Campaigns. It is important that I continue to know the strength of feeling on an issue and I prefer to respond to every inquiry, but the sheer size of campaign correspondence means that it is hard to justify to the tax payer the cost and time taken for individual written replies, so regrettably I will no longer reply to every item of campaign correspondence.  I will  post a response to the campaign on the "Responses to campaigns" page of my website.

I am sorry to do this, as it is rather impersonal, but can see no other way of maintaining a good service for all my constituents unless I approach campaigns this way.


21 SEP 2017

NHS

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

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

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


20 SEP 2017

Macmillan Coffee Morning

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

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

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


19 SEP 2017

Refugee Children

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

PIP Assessments

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Children's Societies

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Holiday Food Provision Bill

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Anthony Nolan

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Bees

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

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

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

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


14 SEP 2017

Nominations of Members to Committees

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


13 SEP 2017

Alzheimer's Party Conference

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

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

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


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I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the whip in horseracing.

I understand people would like me to sign EDM 577 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I do understand concerns on this topic and I hope the following information from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

The British Horseracing Association, the governing and regulatory body for the sport, requires that whips used in horse racing must be used responsibly, for safety reasons and only to encourage the horse. Its policy on this issue was drawn up in consultation with animal welfare groups including the RSPCA, as was the approved energy absorbing design of the whip itself. Full details can be found on its website at www.britishhorseracing.com.
In addition to sanctions from the sport, using the whip indiscriminately on horses could lead to a prosecution under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, which makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about pharmacy funding.

I have raised the need to increase the role of pharmacy at national level in conferences with the Nuffield Trust and within the Select Committee as I recognise the value of their work.

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

Spending on health continues to grow, with a £10 billion real terms increase in NHS funding in England between 2014/15 and 2020/21. This will focus on lifesaving treatments and the Government expects to spend up to an extra £2 billion per year on the new drugs that patients need by the end of 2020.
In the Spending Review the Government re-affirmed the need for the NHS to deliver £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020/21 as set out in the NHS's own plan, the Five Year Forward View. Community pharmacy is a core part of NHS primary care. A clinically focussed pharmacy service that is better integrated with primary care and public health will help relieve the pressure on GPs and A&Es, ensure better use of medicines and better patient outcomes, and contribute to delivering seven-day services.
The Government wants to transform the system to deliver efficiency savings and ensure the model of community pharmacy reflects patient and public expectations as well as developments in technology. It wants to promote the use of online, click and collect or home delivery models, to help patients to get their prescriptions in a way that fits into their lifestyle.
The Government is consulting on introducing a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies based on factors such as location and local needs.
Community pharmacies are important community assets. The Government is therefore consulting on how best to introduce a Pharmacy Integration Fund to transform the way community pharmacy operates in the NHS, bringing clear benefits to patients and the public.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about proposed changes to the small claims court.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is of interest:

The Government intends to introduce measures to end the right to cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries, removing over £1 billion from the cost of providing motor insurance and will consult on the details in the New Year.

These changes are intended to end the cycle in which responsible motorists pay higher premiums to cover false claims by others, and the Government expects the insurance industry to pass on to consumers an average saving of £40 to £50 per policy. Claimants would still be entitled to claim for 'special damages', including treatment for any injury if required, and any loss of earnings.

The Government is also proposing to increase the upper limit for small claims from £1,000 to £5,000. This will allow more people with injuries to access the court. The details will be subject to a consultation.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) asking me to join the All Party Group, unfortunately I am currently unable to join any more APPGs due to commitments chairing the Health Select Committee

The following information sets out the Department of Health's position:

The Department of Health works closely with NHS and charitable organisations such as CRY and the British Heart Foundation to develop services aimed at identifying people at risk and providing them with appropriate counselling, advice information and psychological support.
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) which advises Ministers about all aspects of screening policy, has recently reviewed the evidence for screening for the most common cause of sudden death in those under the age of 30, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in 2008 and has upheld its recommendation that screening should not be offered. This is because updated evidence suggested that the available tests were not accurate enough to correctly identify conditions which could lead to sudden cardiac death without wrongly identifying many people with healthy hearts.
However, NHS England has been working with the Chief Coroner to discuss what can be done to reduce cardiac risk in the young. As a result, local coroners have been asked to make families of those who have died of the condition aware that it may be inherited and encouraging them to contact either the British Heart Foundation, CRY or their GP for testing and counselling.
Additionally, the National Clinical Director for Heart Disease at NHS England has been working with the Cardiovascular Disease Strategic Clinical Networks to promote cascade testing for the relatives of people who have familial hypercholesterolemia, sudden cardiac death or another inherited heart condition.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about EDM 402 and the welfare of pheasants bred for shooting.

