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.


17 NOV 2017

World Children's Day

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about World Children's Day and reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The UK strongly supports the principle of family unity, and there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely. Currently, family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them in the United Kingdom, if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under this policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. They will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union and are not affected by Brexit. Furthermore, children recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees can join close family members here in the UK through the Mandate resettlement scheme. In addition, the Immigration Rules provide for family reunion and allow extended family members to sponsor children where there are serious and compelling circumstances.

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. Discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is most appropriate. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR, and include Gateway, Mandate, Children at Risk, and the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.


17 NOV 2017

Breastfeeding

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

I recognise that breastfeeding is a personal choice for each woman to make and that not all mothers are able to or choose to breast feed. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is widely agreed that breastfeeding delivers significant health benefits to new-born babies, and promotes strong bonds between mother and baby. It provides the child with a perfect balance of vitamins and nutrients, and protects mother and baby from infection and disease. That is why, when possible, the Department of Health encourages exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of a child's life.
Breastfeeding rates vary nationally and it is important that local commissioners offer all new mothers the best quality of care. There are now 2,000 more NHS midwives than in 2010 who can provide women with the advice and support needed to breastfeed.
In 2014, the Government established the National Infant Feeding Network with UNICEF UK, which promotes evidence-based practice on infant feeding and early childhood development to deliver improved outcomes for women and their babies.
In line with UNICEF's "Baby Friendly" guidelines, all women should be supported to make informed decisions and to develop a close relationship with their babies soon after birth. Public Health England is working with local services, midwives and health visitors to make this vision a reality, with a particular focus on areas needing urgent support.
The Government is implementing the recommendations from the Better Birth report, to improve maternity services in England. This includes the promotion of breastfeeding, as Public Health England and UNICEF UK commission evidence-based interventions to improve breastfeeding rates.
For those who choose not to breastfeed, the Government supports the safe use of infant formula, and regulations are in place to ensure that all types of infant formula meet the nutritional needs of babies.


17 NOV 2017

Eating Disorder

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

I understand your concern on this matter 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.
Eating disorders are an acutely distressing mental illness. With the right approach, and appropriate investment, the Government will be able to offer help, care, and a full recovery to those who currently suffer from eating disorders.


17 NOV 2017

New Clause 53

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the EU Withdrawal Bill and New Clause 53.

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

The Government strongly supports the principle of family unity, and there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely. Currently, family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them in the United Kingdom, if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under this policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. They will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union and are not affected by Brexit. Furthermore, children recognised by UNHCR as refugees can join close family members here in the UK through the Mandate resettlement scheme. In addition, the Immigration Rules provide for family reunion and allow extended family members to sponsor children where there are serious and compelling circumstances.
Unaccompanied children cannot make applications for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin Regulation is a mechanism to determine the Member State responsible for the consideration of an asylum claim; it is not, and never has been, a family reunification route in itself. The Immigration Rules are entirely separate from the Dublin Regulation, and will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union.
On the issue of the future of the Dublin Regulation, cooperation on asylum and migration with our European partners is expected to continue after the UK leaves the EU.


17 NOV 2017

Children's Social Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about children's social care and the Good Childhood report.

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

Figure 17 of the report suggests that the most common disadvantages that children suffer are fears about crime, parental finance difficulties, and parental mental health issues.
On the issue of household finances, the Government has a record to be proud of, lifting four million of the lowest paid out of tax by raising the personal tax allowance and introducing a National Living Wage. While progress has been made, more must be done. The draft bill, published by the Government earlier this month, which would cap energy prices for millions of families is welcomed.
It is important to tackle the root causes of unhappiness in children early on, rather than belatedly intervening. That's why a record £1 billion of funding has been committed to mental health between now and 2020/21, helping both parents and children with their mental health difficulties.
Much of this mental health support is being tailored specifically towards children, especially in regard to bullying, which was outlined as a key problem in Chapter Two of the Good Childhood report. This includes a £3 million programme to tackle LGBT bullying in schools, as well as the PSHE Association project to create lesson plans for teachers on issues relating to mental health, seven of which were published in September.
By cracking down on crime, helping those households struggling with their finances, and investing massively in mental health, we will be a step closer to ensuring that every child has the happy childhood that they deserve.


17 NOV 2017

Sentient Beings

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about animal's status as sentient beings.

