appraisal is ongoing.


23 JAN 2017

Place to Call Home

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Place to Call Home campaign and the related EDM, number 833.

I understand you would like me to sign the EDM on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions of interest:

Supported housing provides an invaluable service for many vulnerable and disabled people, including many suffering from mental ill-health. The Government has made clear that it understands that supported housing providers have specific needs. That is why an evidence review of supported housing was carried out and has provided a helpful insight into the scale, scope and costs of the sector.
It is right that the Government is reforming the welfare system to ensure the support it provides is fair and reasonable, but it is also important that appropriate protections are in place. The Government has decided to defer the implementation of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates in the social rented sector until April 2019.
At that point, those living in supported accommodation will have their core rent and service charges funded through their benefit up to the level of LHA. In recognition of the needs of those in supported housing, the Shared Accommodation Rate will not apply.
The Government will devolve to local authorities in England an amount of funding to cover costs above the level of LHA, and will ring-fence the top-up fund to ensure it continues to support vulnerable people. An equivalent amount will be provided for Scotland and Wales. Bringing in both the LHA rates and the new model in 2019 gives time to develop the detail in partnership with the sector, and for providers to prepare for the new system.
This ring-fenced pot of money will give local authorities greater flexibility to commission services in line with local needs and to work more closely with other local services. The Government is working with the sector to ensure this system of top-up funding will provide a secure long-term funding solution.
While Ministers are confident that this model will meet the needs of the majority of the sector, they have recognised some particular challenges may remain for very short-term accommodation, including hostels and refuges. The Government will work with the sector to develop further options to ensure that providers of shorter-term accommodation continue to receive appropriate funding for their important work.


23 JAN 2017

Nursing Pay

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Westminster Hall debate on nurses pay being held on Monday the 30th of January at 4.30 pm. I will try to attend the debate.

You may be interested to know that the Health Select Committee intends to hold an inquiry into the impact of nursing bursaries and the nursing workforce in the autumn once the final uptake of nursing places is published.

If you would like to be notified once the call for evidence has been published, you can sign up for email alerts via the Committee website http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/contact-us/


19 JAN 2017

World Cancer Day

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about World Cancer Day. I understand you would like me to attend the event Cancer Research UK are holding on Wednesday the 1st of February at 12.30 pm but unfortunately, I have prior commitments and will be unable to do so.

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

UK cancer survival rates have never been higher, however, there is still more to be done. The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity, along with a national training programme for an additional 200 staff with the skills and expertise to carry out endoscopy tests by 2018. NHS England has also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy across England.
Early diagnosis of cancer is key and that is why the Government has run a series of Be Clear on Cancer campaigns in order to raise public awareness of the symptoms of cancer.
The Government remains committed to the £1.2 billion Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people to access the life-extending drugs they need.


18 JAN 2017

Proposed takeover of Punch Taverns

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the proposed takeover of Punch Taverns PLC by Heineken.

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

This does remain a commercial matter. That said, it is clearly a huge vote of confidence in the British pub, and an offer currently rests with Punch shareholders for agreement in the coming weeks. This will, of course, be subject to regulatory approval and receive appropriate scrutiny from the competition authorities.
The Pubs Code came into force last July, giving tenants more rights and greater protection when dealing with large pub companies that own tied pubs. An independent adjudicator has also been set up to help ensure tied tenants are treated fairly by pub companies and are no worse off than free-of-tie publicans.
Ultimately, the UK has benefited greatly from being an open and free economy. British companies have been successful in attracting investment into the UK and generating the wealth that the nation needs to prosper.


16 JAN 2017

Asylum for Torture Survivors

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about asylum for torture survivors.

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

Granting protection to those who genuinely need it and refusing those who do not, in as efficient, sensitive and effective a way as possible, is crucial.
In that vein all members of staff who make asylum decisions receive a comprehensive level of training. This includes a dedicated five-week Foundation Training Programme that includes training on international and domestic law and safeguarding issues, which is supplemented by a mentoring programme with an experienced caseworker that lasts from three to six months. More specifically, the Foundation Training Programme also includes a detailed section which covers torture claims involving medico-legal reports.
The course is explicit that decision makers must not make clinical judgements and must properly consider evidence and give appropriate weight to all evidence presented in order to reach an informed decision, only rejecting claims when there is a significant reason to do so. The course includes example medico-legal reports which the trainees must analyse and interpret as part of a number of practical exercises.
Similarly following training, there is a robust quality assurance process in place involving technical specialists embedded within each team, senior caseworkers within each unit and a national internal quality audit team who ensure that all policies are complied with when decisions are made.
Asylum Operations recently received funding from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to review and redevelop its training prospectus. As part of that work, Asylum Operations is liaising with a range of external stakeholders, including charities and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that there is robust and effective safeguarding training. The cases of those who have been abused who claim asylum in the UK must be processed quickly and efficiently, and the procedures are in place to do so. 


12 JAN 2017

NHS Funding

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about NHS funding.

You have asked what I am personally doing on the issue and you may be interested to read my recent piece in the British Medical Journal which now appears on my website, on the scale of the financial challenge and the need for cross party working to find a new settlement for properly funding both health and social care.

As chair of the Health Select Committee, I have also written to the Prime Minister alongside the Chairs of the Public Accounts Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmcomloc/170106-Letter-to-Prime-Minister-on-social-care-and-NHS.pdf

I have also met with both the Chancellor and PM to discuss these pressures and the need for urgent action. My letter to the Chancellor prior to the Autumn Statement set out my concerns following on from the Health Committee's inquiry into NHS and social care finances.

https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/Health/Correspondence/2016-17/chair-to-chancellor-NHS-funding-26-10-2016.pdf

I will continue to raise these issues in Parliament and campaign on your behalf of all those who need health care and social care now, and in the future.


12 JAN 2017

Finn's Law

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about police animals and Finn's Law.

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

Police support animals make a valuable contribution in the detection and prevention of crime and in maintaining public safety. Attacks of any sort on police dogs or horses are unacceptable and should be dealt with severely under the criminal law.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 an attack on a police dog or other police support animal can be treated as causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and the maximum penalty is 6 months' imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. Indeed the financial element of the penalty was raised in 2015 from a maximum fine of £20,000. Similarly an attack on a police animal could be considered by the court as an aggravating factor leading to a higher sentence. Under some circumstances assaults on support animals could be treated as criminal damage which would allow for penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment.
The Government has also requested that the Sentencing Council considers assaults on police animals as an aggravating factor as a part of their current review on guidelines for sentencing in the Magistrates' Courts, which includes animal cruelty offences.
While the current penalties are appropriate, it is unpalatable to think of police animals as merely 'equipment' as the charge of criminal damage might suggest, and does not convey the respect and gratitude felt for the animals involved and their contribution to law enforcement and public safety. Work across Government is underway to explore whether there is more that the law should do to offer the most appropriate protections to police animals and all working animals.


12 JAN 2017

Marie Curie Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about support for GPs with terminally ill patients.

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

The Government's ambition is for everyone approaching the end of life to receive high quality care that reflects their individual needs, choices and preferences.
In July 2016, the Government set out plans to improve end of life care in England in its response to the independent Review of Choice in End of Life Care. The proposals were based on a commitment to ensure high quality, personalised end of life care for everyone at, or approaching the end of life. It states that everyone should be able to expect to have honest discussions between care professionals and terminally ill people.
Since 2012-13 GP surgeries have been able to schedule appointments for as long as they see fit depending on the needs of their patients. GPs who want to spend more time with terminally ill patients are now able to do so.
The Government has also committed to developing the GP and community nursing workforces to improve end of life care. Health Education England is working closely with health care organisations to ensure that we have a skilled, trained and motivated workforce in general practice.
In order to reduce the workload and bureaucracy that takes away from patient care, the Government is working with NHS England to deliver changes that will release more clinical time for patients. NHS England published its General Practice Forward View in April 2016 which sets out a major new initiative, 'Releasing Time for Patients'.
In addition, Ministers have committed to making available 10,000 primary and community care staff, including an estimated 5,000 more doctors working in general practice by 2020.


09 JAN 2017

Civil Partnerships for Different Sex Couples

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about calls for heterosexual couples to be given the right to enter in to civil partnerships.

I do appreciate the arguments for civil partnerships to be available for everyone but the Government position on this matter remains as below:

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 had a specific focus on extending marriage to same-sex couples who could not previously marry. The Act did, however, stipulate that there should be a review of civil partnership in England and Wales.

The Government carried out a full public consultation on the future and operation of civil partnership in 2014, receiving almost 11,500 responses, during which a range of views were expressed. The majority of respondents were against broadening civil partnerships to include opposite sex couples. The decision not to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples was recently subject to Judicial Review that found the current system does not discriminate against heterosexual couples.

Some people have expressed concern that the continued availability of civil partnerships only for same sex couples could result in inequality and unfairness for opposite sex couples. On the other hand, some feel that with marriage now available for all couples, the need for civil partnerships falls away. There is, of course, the option for all those in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage; however it is recognised that not all couples in civil partnerships wish to do this. It is entirely reasonable for the Government to wait to see the impact of extending marriage to same sex couples before deciding on the way forward.


22 DEC 2016

UN Medicines

Thank you for taking the time to email me about access to medicines.

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

The Government is committed to ensuring access to low cost and effective medicines, both in the UK and across the developing world.
The Government continues to work closely with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) to control the cost of branded health service medicines. The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) supports the NHS by ensuring that the branded medicines bill stays within affordable limits. The Department of Health recognises the cost of research and development within the prices paid for NHS medicines. Company spend on research and development, marketing, production and distribution is transparent through a company's reporting accounts. The Department of Health will consider an application to an increase to a medicine's NHS list price from a PPRS scheme member only where there is significant new evidence to support a price increase application.
Across the developing world, the Government has supported the provision of essential medicines and other health products through global partnerships such as the Medicines Patent Pool. Increased emphasis has been placed on research and development, as shown by the UK's leading investment in public-private Product Development Partnerships, which are designed to stimulate research and development were market incentives are insufficient.
While the UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicine raises important points, the Department for International Development has noted that the panel could not however reach agreement on the best approach moving forwards. The Government is therefore of the view that the World Health Organisation, who have already undertaken significant research on the global barriers to medicine, will be best placed to consider which recommendations from the panel will add most value to our national strategy.


22 DEC 2016

Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) Bill.

I understand your concerns on this matter and hope the following information on this matter from the Department for International Development is of interest:

No country can defeat poverty without sustained economic growth, creating jobs and raising taxes for public services. CDC's mission is to create jobs and achieve lasting change for people in the poorest countries in Africa and Asia. CDC currently has investments in more than 1,200 businesses in over 70 countries. In 2015, the businesses that CDC invested in helped create over a million new direct and indirect jobs in the world's poorest countries.
CDC investments deliver significant development impact, while at the same time generating a financial return, every penny of which is re-invested. Over the past three years alone, CDC's investee companies have also generated over US$7 billion worth of local tax revenue, which helps support public services like health and education in developing countries.
CDC has radically transformed its approach over the last five years to ensure its support is targeted where it is needed most, where it can have the greatest impact for the poorest and deliver value for money for UK taxpayers. DFID works closely with CDC to ensure it is at the forefront of global standards including on transparency and development impact.
The Bill will raise the limit on the level of financial support the Government can provide to CDC. The current limit, of £1.5 billion, was set 17 years and has now been reached. The Bill will raise the cumulative financial limit by £4.5 billion to £6 billion, with the potential to raise it further to £12 billion in the future, allowing CDC to continue with its pioneering work. However, even if the Bill passes, no new capital will be released to CDC will a clear business case subject to Ministerial scrutiny and approval.


21 DEC 2016

Sky Takeover

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

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

Sky has stated that it received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, has powers to intervene in certain media mergers on public interest grounds. These powers derive from legislation which also includes Government guidance on the operation of these public interest merger provisions.
Any transaction will be looked at on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. The guidance makes it clear that the Secretary of State will aim to take an initial decision on whether to intervene within ten working days of formal notification of the merger to the competition authorities, or of the transaction being brought to her attention. Ministers have stated that no such formal notification has yet been received.
The role of the Secretary of State is a quasi-judicial one, and it is important that she acts independently and is not subject to improper influence. It would therefore be inappropriate for the Government to comment further at this time.


19 DEC 2016

UNICEF

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

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

The UK has contributed significantly to hosting, supporting and protecting the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children. Similarly since October 2016, the Government has transferred more than 750 unaccompanied children to the UK in support of the French operation to clear the Calais camp, including approximately 200 children who meet the criteria for section 67 of the Immigration Act.
The current phase of transfers from France has now been completed in conjunction with the French authorities. The remaining children, who do not qualify to come to the UK, are safe and in the care of the French authorities, and the Government is working closely with the French authorities to ensure that children remaining in France are provided with information on how to claim asylum there.
It is important to remember that all minors with close family in the UK were considered for transfer, regardless of age or nationality. In addition, those aged 12 or under and those at high risk of sexual exploitation were considered regardless of nationality.
The UK's obligations under the Dublin Regulation will continue to be met, while more eligible children will be transferred from Europe, in line with the terms of the Immigration Act, in the coming months, and this will include children from France.


16 DEC 2016

Homelessness Reduction Bill.

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

I agree that this is a serious issue and I greatly appreciate the work done by the Shekinah Mission and the Revival Life Ministries in the constituency. Homelessness has been one of the factors leading to avoidable tragedies and the government at both national and local level have to play their part in reducing this risk.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the report stage of the Homelessness Reduction Bill on the 20th January as I will be in the constituency but I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Communities and Local Government of interest:

The Bill will provide significant support to those who are about to or have already been made homeless. The Bill will place a new duty on councils to support those who are homeless. Councils will be required to help those threatened with homelessness or who are already homeless find a home.

The Government is protecting homelessness prevention funding for councils. Central funding to tackle homelessness is also being increased to £139 million and this will include targeted funding for rough sleeping. I should also mention that statutory homelessness is now 57 per cent below its peak in 2003-04 under the previous Labour Government.

Thank you for getting in touch and as the bill has government support I would say that it is likely to pass.


15 DEC 2016

Istanbul Tax

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

I understand you would like me to attend the vote on the Private Member's Bill concerning violence against women and the Istanbul Convention and the vote on the Double Taxation Treaties (Developing Countries) Bill on Friday the 16th of December, unfortunately, I will be unable to attend as I have prior commitments in the constituency that day.

Nonetheless, I do share your concerns that the Istanbul Convention should be ratified as soon as possible and this is something I have raised before with the Home Office in the form of Written Parliamentary Questions.

I hope the following information on this matter from the Home Office is of interest:

This Government remains committed to tackling violence against women and girls, and to ratifying the Istanbul Convention. The previous Government signed the Convention in June 2012, and in most respects, the measures already in place in the UK to protect women and girls from violence comply with or go further than the Convention requires.
It is the case that further amendments to domestic law, to take extra-territorial jurisdiction over a range of offences, are necessary before the Convention can be ratified. The Government will seek to legislate when the approach to implementing the extra-territorial jurisdiction requirements in England and Wales is agreed and Parliamentary time allows.
The UK continues to lead efforts at home and abroad to tackle violence against women and girls, end Female Genital Mutilation and combat early and forced marriage.


15 DEC 2016

Ofcom

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the auctioning of spectrum.

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

Ofcom is responsible for the health of the UK mobile market, in line with its statutory duties. These duties include the promotion of competition and efficient use of spectrum.
Ofcom recently launched a consultation on the upcoming spectrum auction. The auction consists of 2.3 GHz spectrum, which is already useable for better 4G services and 3.4 GHz spectrum which is unlikely to be useable for at least two to three years, but could help unlock a new wave of future services such as 5G.
Ofcom agrees that there is a competition concern around the 2.3 GHz spectrum available and it has therefore imposed a cap on bidding. The cap prevents any one company holding more than 45 per cent of spectrum that can be used immediately after the auction. It also argues that by the time 3.4 GHz spectrum is usable, other bands will become available and there is therefore no immediate necessity for action on competition grounds in respect of this spectrum.
Ofcom has been clear that its intervention has been minimal as it does not want to distort the auction by giving the smaller operators a price break through the weakening of competition. Furthermore, there are concerns it would provide a perverse incentive for smaller operators to under-bid in this and future auctions if they always expected intervention in their favour on grounds of lacking spectrum.


15 DEC 2016

Flaw In The Law

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the NSPCC's Flaw In The Law campaign.

Sexual communication with a child is abhorrent, which is why the Government legislated to make it a specific offence. The Government remains committed to commencing this law as soon as possible.


15 DEC 2016

Syria

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

I agree that the scenes coming out of Aleppo are horrifying and I hope the following information on this matter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on what the UK is doing to assist is reassuring:

The scenes from Syria, and Aleppo in particular, have been absolutely heart-breaking. We are seeing shocking levels of violence with the Syrian regime and Russia indiscriminately bombing the country's people. The Government is continuing its efforts to persuade both sides to agree a ceasefire and then work towards a political solution.
The UK is currently working with international partners to try to find a way through this horrific situation. Britain is taking a lead, alongside our allies America and France, in highlighting what is happening in Syria. We have also been putting pressure on Syria and Russia through the UN Security Council.
As well as diplomatic efforts, we are also at the forefront of the humanitarian response in the region. The UK has pledged £2.3 billion to the Syria crisis and is the second largest humanitarian donor after the US.


15 DEC 2016

Betting

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about fixed-odds betting terminals and gambling advertising.

I agree that we need to do more to tackle the problem of addictive betting machines and hope the following information on this matter from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

The Government understands the public concerns around fixed odds betting terminals and wants to see a responsible gambling industry which protects players. The Government has already put in place a number of measures around FOBTs, for example, in 2015 it took action to introduce a new requirement that those accessing higher stakes (over £50) on these gaming machines must load cash via staff interaction or use account-based play.
However, Ministers recognise further action might be necessary to strike the right balance between enabling people to bet responsibly and ensuring consumers and communities are protected. In October, the Government launched a review into gaming machines and social responsibility, which will include looking closely at FOBTs and specific concerns about the harm they cause, be that to the players themselves or the local communities which they are located. The call for evidence closed at the beginning of December and the Government will now review the evidence to assist in its decisions.
It is vital that people, particularly the young and vulnerable, are protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Responsibility for the oversight of advertising is shared between the Advertising Standards Authority, Ofcom and the Gambling Commission. In 2014, some of the provisions around advertising in this area were strengthened. However, the current review, is also looking at gambling advertising to understand whether the right measures in place to ensure that the young and vulnerable are protected.


15 DEC 2016

Heat Wastage

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about energy efficiency and insulation.

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

All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements so there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations. Households struggling with their bills are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. Homeowners and those in privately rented homes who are on specific benefits may also be eligible for support towards heating improvements, including oil-fired boiler replacements, through ECO Affordable Warmth.
The Government has made a commitment to insulate 1 million more homes this Parliament, with 276,000 homes insulated already since May 2015 to end July 2016. In last year's Spending Review, the Government announced a new energy efficiency supplier obligation that will be more focused on those that need the help the most. This will replace ECO in 2017, and run for five years. These proposal will increase support for low income and vulnerable households from £310 million to £450 million in 2017, with an intention to increase this to £640 million each year from 2018 to 2022.
The introduction of regulation for minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector, which will come into force from April 2018 is also welcomed. The rolling out of the smart meter scheme will also help consumers understand and take control of their energy use.
Ministers are aware of the particular challenges faced by those living off the gas grid and are looking at the best ways to help. An important part of this is the £25m Central Heating Fund, which will fund the installation of first time central heating systems in low income homes off the gas grid.
The Renewable Heat Incentive programme supports the installation of renewable heating systems and is primarily designed to offer off-gas households affordable heating alternatives. It compensates for the additional costs of replacing an oil boiler with a renewable heating system.
Different energy suppliers may have different funding offers through their installers so it is important to shop around for the best quote. Ofgem, which administers the scheme, provides further information about ECO for consumers on its website, including contact details for the energy suppliers.

You may also like to contact the Government-funded Energy Saving Advice Service, which can provide independent advice on the full range of energy efficiency support. The number to call is 0300 123 1234.


10 DEC 2016

Local Bookmakers

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

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

The Government is aware of the role that betting shops and the wider gambling industry plays in the leisure economy. It employs over 100,000 people and in 2015 contributed £10.3bn to the economy. The aim of the Government is to ensure that legislation in this area strikes the right balance between allowing the gambling industry to grow and contribute to the economy while ensuring consumers and communities are protected.
That is why the Government has launched a call for evidence on various aspects of the gambling industry, including considering the maximum stakes and prizes for gaming machines. The review will gather evidence to fully assess current rules and protocols in the gambling sector and help the Government to make decisions on any necessary amendments to gambling regulation.


09 DEC 2016

Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) and climate change.

I understand your concern on this matter, however the PCPF is a funded defined benefit pension scheme, managed by Trustees in line with scheme rules and any relevant legislation. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is responsible for oversight of the scheme. Therefore, changes related to divestment would not be a decision for the Government.

I understand that following concerns being raised in this area, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Brian Donohoe, stated that he had received legal advice indicating that to exclude a sector would be incompatible with the Trustees' legal and fiduciary duties of investment.


07 DEC 2016

CCTV in Equine Slaughterhouses

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the calls for CCTV to be installed in equine slaughterhouses.

I would like to be clear that I agree and would personally like to see CCTV in all slaughterhouses, equine or otherwise. I feel it would help to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare and I understand the concerns expressed on this matter.

The following information from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs clarifies however that the government does not feel that action needs to be taken on this matter at this time:

The Government shares the British public's high regard for the welfare of horses. Horses are covered by the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations, which set out requirements pertinent to the protection of animals at slaughter. Specifically, the business operator must ensure that a separate bay or room is provided for the killing of horses; a horse cannot be killed in a room or bay where there are remains of a horse or other animal; and a horse cannot be killed within sight of another horse.
Of the five approved equine slaughterhouses in England and Wales, three have CCTV installed in some areas for animal welfare purposes. Indeed, in the past 12 months, only 32 of 3,280 horses slaughtered were in plants without CCTV. I would note that the feedback the Government has had from the Food Standards Agency's official veterinarians, who monitor animal health and welfare regulations during slaughter, is that it has not encountered any particular problems or concerns about the welfare of horses at slaughter.
CCTV cannot be a substitute for responsible food business operators, and, while it does play a useful role, is not a panacea. If it is used, it is preferable that it is used because food business operators really want it, and want to use it to improve the management of their operation. When considering these matters, care is required to ensure that the culture is not inadvertently changed, and all the benefits from CCTV lost. The Government is yet to be convinced that it should be mandatory.


06 DEC 2016

EDM 140

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the law regarding guardianship of missing persons and the related EDM, number 140.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 140, 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 matter from the Ministry of Justice is of interest:

The sudden disappearance of a loved one, perhaps without any obvious explanation, is a traumatic event. In addition to the trauma of someone going missing, families have faced the uncertainty and confusion of not knowing what will happen to their absent loved one's property and financial affairs and have been powerless to do anything about it.

The Government's decision to create the new legal status of guardian of the property and affairs of a missing person is welcomed. The Government strongly supports the creation of the new legal status and is now preparing the necessary legislation to enable the proposed scheme to be implemented as quickly as possible.


06 DEC 2016

Article 50

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

The recent high court ruling concerning the need for parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 has concerned many people. However, at this stage we cannot be certain of the final ruling as the government has decided to appeal this decision.

We all benefit from an independent judiciary, doing their job free from political control. Likewise a free press that's free to criticise those decisions. I am appalled however, by the language used by some elements of the press, referring to judges as 'enemies of the people' and feel it would be far better for them to recognise that we need our judges to be free to uphold the law free from intimidation. Editors should in my personal opinion take greater care to respect the same independence of the judiciary that the press rightly demands for itself.

If the Supreme Court does uphold the decision that Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50, I will be supporting the decision of the majority in the referendum and voting to give the Prime Minister the power to do so.

The government position on this remains as below:

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are clear that it is the United Kingdom's Government's decision on when to trigger Article 50. The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament and the Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.
The Conservative Government's 2015 election manifesto also pledged to "respect the outcome" of the EU referendum, whatever the result was. The Government therefore has a clear electoral mandate to implement the result of the referendum and reflect the will of the British people.
The Government has been clear that Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum. The referendum campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict. The country voted to leave the European Union, and it the duty of the Government to make sure we do just that.
Parliament will of course have a say on withdrawal, not least through the Great Repeal Bill. The Great Repeal Bill, to be introduced in the next parliamentary session, will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book. This means that the legislation which gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which the UK formally leave the EU. The existing body of EU law will be converted to UK law wherever practical and Parliament will be free to amend, repeal and improve any law that it chooses.


01 DEC 2016

Fur Trade

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

I understand your concern on this matter and I do not want to see any unnecessary pain or harm inflicted upon animals. I hope you will find the following information on this topic reassuring:

The importation of fur products is already tightly regulated, it is currently illegal to import furs derived from cats or dogs, or products made from them; in addition the fur and skin of endangered animals or fish cannot be imported without a valid permit.
Meanwhile, under European regulations it is prohibited to import furs or fur products from 13 wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught by leg-hold traps, or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping. Strict rules are in also place in the European Union to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely.
Once the UK has withdrawn from the EU it will be for the Government to consider future policies, taking into account the outcome of exit negotiations.

With regard to the last point, I am certainly not aware of an intention to lessen the existing standards, and will be interested to monitor the position as it develops.


30 NOV 2016

Higher Education and Research Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Higher Education and Research Bill.

I understand your concerns on this matter and hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Education of interest:

Student engagement should be in the culture and structure of the new Office for Students (OfS). The Government introduced an amendment to the Bill to further strengthen this, requiring a dedicated Board member of the OfS who has experience of representing or promoting the interests of students. The Bill's proposal to introduce rigorous tests for providers who want to enter the system will mean poor quality or financially unsustainable providers will be prohibited, protecting students from the longer-term risk of their institution failing. The Bill also allows the OfS to require providers to have student protection plans. Transparency is important: a Government amendment means the OfS can also require providers to publish these and bring them to the attention of student.
Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university at a record rate-up from 13.6 per cent in 2009 to 18.5 per cent in 2015. The changes in the Bill will help continue this trend: monitoring social mobility is at its core. It will introduce a new transparency duty to shine a spotlight on where institutions need to go further. Students will also be provided with 'outcomes data' so they can make informed course choices based on the employment rates of past graduates.
Finally, the Bill does not raise tuition fees or change the current scrutiny procedure for setting the maximum fee cap. Importantly, in real terms, the £9,000 annual fee cap for full-time students set in 2012 is now worth £8,546. The Teaching Excellence Framework will enable institutions that demonstrate high-quality teaching to access an upper fee limit that rises with inflation. This will ensure that our world-class higher education sector remains financially sustainable and able to invest in the excellent teaching students expect.


30 NOV 2016

Orkambi

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the availability of Orkambi.

I understand your concern on this matter, however I am afraid I will be unable to attend the debate on the implications of the Accelerated Access Review for those with Cystic Fibrosis on the 13th of December due to prior commitments.

However, issues surround access to Orkambi have already been raised with me and I wrote to the Heads of NHS England and NICE only a few weeks ago asking for an update on when the drug might be available and the timetable for further consideration. I am yet to receive the responses.

For now, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

Following a public consultation, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published final guidance in July 2016 which did not recommend Orkambi for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. NICE concluded that, compared to the current standard of care, the benefit Orkambi offered did not justify its considerable cost.
These are very difficult decisions to make. NICE only publishes final guidance on the use of a drug after very careful consideration of the available evidence and after thorough consultation.
The Government is determined to make the UK the best place in the world to produce new drugs and other products that can transform the health of patients. The publication of the final report by the Accelerated Access Review is welcomed. It provides a strong basis to make the right decisions about how the health system can be adapted to meet future challenges, attract inward investment, encourage growth in the thriving life science industry and use innovation to improve patient outcomes and tackle the financial pressures on the NHS. The Government is carefully considering its recommendations and will respond in due course.


30 NOV 2016

Humanist Marriages

Thank you for taking the time to email me with regard to your support for the legal recognition of humanist marriages.

In principle, I appreciate that there is not really a reason that humanists marriages should not go ahead. I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Ministry of Justice of interest:

Marriage is one of our most important institutions. The previous Government sought views in 2014 on marriages by non-religious belief organisations and concluded there were broader implications for marriage law. It was to this end that the Law Commission undertook initial scoping work to identify the issues for potential reform of the law concerning how and where people can get married in England and Wales.

Having investigated the issue, the Government is carefully considering the report and will respond in due course.


30 NOV 2016

Torture Survivors

Thank you for taking the time to email me about asylum for those who survive torture.

I agree that the Government should do all it can to support those who have been victims of torture and I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

Granting protection to those who genuinely need it and refusing those who do not, in as efficient, sensitive and effective a way as possible, is crucial. In that vein, all members of staff who make asylum decisions receive a comprehensive level of training. This includes a dedicated five-week Foundation Training Programme that includes training on international and domestic law and safeguarding issues, which is supplemented by a mentoring programme with an experienced caseworker that lasts from three to six months. More specifically, the Foundation Training Programme also includes a detailed section which covers torture claims involving medico-legal reports.
The course is explicit that decision makers must not make clinical judgements and must properly consider evidence and give appropriate weight to all evidence presented in order to reach an informed decision, only rejecting claims when there is a significant reason to do so. The course includes example medico-legal reports which the trainees must analyse and interpret as part of a number of practical exercises.
Similarly following training, there is a robust quality assurance process in place involving technical specialists embedded within each team, senior caseworkers within each unit and a national internal quality audit team who ensure that all policies are complied with when decisions are made.
Asylum Operations recently received funding from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to review and redevelop its training prospectus. As part of that work, Asylum Operations is liaising with a range of external stakeholders, including charities and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that there is robust and effective safeguarding training.
The cases of those who have been abused who claim asylum in the UK must be processed quickly and efficiently, the procedures are in place to do so.


30 NOV 2016

EDM 689

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about public bodies and EDM 689.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 689, 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 reassuring:

Where there is no longer a strong policy reason for continued public ownership or where there is potential for an asset to operate most sensibly and efficiently in the private sector, the Government will look into the potential sale of public sector assets. Asset sales help achieve stronger public finances, reduce national debt and encourage economic growth through investment.
To assist in this process the Treasury created a new government-owned company, UK Government Investments (UKGI), which began operations on in April 2016. UKGI will make it easier for government experts to work together to deliver the sale of a wide range of publicly owned assets in a way that secures good value for money. Last year, such sales included the release of shares in Lloyds Banking Group, UK Asset Resolution assets, Eurostar and the pre-2012 income contingent repayment student loan book; all of which generated £25 billion for the Government.
UKGI will also help the Government achieve its aim to run large, publicly-owned delivery bodies more efficiently, as well as learn from private sector expertise to improve the performance of taxpayer-owned assets. The Government is committed to ensuring the effective and efficient management of publicly owned assets and keeps ownership of all assets under review.


