16 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about sentencing for offences of animal cruelty.
I understand the concern on this matter and am just sorry I will be unable to attend the debate on the 24th of February due to prior commitments in the constituency. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:
We have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
The law, and the penalties for breaking it, were reviewed by the Parliamentary Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2012. At that time the Committee did not recommend increasing the maximum sentencing available to the courts. However, the previous cap in the fine charges of animal abuse can attract has been removed, and the Ministry of Justice is now looking at whether there is a case for increasing the penalties further.
The courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. There has recently been a public consultation into sentencing guidelines for these crimes, which resulted in the Council confirming the removal of the cap on the financial element of the penalty, and clarifying a range of relevant factors that would indicate a more serious offence.
15 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about adult social care.
I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:
It is important to ensure that as people get older, they are able to receive the dignified care they deserve. The Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas. That is why the Government is giving local authorities additional funding and flexibility so that they will have access to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament. On 15 December, the Government announced greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so that local authorities can choose to raise extra money. Savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million, will be retained by councils for social care. Taken together, this means almost an additional £900 million will be made available over the next two years.
Money alone will not fix the problem and the Government is clear that far-reaching reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils are already providing high quality social care within their existing budgets, showing that reform can be achieved and half of all delayed discharges from hospital to home arise in just 24 local authorities. The Communities Secretary, Health Secretary and others across Government will work to ensure that long-term we have a sustainable system of social care for everyone that needs it.
15 FEB 2017
In response to the many concerns raised about the Dubs Amendment, the Home Secretary has written to MPs with a clarification of the government's position and I am copying the text of her letter below. I have also written to our local councils to ask about local capacity to provide further support to refugees and to make it clear that I am happy to offer my help should they need this in arranging the necessary support. I will also try and attend part of the debate on this matter on the 23rd of February:
10 February 2017
Re: Implementing the Dubs amendment and supporting the most vulnerable child refugees
Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and this Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition.
Our response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the region, where we can best target our support to help the most vulnerable. That is why we will resettle 20,000 Syrians over the course of this parliament and we will also resettle 3,000 children and their families from the wider region. In the last year we have granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children and of the over 4,4000 individuals resettled through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme so far, around half are children.
This week the Government announced that in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act (the so-called Dubs amendment) we will transfer 350 children to meet the intention and spirit behind the amendment. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under 67 from France, and will include a further 150 over the coming months.
The scheme has not closed, as reported by some. We were obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. This is the number that we have published and we will now be working in Greece, Italy and France to transfer further children under the amendment. We're clear that behind these numbers are children and it's vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support and care they will need.
We consulted extensively with local authorities over several months to reach this number, but if your local authority is contacting you suggesting they have extra capacity to take children then please encourage them to participate in the National Transfer Scheme. Each year we have around 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrive in Britain and currently a small number of councils are taking a disproportionate share of the burden in caring for these children.
The Government has also always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.
I'm proud of the action this government has taken, and will continue to take, to support and care for the most vulnerable children caught up in the crisis in Syria.
Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP
14 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Green Investment Bank.
I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:
The GIB has proven to be a pioneering venture into sustainable investment, and has now committed £2.6 billion of capital to 79 green infrastructure projects across the UK since its launch.
However, as the Independent Chair of the Bank, Lord Smith, has said, attracting new investors is vital if the GIB is to fund its ambitious plans to double the size of its business, expand into new parts of the green economy and deliver more environmental benefits. Indeed, the Government has always been clear that the GIB was designed with a view to a possible transfer to the private sector. The company was designed to leverage the maximum amount of private capital into green sectors for the minimum amount of public money. Moving the company into private ownership is a natural development that further delivers this aim.
It is with this in mind that plans to explore the privatisation of the Bank were announced in 2013. Since then, the Government and GIB have continued to work together to facilitate the introduction of private capital into the bank, and a two stage auction process was formally launched in March 2016.
