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 OCT 2019

Race Horses

Thank you very much for writing to me about the death of race horses. I agree that everything must be done to reduce the fatality race of race horses and to ensure that there are meaningful penalties for fatalities as a result of any negligence or abuse.


16 OCT 2019

People's Vote

Thank you very much for writing to me about the People's' Vote and the March on 19th October.

As Parliament has been recalled and I will be in the House of Commons I will not be able to join the March itself as I have done on previous occasions. That said, you have all my support and I will try to come to meet with constituents and Devon for Europe in Parliament Square if I am able to do so without missing a vote.

Please be in no doubt that the long-term aim of the Lib Dems is stop Brexit, because we believe it would seriously harm our country. Like you we support a People's Vote on a defined deal with an option to stay in the EU, and this remains our preference. If that is denied by the government and there is a general election instead, a Lib Dem majority government would have a mandate to act to stop Brexit on day one.

Hoping for a sunny day on Saturday.


15 OCT 2019

Refugee Funding

Thank you very much for writing to me about refugee funding.

Asylum is under attack in the UK. Refugees are human beings fleeing from war zones and persecution, and we have a legal and moral obligation to offer them sanctuary. I am proud of the UK's historic commitments to assisting those seeking refuge from war, persecution and degradation, and believe that we should continue to uphold our responsibilities.

Liberal Democrats want a positive immigration policy, including an immediate end to the 'hostile environment' policy, taking immigration policy away from the Home Office, operating a policy of detention as a last resort, allowing refugees to work and contribute to society and assuring appropriate support is provided.

I am doing everything I can to prevent a no deal Brexit and the threat it poses to so many things, not least of which refugees, in this country. And, should that fail, I will fight hard to make sure the Government honours its assurances regarding refugee funding.


12 OCT 2019

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill.

Thank you for taking the time to write me about the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill.

I agree that it's extremely disappointing when a bill falls due to a new Parliamentary session. It's unfortunate that the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill had no carry-over clause, allowing its progress to continue regardless and it is a shame that the government did not make arrangements for this to happen. On the plus side, it has been a very well-supported bill and I see no reason why it will not be successful once re-introduced.

Please be assured that the re-introduction of the bill would have my support.


12 OCT 2019

HS2

Thank you very much for writing to me about HS2.

I understand your concerns about the environmental impact on our ancient woodlands and I agree that we need to be taking urgent steps in view of the Climate and Ecological Emergency we face.

However, this does mean we are faced with sometimes conflicting calls to improve public transport provision and invest in increased rail and bus networks to encourage people out of cars, whilst at the same time doing so without building the new public transport infrastructure that would be required to achieve this, as it damages existing wildlife. The decisions are complex and multi-faceted.

That said, I welcome a review and will make the point that this level of investment could revolutionise a nationwide transformation of safe infrastructure for active travel by bike and on foot.


12 OCT 2019

NHS

Thank you very much for writing to me about the NHS. One of the reasons that led me to become an MP was precisely to be able to use my experience from 24 years as a doctor to be better able to fight for improving healthcare. I have focused a great deal of my efforts as an MP and as Chair of the Health and Social Care Commission to that end.

There has been an abject failure on the part of successive governments to plan for the sheer scale of the long-term increase in demand for health and social care and for how we are going to share the costs and to make sure we have the workforce we need to provide the right care.

On your specific point about the trade deals and Trump, the greatest risk is probably to medicines and the intention expressed by the US to restrict negotiation on prices by the NHS. This would have very serious consequences.

I also think there need to be changes to the law to protect the NHS from undue competition and the committee I chair helped to shape the recommendations to government from the NHS which I hope will be in the Queens Speech. One of these was that the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) roles in the NHS, as provided for by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (2012 Act), should be repealed. There is strong public and NHS staff support for scrapping section 75 of the 2012 Act and for removing the commissioning of NHS healthcare services from the jurisdiction of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. Taken together, these changes would remove the presumption of automatic tendering of NHS healthcare services over £615k. Monitor's specific focus and functions in relation to enforcing competition law should also be abolished.

I am happy to assure you that I will continue to fight to keep our NHS free at the point of use. I do not think that this should mean removing all non-NHS providers or removing all choice for patients but there needs to be a principle that joint working as an integrated service is more important than competition. This is a complex area and you may be interested to read more about the legislative proposals https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BM1917-NHS-recommendations-Government-Parliament-for-an-NHS-Bill.pdf

Whatever happens around legislation, we must ensure that the NHS and Social Care have the necessary funding and I will continue to campaign for this.


10 OCT 2019

Marie Stopes

Thank you for writing to me about the Early Day Motion to cut international development funding to provider Marie Stopes International.

I am afraid I do not sign any EDMs at all, as they have no effect whatsoever in Parliament and have been superseded by other Petition sites which are open to the public. EDMs give a misleading impression that action has been taken.

However, I will not be supporting the motion and I would like to make clear that I support the right of women to access safe termination of pregnancy. It's also important to remember that Marie Stopes provides a comprehensive range of services aiming to increase education in, and access to, family planning, contraceptives, vasectomies etc., and therefore to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Cutting funding to Marie Stopes international development funding would mean cuts to choice-based contraception and other health services for the most disadvantaged women worldwide. The proposed cuts would be counterproductive. Not only in terms of increasing the number of unwanted pregnancies and therefore the demand for abortion services, but because fewer abortion services does not necessarily mean fewer abortions, but more unsafe 'backstreet' abortions and maternal deaths. It turns back the clock on women's rights to exercise control over their own bodies.


09 OCT 2019

Brexit

Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me regarding extending article 50. I can assure you that there are cross party groups of MPs considering all the options for preventing us leaving the EU without a deal. I agree with you that there is no deal that is better than the one we have as members of the union.

I am also very concerned that the Prime Minister is saying that he would be prepared to flout the law to get his way, that he has misled the Queen and continues to try to avoid scrutiny by Parliament. We are working very hard to ensure that our judicial and democratic institutions hold strong.

I support the formation of a government of national unity should there be a successful vote of no confidence in Mr. Johnson. Mr. Corbyn has a right to try to seek the confidence of the House in the first instance, but there is no possibility of this succeeding. The problem is that currently there is a large shortfall in the number who would vote for an interim government led by Mr. Corbyn and even if the Lib Dems were to vote to support him, he would fall short by around 30 votes. The question is whether, once his bid failed, Mr Corbyn would be prepared to come behind an alternative Unity candidate. I hope he will do so as this is a sticking point. I believe a respected figure such as Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman would be most likely to gain a majority in the House of Commons and I would support a temporary Government of national unity on those terms.