25 NOV 2016

Childhood Obesity

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

I agree this is a very concerning issue and I was critical of the watered down Childhood Obesity Strategy that was produced by the government. I actually wrote a blog piece on this matter which you may be interested to view via the following link:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah's-blog/childhood-obesity-a-plan-for-inaction/1841

This topic was also raised by several MPs in the debate I led this week on tackling health inequalities and you can find out more about this via the following link:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/reducing-health-inequality/2030

Thank you for getting in touch and I can assure you that I will keep on banging the drum on this matter.


24 NOV 2016

Umm al-Hiran

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the proposed demolition of Umm al-Hiran.

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

The Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, intends to raise the concerns expressed in the House of Commons about plans to demolish this Bedouin village in the Negev. Demolition orders delivered to residents had stated that initial demolitions would occur on 22 November, and although the demolition did not happen on this day, the threat remains.
The UK Government is calling on the Israeli authorities and the Bedouin community to work together to find a solution that meets the needs and respects the rights of the people affected. This should include a robust planning process that adequately consults and addresses the needs of Israel's Bedouin communities.


24 NOV 2016

Enough is Enough

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

I read your comments with interest and appreciate your distress on this matter. I hope the following at least sets out the government's position on this important issue:

The scenes from Syria, and Aleppo in particular, have been absolutely heart-breaking. We are seeing shocking levels of violence with the Syrian regime and Russia indiscriminately bombing the country's people. The Government is continuing its efforts to persuade both sides to agree a ceasefire and then work towards a political solution.
The UK is currently working with international partners to try to find a way through this horrific situation. Britain is taking a lead, alongside our allies America and France, in highlighting what is happening in Syria. We have also been putting pressure on Syria and Russia through the UN Security Council.
As well as diplomatic efforts, we are also at the forefront of the humanitarian response in the region. The UK has pledged £2.3 billion to the Syria crisis and is the second largest humanitarian donor after the US.
The situation in Syria is raised regularly in Parliament, including at Foreign Office Questions and International Development Questions. These occasions provide MPs from all parties with an opportunity to press Ministers on what they are doing to alleviate the suffering in Syria. Further to this, there was an emergency debate regarding the humanitarian situation in Aleppo in October.

Thank you for getting in touch and I cannot see that calling for an urgent debate would be of help at this time.


24 NOV 2016

Universal Credits

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about changes to Universal Credit and their impact on working families and incentives to work.

Unfortunately, I had prior commitments and was unable to attend the debate on this matter but I welcomed the announcement on this topic in the Autumn Statement and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Universal Credit is a major reform to our welfare system which is restoring the value of work, making sure it always pays to work, and crucially, that it pays to work more. Over 800,000 people have now made a claim to Universal Credit, with an average of more than 12,500 new claims being made every week.
Simplifying the benefits system by merging the main working-age benefits into a single payment, with a single taper rate, means claimants can be confident that they will always be better off when they move into work or increase their hours or earnings. Evidence is already showing that people move into work faster under Universal Credit; for every 100 people who find work under Jobseeker's Allowance, 113 Universal Credit claimants move into a job.
The Government is also helping people to progress in work by reducing the taper rate in Universal Credit from April 2017, meaning people will keep more of what they earn and will be better rewarded for increasing their hours or pay
While changes have been necessary to reform the system of 'work allowances' in Universal Credit, it is important to see this as part of a wider package of measures which together are designed to move us towards a lower welfare, lower tax, higher wage economy. The introduction of the National Living Wage is delivering a pay rise for millions of low paid workers, and people are keeping more of what they earn due to increases in their income tax personal allowance. The lowest paid workers saw their pay go up by the most last year, by over 6 per cent, well above inflation. Working parents are also benefitting from increased support with childcare costs.
Around half of all spending on welfare and public services is still going to the poorest 40 per cent of households, similar to the distribution in 2010. The best-off fifth of households will also be paying a greater proportion of taxes at the end of this Parliament than in 2010.

Transitional protections are in place for people who are migrated over to Universal Credit from an existing claim, so that people will not see a cash fall in their benefit entitlement. This transitional protection is not reduced when claimants increase their earnings, to ensure work incentives are maintained.


23 NOV 2016

Energy in Developing Countries

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about access to energy in developing countries.

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

Better energy is important for poor people to improve their lives. The UK remains committed to working towards Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. By 2015-16, DFID had helped to improve access to clean energy for nearly 5.3 million people, which is something we can all be proud of.
Decentralised renewable energy is important for accelerating progress in Africa. The Energy Africa campaign was launched in October last year, to help increase access to energy. Energy Africa aims to accelerate the expansion of the household solar market in Africa - a new and sustainable way of tackling energy poverty - and is about making the market work for the poor.
As well as the Energy Africa campaign, DFID supports other initiatives to increase people's access to energy through decentralised renewable energy. For example, the Renewable Energy and Adaptation to Climate Technologies (REACT) Challenge Fund has supported businesses in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda to provide clean energy for households, communities and businesses. The Results-Based Financing for low carbon energy access programme (RBF) incentivises businesses to connect households with decentralised and mini-grid renewable energy. Green mini-grid programmes aim to stimulate a mini-grids industry in Kenya, Tanzania and Africa wide.
The continent cannot realise its full potential until there is greater access to energy. DFID is looking forward to working with partners in Africa and elsewhere to realise Africa's energy potential.


23 NOV 2016

Multiple Sclerosis

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about employment support for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

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

Improving opportunities for people with health conditions and disabilities, including people suffering from MS, is a key priority for the Government. The aim of the Green Paper on work, health and disability which the Government has announced is to explore ways to help more people with long term conditions reap the benefits of work and improve their health.
The needs of people with MS will be considered very carefully as part of this. The Government has been clear that what we really need is a system which treats people as individuals, providing support based on what a person is capable of and how their condition affects their ability to work. That is especially important for people with a condition like MS, where the condition can differ greatly between people and can fluctuate over time.
As MS is on a spectrum, many people with MS will be in work. For those who are out of work and claiming Employment and Support Allowance, some will be placed in the Support Group. The Green Paper consults on how people placed in the Support Group can be better supported, to ensure they are able to access suitable employment and health support to fulfil their potential.
The MS Society has highlighted the report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on MS, 'Employment That Works'. The Government's Green Paper looks to address many of the recommendations of that report, such as working with employers to improve attitudes and build networks between employers, employees and charities. The report also calls for expansion of the Access to Work scheme; the Government has committed to help a further 25,000 people per year through the scheme by 2020-21, which will raise the number of people being helped each year to over 60,000.
The consultation runs until 17th February 2017.

You may be interested to contribute to the consultation and can find out how to do so via the following link:

https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/workandhealth/consult/


23 NOV 2016

Seabass Stocks

I have been receiving correspondence about seabass stocks.

I have already been contacted by constituents from both sides of this debate and have met with the Minister, environmentalists and stakeholders to discuss this. I agree that the low level of bass stocks is deeply concerning. The minister has taken advice and implemented stringent protections.

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

European sea bass is particularly vulnerable to overfishing, and the Government shares this concern too. Most bass are taken by the French fishing fleet, so Ministers have focused on addressing this issue at the European level by playing an active role in EU discussions about sea bass stocks.
The UK has been a lone voice on this issue and has played a leading role on it in Europe. At the December meeting of the European Fisheries Council last year, the UK's main concern was to agree measures that will allow bass fishing to become sustainable by 2018. All members of the Common Fisheries Policy need to be fully signed up if we are to achieve stock recovery, but there is now a firm timetable to achieve this objective, and it has to be the priority.

The UK has certainly played its part, reducing our estimated catch over the past year by 43 per cent compared with the average between 2011 and 2013.

With the decision to withdraw from the EU the UK will ultimately no longer be part of the Common Fisheries Policy, but we remain part of Europe and both the UK Government and EU leaders have announced that the UK and EU will continue to have a close relationship. We will continue to work with other European countries in this important area.


21 NOV 2016

Bilateral Investment Treaties

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about bilateral investment treaties and the related EDM, number 642.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 642, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

As we leave the EU, Britain will be the most active and passionate advocate of free trade anywhere in the world. The UK is signatory to over 90 bilateral investment treaties (BITs). The objective of BITs is to provide investors with fair and equitable treatment, protection against discriminatory action and a commitment not to expropriate investments without compensation. Fair, non-discriminatory and proportionate action taken by a state to protect human rights, development and the environment would not breach these agreements. The Government is not aware of any Investor-State Dispute Settlement claims made by UK investors under existing BITs that have led directly to or contributed towards a negative impact on any of these areas.
Once we begin to negotiate trade agreements on our own terms, Parliament will play its crucial role in ensuring the Government secures the best possible outcomes for the whole of the UK.


21 NOV 2016

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

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

CETA is a "mixed" agreement, covering areas of both EU and Member State competence. You may be interested to know that provisional agreement of CETA has only cleared the way for those areas of the agreement that fall solely within EU competence to be implemented, subject to the European Parliament's approval. It does not apply to areas of the agreement that are within member states' competence.
Those areas that are within Member State competence will not be applied until the UK and all other national parliaments have ratified the agreement. Parliament therefore retains its right to debate and scrutinise prior to full ratification.
Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union, the UK will need to begin the process of leaving the EU. The Department for International Trade is examining options to secure continued UK access to the trade preferences negotiated by the European Union to cover the period between leaving the EU and the coming into force of bespoke UK negotiated agreements.
The Government is determined that the UK will become a world leader in free trade, and ensure that we secure the right deals for the United Kingdom. These bespoke deals will be scrutinised by our Parliament as are all treaties.


19 NOV 2016

Breast Cancer

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the availability of bisphosphonates for people with breast cancer.

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

The Government is committed to improving survival rates for people with cancer. National prescribing arrangements already allow for bisphosphonates to be prescribed for the prevention of secondary breast cancer. Decisions about the funding of bisphosphonates for this use are rightly taken by local clinical commissioning groups which are best placed to know what local need exists.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is currently updating its advice to the NHS on the diagnosis and management of early and locally advanced breast cancer. The use of bisphosphonates is included in its scope and will be considered as part of the update, which is expected in July 2018.


19 NOV 2016

NHS Continuing Healthcare

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS Continuing Healthcare.

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

The Government is committed to delivering an NHS which provides personalised care, closer to home, according to patient need. The NHS's Five Year Forward View highlights the importance of raising standards and providing integrated services for everyone.
The National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare was established in 2007 and lays the foundations for improved standard practice. In 2013 the Government made it mandatory for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS England to follow this framework, creating a new legal obligation.
NHS England must be assured that CCGs are complying with the National Framework and from 2015/16, NHS Continuing Healthcare has been included in the assurance processes for CCGs.
One of the priority areas that the assurance process focuses on is the 'assessment and decision making processes are lawful, high quality and timely'. This ensures that CCG policies and procedures are compliant with the National Framework as well as improving the consistency of NHS CHC assessments across the NHS.


17 NOV 2016

Andargachew Tsege

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the plight of Andargachew Tsege.

This is a worrying case and I hope the government will do more to gain access and demand progress on his release. The following is the current government position and I did write to the relevant Minister only a few months ago asking for more to be done:

The Government takes the detention and welfare of Mr Tsege very seriously. The Foreign Secretary has raised Mr Tsege's case with his Ethiopian counterpart on three occasions, most recently during the UN General Assembly in September. During that conversation he pressed the Ethiopian Foreign Minister to follow through with the commitment made by the Ethiopian Prime Minister to allow Mr Tsege access to independent legal advice so that he can discuss his options under the Ethiopian legal system. The Government will continue to press the Ethiopians to ensure that Mr Tsege has legal representation.
A senior FCO official met with Mr Tsege in June to seek assurances about his welfare, and the British Ambassador to Ethiopia visited him in November. Mr Tsege is not being ill-treated and that he is receiving regular visits from family members in Ethiopia.
Britain does not interfere in the legal systems of other countries, any more than we would accept interference in our judicial system. The consular role is to ensure well-being and access to legal advice and the Government will continue to support Mr Tsege and his family in this capacity.
The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and the Government continues to call on all countries around the world that retain the death penalty to cease its use.


17 NOV 2016

Further Education

Thank you for taking the time to email me about further education.

I agree that we need to strengthen the UK's further education sector and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Education is reassuring:

Further education is key to ensuring our workforce is equipped with the skills our economy needs. The Government wants strong local areas and for employers to take a leading role in establishing a post-16 skills system that is responsive to local economic priorities, financially resilient and able to offer high quality post-16 education and training. A series of area-based reviews is being carried out to establish how local areas can set up institutions that do this.
It makes sense for savings to be found by prioritising investment and I am glad that apprenticeships - which are essential to give young people the opportunity they need to secure a better future - is one area that is being protected. The introduction of a new apprenticeship levy will require large employers to invest in their own future so that the 3 million apprenticeships delivered during this Parliament will be well funded, high quality, and meet employers' real needs.
The Government will make £360 million of efficiencies and savings from adult skills budget by 2019-20. However, the Government has signalled its commitment to the sector by protecting the Adult Education Budget and 16-19 funding in the recent Spending Review and through its strong support for apprenticeships and Advanced Learner Loans. In fact, by 2019-20, the total funding available to support 19+ skills participation will be £3.41bn, a cash terms increase of 40 per cent compared with 2015-16.
The Government also recently introduced the Technical and Further Education Bill to Parliament. Its reforms are designed to drive long need improvements in the sector and to ensure that all people, irrespective of their background, have an equal opportunity to fulfil their potential.


17 NOV 2016

Hare Culls

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the culling of mountain hares.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the lobby on this today due to commitments in the constituency. However, I understand your concern on this matter and the following is the government position:

Mountain hares are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. This law makes it illegal to intentionally or recklessly kill or injure a mountain hare during its close season or to poach at any time. Mountain hares may however be legally controlled, and control usually takes place on managed grouse moors to reduce tick numbers or to protect young trees.
Scottish Natural Heritage, the body responsible for protecting Scotland's wildlife, is currently reviewing the management of mountain hares.
As wildlife management is a devolved matter, it will be for the Scottish Government to decide on what steps, if any, will need to be taken following the conclusion of Scottish Natural Heritage's review.


17 NOV 2016

Balfour

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the forthcoming centenary of the Balfour declaration and the Westminster Hall debate about this today.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to prior commitments, however, I am pleased that the UK enjoys a close and productive relationship with Israel and of our strong historic links.


17 NOV 2016

Beer Statement

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the upcoming Autumn Statement.

I understand you would like measures to support beer drinkers and pubs goers and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Treasury of interest:

Under the 2016 Budget, tax on beer will be frozen in cash terms this year. This freeze follows an unprecedented cut in duty in each of the three preceding budgets and the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013. This will continue the excellent work the Government has done to support local pubs and over 19,000 jobs.
The Scottish whiskey industry is a national success story, with exports of over £4 billion per year making up a fifth of UK food and drink exports. Local cider breweries also play a similarly vital role supporting rural communities. Duty on spirits and most ciders has also be frozen.
The Government, following a consultation, have decided that from 2020 business rates will be indexed around CPI. This is a change from the currently used RPI measure, and will represent a tax cut for all business each year from 2020.
The Chancellor continues to keep all taxes under review and decisions on tax policy are made as part of the Budget process.

I do believe that pubs are often at the heart of the local community, in fact I was delighted to open the Tally Ho at Littlehempston which has reopened due to the support and dedication of the local people. In addition, as you may know I have been a long-time proponent of minimum unit pricing for alcohol, for which there is a strong evidence base, and will continue to press for this to be introduced, as I feel this would also be beneficial to pubs.


17 NOV 2016

Early Years

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Save the Children's recent report concerning early years. I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

There is a strong evidence base from the UK and around the world that shows high-quality early education has long lasting benefits for children. Indeed, analysis has shown that pre-school is of particular importance to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Government is committed to ensuring that all children are able to fulfil their potential. The quality of nursery staff is good and has been improving. Between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of staff with at least a level three qualification - which is equivalent to an A-level - grew from 75 per cent to 87 per cent. A record number of providers are now rated 'Good' or 'Outstanding'.
However, there is still more work to be done to make sure every child gets the best start. Ministers are working hard to attract talented staff and retain the best people in our nurseries. The Government is developing a workforce strategy that aims to remove the barriers to attracting, retaining and developing great people and is investing a record £6 billion in childcare by the end of this Parliament.
The Department for Education (DfE) has also commissioned a major piece of research - the Study of Early Education and Development - to understand more about how high-quality early education affects attainment and social and behavioural development up to the age of seven. You can find out more about it here: www.seed.natcen.ac.uk.


16 NOV 2016

Repressive Technology

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

I understand your concern on this matter and I do have concerns that I have expressed on experts to Saudi. The government takes a different view which is set out in the following information on this topic from the Department for International Trade:

The Government takes UK's arms export responsibilities very seriously, and operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National arms export licensing Criteria, known as the consolidated Criteria. We draw on all available information, including reports from NGOs and our overseas network. Risks around human rights violations are a key part of this assessment. We do not export equipment where we assess there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, that it might provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or where it may be used aggressively against another country.
The Government is not in breach of these international standards. Furthermore, the government believe firmly that commercial relationships do not prevent us from speaking frankly to governments about issues of concern, such as human rights. Our close political and security relationships can help enhance our scope to positively influence governments helping to promote democratic reform and raise human rights standards in places such as the Persian Gulf.
The Government secured the establishment of the first ever International Arms Trade Treaty to control exports of conventional arms. It will require governments to block transfers of weapons that pose unacceptable risks and to take strong steps to prevent weapons being diverted into illegal markets.


16 NOV 2016

Ancient Woodland

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the upcoming APPG on Ancient Woodland meeting, I realise a date is yet to be announced but I will endeavour to attend if possible.

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

There are no plans to change the protections currently in place, regardless of press coverage suggesting that proposals for a national biodiversity offsetting system could undermine them, but this has never been the case. Biodiversity offsetting would only be used once a planning application has passed a rigorous set of tests. It could then be used to ensure that adequate compensation was provided in a transparent and consistent way.
Furthermore, the National Planning Policy Framework states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.
In short, the Government has no plans to undermine the protections for ancient woodland. On the contrary, Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and the Government has pledged to plant a further 11 million in this one. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that hasn't been seen since the fourteenth century.


14 NOV 2016

World Toilet Day

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

I agree that more needs to be done to ensure everyone has access to basic sanitation and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development reassuring:

Access to clean drinking water and effective sanitation is vital to give people in developing countries the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilled, and productive lives. It means they can work, driving economic growth and ultimately helping developing countries become self-sufficient.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) helped 64.5 million people access clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions. DFID helps build wells, standpipes, pumps, toilets and sewage systems, and encourages the private sector in developing countries to do more. My ministerial colleagues are intent on matching this success by helping at least another 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation over the next five years, to stop terrible diseases and boost economic opportunity. This is a manifesto commitment.
The adoption of the Global Goals last year is welcomed. The UK successfully pushed for Goal 6 on water and sanitation for everyone. The global community must work to achieve this and other goals by 2030, so that in the next 15 years we see access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. A more healthy, productive and prosperous world is clearly in our national interest, and access to water and sanitation is a key part of this.


10 NOV 2016

ESA

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the debate on ESA being held on the 17thof November.

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

In the Summer Budget 2015, the Government announced that, from April 2017, the rate of benefit paid to new claims for ESA and Universal Credit (UC) with limited capability for work will be aligned with the standard rate of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). This change only affects new claims made after that date. Importantly, this reform will not affect people in the Support Group in ESA or claimants with limited capability for work and work-related activity in UC.
Those in the WRAG currently receive additional cash payments but little employment support appropriate for their needs. This change involves recycling some of the money currently spent on cash payments, which are not actually achieving the desired effect of helping people move closer to the labour market, into practical support that will make a genuine difference to individual's life chances. This new funding will be worth £100 million by 2020/21.
Those with the most severe work limiting health conditions and disabilities are placed in the Support Group in ESA and have been assessed as having limited capability for work and work-related activity in UC. In both cases, these claimants will continue to receive an additional payment in their ESA or UC. These additional payments are also exempt from the freeze on working-age benefits and the Benefit Cap.
The Government's reforms to ESA, WRAG and the UC equivalent are the right thing to do for claimants because it is a duty of government to support those who want to work to do so. Those already claiming ESA or UC will not be affected by the change.


10 NOV 2016

School Funding

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the recent campaign by the NUT and ATL concerning school funding.

I understand your concern on this matter and earlier this year I was pleased to be one of the signatories of the letter that went to the Prime Minister supporting the Fair School Funding Campaign. For too long, the school funding model has been a complex affair which has left areas such as ours disadvantaged and MPs have been shouting louder and louder for a better deal for the South West. I was glad to be able to speak in the Backbench Business Debate on local government funding for rural areas to say that we must dispel the myth that deprivation is an urban problem.

I am delighted that the government plans to bring to an end the antiquated and inequitable education funding system we currently have. Under the new proposals every school will be funded according to need.

I hope the following information on the NUT and ATL campaigns from the Department of Education is of interest:

With regard to the recent campaign by the NUT and ATL on school funding, it would appear to be irresponsible scaremongering, based on figures that are entirely speculative. This speculation is unfair to schools and parents. As the NUT and ATL's own report admits, they do not even reflect the Government's proposed fairer funding formula for schools, which is yet to be published. It is impossible to make these calculations until a formula has been agreed.
The Government has outlined and sought views on its vision for the funding system and principles by which it will design the formula. Later this year, the Department for Education will set out proposals for how the formula will be implemented including the impact on schools and local authorities and seek the views of interested parties. It will also confirm the factors that will be used in the formula, and will invite responses to the weightings they should be given.
In reality the schools budget has been protected and this year it totals over £40 billion, the highest ever on record. The Government's fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system. The national funding formula will be introduced from 2018-19.


10 NOV 2016

Puppies

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the breeding and sale of puppies. As someone who has always loved dogs, I share your concern for their welfare. I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

Britain is a nation of animal lovers and it is vital that we maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. Ministers are serious about improving welfare in breeding establishments and at the point of sale, so are reviewing the laws that regulate dog breeding and pet sales. These plans would introduce a single 'Animal Establishment Licence' for animal boarding establishments, pet shops, riding establishments and dog breeding. Following a recent public consultation. The Government's final proposals will be outlined shortly.
It is already the case that anyone in the business of breeding dogs or running a pet shop must be licenced by their local council. They must demonstrate that the animals have suitable accommodation, food, water and bedding material; are adequately exercised and visited; and that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent the spread of infection.
Local authorities can also restrict which animals a pet shop can sell, and new guidance stresses the need for interaction with people. Meanwhile the Government has created a voluntary code regulating advertising on the internet, which has resulted in 130,000 adverts being removed since the start of 2014. While there are no plans to ban the sales of dogs by third parties, there are proposals to tighten welfare standards when this does occur.
For dogs bred by so called "hobby breeders", who are not in business but do breed occasionally, there is the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal or fail to provide for its welfare. Anyone breaking this law could face an unlimited fine and/or 51 weeks imprisonment.


10 NOV 2016

Private Renters

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Generation Rent campaign concerning restricting evictions.

I understand your concern, especially as I represent an area with high house prices and low wages which mean many of my constituents live in private rented accommodation. Personally, I would like to see us adopt a renting culture in which long term lets are standard and I do appreciate the arguments some make calling for landlords to have to give a reason to evict tenants. However, I am also aware of the concern that fear of compensation claims will deter potential landlords and risk the unintended effect of making fewer properties available at a time of housing shortage. I agree that the scale of upfront payments has become too great.

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

All tenants deserve to feel safe in their home. The nature of renting means many tenants do not have as much long-term security as they may wish. Tenants and landlords who favour longer tenancies are encouraged to use the Government's model tenancy agreement. Longer fixed-term tenancies provide more stability for tenants and also means that they do not need to pay fees to renew a tenancy.
It is important to emphasise that the two months' written notice a landlord provides before taking possession of a property can be used by a tenant to find alternative accommodation. It is right that landlords have the flexibility to manage their property in this way but I do not want to see people being made homeless because of this.
Most tenants are satisfied with their accommodation and this is testament to the fact that the majority of landlords are hardworking and responsible. They provide safe and decent accommodation and understand the needs of their tenants.


09 NOV 2016

Palestinian Solidarity

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Palestinian Solidarity campaign's upcoming lobby of Parliament.

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

The UK remains focussed on achieving a two-state solution. A long term political settlement, one that ensures a safe future for all, is the only way to resolve the conflict so that the Israeli and Palestinian people can live in peace.
The UK Government's position on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) is clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, as required under international law and in fulfilment of Israel's obligations.
The Israeli demolitions of Palestinian-owned properties in the West Bank cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians and are, in all but the most exceptional of cases, contrary to International Humanitarian Law. The Government also raises this issue with the Israeli Government on a regular basis.


08 NOV 2016

Leveson Inquiry Part 2

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Leveson Part 2.

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

Free speech underpins our democracy and the Government has always been clear it is vitally important to uphold it. For this reason, the Government does not interfere with what the press does and does not publish, as long as the press abides by the law.
However alongside the media's rights comes a clear responsibility, which is why the public, judge-led Leveson Inquiry was set up in response to the phone-hacking scandal. Part 1 of the Inquiry contained 92 recommendations, the majority of which have been acted upon and are being delivered. Part 2 of the Inquiry - which has not yet begun - would further examine wrongdoing in the press and the police.
Many of the issues that Part 2 would have covered have been addressed in the last five years. Three police investigations have investigated a wide range of offences and a clear message has been sent to all police officers and public officials that receiving payments for confidential information will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly. Additionally, the Metropolitan Police Service has introduced new policies on whistleblowing, gifts and hospitality, and media relations.
It is of course vital that the police take seriously its role in protecting not only its own reputation, but also those people it is meant to serve. However, given the extent and cost of these investigations, and the cost of Part 1, the Government is considering whether undertaking Part 2 is still appropriate, proportionate and in the public interest. Ministers are seeking the views of the public and interested parties, including those who have been the victims of press abuse, through a public consultation which will run until January 10. The Government will also consult Sir Brian Leveson on the question of Part 2 at the appropriate time, in his role as Inquiry Chair.


07 NOV 2016

Public Service Pensions

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about council investment decisions.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 586 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate on this topic due to prior commitments, but hope the following information from the Department for Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

There are strong views on this issue and the Government's response will not have pleased everyone. However, it cannot be right for councils to have the power to make divisive decisions which set different parts of the community against each other. Such decisions would not be democratic or beneficial for community relations. Where councils make ethical, environmental or social decisions which are clearly in the best interests of local people and represent value for money for pension scheme members there will be no need for the Government to intervene.
Given the significant sums of public money at stake, however, it is right that the Government intervenes when councils fail to act within the prescribed regulatory framework. The power for the Secretary of State to intervene will help ensure that councils always pursue best practice. Intervention would only occur when it can be justified and where interested parties have been fully consulted.
Foreign investment was an important consideration for many people who responded to the consultation and the Government holds the opinions of the public in high regard. Councils should not be making their own foreign policy decisions. Foreign policy is the preserve of the national Government. The decision of councils to boycott certain countries is likely to be at odds with national policy and unlikely to be in the best interests of the community or scheme members.
Councils should act responsibly and provide the best possible financial returns for taxpayers. The power of intervention will ensure that councils comply with UK policy and national regulations.


07 NOV 2016

Iran

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the ongoing detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Kamal Foroughi and Roya Nobakht in Iran.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 564 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The Iranian Government does not recognise dual nationality for Iranian citizens, which means that consular access has been denied. However, Ithe Government is working very hard on a number of consular cases including those of Kamal Foroughi, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Roya Nobakht.
The British Government continues to express its concerns to the Iranian Government, and all three cases have been raised at the highest levels.


05 NOV 2016

Ambitious about Autism

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Ambitious about Autism campaign.

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

The Government is committed to providing an education system that works for all children, including those with special educational needs such as autism. It is vitally important that autistic children are given the additional support they deserve to reach their full potential.
While there is more that can be done to support autism in schools, the Government has already made notable progress in improving the educational infrastructure for children with special educational needs. In order to deliver autism awareness training and advice for teachers and other staff, so that they can appropriately identify and interact with autistic children, the Government has funded three voluntary sector organisations, including the Autism Education Trust (AET). The AET has trained more than 100,000 education staff since 2012, in addition to publishing national autism standards and frameworks.
Further to this, the Government has issued £113 million in funding between 2014/15 and 2016/17 through the SEND Implementation Grant to support local authorities in carrying out reforms to special needs education. There has also been a focus on opening more specialist schools for children with autism. Several of the schools opened under the Free Schools Programme are catered exclusively to autistic pupils. The Government is committed to putting effective special provisions in place, as autism must not be a barrier to educational success.


04 NOV 2016

Talking Bus

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about audio visual announcements on buses.

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

All disabled people should have the same access to transport services and opportunities to travel as other members of society.
Audio-visual systems on buses are not currently mandatory and, for this reason, levels of provision may vary. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) do, however, require all new buses and coaches on local or scheduled services and designed to carry more than 22 passengers to be accessible to disabled passengers. In addition, all existing public service buses will have to comply with PSVAR by January 2017. As a result, local buses are steadily becoming more accessible, and the most recent figures show that 89 per cent of the bus fleet in England met the PSVAR requirements compared to just 59 per cent in 2009/10.
Specifically in terms of audio-visual announcements, the benefits that these can bring to bus passengers are understood and Ministers have encouraged bus operators and local authorities to invest in audio-visual announcement systems for their buses where possible. Previously, however, the systems to provide such information have been expensive to fit and maintain, so Ministers have supported projects to design innovative and low-cost approaches to providing accessible on-board information.
This Bill, currently progressing through the House of Lords, would allow 'enhanced partnership schemes' between local authorities and bus operators to require all buses within a local area to provide audible and visual next stop information. Authorities using the new bus franchising powers will also be able to place similar requirements on affected operators.
A Government amendment, which will allow the Secretary of State to require service operators to make such information available to passengers, is now also part of the Bill as Clause 17.
The Government also intends to publish an Accessibility Action Plan for consultation by the end of the year, which will present its ambition for further progress on this agenda.


03 NOV 2016

Private Members Bill on NHS

Thank you for writing to let me know of your support for the private members bill on National Health Service.