While the detail of the sale process is commercially confidential, the Government has no interest in selling to an asset stripper. Potential investors have been asked to confirm their commitment to GIB's green values and investment principles, and how they propose to protect them, as part of their bids for the company. In addition, the Government has approved the creation of a special share, held by independent trustees, to protect GIB's green purposes in future.
10 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the costs of children's funerals.
I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is of interest:
This is an incredibly important issue, and the death of a child is always a tragedy for which families cannot plan. A number of local authorities already choose to waive fees for children's funerals. It is hoped all local authorities would carefully consider their policy in this area. As democratically elected organisations, however, they are independent of central Government and are responsible for managing their budgets in line with local priorities.
There is a role that central government can play, which is why the Department for Work and Pensions operates the Social Fund Funeral Payment scheme. This continues to provide valuable help for people in receipt of a qualifying benefit. With an average award in 2015-16 of £1,410, the scheme is making a real contribution to the funeral costs of those who need it. Indeed, the average award has increased by 27 per cent since 2006.
The scheme meets the full necessary costs of a cremation or burial. Other costs, such as the coffin, and church and funeral directors' fees, are limited to a maximum scheme payment of £700. There is, however, no restriction on the type of funeral expenses that can be claimed under this category.
A Minister is restarting a round table group with the funeral industry and bereavement charities, because it is important that the Government has a better understanding of how the industry works, and what more can be done to help.
09 FEB 2017
The Bill debated this week was necessary to allow the triggering of Article 50. Whilst the debate reiterated guarantees from Government that Parliament will get a final say with a vote on the deal negotiated, this is not on the face of the Bill. It was decided to keep this as straight forward as possible rather than allow it to become a complex mechanism which could bind the hands of the negotiating team. I am also satisfied that the rights of EU nationals already resident in the U.K. will be settled at the earliest possible stage after an early triggering of A50.
09 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC).
I understand you are concerned about how CHC is implemented and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:
The Government is committed to delivering an NHS which provides personalised care, closer to home, according to patient need. The NHS's Five Year Forward View highlights the importance of raising standards and providing integrated services for everyone.
The National Framework for NHS Continuing Healthcare was established in 2007 and lays the foundations for improved standard practice. In 2013 the Government made it mandatory for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS England to follow this framework, creating a new legal obligation.
NHS England must be assured that CCGs are complying with the National Framework and from 2015/16, NHS Continuing Healthcare has been included in the assurance processes for CCGs.
One of the priority areas that the assurance process focuses on is the 'assessment and decision making processes are lawful, high quality and timely'. This ensures that CCG policies and procedures are compliant with the National Framework as well as improving the consistency of NHS CHC assessments across the NHS.
08 FEB 2017
In response to the SPUC campaign I would like to make clear that I support the right of women to access safe termination of pregnancy and will not be supporting any change in the law to make this more difficult.
07 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about families in debt.
I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:
The Families with Children and Young People in Debt (Respite) Bill, introduced by Kelly Tolhurst MP, would place a duty on lenders to provide financial respite for families with children and young people in debt.
The Government is committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.
Further to this, action has been taken to reduce levels of personal debt. Household debt as a proportion of income has fallen to 142 per cent in 2016, down from a peak of 160 per cent in 2008. The Government's plan for a higher wage, lower welfare society makes it easier for families and working people to save, and includes the new National Living Wage which will mean a pay boost for 1.7 million workers this year.
07 FEB 2017
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Backbench Business Committee debate on illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) which is being held on the 9th of February.
Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day and will be unable to attend. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:
It is long standing UK Government policy that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve and that is why the UK supported resolution 2234 at the UN on before Christmas.
Government Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, and the Israeli authorities are well aware of the UK's long standing position.
While there are currently no plans for legislation to ban the import of settlement products, the Government works with the EU to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products. This work includes measures to ensure that settlement produce does not enter the EU duty-free, under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and steps to ensure that EU-wide guidelines are issued to make sure that settlement products are not incorrectly labelled as Israeli produce, in violation of EU consumer protection regulations. Consumers should be in a position to make informed decisions about companies they choose to engage with.