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.


22 MAY 2019

Medicinal Cannabis

Thank you for writing to me about this issue and I agree that it is important which is why the Health and Social Care Select Committee has recently been holding hearings about medicinal cannabis and will soon publish its findings.


22 MAY 2019

Minimum Income Requirement

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Minimum Income Requirement, which means that British people who earn less than £18,600 a year cannot be joined in the UK by a partner from outside the European Economic Area.

I appreciate your concern on this matter, however I know that the Supreme Court has upheld the lawfulness of the minimum income requirement for spouse visas, which is set at a level where partners would not immediately need state support on arrival.

The Supreme Court agreed that it strikes a fair balance between the interests of those wishing to sponsor a spouse to settle in the UK and of the community in general. The Home Office must regularly review this threshold.


21 MAY 2019

Torture

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Freedom from Torture's campaign and I am supportive of the principles of this.

I agree that there is no place for torture in the modern world and that the UK should be a safe place for those fleeing torture.

You may find the briefing from the House of Commons Library concerning the immigration detention of victims of torture and other vulnerable people of interest.


20 MAY 2019

Children In Conflict

Thank you for taking the time to email me about children living in war zones.

I understand your concern on this matter and realise you would like to see a new Protection of Civilians Strategy created.

The issue of protecting children in conflict areas was raised in the House last year and in this debate it was highlighted that the UK's aid strategy commits 50% of our aid to fragile states and regions. In such places, protecting children is a policy priority. I hope you will also be pleased to hear that the UK has signed the safe schools declaration, underlining our important political support for the protection of schools during military operations and in armed conflict. You can find out more about this here.

In addition, at the end of last year The Department for International Development announced its commitment to match funding raised through War Child's appeal to support children in the Central African Republic traumatised by war. You can find out more about this via the following links: https://www.warchild.org.uk/sites/default/files/link-files/department_for_international_development_war_child_appeal_match_funding_winter_2018.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-ahmad-and-carey-mulligan-international-community-must-work-together-to-ensure-that-children-in-conflict-zones-have-a-real-chance-to-reach-their


16 MAY 2019

Abortion

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I will be continuing to support women's human rights in Northern Ireland and elsewhere to access safe legal abortion.


15 MAY 2019

Human Rights Defenders in Columbia

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Human Rights Defenders in Colombia.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2232 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, you may be interested to know that the progress of the Colombia peace process was raised in the House of Commons last month and you can view this here.

There was also a debate held on Women's Human Rights Defenders in which those in Colombia were specifically mentioned, you can view the transcript, including the Minister's response here.

You may also like to look at the following information about Colombia and the UK Human Rights Fund, one of the aims of which is the protection of human rights defenders through legal assistance to community leaders and developing self-protection and collective protection measures.

Lastly, the following statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Briefings on Colombia, made last month, highlighted concerns about the safety of Human Rights Defenders.


09 MAY 2019

Dementia Fund

Thank you for writing to me about this campaign. I do not however feel that this would lead to a sustainable long-term solution for the problems facing those living with dementia or other long-term conditions that are more likely to need social and residential care.

The Health and Social Care Committee conducted a joint inquiry with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee alongside a citizen's assembly and came to a different conclusion about the best way forward. You can read the report here 

I will continue to press the Prime Minister to publish the overdue Social Care Green Paper and to bring forward sustainable long-term funding for social care.


09 MAY 2019

Beer Duty

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

I understand you would like to see a cut in beer duty and as you may know I have been a long-time proponent of minimum unit pricing for alcohol. I will continue to press for this to be introduced, as I feel this would be beneficial to pubs. A cut in beer duty would also benefit the off-licence trade and would not help to level the playing field for pubs.


09 MAY 2019

TV Licences Over 75s

Thank you for taking the time to email me about tv licenses for over 75s and the debate that was held on this matter, I am afraid I was unable to attend due to prior commitments.

I realise you would like to see free tv licenses for over 75s maintained and during the debate the Minister responsible highlighted that the Government and the BBC agreed back in 2015 that responsibility for the concession for the over-75s would transfer to the BBC in June 2020. As such, the future of the concession is entirely the BBC's decision and it is for the BBC to decide whether it wants to maintain the current concession or to take a different path. You can read the full transcript of the debate here.

The BBC ran a consultation on this topic and I do hope you were able to contribute to this before it closed on the 12th of February. The responses the BBC receives to the consultation they ran will help them decide what to do next and I know they will publish the outcome later this year. You can find out more about this here.


08 MAY 2019

Radiotherapy4Life

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Radiotherapy4Life Campaign.

I have recently met with the Secretary of State to discuss the need for greater capital investment in the NHS not only for vital new equipment but also for maintenance. The announcements on NHS England Spending do not cover capital and it will be essential for this to be addressed in the Spending Review.