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

The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Ministers have been clear that they intend it to remain world-leading in the future and, as a minimum, to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare laws to become UK laws. Most of these EU laws relate to farmed animals and many were passed after Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) came into effect.
Based on the Animal Welfare Act the Animal Protection Index, maintained by World Animal Protection, rates the UK's formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A. Other Lisbon Treaty signatories such as France, Italy and Spain do not enjoy this rating, having each received grade C.
Article 13 of the TFEU created a qualified obligation on the EU and Member States "to have full regard to the welfare of animals [as they are sentient beings]" when formulating and implementing EU law. The Government has said that it will consider how the 'animal sentience' principle of Article 13 might be explicitly reflected in the UK when we leave the EU.

I do not believe that existing UK legislation, which provides necessary and appropriate protection for animals in this country, will not be weakened when we leave the EU.


16 NOV 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

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

Unless there are changes, I will be rebelling on the so called Henry the Eighth clauses which govern the way that laws are changed after Brexit. Anyone who voted to take back control for our Parliament didn't do so to give sweeping powers to a tiny group of government ministers. I have long been shocked by the way that secondary legislation is scrutinised in Parliament and we cannot allow the same rubber stamping exercise to apply to vast swathes of changes to our laws without a process of triage. We need to allow the essential but merely technical changes to be fast tracked but anything which requires greater scrutiny must be given the right level of attention by Parliament.

It is my job to be awkward at times and I intend to continue to scrutinise legislation as best I can on behalf of this constituency.


16 NOV 2017

Mental Health Funding

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about funding for mental health services.

I understand your concern on this matter and I have long called for the parity of esteem between physical and mental health issues for which we legislated to be reflected in greater parity for funding. I will continue to call for more resources for both mental health services and the wider NHS and social care sector. Next Tuesday afternoon the Health Select Committee is following up on this issue in a special session which you may be interested to watch online.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest in setting out the government's view:

Tackling poor mental health must be a priority and Ministers have legislated to treat it with the same importance as physical health. Progress is being made with more Government investment in mental health and an estimated 1,400 more people accessing mental health services every day compared to 2010 - up 40 per cent, as well as around 750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/10.
In February 2016, an independent Mental Health Taskforce published a new national strategy, setting out an ambitious vision for mental health services.
To make these recommendations a reality, the Government will spend an additional £1 billion on mental health by 2020-21 so that people receive the right care in the right place when they need it most. This includes increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by 600,000 per year, and helping 20,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies.
A further £1.25 billion for perinatal and children and young people's mental health, helping professionals to intervene early and more than doubling the number of pregnant women or new mothers receiving mental health support; and training around 1,700 new therapists. To support teenagers with eating disorders, the Government is investing £150 million.
The Government has also introduced the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards, so that 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies to treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 per cent within 18 weeks. These targets have been met and the latest data shows that in May 2016, 84 per cent of people waited less than 6 weeks and 97 per cent of people waited less than 18 weeks. Also, patients experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks.
The Government has announced reform to mental health policy in the latest Queen's Speech, in order to continue to reduce the number of people detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act. You may be pleased to know that in October 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would embark on a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act, which has remained unchanged for more than three decades. This review will examine existing practices, and address the disproportionately high rates of detention of people from ethnic minorities. The review will be led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and he will consider the needs of all users of mental health services and their families, and improve the system's support for those during a mental health crisis.


15 NOV 2017

World Watch List

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the launch of the 2018 World Watch List report on the 17th of January at 4pm, it is much appreciated.

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:

The persecution suffered by millions of Christians across the world who seek only to practise their beliefs openly, in peace and safety is appalling. Here in the West those freedoms are all too often taken for granted.
This is an issue upon which there is much Parliamentary consensus, and that within Government, much cross-departmental work is being done on these issues. The UK's project work overseas is an important part of this effort to promote and protect religious freedoms. During this tax year, the Government is spending £758,000 on freedom of religion projects worldwide, including in Pakistan and Iraq.
One project is helping to develop lesson plans for secondary school teachers in the Middle East and North Africa. The aim is to teach children about religious tolerance, religious acceptance, and the absolute right to freedom of religion or belief. Teaching children in that way is a vital part of promoting tolerance and respect at grassroots level and of helping to build future resilience against extremism.
The UK Government remains determined to promote and defend human rights more generally.
UK activity is both multilateral, through institutions such as the UN, striving to build and maintain consensus, and bilateral, though the UK's diplomatic network.


15 NOV 2017

Greener UK

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the transfer of EU environmental law in to UK law.