09 OCT 2019

Minimum Standards for Taxi and PHV Licencing

Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me about minimum standards for taxi and PHV licencing, especially with regards to disability equality training.

I welcome the fact that the Department of Transport recognises the need to make the necessary changes to the current licensing legislations and would echo the sentiments of Professor Abdel-Haq in the forward to his report "Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: steps towards a safer and more robust system" that the current licensing situation is inconsistent, ineffective and incompatible with the protection of vulnerable people.

I would like to assure you that I will be supporting the need to move forward with legislation addressing the current licensing inadequacies in discussions with my colleagues. The coming weeks will be extraordinarily turbulent and I suspect we are heading for a general election. The needs of people with disabilities will be championed by the Liberal Democrats.


07 OCT 2019

Victim Journalism

Thank you for your email about victim journalism.

In 2017 manifesto the Liberal Democrats made the commitment, in light of the press's failure to engage in effective self-regulation, seek to ensure delivery of independent self-regulation, and commence part two of the Leveson inquiry as soon as practicable. In 2018 when it was announced the second Leveson Inquiry will not go ahead after victims lost a High Court fight against the Government, the Liberal Democrats voiced concerns that this issue had been kicked into the long grass, in an attempt to forget it.

We have committed to:

• Introduce a digital bill of rights that protects people's powers over their own information, supports individuals over large corporations, and preserves the neutrality of the internet.

• End the ministerial veto on release of information under the Freedom of Information Act, and take steps to reduce the proportion of FOI requests where information is withheld by government departments.

• Order Ofcom to launch an immediate full assessment of media plurality in the UK, including a review of the 'fit and proper persons test' and whether the communications regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority, have appropriate powers to deal with concentrations of power in the digital economy.

We need to protect the independence and freedom of the press and we should not go down the route of press regulation by the State. Existing arrangements however are continuing to individuals being subject to unacceptable levels of intrusion and their rights must not be abandoned.


07 OCT 2019

Women's Pensions

Thank you for your email about transitional state pension arrangements for 1950s women.

I am afraid I do not sign any EDMs at all, as they have no effect whatsoever in Parliament and have been superseded by other Petition sites which are open to the public. EDMs give a misleading impression that action has been taken.

I am disappointed by the results of the judicial review into women's pension age and there is no doubting that this is a huge setback for the campaign.

Please be assured that the Liberal Democrats will continue to push for a fair resolution of this.

We believe there should be an immediate investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman into whether the failure of the Government to give sufficient written notice to women affected by the SPA changes constituted malpractice. If the Ombudsman finds that malpractice has occurred, it should recommend an appropriate level of compensation to be paid, which the party would endorse.


03 OCT 2019

People's Vote

Thank you for your email and I can assure you we are endeavouring to sort out the Brexit Mess!

I was pleased that the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, found that the advice that Parliament gave to HM the Queen was unlawful, and thus that Parliament was not in fact prorogued. This meant that MPs were able to resume their seats in the House of Commons and get on with trying to prevent a hard, no-deal departure from the EU.

Parliament has recently passed a law which will force the Prime Minister to ask for an extension to the UK's leave date, unless a deal has been agreed in Parliament by the 17th October. The Liberal Democrats will do everything we can to ensure the Prime Minster abides by this law and will support further legal action if necessary. I have been asking questions in Parliament to try to ensure that the Prime Minister complies with the law although it is extraordinary that the public cannot trust him to do so.

The immediate priority is to secure an extension to our departure date, but please be in no doubt that the long-term aim of the Lib Dems is stop Brexit, because we believe it would seriously harm our country. We support a People's Vote on a defined deal, and this remains our preference but if that is denied by the government and there is a general election instead, a Lib Dem majority government would act to stop Brexit on day one.

In the coming weeks, if it is necessary to stop a damaging No Deal Brexit, I will support a temporary government of national unity. I believe there would be a majority in the House of Commons for a respected figure such as Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman to lead that Government.


01 OCT 2019

Autism

Thank you for contacting me about autism.

I know that autism is a condition which affects many people in very different ways. In recent times, great progress has been made in improving our understanding of autism but there is much more work to be done to improve diagnosis and support for individuals and their families.

I too, share your concerns that up to two thirds of those with autism do not receive the care they need. I can assure you the Liberal Democrats take this very seriously and will do everything we can to address this injustice.

We have a proud history of supporting autistic children and on campaigning on mental health issues and will continue to do so.

At the 2017 election, Liberal Democrats proposed that all future education policies should be accompanied by a report showing how they benefit SEND pupils. We also want to reduce the pressure that exams place on pupils by abolishing Key Stage 2 SATs and reforming Ofsted and league tables, so they do not focus narrowly on academic success. Pupil stress and Importance of promoting mental health in schools were also issues highlighted by the Health and Social Care Select Committee which I chair.

I cautiously welcome the recent announcement that the National Autism Strategy, first established in 2010, will be reviewed, and this was consulted on earlier this year.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-national-autism-strategy-think-autism-call-for-evidence

Thank you for inviting me to the National Autistic Society's event on Wednesday 13th November. I will try my best to attend the event.


30 SEP 2019

Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Thank you for contacting me about the export of arms from the UK. I believe that the Saudi Arabian government does not share British values, including human rights and the rule of law. Their repeated violation and disregard for human rights should have ruled them out as an arms trading partner long ago.

As you note, a legal challenge was recently brought forward by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which accused the UK government of licensing the sale of arms when there was a clear risk that their use could breach international humanitarian law.

The court of appeal which ruled on the challenge has declared the sale of arms used in Yemen to Saudi Arabia as unlawful because they contributed to civilian casualties in indiscriminate bombing.

This court ruling was monumental. Liberal Democrats have long called for a policy of presumption of denial to be implemented on all arms export licences. This would mean that countries listed as human rights priorities (i.e. abusers) in the Annual Foreign Office Human Rights report would be automatically barred from receiving arms exports. There is, after all, no excuse for providing arms to governments across the world which we acknowledge as undermining human rights.

However, Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary recently admitted that two "inadvertent" breaches had occurred, and new licences had been granted. This is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, for which, the Secretary of State should be held responsible.

Liberal Democrats have a strong and consistent history of opposing arms sales to Saudi Arabia. We are ashamed of our Conservative Government which has been more interested in trade deals than defending human rights. Liberal Democrats have repeatedly called on the Conservative Government to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia – this was a pledge made in our 2017 manifesto.

While acting as Party Leader in 2007, Vince Cable MP boycotted the state visit of the Saudi King Abdullah due to Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record and British arms sales to the country. In his role as Business Secretary during Coalition Government, Vince Cable also introduced tougher restrictions on arms sales and insisted upon additional safeguards before approving particular licences.

Liberal Democrats will continue to call on the Conservative Government to implement a presumption of denial on all arms export licences for those countries listed as human rights priorities.


26 SEP 2019

National Unity

Thank you very much for your email regarding the current political situation.

I was pleased that the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, found that the advice that Parliament gave to HM the Queen was unlawful, and thus that Parliament was not in fact prorogued. This meant that MPs were able to resume their seats in the House of Commons and get on with trying to prevent a hard, no-deal departure from the EU.

Parliament has recently passed a law which will force the Prime Minister to ask for an extension to the UK's leave date, unless a deal has been agreed in Parliament by the 17th October. The Liberal Democrats will do everything we can to ensure the Prime Minster abides by this law and will support further legal action if necessary. I have been asking questions in Parliament this week to try to ensure that the Prime Minister complies with the law although it is extraordinary that the public cannot trust him to do so.

The immediate priority is to secure an extension to our departure date, but please be in no doubt that the long-term aim of the Lib Dems is stop Brexit, because we believe it would seriously harm our country. We support a People's Vote on a defined deal, and this remains our preference but if that is denied by the government and there is a general election instead, a Lib Dem majority government would act to stop Brexit on day one.

In the coming weeks, if it is necessary to stop a damaging No Deal Brexit, I will support a temporary government of national unity. I believe there would be a majority in the House of Commons for a respected figure such as Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman to lead that Government.

I hope I have gone someway to address your concerns.


24 SEP 2019

Media Regulation

Thank you for writing to me and like you I'm appalled at the cases you mention. No one should be treated in this way with such a terrible invasion of their privacy which appears to be for no purpose but to sell newspapers.

Freedom of the press is fundamental to the Liberal Democrats' identity but the lack of regulation of the press led to serious abuses of power during the early 2000s. Whilst the editors argue that they are acting within the law, the current cases are causing great distress.

Cheap and efficient arbitration may be the best means of securing justice. The current situation continues to leave people open to these terrible invasions of privacy. I think it is reasonable for IPSO to be reviewed as it is not acting to deter this kind behaviour.


23 SEP 2019

Diabetes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Diabetes UK's campaign concerning diabetes and mental health.

I understand you would like to see better mental health support for people living with diabetes and I hope you will be glad to hear that the national diabetes audit has started collecting information from GP practices on people who have both diabetes and severe mental ill health.

This topic was actually raised in the House last year and you can view the exchanges, including the Minister's response on what the government is doing about this here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-05-08/debates/77D05637-A913-49FE-A8EC-0521A178EB3A/NationalDiabetesAuditMentalHealth


23 SEP 2019

Maternal Mental Health

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

I understand your concern on this matter and agree that the six week check up for mothers is very important. I know that some GP surgeries do not routinely offer a postnatal check, however you can always request an appointment for a check, especially if you have any concerns. Sometimes a postnatal check is also done at the same time as the baby's 6 to 8 week check.

You can find out more about this here.


19 SEP 2019

Badger Cull

Thank you for taking the time to email me about badger culling.

The government must be prepared to review evidence about culling, and this should be done in advance of any decision about future culls.

That review should also take account of all the approaches to controlling bTB including biosecurity, TB testing for cattle and the place of PCR tests near badger setts, the role of vaccination for cattle and badgers as well as the availability of vaccine.


18 SEP 2019

World Hunger

Thank you for taking the time to email me about ending hunger around the world.

This is an extremely important issue and though the number of people living in extreme poverty has halved since 1990, that still leaves many people living on the edge of survival so there is clearly a great deal more work to be done. Ending world hunger is possible if the global community take the right steps.

You may be interested to know that in September 2015 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030), setting out 17 international goals for Sustainable Development. Zero Hunger is the second of these goals.

To reduce hunger and poverty in the world, we need to improve the livelihoods of the poor. Most of the extreme poor live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and one of the best ways to improve their livelihoods is to help smallholder family farmers improve their productivity and incomes. It's not just food that they need but food security.

As well as aiming to improve the nutrition of 50 million people by 2020, The Department for International Development 's Agenda 2030 plan aims to strengthen the international architecture for nutrition and support countries to build their own systems for addressing malnutrition. This includes helping countries to be better prepared to respond to shocks that increase the risk of hunger and malnutrition.

You may also like to look at the following link which outlines the Government's approach to delivering the Global Goals for Sustainable Development - at home and around the world:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/603500/Agenda-2030-Report4.pdf


18 SEP 2019

Fracking

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

In my view shale gas extraction remains hugely contentious and it's clear that we are still overly dependent on fossil fuels. In the long term we are set to fall short on our short-term legal targets to decarbonise. 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 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. In addition to environmental concerns, there are health considerations and last year I asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the Government had commissioned a review of research relating to the health implications of shale gas extraction by any organisation since the 2015 general election. You can view the exchange here: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2018-07-16/164421/

You may be interested to know that the Liberal Democrats believe the time has come to again take progressive steps towards building our renewable energy market.


29 AUG 2019

TV Licence

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about the BBC's decision to means test free TV licences for the over 75s and to clarify, Parliament - under the law - gave the BBC the power to decide the future and consult on this topic.

I appreciate your concern about this and that this will be particularly hard on those who just miss the threshold for pension credit.

Over 190,000 people took part in the BBC consultation, the largest the BBC has ever run, and there was a small majority who wanted to change the concession and many who felt strongly that the concession should continue. There was little support for abolishing the concession.

I realise many will be deeply upset by this change and I think the government should now look at what extra support it can give to those who will now struggle with affordability.