I have also met with the chair of the NHS workforce review, Dido Harding and with Health Education England to discuss the workforce shortfall across the NHS which is also a serious threat to radiotherapy services.

Earlier this month I held a round table with a coalition of cancer charities to also hear their wider views on the NHS Long Term Plan for cancer and where I could best assist them.

As chair of the Health and Social Care Committee I cannot join individual health campaigns but assure you that the issues around radiotherapy will be raised in the committee's ongoing scrutiny of the ambitions on cancer within the Long Term Plan https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/chapter-3-further-progress-on-care-quality-and-outcomes/better-care-for-major-health-conditions/cancer/

An oral question was raised on this topic in the House at the end of last year and it was clarified that since 2016, the radiotherapy modernisation programme has seen £130 million of new investment to ensure that all new equipment can deliver advanced radiotherapy. You can read more about this here.

Access to radiotherapy was also raised in a debate concerning the Cancer Workforce and Early Diagnosis, you can view this and the Minister's response here.

Lastly, the following note from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology regarding advances in cancer treatment may be of interest:

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-0598


08 MAY 2019

Fracking Regulations

Thank you for taking the time to email me about calls by the shale gas industry to weaken regulations governing earthquakes caused by fracking.

I understand your concern on this matter and I realise that shale gas explorations remains controversial. For the record, I am not in favour of weakening the restrictions.

At the start of this year the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry MP stated the following the House after this issue was raised with her:

I have absolutely no plans to change the traffic lights system. The current fracking proposals being tested in Lancashire right now were developed with that system. The fact is that that system is working and being triggered even by micro-tremors; the hon. Gentleman will know that we have had some great evidence from the University of Liverpool as to how small the tremors actually are. If we are to take forward what could be a very valuable industry, it is only right that we do so with the toughest environmental regulations in the world, so I say again that there are no plans from the Government to change the traffic lights system.

You can view the government guidance on onshore oil and gas exploration in the UK regulation and best practice here.


02 MAY 2019

Climate Change

Thank you for taking the time to email me about climate change.

I do think that Extinction Rebellion have made a difference. It is likely that the government is not going to hit its own future targets in this area and I think it will need to set out its next steps addressing the need to do more to tackle climate change.

We need to encourage more people out of cars and onto public transport and invest in better cycle infrastructure as well as apply a 'polluter pays' principle to allow greater diversion of funding to less polluting ways to travel and shop.

In my view, we are still overly dependent on fossil fuels and whilst on track to meet our short term legal targets to decarbonise, in the long term we are set to fall short. The five hottest years for global surface temperatures since records began have been since 2010 and evidence for the effect of greenhouse gas emissions in causing this rapidly escalating effect is now overwhelming. It is time in my view it is also time to move away from investing in polluting technologies to something that allows a better future for our children than one dominated by the misery of climate change. Freak weather extremes will increasingly become a new but frightening normal.

You can view a statement on this matter from the Minister responsible for climate change here.

The following announcement from BEIS may also be of interest.

Following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) special report the government has written to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) asking whether further action is needed to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. You can read more about this here.

I am delighted that Greta Thunberg was able to address a meeting of the APPG in Parliament. Sadly this clashed with an existing commitment to the EU election campaign for the South West. Remaining as part of a progressive EU will also be a more effective way of tackling climate change than will be achieved if we are driven by the ideology of Nigel Farage, UKIP and the right wing of the Conservative Party. Greta has had a remarkable impact.

I did attend and speak in the debate on climate change yesterday and you can view my contribution and the full transcript of the debate here.

Thank you for getting in touch and I can assure you that Change UK are listening to views on climate change.


01 MAY 2019

Relationships and Sex Education

Thank you for taking the time to email me about relationships and sex education (RSE) I am fully supportive of this and will continue to take a robust approach to the value of teaching about this in schools.

I agree that LGBT inclusive education should be protected and this topic was raised several times in a recent debate in the House on RSE. You can read the full transcript of the debate and the Minister's response here.

I am proud of the steps this country has taken in ensuring LGBT rights and equality and I was pleased to vote for same sex marriage,

On the wider topic of RSE, I do think that relationship and sex education should be compulsory. I would stress that it has to be first and foremost about relationships and of course to be age-appropriate. It is about far more than 'plumbing and prevention'.

I am concerned having listened to evidence given to the Health and Social Care Committee about the extent to which young people are gathering information about sex from pornography, which is often violent and distorts understanding of what constitutes as consent. In addition, it is clearly of paramount importance that future generations understand the danger of sexually transmitted diseases and how they spread but of course these issues need to be tackled with sensitivity.