I understand some would like me to sign EDM 402 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Under existing laws and regulations all animals, including farmed poultry, must be looked after in ways that meet their welfare needs. Guidance is maintained on the steps stock-keepers need to take to avoid risking prosecution.

This includes an explicit reference to the Farm Animal Welfare Council's 'five freedoms', which state that animals must be kept free from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury or disease, from fear or distress and free to express normal behaviour. Regulations on housing vary depending on how the birds are being raised, but in all cases it must allow essential biological needs to be fulfilled.

Furthermore, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering. Under this Act, a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes was drawn up based on research carried out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, advised by a working group that included animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. It can be found at www.gov.uk by searching on the term 'Gamebirds'.

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


I am starting to receive campaign correspondence about religious freedom and the plight of Christians worldwide.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the meeting on this on the 13th of January due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

Recent years have seen a rising tide of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Baha'is, Shias, Sunnis and Alawites, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, Christians and many others have fallen victim to a new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents. That is why, in the last Parliament, the Government ramped up its activities to promote freedom of religion or belief across the world.

Multilateral organisations are a vital avenue for the pursuit of progress on what is an international issue. In the last Parliament, the Government worked with the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement Resolution 16/18, which lays the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion throughout the world. Foreign Office Ministers brought together countries across the world to discuss implementation in 2013 and continued to monitor progress through a number of follow-up meetings.

In the last Parliament, the Government also prioritised freedom of religion through bilateral engagement with governments across the world. The Conservative-led Government made sure that every minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was an ambassador for religious freedom, raising and promoting these issues in the countries for which they have responsibility will continue to do so going forward. For example, in China, the Government regularly raises the subject of harassment and legal restrictions faced by the Chinese Christian community at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, publishing quarterly updates on the progress made.

Of course, there is more work that needs to be done. The Government will build on its work in the previous Parliament to make clear the facts of history and correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of 'the west'. This approach will be at its most effective if all people, independent of religion, work together to support these values.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the UK's National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

I understand the concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is reassuring:

The Government consistently makes clear that it expects British companies to act in accordance with human rights law wherever they operate, and that companies should not be able to act with impunity. This includes addressing all issues linked to human rights, such as labour standards and health and safety. The Government works with businesses, other governments and civil society through a range of initiatives, to support UK companies to respect and protect human rights, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UK's Action Plan on Business and Human Rights sets out our framework for implementing these principles. This includes the adoption of appropriate due diligence policies to identify, prevent and mitigate human rights risks, and commitment to monitoring and evaluating their implementation.

Directors of UK-based businesses also have a duty to act to promote the success of the company, and in doing so have regard for a number of factors including the interests of the company employees. To demonstrate this consideration, companies are required to report relevant information on employee matters. The UK was the first country to publish its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in September 2013. Considerable progress has been made and that the Government will continue to update its plan to build on this. This comes alongside other related action, such as eliminating forced labour and exploitation from supply chains.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the Off Patent Drugs Bill.

I am concerned that patients are not always accessing the most effective treatments and agree that there is a case to support trials for all patent drugs and I am supportive of this bill. However, I should highlight that doctors can already prescribe drugs outside of the terms of their licence, without needing to wait for a new licence, if they feel it is right for their patients.

Unfortunately, I had longstanding commitments in the constituency and wasl unable to attend the bill's second reading, however I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:

Off-label drugs, which are drugs that are used for a purpose other than that they are specifically licenced for, can already be prescribed where there is robust evidence to support their use. Off-patent drugs, which are drugs whose patent has expired and so other manufacturers may have made generic or non-branded versions of the drug, are also widely used in the NHS at present. Legislation is not required to make this happen.

Existing legislation gives the NHS the flexibility to respond to the individual clinical needs of patients whilst also taking on board the latest research findings. Prescribing decisions should be a matter for doctors in discussion with their patients and guidance on this is available from a number of healthcare organisations.