You may be interested to know that the Liberal Democrat position is that, the Conservatives should not have made the BBC take on the cost of what is a social benefit – which should be a matter for Government and parliament – as they did in 2015. This was something the Liberal Democrats successfully blocked during the Coalition Government. The licence fee is not the Government's to spend. It is not public money but the public's money which should be used to invest in BBC programmes.

The Liberal Democrats believe it is vitally important that the Conservative government honour their manifesto pledge to keep free TV Licences for the over-75s. They could have done so but have chosen not to.

I hope the following information on this topic from the BBC provides some reassurance and helps to clarify the situation about who will already be eligible for a free licence after the changes come into force:

First the BBC has taken how we implement this new scheme very seriously. We know it's a big change for people and we want to make it easy and simple.

Television Licensing will be writing to all over 75 households – nobody needs to do anything now – their free licence will remain in place until 31 May 2020.

We've announced the decision a year in advance to give people time to think about it and then prepare. We are very conscious that we need to make this easy and accessible to all.

We are going to provide more telephone support and personal contact through outreach visits to community centres, for example, because we appreciate this group may need and want more support.

The BBC has also started running an information campaign on radio and will continue to communicate widely so that people know about the new arrangements.

The BBC is aware that individuals may prefer a family member or representative to deal with the TV Licence on their behalf and those mechanisms are already in place in TV Licensing.

For those who will now have to pay we recognise that to pay the whole amount up front may be difficult so we will introduce a new payment plan so that people can make smaller payments – around £6 every fortnight – so spread out over the year which we hope will make it easier for people.

There have been a number of stories where people have raised concerns about how they are going to comply with the new arrangements. We are going to make it as easy as possible for people to pay and make sure we support them during the transition. We have a higher compliance rate than other countries and as we have set out clearly enforcement action of any kind is always a last resort for the BBC.

For those on pension credit, people will just have to provide evidence of receipt of pension credit – such as a letter – passporting is a tried and tested way to do this used by the public and private sectors.

We've written to charities and older people's groups to work with them to make this as easy as possible for everybody and also look at how to make sure people are aware of how they can get a free TV licence via Pension Credit.

We think that working together it is likely that pension credit take-up will rise.

We will also be encouraging people to contact DWP if they think they are eligible for Pension Credit and how other organisations can support them in their applications.

That will be a good thing. New pension credit claimants could get around £2500, as well as then other benefits, including a free TV licence.

I think it is very important that government does everything possible to improve the awareness of pension credit as so many people continue not to claim this important benefit. Information about Pension Credit can be found at the following website .


28 AUG 2019

Collective Worship

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the National Secular Society's campaign to abolish the law requiring schools to hold collective acts of worship.

Many schools do simply ignore these rules and parents have the right to have their children excused from worship in any state-funded school. You may like to view the guidance for local-authority-maintained schools on providing a daily act of collective worship and you can do so here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/collective-worship-in-schools

You may be interested to know that I also have concerns about the segregation 100% faith schools can create and think we should be moving to increase cohesion and mutual understanding not separate communities by faith.

Realistically, there is not likely to be time in the Parliamentary programme for the law to change in the near future.


23 AUG 2019

EU Citizens and NHS Charges

Thank you for taking the time to email me about NHS charges for EU nationals in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

I too am deeply concerned by this decision to make the NHS a fee-charging service for EU nationals in the event of a No Deal Brexit. This is yet another example of Boris Johnson's government reneging on a promise to maintain the status quo and subjects EU nationals to a hostile environment. It fails to recognise the invaluable contribution EU nationals have made – and continue to make – to the UK's economy, NHS, and society as a whole.

You may be interested to know that the Liberal Democrats have already warned that hundreds of thousands of EU citizens could miss the deadline for Settled Status – set out by the EU Settlement Scheme – which could lead to a new Windrush Scandal.

I can assure you that I will continue to fight against a No Deal and remain committed to trying to secure a People's Vote.


23 AUG 2019

Onshore Wind

Thank you for taking the time to email me about your support for onshore wind.

I agree that we need to invest more in renewables, and I feel that projects are more likely to be supported by the local community if members of the community directly benefit. I would like to see greater focus on supporting community energy schemes. I would also like to see more investment in renewables such as tidal energy.

The Liberal Democrat position is that this decision to end new onshore wind farms (in the Energy Act 2016). must be overturned and that the Government has a duty to restore investment in onshore wind farms and solar PV, in order to guarantee future energy security.


23 AUG 2019

End the Cage Age

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the End the Cage Age campaign and the debate on the 9th of September, I will endeavour to attend.

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 animal welfare must be given full regard in policy making.

My Brexit focus remains on trying to ensure everyone has a final say in a referendum.

You may be interested to know that the Liberal Democrats support stronger animal cruelty penalties, improved standards of animal welfare in agriculture and an all out ban on caged hens.

It is our belief that UK animal welfare standards must not be undermined by cheaper imports produced to lower standards. Any future trade deals require high animal welfare standards for food imports, including clear and unambiguous country of origin labelling for meat and dairy products. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will do everything in our power to protect animal rights, Brexit or no Brexit.


14 AUG 2019

No Deal Brexit & Trade Deals

Thank you for writing to me about this and the risks of No Deal and any subsequent trade deal with the US.

As it happens I think the greatest risk in practice is around the cost of medicines which President Trump and his Secretary of State for health have been calling for to be raised as part of the US flexing its muscles in any trade deal.

I have been discussing this in Parliament and in the media and will continue to make the case for protecting the NHS. The following article may be of interest by way of background. https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/could-the-nhs-be-the-price-of-a-us-trade-deal


07 AUG 2019

NO Deal Brexit 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: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/is-defra-ready-for-brexit-17-19/


07 AUG 2019

Effective Asylum System

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about our asylum system.

I understand that Refugee Action have concerns about how effective the system is and I hope you will be glad to hear that the Minister was recently asked in the House of Commons what steps he is taking to improve the asylum application process. You can view the full exchange here:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-06-10/debates/3ED19E09-255A-4772-98DD-FB4F08F671CD/AsylumApplicationProcess

With regard to your point about ESOL classes, I am pleased that the government has announced it will publish an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) strategy for England this autumn. The strategy will contain a range of cross-government measures to support the government's commitment to building "strong integrated communities". It builds upon the proposals set out in the Integrated Communities Strategy green paper and responses to the consultation. You can read both of these via the following links:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/696993/Integrated_Communities_Strategy.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/integrated-communities-strategy-green-paper


05 AUG 2019

HS2

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

I read your comments with interest and appreciate your opposition to HS2, I have already stated that I would have preferred the money to be spent on other things.