I quite understand that many parents wish to broach these subjects with their children themselves. However, we should make sure all children receive the information they need to keep safe. On the matter of reducing unplanned teenage pregnancy, progress is being made on this and I think that it is important to make sure that we keep up the progress in this area.


01 MAY 2019

Homelessness

Thank you for taking the time to email me about homelessness. There is far more that could be done to tackle the underlying reasons that lead to homelessness and this serious problem is not only about rough sleeping but about those who are sofa surfing or in very insecure temporary accommodation.

The government strategy to combat homelessness references £100 million to tackle rough sleeping and more than 1,750 bed spaces and 500 new staff through the rough sleeping initiative. You can find out more about the rough sleeping strategy here.

Locally, Devon County Council was recently allocated £95,000 in support for care leavers at risk of rough sleeping in a 2019/20 grant determination by the Department of Education.

You may be interested to know that the government is currently running a consultation on how they can improve local accountability for the delivery of homelessness services, this closes on the 16th of May and you can find out how to contribute here.

There is of course further to go on affordable housing as well as prevention and early intervention when people at risk of homelessness are running into difficulties with debt, addiction or mental health problems.


01 MAY 2019

Cystic Fibrosis

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Cystic Fibrosis (CF) drugs.

I understand your concern about sufferers being able to access life changing medicines and it is dreadful that families who could benefit are still waiting for access to medicines like Orkambi.

I have been trying to bring all sides together in the long running dispute about the cost of these drugs. There are mechanisms that could and should be used to reach an interim agreement and these were explored at the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry on this topic.

The Secretary of State for Health now needs to step in as set out in my letter following the Select Committee hearing.:


26 APR 2019

ESA65B Letters

Thank you for taking the time to email me about ESA65B letters concerning the DWP and GPs.

I appreciate this being brought to my attention but no issues concerning this locally have been raised with my office.

Thank you for getting in touch and if you know anyone who has been affected by this matter then please do encourage them to contact me.


26 APR 2019

Waspi Campaign

Thank you for your email.

I do understand the deep concerns about the changes to pensions and have met in person with many WASPI campaigners.

The cross Party Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee looked at this issue in great detail. If you would like to see/read all the evidence they received and the final report that they published, you can find it all here.

During the review, the committee looked into all aspects of the pension changes. In one particular session, MPs took evidence from the then Pensions Minister, Baroness Altmann who explained very clearly why she felt that pension changes had to be made.

The Committee concluded that communications from DWP about the changes fell short.

In the final report the Committee asked the Government to consider an alternative option for women to access their pensions at a lesser rate but sooner.

The committee investigated this issue further in a separate targeted enquiry

I am sorry that the Government refused to accept the compromise suggested by the Work and Pensions committee.


24 APR 2019

Proportional Representation

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

I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate concerning proportional representation on the 23rd of April as it clashed with a meeting of the Health Select Committee, which I chair.

Nonetheless, I know this is an issue that I and other members of the Independent Group will be supporting.

It is highly unlikely that there will be any legislation on this during this Parliament but it will undoubtedly be under the spotlight during the next general election campaign.


24 APR 2019

Greta Thunberg

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

I am delighted that Greta Thunberg was able to address a meeting of the APPG in Parliament yesterday.

Sadly this clashed with an existing commitment to the EU election campaign for the South West. Remaining as part of a progressive EU will also be a more effective way of tackling climate change than will be achieved if we are driven by the ideology of Nigel Farage, UKIP and the right wing of the Conservative Party.

Greta has had a remarkable impact.


24 APR 2019

Indefinite Detention

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

I understand your concerns about indefinite immigration detention in the UK and I hope you will be pleased to hear that I was one of the signatories to a letter to the Home Secretary calling for an end to indefinite detention and for a 28 day limit to be introduced.

You can read the full text of the letter here.


24 APR 2019

Whirlpool

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Whirlpool's tumble dryer safety issue and the Office for Product Safety and Standard's (OPSS) review in to this.

I understand you have concerns about Whirlpool's handling of the safety issue and I was sorry to hear you have not heard back from the OPSS yet, you can contact them directly at the following email address: OPSS.enquiries@beis.gov.uk

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kelly Tolhurst) made a statement on this matter at the start of the month, which included the following:

The main findings of the review are:

The ongoing risk from tumble dryers modified by Whirlpool is low and consumers can continue to use them.

Whirlpool has made efforts to address the identified problem but must do more.

OPSS is requiring Whirlpool to take further action and will continue to monitor the steps taken to ensure the efficacy of the modification in consumers' homes over the long term.

You can view the full statement here.

I hope you will be reassured to know that the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee called on Whirlpool to provide clear answers on what they are doing to resolve the risk posed by up to a million faulty tumble dryers in homes across the country as part of their inquiry in to the safety of electrical goods in the UK. You can find out more about this here.