In February, Government officials held an event for interested parties on this matter to discuss what action, short of legislation, could be taken to ensure that robust evidence about new uses for existing drugs is produced, distributed and then used to inform clinical decision making. Areas were identified which required improvement, including the mapping of clear pathways for those who want to "re-purpose" drugs. Officials have been engaging with interested parties to put this into practice.

The Government has also established the Accelerated Access Review which aims to develop ways to develop ways to speed up access to innovative drugs, devices and diagnostics for NHS patients in a cost-effective way.

There are systems in place to ensure that the NHS obtains the best value in purchasing medicines. The NHS tries to derive benefits from drugs coming off patent by ensuring that there is not excessive profiteering in the sector.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about debt relief for developing countries and the related EDM, number 68.

I understand some would like me to sign EDM 68, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is reassuring:

Maintaining sustainable debt levels is a critical part of helping to reduce poverty in developing countries. Many developing countries have seen a marked improvement in their debt position over the last 15 years as a result of the Highly Impoverished Poor Countries initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, both of which were set up with strong UK leadership. While many countries have borrowed sensibly over recent years some countries' debt levels are rising at an unsustainable rate.
The Department for International Development (DFID) will continue to be a predominantly grant-based organisation. There is no intention to adopt a policy requiring bilateral UK aid to take the form of loans. Any use of sovereign loans would be on a case-by-case basis, but so far no such cases have been approved by the Government. DFID's contributions to the International Financial Institutions are used to provide concessional finance to developing countries. For example, countries receiving support from the International Development Association (IDA) that are at high risk of, or in, debt distress, receive assistance from the World Bank only in the form of grants. For countries at low or moderate risk of debt distress, World Bank loans are provided at highly concessional rates; the IDA's interest rate is 0 per cent.
The recent change in the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) debt limit policy to take account of all public external debt in its setting of debt limits for countries which are at risk of unsustainable debt is welcomed. The IMF is also reviewing the way they analyse debt sustainability, and this will be considered by the IMF Board early next year. Recent discussions at the Paris Forum, G20 and at the third Conference on Financing for Development (FFD) in Addis Ababa are important in recognising the vital role of both lenders and borrowers acting responsibly to promote debt sustainability.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the Open Doors campaign concerning religious freedom.

I have always appreciated being brought up in an outward-looking and tolerant Christian society. I look at the increasing problems caused by the religious fundamentalism and intolerance sweeping the world and know that we must be very careful about preserving our own values and heritage.

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

Recent years have seen a rising tide of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Baha'is, Shias, Sunnis and Alawites, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, Christians and many others have fallen victim to a new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents. That is why, in the last Parliament, the Government ramped up its activities to promote freedom of religion or belief across the world.

Multilateral organisations are a vital avenue for the pursuit of progress on what is an international issue. In the last Parliament, the Government worked with the United Nations Human Rights Council to implement Resolution 16/18, which lays the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion throughout the world. Foreign Office Ministers brought together countries across the world to discuss implementation in 2013 and continued to monitor progress through a number of follow-up meetings.

In the last Parliament, the Government also prioritised freedom of religion through bilateral engagement with governments across the world. The Conservative-led Government made sure that every minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was an ambassador for religious freedom, raising and promoting these issues in the countries for which they have responsibility will continue to do so going forward. For example, in China, the Government regularly raises the subject of harassment and legal restrictions faced by the Chinese Christian community at the UK–China Human Rights Dialogue, publishing quarterly updates on the progress made.

Of course, there is more work that needs to be done. The Government will build on its work in the previous Parliament to make clear the facts of history and correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of 'the west'. This approach will be at its most effective if all people, independent of religion, work together to support these values.


I have started to receive campaign postcards about the 'Speak Up for the Love of' event on the 17th of June about climate change, I hope to meet with campaigners attending the event.

I do believe that emissions and climate change are important issues but that these require international agreement and action.

Setting a legally binding target for emissions here in the UK without a clear prospect of whether it is achievable might have serious consequences for those struggling to meet home fuel costs and for industry. Fuel poverty is an issue repeatedly raised with me in my constituency surgeries and at public meetings. I am also conscious that unilateral action risks simply exporting our carbon emissions to even more polluting nations with no global reduction in total output.