05 AUG 2019

Bus Driver Training

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about bus driver training and guide dogs.
I understand your concern on this matter and realise you wish to know when guidance on training in this area will be published.

I know that the Secretary of State for Transport has stated the following on this matter: It is unlawful for Taxi and PHV drivers to refuse to carry passengers accompanied by assistance dogs and it is unacceptable that a minority continue to discriminate in this way. The Government’s response to the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and PHV licensing committed to introduce legislation when time allows to require drivers to complete disability awareness training as part of national minimum standards. The eventual requirement and supporting guidance will be informed by public consultation and appropriate research.


26 JUL 2019

Sur Baher

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the bulldozing that has occurred in Sur Baher.

I understand your concern on this matter and this has been raised in the House, as you can see via the following: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-07-25/debates/ECFEDC9A-8843-49BD-9294-5741753E0F5D/SummerAdjournment?highlight=sur%20baher#contribution-6297C02B-C17E-40DB-B28E-AA82CDA41AF8


26 JUL 2019

Mental Health Act

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the debate that was held on the Mental Health Act on the 25th of July, unfortunately, I could not attend due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I understand you feel the act needs to change and I can assure you that mental health issues have been a strong focus of mine in parliament.

You may like to read a transcript of the debate which includes the Minister's response and you can do so via the following link:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-07-25/debates/4FE061D8-70AC-4B51-BA13-F83C5CDA8438/MentalHealthAct1983


25 JUL 2019

Sino British Joint Declaration

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the situation in Hong Kong and the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

I understand your concern on this matter and the situation in Hong Kong was raised in the House only this week and I know the responsible Minister stated that China and the United Kingdom are co-signatories and equally responsible for the Sino-British agreement, and we expect our co-signatory to honour it as we have done. You can view the full transcript of this here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-07-22/debates/388E7E2B-03A6-4D84-A61C-F385F58678F2/HongKong

Some written questions have also been asked of the government concerning the agreement and you can view these here:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-07-16/277805/

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-07-24/281731/

Lastly, you may be interested in the following briefing on this topic from the House of Commons Library: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8616


23 JUL 2019

Local Welfare Assistance

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Children's Society Campaign concerning Local Welfare Assistance Schemes.

I understand your concern on this matter and I know some parliamentary questions have already been raised with the government on this topic. The Minister responsible for this area responded as per the below:

The reforms to the Social Fund in 2013 allowed local authorities in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales to deliver their own local provision for people who are in need of urgent help. Local authorities are best placed to decide how to promote and target flexible help to support local welfare needs. The Government has no further plans to review provision.

The Local Government Finance Settlement for 2015-16 identifies a notional amount relating to local welfare provision in each upper-tier and unitary authority's general grant, totalling £129.6 million for England. The notional allocation for local welfare provision remains at £129.6 million in England in the Local Government Financial Settlement until 2019/20. There are no plans to ring-fence this notional allocation.

Thank you for getting in touch and I realise you may be disappointed with the government's response on this.


22 JUL 2019

EDM 802

Thank you for writing to me about wholly owned subsidiary companies in the NHS.

These are wholly owned by the NHS rather than external private companies and currently there are around 42 Trusts using these. This does not represent privatisation in the sense that this is often used elsewhere because any profits remain within the NHS. In some cases these appear to bring tax advantages for Trusts but I do not think it is right for staff formerly employed directly by the NHS to lose access to pension and other benefits.

Most of these subsidiaries are involved with providing services to the NHS such as maintenance and cleaning for example but staff employed in these roles should have the same rights to access NHS conditions of service in my view.

Foundation trusts do have the legal powers to set up these subsidiary companies but will now have greater oversight from NHS Improvement.


15 JUL 2019

Alzheimer's Society

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Alzheimer's Society event that was held in Parliament on the 9th of July.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to prior commitments, however I understand your concerns about the care of those suffering from dementia. You may be interested to know that the Health and Social Care Committee, which I chair, conducted a joint inquiry with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee alongside a citizen's assembly in to the long term funding of adult social care and you can read our report here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcomloc/768/76802.htm

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.


15 JUL 2019

Disability Benefits Consortium

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the reception being held by the Disability Benefits Consortium on the 16th of July in Parliament.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend but will endeavour to have a look at the report they are launching that day. I understand that some have concerns about the impact of changes to the welfare system on disabled people and I hope you are reassured to know that I recently met with representatives from the disability charity, Sense to discuss one of their ongoing campaigns- 'When I'm gone', which focuses on the families of those living with disabilities.


15 JUL 2019

Animal Welfare (Sentencing)

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill.

I hope you are pleased that the bill passed its second reading on the 10th of July and will now proceed to the committee stage. You can track the bill here: https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2017-19/animalwelfaresentencing.html

You may also be interested in the following briefing on this topic from the House of Commons Library: researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8612

Thank you for getting in touch and I glad this important bill is progressing.


15 JUL 2019

Cyprus

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

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the reception on this matter in parliament on the 16th of July due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I appreciate your concern on this matter and I hope you are reassured to know that what recent diplomatic steps have been taken to help to pursue a resolution to the division of Cyprus was raised in with the relevant Minister in the House. You can view the full exchange here:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-05-14/debates/443BB844-2B31-4633-9D78-7B15AEA8408C/Cyprus


10 JUL 2019

Homeless Young People

Thank you for taking the time to email me with your concerns about homeless young people and the shared accommodation rate.

I understand your concern on this matter but hope the following information on this topic from the House of Commons Library concerning eligibility and exemptions provides some reassurance:

The first point to note is that the personal allowances, which form part of the calculation of entitlement to Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance for all claimants, are set at lower levels for single people under 25. For example, from April 2019 the personal allowance for a single Housing Benefit claimant aged under 25 is £57.90 per week, while the allowance for someone aged over 25 is £73.10. The personal allowance is the minimum amount deemed necessary for the normal expenses of a person or couple in the relevant age group.

The differential treatment of single benefit claimants (without children) aged under and over 25 was introduced by the Social Security Act 1988. Prior to then, the rate of benefit which was payable depended on whether the person was a "householder", a distinction which caused considerable administrative difficulties. The introduction of the age threshold was justified on the grounds that most young people under 25 did not live independently and accordingly had fewer financial responsibilities, and because of the need to target resources on those likely to be in greatest need.