There was also a debate on this topic in the House in 2017 and you can view the transcript here.

Lastly, you may also be interested in the following briefing on the role of the OPSS from the House of Commons Library.


24 APR 2019

Let Us Vote

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Let Us Vote campaign.

I do appreciate the feeling that British citizens living abroad and all UK residents should be allowed to participate in a People's Vote. First we have to get a People's vote agreed and it is vital that we get as many people to vote for pro remain Parties in the EU elections next month. All EU citizens are entitled to vote in this election.

To clarify, the franchise for a referendum would be decided by Parliament once it had accepted the principle of a People's Vote and that is something I continue to campaign for on your behalf.


02 APR 2019

Nurse Bursaries

Thank you for writing to me about student nurse bursaries.

The Health and Social Care Select Committee held an inquiry into the nursing workforce because of concerns about the workforce shortfall and wider pressures and you may be interested to read our conclusions.

I do think there needs to be a wider review of all the factors that have led to this and I'm glad that Baroness Dido Harding has been tasked to lead on the NHS workforce review. I will be meeting her shortly and will make sure that the issue of bursaries is included in our discussions.


01 APR 2019

Save Our Pubs

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Save Our Pubs campaign and the debate that was held on the 28th of March.

I am sorry I was not able to attend the debate but I will continue to support pubs across the constituency and to listen to campaigners.

The following is a link to the transcript of the debate including the Minister's response:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-03-28/debates/023CE615-FC40-401D-9567-25DC54763819/BeerTaxationAndPubs


28 MAR 2019

NHS and Brexit

Having chaired an inquiry into the impact on the NHS and social care workforce of Brexit, I share your concerns on this and have already raised this issue in the Commons with the Home Secretary and discussed it with him in person. I will continue to campaign on workforce issues.

I am also due to meet shortly with Dido Harding to discuss her workforce review.


28 MAR 2019

Commonwealth Armed Forces

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about ending visa fees for commonwealth armed forces personnel.

I understand your position on this matter and firstly I am glad that the need for Commonwealth citizens to have lived in the UK for five years before applying for service has been removed.

I know  the Royal British Legion have written to immigration minister, Caroline Nokes calling for visa fees for commonwealth armed forces personnel and their immediate families to be scrapped and in the first instance, I would be interested to see her response.

In addition, the Home Office does review visa fees each year and I am aware that the government is

committed to upholding their obligations under the Armed Forces Covenant, to ensure that no one who is serving, or who has served, or their family members are disadvantaged as a result of their service.


28 MAR 2019

Advancement of Religion

Thank you for taking the time to email me concerning the National Secular Society's campaign to remove 'the advancement of religion' as a charitable purpose.

As a person of no faith, I do however recognise the positive role that faith plays in communities. However, to clarify Charity Commission guidance states that:

It is not enough that an organisation does something in the name of religion in order for it to be a charity advancing religion. It has to be shown that the aim of the organisation is to advance the religion in a way that is for the public benefit, and not to further some other, non-charitable, aim.

In addition, as the advancement of religion was only set as one of the charitable purposes in the Charities Act 2011 I think it is unlikely to be reviewed so soon.


28 MAR 2019

Parkinsons

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

I understand that it is Parkinson's Day on the 11th of April and I agree that more needs to be done to ensure better understanding of the condition.

I am very grateful for the work that Parkinson's UK do and I know that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has updated its guidance on the diagnosis, treatment and management of Parkinson's disease. These updated guidelines will ensure that people with Parkinson's are able to access the best possible care and treatment in order to manage their condition effectively.


28 MAR 2019

Food Crisis

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about a potential food crisis caused by a no deal Brexit.

As you may know I remain firmly opposed to a no deal Brexit and will be doing everything I can to stop this. You may like to read my Brexit blogs and you can do so here: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah's-blog/

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is also holding an inquiry in to whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair is ready for Brexit and you can find out more about this here.

Thank you for getting in touch and whilst I note the government does maintain that there will be adequate food supplies, that was hardly the advert on the side of the Brexit bus


25 MAR 2019

Autism

Thank you for writing to me about the Autism Debate in the Commons last week. Whilst I was not able to attend due to a conflicting prior commitment, I do know how important this is and I am always happy to meet locally with individuals and families affected and those campaigning on their behalf.

I am glad that the Health and Social Care Committee has agreed to an inquiry into autism later this year and in the meantime we will be taking a close interest in the commitments to mental health in the NHS Long Term Plan.


21 MAR 2019

Ancient Woodlands

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees that was held on the 20th of March.

Unfortunately, I had prior commitments and was unable to attend, however you may be interested to read the transcript of a debate that took place in the House earlier this year concerning the Ancient Woodland Inventory. You can do so via the following link.


21 MAR 2019

Relationships and Sex Education

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about relationships and sex education.