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 is of interest:

The Government has made repeatedly clear that all EU legislation will be converted into UK law at the point of the UK's departure from the EU. This will provide continuity and certainty for individuals in the UK and in the EU. Parliament has the power to amend or repeal any laws that it wishes and it will, of course, be able to modify retained EU law in the future.
The environmental principles that you mention have had an important influence on the creation of EU environmental legislation which is itself being transferred into UK law. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will ensure that, wherever practical, the same rules apply in this country after we leave as they did before.
Although the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end, the Government will ensure that strong and effective governance arrangements are in place after the UK's exit from the EU. No decisions have yet been taken on the UK's future relationship with EU agencies including with the European Environment Agency. This is a matter for the negotiations.


15 NOV 2017

EU Fishing

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and for letting me know that you would like us to leave the CFP in March 2019. I hope the following information on this from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

In withdrawing from the EU the UK will be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which allows all European vessels to fish between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and sets quotas for how much fish each nation can catch. We will also withdraw from the earlier 1964 London Fisheries Convention, which allows vessels from five European countries to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the UK's coastline.

The CFP has had a profound impact both on the UK's coastal communities and on the sustainability of our fish stocks. Since 2010 the UK has led reforms, but 40 per cent of fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea are still being fished at unsustainable levels.

By leaving the CFP, taking back control of our territorial waters, granting access to other countries and allocating quotas all on the basis of what is scientifically sustainable; we can set and follow the very highest standards in marine conservation. At the same time we can support the revival of our coastal communities.

With UK control of waters in our exclusive economic zone we can not only husband fish stocks more wisely, but also ensure that we allow our fishing industry to grow sustainably in the future. Outside the EU, as an independent coastal state, we can be home to world class fishing fleets as well as proving ourselves environmental leaders.

On a personal note, I will make sure that colleagues are aware of your concerns about the potential for delays during the transition and this will no doubt be a subject of intense debate over coming months. I have already stressed to the PM that fishing communities must not be let down by having their interests traded away in favour of other sectors.


13 NOV 2017

St Mungos

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about homelessness and the event being held by St Mungo's on the 29th of November, I am afraid I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, 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:

Last year, the Prime Minister unveiled plans for new homelessness prevention schemes, including targeted support for those at risk of sleeping rough. The Government is spending over £550 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in England by 2020 following the 2015 Spending Review. This includes: protecting £315 million homelessness prevention funding that goes to local authorities; increasing central government funding for homelessness programmes to £149 million; and £100 million to deliver at least 2,000 low-cost move-on accommodation places, to enable people leaving hostels and refuges to make a sustainable recovery from a homelessness crisis.
Further, the Government supported Bob Blackman's Homelessness Reduction Act, which will provide vital support for many more people.
The Conservative Manifesto at the recent general election committed to full implementation of the Act, setting an aim to halve rough sleeping over the course of the Parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. This will be done through setting up a new homelessness reduction taskforce to focus on prevention and affordable housing, and piloting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.


09 NOV 2017

Green Belt

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

I read your comments with interest and understand your concerns about protecting the green belt. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government reassuring:

While it is up to local authorities to determine the development of new homes through local plans, steps have been taken to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development.
The Housing White Paper, published earlier this year, emphasised the Government's continued commitment to protecting the Green Belt. Ministers want to amend and add to national policy to make it clear that: Green Belt boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances, when local authorities can demonstrate they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements; and where land is removed from the Green Belt, local policies should require the impact to be offset.
Planning policy also guarantees strong protection for National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The Green Belt also enjoys protection against erosion from caravan and traveller sites. The Government also has an ambitious programme to bring brownfield land back into use in England and is working closely with local authorities to drive this forward. This will ensure that development is prioritised on brownfield sites rather than at the expense of our countryside.


09 NOV 2017

Nursing Staff

Thank you for writing to me about NHS funding and nurses pay. You may already be aware that I am currently chairing an inquiry into the nursing workforce in my capacity as chair of the Health Select Committee. This will include the impact of 7 years of pay restraint on recruitment and retention as well as the wider issues contributing to the decline in the numbers of nurses registered with the NMC. We will amongst others be looking at wider workforce pressures, the impact of bursaries, new routes into nursing, working conditions and the effect of Brexit.

You may also have heard me discussing overall funding and the need for this to increase. I continue to feel that this will require a cross party approach to agree a sustainable long term agreement on both NHS and social care funding.