In addition, the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) was introduced in 1996 – this measure limited the Housing Benefit that a single person under the age of 25 could receive to the average rent level charged for a room in a shared house. The SAR was introduced "to ensure that Housing Benefit does not encourage young people to leave the parental home unnecessarily or to take on higher priced accommodation at the taxpayers' expense than they could afford from their own earnings." [Department of Social Security Press Notice, 96/09, 2 April 1996].

There are some exemptions from the SAR for certain categories of claimant:

local Authority and housing association tenants. Social sector tenants normally have their rent met in full (less deductions for non-dependants and earnings) as rents are generally below market rates;

tenants in certain supported accommodation. This covers tenants who are in accommodation where the landlord is a county council, voluntary organisation, housing association or registered charity and provides care, support or supervision. These cases are assessed under pre 1996 rules which recognise that their housing costs may be more expensive;

claimants entitled to the Severe Disability Premium - that is people who receive the middle or highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, or the Personal Independence Payment daily living component, who live alone and who don't have a carer;

claimants who have a non-dependant residing with them;

claimants under the age of 22 who were formerly in social services care. This allows care leavers some leeway to become settled and move in to work or establish links whereby they could share accommodation with others. [this exemption does not apply to the extended age group]; and

claimants entitled to an extra bedroom to allow for a non-resident carer to sleep over where overnight care is required.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was rolled-out for new claimants living in the deregulated private rented sector after 7 April 2008. LHA is not a benefit in its own right – it involves a variation in the way in which the rent element of Housing Benefit (HB) is calculated for tenants living in the deregulated private rented sector. When initially introduced, LHA rates for properties with different numbers of bedrooms within a Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA) were calculated at the median of market rents. Since April 2011, they have been calculated on the basis of the lowest 30th percentile of market rents within the BRMA. Furthermore, LHA rates have been frozen since April 2016 and will remain so until 1 April 2020.

For example, these are the current LHA rates within the South Devon BRMA – the LHA rate is the maximum weekly rent that Housing Benefit will cover for a deregulated tenancy in the private rented sector:

Shared Accommodation Rate: £63.50 per week

One Bedroom Rate: £96.91 per week

Two Bedrooms Rate: £128.19 per week

Three Bedrooms Rate: £153.02 per week

Four Bedrooms Rate: £192.24 per week

As part of the October 2010 Spending Review, the Coalition Government announced that the SAR would be extended to cover single claimants up to age 35. This change was implemented with effect from 1 January 2012 by The Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1736). Two further exemptions were added which only apply to the extended age group:

...the Government has looked carefully at the arguments presented by a number of commentators, the Committee and other Government departments on the potential effect of these changes on specific groups and has decided to introduce two additional exemptions which will apply to the extended age group only. The first is for a small but clearly defined group of ex-offenders who are subject to management by more than one agency under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and who are most likely to pose a risk of serious harm to others if they share accommodation. Offenders subject to MAPPA arrangements are in the main 25 years or over. In Scotland, MAPPA legislation is not yet fully in force in relation to violent and certain other offenders and so local authorities will be responsible for applying the exemption where it is considered that a claimant would present a risk of causing serious harm to the public. The Government is keen to avoid a situation that potentially risks putting members of the public in danger.

The second exemption is for people who have spent three months or more in a homeless hostel, or more than one hostel, specialising in rehabilitating and resettling this group within the community. To benefit from this exemption claimants would need to have been offered and to have accepted support services to enable them to be rehabilitated or resettled in the community. The three month qualifying condition is designed to target the exemption at people receiving a sustained programme of rehabilitation rather than people who have sporadic, short term stays. This exemption addresses the concerns raised by a number of commentators about the impact of these changes on rough sleepers, and in particular the silting up of hostel accommodation. The Government accepts that without this it will be difficult to secure suitable move-on accommodation for this group to help them in to a more settled way of life, which could undermine the Government's ambition to end rough sleeping. This exemption has been targeted at people aged 25 and over who are at greater risk of rough sleeping.

[SSAC Report on SI 2011/1736 and Government response, July 2011]


10 JUL 2019

Funding for Cycling

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me the debate held yesterday on funding for cycling.

I actually spoke in the debate and you may like to view the transcript here or look at my website page.


10 JUL 2019

Northern Ireland Abortion

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I continue to believe in a woman's right to choose and I voted to support the amendments concerning abortion in Northern Ireland yesterday.


10 JUL 2019

Local Electricity Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the Local Electricity Bill.

I would support the bill but that no new private member's bills have a chance of passing in this session but would of course be good to have ready to go after the next Queens speech especially for a member who is drawn in the top 20 of the ballot.


08 JUL 2019

Refugee Family Reunion

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about refugee family reunion.

As you know a debate was held on this matter last month and you may like to read the transcript, including the Minister's response, you can do so via the following link.

I am glad that the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes MP, provided reassurance that the government recognises the importance of family reunion and that their policy provides safe and legal routes to bring families together. She highlighted that over the past five years the UK has granted over 26,000 family reunion visas to family members of refugees in the UK. There are also separate provisions in the rules that allow extended family to sponsor children to come here. Where there are serious and compelling circumstances, refugees can sponsor adult dependent relatives living overseas to join them when, owing to age, illness or disability, that person requires long-term personal care that can be provided only by relatives in the UK.

Lastly, you may be interested in the following briefing from the House of Commons Library on this topic.


08 JUL 2019

Idlib Syria

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

I understand your concern on this matter and this was raised in the House last month, you can view the exchange here.

I am glad that the Minister for the Middle East took the opportunity to reiterate that these attacks are a clear breach of international law, and to call on the regime and Russia in the strongest possible terms to cease them and end the suffering of those in the Idlib governorate.

You may also like to view the UK's humanitarian aid response to the Syria crisis and you can do so here.


08 JUL 2019

Social Housing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about social housing and the spending review.

I understand you feel that the government needs to build more social homes and you may like to view the transcript of a debate that was held on this topic last month, you can do so via the following link.

I was reassured that in the debate, the Minister responsible for housing stated that the government recognised the need for more social rent homes and highlighted that in 2017 they announced an additional £2 billion of funding for the affordable homes programme ​to deliver social rent homes in areas of high affordability pressure. This funding should deliver at least 12,500 social rent homes in high-cost areas, in a move to support families struggling to pay their rent.