I hope the following information is the government's position on the bill from the Department of Health is of interest:

The proposed Bill would be an unnecessary upheaval and the wrong approach to improving the NHS. The NHS today helps more people with higher quality care than ever before in its history. Each day, compared to 2010, the service is performing 4,400 more operations, seeing 2,500 more people in A&E within four hours and providing 1,400 more people with access to mental health services
Despite tight public finances, the Government has actively supported the NHS's own plan for the future. That is why it is providing the additional £10 billion of investment per annum in real terms by 2020/21 - compared to 2014/15 - requested to fund a transformation in care. It will also ensure that by 2020, everyone will be able to access GP services at evenings and weekends.
Since 2010, there are more than 10,000 additional doctors and almost 10,300 more nurses on our wards.
Giving operational control for the day-to-day running of services to doctors was the right decision as they have the best understanding of their patients and local needs. Nonetheless the Government has always been clear that Ministers are responsible for the NHS.

You may also be interested to read my recent letter to the Chancellor on the financial challenge facing the NHS which takes a different view on the level of health funding and the shortfall in social care.


03 NOV 2016

Grouse Shooting

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the debate that was held on grouse shooting.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to prior commitments, I would not in any case have called for a ban on grouse shooting but I do think that illegal practices should be prosecuted.

I realise you will be disappointed that the government rejected calls for a ban and I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

It is essential that wildlife is properly protected. Anyone involved in game management must respect the country's conservation laws, which are among the toughest in the world. The Government's efforts to secure the future of the hen harrier through its recent action plan are also positive.
Shooting as a whole is worth about £2 billion a year to the economy, much of it in some of our remotest communities. It supports more than 70,000 full-time equivalent jobs, 1,520 relating directly to grouse shooting. Shooting is also concerned with the management of about two thirds of the UK's rural landscape.
Habitat conservation is of tremendous importance and moorland management is vital to biodiversity. Healthy heather provides good habitat for ground nesting birds, which are also helped by the control of predators, and attracts butterflies and bees. Globally, heather moorland is rarer than rainforest, and three quarters of it is located here in the UK. Without active management, this biodiversity would be lost. Grouse shooting helps generate funds to allow it to carry on.
With regard to concerns over peat burning, but this technique is considered to help maintain healthy heather at the range of heights needed to provide diverse habitats. A 2013 Natural England study found no direct evidence relating burning to downstream flooding, and grouse moor owners are carrying out ditch blocking, which can help restore peat, guard against flooding and capture and store carbon.

You may also be interested to view the transcript of the debate and you can do so via the following link


02 NOV 2016

Driver Only Trains

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about trains and your opposition to Driver Only Operation.

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

Over 60 per cent of GTR's services already operate without conductors and DOO trains have been safely operated on our rail network for over 30 years. In peak times around three DOO trains leave a London terminus per minute, full of customers, perfectly safely. It is used in other countries around the world including Germany and Japan.
The changes GTR are proposing will lead to better journeys for passengers. With the new conductors no longer closing the doors, this frees up staff time on trains to better serve passengers and provide a more visible presence. In addition, the new generation of GTR trains which are being rolled out over the coming months are designed to operate with DOO. These trains will benefit customers by having more capacity to improve journeys.
DOO should also lead to fewer train cancellations in future. At present conductors are tied to specific routes which, during periods of disruption, increases the risk of service cancellation if the conductor has been delayed on a previous service. With the new on-board role conductors can be allocated to trains across the entire GTR network more flexibly. GTR have stated there will be no compulsory job losses as a result of this service improvement, and as many services will have staff on board as they do today.


02 NOV 2016

Higher Education

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Higher Education and Research Bill.

I understand you have concerns about this and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Education is reassuring:

Everyone with the potential to benefit should have the ability to access higher education, irrespective of their background and family income. The Higher Education and Research Bill will enable us to maintain the world-class reputation of our higher education institutions, while making it possible for a whole new generation of universities to help extend access to higher education for young people across our country.
A single and easier entry route for alternative providers into the Higher Education market will drive innovation, promote choice for students and increase opportunity. No institution will be able to enter the market without meeting the very high academic standards that we expect.
When it comes to providers gaining Degree Awarding Powers (DAPs) or University Title, the Government's plans would streamline processes, not lower standards. These providers already have the ability to gain University Title, but only if they meet the existing rigorous criteria as set in departmental guidance. The criteria are the same for private and publicly funded providers. As now, we want only those providers with full Degree Awarding Powers to be eligible for University Title. In order to obtain these a provider must undergo a rigorous scrutiny process. It is a high bar, which only high quality providers should be able to meet. This is designed to ensure our higher education sector retains its prestige and world standing.
The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) has been established to give students clear information about where the best teaching is on offer, and put in place incentives for providers to drive up standards. It will enable the fee cap to rise with inflation only for institutions who can demonstrate high-quality teaching and good access arrangements. The student funding system in the UK is sustainable, supporting our world-class universities while ensuring graduates only pay back when earning above £21,000.
By linking funding to teaching quality, the TEF will put the quality of teaching at the heart of our universities, making sure that students get the very best possible value for money.


31 OCT 2016

Gingerbread

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about child maintenance and Gingerbread's 'Missing Maintenance' report.

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

The Government is doing all it can to ensure the system is fair and parents make an appropriate contribution to their children's upbringing. The Government is committed to pursuing those parents who do not willingly meet their financial responsibilities to their children.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has a range of effective enforcement powers intended to help ensure all parents fulfil their financial responsibilities towards their children, including taking deductions directly from earnings and bank accounts. When a paying parent defaults on a payment without reasonable justification, the CMS will take appropriate action to recover the missed payment and re-establish compliance.
The Government is currently considering the recommendations contained in Gingerbread's 'Missing Maintenance' report. For example, in relation to the suggestions the report makes about deductions from joint bank accounts, the Department for Work and Pensions has already started taking steps to implement this power, and ran a consultation this summer on the proposed process.
Ministers are committed to doing everything they can to ensure children receive the support they deserve from their parents.


29 OCT 2016

Calais Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the plight of the unaccompanied children still left in Calais.

I realise some of the coverage of this has been deeply distressing and the Government has asked the French to make sure safe accommodation is provided for all children who will be transferred under the Dubs amendment.

I hope the following information from the Home Office on this matter provides some reassurance:

The French Government has committed to dismantling the migrant camp in Calais. While this decision and the timing of the operation is a matter for the French, we must do all we can to safeguard the welfare of unaccompanied refugee children living in the camp.
This Government takes its humanitarian responsibilities extremely seriously, and work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure that a safe, lawful and efficient process is in place to transfer eligible unaccompanied children to the UK as a matter of urgency, and to ensure that they are kept safe during the clearance process.
Children arriving in the UK from Calais will either be reunited with family members or will be appropriately looked after by established care providers. We must act in the best interests of children, and where it is determined that they should come to the UK, the Government will act quickly to place them in the care of their relatives or put in place appropriate care arrangements once safeguarding checks are complete.
Work has already begun ahead of the clearance, and children are leaving the Calais camp and are now in the UK. They will later be reunited with UK family members, subject to safeguarding checks.
The Government has made clear to the French that the best interests of these children must be properly considered when assessing their eligibility to come to the UK, and that these children must be looked after in safe facilities while this takes place. The Home Office has offered to help fund such facilities and Home Office staff have been deployed to France already to process those cases being considered for transfer to the UK. We have committed to prioritising the youngest children and those who are particularly vulnerable which may include young women.

We must focus on protecting innocent children, and that is precisely what the Government's refugee policy is doing. For example, in the year ending June 2016, 49 per cent of those resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Person's Resettlement Scheme were under 18 years old.
It is crucial that we take the most vulnerable refugees from the regions they are in so as not to encourage people to make dangerous journeys. In line with this, the Home Office has also announced a new scheme to resettle vulnerable children from the Middle East and North Africa region, working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in designing this scheme.


29 OCT 2016

Violence Against Women and Girls

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about violence against women and girls around the world.

I understand your concern on this matter as I spent several years as a police forensic examiner for Devon and Cornwall Police – mostly seeing victims of sexual or domestic violence and I am also a patron of Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services. Since becoming an MP I have tried to speak out on women's issues and been a vocal supporter of ring fencing our aid budget.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development of interest as we can be proud of the way our international aid helps to make a difference on this important issue:

Ending the global scandal of VAWG is a top priority for the Department for International Development (DFID). In the past five years, DFID has nearly doubled its programming to address this issue in humanitarian contexts and now has 127 programmes tackling this abuse in its many forms, including prevention of, and response to, domestic violence, acid attacks, FGM and child, early and forced marriage.
For example, the UK is supporting the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which specialises in providing grants for small women's and civil society organisations to tackle violence. In 2015, the UK provided £2.25 million of support to the Trust and the programme reached over 1 million people.
The UK's £36 million programme to end Child, Early and Forced Marriage is helping thousands of girls and the Government has also committed £8 million to support AmplifyChange, an initiative to support civil society activists to end child marriage and address a broader range of gender issues.
The recent Independent Commission for Aid Impact review into DFID's efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls gave DFID's performance a 'Green' rating, which is the highest mark.
The Government is committed prioritising girls and women, including tackling VAWG, and that it will continue to pursue an ambitious agenda in this area.


27 OCT 2016

Ports and Harbour Act

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about live animal exports and the 1847 Ports and Harbours Act, I do understand the concern about this.

I think these issues relating to the EU will be looked at but given the scale of the legislative review, this will take time. For now, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Under European Union single market rules it is illegal to ban the export of animals to other EU countries; there are instead EU and UK laws to protect the welfare of live animals during transport. Amending the 1847 Ports and Harbours Act could not effectively circumvent this.
While the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union, it will remain a member and will continue to exercise the rights and obligations that come with membership. The UK's involvement in EU rules on animal welfare and trade will likely form part of exit negotiations, with future policy in this area considered by the Government in the context of these talks.
The Government will continue to pursue a more sustainable approach to the transport of livestock on long journeys. It has already called on the EU Commission to update the rules on welfare during transport where there is sufficient scientific evidence to support a change.


25 OCT 2016

Bus Services Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Bus Services Bill.

I appreciate the importance of public transport, especially representing an area with such rural communities but I am afraid I will be unable to attend the event on this matter on the 26th of October due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I understand some are concerned about Clause 21 of the bill and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

Some concern has been raised about Clause 21 of the Bill. This prohibits a relevant local authority from forming a company for the purposes of providing a local bus service. Existing municipal bus companies are not, however, affected by this clause.

This was discussed at both second reading and in committee in the House of Lords. The Government's position is that authorities, with the knowledge of the local area and needs, and control over other aspects such as local roads and parking policies, are well placed to help shape and influence services that are provided, with private sector bus operators using their operational experience to deliver services on the road. The Government believes that the commissioning and provision of bus services should be kept separate, which will help ensure the strengths of the private sector are retained.


25 OCT 2016

Kittens

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the breeding and sale of kittens.

I understand your concerns about ensuring high levels of animal welfare and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

Britain is a nation of animal lovers and it is vital that we maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. Ministers are serious about improving welfare in breeding establishments and at the point of sale, so are reviewing the laws that regulate dog breeding and pet sales, including of cats.
One proposal would apply specific welfare conditions to pet vendors, which they must meet to obtain a licence. These include a requirement that animals are not sold too young: for mammals this is before they are or should have been weaned, which for cats is likely to be at or below eight weeks. Another would remove the licence exemption for those in the business of selling kittens bred from the family's pet pedigree cat.
Cat breeding does not, however, require the same level of control as dog breeding, which can lead to issues relating to public safety and nuisance; this is generally not the case with cats. There can of course be unscrupulous people who exploit the desire for pets, but all captive animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
This makes it a serious criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal, or fail to provide for its welfare. Accompanying it the Government has published a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats which, if breached, can be used to supply evidence supporting a prosecution.
Anyone who believes that kittens are being treated poorly by a pet shop to report their concerns to the local authority or the police, which have the power to take action to safeguard their welfare.


25 OCT 2016

Fuel Duty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the FairFuel campaign about fuel duty.

I understand you would like to see fuel duty lowered and I am well aware of the impact any rise would have on those in my constituency, as rural communities are always hit the hardest by fuel duty.

The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement in November and I would not wish to speculate on what will be set out at this time.

Thank you for getting in touch and would like to reassure you that I will continue to campaign for a fair deal on fuel.


25 OCT 2016

EDM 505

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 505 concerning mental health first aid.

I understand you would like me to sign the EDM, 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 of Health is of interest:

The Government is committed to supporting people with mental health problems to stay in work. Raising awareness and training people in the workplace about mental health issues is an important part of this.
While changing legislation may not be the answer, Ministers are looking at how mental health awareness and training in various settings can be improved, where professionals may come into contact with people at risk of poor mental health. The Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions have established a joint Work and Health Unit to look at these matters.
The Government is increasing access to talking therapy services so that 1.5 million people per year will be able to access support by 2020. There will be a particular focus on people who are at risk of falling out of work or who are already out of work to get back into employment.
The Government will shortly be publishing a Green Paper on work and health to seek views on what will work to deliver real and lasting change for people with mental health problems and disabled people. Mental health will be a key focus as Ministers recognise that people with mental health conditions fare poorly in the labour market. It is hoped that this will help to transform the prospects of disabled people and those with a health condition and contribute to building a society and an economy that works for everyone.
The stigma surrounding mental health can create barriers to people seeking and receiving support. Therefore, the Government has recently announced £20 million of additional funding to the national Time to Change anti-stigma programme, in conjunction with Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund, which works with employers to support them in tackling the stigma in the workplace associated with poor mental health.


22 OCT 2016

Brexit Red Lines

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Brexit Red Lines Campaign and for letting me know the issues you feel should be prioritised during the negotiations.

I want to ensure a good relationship with the EU is maintained and I'm glad to hear Theresa May make it clear that this is her intention. The points you make will all be important considerations in ensuring Britain remains an outward looking nation taking full account of environmental responsibilities.

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

The referendum result gave the Government a national mandate to leave the EU and it will deliver this in the national interest. The Government does not want to set out its position unilaterally before negotiations begin and it would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt discussions.
It is clear, however, that there is no mandate for a deal which does not allow us to control the number of people coming here from Europe. At the same time, we want British companies to have maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market.
Climate change also remains a serious and important issue. To this end, the Prime Minister has announced that the UK will ratify the Paris agreement by the end of the year. Britain is firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent and the Paris agreement will see net zero emissions by the end of the century.
On human rights, the UK signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee human rights long before it joined the EU. Strong workers' rights similarly existed in this country long before the UK became a member of the EU.
Regulations on the financial sector will be for the Government to decide at a future date. The UK leads the international agenda to crack down on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. During the anticorruption summit in London a range of measures to tackle corruption were discussed, including promoting tax transparency.
Food standards will be discussed in due course but the Government will work in the best interests of the British people.


20 OCT 2016

Philip Green

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

I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate on this matter as I had a prior commitment in the constituency. Nonetheless, I watched with interest when he was questioned by Frank Field, the Chairman of the Works and Pensions Committee over the collapse of BHS and appreciate the feeling that there are perhaps others more deserving of knighthoods. I understand you will be pleased with the outcome of the vote today, however of course the motion is not binding. The following information from the Cabinet Office explains how honours can be removed:

On the question of honours being taken away, someone's honour can be taken away if they are, for example, sentenced to prison for at least three months for a criminal offence, or censured or struck off by a professional or regulatory body for something directly relevant to their honour. Other reasons for 'forfeiture', as this is known, can also be considered.
Cases are considered by the Honours Forfeiture Committee. If the Committee recommends an honour is withdrawn, the decision is sent to the Queen by the Prime Minister. The Queen decides if the honour should be forfeited. It has been reported that Sir Philip Green's knighthood is being 'kept under review'.


20 OCT 2016

All Equal

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Lord Shinkwin's Private Member Bill.

It is unlikely that this will come to a vote in the Commons but if it did so I would vote against it. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

In 1990, on a free vote, Parliament voted to amend the Abortion Act 1967 to permit termination of pregnancy where two medical practitioners form the same opinion in good faith that "there is there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped." These are known as ground E abortions and can be performed at any gestation in the pregnancy.
Not every pregnancy goes to plan and fetal abnormalities of varying degree of severity occur. Women need support and information to reach an informed decision about how to proceed. These decisions are extremely difficult and painful for parents. Health professionals must adopt a supportive and non-judgemental approach regardless of whether the decision is to terminate or continue the pregnancy.
Lord Shinkwin's Bill would have the effect that abortions for fetal abnormality could no longer be performed for this reason specifically. Women with a pregnancy where a fetal abnormality is diagnosed could however still seek a termination for another reason within the law. However, this would not be the case for women over 24 weeks pregnant unless the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the health of the pregnant women.
Concerns have been expressed that abortion on the grounds of fetal abnormality is discriminatory and does not comply with obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While this is undoubtedly a very sensitive issue, equality and disability legislation only covers the rights of living persons. Under English law a fetus has no legal status, independent of its mother.


20 OCT 2016

Carbon Emissions

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

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

The Government remains committed to meeting its legally-binding carbon budgets and to upholding the UK's international commitments on reducing carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement is a momentous step forward, and it is great news that this will enter into force on 4 November. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will complete its ratification before the end of the year.
The Government will build on its progress already made on tackling climate change. The UK already has an existing target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, and Ministers are now looking ahead to set out how it will continue to decarbonise through the 2020s.
The Fifth Carbon Budget commits the UK to reaching a 57 per cent reduction on 1990 emissions over the period 2028 to 2032. This is a very serious and challenging commitment and Ministers are developing an Emissions Reduction Plan which will set out how this can be met in the most cost effective way. It is important to get this plan right, so Ministers are engaging actively across Government, with NGOs, and with the private sector. An announcement will be made on the timetable for this work as soon as is practicable.
The UK has already made excellent progress and is setting an example to the rest of the world. Britain will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the energy mix completely, with last year's announcement that all coal-fired power stations will close by 2025. Renewable capacity has trebled since 2010, and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses about the shift to a low-carbon economy.


20 OCT 2016

Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

I understand you support the commencement of this and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

The Government has implemented the cross-party agreement that was made in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, through the Royal Charter and the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The exemplary damages measures commenced in November 2015 and a framework has been delivered for a new system of independent press self-regulation.
The commencement of cost provisions is still under consideration and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, is discussing section 40 with interested parties as part of these considerations.


19 OCT 2016

Sea Bass Stocks

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about sea bass stocks.

I have already been contacted by constituents from both sides of this debate and have met with the Minister, environmentalists and stakeholders to discuss this. I agree that the low level of bass stocks is deeply concerning. The minister has taken advice and implemented stringent protections.

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

European sea bass is particularly vulnerable to overfishing, and the Government shares this concern too. Most bass are taken by the French fishing fleet, so Ministers have focused on addressing this issue at the European level by playing an active role in EU discussions about sea bass stocks.
The UK has been a lone voice on this issue and has played a leading role on it in Europe. At the December meeting of the European Fisheries Council last year, the UK's main concern was to agree measures that will allow bass fishing to become sustainable by 2018. All members of the Common Fisheries Policy need to be fully signed up if we are to achieve stock recovery, but there is now a firm timetable to achieve this objective, and it has to be the priority.
The UK has certainly played its part, reducing our estimated catch over the past year by 43 per cent compared with the average between 2011 and 2013.
With the decision to withdraw from the EU the UK will ultimately no longer be part of the Common Fisheries Policy, but we remain part of Europe and both the UK Government and EU leaders have announced that the UK and EU will continue to have a close relationship. We will continue to work with other European countries in this important area.

Thank you for getting in touch.


18 OCT 2016

Arthritis

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Westminster Hall debate on arthritis on the 20th of October at 3.30 pm.

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

To help clinicians to identify the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and make prompt referrals to specialists, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in 2009. This best practice guideline sets out the signs and symptoms of the disease and emphasises the need for early diagnosis, with urgent referral to a specialist rheumatologist on suspicion of RA. The commissioning of arthritis services, including the establishment of arthritis clinics, is the responsibility of local areas, taking account of the needs of the local population.
The national clinical audit of rheumatoid and early inflammatory arthritis published its latest report in July 2016 and assesses the quality of care by specialist rheumatology services. The report showed significant improvements in patient experience and the time taken to receive treatment, although there are areas where further improvement needs to be made. The report makes a range of recommendations, including improving the training and awareness and amongst GPs, and it encourages all participating organisations to reflect on their own performance and consider what more could be done.
The Work and Health Unit has been established to lead the drive for improving work and health outcomes for people with health conditions, like arthritis, as well as improving prevention and support for people absent from work through ill health and those at risk of leaving the workforce. The Unit will seek to do this by improving integration across healthcare and employment services as well as supporting employers to recruit and retain more people with long term health conditions.
Despite tight public finances, the Government has actively supported the NHS' own plan for the future. That is why it is providing the additional £10 billion of investment per annum in real terms by 2020/21 - compared to 2014/15 - requested to fund a transformation in care.


17 OCT 2016

EDM 491

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about EDM 491 concerning business rates for solar panelled rooftops.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 491, 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 Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

It is important to note that business rates are based on valuations from the Valuation Office Agency and the Government does not intervene in their independent assessments. However Ministers will look closely at the impacts of the forthcoming revaluation and consult on how to make sure the right support is in place for ratepayers to adjust to any changes.
More broadly, the Government remains committed to meeting its legally-binding carbon budgets and to upholding the UK's international commitments. The Fifth Carbon Budget commits the UK to reaching a 57 per cent reduction on 1990 emissions over the period 2028 to 2032. This is a very serious and challenging commitment and Ministers are developing an Emissions Reduction Plan which will set out how this commitment can be met in the most cost effective way. It is important to get this plan right so Ministers are engaging actively across Government, with NGOs, and with the private sector. An announcement will be made on the timetable for this work as soon as is practicable.
On a final note, the UK played a leading role in shaping and securing the Paris Agreement and it is great news that this will enter into force on 4 November. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will complete its ratification before the end of the year.

You may also be interested in the following information about the devolution of business rates from the Department for Communities and Local Government:

Councils are forecasting a record-breaking £23.5 billion income from business rates next year, despite many small businesses paying no rates at all. I am delighted that councils will be able to keep all the business rates they raise by 2020.
The uniform business rate, the national tax rate that central government currently imposes on every council, will be also scrapped. This means that any local area will be able to cut business rates as much as they like. This will help them to win new jobs and generate wealth for their area. Areas with elected mayors, such as London and Manchester, will be able to add a premium rate of up to 2p to pay for new infrastructure, provided they have the support of the local business community.
No area will be disadvantaged just because it starts from a lower base, but for future growth after the point of devolution, councils will see all the gains of success. This will be achieved by getting rid of the levy which taxes growth away from some areas at 75p in the pound. The Government will keep a safety net to protect against shocks and volatility.
The Government is currently consulting on the implementation of these changes and you can respond to the consultation at the following address:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/self-sufficient-local-government-100-business-rates-retention


17 OCT 2016

Mosul

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about children in Mosul.

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

The protection of civilians during armed conflict is a priority for the UK and its allies. When it comes to children, all efforts must be made to protect them from harm.
The international coalition against Daesh is aiming to liberate Mosul in a way that minimises the humanitarian impact. The UK Government is engaging with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, our coalition partners, the UN and other international organisations to ensure comprehensive plans are in place to achieve this.
In July the Foreign Secretary announced £10.5 million in additional UK funding for stabilisation in Iraq, and this includes £1.75 million to support planning associated with the Mosul campaign.
With regards to people who choose to leave Mosul, the UK is working with partners to ensure stabilisation efforts allow internally displaced persons to return to their homes safely.


17 OCT 2016

Homeopathy

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about homeopathy.

Personally, I think that all therapies provided on the NHS should be subject to appraisal of the evidence and we should not be using funds for those which have no evidence of effectiveness or which may give a false sense that they should be used in favour of proven therapies.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

The Government is committed to developing an NHS which is responsive to the needs and wishes of patients and which enables patients to play an active role in managing their health conditions. Complementary therapies can be attractive to a number of patients, and may feature in a range of services that local NHS organisations provide.
It is the responsibility of local NHS organisations to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of any healthcare treatments for patients, taking account of issues to do with safety, clinical and cost effectiveness and the availability of appropriate practitioners. Clinical Commissioning Groups may have specific policies on the extent to which their patients can have access to such therapies.
At the same time, with rising health demands, the Government has a duty to make sure that NHS funds are spent on the most effective treatments. The Government is considering whether or not homeopathic products should be available through NHS prescriptions and will consult on the proposals in due course.


17 OCT 2016

Bank of England

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Bank of England and monetary policy.

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

The independent MPC of the Bank of England has a hugely important role to play in these difficult times in maintaining monetary stability in this country. It has taken a range of steps to achieve this objective and will be closely monitoring the impact of this action.
The vote to leave the EU has created a period of uncertainty, which will be followed by a period of adjustment as the shape of our new relationship with the EU becomes clear and the economy responds to that. It is right that monetary policy is used to support the economy at this time.
While it might be of little comfort to savers, the Chancellor has authorised the Governor of the Bank of England's request for an increase in asset purchases and a new lending scheme to support the economy, helping ensure that the benefit of low interest rates is passed on by the banks to households and businesses.
Following the financial crisis in 2009, the Bank of England was authorised to begin quantitative easing. In August this year, the MPC judged that in the absence of monetary stimulus (quantitative easing and a lowering of the bank rate), there would be negative consequences for growth and employment.


14 OCT 2016

Refugee Children

I appreciate the concern regard to the unaccompanied children in Calais. I actually recently asked a Parliamentary Question on this matter which you may find of interest and I am copying the exchange below:

Home Office Asylum: Children 44498

Q: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she is taking to accelerate the process of family reunification for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe.

A: Answered by: Mr Robert Goodwill Answered on: 12 September 2016

The Government began work to implement the 'Dubs amendment' immediately after the Immigration Bill gained Royal Assent. Over 30 children who meet the criteria in the Immigration Act have been accepted for transfer since it received Royal Assent in May, the majority of these have already arrived in the UK.

We continue to work with the French, Greek and Italian authorities and others to speed up existing family reunification processes or implement new processes where necessary for unaccompanied children. We have seconded a UK official to Greece, we have a long-standing secondee working in Italy and will shortly be seconding another official to the French Interior Ministry to support these efforts.

We have established a dedicated team in the Home Office Dublin Unit to lead on family reunion cases for unaccompanied children. Transfer requests under the Dublin Regulation are now generally processed within 10 days and children transferred within weeks. Over 120 children have been accepted for transfer this year from Europe.

We also continue to consult local authorities about the transfer unaccompanied refugee children from Europe to the UK, where it is in their best interests.

In addition, the Home Secretary answered Urgent Questions in the House of Commons on this topic yesterday and you can view the transcript via the following link:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-10-10/debates/9D71E865-0139-40CC-83FC-EF8556FDCEE1/CalaisJungle#contribution-932E5EA0-99C0-4151-9271-6A243DD4BD1C

During the questions, I asked about the provision of mental health support services for vulnerable children coming to Britain under the Dubs amendment and you can view my intervention via the link below:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/children-in-calais/1900

I also signed an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill with Stella Creasy and others calling for a strategy for safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children and you can read more about this via the following link:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2016-2017/0057/17057(j).pdf

There is finally some progress as the French authorities are increasing their cooperation on the bureaucracy that has been delaying these children arriving in the UK.

I hope this information is reassuring.


14 OCT 2016

Palestinian Solidarity Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign's upcoming lobby of Parliament at 12pm on Tuesday the 15th of November.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day and will be unable to attend, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The UK remains focussed on achieving a two-state solution. A long term political settlement, one that ensures a safe future for all, is the only way to resolve the conflict so that the Israeli and Palestinian people can live in peace.
The UK Government's position on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) is clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, as required under international law and in fulfilment of Israel's obligations.
The Israeli demolitions of Palestinian-owned properties in the West Bank cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians and are, in all but the most exceptional of cases, contrary to International Humanitarian Law. The Government also raises this issue with the Israeli Government on a regular basis.


14 OCT 2016

No Fly Zone

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the situation in Syria and to let me know of your grave concerns. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the emergency debate on this matter as I was chairing the Health Committee, however you may be interested to view the transcript and the Minister's response via the following link:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-10-11/debates/F9DCC666-4E96-4F13-A37A-8D51120B8594/AleppoAndSyria

I do understand why there have been calls for a no fly zone over Aleppo but I hope the minister's response at least sets out the reasons for the current concern about this.


13 OCT 2016

Antibiotics in Farming

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the use of antibiotics in farming.

I understand your concern on this matter and can assure you this is an area I have followed closely. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

The Government has long promoted the responsible use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine. It has produced publications on the subject, including a Code of Practice on the Responsible Use of Medicines on the Farm, and works closely with stakeholders including the farming industry and the veterinary profession.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is being proactive about antimicrobial stewardship, paying special attention to categories of antibiotics considered of critical importance to human medicine.
It also supports a cross-governmental strategy, issued in 2013, which outlines plans to slow the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance by focusing on three key objectives:

· improving the knowledge and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
· conserving the effectiveness of existing treatments; and
· stimulating the development of new antibiotics, diagnostics and novel therapies.

The Government will continue to emphasise to the veterinary and farming communities that routine preventative use of antibiotics is not acceptable. It will continue to lead the global fight against antibiotic resistance.


12 OCT 2016

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

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

AMD currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss. Research is vital in this area to help find a cure for sight loss.
Investment in eye-related research by the Department of Health's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) increased from £7.1 million in 2009/10 to £18.5 million in 2014/15.
As a major part of its investment in this field, the NIHR has recently awarded £19 million over five years from April 2017 to the NIHR biomedical research centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London.
Other major NIHR investment includes a £2.2 million study of early detection of neo-vascular age-related macular degeneration.
The usual practice of the NIHR is not to ring-fence funds for expenditure on particular topics: research proposals in all areas compete for the funding available. The NIHR welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including eye care. These applications are subject to peer review and judged in open competition, with awards being made on the basis of the importance of the topic to patients and health and care services, value for money and scientific quality. In all disease areas, the amount of NIHR funding depends on the volume and quality of scientific activity.


12 OCT 2016

NSPCC

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the NSPCC's It's Time campaign.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the event on this matter on the 10th of October, however I have spoken out many times on the need for more focus of mental health. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Health reassuring:

No child should ever be abused or neglected - we want to prevent these terrible crimes from happening and make sure every child gets the support they need.
The Government is committed to the vision set out in the report, Future in Mind, to transform the future of mental health services for children and young people. This is being supported by £1.25 billion of additional Government investment during the course of this Parliament which is expected to help an extra 70,000 children and young people every year by 2020.
Local areas have produced Local Transformation Plans (LTPs) to improve the way these services are commissioned and delivered. LTPs should cover the full spectrum of service provision, addressing the mental health needs of all children and young people including the most vulnerable, making it easier for them to access the support they need. NHS England has issued guidance to local areas on LTPs to ensure that they are meeting the needs of children and young people who have experienced abuse.
In December 2015, the Government announced a new mental health pilot scheme which has been working in schools to make sure children and young people have better access to local specialist mental health provision.
A cross-Government Ministerial Group provides leadership for driving forward the plans set out in the Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation report published in March 2015. A review of what has been achieved so far will be published in the coming months.
In 2015, the Government also set up a Child Protection Implementation Taskforce to drive improvements in the protection of vulnerable children. A substantial programme of legislation and reform is underway which will overhaul the way in which local authorities, police and health commissioners are required to work together locally to safeguard children.