The following may be of interest in providing background to these issues:-

http://www.health.org.uk/sites/health/files/Autumn-Budget-2017-briefing.pdf

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldnhssus/151/151.pdf

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/inquiry/

As your MP I will be speaking to the Chancellor about these issues and will continue to debate these in the media in the run up to the budget.


07 NOV 2017

Brexit Impact

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

On the row about publication of sector impact assessments, no one wants to prejudice our negotiating position but it is important for Select Committees to have access to the right information in holding their inquiries on behalf of the public.

Only last week, the Health Select Committee, which I chair, formally called for the four impact studies relevant to health prior to our inquiry into Brexit and health. We do not want to undermine the government negotiating position, we want to do our job in analysing the impact of Brexit on health.


07 NOV 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

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

I understand there are several amendments to the bill that you would like me to support and I am pleased to confirm that I have already added my name to Dominic Grieve's amendment regarding ensuring that parliament has a vote on any deal.

With regard to amendment 20, asking for a second referendum before we leave the EU, there is no point in giving the EU a direct incentive to offer a terrible deal by promising a referendum in advance.

On the matter of amendment 124, I do not think it is reasonable to back the government in to a negotiating corner by legislating that we must stay in the Single Market.

Lastly, with regard to amendment 131 and the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has published an open letter promising to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to obtain settled status in the UK. The letter explains that the government is in touching distance of an agreement on citizens' rights and promises that the process for EU nationals to register to stay in the UK will be streamlined – with EU citizens having a direct say over how it will work. You can read the full piece at the following website.

It is time for EU negotiators to stop using this issue as an excuse to stall progress. In my view the sticking point is almost entirely about the demand for more cash from the UK in return for opening negotiators on future trade. I'm glad however that there has been some concession in that they are now at least discussing trade amongst themselves and I remain hopeful that common sense will prevail in the end. It is clearly in the best interests of both sides.

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.


07 NOV 2017

NHS Funding

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

I will be continuing to make the case for increased overall funding for both health and social care and for there to be cross Party working in delivering sustainable long term funding. I recently chaired a hearing of the Health Select Committee with Lord Patel and members of the House of Lords Committee to discuss their conclusions on achieving long term sustainability of funding and I intend to continue to make the case for this directly to ministers and as Chair of the Health Select Committee.


06 NOV 2017

Care International

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

I read your comments with interest and I realise you would like the government to do more to help child refugees. I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

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


06 NOV 2017

UK Aid

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the 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 hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is of interest:

The UK's development budget is an important part of securing Britain's place in the world. 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. Spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies helps deliver a more secure and prosperous UK, while having a life-saving impact on the ground.
Whether it's stepping up our support for desperate Syrian refugees, tackling the lethal legacy of landmines or giving life-saving aid to stop people dying of hunger in East Africa, UK aid is keeping Britain safe while the helping the world's poorest stand on their own two feet.
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.


03 NOV 2017

Seni's Law

Thank you for writing to me about Seni and Steve Reed's private member's bill.

I had a full constituency day and was not able to attend.

Theresa May has commissioned a review of the Mental Health Act and I hope that the issues raised in your email will also be addressed during that review.


02 NOV 2017

Positive Money Campaign

Thank you for taking the time to email me about monetary policy and the Positive Money campaign.

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

Monetary policy is a matter for the independent Bank of England and the Bank's 2 per cent inflation target is a cornerstone of the UK's financial stability and continued prosperity.
Inequality has actually been falling in recent years, with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics showing it to be at its lowest level for 30 years. Thanks to a strong economy, and reforms such as the introduction of the National Living Wage, the lowest paid have seen their pay go up by the most in recent years.
It is understood there are concerns about uncertainty around Brexit, which is why the Government is seeking to provide clarity for businesses and consumers as it negotiates for withdrawal from the European Union. The Bank of England has also been clear that the potential impacts of Brexit are fully considered when setting monetary policy.
The Treasury Select Committee did in fact take evidence from the Bank of England on 17th October, including from the Governor.


02 NOV 2017

Public Sector Pay

Thank you for taking the time to email me with regard to public sector pay.

You will I'm sure have noted my own calls to relax the public sector pay cap and this was further explored with the Health Secretary at the Health Select Committee. The economic uncertainty around Brexit seem likely to make the Chancellor cautious in his approach, but I hope that there will room for greater flexibility on public sector pay in the budget later this month.