I following information is from the Department of Energy and Climate Change:

Climate change is potentially the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge and it is something the Government takes extremely seriously. The UK is taking a leading role on the world stage, working towards a binding global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. British Ministers led the push to get European leaders to reach agreement on a historic deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. EU countries agreed a new 2030 energy and climate policy framework that includes a domestic 2030 EU emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent.

This represents a big victory for the UK and it is a vital step towards achieving an international climate agreement at the key Paris conference later this year, where all the world's leaders will gather.

The International Climate Fund was set up by the Government to provide £3.87 billion between 2011 and 2015 to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener economic growth. In addition, the UK supports efforts to integrate climate change policies into international development plans.

Through the fund, the UK work in partnership with developing countries to:

• reduce carbon emissions through promoting low carbon development

• help poor people adapt to the effects of climate change

• reduce deforestation

Britain is leading by example and the Government's flagship Energy Act is based on the premise that the UK needs to decarbonise its energy sector and everything in the Act works towards achieving this goal at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. It puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent


I am starting to receive campaign correspondence with regard to EDM 370. I understand some would like me to sign EDM 370, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have now been superseded by Number 10 online petitions, which can be signed be everyone, not just MPs. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The Government has recently responded to the Pay Review Body (NHS PRB and Doctors' and Dentists' PRB) reports. The reports recommended a one per cent consolidated pay rise for all employed staff, on top of increments. Unfortunately, this recommendation is unaffordable and could risk the quality of patient care. The NHS PRB's recommendation would cost £450 million, equivalent to 14,000 newly qualified nurses, payable in addition to almost £1 billion the NHS must pay every year for increments and would risk reductions in front-line staff that could lead to unsafe patient care.
NHS staff will get at least one per cent additional pay for the next two years, either via a one per cent non-consolidated pay award or incremental pay, but not both. Over half of all NHS staff eligible to receive incremental pay should receive at least one per cent (most receive over three per cent on average), the rest will receive a one per cent non-consolidated payment this year and a two per cent non-consolidated payment next year. However, the most senior managers in the Department of Health's arms-length bodies won't receive a pay rise.
NHS staff are incredibly dedicated and hardworking. As part of the long-term economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy and secure a better future for Britain, the Government is having to take difficult decisions to reduce the deficit. This includes difficult decisions about pay restraint in the public sector.

I realise some will be disappointed with this response however I hope it clarifies the situation.


I have started to receive correspondence with regard to the Traidcraft Justice campaign, which centres on access to justice for those who work for UK companies abroad.

I understand the concern on this matter and I am glad that the government understands how important access to justice in developing countries is. I hope the following information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on this matter is reassuring:

The Department for International Development is working with countries to help make their security and justice systems more effective, responsive and accountable to citizens. Security and justice providers can be parts of the state, like the police and the courts system, or informal, community authorities like village chiefs and other traditional leaders.

The UK has consistently made clear that we expect British companies to act in accordance with human rights law wherever they operate, and that companies should not be able to act with impunity. The UK Government is working with businesses, other governments and civil society through a range of initiatives, to support UK companies to respect human rights, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The UK Government published its Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, in September 2013. This plan sets out the UK's framework for implementing the UN Guiding Principles, including the state's duty to protect human rights, and the responsibility of business to respect human rights where they operate.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to the #SaveALifeAt16 campaign with regard to bone marrow donors between the ages of 16 and 20 and the Anthony Nolan Charity.

I understand more bone marrow donors are needed and this is something I have also raised in my Herald Express column earlier this year. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

As a nation we need to do all we can to encourage young people to become donors. That is why NHS Blood and Transplant has developed a free teaching resource pack called 'Give and Let Live', available for schools to order. It contains a teachers' booklet which includes case studies and background information about the need for more donors and aims to enable young people to see how they can make a difference to people's lives, by raising awareness about donation and demonstrating the benefits of blood, organ and bone marrow donation. The pack is aimed at students of 14 and over but can be adapted specifically for students aged 16 and over. In my view this is the right approach.

More generally, in each of the last four years the Department of Health has provided an extra £4 million investment in NHS stem cell services some of which has been given to Anthony Nolan to improve the speed and ability to match donors to patients. This total investment of £16 million will help save lives.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence calling for there to be CCTV in all slaughterhouses.