10 OCT 2016

Children and Social Work Bill.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the Children and Social Work Bill.

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

Social work is one of our most important public services. Excellent social work transforms lives, which is why the Government has invested over £700 million in training and recruitment, and why a further £300 million is being invested in local innovation projects. These projects will increase the quality of social care practice and the Government intends to accredit child and family social workers to a high standard.
A specialist regulator will be able to bring a focus on ensuring quality in education, training and practice in both children's and adults' social work. Ministers have said they have no intention of participating directly in questions of individual practitioners' registration and professional conduct, and the proposals will strike an appropriate balance between Government involvement and independent regulation. The specialist regulator will be set up in conjunction with the profession, and responds to the need to raise standards.
The reforms in the Bill are about enabling social workers to achieve their ambitions for the people they serve. The innovation clauses will allow great social workers to try out new approaches and be freed from limiting bureaucracy, all in the interests of achieving more for children. There is absolutely no intention of allowing the delegation of child protection functions to profit making organisations.
These proposals are an opportunity for social workers to influence and shape the standards and regulatory approach that are right for the profession, and most importantly, right for the people for who these services are so important.


10 OCT 2016

Air Pollution

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about air quality and pollution.

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

The Government is committed to tackling this problem. While significant improvements have been made in air quality over many years, more needs to be achieved.
Over the past five years the Government has committed over £2 billion to help bus operators upgrade their fleets, reduce pollution from a range of vehicles such as refuse trucks and fire engines through cutting edge technologies, and promote the development of clean alternative fuels such as powering taxis with liquid petroleum gas in Birmingham.
Now, the Government has issued a UK plan for improving air quality. Under it, by 2020 the most polluting diesel vehicles will be discouraged from entering new Clean Air Zones to be introduced in the centres of Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. This will affect old polluting buses, coaches, taxis and lorries, but not newer vehicles that meet the latest emission standards, or private cars.
One of the main reasons cities continue to face air quality problems is that diesel vehicles have failed to deliver expected emission reductions in real world driving conditions. The Government has therefore won agreement to introduce more stringent emissions testing, ensuring vehicles live up to their low emission credentials.


06 OCT 2016

Attendance Allowance

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Attendance Allowance.

I understand you are concerned about possible changes in this area and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Work and Pensions is reassuring:

The Government is currently considering a range of ideas for the future of local government. More power and more responsibilities are being handed to local authorities. One area which is being looked at carefully is how we care for people in later life, including people who would currently be supported through Attendance Allowance. Proposals on giving local authorities more responsibility in this regard have been part of a wider consultation process for devolving more responsibilities to local government. This consultation will report back in due course.
The policy proposal which has been consulted on for devolving these responsibilities to local authorities includes a provision for protecting Attendance Allowance payments for current claimants. That means nobody already receiving Attendance Allowance would lose their entitlement or see their benefits fall in cash terms.
The proposal is simply a potential way of giving more power to local communities. It would mean that decisions on precisely how to spend that money to support older people with care needs would be taken at a local level, rather than in Whitehall.
This is still only an idea which the Government has raised and no decision has yet been made.


05 OCT 2016

Supported Housing

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

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

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


05 OCT 2016

Wildlife Management

Thank you for your email about the Hunting Act.

I am happy to confirm that I would vote against a repeal of the Hunting Act if it returned to the Commons.

With regard to the particular case mentioned, as I understand it the police investigated this and raided the barn in question last year, taking away the fox cubs. A man was also arrested in connection with the incident.


30 SEP 2016

Housing Allowance

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about domestic violence refugees.

I understand you are concerned about how changes to Housing Benefit may affect them and hope that the following information on this topic from the Department of Work and Pensions is reassuring:

The changes to Housing Benefit announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement involve aligning the rules in the social sector with those for claimants renting privately. This means extending the Local Housing Allowance rules, which limit the amount of rent which Housing Benefit will cover, to the social sector. However, that the Government recognises the importance of ensuring those who are providing supported accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society receive appropriate protections, including women's refuges.
From 2019 the Local Housing Allowance rules will apply to the supported housing sector, but this will not include the Shared Accommodation Rate, in recognition of the particular challenges this would have placed on tenants. To reflect the higher average costs of offering supported accommodation, which may go above the level of Local Housing Allowance, the Government will devolve 'top up' funding to local authorities (and to the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland). This will allow local authorities to take a more coherent approach to planning for housing in their area.
Ministers are aware of the specific issues faced by women's refuges. The Government is listening to the views and concerns of providers and is working to ensure refuges continue to receive appropriate funding for their important work. While the funding mechanism for shorter-term accommodation such as refuges may be different from the rest of the sector, refuges will benefit from the same protection being given to the supported housing sector in general. Refuges will also be entirely exempt from the requirement for social sector housing providers to reduce rents by one per cent each year for four years.
In the last Autumn Statement the Government committed additional support to services for victims of domestic abuse which represented a tripling of the funding compared to the previous four years, and will be spending £80 million on these services up to 2020. The Government also published a renewed Violence Against Women and Girls strategy in March this year.


27 SEP 2016

Motor Neurone Disease (MND)

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association's parliamentary reception on Tuesday the 18th of October at 12.30pm, it is much appreciated.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day. However, I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information on it from the Department of Health reassuring:

MND is a devastating disease which can be difficult to diagnose. In February 2016, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new guidelines on the assessment and management of MND. This sets out the signs and symptoms of the disease and recommends that robust pathways are in place to inform healthcare professionals about MND and local referral arrangements. NICE is clear that patients suspected of having MND should be referred without delay. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and the MND Association have also worked together to produce a 'Red Flag Tool' which sets out key signs of MND to help GPs to identify suspected cases and ensure prompt referral.
All services for people with MND should be commissioned in line with NHS England's neurosciences service specification which sets out what providers must have in place to deliver high quality specialised neurological care.
NHS England commissions augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids. AAC aids are used to restore communication for people who cannot communicate using speech and can help improve the quality of life for patients with MND. Before April 2013, there was no national commissioning of AAC services or agreed definition of what AAC services should provide which resulted in variable patient access. This works alongside NHS England's existing complex disability equipment service which provides advanced wheelchair and seating services for patients with profound disabilities and/or an unstable medical condition.
The Government's National Institute for Health Research has increased spending on neurological conditions from £29.9 million in 2010/11 to £46.7 million in 2014/15.
More power and more responsibilities are being handed to local authorities. One area which is being looked at carefully is how we care for people in later life, including people who would currently be supported through Attendance Allowance. Proposals on giving local authorities more responsibility in this regard are due to be consulted on this year by the Government.


27 SEP 2016

ONE Campaign

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

I appreciate your support for the work they do and hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department for International Development of interest:

The Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on international development.
From the UK's support for Syrian refugees and the fight against Ebola, to the contributions to global funds that deliver vaccines for children and fight deadly diseases like malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis, UK aid has reached millions across the world. Disasters, diseases and conflict don't pay attention to national borders so this action also makes us safer, tackling the problems before they grow and threaten the UK.
The UK Aid Strategy, published last autumn, sets out how the aid budget will be spent tackling the great global challenges. Spending will be based about four key objectives: strengthening global peace, security and governance; strengthening resilience and response to crises; promoting global prosperity; and tackling extreme poverty and helping the world's most vulnerable. The eradication of extreme poverty - the fourth objective - will not be possible without tackling the first three. Progress in these areas is not just in the interests of the world's poorest, but also in the interests of the British people.
The new Secretary of State for International Development wants to build on the great work that been done on things like immunisation and tackling killer diseases. She recently announced that the UK will invest an average of £366 million per year over the next 3 years to help the Global Fund to save eight million lives from AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A world without these diseases is in all our interests.


26 SEP 2016

Assistance Dogs

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

I understand you would like to see all taxi and minicab drivers receive disability training and I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Transport of interest:

Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHV) are essential for many disabled people, and drivers are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. The Equality Act 2010 places duties on taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers to carry assistance dogs at no additional charge. The Department for Transport (DfT) has issued guidance to the licensed trade on the provisions in the Equality Act that require taxis and private hire vehicles to carry guide and other assistance dogs.
Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. A driver was recently fined £1,546, including legal costs, for refusing access to a guide dog. This sends a strong message right across the industry.
Although there is no legal requirement for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake disability awareness training, the Department for Transport's Best Practice Guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing recommends that local licensing authorities to work with the industry in their area to improve drivers' awareness of the needs of disabled people. This includes encouraging their drivers to undertake disability awareness training.


26 SEP 2016

Religious Schools

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the proposals concerning faith schools.

Whilst I recognise the contribution of our existing faith schools, I am wholly opposed to establishing new schools which separate children entirely according to the faith of their parents. As we become a more diverse nation, we should not be teaching children within isolated faith groups. I would like to see the restrictions on faith selection increased not decreased and for them to extend to existing faith schools. We need greater cohesion and understanding not segregation within our communities. It is unacceptable in my view for anyone, let alone a child, to face rejection because their parents are of another faith or indeed none.

Some point to their relatively high academic outcomes but faith school pupils are more likely to have achieved higher prior attainment bands. The difference between faith schools and others schools is negligible: 64% of faith school students get 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, compared to 60% of their counterparts and that difference of performance of 4% is reduced or even reversed when you take into account other aspects of their profile.

I strongly recommend that people respond to the current consultation on this matter and you can find out how do to so via the following link:

https://consult.education.gov.uk/school-frameworks/schools-that-work-for-everyone


26 SEP 2016

"Mayfair Loophole"

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the 'Mayfair loophole.'

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

The Government has taken decisive steps to ensure that asset managers pay their fair share of tax, both at Summer Budget and through Finance Act 2016.
Asset managers are paid in a variety of ways. Carried interest is a portion of profit made by a fund, which is paid to managers when the fund has performed well. It is dependent on the long-term performance of the underlying investments held by the fund.
It is right that when investments are held for the shorter term, and the activities undertaken are more akin to trading, then the profits that fund managers receive should be subject to income tax and not capital gains tax (CGT). That is why the Finance Act ensures that these investments are taxed as income as the same way management fees are.
The Government supports the asset management industry in the UK and believes that carried interest should be subject to capital gains tax and not income tax if the investments are held in the longer term, reflecting the underlying performance of a fund's investments. This is in line with other countries and the approach taken by successive UK Governments.
However asset managers must pay the correct amount of capital gains tax. This is why the Government has closed loopholes and ensured that asset managers do not benefit from the cut in the main rate of CGT, meaning they will continue to pay the higher rate of 28 per cent.
These reforms will make sure that asset managers pay their fair share of tax whilst continuing to make the UK an attractive place to do business.


23 SEP 2016

BT Openreach

Representing a rural constituency I receive a lot of queries from exasperated constituents about broadband in the area and many people highlight difficulties with Openreach, BT's infrastructure division. Indeed, BT have admitted themselves that their customer service is not yet good enough. It remains the case that too many people, and businesses, in counties like Devon continue to be hampered by slow speeds and poor connections and I am clear that connectivity in the countryside must be on a par with urban areas.

I believe we need to see services improve as ensuring high speed digital connectivity is a defining factor in our long term success, allowing us to create new opportunities and growth. However, unless we are better able to hold Openreach to account this is an uphill battle.

Therefore, I am delighted that BT is due to increase Openreach's independence after Ofcom raised concerns about the accountability and transparency of their operation. For a long time now Openreach have been accused of underinvesting in upgrading the network and installing high speed fibre, and Ofcom's insistence that it become a separate company within the BT group will help to provide more customer focus.

Their proposal includes Openreach having its own board with an independent chair and a majority of independent members. Ofcom are running a consultation on this and you can respond with your views via the following link up until the 4th of October.

I know BT have stated that, in line with government policy, they wish to provide every property in the UK with better broadband by 2020 and I do hope this will be the case.

You can read Ofcom's statement on this matter here

You can read BT's plan for these governance and operational changes here


16 SEP 2016

FairFuel

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the FairFuel campaign about fuel duty.

I understand you would like to see fuel duty lowered and I am well aware of the impact any rise would have on those in my constituency, as rural communities are always hit the hardest by fuel duty.

The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement in November and I would not wish to speculate on what will be set out at this time.

Thank you for getting in touch and would like to reassure you that I will continue to campaign for a fair deal on fuel.


15 SEP 2016

Family Courts

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Backbench Business Debate today concerning victims of domestic violence and the family courts.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I am in the constituency today attending the consultations on the community hospital in Dartmouth. MPs cannot intervene in any individual cases before the courts but I am pleased to meet with any constituents to discuss their experience of the court system.

You may also be interested in the announcement concerning proposed changes in this area and you can read more about this via the following link


15 SEP 2016

NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Thank you for emailing me about Sustainability and Transformation Plans and I am glad to have had the opportunity to contribute to the debate in the Commons. I agree that there needs to be better liaison at every stage with local people as these plans take shape. We know from previous reorganisations of services that these are better if local stakeholders are involved early in order to help in their development.

I support the principle of moving away from providers and commissioners of health and care organising services in isolation. Far better for them to work cooperatively across a wider geographic area to make sure that services are joined up and best meet the needs of local people.

I am very concerned to see the proposals to close community hospitals in our area and think we need to see far greater detail about how the new services would look. People really value the opportunity to be cared for close to home in our caring local hospitals, often avoiding the need to be in a larger centre, and for many, community hospitals are their preferred place to be cared for at the end of their lives. We need far greater detail about how rehabilitation and end of life care could be improved under the new plans and crucially, how that could be delivered within such constrained social care funding and with a serious workforce shortfall.

The STP is also hampered by the fund that is there to support plans, the STF, being mostly earmarked to plug hospital deficits rather than provide up front funding to support transformational change and infrastructure.

I will continue to take a close interest in these proposals.


15 SEP 2016

National Wildlife Crime Unit

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

As an MP for a rural constituency that covers a national park, I appreciate your concern on this matter and I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

The Unit makes a vital contribution to tackling wildlife crime both in the UK and internationally, so the Government has agreed to fund it fully until at least 2020. The Home Office and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will each provide annual funding of £136,000, and Defra will also provide up to an additional £29,000 a year specifically to tackle wildlife crime conducted online. This will give the Unit significant financial stability, and allow it to tackle the growing problem of wildlife cybercrime.
In addition to its work, Border Force acts to prevent wildlife products being smuggled at the border. The Government also helps tackle wildlife crime through the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW), a multi-agency body comprising representatives of the Government and voluntary bodies with an interest in combating wildlife crime.
Ministers are working hard on this issue with overseas governments as well. In 2014 the Foreign Secretary chaired a major conference on the illegal wildlife trade, where over 40 countries agreed on decisive action to protect wildlife. This included continuing to back the elephant ivory trade ban, specifying poaching and wildlife trafficking as "serious crimes" under the relevant UN Convention and strengthening co-ordination across borders.


14 SEP 2016

Children in the Yemen

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about children in Yemen.

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

It is critical now that all parties to the conflict renew their commitment to the Cessation of Hostilities for the sake of the people of Yemen, including active participation by the Houthis in the De-escalation and Coordination Committee. The dire humanitarian and economic situation in the country means it is absolutely imperative that the talks continue, and a way towards peace is found.

The UK is the fourth largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Yemen, having more than doubled our commitment to £85 million in 2015-16. The support has provided emergency shelter, healthcare, food and water to more than 1.3 million Yemenis. The Government is urging all parties to allow access for humanitarian and commercial shipping into Yemen's ports, as well as for the delivery of aid on the ground.

The UK takes very seriously any allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law and regularly raises the importance of compliance with the Saudi Government and other members of the military coalition. The UK Government has been clear that all allegations of such violations should be investigated.


08 SEP 2016

Drug APPG

I am receiving emails asking me to attend the launch of the report in to medical cannabis at 11am on Tuesday the 13th of September. I'm disappointed not to be able to attend as I am afraid I already have long standing commitments that morning. Nonetheless, I will look carefully at the arguments for decriminalisation for medical use and I welcome a review of the evidence.

I hope the following information on this from the Department of Health is of interest but of course government should keep their position under review subject to the available evidence.

Cannabis in its raw form is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes. The licensing regime for medicines is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues licences for medicines in the UK which have been tested for their safety, quality and efficacy.
A medicine derived from the cannabis plant, Sativex, has already been licenced for use in the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS). The MHRA is open to considering other licence applications for medicines containing cannabinoids should such products be developed.
In 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its clinical guideline on the management of MS that does not recommend Sativex as a cost effective use of NHS resources. In the absence of positive guidance from NICE, it is for commissioners to make decisions on whether to fund this treatment based on an assessment of the available evidence.
It is appreciated that there are people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses who seek to alleviate their symptoms by using cannabis. Although such use is illicit, the Sentencing Council's guidelines on drug offences identify such circumstances as a potential mitigating factor.
The Government has no plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. The official advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs cites medical and scientific research showing that cannabis use has a number of adverse acute and chronic health effects, especially for people with mental health problems, and continues to present a significant public health issue.


08 SEP 2016

Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and public consultation.

I am afraid the Opposition Day debate on this was postponed by the Labour Party and I am hoping it will be rescheduled for next week. If I can attend I certainly plan to do so and will try to speak on the wider issues as well as our own local STP. Sadly the Parliamentary timetable sometimes means that a debate clashes with another commitment but I will try to get there.

I hope you find the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest which represents the government view.

The Government acknowledges that local governments are vital in helping to set the strategic direction of health and care service development locally. STP footprints are not statutory bodies, they are collaborations of organisations working together to join up care for patients across agreed areas, and to ensure there is a shared strategy to improve health and care across the whole community. Each organisation within the STP collaboration retains their usual duties to engage local people on any new proposals.
The Government is asking for robust local plans for engagement as part of the STP process. Where relevant, footprint areas should build on existing engagement through health and wellbeing boards and other existing local arrangements.
STPs will need to be developed with, and based upon, the needs of local patients and communities and command the support of clinicians, staff and wider partners such as local government. Health and health care cannot be transformed without the active engagement of the clinicians and staff who actually deliver it, nor can we develop care integrated around the needs of patients and users without understanding what our communities want.
Each area is responsible for engaging local people and stakeholders on their draft proposals. The success of STPs will depend on having an open and engaging process that involves patients, carers, citizens, clinicians, local community partners, parliamentarians, the independent and voluntary sectors, and local government through health and wellbeing boards. Where plans propose service changes, formal consultation will follow in due course. The arm's length bodies will be holding conversations with each area to assess their plans for local engagement.


08 SEP 2016

Sexual Offences Act 2003

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and how it applies to transgender people.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice of interest:

The UK has been a world leader for transgender rights, and the progress that we have already made is welcomed. However, more must be done to help transgender people with the unique and often difficult challenges that they face. A new action plan for transgender equality that is currently being developed, in addition to reviews across a range of Government services to see how they can better serve transgender people. We have come a long way in terms of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality. We now want to see the same for transgender people. The Government will continue to work closely with transgender people to create a society where everyone is free to be themselves.
With regard to the Sexual Offences Act it is not agreed that its wording criminalises transgender people having sex without disclosing their gender history. However, it is understood why there is a perception of ambiguity. The decision of a transgender individual to disclose their birth gender to others is a deeply personal and sensitive one. In the event that gender history is a relevant consideration for prosecutors, this will be only one of a number of factors a prosecutor will consider. Each case is considered on its facts and merits and will only be prosecuted if it meets both stages of the Full Code Test as set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. It is important to note that in cases where gender history is a consideration for prosecutors, this does not mean that a prosecution will necessarily follow.
Where a transgender person has received a Gender Recognition Certificate, their legal gender will therefore match their self-defined gender identity and, following the European Court of Human Rights judgement (Goodwin v UK 6 (2002) 35 E.H.R.R 18) their right to keep private their gender history is legally established.


07 SEP 2016

Dog Meat Trade

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the dog meat trade in East and Southeast Asia.

I understand your upset with regard to this matter and agree it is very sad to see animals treated in this way. I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

The Government recognises the difficulty in standing against countries where eating dog meat is culturally accepted, it has continued to try to influence those countries. There have often been accusations against countries in Asia of cruel treatment towards animals, and the Government has made clear that there can be no place for cruel or inhumane practices anywhere. The then-Foreign Office Minister, James Duddridge MP, vowed during the debate held on this:

"We will continue to raise these important issues in the most effective way possible, which is not always through megaphone diplomacy, although sometimes speaking loudly is needed. Where it is needed, we are prepared to speak loudly."

The work that non-governmental organisations such as Animal Asia Foundation, the Humane Society International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals do in Asian countries to protect dogs' welfare is also warmly welcomed.

An important part of the battle is to convince people to care about animal welfare and change their own behaviour. Thanks in large measure to these organisations' activism as well as the British Government's consistent influence, dog meat consumption is declining in several countries across the region.


02 SEP 2016

Calais Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about asylum claims and the situation in Calais.

I do understand your concern on this and I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Home Office of interest:

The Government supports the swift processing of asylum claims made in Calais. However for migrants, including children, to be processed under the Dublin Regulation they must first claim asylum in France. The Government has been clear that it will consider any request made by the French asylum authorities to take responsibility for an asylum applicant in France because they have close family in the UK.

To ensure that the provisions of the Dublin Regulation are used efficiently and effectively in both countries, a joint contact group has been established in line with the commitment in the Joint Declaration published in August 2015. The UK has held regular discussions with French Interior Ministry colleagues, including visits to Calais and Dunkirk to examine the processes and the information made available to migrants

The management of the camp, both in terms of humanitarian aspects and maintaining law and order, is the responsibility of the French Government, however the UK has committed to providing £3.6 million per year for two years to help provide support and facilities elsewhere in France. This is so that migrants can be helped to enter the French asylum system in a safe, systematic and humane manner.

As the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has made clear, the French Government remains committed to meeting its EU and international obligations and the opening of new places in its asylum system for those that claim asylum in Calais demonstrates this. The UK and French Governments are unified in their response to this situation, and both Governments recognise the importance of close partnership and collaboration to reach a long-term solution.


26 AUG 2016

Migrant Workers

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Sports Direct and zero hour contracts.

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

It is important workers get a fair deal. While not suitable for everyone, some employees benefit from these types of contracts, as they offer a greater degree of flexibility. It is important to note that over two-thirds of the 2.3 million private sector jobs created during the last Parliament were full-time jobs. However, it is important to make sure that those benefitting from the flexibility of these contracts are not exploited by unscrupulous employers.
The Government legislated to ban exploitative zero hours contracts so employers can no longer prevent someone on a contract of this kind from only working for them even when no work is guaranteed. Ministers were right to take bold action in this area and stand up for fairness and this ban was further strengthened in January this year by creating a route of redress for individuals via an employment tribunal.
There should be no place for rogue employers in our labour market and changes have been made which raise the maximum fine for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage. It is important that employers who flout the rules know they will face the full force of the law.
The management of Sports Direct have given evidence to the Business Select Committee, and its report will no doubt inform debate in Parliament in near the future.


26 AUG 2016

Purchase of Sex

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the criminalisation of the purchase of sex.

I know this is something that other countries have adopted and I remain open minded about the adoption of this in the UK. However, as I understand it there are concerns that such legislation does not so much reduce demand for sex workers such as displace it and move prostitution further underground.

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

Steps should be taken to eradicate violence against women and girls; this includes protecting those involved in prostitution who are particularly vulnerable. The Government is committed to tackling the harm and exploitation to individuals, impact on communities, and links to organised crime, that can be associated with prostitution. However, the focus should be on harm-minimisation, including supporting those who wish to exit prostitution.
You may be interested to know that the Crown Prosecution Service's guidance to prosecutors focuses on helping those offering services as a prostitute to find routes out of prostitution, and on deterring those who create the demand for it. The guidance also makes clear that enforcement activity should be focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.
Progress in this area is constantly reviewed via a cross-government action plan on violence against women and girls, and Ministers are in regular dialogue with the relevant policing leads and the Crown Prosecution Service, to ensure that legislation and its enforcement remains as effective as possible.


23 AUG 2016

Rail fares

Thank you for taking the time to email me about rail fares.

The issues you raise are important but I do not think that the huge expense of nationalisation would do anything to improve the situation. Investment in safety has been very important but has been costly. I do not believe that a nationalised rail industry would be more efficient or timely, British Rail was hardly a beacon for either.

I hope you will find the following information from the Department of Transport of interest but I accept that operators must do all they can to be responsive to their customers and keep fares affordable.

It is important to consider that wages are growing faster than train ticket prices thanks to action by the Government, including the commitment to cap regulated rail fares in line with inflation, which will save annual season ticket holders £425 on average in the five years to 2020. Passengers want reliable journeys in comfort and with better facilities. That is why the Government is investing record amounts in our railways, delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century, providing more seats, more services, Wifi and air conditioning.
Any increase in regulated fares is regrettable, but record amounts are being invested to achieve better train services. Fares revenue is crucial to funding day -to-day railway operations, as well as the massive upgrade programme which Ministers have driven forward, with around £40 billion being invested to the end of 2019. This will mean new state-of-the-art trains, better stations and hundreds of miles of electrified track which will help cut journey times, provide better connections, and stimulate growth across the country.


22 AUG 2016

Marine Conservation

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about marine conservation and yes, I have taken the opportunity to visit our wonderful coast here in South Devon.

I understand your concern and agree that post Brexit, our marine and coastal environments need ongoing protection. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

There have been 23 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) announced, in addition to the 27 designated in the last Parliament and over 500 other marine protected areas that already existed in the UK. Together these help fulfil the Government's ambitious pledge to create a 'Blue Belt' of protection for our diverse marine wildlife, which now covers over 20 per cent of English waters.
The Government has also announced the creation of a new marine protected area around the Pitcairn Islands, and will extend the Blue Belt around the UK's 14 Overseas Territories where there is local support and environmental need. It was announced most recently that the Atlantic Ocean's largest marine reserve is being created around Ascension, covering an area almost the size of the United Kingdom. Thanks to these efforts, we are world leaders in marine conservation.
Following the outcome of exit negotiations, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU or the Common Fisheries Policy. However we remain part of Europe and both the UK Government and EU leaders have announced that the UK and EU will continue to have a close relationship. We will continue to work with other European countries in this important area.
When designing future environmental and fisheries policy Ministers will keep sustainability at the forefront of their efforts, as they consistently have in previous negotiations.


16 AUG 2016

Brazil

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about democracy in Brazil.

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

The ongoing impeachment process in Brazil is a domestic issue for the people of Brazil and their elected representatives. The Government believes that the Brazilian people and their institutions will resolve the matter in a democratic way and in accordance with their Constitution.
Ministers will continue to follow the political situation in Brazil closely.


16 AUG 2016

Global Fund

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Global Fund to fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development of interest:

While there have been huge advances in tackling many major diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS, there are still millions dying from them each year. A world free of the epidemics of malaria and TB is in all our interests, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria plays an important part in this struggle. Since 2002, the Global Fund has helped reduce deaths from the big three diseases by 40 per cent.
The investment case for the Global Fund projects that a successful replenishment will help the Global Fund to save 8 million lives and avert up to 300 million new infections between 2017 and 2019. The UK is planning to support a successful Fifth Replenishment of a strong, value for money Global Fund and a decision on the size of our investment will be made later in the summer.


10 AUG 2016

Guide Dogs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about audio-visual announcements on buses.

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

Audio-visual systems on buses are not currently mandatory and, for this reason, levels of provision may vary. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) do, however, require all new buses and coaches on local or scheduled services and designed to carry more than 22 passengers to be accessible to disabled passengers.
In addition, all existing public service buses will have to comply with PSVAR by January 2017. As a result, local buses are steadily becoming more accessible, and the most recent figures show that 89 per cent of the bus fleet in England met the PSVAR requirements compared to just 59 per cent in 2009/10.
Ministers have encouraged bus operators and local authorities to invest in audio-visual announcement systems for their buses where possible. Previously, however, the systems to provide such information have been expensive to fit and maintain, so Ministers have supported projects to design innovative and low-cost approaches to providing accessible on-board information and new technology may make it more affordable.
Ministers are currently considering the most appropriate next steps.


10 AUG 2016

Safe Routes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about expanding resettlement places for refugees and ensuring that people are reunited with family members.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information from the Home Office of interest:

The Government's refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK.
There are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Three discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is the most appropriate answer. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR: Gateway; Mandate; and the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
As has been confirmed again recently in the past weeks, there are no plans to extend the criteria for resettlement or numbers of refugees.


09 AUG 2016

Prescription Charges

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about prescription charges for people with long-term conditions.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope you will also find the following information on this topic from the Department of Health reassuring:

The prescription charge has recently increased by 20 pence, from £8.20 to £8.40 for each medicine or appliance dispensed. However, there is already an extensive system of prescription charge exemptions in England. This includes provision for people on low incomes who can apply for free prescriptions through the NHS Low Income Scheme, or who get free prescriptions due to the receipt of certain benefits. This system of exemptions means that 90 per cent of prescription items are dispensed without charge.

Prescription charges generate a valuable income to the NHS budget of around £450 million - money used towards patient care that would have to be found elsewhere if these charges were abolished.

You may be interested to know that there is already a provision in place for people who require multiple prescriptions, such as those with long-term conditions who have to pay charges. The Prescription Prepayment Certificate allows holders to pay no further charge at the point of dispensing, with no limit of the number of items which can be obtained under the certificate. The Government has supported this scheme by freezing the cost of the PPC for another year. These are constructive measures to help those most in need.


08 AUG 2016

Bees

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

I understand you are concerned about what will happen about this following on from the EU referendum vote and I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. The Government's work to understand and protect them, most recently through the National Pollinator Strategy is welcomed.
There are rules providing for the use of normally restricted products to be authorised in emergency situations to protect crops. If emergency authorisation is granted, this does not mean that the ban has been lifted: the facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an essential feature of precautionary bans.
These decisions are taken based on recommendations from the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the independent body of scientists that advises the Government. It takes all environmental factors into account, including the effects of using greater quantities of less effective alternative pesticides.
Last year the Committee recommended that an application for these treatments, covering no more than 5 per cent of the national crop and only on seeds to be sown in the summer and autumn, should be approved. Based on this advice Defra agreed to grant this limited authorisation, covering areas where crops were at the greatest risk of damage by pests.
This year there have been two separate sets of applications to use neonicotinoids on part of the country's oilseed rape crop, but in each case the Committee advised that the applications did not give sufficient assurances that the uses would be limited to those areas most in danger, nor that they would be controlled appropriately. Accordingly, Defra followed the advice of the Committee and has declined these applications.
Rest assured that restrictions on neonicotinoids will not be removed as long as the evidence shows that they should remain.