In the meantime, I hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:

Public sector workers deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded. The Government has confirmed that it will be moving away from the 1 per cent public sector pay policy, towards a more flexible approach on pay.
We still need to deal with our country's debts to ensure we have a strong economy to enable us to invest in our public services. This means that it is vital that we continue to take a balanced approach to public spending.
The Government will consider each specific workforce to ensure pay is set so that the public sector can continue to both attract and hold on to the excellent staff that support our world-leading public services.
Before Ministers make final decisions on pay awards, they will seek the views of the eight independent Pay Review Bodies, which will consider the evidence on how best to ensure they can recruit and retain the very best people within our public services, like giving people more flexibility over their working hours. They will report in spring 2018, at which point the Government will consider their recommendations and announce public sector pay awards for each of those workforces.
Since 2010 the deficit has been cut by two thirds, helping secure our economy for the future. There is more to be done, but thanks to the actions that have been taken to get the public finances back into shape, the Government can now apply greater flexibility to public sector pay. Ministers will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers recognises their vital contribution and ensures that they can deliver world class public services, while also being affordable and fair to taxpayers as a whole


01 NOV 2017

Supported Housing

Thank you for taking the time to email me about supported housing and homelessness.

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

Last year, the Prime Minister unveiled plans for new homelessness prevention schemes, including targeted support for those at risk of sleeping rough. The Government is spending over £950 million to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in England by 2020 following the 2015 Spending Review. The Government is also committed to full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, and aims to halve rough sleeping over the course of the Parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. This will be done through setting up a new homelessness reduction taskforce to focus on prevention and affordable housing, and piloting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.
Supported housing supports some of the most vulnerable people across the country and the Government's priority is to safeguard its future. The Prime Minister has announced that the local housing allowance will not be applied to supported housing nor will it be implemented for the rest of the social rented sector. The Government published its proposals on its future model to support and sustain supported housing on 31 October - more information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/funding-for-supported-housing.


31 OCT 2017

Hospital Appointments

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about hospital transport for elderly people.

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

There are cross-governmental efforts being made to ensure elderly and frail people are able to gain access to suitable transport to hospitals. The Department of Health is aware of these issues, and runs a number of schemes to assist patients with non-emergency hospital transport.
Some people are eligible for non-emergency patient transport services. These services provide free transport to and from hospital for people whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey.
The Healthcare Travel Costs was set up to help those patients who require assistance with their travel costs to non-emergency medical appointments. Under the scheme, eligible patients (and sometimes carers) are reimbursed for costs incurred in travelling to appointments at non-primary medical and dental services. Patients who are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit but are on a low income may be eligible for assistance through the NHS Low Income Scheme.
The Department of Transport manages a Community Minibus Fund in England and Wales. With a budget of £2 million, this fund is available for charities and community groups to provide minibus journeys for elderly residents, amongst others, to help them reach medical services and local amenities.
The NHS works closely with independent providers, who offer non-emergency patient transport throughout the country, and offer essential support to conventional ambulance services.


31 OCT 2017

Academic Freedom

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about freedom of speech at universities.

I understand your concern on this matter and I agree that the freedom and independence of universities should be respected. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

Our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and it is vitally important that this right is preserved. The Prime Minister has said our universities should not be just be places of learning, but should also be placed where there can be open debate.
The Minister for Universities has been clear that universities have a legal duty to secure freedom of speech for students, staff and visiting speakers and must have clear policies in place to support this practice. This duty extends to both the premises of the university and premises occupied by the students' unions, even if they are not part of the university premises. This means that universities have a legal obligation to ensure the use of student union premises is not denied to individuals on the grounds or their beliefs, policy or objectives. Universities must also follow the statutory Prevent duty surrounding terrorist and extremist groups.
Universities also have a responsibility under of the Equality Act 2010 to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all staff and students. This helps ensure that all individuals are able to express their opinions without fear of discrimination, or harassment by the university.
The Department for Education provides additional support to universities to ensure that ideas and opinions can be heard, challenged and debated - including help to assess the possible risks around external speakers. It also proposes to raise the issue of freedom of speech as part of the consultation on the public interest principles to be included in the public interest governance condition that the Office for Students will be able to improve on higher education institutions.

Freedom of speech is vital in society, and in particular in higher education. It is essential for academic thinking to remain cutting-edge and for ideas to be explored and challenged. Procedures are in place to uphold this right.


31 OCT 2017

Children's Social Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about The Children's Society roundtable being held on the 1st of November at 4pm, I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend.

However, I understand the concerns about the future of funding for children's social care and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

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


30 OCT 2017

Mental Health Units

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the use of restraint in mental health settings and about the private member's bill this Friday.