I think that relationship and sex education should be compulsory. I would stress that it has to be first and foremost about relationships and of course to be age-appropriate. It is about far more than 'plumbing and prevention'.

I am concerned having listened to evidence given to the Health and Social Care Committee about the extent to which young people are gathering information about sex from pornography, which is often violent and distorts understanding of what constitutes as consent. In addition, it is clearly of paramount importance that future generations understand the danger of sexually transmitted diseases and how they spread but of course these sensitive issues need to be tackled with sensitivity.

I quite understand that many parents wish to broach these subjects with their children themselves. However, we should make sure all children receive the information they need to keep safe. On the matter of reducing unplanned teenage pregnancy, progress is being made on this and I think that it is important to make sure that we keep up the progress in this area


20 MAR 2019

IHRA

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I agree, without qualification, with the UK government's adoption of the IHRA, and I have written to the Prime Minister to ask her to respond to these points about how any breaches of the IHRA in universities during IAW will be tackled.


20 MAR 2019

Private Renters

Thank you for taking the time to email me about secure tenancies and I do support longer tenancies in the private rented sector.

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

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government's consultation which proposes the introduction of a minimum 3-year tenancy terms, with a 6-month break clause, to help renters put down roots, has now closed. Currently, the majority of rental contracts are shorthold tenancies and I know this can lead to insecurity for families and concerns about challenging poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated.

Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in a property for an extended period of time. Renters should be able to feel their house is their home.

The government is now analysing responses to the consultation and once it published it's response you will be able to view it here:


19 MAR 2019

Decapod Crustaceans

Thank you for taking the time to email me about decapod crustaceans and your wish that they are included in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

As you may know the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) held a consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill which ran from December 2017 to January 2018. The consultation responses were published in August 2018: they included submissions from Crustacean Compassion.

Defra also asked the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) to review the scientific evidence submitted during the consultation and provide advice on some of the potential definitions in the draft Bill, including definitions for 'sentience', 'animal' and the 'welfare needs of animals'. The Government is due to respond to a Parliamentary Question (PQ) on its assessment of decapod sentience and the FAWC review but has not done so yet.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has looked at the draft bill and the Government has responded to its report. The draft bill, Committee report and Government response are linked to below.

Draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill,

Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017

Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017: Government Response to the Committee's Second Report,

Thank you for getting in touch and I will be interested to see the government's response to the PQ mentioned.


17 MAR 2019

Disability Price Tag

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Disability Price Tag drop in event being hosted by Scope, unfortunately I was unable to attend due to prior commitments.

I understand that many disabled people face extra costs and I agree that more needs to be done about this. However, I do think the government have made some efforts with regard to supporting disabled people and the following House of Commons Library briefing on Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) and other help aimed at securing essential home adaptations may be of interest:

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN03011

These announcements from the DWP are also positive:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-champions-to-fight-for-rights-of-disabled-consumers

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/grant-to-support-disabled-people-in-the-workplace-increases-to-almost-60-000


17 MAR 2019

Votes at 16

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Overseas Electors Bill and the amendment concerning votes at 16.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the report stage of the bill on the 22nd of March as I will be in the constituency that day. However, I appreciate the arguments for extending the franchise and I did support allowing 16 and 17 year olds being able to vote in the EU referendum.


17 MAR 2019

UN Report on Gaza

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the recent UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry report on Gaza.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2161 on this matter, 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.

Alistair Burt MP, the Minister responsible for the Middle East was asked in the House last month what recent diplomatic steps he has taken towards helping to secure a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine and you can view this exchange here

The  briefing on the humanitarian situation in Gaza from the House of Commons Library may also be of interest.


17 MAR 2019

INF Treaty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and it's suspension by Russia and the USA.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2073 on this matter however, like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, this issue was raised in the House last month and the Minister made it clear that while the UK is not a party to this bilateral treaty, we have always made it clear over the years that we ideally wish to see the treaty continue. You can view the full statement here.

You may also be interested in the House of Commons Library briefing on the topic of prospects for US-Russian nuclear arms control.


15 MAR 2019

West Papua

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the situation in West Papua and the possible use of chemical weapons.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2074 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I know this issue has already been raised via a written question and I am copying the exchange below:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether his Department has made an assessment of the accuracy of reports that the Indonesian Armed Forces used Chemical weapons on West Papuan civilians on 15 December 2018.

Answered by: Mark Field

Answered on: 07 February 2019

The British Government condemns the attack on construction workers by an armed group on 2 December in Nduga district in Papua. We have called on the Indonesian authorities to ensure that the security response is proportionate. Our Ambassador has discussed this with senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are aware of a media claim about the possible use of white phosphorus. This has been strongly denied by the Indonesian authorities. We have been in touch with NGOs and others who have looked into the allegation; they have not found any evidence to support it.