08 AUG 2016

Early Years

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the educational and language development of children, especially boys. I agree that tackling inequality is an important priority and that early years development is the time when the inequality gap widens the most significantly.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Education of interest:

The new Prime Minister Theresa May recognised the problems facing young boys in her very first speech in Downing Street. She said that a white, working-class boy is less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university, and of course, a large part of this will be to do with a child's early chances in life.
The new Education Secretary will continue her predecessor's work of improving the quality of early education. 86 per cent of early year's providers are rated good or outstanding but we cannot afford to be complacent. The Early Years Foundation Stage sets the standards for the provision of learning, development and care for children from birth to age five that all registered early years providers must follow. It requires providers to deliver high quality early education and includes a focus on communication and language.
To help close the gap between disadvantaged children and their better off peers, the two-year-old entitlement of 15 hours of free early education was introduced in September 2013. The Early Years Pupil Premium was introduced in April 2015 and is worth up to £302 per eligible child per year.


08 AUG 2016

Palestinian Villages

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the displacement of the Bedouin Community.

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

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv raised the issue of the demolition of the villages of Um-il-Hiran and Ateer with the Ministry of Justice and the Arab Affairs Officer at the Israeli Prime Minister's office. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation closely. The UK also makes clears its concerns about Susiya and is a supporter of the community in Susiya, with regular visits to see the situation on the ground.
The UK is deeply concerned by Israeli proposals to relocate the Bedouin population across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, action that the UN has said could constitute forcible transfer. These plans could have a devastating impact on the communities concerned and could open the way for further settlement expansion - endangering the viability of a two-state solution.
The Government's position is clear: demolitions cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; are harmful to the peace process; and are, in all but the most exceptional of cases, contrary to international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention is clear that the destruction of any real or personal property in Occupied Territory is not justified unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
The UK continues to encourage the Israeli authorities and Bedouin communities to engage in dialogue to agree a satisfactory solution to the issue, respecting the equality of all of Israel's citizens in a way which avoids forced relocations, and is consistent with Israel's commitments under international law.


04 AUG 2016

Maximum Workplace Temperature

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about a maximum workplace temperature and EDM 344 relating to this topic.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 344, 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 you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Work and Pensions of interest:

The UK now has a world-beating health and safety regime, which provides protection for workers while also ensuring employers are not burdened by excessive regulations. Thanks to the hard work of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to simplify regulations and remove unnecessary requirements, businesses have been boosted and workers have never been safer.
The law does not state a minimum or maximum workplace temperature, though the indoor temperature should normally be at least 16°C (13°C if the work requires rigorous physical effort). The HSE and Local Authorities regulate workplaces to assess compliance with health & safety legislation. They also investigate complaints about working conditions, including excessive high (or low) temperatures. HSE targets its interventions on workplaces in higher risk sectors, such as foundries and bakeries, where high temperatures can be a concern. Inspectors can take enforcement action to improve conditions where they find problems.
A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. If a significant number of employees are complaining about a high temperature, employers should be carrying out risk assessments and should act on the results. Setting a universal temperature ceiling across the board is not the best way to manage the issue. There is extensive guidance on the HSE website on this topic, including on heat stress, and on the practical steps that employers can take to manage risk. HSE has also simplified this guidance to make it easier to use by small and medium sized enterprises.


02 AUG 2016

Hinkley Point C

Thank you for taking the time to email me about nuclear power and Hinkley Point C.

As I am sure you will now know, a decision on Hinkley has been delayed until later in the year to allow a full review of the implications.

The following is the view on this matter from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy of interest:

The UK needs a reliable and secure energy supply and the Government still believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix. The Nuclear Industrial Strategy published in 2013 in partnership with industry establishes a long term approach for the sector to stimulate economic growth and create jobs in this country.
The Government will now consider carefully the different parts of the Hinkley Point project and a decision will be made in the early autumn.
A power station at Hinkley Point has the potential to reduce the UK's carbon emissions, bring billions of private investment into the UK economy and create around 25,000 jobs at the peak of construction. It will provide a clean source of home-grown energy, providing 7 per cent of the country's energy needs.

My personal feeling is that we should not rule out nuclear power in our energy mix but I welcome a review of the cost and comparisons with other energy investments before a final decision is made.


02 AUG 2016

Science Council

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about international collaboration on scientific research.

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

The Government is determined to ensure the UK continues to play a leading role in European and international research.
The referendum result will have no immediate effect on the right of researchers to apply or participate in EU research programmes. While, the future of UK access to European science funding will be a matter for upcoming discussions, in the short term the UK remains a member of the EU and will continue to receive relevant funding. For instance, the referendum result has no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020.
The UK has a long established system that supports and attracts the brightest minds. The Government recognises the importance of our research base and has demonstrated a commitment to scientific research. The science budget is protected in real terms for the rest of this Parliament, helping us ensure this strength is maintained and our world-class researchers have the freedom to tackle important scientific questions.


01 AUG 2016

Stand As One

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Stand As One campaign.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 308 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The hate crimes that we have seen after the referendum are totally unacceptable, and go against everything great about this country of ours. This is a country where we tolerate one another's beliefs, and where we actively celebrate our diversity. A country where people are free to observe their religion, and culture, in a way that strengthens our society.
Please be assured that the Government is taking action to combat any hatred or intolerance towards any section of our society. It has published a new hate crime action plan, developed in partnership with communities and government departments. This action plan will increase the reporting of hate crimes, prevent hate crimes on transport and provide stronger support for victims.
On the issue of the refugee summits, making sure that the UK continues to be a welcoming and tolerant society for those fleeing persecution is of the upmost priority.


01 AUG 2016

Stem Cell Transplants

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about second stem cell transplants for blood cancer patients who have relapsed.

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

Although the overall budget for specialised services in England is considerable, at around £14 billion per year, NHS England has to make difficult decisions on behalf of tax-payers about how to prioritise the funding that is available. To ensure that investment decisions are affordable and offer value for money NHS England has established an annual prioritisation process led by clinical experts.
Unfortunately, during this year's annual prioritisation process by the Specialised Commissioning Oversight Group (SCOG), out of twenty two proposals considered, second bone marrow transplants for patients with relapsed disease was one of four treatments with the lowest cost/benefit priority. This means that it will not be considered for routine commissioning this year. Decisions by SCOG are based on expert recommendations made by (Clinical Priorities Advisory Group) CPAG which uses a defined process to prioritise treatments.
However, all of the policies will be considered again next year in the prioritisation process for 2017/18 and this review will consider any additional new peer-reviewed publications.
The Department of Health continues to invest to improve the provision of stem cells for patients requiring a transplant. This year, the Department of Health is investing over £2.5 million to enable our delivery partners NHS Blood and Transplant and the charity Anthony Nolan to collect umbilical cord stem cells and recruit adult donors from communities currently under-represented in the donor register. Since 2011 the Department has invested over £19 million to improve the provision of stem cells for patients requiring a transplant. This investment has significantly increased the chances of patients finding a suitable matching donor and established a single UK register of donors.


01 AUG 2016

NHS Funding

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about future NHS funding.

As a former GP and Chair of the Health Select Committee this is a subject I will continue to raise and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Health of interest:

The Government is committed to a tax-funded NHS, free at the point of use, wherever and whenever you need it. As Ministers plan a new relationship with the EU, the Government will continue to ensure that the NHS is given the priority and stability it deserves.
Despite tight public finances, the Government has actively supported the NHS' own plan for the future. That is why it is providing the additional £10 billion of investment per annum in real terms by 2020/21 - compared to 2014/15 - requested to fund a transformation in care. This will allow the NHS to offer 800,000 more operations and treatments and spend up to £2 billion more on new drugs. It will also ensure that by 2020, everyone will be able to access GP services at evenings and weekends.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. Local authorities will be given greater powers so they can raise up to £2 billion by the end of this Parliament for adult social care through the introduction of a social care precept. This will be supported by making extra funds available for local government from 2017, rising to £1.5 billion by 2019/20 and to be included in the Better Care Fund. This will ensure that spending on social care will have risen in real terms by the end of this Parliament and protect the most vulnerable in society.
The Government has committed to unprecedented levels of mental health funding, including £1.25 billion for perinatal and children and young people's mental health, helping professionals to intervene early. To support teenagers with eating disorders, the Government has also invested £150 million.
The NHS will earmark an extra £2.4 billion a year for GP services by 2020/21, a 14 per cent real terms increase. Overall investment in primary medical care includes a £500 million Sustainability and Transformation package to help GP practices add to the workforce and tackle workload.
On top of this, to secure the best value for taxpayers, the Government has introduced tough new financial controls to cut down on waste in the NHS, including introducing caps for agency staff and management consultants, and introducing central procurement rules. The Government has also introduced a £1.8 billion Sustainability and Transformation Fund in 2016/17 to support providers to move to a financially sustainable footing.


25 JUL 2016

MUNGO

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about homelessness and health care.

I agree that this is a serious issue and I greatly appreciate the work done by the Shekinah Mission and the Revival Life Ministries in the constituency. Homelessness has been one of the factors leading to avoidable tragedies and the government at both national and local level have to play their part in reducing this risk.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the second reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill on the 28th of October as I will be in the constituency but I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Communities and Local Government of interest:

In the last Parliament, significant progress was made in tackling homelessness across the country. £500 million was provided to councils and charities to deal with homelessness and help the most vulnerable in society get their life back on track. This helped to prevent nearly 1 million people from becoming homeless.
Homelessness is rarely the result of a personal housing crisis alone. Most entrenched rough sleepers have complex needs that can include mental health difficulties or addiction.
At the Budget, the Government announced that funding for the Rough Sleeping Social Impact Bond would be doubled to £10 million to find ways to tackle entrenched rough sleeping, often including those facing complex mental health. A further £10 million will support innovative ways to prevent and reduce rough sleeping over two years, particularly in London. This will build on the success of the No Second Night Out initiative, which in the previous Parliament meant that over two-thirds of rough sleepers in 20 key areas outside London did not spend a second night out on the streets.
The Department of Health is also providing £40 million for the Homeless Change and Platform for Life programmes.
This will help address mental health issues by providing decent accommodation and health support for homeless people, and highlights the importance of services coming together to help those on the street with complex needs. The Government has also put in place £1 billion a year to help alleviate mental health problems more generally.


22 JUL 2016

Snaring

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the use of snares, I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate on this matter due to prior commitments in the constituency.

Nonetheless, I understand your concern on this matter and agree no unnecessary suffering should be caused to animals. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

Self-locking snares have been banned since 1981, but the use of free-running snares is permitted. Animals are, however, protected from unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and this includes any caught in snares.

In 2008 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs commissioned research to determine the extent of the use and humaneness of snares in England and Wales. This was published in March 2012. After considering its findings Lord de Mauley, who was at the time the Minister responsible for policy on wildlife management, held constructive meetings with people who use snares and those opposed to them. He made it clear that both sides must work together to help end irresponsible snare use.

It is encouraging that Ministers are working with these groups to agree a means of monitoring compliance, and to consider improvements to the Code of Practice on the use of snares.

Thank you for getting in touch as I do agree that it is essential that snare use should be strictly limited and that ministers must take great care to reduce unnecessary suffering.


22 JUL 2016

Fair Votes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Caroline Lucas MP's bill on changing our voting system, however I am afraid I was unable to support it..

People voted to keep our First Past the Post (FPTP) system in a referendum in 2011 and I will be respecting that decision just as I have promised to do for Brexit. On the issue of the voting age, I've long supported allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote and will continue to do so but unfortunately Ms Lucas bundled this with dropping FPTP which would have meant voting against the outcome of a referendum.


22 JUL 2016

Political Advertising

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

I know many are concerned about this in light of the recent referendum campaign and I did speak out at the time about the need for both sides to be more transparent. Frankly misleading claims were made on both sides with no accountability for doing so.

I understand why you would like me to sign EDM 278 calling for an Office of Electoral Integrity, 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 you will find the following information on this topic from the Cabinet Office of interest although personally I would like to see the government go further as there appears little to prevent an escalating problem of exaggerated or ugly electioneering claims:

In general, political campaign material in the UK is not formally regulated, and it is a matter for the press and public to decide on the basis of such material whether they consider it reasonable and accurate.
While the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK's independent regulator for advertising across all media, political adverts are not within its remit. The ASA suggests that anyone with concerns about a political advert could contact the party responsible, and exercise their democratic right to tell them what they think. The free press also has an important role in holding politicians and campaigners to account.
Of course, the wider law does generally apply to political campaign material, including the law of defamation and public order offences. Electoral law also makes it a criminal offence to publish false statements about a candidate: the courts do enforce this legislation, as illustrated during the April 2015 election court ruling which disqualified the mayor of Tower Hamlets for a litany of illegal practices.
Electoral law also requires for parties and other campaigners to include an 'imprint' on their campaign material, identifying its source, to ensure transparency and accountability.


19 JUL 2016

Supported Housing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about changes to Housing Benefit and the equivalent in Universal Credit from April 2018.

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

The changes to Housing Benefit announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement involve aligning the rules for claimants in the social sector with those for claimants renting privately. The Government recognises the importance of ensuring those who are providing supported accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society receive appropriate protections. Government departments will be working closely together and listening carefully to the concerns raised, to make sure that the right protections are in place.

The Government has commissioned an extensive review into supported housing to get an accurate picture of the sector's needs, and will report back in due course. This will help to determine how best to make sure the appropriate protections are in place, and the Government is keen to ensure workable and sustainable solutions for the supported housing sector are worked out. The details on this policy are still being considered. Reductions will not apply until April 2018 and the change will only apply to new or renewed tenancies from April 2016; the Chancellor confirmed in the 2016 Budget that for supported accommodation this will be delayed until April 2017 to allow time for the review to be considered.

The aim of these reforms is to make the system fairer and address the rising social sector Housing Benefit bill. People who rent privately have their rent, in the assessment of Housing Benefit, limited to a level appropriate to their household size and local area by the Local Housing Allowance. This limit will now apply to social tenants as well. Over the last five years, average social rent rises have been double those for private sector accommodation. It is not fair for social landlords to consistently raise rents knowing the taxpayer will pick up the bill, while those renting privately have limits on the amount of rent they can claim for. However, it is important to ensure this change does not have an unintended impact on vulnerable people, which is the point of the Government's review.

As part of the policy announcement in the Autumn Statement an additional £70 million for 2018-20 was announced for Discretionary Housing Payments. Although these payments are generally to afford an element of support during transition, the Government recognises that some people will need additional support for the longer term, which is why funding is being substantially increased. A total of £870 million for these payments is being provided over the course of this Parliament. This will allow local authorities to ensure vulnerable groups are not negatively impacted.

Supported housing is a vital provision for many people, and please be assured the Government is working to ensure the sector is able to maintain and improve the essential services it provides.


17 JUL 2016

Trident

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the renewal of Trident.

Since entering Parliament, I have been weighing up the concerns of many people about whether we should renew Trident. I was especially troubled about whether renewal would break the 'grand bargain' of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and lead to further international proliferation or put us at greater risk of a nuclear accident or attack. In addition, I had concerns about the cost relative to conventional deterrence and whether Trident renewal could be putting funding of conventional forces at risk. During my time as an MP I have discussed this matter with experts in the field from a number of perspectives as well as with many of my constituents.

Having done so I think it is right to make it clear that I am now convinced by the argument for retaining and renewing our nuclear deterrent. Whilst Trident is expensive, it remains good value for money in comparison with the overall defence budget and scrapping it would not necessarily result in a transfer of that funding to conventional deterrence.

Sadly, there is no realistic chance that unilateral nuclear disarmament on our part would lead to a similar disarmament across the Middle East or Asia. We will however continue to reduce our stockpile and the number of warheads in line with our international obligations.

We would all prefer a world free of all weapons of mass destruction but the reality is that this is not achievable through unilateral disarmament and in an uncertain and dangerous world, Trident remains our ultimate deterrence and I would vote in favour of renewal.


14 JUL 2016

CETA

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 165 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills of interest:

As it stands, CETA is expected to be a "mixed" agreement, covering areas of both EU and Member State competence. In this case, it will be subject to agreement by each EU Member State, the EU Council and the European Parliament. In practice EU trade agreements which contain a mixture of EU and Member State competence are agreed by consensus, this means each Member State's Parliament must agree before the treaty can fully come into force.

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union, the UK will need to begin the process of leaving the EU. Once the UK ceases to be an EU member state, we will no longer be a CETA party. CETA does not offer any mechanism for the UK to join as a non-EU member state and contains no provisions for accession by new parties, other than new EU member states.


14 JUL 2016

Dog Fighting

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with your concerns about dog fighting.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 64, 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 quite agree this is an abhorrent practice and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

This is a heinous crime that has been banned in this country for over 100 years. It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and punishable by up to six months' imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both. I also support the ban on owning or selling some types of dogs bred for fighting.

The police have powers to investigate allegations of dog fighting and have the power to arrest anyone suspected of being involved in this barbaric practice. Anyone with any information about it to contact the police immediately.


12 JUL 2016

Christians in the Middle East

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about Christians in the Middle East and the meeting that is being held on this topic on the 12th of October. Their situation is clearly extremely difficult and I know that the spotlight from campaigners such as yourselves helps to defend them.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reassuring:

In order to expand its efforts to tackle religious persecution, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has established a new expert advisory group, increasing training to improve its religious literacy and using these insights to inform Government work in international bodies and individual countries. In January, the FCO also announced the £10.6 million Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy 2016/17 programme, which encourages strong bids for projects focused on promoting freedom of religion or belief.

The Government is motivated by deep concern for religious communities in the Middle East. Ministers have stressed the importance of guaranteeing religious freedom when working with the Lebanese Government and the new Government in Iraq. Additionally, the Government is prioritising reaching the most vulnerable people across Syria, including Christians and those who have suffered from the ongoing violence, with its extensive aid programme.

The Government continues to work with non-governmental organisations to seek improvements on the ground. This has included funding groups such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organisation that works to defend the freedom of religion or belief, both in the Middle East, and more widely.


11 JUL 2016

Animal Research

I have been receiving correspondence with regard to the use of animals to predict human responses.

I understand some would like me to sign EDM 373 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

I hope the following information on this matter from the Home Office of interest:

The Government has outlined how it will work to reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in research - known as 'the 3Rs'. The UK's National Centre for the 3Rs has been leading the way in this area, and has already invested over £35 million to support this work. As a result, trials into cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, as well as toxicity testing, have all seen reductions in animal use.

Animal research still plays a small but important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available.

The Predictive Toxicology project was carried out by a consortium of pharmaceutical companies, enterprises, and universities to characterise the effects of 16 test compounds using conventional toxicological parameters and newer approaches. A study published in May 2013 examined over 1200 adverse drug reactions with an incidence rate of over 5 per cent from almost 150 new medicines. The analysis showed that almost half of these were entirely predictable from animal data.

Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.


08 JUL 2016

EU Citizen

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the debate held on the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK.

I am afraid I was unable to attend this debate due to prior commitments but would like to make very clear that I have already supported this important principle and have raised this in Parliament.

I know some have been unsettled by recent comments made by the Home Secretary Theresa May on this topic, however I have heard Theresa speak about wanting them to stay and I have no doubt of her commitment to allowing this. She is merely being honest about the fact that we have also to consider the position of British nationals living elsewhere in the EU. This is not about bargaining chips but about fairness to all who have been affected by the result of the referendum.

I will continue to urge that the status of EU nationals currently resident is confirmed as soon as possible and my own view is that they should be allowed to stay irrespective of the the position elsewhere.


08 JUL 2016

Child Poverty

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about child poverty.

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

Income inequality has gone down under this Government. Average incomes have grown at their fastest rate since 2001. There are 300,000 fewer people in relative poverty since 2010 and half a million fewer people in absolute poverty. The Government has introduced new indicators for children's life chances to focus on the root causes of poverty, rather than simply focussing on the symptoms by looking at the figures for relative poverty.
The best route out of poverty is work, which is why one of the key new measures will be the number of children in workless households. Wages continue to rise above inflation, as well as the Government's introduction of the National Living Wage which will deliver a pay rise for millions of families on low pay.
The 200,000 figure referred to is in fact the figure for 'relative poverty', which measures the number of children in households with incomes below 60 per cent of the median. This figure does not effectively measure children's life chances, which is precisely why the Government has replaced it with new, better indicators. For example, the last recession led to a fall in the number of children in relative poverty, but this was because the median income fell, not because children were better off. Similarly, the latest figure for relative poverty has gone up because median incomes have risen, not because children have been getting poorer.


08 JUL 2016

Ancient Woodland

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the APPG on Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees meeting on Tuesday the 19th of July at 3.45pm, unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments.

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

There are no plans to change the protections currently in place, regardless of press coverage suggesting that proposals for a national biodiversity offsetting system could undermine them, but this has never been the case. Biodiversity offsetting would only be used once a planning application has passed a rigorous set of tests. It could then be used to ensure that adequate compensation was provided in a transparent and consistent way.
Furthermore, the National Planning Policy Framework states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.
In short, the Government has no plans to undermine the protections for ancient woodland. On the contrary, Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and the Government has pledged to plant a further 11 million in this one. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that hasn't been seen since the fourteenth century.


08 JUL 2016

Bees

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

I understand you are concerned about what will happen about this following on from the EU referendum vote and I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. The Government's work to understand and protect them, most recently through the National Pollinator Strategy is welcomed.
There are rules providing for the use of normally restricted products to be authorised in emergency situations to protect crops. If emergency authorisation is granted, this does not mean that the ban has been lifted: the facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an essential feature of precautionary bans.
These decisions are taken based on recommendations from the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the independent body of scientists that advises the Government. It takes all environmental factors into account, including the effects of using greater quantities of less effective alternative pesticides.
Last year the Committee recommended that an application for these treatments, covering no more than 5 per cent of the national crop and only on seeds to be sown in the summer and autumn, should be approved. Based on this advice Defra agreed to grant this limited authorisation, covering areas where crops were at the greatest risk of damage by pests.
This year there have been two separate sets of applications to use neonicotinoids on part of the country's oilseed rape crop, but in each case the Committee advised that the applications did not give sufficient assurances that the uses would be limited to those areas most in danger, nor that they would be controlled appropriately. Accordingly, Defra followed the advice of the Committee and has declined these applications.
Rest assured that restrictions on neonicotinoids will not be removed as long as the evidence shows that they should remain.


08 JUL 2016

Fracking Appeal Lancashire

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about appeals by Cuadrilla at sites around Preston and Roseacre and Wharles in Lancashire.

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

Following the public inquiry, the planning inspector submitted her report to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for his consideration on 4 July. Very careful consideration will be given to the Inspector's report and the wide range of material considerations raised in these cases. This will include the decision of the local authority and the material considerations put forward at the time of the application. A decision will be issued on or before 6 October 2016.


08 JUL 2016

NPPF

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about housing and the Green Belt.

I agree that our green belt needs protecting and hope you will find the following information from the Department for Communities and Local Government on this topic of interest.

Our fields, woodlands and countryside should be protected against excessive development. These are special areas of our country that we have a right to enjoy and pass on to future generations.
At the same time, that more homes need to be delivered to meet the demands of our increasing population. The previous Labour Government did little to address the housing shortage and left this country with the lowest levels of housebuilding since the 1920s. This Government, in contrast, has delivered over 700,000 homes in the last 6 years, and priority is now being given to the development of brownfield sites. Latest statistics show that the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989.
However, it is also important that sites with existing planning permission are built out. Under-delivery creates uncertainty for communities and discourages young families from staying in the area. One proposal to address under-delivery is to release further land following a Housing Delivery Test. This would ensure that where developers don't deliver, councils and local people can work together to deliver the homes that their area needs.
Rest assured, the Government is considering all views, and will respond to the consultation on the proposals in due course.

Once the government have issued their response you will be able to view it via the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/national-planning-policy-consultation-on-proposed-changes


07 JUL 2016

Water Champion

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about water and sanitation.

I agree that access to clean drinking water and effective sanitation is crucial in developing countries and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development of interest:

Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) helped 62.9 million people, including 22.2 million women, access clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions. DFID helped build wells, standpipes, pumps, toilets and sewage systems, and encouraged the private sector in developing countries to do more. Ministers are intent on matching this success by helping at least another 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation over the next five years, to stop terrible diseases and boost economic opportunity.
The adoption of the Global Goals last year is welcomed. The UK successfully pushed for Goal 6 on water and sanitation for everyone. The global community must work to achieve this and other goals by 2030, so that in the next 15 years we see access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, particularly women and girls.
A more healthy, productive and prosperous world is clearly in our national interest, and access to water and sanitation is a key part of this.


07 JUL 2016

Rendition

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the allegations of UK involvement in unlawful rendition.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate on this matter due to prior commitments but I hope you hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of interest:

The UK opposes any form of deprivation of liberty that amounts to placing a detained person outside the protection of the law, including so-called extraordinary rendition. The Government does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture for any purpose, and has made that position absolutely clear, both publicly and bilaterally with overseas partners. It remains committed to ensuring that allegations of UK complicity in unlawful rendition and mistreatment overseas are examined fully.
An inquiry into the role of the UK Government and security and intelligence agencies in relation to detainee treatment and rendition is currently being conducted by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC). Following the announcement by the CPS that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the suspect in the case relating to the Belhadj and Al Saadi families, the ISC confirmed it will examine the case as part of its inquiry.
Given the ongoing civil case being pursued by Mr Belhadj, and the ISC inquiry it would be inappropriate to comment any further. Once the ISC has published its report, the Government will be able to consider whether a new judge-led inquiry is in the country's best interests.


02 JUL 2016

Air Quality

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about air quality and pollution.

I understand the concerns about air quality and the impact on health. I have already spoken to the transport minister about the need to make it safer for people to use alternative green forms of transport through the cycling and walking investment strategy and would like the government to go further on this agenda.

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

The Government is committed to tackling this problem. While significant improvements have been made in air quality over many years, more needs to be achieved. Over the past five years the Government has committed over £2 billion to help bus operators upgrade their fleets, reduce pollution from a range of vehicles such as refuse trucks and fire engines through cutting edge technologies, and promote the development of clean alternative fuels such as powering taxis with liquid petroleum gas in Birmingham.
Now, the Government has issued a UK plan for improving air quality. Under it, by 2020 the most polluting diesel vehicles will be discouraged from entering new Clean Air Zones to be introduced in the centres of Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. This will affect old polluting buses, coaches, taxis and lorries, but not newer vehicles that meet the latest emission standards, or private cars.
One of the main reasons cities continue to face air quality problems is that diesel vehicles have failed to deliver expected emission reductions in real world driving conditions. The Government has therefore won agreement to introduce more stringent emissions testing across the EU, ensuring vehicles live up to their low emission credentials.


01 JUL 2016

Age Champion

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Age UK reception on the 11th of July, unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless I can assure you I regularly meet with various groups and organisations concerning the welfare of older people in our society and have close links with Dartmouth and Totnes Caring. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions of interest:

Life expectancy has been growing steadily for over half a century. In 1951, a man aged 65 could expect on average to live to the age of 77. Today, he can expect to live to 86, and by 2050 to 91.
These are facts to be celebrated. However, steps need to be taken to accommodate the changing structure of our society. Retirement should be an increasingly active phase of life, where people have opportunities to continue working and volunteering, as well as saving and looking after their health.
The Government is helping improve life for older people in an ageing society, publishing "Fuller Lives: A Framework for Action" and appointing a Business Champion for Older Workers. Importantly, the default retirement age has been abolished so employers can no longer force employees to retire just because they reach the arbitrary age of 65. Older people have a wealth of skills and experience, and these changes should help unlock them.
Ministers are making the State Pension simpler and fairer to help planning and saving for retirement. Alongside this, the Government is making sure the State Pension remains affordable in the long term, and fair between generations, by raising the State Pension age. A regular and structured method for considering future State Pension age changes will help ensure confidence, alongside reforms to workplace pension schemes to help people meet their retirement income expectations.
Finally, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health co-chair the UK Advisory Forum on Ageing, bringing together representatives from a range of groups representing older people to address the opportunities and challenges of an ageing society.


29 JUN 2016

Land Registry

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Land Registry, I am afraid I will be unable to attend the debate on this matter on Thursday the 30th of June due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills of interest:

Land Registry continues to be an essential part of land and property ownership in England and Wales. It undertakes a range of functions and responsibilities, which support an effective and functioning property market by providing assurance to those who have an interest in land and property and a state-backed guarantee to title. In this way, a well-functioning Land Registry underpins housing supply, home ownership and economic growth.

Those functions remain crucial, but as long as the right protections are put in place, including keeping the statutory register under government ownership, there is no obvious reason that all of the Land Registry's functions should be carried out within the public sector. Indeed, Land Registry could have more freedom in the private sector to continue to evolve into a high performing, innovative business, delivering for customers and the wider market in a 21st century, digital economy.

To understand the arguments better, the Government has been consulting on the future of land registration operation and will analyse this feedback in due course. Although the Government has set out a proposed model, no final decisions have been made. As such, we cannot pre-judge what any final model will look like.

However, under all proposals currently being considered, the Land Registers for England and Wales would remain under Crown ownership to ensure the integrity of the register is maintained and, as well as retaining the register under Crown ownership, Government is considering a range of protections and safeguards to protect land registry customers and the wider economy if there were to be a privatisation, such as data protection, disputes handling and fee setting.

When the government response is published you will be able to view it via the following link


29 JUN 2016

Dog Fighting

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with your concerns about dog fighting.

I quite agree this is an abhorrent practice and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

This is a heinous crime that has been banned in this country for over 100 years. It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and punishable by up to six months' imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both. I also support the ban on owning or selling some types of dogs bred for fighting.

The police have powers to investigate allegations of dog fighting and have the power to arrest anyone suspected of being involved in this barbaric practice. Anyone with any information about it to contact the police immediately.


29 JUN 2016

Alcohol Guidelines

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about new alcohol guidelines.

As you may know I have long been a vocal campaigner about the damage of alcohol abuse and have called for minimum unit pricing. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Health of interest:

It is important to ensure that guidelines on alcohol consumption are founded on the best science to help people at all stages of life to make informed choices about their drinking. At the request of the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), a group of experts was asked to evaluate evidence about the levels and types of health harm that alcohol can cause.
They have produced some recommendations about how health risks can be limited from drinking alcohol. The UK CMOs considered and accepted the advice of the expert group and have recently held a public consultation on the following three recommendations: a weekly guideline on regular drinking, advice on single episodes of drinking, a guideline on pregnancy and drinking. The consultation closed in April 2016 and the Government will publish a response in due course.
It is essential to raise awareness of the costs of harmful drinking and dependent use of alcohol. That is why the Government is committed to making every contact count with patients, and encourage health professionals to discuss a person's drinking habits across all health interventions, including when signing up to a new GP practice. A dedicated alcohol risk assessment has been included as part of our free NHS Health Checks for 40 to 74 year olds so people can get advice and information to help them cut down if they need to.