I am afraid that I have full constituency surgery and other constituency commitments booked for that day so will not be able to attend the debate.

I am sorry but there is a problem with the timetabling of private member's bills which I hope will be resolved in future. I hope the Minister in responding to the debate will set out how this issue will be tackled in mental health and custodial settings.


24 OCT 2017

MS

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

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 receive dignified care in old age. This is one of the biggest challenges our country faces, with an ageing population.
The Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas. More than £7 billion extra has been introduced to support councils fund social care over the next three years. Local authorities have greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money as well as retaining savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million.
There will be further support, with the Chancellor's recent announcement of an additional £2 billion to councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care services. I am encouraged that £1 billion will be provided in 2017-18, to enable immediate action. Since 2015, councils will have access in total to £9.25 billion more dedicated funding for social care over the next three years.
Money alone will not fix the problem and reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils already provide 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.
Following the election, the Government will consult on all options for future social care, the consultation will investigate options to create a fair, sustainable, and accessible social care system. There have been many consultations into care policy over the years; however the Government believes that the upcoming consultation will usher in a real cultural change into how we tackle the issues of an aging population as a society.

Those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) may require specific long-term social care needs, and it is essential that any social care system sensitively considers those suffering from MS. Those suffering from long term conditions such as MS may be eligible for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The PIP is designed to offer claimants the correct level of care for their needs, which focuses on an individual's ability to carry out key every day activities, and this system includes regular reviews so those suffering from long-term conditions are appropriately supported by the care and welfare system. Alternatively, those with MS may be eligible for direct payments for care from their local authority, which contribute to the funding of care, and paying for carers.
It must be noted that MS is a spectrum condition, and a blanket approach to MS and social care cannot be appropriately applied. Therefore, as well as providing effective support for those with MS, it is right that the Department of Health works in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions to assist those with MS find effective employment and independence, appropriate for their condition. You may be pleased to know that the Government has recently completed a consultation entitled 'Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives', which intends to help those with long term health conditions into well-supported employment, where appropriate, and improve their health.


20 OCT 2017

Refugee Action

Thank you for taking the time to email me about providing English language tuition for refugees.

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

The ability to speak English is hugely important for integration, and to allow refugees to feel at home in our country. The funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is not ring-fenced, but rather forms a part of the Adult Education Budget. Providers will use their allocation of this budget to put on appropriate provision based on their judgement of the economic and social needs of their local area. I would expect this provision to include ESOL where there is significant demand.
The pledge of up to £10 million to provide a programme to enable Syrian refugees across the UK to access language tuition, and integrate into British society is welcomed. This will go a long way in helping those coming to our country as refugees to play a full and active part in British society.
More widely, the foreign aid budget will be used to finance refugees for the first year they are here, and help local councils with things such as housing.


20 OCT 2017

People's Clause

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Committee Stage of the Repeal Bill.

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

In the referendum, millions of people voted to leave the EU. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Repeal Bill, ensures that the UK does this in the smoothest possible way. This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU or about the terms of our exit.
The Bill honours the referendum result and provides certainty for businesses. It repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which gives effect to EU law in the UK, and converts all EU law into UK law. It also provides ministers in the UK Government and in the devolved administrations with temporary powers to make corrections to the law. Without it there would be holes in our legal system and chaos for the British people.
The delegated power is important because not all laws will make sense after the UK leaves the EU. For example, references to the UK as a member of the EU will have to be removed and temporary delegated powers will allow ministers to do this in time for the UK's departure.
The Bill does not, however, allow the Government to bypass Parliament. MPs will still be able to scrutinise any changes introduced by ministers using delegated powers and major policy changes will be introduced as separate Bills. The Queen's Speech announced legislation on agriculture, immigration and trade. Future laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Repeal Bill is receiving 8 days of debate in the House of Commons to discuss amendments tabled by MPs. This is more than the previous Labour Government provided for the Lisbon Treaty which was similar in its constitutional importance. The Government has said that further time may be considered if necessary.
The Prime Minister has promised that Parliament will have a say over the final withdrawal deal but it is not within the Government's power to unilaterally extend the negotiation period for further discussions. EU law is clear that the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 whether or not a withdrawal agreement is reached. By voting for this Bill, the UK will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. Voting against the Bill would create chaos and uncertainty.