15 MAR 2019

Cocoa Farmers

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about fair trade chocolate and ensuring that cocoa farmers are supported to achieve a living income.

I actually met with the local Totnes and Brixham fair trade groups only last week during Fair Trade Fortnight to discuss this campaign.

You may like to read about what the Department for International Development is doing to help cocoa farmers and you can do so via the following link.


15 MAR 2019

Asthma Prescription Charges

Thank you very much for taking the tie to email me about asthma prescription charges.

I think it is time for a review of the exemptions list as there are a number of anomalies.

I do have some sympathy with this request as I know that the list was predominantly drawn up in 1968 with cancer being the latest addition. However, the Department of Health continues to feel that appropriate measures have been put in place to ensure that prescriptions remain accessible and affordable.

Many people are already eligible for free prescriptions and you can see the full list of who is entitled to these here

I do support the Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) scheme , which at least sets a limit to the costs for people who require frequent prescriptions. If you regularly pay prescription charges, a PPC will usually save money.


15 MAR 2019

Children's Services

Thank you very much for taking the time to send me through a copy of the Children's Society's briefing concerning local children's services.

I too am hopeful that we will see funding for children's services addressed in the Spending Review. I will also continue to press for an increase in the funding our schools receive as I am very concerned about the shrinking of school curricula especially for arts subjects and the loss of counselling services


15 MAR 2019

Universal Credit and Cancer

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Universal Credit and people living with cancer.

I agree that we need to ensure that our welfare systems works for those who are dealing with serious health issues and I know that these points were raised in a debate in the House of Commons about World Cancer Day in January. It is time for the government to recognise the need to get to grips with the Universal Credit and their system of assessments.

You can view the full transcript of the debate and the Minister's response here.


15 MAR 2019

Trade Questions

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the International Trade questions being held this week.

I agree that trade deals must not lead to a free for all that tolerates reduced environmental and welfare standards abroad that would not only have serious consequences for our local farming industry but for the wider environment and health. The issue of trade deals and the NHS came up recently at a meeting of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which I chair and I will continue to raise points about this.

Currently, as you may already be aware, my main Brexit focus is trying to ensure everyone has a final say in a referendum which includes a choice to remain.

This would offer the opportunity to confirm whether the actual Brexit deal has the consent of the people. Without that valid consent, I believe there will be decades of acrimony about the consequences.


15 MAR 2019

Frozen Pensions

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the uprating of pensions abroad.

I understand your concern on this matter, however the policy on uprating the UK state pension overseas is a long-standing policy of successive Governments. It has been in place for around 70 years. The Government uprate the UK state pension where there is a legal requirement to do so, such as for state pension recipients living in the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Gibraltar and countries with which there is a reciprocal agreement that provides for uprating.

Restoring the pension to UK levels for all overseas pensioners, where we do not currently uprate, would cost more than £600 million extra a year.

You may be interested in research published last month concerning the estimated cost of uprating State Pension for overseas residents living in countries where State Pension increases are not paid: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/estimated-costs-of-uprating-state-pension-in-frozen-rate-countries


15 MAR 2019

Household Credit

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about capping household credit and the End the Debt Trap campaign.

I agree quite that more needs to be done to tackle irresponsible lending and I am glad that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is continuing to review the high-cost credit market, the government needs to look carefully at their recommendations and those of campaigners.

The FCA are currently concentrating on issues with the overdraft market and are holding a consultation on proposed remedies which is open until the 18th of March. You can find out more about this here: https://www.fca.org.uk/publications/consultation-papers/cp18-42-high-cost-credit-review-overdrafts-consultation-paper-and-policy-statement

The responses will then be considered and the FCA will publish their final rules in June.

The FCA are also looking in to other areas concerning high cost credit and you may like to read their review and consultation paper covering home collected credit, catalogue and store cards, buy now pay later deals, social landlords and alternatives to high cost credit here:

https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/consultation/cp18-43.pdf


11 MAR 2019

TV Licences for over 75s

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about free TV licences for over 75s and the responsibility for funding the licence.

I realise that you would like me to sign EDM 2046 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

As you know, this decision is now the responsibility of the BBC's Board and the responses the BBC receives to the consultation they ran will help them decide what to do next. I do hope you were able to contribute to this before it closed on the 12th of February and I know they will publish the outcome later this year.

This matter was also raised in the House of Commons on the 13th of February and the PM stated the following:

I recognise the value that people across the country place on having a television, and for many elderly people the connection that brings with the world. That is why the free licences for the over-75s are so important. We have been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue free licences when it takes over responsibility for the concession in 2020. May I just say that taxpayers rightly want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure that it delivers fully for UK audiences?