27 JUN 2016

Yoga

Thank you for taking the time to email me about yoga, I do appreciate the benefits that many people gain from taking part.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 215 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

It is the responsibility of local authorities to commission services to enable healthy lifestyles in the community, but let me outline some of the measures the Government is taking to help people live healthier lives.
In September 2015, the Chief Executive of the NHS announced a new £5 million plan in a major drive to improve and support the health and wellbeing of 1.3 million NHS staff. This plan includes establishing and promoting a local physical activity 'offer' to staff, such as running yoga classes.
The Government wants all children to lead healthy and active lives and will be publishing its new childhood obesity strategy shortly. Schools and teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their pupils and I believe it is right that they have the freedom to decide if they want to use external programmes to help deliver their curriculum and to provide effective pastoral support.
The revenue from the new soft drinks industry levy will be used to double the Primary PE and Sport Premium for primary schools from £160 million a year to £320 million from September 2017. Primary schools will be able to make further improvements to the quality and breadth of PE, sport and physical activity opportunities they offer.

In my role as chair of the Health Committee in Parliament I have long been interested in how social prescribing can improve both mental and physical health.

Thank you for getting in touch.


25 JUN 2016

#ShowMeTheMoney Amendment to the Finance Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the #ShowMeTheMoney amendment to the Finance Bill

I am pleased that the Government has played a leading role in driving forward international action on tax transparency and the introduction of country-by-country reporting (CbCR) has increased the transparency between multinationals and tax authorities. The European Commission has now proposed amendments to the Accounting Directive for public CbCR, and Ministers believe these proposals are a step in the right direction towards new international rules for greater public transparency.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Government reassuring:

Thanks in large part to the UK's continuing leadership on this agenda, over 90 countries have now committed to exchange information on offshore accounts, beginning by 2018. The UK also initiated the international work on CbCR and was the first country to formally commit to implementing the OECD model for CbCR, putting this into law last year.

Since 2010 the Government has been reforming the tax system to make sure taxes are paid – leading to companies changing their practices. The Government has raised record amounts by tackling aggressive avoidance and evasion – with an extra £100 billion collected in the last Parliament. Yield from compliance activity - dealing with aggressive tax avoidance, evasion and fraud - rose to a record £26.6 billion in 2014/15. This included £7.3 billion from the 2,000 largest and most complex businesses in the UK.


25 JUN 2016

Andargachew Tsege

Further to my enquiries with James Duddridge MP, the Minister for Africa, the Overseas Territories, and Caribbean about Andargachew Tsege, I received the following response:-

Thank you for your letter of 2 June on behalf of your constituents, about the detention of Andargachew Tsege in Ethiopia.

Please be assured that the British Government takes Mr Tsege's detention and welfare very seriously. The Foreign Secretary raised this case with both the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister during his visit to Ethiopia on 1 June 2016. During his meetings, he made it clear that while progress has been made, with regular consular access now in place and a transfer to a federal prison, further steps are required. Prime Minister Hailemariam assured the Foreign Secretary that Mr Tsege will be allowed access to independent legal advice to allow him to consider his options under the Ethiopian legal system. We will continue to press the Ethiopians to ensure that Mr Tsege has access to the promised legal representation.

Britain does not interfere in the legal systems of other countries by challenging convictions, any more than we would accept interference in our judicial system, although we do lobby strongly and consistently against the application of the death penalty, and against the carrying out of such sentences when they are imposed. Our consular priority at this time is to ensure Mr Tsege's well-being and access to legal advice and to ensure that the death sentence is not carried out.

During the Foreign Secretary's visit, a senior Foreign Office official travelling with him was at his request given access to Mr Tsege in prison. This was the tenth visit to Mr Tsege by British Government officials. Following that visit, I am satisfied that he is not being ill-treated and that he is receiving regular visits from family members in Ethiopia.

I hope this reassures you and your constituents how seriously we are taking Mr Tsege's case and that it remains a priority for the British Government. We will continue to support Mr Tsege and his family.


23 JUN 2016

Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 165 on this matter, however 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 you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills of interest:

Underlying the Agreement is the opportunity to add £1.3 billion to our economy every year, expand exports to Canada by almost a third and create thousands of new British jobs, with further benefits across the EU and Canada.
CETA will tackle a range of issues to make business with Canada easier. It will remove customs duties, end limitations in access to public contracts, open-up services' market, offer predictable conditions for investors and help prevent illegal copying of EU innovations and traditional products. The Agreement contains all the guarantees to make sure that the economic gains do not come at the expense of democracy, environment or consumers' health and safety.
There have been claims that investors could successfully sue a government for losses if a government takes a decision in the wider public interest. However, this is a misconception. It is important that businesses investing abroad are protected from discrimination and unfair treatment, but there is nothing included which would allow companies to undermine public policymaking.
CETA is expected to be a "mixed" agreement, covering areas of both EU and Member State competence. In this case, it will be subject to agreement by each EU Member State, the EU Council and the European Parliament. As part of this process the agreement will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny before it is ratified by the UK.
The complete draft text of the agreement would be laid before Parliament for at least 21 sitting days during which time MPs and Lords may debate the treaty in either or both Houses and vote against the proposed ratification. For the parts of the agreement within UK competence, the proposals for a Council decision on signature and conclusion will be subject to scrutiny in both Houses of the UK Parliament. In practice EU trade agreements which contain a mixture of EU and Member State competence are agreed by consensus, this means the UK must agree before the treaty can fully come into force.


23 JUN 2016

Yemen Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about children in Yemen.

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

The recent cessation of hostilities and the UN-led Yemini peace talks, which have started in Kuwait are welcomed. Ministers encourage all parties to respect the ceasefire and are working closely with the UN to achieve this. A political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen. The UK is supporting the talks being held in Kuwait and the FS recently met the UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to discuss the latest situation.
The UK is the fourth largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Yemen, having more than doubled our commitment to £85 million in 2015-16. The support has provided emergency shelter, healthcare, food and water to more than 1.3 million Yemenis. The Government is urging all parties to allow access for humanitarian and commercial shipping into Yemen's ports, as well as for the delivery of aid on the ground.
The UK takes very seriously any allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law and regularly raises the importance of compliance with the Saudi Government and other members of the military coalition. The UK Government has been clear that all allegations of such violations should be investigated.
The Government remains concerned by the terrorist threat in Yemen, including the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Daesh in Yemen. Long-term instability increases the terrorist risk. The UK continues to work with regional partners to tackle this threat.
The UN Secretary General's annual report on Children in Armed Conflict was published on 2 June. The conflict in Yemen has had a significant impact on children, in terms of the numbers of child casualties, the recruitment of children as soldiers, and attacks on hospitals and schools. The UN Secretary General announced on 6 June that the listing of the Saudi Arabian-led Coalition would be removed from the report's annex, pending the conclusion of a joint review by the UN and Saudi Arabia on the cases and numbers cited in the text.
The Secretary-General reiterated the need for all parties to avoid civilian casualties and move immediately towards a lasting ceasefire. The UK Government remains committed to protecting children affected by armed conflict.
The Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously. The UK operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. All UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia are scrutinised in detail against the EU and national consolidated criteria. A licence will not be issued, for any country, if to do so would be inconsistent with the criteria, including if there is a clear risk it might be used for actions which seriously violate international humanitarian law.
Since conflict in Yemen began, the Government has kept all licensing to Saudi Arabia under continuous review, and has exercised special caution in granting new licences, handling each on a case-by-case basis. The Government is satisfied that export licences for Saudi Arabia are compliant with the UK's export licencing criteria.


23 JUN 2016

Trophy Hunting

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

I read your comments with interest and I appreciate your distress with regard to the sad fate of Cecil the lion. I understand you would like to see the importation of hunting trophies banned and I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

There have been serious concerns raised about African lion hunting trophy imports, which is why the UK's agreement in principle with other EU member states to introduce stricter measures is welcomed. In 2012 the UK funded a conference in Johannesburg to consider conservation of the African lion with other interested countries.

As part of its efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade more broadly, the Government hosted and led the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking, where over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species from being poached to the brink of extinction. It has also set up the £13 million Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund to support projects in the developing world.

You may also be interested to know that the UK Government is committed to conserving the world's wildlife. The UK is a leading participant in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which is reviewing the protection granted to lions. In addition, the Africa Minister, Grant Shapps, wrote to the government of Zimbabwe to call for our two countries to work together to promote lion conservation.


15 JUN 2016

Assisted Dying

Thank you for contacting me about the assisted dying bill which has now taken force in California.

Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for the patient and their families, but as this issue was debated in the House on the 11th September 2015, and the proposed Bill which would have changed the law in this area was defeated by 330 to 118, I am afraid that I cannot see this being reviewed again soon.


15 JUN 2016

Investigatory Powers Bill Proposed Amendments

Thank you for contacting me about the Investigatory Powers Bill.

Throughout the lengthy consideration in both its draft and final form of the Investigatory Powers Bill, the balance between security and privacy has been frequently considered and debated. This balance lies at the heart of the Government's considerations, and I believe that this legislation will be both critical to our national security as well as protective of our personal privacy.

With regards to the notification of individuals, it seems to me that the new clause could very easily help criminals to evade investigation, arrest and prosecution. It is true that such people are more likely to be the subject of warrants because of their involvement in criminality, and this clause may aid them to alter their behaviour as a result of any such notification. However I am glad that changes have been brought forward to the Bill that mean if a serious error has been identified by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the individual concerned will be notified.

On the issue of bulk powers, such provisions are crucial to Britain's national security. These powers enabled over 90 per cent of the UK's targeted military operations during the campaign in south Afghanistan, and they have been essential to identifying 95 per cent of the cyberattacks on people and businesses in the UK discovered by the security and intelligence agencies over the past six months. These powers are not new, the Bill simply introduces additional safeguards.

Finally on the question of review, I understand the desire for ongoing review of the Bill's provisions, but I am assured that this is already provided for. The operation of the Act is to be reviewed by the Secretary of State after five years. This Bill will need some time to bed in, and time will be needed to see what effect it has had. A two-year review runs the risk that the Government will not be in a position to properly assess its impact.

Thank you again for getting in touch.


15 JUN 2016

Leveson Inquiry Part 2

Thank you for contacting me about the second part of the Leveson Inquiry.

I appreciate your concerns regarding this very important issue. When the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the establishment of the Leveson Inquiry he was clear it would examine wrongdoing within the press and the police, including the conduct of the initial police investigation. I am firmly committed to this happening, and lessons must be learnt from the ordeals gone through by the families of Hillsborough victims.

The Government has always maintained that a decision on whether to undertake Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry will not take place until after all criminal investigations and trials related to Part One are concluded. It is my understanding that they are still ongoing.

I can assure you that I will continue to monitor the situation closely.


13 JUN 2016

Saudi Arms Sales

Thank you for contacting me about Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the debate on the 8th June due to prior parliamentary appointments.

I am opposed to the use of the death penalty as a matter of principle in all circumstances and all countries and the UK's close relationship with Saudi Arabia does not mean that the Government shies away from raising legitimate human rights concerns. Ministers and officials frequently discuss these concerns in public and in private with the Saudi authorities and I have personally raised human rights in Saudi in the Commons and chaired a meeting on behalf of the all party group on human rights.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 136 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I do understand concerns on this topic and I hope you find the following information from the Government reassuring:-

A strong relationship with Saudi Arabia matters. For example, our collaboration has resulted in the foiling of al-Qaeda terrorist attacks that would have caused substantial destruction and loss of life. Saudi Arabia has an important and growing role in the region - it is essential to solving the crises in Syria and Yemen.

The UK takes very seriously any allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and regularly raises the importance of compliance with the Saudi Government and other members of the military coalition. The UK Government has been clear that all allegations of such violations should be investigated.

The UK operates one of the most rigorous export control regimes. All UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia are scrutinised in detail through established processes and against the EU and national consolidated criteria. A licence will not be issued if to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the Criteria, including if there is a clear risk that it might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL.

Saudi Arabia is a priority country in the Foreign Office's 2015 Human Rights and Democracy Report and the human rights situation is monitored closely. The UK actively engages with the Saudi Government and civil society groups in the country on a variety of issues including by supporting reforms to the criminal justice system, encouraging the rule of law and promoting freedom and fairness.


08 JUN 2016

Tax Treaties

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

I agree that there is more that can be done to tackle tax avoidance, evasion and other exploitations of the tax system. I am pleased that significant progress on this issue has been made. For example, the UK Government drove forward the international work on country by country reporting, which provides more information to tax authorities, so that they can investigate larger companies' tax strategies. By making UK-based multinationals publish their tax strategies, it will strongly discourage those who fail to comply with their tax duties.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Treasury of interest:-

A major focus of the UK's G8 Presidency was tax transparency and combatting offshore tax evasion. This is why the UK promoted the development of the Common Reporting Standard - an information standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information- to effectively tackle the global problem of tax evasion.
Discussions with Malawi over a new tax treaty have already taken place and the Government are hopeful the new treaty can be concluded shortly. This is a matter for the Government of Malawi. However, they have stated that there is no evidence that the current 1955 agreement has motivated British investors to deprive the Government of Malawi of its revenues.
In the UK tax treaties are published and subject to parliamentary scrutiny before they enter into force. A form of approval is usually followed in the corresponding country, so giving a further level of assurance that the terms are acceptable to both Governments.


08 JUN 2016

Drug Prices

Thank you for contacting me about the cost of pharmaceutical drugs to the NHS.

As a former GP and Chair of the Health select Committee, I quite understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Health reassuring:-

The Government is committed to paying a fair price for drugs. That is why the Secretary of State for Health has asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urgently look into whether pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the NHS by increasing their prices. The CMA is currently carrying out five investigations related to suspected anti-competitive practices in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. The CMA can impose tough financial penalties on a company that is found to have charged excessive prices.

The Government has worked closely with the industry on a range of issues, including the pricings of new medicines, through mechanisms such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. This scheme is a voluntary agreement between the Government and pharmaceutical industry which controls the costs of branded medicines sold to the NHS. Through measures such as this, the Government is taking action to ensure drugs represent value for money to the NHS and the UK taxpayer.

The Government is currently in discussions with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry about how best to ensure appropriate pricing throughout the system.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me; I will follow any developments with interest and in my capacity as chair of the health committee I will be writing to Jeremy Hunt further on this issue.


03 JUN 2016

Talking Buses

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Talking Buses campaign.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport of interest:

Audio-visual systems on buses are not currently mandatory and, for this reason, levels of provision may vary. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) do, however, require all new buses and coaches on local or scheduled services and designed to carry more than 22 passengers to be accessible to disabled passengers. In addition, all existing public service buses will have to comply with PSVAR by January 2017. As a result, local buses are steadily becoming more accessible, and the most recent figures show that 89 per cent of the bus fleet in England met the PSVAR requirements compared to just 59 per cent in 2009/10.
Ministers have encouraged bus operators and local authorities to invest in audio-visual announcement systems for their buses where possible. However, this technology can come at some cost and so Ministers have supported projects to design innovative and low-cost approaches to providing accessible on-board information. There are a number of different potential solutions for achieving better audio-visual information, not all of which necessarily require on-bus equipment.
Making on-board systems a requirement on all new buses would be a significant cost to the industry and so Ministers have no current plans to mandate such systems through regulation.


03 JUN 2016

Count Them In

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Count Them In campaign.

I understand you would like me to support this and agree that including information about the Armed Forces Community in the next census would be a good idea. I can assure you that I will bear this in mind during discussions with my colleagues and as a forces child I have great respect for all those that have served our country.


03 JUN 2016

Andargachew Tsege

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with regard to the plight of Andargachew Tsege.

This is a worrying case and I hope the government will do more to gain access and demand progress on his release. The following is the current government position but I will write to the relevant Minister asking for more to be done:

It is deeply concerning that British national Andargachew Tsege remains in detention and that the legal process has made little progress. The Foreign Secretary has made clear to the Ethiopian Government that their continued failure to grant the UK Government's basic requests was unacceptable and the lack of progress risked undermining the UK's bilateral relationship with Ethiopia.
Extensive Ministerial lobbying resulted in Mr Tsege's transfer to a normal federal prison in July and frequent consular access. However, the Government remains concerned about the process by which Mr Tsege was detained and his ongoing lack of access to legal counsel. Mr Tsege must have access to a legal process through which he can challenge his detention.
It is vital that due legal process is followed and the death sentence imposed in absentia will not be carried out. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and the Government continues to call on all countries around the world that retain the death penalty to cease its use.


02 JUN 2016

Policing and Crime

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about protecting 16 and 17 year olds from child sexual exploitation.

As a former police forensic medical examiner, I quite understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Home Office reassuring:

This Government is committed to keeping children and young people of all ages safe from abuse. Child sexual abuse is a despicable crime and it must be thoroughly and properly investigated, and those responsible brought to justice. Last year the Government published a report on Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation which set out a comprehensive set of reforms to tackle child sexual exploitation.
Collectively these actions will strengthen accountability and leadership in professions and local government, address the culture of inaction and denial that led to victims being dismissed and ignored, improve joint working and information sharing so that agencies intervene early, strengthen the protection of children who are at risk, reinforce law enforcement efforts to stop offenders, and provide greater support for victims and survivors.
The Government has noted the recommendations of the recent Children's Society report regarding sexual exploitation of 16 and 17 year olds and has already been addressing many of the recommendations, including making sure that sentencing guidelines provide for the courts to sentence more severely where victims are particularly young and vulnerable. The College of Policing and the National Policing lead have set a requirement on forces to train all new and existing police staff to respond to child sexual abuse and exploitation.
A major transformation programme, backed by additional investment, will deliver a step change in the way children and young people's mental health services are commissioned and delivered, placing emphasis on prevention and early intervention.
Similarly the Government has already delivered a £7 million funding programme to support non-statutory organisations that have experienced a surge in demand on their services. This funding is to support the victims and survivors of sexual abuse, including children of all ages.


02 JUN 2016

Investigatory Powers Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the Investigatory Powers Bill.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information from the Home Office reassuring:

The Investigatory Powers Bill sets out all the powers available to law enforcement and the security services to monitor and access communications and communications data. Most importantly it also enhances the safeguards and oversight arrangements which govern their use, establishing a world-leading regulatory system.
The Bill brings together all of the powers already available to law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to obtain communications and data about communications. It also radically overhauls the way these powers are authorised and overseen. It introduces a 'double-lock' for interception warrants, so that, following authorisation by the Secretary of State, these cannot come into force until they have been approved by a judge. A powerful new Investigatory Powers Commissioner to oversee how these powers are used has also been created.
It is important that those who keep us safe have the necessary powers that are fit for the digital age. Provision is made for the retention of internet connection records in order for law enforcement to identify the communications service to which a device has connected. This will restore capabilities that have been lost as a result of changes in the way people communicate.
The enhanced privacy safeguards, which are at the heart of the Bill, protect not only sensitive professions but the public at large. Protections for lawyers and journalists have been bolstered, and the Government has made clear it will continue to work closely with industry to develop plans for retaining internet connection records. It is also welcome that for the first time the Government has published an operational case for bulk powers alongside the Bill, giving unprecedented detail on why the agencies need their existing powers, and how they are used.
Investigatory powers have been the subject of three independent reviews over the last two years, and these have played an important role in developing the proposals in the Bill. The Government previously published the Bill in draft form in November 2015, and it was revised to reflect the majority of the recommendations made by the Joint Committee, Intelligence and Security Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.

The Bill will also be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny, following the normal Parliamentary timetable, so that it can be passed by the end of 2016.


27 MAY 2016

Land Registry

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

I understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills of interest:

A strong economy lies at the heart of good government. That means not spending more than we can afford and reducing the national debt. Where the Government can help achieve these goals through selling public sector assets, without detriment to delivering public services, it makes sense to do so.

Land Registry continues to be an essential part of land and property ownership in England and Wales. It undertakes a range of functions and responsibilities, which support an effective and functioning property market by providing assurance to those who have an interest in land and property and a state-backed guarantee to title. In this way, a well-functioning Land Registry underpins housing supply, home ownership and economic growth.

Those functions remain crucial, but as long as the right protections are put in place, including keeping the statutory register under government ownership, there is no reason for all of the functions Land Registry carries out to be undertaken within the public sector. Indeed, Land Registry could have more freedom in the private sector to continue to evolve into a high performing, innovative business, delivering for customers and the wider market in a 21st century, digital economy.

It therefore makes sense to pursue a move of Land Registry into the private sector that could maximise a sizeable return to Government to reduce debt, and provide a more suitable environment for the future of the organisation. Rest assured, however, high quality Land Registry services and confidence in the property market will remain a priority for Government throughout this process.

As you may be aware, the government has consulted on the future of land registration operation and I hope you were able to share your views. When the government response is published you will be able to view it via the following link


26 MAY 2016

TTIP Amendment

Thank you for contacting me about the TTIP.

I hope you will be pleased that I am one of the MPs who have pressed for an amendment to the Queens speech which will have the effect of specifically excluding the NHS to put this beyond doubt.

Parliament will not get a vote on the trade deal itself as this is an EU competence. As you may know, I have already been clear that I will vote for us to leave come the EU referendum.


24 MAY 2016

Nature Laws

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the EU Nature Directives.

I appreciate your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

The European Commission has been carrying out a 'fitness check' for the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, together known as the Nature Directives. Its objective is to find out whether the Directives are suitable for the purposes for which they were intended.
Part of this process involves automatically consulting certain interest groups in each EU member state. Here in the UK these are the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the RSPB. The European Commission also ran a public consultation on its website, which closed in July 2015.
The Nature Directives have an important role to play and the last Coalition Government reviewed the way these Directives are implemented in England. It found that generally they are working well but identified 28 measures that would make compliance simpler. The bulk of these measures have been introduced already and the remainder are currently being implemented.

You may also be interested in the further detail on these measures which you can view via the following link:


19 MAY 2016

Live Export

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about live exports and I agree that live exports to slaughterhouses abroad causes unnecessary suffering.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs blames the EU for this situation:

Under European Union free trade rules it would be illegal to ban exports of animals to other EU countries, and amending the 1847 Ports and Harbours Act could not effectively circumvent this. It is therefore imperative that any business dealing with animals follows the highest standards of animal welfare, and that these standards are enforced across the EU.

EU regulations and the UK's Animal Welfare Act 2006 both protect the welfare of animals during transport. A European Commission study found that although this has had a beneficial impact, there could be room for improvement. It was suggested that change should come from more effective enforcement of existing legislation rather than amendments to what already exists.

The Government has taken this on board, and will continue to pursue a more sustainable approach to the transport of livestock on long journeys.

My view is that we should be able to set our own rules when it comes to protecting animals from unnecessary suffering.


18 MAY 2016

Torn Apart

I am being contacted about reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The Government's refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK.

IThe criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Three discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is the most appropriate answer. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR: Gateway; Mandate; and the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.

It is important to note that the Government is also making a significant contribution to support refugees and their families in other ways. The UK has pledged £2.3 billion in humanitarian aid in response to the Syrian crisis, and we intend to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees displaced to neighbouring countries over the lifetime of this Parliament.


13 MAY 2016

LLoyds Pension

I am being contacted about the Lloyds Banking Group Pension Scheme.

I understand that this must be a worrying time and that there are particular concerns about member-nominated trustees. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Treasury of interest:

The taxpayers' stake in Lloyds is managed at arm's length from government. Issues such as the appointment of a new trustee board remain a decision for the bank's independent management team.


11 MAY 2016

Palestinian Villages

I am being contacted about the demolition of Palestinian property in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

I understand concerns on this matter and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of interest:

The Government is vocal in its condemnation of all acts of violence, including attacks by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. Ministers have strongly urged all sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate current tensions and avoid actions that threaten to exacerbate the situation.
The Government remains concerned by the escalation in the number of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian-owned properties in the West Bank this year. Such actions are harmful to the peace process and move us further away from a two-state solution. Demolitions cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians and are, in all but the most exceptional of cases, contrary to International Humanitarian Law. The Government continues to raise the issue with the Israeli Government on a regular basis and, similarly, makes it clear that Israeli settlements in the OPTs are also illegal under international law.
No UK-funded structures have been demolished or confiscated in Area C of the OPTs in 2015 or 2016, although a number of EU ECHO-funded structures have been demolished in recent months. The UK contributes to the EU budget as a whole, not individual instruments within it. The Government has discussed the recent demolitions in South Hebron with our EU counterparts. The EU is proposing to reassess its position on seeking compensation from the Israeli Government in the context of ongoing structured dialogue.


10 MAY 2016

Jubilee Debt

I have been receiving correspondence about debt relief in developing countries.

I understand some would like me to sign EDM 68 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Making sure that debt levels are sustainable is a key part of reducing poverty in developing countries. Many developing countries have made progress on this over the last 15 years, but other countries' debt levels are rising at an unsustainable level.
Most of the Department for International Development's (DFID) work is done through grants and Ministers do not intend to provide UK bilateral aid as loans. Any use of loans would be on a case-by-case basis, but so far none have been approved by the Government.
DFID's contributions to organisations like the World Bank help developing countries gain access to finance below market-rates. Where developing countries are in high-risk of, or in, debt distress, they receive grants from the World Bank rather than loans. For countries with more sustainable debt, World Bank loans are provided at highly concessional rates and the International Development Association's interest rate is 0 per cent.
Action is also happening on the international stage - discussions at the G20 and Financing for Development in Addis Ababa recognised the role of both lenders and borrowers acting responsibly to promote debt sustainability. The International Monetary Fund is also reviewing the way they analyse debt sustainability.


05 MAY 2016

UK to accept more refugee children from Europe

I have received many letters asking the Government to accept Lord Dubs' suggested amendment to the Immigration Act to make it easier for refugee children to be resettled from mainland Europe to Britain. David Cameron has listened to those concerns and committed to working with the UN and charities such as Save the Children to identify at risk children and welcome them to Britain. Particular priority will be given to unaccompanied children who are vulnerable to trafficking or exploitation. The Government will work with local authorities across the UK to coordinate this extension to our commitment. This commitment is in addition to the Government's existing plans to take in 3,000 refugee children straight from the Middle East, and a further 20,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this Parliament.

Any commitment to increase the level of help to refugee children must not inadvertently put even more children into the hands of people traffickers by sending a message that might encourage desperate families to send unaccompanied children on dangerous journeys. Just last year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 3,770 migrants died attempting to cross the Mediterranean. For this reason refugee children will be eligible to have their case for resettlement considered under the new arrangements only if they arrived in Europe before the EU-Turkey deal of 20 March.

In addition to our commitment to resettle more children, the UK has agreed to contribute £2.3 billion to support refugees created by the Syrian civil war, making Britain the second largest aid donor in the world after the US. The UK is also supporting the efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean, with three Border Force vessels and a Royal Navy warship currently aiding Greek and NATO operations. We have also sent 75 expert personnel to support the efforts of the Greek Government to register and provide medical help to refugees.


05 MAY 2016

NHS Bursary

Thank you for writing to me about NHS bursaries. I was pleased to attend and speak in the debate yesterday in the Commons and would like to assure you that I continue to take a close interest in this area.

In evidence to the Health Committee, Health Education England reported that we are around 15,000 to 20,000 short of nurses across the NHS. This is primarily as a result of the changes required following the Francis Review combined with a fall in the number of training places. This is now resulting in severe shortfalls in some areas but especially affecting community and primary care nursing and mental health and it is also driving up the agency staffing bill and making us over reliant on overseas staff, sometimes from countries that can ill afford to lose nurses.

Whilst I welcome the increase in the number of places overall that will become available by allowing more universities to offer courses such as that now available at Bolton, to which I referred in my speech, I am mindful of the concern about whether mature students would be deterred from applying to nursing. I have urged the government to consider a dual approach and to continue to offer bursaries for those taking nursing as a second degree.

The existing system is not ideal because NHS bursaries do not reflect the real cost of living and training to become a nurse. We also know that they limit the number of training places available with the result that two thirds of applicants are disappointed and miss out on the opportunity to train.

You may be interested to read my speech on this in the Commons and my call for the government to consider protecting bursaries for those for whom it would be a second degree or other measures to reduce the risk of deterring applications.

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/nhs-bursaries/1710


04 MAY 2016

Homelessness

Thank you for contacting me about homelessness. I agree that this is a serious issue and I greatly appreciate the work done by the Shekinah Mission and the Revival Life Ministries in the constituency. Homelessness has been one of the factors leading to avoidable tragedies and the government at both national and local level have to play their part in reducing this risk.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Communities and Local Government of interest:

In a civilized society, it is unacceptable that people should be faced with the fear of homelessness. A Ministerial Working Group was set up in 2010 in order to tackle the problems behind rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness. Their report, 'Making Every Contact Count' provided the blueprint for councils, charities, health services and the police to work together to prevent homelessness.

During the last parliament Government funding helped local authorities prevent 935,700 households from becoming homeless. The homelessness prevention grant is also being maintained, which will total £315 million by 2019/20. Central funding for homelessness programmes is increasing to £139 million over the next five years and a further £40 million will refurbish hostels to provide low-cost accommodation for young and single people. This will help to prevent the tragic cycle of homelessness which traps too many people and enable the most vulnerable to access housing, training and education.

An additional £10 million will support innovative ways to prevent rough sleeping over two years, particularly in London. This will build on the success of the No Second Night Out initiative, which in the previous Parliament meant that over two-thirds of rough sleepers in 20 key areas outside London did not spend a second night out on the streets.


03 MAY 2016

Early Language Skills

I am being contacted about early language skills which are clearly important in improving the life chances of all children and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Education reassuring:

The Government is equally committed to improving the quality of early education. The Early Years Foundation Stage sets the standards for the provision of learning, development and care for children from birth to age five that all registered early years providers must follow. It requires settings to deliver high quality early education and includes a focus on communication and language. It makes clear that children should be developing the English language skills necessary to ensure they are ready to benefit from the opportunities available to them when they begin Year 1.

It is important to recognise that the quality of the workforce is already good, and has been improving, with 87 per cent of staff in full day care settings now qualified to Level 3. The introduction of Early Years Teachers is also welcome, especially as they are expected to meet the same entry qualifications as for older children. Ministers want to continue to attract quality staff into the early years, and to support those already working in the sector, which is why they will be reviewing career progression routes this year. Ministers want to know what improvements can be made to help more staff reach their potential and forge a successful career.