Lastly, you may be interested in the following House of Commons Library briefing on this topic.


08 JUL 2019

Open Doors

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Open Doors campaign concerning the persecution of Christians around the world.

I understand your concern on this matter and I know that Jeremy Hunt has said there needs to be a "sea-change" in how the UK treats worldwide anti-Christian persecution. This matter was also raised with him in the House earlier this year and you can view the exchange via the following link

You mention the recent review carried out on this topic and you can find out more about this here.


05 JUL 2019

Assisted Dying

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I read your comments with interest but I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate in parliament yesterday concerning assisted dying as I had a long standing commitment in the constituency.

I can assure you that I will continue to listen to views on both sides of this debate and you may like to read the transcript from the event in the House, which includes the Minister's response:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-07-04/debates/EFD57ADB-AE18-4D6B-9DA8-CCDDF99D1D0A/AssistedDying


03 JUL 2019

Support For Buses

Thank you for taking the time to email me about support for local bus services and the drop in session that was held yesterday by the Campaign for Better Transport, unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to prior commitments.

As the MP for a rural area I completely understand the need to protect local bus services and I have often liaised between constituents, the council and transport companies about this. I have also presented petitions to the House of Commons concerning retaining certain bus routes.


02 JUL 2019

Pension Credit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about those who are not claiming Pension Credit despite being eligible.

I understand your concern on this matter and I know the government have clarified that they are looking to work with stakeholders such as Independent Age and Age UK to discuss pension credit take-up across Great Britain.

You can find out more about eligibility for Pension Credit here: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit/eligibility

You can also visit your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau for a full benefits check: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/benefits-introduction/what-benefits-can-i-get/

Lastly, you may find the following briefing on this topic from the House of Commons Library of interest: researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8135


01 JUL 2019

Public Ownership of Water

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the public ownership of water.

You ask if I will sign EDM 1761, 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.

You may be interested to read the transcript of a speech by Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, at the Water Industry Forum, entitled: What future for water? Three challenges for the industry: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/what-future-for-water-three-challenges-for-the-industry

In it he states that he does not think the fundamental issue is whether water companies remain privatised or are taken back into public ownership: the fundamental issue is what will deliver best for the public and the environment.

The future of the water industry was also considered in a debate in the House at the start of this year and you may like to view the transcript via the following link: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-01-22/debates/93097112-7B8E-459A-BE5A-530A7D3EA826/WaterIndustry?highlight=public%20ownership%20water#contribution-61074940-177F-4D64-8FDE-9780AC7A706A

Lastly, the following briefings from the House of Commons Library on this topic may be of interest:

researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2019-0008

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8325


27 JUN 2019

Abortion Ruling

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I agree that the case you raise involving Justice Lieven is clearly a distressing one. However, this is a legal matter and it remains the case that MPs cannot interfere with the courts.


27 JUN 2019

Audiology Services

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS audiology services.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the Action for Hearing Loss event on this matter on the 26th of June due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I understand you have concerns about how local audiology services are commissioned and you may be interested in the following document published by NHS England:

Commissioning Services for People with Hearing Loss: A framework for clinical commissioning groups: https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/commissioning-hearing-loss-framework/

You can also find out more about the work of the audiology department at Torbay Hospital here: https://www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/audiology/


26 JUN 2019

Obesity Health Alliance

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Obesity Health Alliance parliamentary reception on the 3rd of July.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments at that time and will be unable to attend. However, I am glad that the government ran a consultation on proposals concerning mandatory calorie labelling in food served outside the home 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: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/calorie-labelling-for-food-and-drink-served-outside-of-the-home

I have always been supportive of measures that improve our general public health and would personally be keen to see mandatory calorie labelling in food served outside the home.

In addition, the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which I chair, actually held an inquiry in to childhood obesity and you can view the report we produced here: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-and-social-care-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/childhood-obesity-inquiry-17-19/

In the report we fully endorse the calls for a 9pm watershed on high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) food and drink advertising.


25 JUN 2019

Macmillan Cancer Report

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the launch of Macmillan Cancer Support's new report, 'Cancer - A Costly Diagnosis? Stories of the Financial Impact of Cancer' on the 9th of July, unfortunately, this clashes with a meeting of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which I chair, so I will be unable to attend.

Nonetheless, due to my medical background I can assure you that I understand well the physical and emotional consequences of cancer.


25 JUN 2019

Adults with Eating Disorders

Thank you for taking the time to email me about waiting times targets for adults with eating disorders.

I read your comments with interest and I agree that the announcement that a four-week waiting time target for adult eating disorder treatment will be piloted, in line with those introduced for children and young people, is a promising step.

I realise you would like to know when the pilots will take place and the 'Clinically-led Review of NHS Access Standards' Interim Report, published in March 2019, states that NHS England will test four-week waiting times for adult and older adult community mental health and it is expected that eating disorders will be included in this.

The proposals will be field tested at a selection of pilot sites across England, before wider implementation. Alongside the field testing, engagement will take place across the health service before making recommendations to the Government and full implementation beginning spring 2020.

You may also be interested in the following briefing from the House of Commons Library covering the topic of Eating Disorders Awareness Week:

researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CDP-2019-0055/CDP-2019-0055.pdf


25 JUN 2019

Guide Dogs

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the issues faced by assistance dog users and the Guide Dogs charity event that was held in Parliament on the 19th of June.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the event due to prior commitments, however I understand the concern on this matter and have been saddened to hear about those who have been refused a taxi ride or to enter a business due to their assistance dog, this is unacceptable and illegal.


25 JUN 2019

Let Refugees Learn English

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about helping refugees to learn English.

I understand your concern on this matter and I agree we should do all that we can to support refugees in this endeavour, in order to allow them to better integrate in to society and allow them to find jobs and make friends more easily.

I am pleased that the government has announced it will publish an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) strategy for England this autumn. The strategy will contain a range of cross-government measures to support the government's commitment to building "strong integrated communities". It builds upon the proposals set out in the Integrated Communities Strategy green paper and responses to the consultation. You can read both of these via the following links:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/696993/Integrated_Communities_Strategy.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/integrated-communities-strategy-green-paper


25 JUN 2019

Child Refugees

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the situation for child refugees.