09 MAR 2019

Bowel Cancer

Thank you for letting me know about the bowel cancer campaign.

I would like to assure you that I will continue to take an interest in improving early diagnosis as I know that this is extremely important for bowel cancer. As chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, I and the committee will also be holding NHS England to account for delivering on the commitments they made about cancer in the NHS Long Term Plan and as your MP I look forward to meeting with a number of cancer charities and campaigners over the coming year.


05 MAR 2019

Refugee Family Reunification

Thank you for taking the time to email me about refugee family reunification.

I understand your concern on this matter and I am sure the points you raise will be made at second reading of the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill [HL] 2017-19 in the House of Commons at the end of this month. You can track the bills progress here


05 MAR 2019

Abortion and Northern Ireland

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I will be continuing to support women's human rights in Northern Ireland to access safe legal abortion.


05 MAR 2019

Calorie Labelling

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about proposals concerning mandatory calorie labelling in food served outside the home.

Many people would welcome the opportunity to have information on calorie content to help inform their choices or to help manage health conditions. A government consultation ran on this topic at the end of last year. I know many are keen to see the government's response on this and once it is published you will be able to view it here.

I am supportive of this as a public health measure but also recognise that it would need to be proportionate and allow flexibility, for example for small businesses.


05 MAR 2019

Yemen Crisis

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

I understand the concern on this matter and a debate was actually held on this topic in the House at the end of last month. You can view the transcript including the Minister's response here.

Only last week, Jeremy Hunt MP, the Foreign Secretary went on the first visit to Yemen by a Western foreign minister since the start of the conflict in 2015 and you can find out more about this here.

Lastly, you may be interested in the Yemen profile on the Department for International Development's website, which outlines the achievements of UK aid in the area alongside other information.

I do think that the UK will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting Yemen.


05 MAR 2019

School Funding

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

I understand your concerns about school funding, I often visit local schools to meet with both students and teachers. Only last month I met with Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State at the Department for Education along with local head teachers up in Westminster to discuss funding challenges and how we can use resources most effectively to give pupils the support they need to stay in school.

I also spoke in a debate on school funding in the House yesterday and you can view my intervention here.


04 MAR 2019

RBS Sell Off

Thank you for taking the time to email me on the sale of government shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

I understand the concerns about the sale and I would hope that any sale would take place when it represents best value for the taxpayer. However I do agree with the Treasury that private investors, not taxpayers, should bear the risk of companies such as RBS. That said I think the injustice in the past was that the public ended up carrying the cost of the crash and that cannot be allowed to happen again.


01 MAR 2019

Asbestos in Schools

Thank you for taking the time to email me about asbestos in schools.

I completely understand your concern on this matter and agree that we need to ensure our educational establishments are safe both children and staff. I have raised this issue before with ministers and I know these are complex issues as in some settings it can be safer to seal in asbestos rather than remove it, it needs to be carefully risk assessed on a case by case basis.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the debate on education funding due to prior commitments, however I know that the issue of asbestos in schools was raised by several of the MPs in attendance.

I hope you will be glad to hear that the Department for Education has established an asbestos working group, which includes the Health and Safety Executive, to address some of those problems.

You can read the full transcript of the debate and the Minister's response here


01 MAR 2019

Medical Cannabis

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about access to medical cannabis.

I understand your concern on this matter and will endeavour to pop by the event on the 12th of March to meet the families of those affected.

The view that the process that has been adopted by the government has failed to deliver was put to the relevant Minister in the House last month and you can view the exchange via the following link

You can also view the interim guidance and information on the law for healthcare professionals here

The Health and Social Care Select Committee, which I chair, is also holding an inquiry into medical cannabis and you can submit evidence to the inquiry direct. You can find out more about this here.


28 FEB 2019

Universal Credit Five Week Wait

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the five week wait for Universal Credit.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the Estimates Day Debate on Tuesday due to prior commitments, however I know the point about the five week wait was raised.

You can view the full transcript of the debate including the Minister's response here.


28 FEB 2019

Christophobia

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

I understand your concern on this matter and agree that nobody should be persecuted for their faith. As you know the Foreign Secretary has announced a policy review, the review aims to map levels of persecution and other discrimination against Christians in key countries around the world. It will provide an objective assessment of the impact and levels of FCO support, and make recommendations to the Foreign Secretary.

I am pleased the review is going ahead and you can find out more about this here.


28 FEB 2019

Arthritis

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Versus Arthritis event on the 20th of March, I will endeavour to pop by.

I understand how helpful certain impact aids and adaptations can be for people with arthritis and I agree that we need to ensure people are able to access anything that helps them better manage their condition.


28 FEB 2019

Warfare Experiments

Thank you for taking the time to email me about warfare experiments on animals and the related EDM, number 2113.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2113, 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.