All children, regardless of their starting point, should have access to high quality early education and childcare. To help close the gap between disadvantaged children and their better off peers, the Government introduced the Early Learning Programme for two-year-olds in September 2013. Around 160,000 of our most disadvantaged two-year-olds are already benefiting, and the Early Years Pupil Premium has also been introduced, worth £50 million a year.


03 MAY 2016

National Planning Policy Framework

I am being contacted about housing and the Green Belt.

I agree that our green belt needs protecting and hope you will find the following information from the Department for Communities and Local Government on this topic of interest.

Our fields, woodlands and countryside should be protected against excessive development. These are special areas of our country that we have a right to enjoy and pass on to future generations.
At the same, more homes need to be delivered to meet the demands of our increasing population. The previous Labour Government did little to address the housing shortage and left this country with the lowest levels of housebuilding since the 1920's. This Government, in contrast, has delivered over 700,000 homes in the last 6 years, and priority is now being given to the development of brownfield sites. Latest statistics show that the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989.
However, it is also important that sites with existing planning permission are built out. Under-delivery creates uncertainty for communities and discourages young families from staying in the area. One proposal to address under-delivery is to release further land following a Housing Delivery Test. This would ensure that where developers don't deliver, councils and local people can work together to deliver the homes that their area needs.
Rest assured, the Government is considering all views, and will respond to the consultation on the proposals in due course.


03 MAY 2016

Guide Dogs

I am being contacted about the issues faced by assistance dog users.

I understand the concern on this matter and have been saddened to hear about those who have been refused a taxi ride or to enter a business due to their assistance dog, this is unacceptable and illegal.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the meeting on this topic on the 25th of May due to a prior commitment but I hope the following information on from the Equalities Office is of interest:

Guide dog and assistance owners have important rights under the Equality Act 2010. The Act provides for people with disabilities to have the same right to services as everyone else. The Act makes it unlawful for anyone to be discriminated against because of their disability, or because they have an assistance dog with them.
Businesses and service providers must make 'reasonable adjustments', which might mean giving extra help or making a change to the way a service is provided. In respect of taxis and private hire vehicles it is illegal for them to refuse the carriage of an assistance dog, unless they hold an exemption certificate.
As you may be aware, the Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability has been appointed to consider the way the Act impacts on disabled people. The Committee has recently published a report and the Government is considering its findings.
The Government is committed to achieving real equality in the UK, and putting an end to discrimination.


29 APR 2016

Online Voting

I am being contacted about the amendment in the Trade Union Bill concerning online voting.

I understand concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information from the Department from Business, Innovation and Skills reassuring:

It is important to ensure that there is the utmost confidence in ballot processes. Both the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy and the Open Rights Group have summed up their concerns over the security and difficulties of achieving this with electronic balloting.
A key challenge is how to be sufficiently confident about both e-security and the confidentiality of the votes. The Electoral Reform Services has acknowledged the challenges of the secrecy of the vote. For instance, it is potentially easier to gain access to huge quantities of electronic votes, which would be much harder to do with postal votes. There are also further issues around security and the significant risk of intimidation in the workplace, possible fraud by trade union officials and the risks of interception of PIN numbers/passwords.
Other countries have also struggled to implement online voting successfully and sustainably. For instance, countries such as Finland, the USA, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as here in the UK, have either piloted or fully adopted electronic voting and then decided to discontinue its use.
Ultimately, there remains no practical solutions to any of these highly complex problems and existing systems remain unacceptably flawed. The Government has agreed to commission an independent review to consider its case again and to ensure that the latest technology has been assessed.


27 APR 2016

Lord Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Bill

I am being contcated about the amendment tabled by Lord Dubs to the Immigration Bill for us to accept 3000 child refugees who are already in Europe.

I do understand the strength of feeling on this and would like to set out why I think it is right to welcome child refugees but to prioritise those who are currently at the greatest risk living in camps across the Middle East and North Africa.

There is genuine concern about the unintended consequences in prioritising unaccompanied children who are already in Europe that this could lead to more lone children being sent on perilous sea journeys in the hands of people smugglers.

I am pleased that we will resettle 3000 children who are at risk in the Middle East and North Africa. I realise many feel this does not address the problem of the children in Europe, however it is clear that the most vulnerable are those who remain in the war torn region rather than those who are already in Europe.

We also remain the second largest contributor of international aid to Syrian refugees and the Department for International Development has also committed £46m to help refugees in Europe, with a £10m focusing specifically on helping child refugees in Europe. We are deploying 75 experts to Greece to support more effective reception screening which will be the best way of ensuring that fewer children end up alone in Europe.

I was recently able to ask a question in Parliament on the important issue of assisting those children with family links to come to Britain:

Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that children and young people who have a legitimate claim to be in the UK because of having close family relatives here will not be disadvantaged by starting their asylum claim in France? Although he has made it clear that there is not currently any formal process for the UNHCR to be involved in processing such claims, will he consider that for the future?

Response from James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

I can certainly say that if there are children who qualify under the Dublin regulation—in other words, if they have close family here—we will stand by our obligations. We will ensure that they are processed efficiently and effectively, which is precisely why we are taking the action we are with the French Government.

My hon. Friend highlights the issue of the UNHCR's role. There is a clear process, and we are working to ensure that it operates. As I have said, we believe that it can be made to operate efficiently and effectively, and we will work with the French Government to achieve that.


27 APR 2016

Immigration Bill Amendment 60

I am being contacted about the amendment in the Immigration Bill concerning Overseas Domestic Workers.

I am afraid I was unable to support this amendment and hope you find the following information on this topic from the Home Office reassuring:

The amendment would allow overseas domestic workers (ODWs) to change employer post-entry and obtain an extension of stay for a period of two and a half years, however the amendment would not make granting the two and a half years extension conditional of demonstrating that any abuse has occurred.
The existing arrangement, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), where a case of suspected slavery or human trafficking is considered by the relevant authorities, makes sure that potential victims are provided with support while that consideration is ongoing. The Government's concern is that if ODWs can obtain a two and a half year extension of stay to change employers without alerting the authorities to any abuse, it may make it less likely that abuse is reported where it has in fact occurred. This would undermine the NRM and create a revolving door of abuse where the perpetrators are never identified or dealt with.
The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has supported this view, and has expressed his concern that the approach which the amendment takes could create a market for criminals, in which ODWs may escape one abusive relationship only to find themselves in another.
The Government has already removed the visa tie so that ODWs entering the UK can change employer within the validity of their six month visa. It will also be amending the relevant secondary legislation to allow ODWs who have obtained alternative employment to continue to work while their case is considered under the NRM. Those found by the NRM to be victims of slavery or trafficking may then apply for a two year visa enabling them to continue working in the UK.
The Government has also undertaken to implement information sessions to provide information and support to ODWs, as Mr Ewins recommended. None of these measures require primary legislation. It will also go further, introducing a registration requirement for employers that will enable further action to ensure they understand their obligations, and enable us to withdraw their ability to sponsor an ODW visa where abuse occurs. This is a comprehensive package of measures which will protect potential victims and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.


27 APR 2016

Academy 1922 Meeting

I am being contacted about the proposals in the budget concerning converting schools in to academies, I attend the 1922 meeting referred to in emails but this was with a different Minister.

I agree that reorganisation is no substitute for a focus on raising standards and excellent leadership. You may be interested to read the speech Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP made outlining the thinking behind this announcement and can do so via the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nicky-morgan-educational-excellence-everywhere

The following information from the Department of Education also provides some more information:

We now have 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, primary sponsored academies have improved their results by 10 per cent in average - more than double the rate of improvement in local authority maintained schools and secondary converter academies are performing 7.2 per cent above the national average. Recent figures show that 350,000 children are studying in sponsored academies rated 'good' or 'outstanding' schools which were previously suffering from chronic underperformance.

The Government wants to build on this success so that every school can benefit from the autonomy and strong accountability of academy status. Even excellent schools should have the freedom that academy status brings so that they can improve even further - no school can afford to stand still. People will have important questions about this process and Ministers have undertaken to listen to these as this policy is implemented.

The Government believes that academies are better for pupils, as schools have the freedom to respond to pupils' individual needs, implement best practice and new innovations much more rapidly, as well as giving the Government the ability to root out failure and complacency as soon as it is found. It believes they are better for parents, as rigorous accountability for performance will mean parents have more choice of good schools and have assurance that their children are getting the best education possible in order for them to fulfil their potential.

Ministers also believe they are also better for teachers, who are put in the driving seat, giving them freedom to innovate and respond to pupils' needs, and giving head teachers the freedom to set pay in order to recruit and retain good teachers.

The proposals will be subject to close scrutiny and I think there may well be amendments during their course through Parliament. I will be attending meetings alongside colleagues to put forward the concerns expressed to me by constituents.


27 APR 2016

Translarna

I am being contacted as people would like to see Translarna to be available as soon as possible. As I understand it, NICE has recommended the drug in certain cases but the NHS is currently in discussions with the pharmaceutical company to agree a price. As soon as this is agreed, the final guidance will be issued by NICE and NHS will have 3 months to implement said guidance.


27 APR 2016

Junior Doctors

I am being contacted about the contract reforms for junior doctors and the current dispute.

Junior doctors are the backbone of the medical workforce and I share concerns about the long term impact of the dispute and the need for a settlement. You may be interested to read my recent piece for the Guardian via the following link:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/03/in-this-junior-doctors-row-both-sides-have-lost-sight-of-the-patient

I will continue to speak to both sides to see if I can help in bringing them together, but sadly, I think this full walkout has driven them further apart.


26 APR 2016

Cancer Drug Funds

I am being contacted about the future of the Cancer Drugs Fund and for the sensible proposals on reforms to NICE which have already been raised with the government.

The following sets out the government's view on the CDF:

Improving cancer outcomes is a major priority for the Government. People deserve the best cancer treatment and the creation of the £1 billion CDF, which has helped more than 84,000 cancer patients with pioneering drugs since it was set up. NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently consulted on draft proposals for the future direction of the Fund. The consultation outlined a new system, fully integrated into the NICE appraisal process, where the CDF becomes a transitional fund, with clear criteria for entry and exit. This will provide a more structured and timely approach to the appraisal of all cancer drugs and these new arrangements will come into effect from 1 July 2016.
NHS England plans to invest in this new £340 million CDF to provide early access to cancer drug indications. Under the new process, any drugs that receive either a draft recommendation for routine commissioning or, where uncertainty exists, a recommendation for use within the CDF, will receive interim funding from the CDF from the point of marketing authorisation. This earlier access to cancer drugs will benefit both patients and the pharmaceutical industry and NHS England believes it is only fair that the pharmaceutical industry makes a contribution if any overspend occurs.
Active steps are also being taken to ensure that the future arrangements for the CDF and the final recommendations from the independently led Accelerated Access Review which aims to speed up access to innovative drugs for NHS patients are aligned.
NHS England have made some changes to which drugs are available through the CDF based on the advice of clinicians and the best available evidence. Advances in medical science mean that new medicines are emerging all the time that is why experts have to make decisions to stop routinely funding drugs with limited clinical benefit, to fund new and better drugs that offer more to patients. Any patient currently receiving a drug through the CDF will continue to receive it. No drug will be removed where it is the only treatment available for a specific condition and individual applications can be made for access to any cancer drug.


26 APR 2016

Medical Cannabis

I am being contacted about the use of cannabis for medical purposes. I would not personally oppose medicinal use but do not think that there is likely to be a review of this in the near future. The following sets out the government's position:

Cannabis in its raw form is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes. The licensing regime for medicines is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues licences for medicines in the UK which have been tested for their safety, quality and efficacy.
A medicine derived from the cannabis plant, Sativex, has already been licenced for use in the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS). The MHRA is open to considering other licence applications for medicines containing cannabinoids should such products be developed.
In 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its clinical guideline on the management of MS that does not recommend Sativex as a cost effective use of NHS resources. In the absence of positive guidance from NICE, it is for commissioners to make decisions on whether to fund this treatment based on an assessment of the available evidence.
There are people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses who seek to alleviate their symptoms by using cannabis. Although such use is illicit, the Sentencing Council's guidelines on drug offences identify such circumstances as a potential mitigating factor.
The Government has no plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. The official advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs cites medical and scientific research showing that cannabis use has a number of adverse acute and chronic health effects, especially for people with mental health problems, and continues to present a significant public health issue.


25 APR 2016

Policing and Crime Bill

I have been contacted about the protection of 16 and 17 year olds from child sexual exploitation.

As a former police forensic medical examiner, I quite understand your concern on this matter and hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Home Office reassuring:

We must protect 16 and 17 year olds from the horrific crime of sexual abuse. Following the "Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation" report in March 2015, it is a requirement that all police officers are trained in responding to child sexual exploitation more effectively. The guidance has been revised, so that clear information about how to identify child abuse and neglect and what action to take is provided. The Government will publish a progress report on all actions taken following the "Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation" report early next year.
We need to send a very clear message to the perpetrators about how seriously the Government takes these crimes, and similarly our intent to deal with it. The courts will always consider a case more seriously when the victim is a child, and this includes 16 or 17 year olds. The Sentencing Council's definitive guidance on sexual offences came into effect in April 2014, and it provides for the courts to sentence individuals more severely in cases where victims are particularly vulnerable, as will often be the case with sexual exploitation involving 16 or 17 year olds. Similarly the sentencing guidelines reflect that the use of alcohol or drugs in targeting a particularly vulnerable child is considered an aggravating factor. The law is clear that a young person's consent to take drugs or alcohol can never be viewed as consent to sexual acts.
The Government has commenced a major transformation programme which will improve the support provided to vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds who have experienced sexual abuse and are in need of mental health and wellbeing services. The programme will place the emphasis on prevention and early intervention, building care around the needs of children, young people and their families, including the most vulnerable.
The Policing and Crime Bill will ensure that the police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to prevent and detect crime, and protect children and young people from sexual exploitation. For example the Bill will ensure that relevant offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 cover the live streaming of images of child sex abuse, and will also amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes.


25 APR 2016

Bees

I have been receiving correspondence about pesticides and bees.

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

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment.

Pesticides are tightly regulated, and decisions on the approval of these substances are made at the European level. Since December 2013, three of the five currently approved neonicotinoids are not permitted for use on a wide range of crops considered attractive to bees. The Government has implemented these restrictions in full. They are not time-limited, and will remain in place unless the European Commission decides to change them.

The European Food Safety Authority has begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees, which is expected to conclude in the summer. This includes looking at the effects on bees caused by seed treatments, and uses of the restricted pesticides in the form of granules. The Government has said that it will contribute fully to this review, because any decisions must be based on solid evidence. Rest assured that restrictions on neonicotinoids will not be removed if the evidence shows that they should remain.


23 APR 2016

No Broken Promises

I am being contacted about the Leveson inquiry. I'm afraid I do not agreed that we should allow the State a toe in the door with press regulation and would prefer to see this led by the press through IPSO. Our free press protects our freedoms and in my view we need it to remain fully independent.

The following is the government's view on where we are in this process:

The Government is committed to supporting a strong, independent and effective self-regulatory system for the press that commands the confidence of both the public and the industry.
Regarding Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry, criminal proceedings connected to the subject matter of the Leveson Inquiry, including the appeals process, have not yet completed. The Government has always been clear that these cases must conclude before Part Two of the Inquiry can be considered.
The Government has implemented the cross-party agreement that was made in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, through the Royal Charter and the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The exemplary damages measures commenced last November and a framework has been delivered for a new system of independent press self-regulation.
There is no doubt that exemplary damages are a serious sanction; the protection offered by the introduction of this measure provides a real incentive to encourage publishers to sign up to a recognised self-regulator. The commencement of cost provisions is still under consideration. This will be a serious and significant change for the industry, and a matter of particular concern to many small publishers who had absolutely no involvement in the abuses the Leveson Inquiry was set up to tackle. Parliament did not set a commencement date for cost provisions (as they did for exemplary damages measures), so it is for the Government to use its discretion.
The new framework that has been set up protects our vital freedom of press but at the same time offers real redress when mistakes are made. The Press Recognition Panel, which formally recognises the press self-regulators, is open for business and is currently considering its first application.


21 APR 2016

Trades Union Bill

I have received correspondence about the Trade Union Bill and thank you for letting me know your concerns about this legislation. I agree that there needs to be balance and I will listen to the arguments from the Lords about their amendments. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills of interest:

Trade unions are valuable institutions in British society and dedicated trade unionists have a strong history of working hard to represent their members, campaigning for improved safety at work and giving support to their members when it's needed. It is only fair, however, that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hardworking taxpayers who rely on key public services.

The aim of the Bill is to rebalance the interest of employers, employees and the public with the freedom of trade unions to strike. At present, it is the case that a small minority of union members can disrupt the lives of millions of commuters, parents, workers and employers at short notice and without clear support from the unions' members. Because of the high impact on the normal life on a large group of people, it is completely sensible that such strikes only take place on the basis of a reasonable turnout and substantial vote in favour by those able to vote.

Rest assured, all measures included in the Bill will continue to be debated and fully scrutinised by Parliament before they are passed.


19 APR 2016

Christians in the Middle East

I am receiving correspondence about the crimes of Daesh against Christians and other minority groups in the Middle East.

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

The atrocities committed by Daesh against Christians and other minorities, as well as the majority Muslim population in Iraq and Syria must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Britain has been at the forefront of efforts to rally wider international support against Daesh. Work with international partners must continue both to assist the victims and bring those responsible to justice.

It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the international judicial system rather than legislatures, governments or other non-judicial bodies. The UK's approach is to seek an end to all violations of International Humanitarian Law, and to prevent their further escalation, irrespective of whether these violations fit the definition of specific international crimes. That said, it is healthy that there has been discussion in the House of Commons about whether these acts constitute a genocide against Christians.

Ultimately, the best way of preventing future atrocities against Christians is to defeat Daesh and its violent ideology. That's why the UK is playing a leading role in a Global Coalition of 66 countries and international organisations to respond to Daesh's inhumanity. The Coalition is attacking Daesh militarily, squeezing its finances, disrupting the flow of fighters, challenging its poisonous ideology and working to stabilise areas liberated from Daesh.

Britain is using its aid budget to alleviate the immediate humanitarian suffering. The Prime Minister recently announced that the UK would double its commitment and has now pledged a total of over £2.3 billion, the UK's largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis. The funding is providing support, such as food, medical care and relief items, to over a million people including Christians affected by the fighting in Syria and refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.


19 APR 2016

BBC White Paper

I am receiving correspondence about when the BBC white paper will be published.

As I understand it a firm date has not been set but it should be next month.

You can keep updated on this matter via the following:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-culture-media-sport


19 APR 2016

Microbeads

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about microbeads and the environmental damage they cause. I agree and can see no reason why companies continue manufacturing these pointless and environmentally damaging products.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest but on a personal note I would support stronger action in this area:

The UK and our neighbouring countries are now working with the industry to see their use phased out voluntarily. The UK, along with several of our neighbours, is party to an international organisation known as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. One of its most important objectives is to reduce marine litter, and in 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address this problem. The plan includes action on microplastics, and involves co-operating with manufacturers to achieve a voluntary phase out of their use in cosmetics and personal care products.
Following this agreement the European trade body for the industry, Cosmetics Europe, issued a formal recommendation to its member companies to discontinue the use of microbeads in these products. It also noted that many of its member companies had done so already.


19 APR 2016

Debt Relief in Developing Countries

I am being contacted about debt relief in developing countries.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 68 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development of interest:

Making sure that debt levels are sustainable is a key part of reducing poverty in developing countries. Many developing countries have made progress on this over the last 15 years, but other countries' debt levels are rising at an unsustainable level.
Most of the Department for International Development's (DFID) work is done through grants and Ministers do not intend to provide UK bilateral aid as loans. Any use of loans would be on a case-by-case basis, but so far none have been approved by the Government.
DFID's contributions to organisations like the World Bank help developing countries gain access to finance below market-rates. Where developing countries are in high-risk of, or in, debt distress, they receive grants from the World Bank rather than loans. For countries with more sustainable debt, World Bank loans are provided at highly concessional rates and the International Development Association's interest rate is 0 per cent.
Action is also happening on the international stage - discussions at the G20 and Financing for Development in Addis Ababa recognised the role of both lenders and borrowers acting responsibly to promote debt sustainability. The International Monetary Fund is also reviewing the way they analyse debt sustainability.


18 APR 2016

Academisation

I am receiving correspondence about the proposals in the budget concerning converting schools in to academies.

I agree that reorganisation is no substitute for a focus on raising standards and excellent leadership. You may be interested to read the speech Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP made outlining the thinking behind this announcement and can do so via the following link

The following information from the Department of Education also provides some more information:

By the end of 2020, all schools will be academies or in the process of becoming academies, and by the end of 2022, local authorities will no longer maintain schools. Over the last five years, the academies and free schools programmes have freed thousands of head teachers and leaders to drive improvement in their own schools and across the system. Autonomy and accountability come together in academy trusts, where leaders have more control over budgets and teachers' pay, can take decisions they believe will improve standards and are held to account for the outcomes.

2015 results show that primary sponsored academies open for two years have improved their results, on average, by 10 percentage points since opening, more than double the rate of improvement in local authority maintained schools over the same period. 2015 GCSE results show that secondary converter academies are performing 7.2 percentage points above the national average, with 64.3 per cent of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs, including English and maths.

A system in which all state-funded schools are academies will deliver better results for all children through empowering great teachers and leaders with better leadership structures. The system will prioritise responsiveness and clear accountability over an arbitrary requirement for all schools in a local area to be run by the same body, regardless of its effectiveness. There will also be a new role for local authorities, who will move away from maintaining schools and focus on championing pupils and parents.


18 APR 2016

EDM 373: Beagles in Hull

I am receiving correspondence about the beagles to be bred in Hull for laboratory experiments.

I understand the concern on this matter and realise some would like me to sign EDM 373, 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 topic from the Home Office of interest:

The Government has outlined how it will work to reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in research - known as 'the 3Rs'. It has launched a delivery plan, which is part of a Government commitment to create a science-led approach to reduce the use of animals in the biosciences. The UK's National Centre for the 3Rs has been leading the way in this area, and has already invested over £35 million to support this work. As a result, trials into cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, as well as toxicity testing, have all seen reductions in animal use.
Animal research still plays a small but important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available.
Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.
With regards to the proposed facility at Grimston, Home Office officials have advised B&K Universal Ltd of the requirements for the proposed facility of European Directive 2010/63/EU, which was implemented in the UK and other member states on 1 January 2013, a directive which is based firmly in 'the 3Rs' as outlined above. It lays down minimum standards for housing and care, regulates the use of animals through a systematic project evaluation requiring inter alia assessment of pain, suffering distress and lasting harm caused to the animals. It requires regular risk-based inspections and improves transparency through measures such as publication of non-technical project summaries and retrospective assessment.

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


18 APR 2016

Abortion Medication in Northern Ireland

I am receiving correspondence about the woman who has been charged for purchasing abortion medication on behalf of her daughter in Northern Ireland.

I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Northern Ireland Office of interest because it sets out the position that this is a devolved issue and one that English MPs cannot influence:

This is a devolved issue and one that the Government in Westminster has no jurisdiction over. It is therefore up to the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives in Stormont to address the need for change.

Justice Minister, David Ford, has sought to raise the debate about abortion and following a consultation last autumn, the Department for Justice recommended a change to Northern Ireland's abortion law. However, in February Stormont Assembly Members voted 59 to 40 against amending legislation to allow terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.


16 APR 2016

Violence Against Women and Girls

I am receiving correspondence about violence against women and girls.

I hope the campaign will be successful and it is highly likely that an MP will wish to lead a Westminster Hall debate. Whilst I am not able to apply to lead this as a result of existing health committee commitments, I would be very happy to support an application.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development of interest as we can be proud of the way our international aid helps to make a difference on this important issue:

The UK has played a leading role in tackling VAWG world-wide, it will continue to be a top Department for International Development (DFID) priority. Women need voice, choice and control over their lives. No country will develop if half their population is treated unequally and women live in fear of violence. The UK worked hard to lead efforts across the globe to ensure that a target to end violence against women and girls formed part of the agreed UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Since 2012, the number of DFID programmes addressing VAWG has increased by 63 per cent to 109 programmes in total, and 19 focus entirely on VAWG. DFID's £35 million programme to tackle Female Genital Mutilation - the largest of any single country - is helping to reduce the practice by 30 per cent in 17 countries. The UK's £36 million programme to end Child, Early and Forced Marriage also helps thousands of girls escape losing any choice or control over their future.
Involving women's rights organisations in humanitarian preparedness, response, and recovery is one way to ensure that the unique needs of women and girls are addressed and that the capacities of women and girls are recognised and utilised. This is one of the themes of a roundtable event at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. It is hoped this Summit will deliver for women and girls everywhere. DFID has contributed £6 million to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which provides grants to organisations across the world to tackle gender-based violence, including small women's rights' and youth-led organisations and has committing to increasing its focus on funding to small women's rights organisations.


16 APR 2016

EU Leaflet

Whatever your views on Britain's membership of the EU, 'remainders' and 'brexiteers' alike tend to agree that we didn't need the government to waste £9.3b million of our money telling us what to think. From here to June 23rd we are likely to be bombarded with their views in the media alongside increasingly desperate threats of Armageddon should we decide to cut loose from Brussels. It is particularly disappointing as it breaks a promise to allow the leave and remain camps to lead the debate and to ensure a fair referendum campaign.

I can think of plenty of better uses for this kind of funding, school buildings and our NHS for starters or to have at least begun to set out the strategy for a constructive move to independence if people vote to leave.

My vote will rightly count for no more than anyone else's and although I love Europe I believe that we are best able to secure our borders and our security outside the bureaucratic institution of the EU. We are the fifth largest economy in the world and of course other nations will want to trade with us. In the event of a vote to leave, wise heads would prevail to make sure that we continue to cooperate in a spirit of friendship in all important areas.

It's time for the government to take people's concerns more seriously and to plan for both eventualities rather than investing in leaflets and postage. If you would like to see links to both sides of the debate as well as from neutral sources you can find these on my website . Sadly you will not find balanced information on the leaflet you have paid to have posted to you from the government.

Nonetheless, the government's position on this remains as below:

The European Union Referendum Act obliges the Government to publish information for the public on the outcome of the renegotiation that the Government has conducted, on alternatives to membership and on the rights and obligations that arise from EU membership.
In addition, every household in the country has been sent a leaflet from the Government. The Government has stated that this leaflet sets out the facts, explains why it believes that the UK should remain in the European Union and shows some of the choices that the country would face if the British people were to vote to leave. The leaflet encourages the public to register to vote by 7 June and directs electors to where and how they should do that.
Special rules limiting all Government publications and communications will apply in the last 28 days of the referendum campaign under the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.


15 APR 2016

28 Day Detention Limit of Migrants

Thank you for contacting me about a detention time limit for migrants.

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

The Government's position is that a time limit on immigration detention would not be appropriate. Home Office published policy is centred on a presumption in favour of liberty, and depriving someone of their liberty is subject to careful consideration and scrutiny, with appropriate account taken of individual circumstances.

The introduction of an arbitrary time limit could lead to the release of foreign criminals and illegal immigrants even when their removal is imminent. Home Office guidance is clear that detention must be used sparingly and for the shortest period reasonably necessary to achieve its purpose. Published statistics show that, in the year to December 2015, over 90 per cent of individuals leaving detention had been detained for no longer than four months.


15 APR 2016

Tax Issues

I have long supported calls for a tougher approach to tax havens as the rich must pay their fair share. The scandal of the Panama papers showed that too many have still evading their tax bills. There is a difference between avoidance, which is legal and evasion, which is not. My view is that it is for the government to bring in legislation which makes clear its intent so that loopholes cannot operate and we need to take further action. This is a fundamental issue of fairness.

I do think the government has taken steps to start tackling this matter and Britain is at the forefront of tackling tax evasion. These issues require international cooperation and visibility as without this we are doomed to fail because we cannot enforce our own laws on crown dependencies as they have their own legal systems.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Treasury of interest:

HMRC is already carrying out an intensive investigation of offshore companies, including in Panama, and has asked the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to share the leaked data. They will act on it swiftly and appropriately. In addition to this the Prime Minister's announcement that a new taskforce will be established to deal with the so-called Panama Papers is welcomed.

The Prime Minister has committed to provide resources to ensure that the files are fully investigated, once shared with HMRC, including initial new funding of up to £10 million to support the taskforce's work. There is more that can be done to tackle tax avoidance, evasion and other exploitations of the tax system. The Chancellor is working with other major countries to speed up progress towards sharing beneficial ownership information, so that enforcement agencies can share information on who really owns companies. This would allow for more effective investigation of financial wrongdoing.

The UK will publish its own register of company beneficial ownership from June 2016, making it clear who the real owners of companies are, the first major country to have such a list in place; the information it contains will be free for anyone to access.


15 APR 2016

Money Creation

I understand you would like me to sign the amendment on this topic on the Bank of England and Financial Services Bill but I do not think this is necessary. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Treasury of interest:

The Government has set out its position on the issues raised by those who advocate change to our monetary system, such as those who support the Positive Money campaign. This included highlighting what factors already limit money creation and lending, alongside wider comments on the failure of the previous regulatory regime that oversaw the financial crises and what was done to address these.
It is important to note that without the Bank of England's intervention after the financial crisis, most people in the United Kingdom would have been worse off. Economic growth would have been lower, unemployment would have been higher and many more would have gone out of business, taking the jobs and livelihoods of many families with them. This would have had a significant detrimental impact on savers and pensioners along with every other group in society.
It is not believed that the solution to the problems highlighted by proponents of an alternative money system is the wholesale replacement of the current system by something else, such as a sovereign monetary system that is advocated by some.



I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the whip in horseracing.

I understand people would like me to sign EDM 577 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I do understand concerns on this topic and I hope the following information from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

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.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about pharmacy funding.

I have raised the need to increase the role of pharmacy at national level in conferences with the Nuffield Trust and within the Select Committee as I recognise the value of their work.

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

Spending on health continues to grow, with a £10 billion real terms increase in NHS funding in England between 2014/15 and 2020/21. This will focus on lifesaving treatments and the Government expects to spend up to an extra £2 billion per year on the new drugs that patients need by the end of 2020.
In the Spending Review the Government re-affirmed the need for the NHS to deliver £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020/21 as set out in the NHS's own plan, the Five Year Forward View. Community pharmacy is a core part of NHS primary care. A clinically focussed pharmacy service that is better integrated with primary care and public health will help relieve the pressure on GPs and A&Es, ensure better use of medicines and better patient outcomes, and contribute to delivering seven-day services.
The Government wants to transform the system to deliver efficiency savings and ensure the model of community pharmacy reflects patient and public expectations as well as developments in technology. It wants to promote the use of online, click and collect or home delivery models, to help patients to get their prescriptions in a way that fits into their lifestyle.
The Government is consulting on introducing a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies based on factors such as location and local needs.
Community pharmacies are important community assets. The Government is therefore consulting on how best to introduce a Pharmacy Integration Fund to transform the way community pharmacy operates in the NHS, bringing clear benefits to patients and the public.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about proposed changes to the small claims court.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is of interest:

The Government intends to introduce measures to end the right to cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries, removing over £1 billion from the cost of providing motor insurance and will consult on the details in the New Year.