I would like to be clear that I agree. I feel it would help to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare and I understand the concerns expressed on this matter.

The following from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs clarifies however that following a consultation, including upon this issue, they do not intend to take this further:

The Government is committed to maintaining high standards of animal welfare at slaughter, and does not condone any form of cruelty to animals. The latest EU Regulation on this issue came into force on 1 January 2013. It sets out new standards for governing the handling, restraint, stunning and slaughter of animals for human consumption.

As part of the process of implementing the Regulation, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs held a consultation on the role CCTV can play in relation to monitoring welfare of animals at slaughter. This included consideration of whether CCTV should be made mandatory.

The Government's response to that consultation was published in May 2013. After careful consideration of all the responses and the different issues involved, Ministers are not convinced of the need for further legislation at this time, but will be keeping the need for CCTV under review.

I share the disappointment of many on this issue. You can view more about the consultation via the following link.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to the General Dental Council's (GDC) Annual Retention Fee for 2015.

I understand the concern on this matter but the GDC is an independent body and as such it is up to them to set the level of annual fee they charge for registration. The following information from the GDC lays out the reasoning behind the proposed increase:

"Since 2010 when we last increased the ARF there has been a 110% increase in the number of complaints from patients and members of the public, employers, other registrants and the police about GDC registrants. As a result, we need additional funds to investigate these complaints and where necessary to bring Fitness to Practise cases involving dentists and DCPs. If we do not have sufficient funds to bring these cases we would fail in our duty to protect patients and the public. This would also mean that the public would lose confidence in dental professionals."

There is actually a public consultation on the proposed fee increase where the GDC's proposal can be scrutinised which closes on the 4th of September and you can access it via the following link:

http://www.gdc-uk.org/GDCcalendar/Consultations/Pages/Consultation-on-the-Annual-Retention-Fee-%28ARF%29-Level-for-2015.aspx

I hope to be able to raise this issue during the annual accountability hearing with the Health Select Committee in Parliament


I have started to receive campaign correspondence calling for an Animal Protection Commission as a new independent regulatory body.

I appreciate the need to ensure animal welfare, however I do think that the existing legislation is sufficient to protect animals in this country, provided it is enforced.

I hope the following information from the Home Office on this matter clarifies the situation:

There is no current intention to introduce such a body. British law already makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or fail to provide for its welfare, and the RSPCA successfully prosecutes around 1,000 people each year. Several pieces of legislation are specific to animals in certain situations such as transport, at slaughter or on farms. These are enforced by a mixture of local authorities, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the police.

The organisation proposing this commission seeks to give it "... the remit to formulate and monitor policy by engaging with stakeholders using a 'deliberative' democratic approach". The Government's policy making process on animal welfare includes the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, which is responsible for strategic animal health and welfare policy, and overseeing implementation in England. Crucially, it reports directly to Ministers.


I have started to receive correspondence with regard to the Christian Aid campaign on climate change.

Firstly, I must state that I do believe that emissions and climate change are important issues. However, setting a legally binding target without a clear prospect of whether it is achievable might have serious consequences for those struggling to meet home fuel costs and for industry. Fuel poverty is an issue repeatedly raised with me in my constituency surgeries and at public meetings. I am also conscious that we risk simply exporting our carbon emissions to even more polluting nations with no global reduction in total output.

I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Energy and Climate Change is of interest:

The UK is taking a leading role on the world stage, working towards a binding global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. The Government is clear that it is committed to meeting the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent. Ministers continue to work with their European counterparts to push for an ambitious 2030 EU target. It is for these reasons that the Government's flagship Energy Act is based on the premise that the UK needs to decarbonise its energy sector and everything in the Act works towards achieving this goal at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. It enables a significant decarbonisation of the UK's power sector and puts Britain firmly on track to meet our carbon targets.

The International Climate Fund was set up by the Government to provide £3.87 billion between 2011 and 2015 to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener growth. In addition, the UK supports integrating climate change policies into international development plans. The Government has made clear that it will play an active role in UN negotiations on the post-2015 sustainable development goals to uphold these principles.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to religious persecution in North Korea and the briefing event on this issue on Tuesday the 4th of March at 4.00 pm in Committee Room 18.

I am afraid that I have a prior commitment at that time and will be unable to attend. However, I would like to provide reassurance that the government has raised the issue of the persecution of minorities with the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs several times.