28 FEB 2019

Investor State Dispute Settlement

Thank you for taking the time to email me with your concerns about Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

I understand your concern on this matter and I will endeavour to pop by the event on this topic on the 12th of March.

Concerns about ISDSs were raised in the House last year and you can view the points made via the transcript here:

You may also be interested in the following House of Commons Library briefing on this topic.


28 FEB 2019

Plastic Pollution

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

I am afraid I was unable to attend the event on this matter on the 25th of February due to prior commitments, however I do share your view that the government could and should be prepared to go further in reducing plastic waste.

I was pleased to visit Salcombe Primary School to see their work as a Plastic Free School. In addition, I met with the Plastic Free Totnes group to hear about their endeavours, you can find out more about their campaign at the following website


28 FEB 2019

Post Brexit Trade Deals

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

I understand your concern on this matter, however unfortunately, I was unable to attend the debate on this topic on the 21st of February due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, you can now view the full transcript of the debate here.

I agree that trade deals must not lead to a free for all that tolerates reduced environmental and welfare standards abroad that would not only have serious consequences for our local farming industry but for the wider environment and health.

Currently, as you may already be aware, my main Brexit focus is trying to ensure everyone has a final say in a referendum which includes a choice to remain.

This would offer the opportunity to confirm whether the actual Brexit deal has the consent of the people. Without that valid consent, I believe there will be decades of acrimony about the consequences.


28 FEB 2019

Community Energy

Thank you for taking the time to email me about community energy.

I have always said that where energy projects are supported by and of benefit to the local community I will support them.

In my view, we are still overly dependent on fossil fuels and whilst on track to meet our short term legal targets to decarbonise, in the long term we are set to fall short. The five hottest years for global surface temperatures since records began have been since 2010 and evidence for the effect of greenhouse gas emissions in causing this rapidly escalating effect is now overwhelming. It is time in my view to move away from investing in polluting technologies to something that allows a better future for our children than one dominated by the misery of climate change. Freak weather extremes will increasingly become a new but frightening normal.

The following announcement from BEIS may also be of interest

Lastly, following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) special report the government has written to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) asking whether further action is needed to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. You can read more about this here.


28 FEB 2019

Animal Sentience

Thank you for taking the time to email me about animal sentience.

Clearly, it is indisputable that animals are sentient and feel pain and I understand you are concerned that the welfare of animals should be paramount in law making post Brexit. I know that under European Union treaty provisions animals welfare must be given full regard in policy making.

Currently, my Brexit focus is trying to ensure everyone has a final say in a referendum. This would offer the opportunity to confirm Brexit and proceed rapidly with implementation or to remain. Without that valid consent, I believe there will be decades of acrimony about the consequences.


28 FEB 2019

Palestinian Health Care Workers

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about attacks on Palestinian health care workers in Gaza.

I understand your concern on this matter and agree that health care workers should be protected. I do hope that the government will raise the issue of accountability for these attacks at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next month.

You may be interested to read the Occupied Palestinian Territories profile by the Department for International Development which outlines what UK aid is achieving in the area. You can read it via the following link.


21 FEB 2019

HCPC Fees

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

I understand your concern about the rise of Health and Care Professions Council fees and I actually raised this matter in the House of Commons. You can view the exchange here


19 FEB 2019

NHS Waiting Times

Thank you for writing to me about possible changes to NHS waiting times targets.

I agree that waiting time targets are important when it comes to the quality of care received by patients because we know that long waits can affect outcomes. There are also problems however if targets end up causing unintended consequences, for example, someone with a serious condition could end up waiting longer if staff are feeling under pressure to get minor non urgent cases seen first because they are close to a waiting time threshold.

This is why it is important in my view to continue to keep targets in place to protect standards but to review how they are operating. This will be led by the NHS through their clinical standards review and as chair of the Health Select Committee I will be looking closely at their recommendations.


18 FEB 2019

Neonatal Care

Thank you for taking the time to email me about neonatal care and parental leave.

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

The Government is fully committed to supporting working parents in this position. The UK's system of maternity leave is one of the most generous in the world, while employed, eligible fathers have a number of workplace employment rights which include Paternity Leave and Pay, Shared Parental Leave and Pay, Unpaid Parental Leave and time off for dependants. In the case of premature births, eligible fathers and partners also have the flexibility to take up to two weeks of paternity leave and pay within eight weeks of the expected date of birth, rather than within eight weeks of the actual date of birth, if they wish.
The Government is undertaking a review of the provisions for parents of premature babies and also for those who experience multiple births. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working with charities and parents to better understand the pressures and the issues that those parents have to face when their child is born prematurely or sick. Ministers expect to be in a position to share the key findings of this review in the near future.


See older posts (732 more)Loading...

See all posts (802)