These changes are intended to end the cycle in which responsible motorists pay higher premiums to cover false claims by others, and the Government expects the insurance industry to pass on to consumers an average saving of £40 to £50 per policy. Claimants would still be entitled to claim for 'special damages', including treatment for any injury if required, and any loss of earnings.

The Government is also proposing to increase the upper limit for small claims from £1,000 to £5,000. This will allow more people with injuries to access the court. The details will be subject to a consultation.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) asking me to join the All Party Group, unfortunately I am currently unable to join any more APPGs due to commitments chairing the Health Select Committee

The following information sets out the Department of Health's position:

The Department of Health works closely with NHS and charitable organisations such as CRY and the British Heart Foundation to develop services aimed at identifying people at risk and providing them with appropriate counselling, advice information and psychological support.
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) which advises Ministers about all aspects of screening policy, has recently reviewed the evidence for screening for the most common cause of sudden death in those under the age of 30, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in 2008 and has upheld its recommendation that screening should not be offered. This is because updated evidence suggested that the available tests were not accurate enough to correctly identify conditions which could lead to sudden cardiac death without wrongly identifying many people with healthy hearts.
However, NHS England has been working with the Chief Coroner to discuss what can be done to reduce cardiac risk in the young. As a result, local coroners have been asked to make families of those who have died of the condition aware that it may be inherited and encouraging them to contact either the British Heart Foundation, CRY or their GP for testing and counselling.
Additionally, the National Clinical Director for Heart Disease at NHS England has been working with the Cardiovascular Disease Strategic Clinical Networks to promote cascade testing for the relatives of people who have familial hypercholesterolemia, sudden cardiac death or another inherited heart condition.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about EDM 402 and the welfare of pheasants bred for shooting.

I understand some would like me to sign EDM 402 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Under existing laws and regulations all animals, including farmed poultry, must be looked after in ways that meet their welfare needs. Guidance is maintained on the steps stock-keepers need to take to avoid risking prosecution.

This includes an explicit reference to the Farm Animal Welfare Council's 'five freedoms', which state that animals must be kept free from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury or disease, from fear or distress and free to express normal behaviour. Regulations on housing vary depending on how the birds are being raised, but in all cases it must allow essential biological needs to be fulfilled.

Furthermore, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering. Under this Act, a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes was drawn up based on research carried out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, advised by a working group that included animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. It can be found at www.gov.uk by searching on the term 'Gamebirds'.

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


I am starting to receive campaign correspondence about religious freedom and the plight of Christians worldwide.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the meeting on this on the 13th of January due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

Recent years have seen a rising tide of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Baha'is, Shias, Sunnis and Alawites, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, Christians and many others have fallen victim to a new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents. That is why, in the last Parliament, the Government ramped up its activities to promote freedom of religion or belief across the world.

Multilateral organisations are a vital avenue for the pursuit of progress on what is an international issue. In the last Parliament, the Government worked with the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement Resolution 16/18, which lays the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion throughout the world. Foreign Office Ministers brought together countries across the world to discuss implementation in 2013 and continued to monitor progress through a number of follow-up meetings.

In the last Parliament, the Government also prioritised freedom of religion through bilateral engagement with governments across the world. The Conservative-led Government made sure that every minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was an ambassador for religious freedom, raising and promoting these issues in the countries for which they have responsibility will continue to do so going forward. For example, in China, the Government regularly raises the subject of harassment and legal restrictions faced by the Chinese Christian community at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, publishing quarterly updates on the progress made.

Of course, there is more work that needs to be done. The Government will build on its work in the previous Parliament to make clear the facts of history and correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of 'the west'. This approach will be at its most effective if all people, independent of religion, work together to support these values.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the UK's National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

I understand the concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is reassuring:

The Government consistently makes clear that it expects British companies to act in accordance with human rights law wherever they operate, and that companies should not be able to act with impunity. This includes addressing all issues linked to human rights, such as labour standards and health and safety. The Government works with businesses, other governments and civil society through a range of initiatives, to support UK companies to respect and protect human rights, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UK's Action Plan on Business and Human Rights sets out our framework for implementing these principles. This includes the adoption of appropriate due diligence policies to identify, prevent and mitigate human rights risks, and commitment to monitoring and evaluating their implementation.

Directors of UK-based businesses also have a duty to act to promote the success of the company, and in doing so have regard for a number of factors including the interests of the company employees. To demonstrate this consideration, companies are required to report relevant information on employee matters. The UK was the first country to publish its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in September 2013. Considerable progress has been made and that the Government will continue to update its plan to build on this. This comes alongside other related action, such as eliminating forced labour and exploitation from supply chains.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the Off Patent Drugs Bill.

I am concerned that patients are not always accessing the most effective treatments and agree that there is a case to support trials for all patent drugs and I am supportive of this bill. However, I should highlight that doctors can already prescribe drugs outside of the terms of their licence, without needing to wait for a new licence, if they feel it is right for their patients.

Unfortunately, I had longstanding commitments in the constituency and wasl unable to attend the bill's second reading, however I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:

Off-label drugs, which are drugs that are used for a purpose other than that they are specifically licenced for, can already be prescribed where there is robust evidence to support their use. Off-patent drugs, which are drugs whose patent has expired and so other manufacturers may have made generic or non-branded versions of the drug, are also widely used in the NHS at present. Legislation is not required to make this happen.

Existing legislation gives the NHS the flexibility to respond to the individual clinical needs of patients whilst also taking on board the latest research findings. Prescribing decisions should be a matter for doctors in discussion with their patients and guidance on this is available from a number of healthcare organisations.

In February, Government officials held an event for interested parties on this matter to discuss what action, short of legislation, could be taken to ensure that robust evidence about new uses for existing drugs is produced, distributed and then used to inform clinical decision making. Areas were identified which required improvement, including the mapping of clear pathways for those who want to "re-purpose" drugs. Officials have been engaging with interested parties to put this into practice.

The Government has also established the Accelerated Access Review which aims to develop ways to develop ways to speed up access to innovative drugs, devices and diagnostics for NHS patients in a cost-effective way.

There are systems in place to ensure that the NHS obtains the best value in purchasing medicines. The NHS tries to derive benefits from drugs coming off patent by ensuring that there is not excessive profiteering in the sector.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about debt relief for developing countries and the related EDM, number 68.

I understand some would like me to sign EDM 68, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is reassuring:

Maintaining sustainable debt levels is a critical part of helping to reduce poverty in developing countries. Many developing countries have seen a marked improvement in their debt position over the last 15 years as a result of the Highly Impoverished Poor Countries initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, both of which were set up with strong UK leadership. While many countries have borrowed sensibly over recent years some countries' debt levels are rising at an unsustainable rate.
The Department for International Development (DFID) will continue to be a predominantly grant-based organisation. There is no intention to adopt a policy requiring bilateral UK aid to take the form of loans. Any use of sovereign loans would be on a case-by-case basis, but so far no such cases have been approved by the Government. DFID's contributions to the International Financial Institutions are used to provide concessional finance to developing countries. For example, countries receiving support from the International Development Association (IDA) that are at high risk of, or in, debt distress, receive assistance from the World Bank only in the form of grants. For countries at low or moderate risk of debt distress, World Bank loans are provided at highly concessional rates; the IDA's interest rate is 0 per cent.
The recent change in the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) debt limit policy to take account of all public external debt in its setting of debt limits for countries which are at risk of unsustainable debt is welcomed. The IMF is also reviewing the way they analyse debt sustainability, and this will be considered by the IMF Board early next year. Recent discussions at the Paris Forum, G20 and at the third Conference on Financing for Development (FFD) in Addis Ababa are important in recognising the vital role of both lenders and borrowers acting responsibly to promote debt sustainability.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the Open Doors campaign concerning religious freedom.

I have always appreciated being brought up in an outward-looking and tolerant Christian society. I look at the increasing problems caused by the religious fundamentalism and intolerance sweeping the world and know that we must be very careful about preserving our own values and heritage.

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

Recent years have seen a rising tide of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Baha'is, Shias, Sunnis and Alawites, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, Christians and many others have fallen victim to a new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents. That is why, in the last Parliament, the Government ramped up its activities to promote freedom of religion or belief across the world.

Multilateral organisations are a vital avenue for the pursuit of progress on what is an international issue. In the last Parliament, the Government worked with the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement Resolution 16/18, which lays the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion throughout the world. Foreign Office Ministers brought together countries across the world to discuss implementation in 2013 and continued to monitor progress through a number of follow-up meetings.

In the last Parliament, the Government also prioritised freedom of religion through bilateral engagement with governments across the world. The Conservative-led Government made sure that every minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was an ambassador for religious freedom, raising and promoting these issues in the countries for which they have responsibility will continue to do so going forward. For example, in China, the Government regularly raises the subject of harassment and legal restrictions faced by the Chinese Christian community at the UK–China Human Rights Dialogue, publishing quarterly updates on the progress made.

Of course, there is more work that needs to be done. The Government will build on its work in the previous Parliament to make clear the facts of history and correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of 'the west'. This approach will be at its most effective if all people, independent of religion, work together to support these values.


I have started to receive campaign postcards about the 'Speak Up for the Love of' event on the 17th of June about climate change, I hope to meet with campaigners attending the event.

I do believe that emissions and climate change are important issues but that these require international agreement and action.

Setting a legally binding target for emissions here in the UK without a clear prospect of whether it is achievable might have serious consequences for those struggling to meet home fuel costs and for industry. Fuel poverty is an issue repeatedly raised with me in my constituency surgeries and at public meetings. I am also conscious that unilateral action risks simply exporting our carbon emissions to even more polluting nations with no global reduction in total output.

I following information is from the Department of Energy and Climate Change:

Climate change is potentially the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge and it is something the Government takes extremely seriously. The UK is taking a leading role on the world stage, working towards a binding global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. British Ministers led the push to get European leaders to reach agreement on a historic deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. EU countries agreed a new 2030 energy and climate policy framework that includes a domestic 2030 EU emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent.

This represents a big victory for the UK and it is a vital step towards achieving an international climate agreement at the key Paris conference later this year, where all the world's leaders will gather.

The International Climate Fund was set up by the Government to provide £3.87 billion between 2011 and 2015 to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener economic growth. In addition, the UK supports efforts to integrate climate change policies into international development plans.

Through the fund, the UK work in partnership with developing countries to:

• reduce carbon emissions through promoting low carbon development

• help poor people adapt to the effects of climate change

• reduce deforestation

Britain is leading by example and the Government's flagship Energy Act is based on the premise that the UK needs to decarbonise its energy sector and everything in the Act works towards achieving this goal at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. It puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent


I am starting to receive campaign correspondence with regard to EDM 370. I understand some would like me to sign EDM 370, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have now been superseded by Number 10 online petitions, which can be signed be everyone, not just MPs. 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 of Health is of interest:

The Government has recently responded to the Pay Review Body (NHS PRB and Doctors' and Dentists' PRB) reports. The reports recommended a one per cent consolidated pay rise for all employed staff, on top of increments. Unfortunately, this recommendation is unaffordable and could risk the quality of patient care. The NHS PRB's recommendation would cost £450 million, equivalent to 14,000 newly qualified nurses, payable in addition to almost £1 billion the NHS must pay every year for increments and would risk reductions in front-line staff that could lead to unsafe patient care.
NHS staff will get at least one per cent additional pay for the next two years, either via a one per cent non-consolidated pay award or incremental pay, but not both. Over half of all NHS staff eligible to receive incremental pay should receive at least one per cent (most receive over three per cent on average), the rest will receive a one per cent non-consolidated payment this year and a two per cent non-consolidated payment next year. However, the most senior managers in the Department of Health's arms-length bodies won't receive a pay rise.
NHS staff are incredibly dedicated and hardworking. As part of the long-term economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy and secure a better future for Britain, the Government is having to take difficult decisions to reduce the deficit. This includes difficult decisions about pay restraint in the public sector.

I realise some will be disappointed with this response however I hope it clarifies the situation.


I have started to receive correspondence with regard to the Traidcraft Justice campaign, which centres on access to justice for those who work for UK companies abroad.

I understand the concern on this matter and I am glad that the government understands how important access to justice in developing countries is. I hope the following information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on this matter is reassuring:

The Department for International Development is working with countries to help make their security and justice systems more effective, responsive and accountable to citizens. Security and justice providers can be parts of the state, like the police and the courts system, or informal, community authorities like village chiefs and other traditional leaders.

The UK has consistently made clear that we expect British companies to act in accordance with human rights law wherever they operate, and that companies should not be able to act with impunity. The UK Government is working with businesses, other governments and civil society through a range of initiatives, to support UK companies to respect human rights, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The UK Government published its Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, in September 2013. This plan sets out the UK's framework for implementing the UN Guiding Principles, including the state's duty to protect human rights, and the responsibility of business to respect human rights where they operate.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to the #SaveALifeAt16 campaign with regard to bone marrow donors between the ages of 16 and 20 and the Anthony Nolan Charity.

I understand more bone marrow donors are needed and this is something I have also raised in my Herald Express column earlier this year. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

As a nation we need to do all we can to encourage young people to become donors. That is why NHS Blood and Transplant has developed a free teaching resource pack called 'Give and Let Live', available for schools to order. It contains a teachers' booklet which includes case studies and background information about the need for more donors and aims to enable young people to see how they can make a difference to people's lives, by raising awareness about donation and demonstrating the benefits of blood, organ and bone marrow donation. The pack is aimed at students of 14 and over but can be adapted specifically for students aged 16 and over. In my view this is the right approach.

More generally, in each of the last four years the Department of Health has provided an extra £4 million investment in NHS stem cell services some of which has been given to Anthony Nolan to improve the speed and ability to match donors to patients. This total investment of £16 million will help save lives.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence calling for there to be CCTV in all slaughterhouses.

I would like to be clear that I agree. I feel it would help to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare and I understand the concerns expressed on this matter.

The following from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs clarifies however that following a consultation, including upon this issue, they do not intend to take this further:

The Government is committed to maintaining high standards of animal welfare at slaughter, and does not condone any form of cruelty to animals. The latest EU Regulation on this issue came into force on 1 January 2013. It sets out new standards for governing the handling, restraint, stunning and slaughter of animals for human consumption.

As part of the process of implementing the Regulation, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs held a consultation on the role CCTV can play in relation to monitoring welfare of animals at slaughter. This included consideration of whether CCTV should be made mandatory.

The Government's response to that consultation was published in May 2013. After careful consideration of all the responses and the different issues involved, Ministers are not convinced of the need for further legislation at this time, but will be keeping the need for CCTV under review.

I share the disappointment of many on this issue. You can view more about the consultation via the following link.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to the General Dental Council's (GDC) Annual Retention Fee for 2015.

I understand the concern on this matter but the GDC is an independent body and as such it is up to them to set the level of annual fee they charge for registration. The following information from the GDC lays out the reasoning behind the proposed increase:

"Since 2010 when we last increased the ARF there has been a 110% increase in the number of complaints from patients and members of the public, employers, other registrants and the police about GDC registrants. As a result, we need additional funds to investigate these complaints and where necessary to bring Fitness to Practise cases involving dentists and DCPs. If we do not have sufficient funds to bring these cases we would fail in our duty to protect patients and the public. This would also mean that the public would lose confidence in dental professionals."

There is actually a public consultation on the proposed fee increase where the GDC's proposal can be scrutinised which closes on the 4th of September and you can access it via the following link:

http://www.gdc-uk.org/GDCcalendar/Consultations/Pages/Consultation-on-the-Annual-Retention-Fee-%28ARF%29-Level-for-2015.aspx

I hope to be able to raise this issue during the annual accountability hearing with the Health Select Committee in Parliament


I have started to receive campaign correspondence calling for an Animal Protection Commission as a new independent regulatory body.

I appreciate the need to ensure animal welfare, however I do think that the existing legislation is sufficient to protect animals in this country, provided it is enforced.

I hope the following information from the Home Office on this matter clarifies the situation:

There is no current intention to introduce such a body. British law already makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or fail to provide for its welfare, and the RSPCA successfully prosecutes around 1,000 people each year. Several pieces of legislation are specific to animals in certain situations such as transport, at slaughter or on farms. These are enforced by a mixture of local authorities, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the police.

The organisation proposing this commission seeks to give it "... the remit to formulate and monitor policy by engaging with stakeholders using a 'deliberative' democratic approach". The Government's policy making process on animal welfare includes the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, which is responsible for strategic animal health and welfare policy, and overseeing implementation in England. Crucially, it reports directly to Ministers.


I have started to receive correspondence with regard to the Christian Aid campaign on climate change.

Firstly, I must state that I do believe that emissions and climate change are important issues. However, setting a legally binding target without a clear prospect of whether it is achievable might have serious consequences for those struggling to meet home fuel costs and for industry. Fuel poverty is an issue repeatedly raised with me in my constituency surgeries and at public meetings. I am also conscious that we risk simply exporting our carbon emissions to even more polluting nations with no global reduction in total output.

I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Energy and Climate Change is of interest:

The UK is taking a leading role on the world stage, working towards a binding global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. The Government is clear that it is committed to meeting the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent. Ministers continue to work with their European counterparts to push for an ambitious 2030 EU target. It is for these reasons that the Government's flagship Energy Act is based on the premise that the UK needs to decarbonise its energy sector and everything in the Act works towards achieving this goal at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. It enables a significant decarbonisation of the UK's power sector and puts Britain firmly on track to meet our carbon targets.

The International Climate Fund was set up by the Government to provide £3.87 billion between 2011 and 2015 to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener growth. In addition, the UK supports integrating climate change policies into international development plans. The Government has made clear that it will play an active role in UN negotiations on the post-2015 sustainable development goals to uphold these principles.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to religious persecution in North Korea and the briefing event on this issue on Tuesday the 4th of March at 4.00 pm in Committee Room 18.

I am afraid that I have a prior commitment at that time and will be unable to attend. However, I would like to provide reassurance that the government has raised the issue of the persecution of minorities with the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs several times.

Last November, a delegation from North Korea actually visited London which provided an opportunity for bilateral discussions on human rights. They were also shown around a prison, which gave us the chance to demonstrate our humane prison system.

The following information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be of interest:

The UK has consistently led from the front on human rights abuses in North Korea in multilateral discussions on the subject. In 2013, we co-sponsored two human rights resolutions in the United Nations and supported the introduction of a UN commission of inquiry, which will report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

Making significant progress on human rights and the protection of minorities such as Christians is difficult, because the North Korean Government refuses to enter into meaningful discussions on these matters. The UK will continue to push for further improvements through all possible avenues.

I hope that this information is reassuring.


I have started to receive correspondence with regard to the campaign concerning a Protection of Workers Bill.

Though I completely agree that workers serving the public should be protected from violence and aggression, I do not think there is any practical need for this bill. Working in the public or private sector often brings you in to face to face contact with the public and I think that for anyone who suffers violence whilst doing their job it is essential that the law adequately addresses the problem.

However, I think we already have the necessary laws in place to deal with such matters; there are already a range of offenses that criminalise violent behaviour. Sentencing guidelines also specify that where an assault is committed against someone providing a service to the public, whether in the public or private sector, this is an aggravating factor and so could well result in a higher sentence within the current maximum.

I hope this demonstrates that there is no need for the bill.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to peoples concern about the Royal Mail being privatised.

I appreciate the concern with regard to this move but unfortunately as the world and communications have modernised Royal Mail has found it difficult to compete with other operators. As such, I think it is right to enable Royal Mail to access private capital to invest to ensure their business remains viable, as in the current economic climate it seems preferable to do this without taxpayers' money.

I think it is important to highlight that a change in the ownership in Royal Mail will not mean any alteration in the provision of the universal postal service. Any changes to the uniform nature of the service would require new primary legislation and I can assure you that the government have no plans for any such changes.

I know that some are concerned about how this move will affect the Post Office but I can assure you that the Post Office is not for sale. It is certain that Royal Mail and the Post Office will continue to work together due to a ten year agreement signed last year, so this is not an issue.

On the matter of job losses, I will be frank and say that the modernisation of Royal Mail does of course mean that fewer workers will be necessary. However, I think it should also be noted that in the last decade of public ownership 50,000 people have lost their jobs with the company, so regardless of ownership job losses are inevitable.

I also refute the claims that the government is rushing the sale of Royal Mail and is selling it too cheaply. It has now been five years since the Independent Review of the Postal Sector recommended the measures now being implemented; I think this demonstrates that this has not been a rushed decision. The government is also committed to getting the best value for the tax payer in this transaction and will follow standard commercial practices in setting and publicising the share price.

Representing a rural constituency I am aware how vital Royal Mail is to those in the area and I can assure you that it will continue to provide deliveries to all UK addresses both urban and rural on a six days a week basis.


I have started receiving campaign correspondence with regard to the treatment of women in Afghanistan.

I completely agree that the protection of women's rights must be a central part of our work in Afghanistan and I am glad that the government has been clear about this. I know the Foreign Office have repeatedly raised the issue of women's rights with the government of Afghanistan and have highlighted the need to tackle violence against women.

I am sure you will be glad to hear the implementation of the Afghan Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW) was specifically included in the partnership between the Afghan government and the international community that was agreed last summer. The international community has been clear they will hold the Afghan government to their commitments.

We are also supporting the development of the Afghan National Police through the European Police Mission (EUPOL). With regard to the matter of family response units, EUPOL is aiming to enhance the capacity of such units with a new training programme for female police officers, prosecutors and other members of the legal community.

I can assure you that assistance provided to the Afghan Ministry of Interior by the UK ensures a strong focus on promoting human rights in the security sector alongside protecting women from violence. Additionally, the government also helps to fund the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which works to investigate and record violence against women with the aim of better supporting those seeking justice against such crimes.

We must do more to end the culture of impunity which exists in so many countries of violence including sexual violence against women. As a member of the All Party Human Rights Group I will be continuing to try to support women human rights defenders in their work.


I have recently started receiving mostly anonymous correspondence from a campaign run by Action for Renewables, with regard to supporting green jobs in the South West by signing Regen's South West Renewable Energy Manifesto.

As I am unable to respond to all of the correspondence I thought I would also post a statement about this matter here. I am sure you will be glad to read that I have in fact already signed up to Regen's South West Renewable Energy Manifesto and you can see the list of MPs that have signed up here.

I appreciate the importance of the sustainable energy sector to the economy of the South West and am keen to see this area be at the forefront of this exciting sector which has huge potential for growth.


I have been asked if I will support the introduction of European legislation for more women to be on the boards of larger European companies.

I would like to make it clear that I am sure that diverse and inclusive boards create better ideas due to their wider experience and perspectives. Women should be included in high level business and the Government introduced a number of measures to make this happen. For example, a voluntary code of conduct for executive search firms, making amendments to the UK corporate governance code, changes to narrative reporting and the establishment of the Women's Business Council.

I believe that a shift in the culture of business is what is needed to ensure that women's progress in this area is maintained, I think that nudging the business world this way will be the most effective tactic. The EU has done well in securing exposure for this important issue but a voluntary led business approach is the right approach.

It is interesting to learn that over the past year almost 40% of those appointed to the boards of FTSE 100 companies have been women. If this current trend is maintained we could have almost 30% women on the boards by 2015. I believe this demonstrates that solid achievements have already been made in this area.


I have started receiving correspondence with regard to Amnesty International campaign concerning the Arms Trade Treaty.

I appreciate the concerns on this matter and I would like to take this opportunity to address them. Firstly, I would like to state that I share the hope that a robust and effective treaty can make the world safer and agree that it is of the utmost importance that progress is made towards this.

I would like to reassure you that in the six years leading up to the Conference last July the government remained committed in its support for the ATT. The UK kept a prominent global position on the issue, discussing it with other governments and interested parties to garner as much support as possible.

Despite all of this an agreement was not reached in July. Nonetheless, I believe the main positive features of the Draft Treaty represented huge progress and the government is maintaining the momentum needed to complete the process. I can assure you that the government will take a leading role at the United Nations in the run up to the conference next month.

I do understand why some are calling for some areas of the treaty to be strengthened. However, as discussions are continuing it is not appropriate for the UK to elaborate on its negotiating position at the current time. However, the Foreign Office is aware of concerns about the treaty being watered down and Minister Alastair Burt stated:

"We will continue to work with the international community, civil society and the UK defence industry to secure a high standard Treaty with the broad support of the UN Membership."

I welcome Alastair's words on this matter and the government's leadership in this area in general.


I have been asked if I will sign EDM 951 concerning CCTV in slaughterhouses. However like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have now been superseded by Number 10 online petitions, which can be signed be everyone, not just MPs. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken. I am sympathetic however to the idea of CCTV in slaughterhouses.

I would like to assure you that this government is committed to the maintenance of high standards of welfare at slaughter and does not condone any form of cruelty to animals. As you may know, EU Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing came into force on 1 January 2013. This regulation sets out new standards for governing the handling, restraint, stunning and slaughter of animals for human consumption.

As part of the process of implementing EU Regulation 1099/2009, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently consulted on the role CCTV can play in relation to monitoring welfare of animals at slaughter. This included consideration of whether CCTV should be made mandatory.

I am assured that Ministers are currently giving careful consideration to the responses to consultation. When finalised, the response will be published on the Defra website and will confirm whether the government intends to change its current approach, which is not to require installation of CCTV in slaughterhouses.


I have been asked if I will sign the related EDM on this topic, number 1022, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have now been superseded by Number 10 online petitions, which can be signed be everyone, not just MPs. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that the government is not considering exempting private sector providers of NHS services from Corporation Tax. As you are aware, Monitor, the independent sector regulator for NHS funded services, has also confirmed that this is not a recommendation that they are considering in their Fair Playing Field Review.

The purpose of the review is to examine whether there are matters that mean not all NHS-funded health care providers operate on an equal footing and if so, whether something can be done that would address these issues and result in significant benefits for patients. The review will ensure that any providers, whether NHS, for-profit or voluntary sector organisations, who are able to improve the services offered to patients are given the opportunity to do so.

Whilst carrying out their review, Monitor have consulted with a wide range of stakeholders from all sectors including patient groups, providers, commissioners, regulators and policy makers. You are correct that the Health Secretary will respond to the review by the end of March and I look forward to hearing his comments.


It is not acceptable that in 2013 there are still nearly a billion people globally who are hungry or malnourished.

I am pleased to inform you that this year, the government will meet its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on development spending and is the first G8 country to meet this commitment. Britain is leading the fight against global hunger and will continue to do so in 2013. As President of the G8 this year, the UK will build on the work we have already done to stop hunger. Ministers will use a major event before our G8 summit to drive further global action to reduce hunger and malnutrition. They will also drive forward progress on the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

The Prime Minister has put tackling tax avoidance at the top of the G8 agenda. We live in a globalised world where no one country can, on its own, effectively tackle tax evasion and aggressive avoidance, which is why the UK is taking this opportunity to galvanise collective international action. In the Prime Minister's recent letter to G8 leaders he highlighted that they can lead the way in information sharing to tackle abuses of the system, including in developing countries, so that governments can collect the taxes due to them.

I hope this reassures you that the UK is leading the struggle against global hunger, on the international stage.


I voted in favour of same sex couples having the right to marry. This is because I believe that our sexuality is a fundamental and intrinsic part of who we are. I think it is time for this to be recognised and respected by wider society by extending the right to civil marriage.

Words matter and the term marriage remains highly a symbolic term that I believe should be open to same sex couples in a committed and loving relationship. I did receive correspondence from people stating this move would undermine the traditional societal institution of marriage. However, I do not agree that this would be the case.

A standard definition of marriage is elusive and people will have different perspectives on this. I do not think that marriage can be undermined because one couple believes it symbolises something different to those of other faiths or indeed those of no faith. The common interpretation of marriage has evolved and improved over time, the Married Women's Property Act was contentious in its day.

Religious marriage will remain unaffected and no church or minister will be under any obligation to perform same sex ceremonies. Spain, Portugal, Denmark and several other European nations have introduced same sex marriage and there has never been a successful prosecution in the European courts to force religious institutions to follow suit.

It is true that marriage has for millennia been legal only between a man and a woman and I know that many were dismayed at the idea of altering this status quo. But the fact is that for the majority of that time it was illegal to be openly homosexual in this country. Within living memory homosexuality was still being 'treated' as some kind of defect.

It is possible that we might not be enjoying our freedom today without the genius of Alan Turing and his work at Bletchley Park, yet he was tragically driven to suicide as a result of such 'treatment' and his persecution through the courts. In many parts of the world today it remains a death sentence to be openly homosexual and I am proud to live in a country that is one of the most progressive nations in the world with regard to equal rights.

This was a vote of conscience and my belief is that people must be respected regardless of their sexuality. You cannot be 'a little bit equal' in regard to the treatment of you as a person who is gay and this is why I voted for a right to equal recognition of their relationships. I do not believe that civil partnerships have the same status as marriage and would not want one myself, why therefore should I vote to enforce this as the only option for many of my constituents? I could not look them in the eye had I done so!

There is no reason for people of faith to feel any different about their own marriages because others are able to enjoy being married.

I do accept that you may profoundly disagree with me on this matter and that does not mean I do not value your opinion but rather that I have to balance this against my own conscience and duty to a group that has long suffered from prejudice and discrimination.


I would like to reassure you that the government is committed to decarbonising the UK's energy supplies and putting us on the road to a low-carbon future. The UK's tough emissions and renewable targets currently provide a solid overall policy framework and the government is pushing through ambitious reforms to overhaul existing old fossil fuel plants and replace them with new low carbon generation.

The new Energy Bill will put a fair price on carbon, providing a stronger incentive to invest in low carbon generation now. As part of this Bill, powers to set a decarbonisation target range for 2030 will be brought forward in secondary legislation. However, a decision on this will only be taken once the Climate Change Committee has provided advice in 2016 on the 5th Carbon Budget which covers the corresponding period.

Nonetheless, I can assure you that the UK will retain its status as a great place to do low-carbon business. Ministers are working to open up new markets and remove barriers to entry for the green businesses of the future. Since the Coalition came to power it has established Europe's first Green Investment Bank, pioneered a ground-breaking new energy efficiency scheme, the Green Deal, and added more capacity for renewables than at any time over the last decade. We are on target to reach our goal of 15% electricity generated by renewables.

The government is determined to meet achieve our climate goals, and will continue to work towards a low carbon future.