20 OCT 2017

Baby Loss

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

I do understand your concerns about taking care of parents who lose babies and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

Baby loss and parental bereavement affect many people, however the Health Secretary aims to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world to give birth. In November 2015, the Secretary of State announced an ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2030.
In October 2016, the Health Secretary launched the Safer Maternity Care action plan with a range of measures, which include: an £8.1 million Maternity Safety Training Fund, to improve maternity safety throughout England; a new Standardised Perinatal Mortality Review Tool to review and learn from every stillbirth and neonatal death; and, a £250,000 Maternity Safety Innovation fund to support maternity services implement innovative projects to improve the quality of their maternity services.
The Government's collaboration with charities, such as Sands, Bliss, Tommy's and others, to raise awareness of the preventative measures which can be taken to reduce the rate of stillbirths and ensure more healthy babies are born each year is encouraging.
The Government's assistance to perinatal mental health services, with investment of £365 million from 2015/16 to 2020/21, as well as funding better bereavement provision throughout England, which will help grieving parents in such a difficult time, is also welcomed.


19 OCT 2017

Access to Medicine

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the cost of pharmaceutical drugs to the NHS.

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 paying a fair price for medicines used in the NHS. Where companies exploit the NHS by charging higher prices, this money cannot be spent elsewhere on patient care.
The Government has recently legislated to ensure that high prices of generic medicines can be better controlled. This action reflects the Government's determination to ensure that no pharmaceutical company can charge unjustifiably high prices for medicines used in the NHS.
In 2016, the Secretary of State for Health asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urgently look into whether pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the NHS by increasing their prices. The CMA have fined companies that have been found to be charging excessive prices and the Department of Health continues to work closely with the CMA on further investigations into the pharmaceutical sector.
The Government also works with the pharmaceutical industry on a range of issues, including the pricing 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.
The Government also commissioned the Accelerated Access Review which has set out a range of ways we can improve and speed up access to the latest treatments but do so affordably for the NHS. The Government is running a public consultation into medicines which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, in order to assess areas in which the NHS has been spending money on expensive, and clinically ineffective medicines.

Through measures such as this, the Government is taking action to ensure drugs represent value for money to the NHS and the UK taxpayer.


18 OCT 2017

General Practice Indemnity

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about the cost of GP indemnity.

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

The Government is committed to building a thoroughly patient-driven NHS. Enabling patients to make claims of clinical or GP negligence is central to this, as it maintains trust and accountability in the NHS. That is why, in February 2017, the Lord Chancellor announced a change to the personal injury discount rate.
However, the Department of Health has recognised the potential consequences this change may have for GPs. GPs must feel supported by the Government and the Health Service, and the Government has stated in the General Practice Forward View, that GPs will not bear the cost of increased indemnity, the Government will. The Government invested an additional £30 million into covering indemnity costs for 2016-17, and a further sum of approximately £30 million will be made available for the next financial year.
In light of the increasing costs of claims since February 2017 the Department for Health and NHS England are developing a policy to cover rising indemnity costs, and will continue to work closely with GPs and the Medical Defence Organisations to ensure that appropriate funding is provided sustainably, for the long term. In October 2017, the Health Secretary announced that a long-term solution is in development, which will be of great support to doctors throughout the country. It will take at least 12 to 18 months to develop.
NHS England has recently announced plans to help out-of-hours GP services throughout the winter by making an extra £10 million available for indemnity costs. This scheme is running from October to April 2018, and will enable doctors to commit to more out of hours sessions, which are so important for patient care in the winter. The Government is developing a long-term answer to the issue of rising indemnity costs.


18 OCT 2017

Student Funding

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about student funding and tuition fees.

I understand your concern on this matter and I appreciate that the fees and debt accrued can seem intimidating, however the system operates in effect much like a time-limited graduate tax. Continuing with the previous system was not possible given the huge increase in the numbers of students going on to university, especially as it meant that those who did not go to university were, in effect, subsidising those who did through their taxes.

The current system supports and enables those from low income families to continue their education with no up-front costs. The evidence is that a greater proportion of students have been attending university from low income families than under the previous system. You may wish to look at the following information from Full Fact on this topic.

I do feel that as the fees for these institutions rise, there should be greater accountability for what they actually provide students alongside more scrutiny of the pay of chancellors, but their remuneration is not set by the government.

Repayments of student loans only start once a graduate earns above £21,000 and payments are linked to income. As such, if you do not economically benefit from your degree then in essence you will not have to pay for it and the loans are written off after a fixed period.