Last November, a delegation from North Korea actually visited London which provided an opportunity for bilateral discussions on human rights. They were also shown around a prison, which gave us the chance to demonstrate our humane prison system.

The following information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be of interest:

The UK has consistently led from the front on human rights abuses in North Korea in multilateral discussions on the subject. In 2013, we co-sponsored two human rights resolutions in the United Nations and supported the introduction of a UN commission of inquiry, which will report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

Making significant progress on human rights and the protection of minorities such as Christians is difficult, because the North Korean Government refuses to enter into meaningful discussions on these matters. The UK will continue to push for further improvements through all possible avenues.

I hope that this information is reassuring.


I have started to receive correspondence with regard to the campaign concerning a Protection of Workers Bill.

Though I completely agree that workers serving the public should be protected from violence and aggression, I do not think there is any practical need for this bill. Working in the public or private sector often brings you in to face to face contact with the public and I think that for anyone who suffers violence whilst doing their job it is essential that the law adequately addresses the problem.

However, I think we already have the necessary laws in place to deal with such matters; there are already a range of offenses that criminalise violent behaviour. Sentencing guidelines also specify that where an assault is committed against someone providing a service to the public, whether in the public or private sector, this is an aggravating factor and so could well result in a higher sentence within the current maximum.

I hope this demonstrates that there is no need for the bill.


I have started to receive campaign correspondence with regard to peoples concern about the Royal Mail being privatised.

I appreciate the concern with regard to this move but unfortunately as the world and communications have modernised Royal Mail has found it difficult to compete with other operators. As such, I think it is right to enable Royal Mail to access private capital to invest to ensure their business remains viable, as in the current economic climate it seems preferable to do this without taxpayers' money.

I think it is important to highlight that a change in the ownership in Royal Mail will not mean any alteration in the provision of the universal postal service. Any changes to the uniform nature of the service would require new primary legislation and I can assure you that the government have no plans for any such changes.

I know that some are concerned about how this move will affect the Post Office but I can assure you that the Post Office is not for sale. It is certain that Royal Mail and the Post Office will continue to work together due to a ten year agreement signed last year, so this is not an issue.

On the matter of job losses, I will be frank and say that the modernisation of Royal Mail does of course mean that fewer workers will be necessary. However, I think it should also be noted that in the last decade of public ownership 50,000 people have lost their jobs with the company, so regardless of ownership job losses are inevitable.

I also refute the claims that the government is rushing the sale of Royal Mail and is selling it too cheaply. It has now been five years since the Independent Review of the Postal Sector recommended the measures now being implemented; I think this demonstrates that this has not been a rushed decision. The government is also committed to getting the best value for the tax payer in this transaction and will follow standard commercial practices in setting and publicising the share price.

Representing a rural constituency I am aware how vital Royal Mail is to those in the area and I can assure you that it will continue to provide deliveries to all UK addresses both urban and rural on a six days a week basis.


I have started receiving campaign correspondence with regard to the treatment of women in Afghanistan.

I completely agree that the protection of women's rights must be a central part of our work in Afghanistan and I am glad that the government has been clear about this. I know the Foreign Office have repeatedly raised the issue of women's rights with the government of Afghanistan and have highlighted the need to tackle violence against women.

I am sure you will be glad to hear the implementation of the Afghan Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW) was specifically included in the partnership between the Afghan government and the international community that was agreed last summer. The international community has been clear they will hold the Afghan government to their commitments.

We are also supporting the development of the Afghan National Police through the European Police Mission (EUPOL). With regard to the matter of family response units, EUPOL is aiming to enhance the capacity of such units with a new training programme for female police officers, prosecutors and other members of the legal community.

I can assure you that assistance provided to the Afghan Ministry of Interior by the UK ensures a strong focus on promoting human rights in the security sector alongside protecting women from violence. Additionally, the government also helps to fund the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which works to investigate and record violence against women with the aim of better supporting those seeking justice against such crimes.

We must do more to end the culture of impunity which exists in so many countries of violence including sexual violence against women. As a member of the All Party Human Rights Group I will be continuing to try to support women human rights defenders in their work.


I have recently started receiving mostly anonymous correspondence from a campaign run by Action for Renewables, with regard to supporting green jobs in the South West by signing Regen's South West Renewable Energy Manifesto.

As I am unable to respond to all of the correspondence I thought I would also post a statement about this matter here. I am sure you will be glad to read that I have in fact already signed up to Regen's South West Renewable Energy Manifesto and you can see the list of MPs that have signed up here.

I appreciate the importance of the sustainable energy sector to the economy of the South West and am keen to see this area be at the forefront of this exciting sector which has huge potential for growth.


I have been asked if I will support the introduction of European legislation for more women to be on the boards of larger European companies.

I would like to make it clear that I am sure that diverse and inclusive boards create better ideas due to their wider experience and perspectives. Women should be included in high level business and the Government introduced a number of measures to make this happen. For example, a voluntary code of conduct for executive search firms, making amendments to the UK corporate governance code, changes to narrative reporting and the establishment of the Women's Business Council.

I believe that a shift in the culture of business is what is needed to ensure that women's progress in this area is maintained, I think that nudging the business world this way will be the most effective tactic. The EU has done well in securing exposure for this important issue but a voluntary led business approach is the right approach.

It is interesting to learn that over the past year almost 40% of those appointed to the boards of FTSE 100 companies have been women. If this current trend is maintained we could have almost 30% women on the boards by 2015. I believe this demonstrates that solid achievements have already been made in this area.


I have started receiving correspondence with regard to Amnesty International campaign concerning the Arms Trade Treaty.

I appreciate the concerns on this matter and I would like to take this opportunity to address them. Firstly, I would like to state that I share the hope that a robust and effective treaty can make the world safer and agree that it is of the utmost importance that progress is made towards this.

I would like to reassure you that in the six years leading up to the Conference last July the government remained committed in its support for the ATT. The UK kept a prominent global position on the issue, discussing it with other governments and interested parties to garner as much support as possible.

Despite all of this an agreement was not reached in July. Nonetheless, I believe the main positive features of the Draft Treaty represented huge progress and the government is maintaining the momentum needed to complete the process. I can assure you that the government will take a leading role at the United Nations in the run up to the conference next month.

I do understand why some are calling for some areas of the treaty to be strengthened. However, as discussions are continuing it is not appropriate for the UK to elaborate on its negotiating position at the current time. However, the Foreign Office is aware of concerns about the treaty being watered down and Minister Alastair Burt stated:

"We will continue to work with the international community, civil society and the UK defence industry to secure a high standard Treaty with the broad support of the UN Membership."

I welcome Alastair's words on this matter and the government's leadership in this area in general.


I have been asked if I will sign EDM 951 concerning CCTV in slaughterhouses. However like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have now been superseded by Number 10 online petitions, which can be signed be everyone, not just MPs. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken. I am sympathetic however to the idea of CCTV in slaughterhouses.

I would like to assure you that this government is committed to the maintenance of high standards of welfare at slaughter and does not condone any form of cruelty to animals. As you may know, EU Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing came into force on 1 January 2013. This regulation sets out new standards for governing the handling, restraint, stunning and slaughter of animals for human consumption.

As part of the process of implementing EU Regulation 1099/2009, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently consulted on the role CCTV can play in relation to monitoring welfare of animals at slaughter. This included consideration of whether CCTV should be made mandatory.

I am assured that Ministers are currently giving careful consideration to the responses to consultation. When finalised, the response will be published on the Defra website and will confirm whether the government intends to change its current approach, which is not to require installation of CCTV in slaughterhouses.


I have been asked if I will sign the related EDM on this topic, number 1022, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have now been superseded by Number 10 online petitions, which can be signed be everyone, not just MPs. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that the government is not considering exempting private sector providers of NHS services from Corporation Tax. As you are aware, Monitor, the independent sector regulator for NHS funded services, has also confirmed that this is not a recommendation that they are considering in their Fair Playing Field Review.

The purpose of the review is to examine whether there are matters that mean not all NHS-funded health care providers operate on an equal footing and if so, whether something can be done that would address these issues and result in significant benefits for patients. The review will ensure that any providers, whether NHS, for-profit or voluntary sector organisations, who are able to improve the services offered to patients are given the opportunity to do so.

Whilst carrying out their review, Monitor have consulted with a wide range of stakeholders from all sectors including patient groups, providers, commissioners, regulators and policy makers. You are correct that the Health Secretary will respond to the review by the end of March and I look forward to hearing his comments.