I take your point that those from low income families will graduate with higher levels of debt because their families will not be able to subsidise their living expenses but this was always the case, even under the previous system, where grants did not meet the actual cost of living at university.

I do share your concern about the level of interest rates that are in place on student loans and I am glad that this is something the government is looking at. I have urged ministers to support a reduction in the rates and will be keeping an eye on developments in this area.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Education is of interest:

No-one with ambition and ability, whatever their background and family income, should come up against barriers to accessing higher education. The number of students in higher education has exceeded half a million for the first time and more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. This is fantastic news and shows the reforms are working as students understand they do not have to pay up front to go to university.
The new system of student finance is more progressive than the one it replaced. Not only do students not pay a penny up front for their tuition but graduates will only pay back their loans once they earn more than £21,000. This threshold will be increased from £21,000 to £25,000 in April 2018,and will be adjusted in line with average income thereafter. Monthly repayments will be lower than under the old system.
Basing university funding on student fees and loans was a tough decision but avoided the situation where universities would have simply faced cuts which would have led to reduced student numbers. The cap on university places has been removed meaning there is no arbitrary ceiling and tens of thousands more can access higher education.
The reforms and new funding methodology have ensured that institutions are investing significantly in widening student access to higher education. As part of their access agreements higher education institutions plan by 2018/19 to increase their spending on outreach, student success and student financial support measures to £735 million, up from £444 million in 2011/12.
The Prime Minister's commitment to increasing diversity in our higher education system and giving students better value for money, and the promise to look again at the question of funding and student finance is encouraging. Immediate action is also being taken to help graduates. Tuition fees will be frozen at their current level and the planned rise with inflation will be scrapped while the system is being reviewed.


17 OCT 2017

Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill

Thank you for getting in touch and for letting me know that you support Chris Bryant's bill.

I think it likely that this will progress but as a private member's bill there is no guarantee that it will do so.

I'm afraid I have a full constituency day of surgeries, meetings and visits which I cannot rearrange and so will not be there for private member's business this Friday to speak in the debate but I am happy to support it through its further stages and am optimistic about its chances of progress.


16 OCT 2017

Capped Expenditure Process

Thank you for taking the time to email me about local health services and the Capped Expenditure Process (CEP).

I understand your concern about this and have raised it in Parliament, and directly with the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, and others involved in the financial governance of the NHS. I do not feel that further in-year cuts should be absorbed by Devon's health services. The savings demanded in the coming year have now been reduced and there are no plans to implement further community hospital closures.

I will be continuing to make the case for increased overall funding for both health and social care and for there to be cross Party working in delivering sustainable long term funding.

Next Tuesday I will be chairing a hearing of the Health Select Committee with Lord Patel and members of the House of Lords Committee to discuss their conclusions on achieving long term sustainability of NHS funding.


12 OCT 2017

Care Home Choice

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

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

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


12 OCT 2017

Gaza

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

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

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


12 OCT 2017

Fair Votes

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

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


11 OCT 2017

Local Housing Allowance

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

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

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


11 OCT 2017

Fuel Duty

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

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

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


10 OCT 2017

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

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

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

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


10 OCT 2017

EDM 66 and Animal Testing

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 66, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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

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

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


06 OCT 2017

Good Childhood Campaign

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

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

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


03 OCT 2017

Energy Cap

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

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

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


03 OCT 2017

Universal Credits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


03 OCT 2017

Breast Cancer Care Reception

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

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

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

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

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


03 OCT 2017

UN and Israel

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

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

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


02 OCT 2017

Refugees

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

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

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


02 OCT 2017

Fishing, Farming and Brexit

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

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

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


02 OCT 2017

Inefficient Homes

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

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

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


02 OCT 2017

Back Off Campaign

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

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

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


02 OCT 2017

Breast Cancer

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

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

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


02 OCT 2017

Royal British Legion

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

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

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


21 SEP 2017

NHS

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

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

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


20 SEP 2017

Macmillan Coffee Morning

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

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

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


19 SEP 2017

Refugee Children

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

PIP Assessments

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Children's Societies

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Holiday Food Provision Bill

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Anthony Nolan

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Bees

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

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

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

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


14 SEP 2017

Nominations of Members to Committees

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


13 SEP 2017

Alzheimer's Party Conference

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

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

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


12 SEP 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Home is Here

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Repeal Bill Environment

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

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Support Pubs

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

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

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

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Bottle Deposit System

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

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

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


08 SEP 2017

Scrutiny of Trade Deals EDM 128

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

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

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

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


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