It is not acceptable that in 2013 there are still nearly a billion people globally who are hungry or malnourished.

I am pleased to inform you that this year, the government will meet its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on development spending and is the first G8 country to meet this commitment. Britain is leading the fight against global hunger and will continue to do so in 2013. As President of the G8 this year, the UK will build on the work we have already done to stop hunger. Ministers will use a major event before our G8 summit to drive further global action to reduce hunger and malnutrition. They will also drive forward progress on the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

The Prime Minister has put tackling tax avoidance at the top of the G8 agenda. We live in a globalised world where no one country can, on its own, effectively tackle tax evasion and aggressive avoidance, which is why the UK is taking this opportunity to galvanise collective international action. In the Prime Minister's recent letter to G8 leaders he highlighted that they can lead the way in information sharing to tackle abuses of the system, including in developing countries, so that governments can collect the taxes due to them.

I hope this reassures you that the UK is leading the struggle against global hunger, on the international stage.


I voted in favour of same sex couples having the right to marry. This is because I believe that our sexuality is a fundamental and intrinsic part of who we are. I think it is time for this to be recognised and respected by wider society by extending the right to civil marriage.

Words matter and the term marriage remains highly a symbolic term that I believe should be open to same sex couples in a committed and loving relationship. I did receive correspondence from people stating this move would undermine the traditional societal institution of marriage. However, I do not agree that this would be the case.

A standard definition of marriage is elusive and people will have different perspectives on this. I do not think that marriage can be undermined because one couple believes it symbolises something different to those of other faiths or indeed those of no faith. The common interpretation of marriage has evolved and improved over time, the Married Women's Property Act was contentious in its day.

Religious marriage will remain unaffected and no church or minister will be under any obligation to perform same sex ceremonies. Spain, Portugal, Denmark and several other European nations have introduced same sex marriage and there has never been a successful prosecution in the European courts to force religious institutions to follow suit.

It is true that marriage has for millennia been legal only between a man and a woman and I know that many were dismayed at the idea of altering this status quo. But the fact is that for the majority of that time it was illegal to be openly homosexual in this country. Within living memory homosexuality was still being 'treated' as some kind of defect.

It is possible that we might not be enjoying our freedom today without the genius of Alan Turing and his work at Bletchley Park, yet he was tragically driven to suicide as a result of such 'treatment' and his persecution through the courts. In many parts of the world today it remains a death sentence to be openly homosexual and I am proud to live in a country that is one of the most progressive nations in the world with regard to equal rights.

This was a vote of conscience and my belief is that people must be respected regardless of their sexuality. You cannot be 'a little bit equal' in regard to the treatment of you as a person who is gay and this is why I voted for a right to equal recognition of their relationships. I do not believe that civil partnerships have the same status as marriage and would not want one myself, why therefore should I vote to enforce this as the only option for many of my constituents? I could not look them in the eye had I done so!

There is no reason for people of faith to feel any different about their own marriages because others are able to enjoy being married.

I do accept that you may profoundly disagree with me on this matter and that does not mean I do not value your opinion but rather that I have to balance this against my own conscience and duty to a group that has long suffered from prejudice and discrimination.


I would like to reassure you that the government is committed to decarbonising the UK's energy supplies and putting us on the road to a low-carbon future. The UK's tough emissions and renewable targets currently provide a solid overall policy framework and the government is pushing through ambitious reforms to overhaul existing old fossil fuel plants and replace them with new low carbon generation.

The new Energy Bill will put a fair price on carbon, providing a stronger incentive to invest in low carbon generation now. As part of this Bill, powers to set a decarbonisation target range for 2030 will be brought forward in secondary legislation. However, a decision on this will only be taken once the Climate Change Committee has provided advice in 2016 on the 5th Carbon Budget which covers the corresponding period.

Nonetheless, I can assure you that the UK will retain its status as a great place to do low-carbon business. Ministers are working to open up new markets and remove barriers to entry for the green businesses of the future. Since the Coalition came to power it has established Europe's first Green Investment Bank, pioneered a ground-breaking new energy efficiency scheme, the Green Deal, and added more capacity for renewables than at any time over the last decade. We are on target to reach our goal of 15% electricity generated by renewables.

The government is determined to meet achieve our climate goals, and will continue to work towards a low carbon future.