I understand your concern on this matter and I am of course happy to meet any constituents who wish to discuss child refugee resettlement with me in a constituency surgery.

You may also be interested in the Government's response to the Unaccompanied Child Migrants Report published by the Home Affairs Committee following their inquiry on this topic. You can read it via the following link:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2017/unaccompanied-child-migrants-government-response-17-19/


25 JUN 2019

Seasonal Workers

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme.

I understand you would like to see the numbers for the scheme increased and this turned in to a fully functioning scheme and I have had discussions about this with local farmers and the National Farmers Union.

This issue was actually raised in the House of Commons on the 20th of June and you can view the full transcript via the following link: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-06-20/debates/27FCAE94-A12C-47D7-9280-876C99A1F342/SeasonalAgriculturalWorkersPilotScheme

I know that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Robert Goodwill MP, stated that the Government have introduced a new immigration pilot scheme for 2019 and 2020 to enable up to 2,500 non-European economic area migrant workers to come to the UK to undertake seasonal employment in the edible horticultural sector. DEFRA and the Home Office will evaluate the outcome before taking any decisions on future arrangements.


25 JUN 2019

Invest in Deaf Children

Thank you for taking the time to email me about more funding for deaf children's education.

I understand your concern on this matter and realise you would like to see more funding pledged for this in the Spending Review., I would also be happy to see this prioritised by the new cabinet when they are appointed.

A debate was held on this topic at the end of last year in Westminster Hall and you can view the full transcript via the following link: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-09-13/debates/95BAE0F2-0F29-4F5B-8C2E-72D0D81DF65D/DeafChildren'SServices?highlight=deaf%20children#contribution-482BECD8-150F-44A8-8041-E3CF0DEF6209

I know that in the debate the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP highlighted that the Department has committed £23 million of additional funding to support local authorities to conduct strategic reviews of their SEND provision and are investing ​£265 million of additional capital funding specifically aimed at helping local authorities to develop provision for children and young people with education, health and care plans.

You may also be interested in the following briefing from the House of Commons Library concerning deaf children's services:

researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CDP-2018-0192/CDP-2018-0192.pdf


24 JUN 2019

Saudi Arabia Arms Sales

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I understand you are deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen. I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen.

It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end to arms sales.

I know that Campaign Against Arms Trade have won a legal challenge over the government's decision to allow arms sales to Saudi Arabia and judges have said licences should be reviewed but would not be immediately suspended. I am pleased that the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said the government will not grant any new licences for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners while the implications of the judgment are considered. However, I realise that the government will be seeking permission to appeal against the judgment.

Thank you for getting in touch and I will be following developments in this area closely.


17 JUN 2019

TV Licences for the over 75s

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the BBC's decision to means test free TV licences for the over 75s.

I appreciate your concern about this and that this will be particularly hard on those who just miss the threshold for pension credit.

Over 190,000 people took part in the BBC consultation, the largest the BBC has ever run, and there was a small majority who wanted to change the concession and many who felt strongly that the concession should continue. There was little support for abolishing the concession.

I realise many will be deeply upset by this change and I think the government should now look at what extra support it can give to those who will now struggle with affordability.

I hope the following information on this topic from the BBC provides some reassurance and helps to clarify the situation about who will already be eligible for a free licence after the changes come into force:

First the BBC has taken how we implement this new scheme very seriously. We know it's a big change for people and we want to make it easy and simple.

Television Licensing will be writing to all over 75 households – nobody needs to do anything now – their free licence will remain in place until 31 May 2020.

We've announced the decision a year in advance to give people time to think about it and then prepare. We are very conscious that we need to make this easy and accessible to all.

We are going to provide more telephone support and personal contact through outreach visits to community centres, for example, because we appreciate this group may need and want more support.

The BBC has also started running an information campaign on radio and will continue to communicate widely so that people know about the new arrangements.

The BBC is aware that individuals may prefer a family member or representative to deal with the TV Licence on their behalf and those mechanisms are already in place in TV Licensing.

For those who will now have to pay we recognise that to pay the whole amount up front may be difficult so we will introduce a new payment plan so that people can make smaller payments – around £6 every fortnight – so spread out over the year which we hope will make it easier for people.

There have been a number of stories where people have raised concerns about how they are going to comply with the new arrangements. We are going to make it as easy as possible for people to pay and make sure we support them during the transition. We have a higher compliance rate than other countries and as we have set out clearly enforcement action of any kind is always a last resort for the BBC.

For those on pension credit, people will just have to provide evidence of receipt of pension credit – such as a letter – passporting is a tried and tested way to do this used by the public and private sectors.

We've written to charities and older people's groups to work with them to make this as easy as possible for everybody and also look at how to make sure people are aware of how they can get a free TV licence via Pension Credit.

We think that working together it is likely that pension credit take-up will rise.

We will also be encouraging people to contact DWP if they think they are eligible for Pension Credit and how other organisations can support them in their applications.

That will be a good thing. New pension credit claimants could get around £2500, as well as then other benefits, including a free TV licence.

I think it is very important that government does everything possible to improve the awareness of pension credit as so many people continue not to claim this important benefit.

Information about Pension Credit can be found at the following website .


14 JUN 2019

Healthy Start Vouchers

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Healthy Start vouchers.

I understand you would like to know what steps the Government is taking to ensure proper investment in the Healthy Start scheme and I have written to the Health Secretary enquiring about this.


13 JUN 2019

Protect the Ocean

Thank you very much for your email concerning plastic in the oceans and I do understand your concerns about marine pollution.

I realise you are concerned about the use of plastics and I share your concern on this matter and was pleased to visit Salcombe Primary School to see their work as a Plastic Free School. In addition, I recently met with the Plastic Free Totnes group to hear about their endeavours, you can find out more about their campaign at the following website: https://www.transitiontowntotnes.org/2018/06/plastic-free-totnes-campaign/

I am delighted that plans have been set out to create 41 new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK, safeguarding almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and marking the most significant expansion of the UK's 'Blue Belt' of protected areas to date. The proposed protections, announced on World Oceans Day, will cover an area almost eight times the size of Greater London.

No new activities deemed damaging, such as dredging or significant coastal or offshore development, will be allowed to take place in these areas. Existing harmful activities will be minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to recover. Rare or threatened marine habitats and species that will be protected include the short snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock's tail seaweed.

Some 50 zones had already been designated around England in 2013 and 2016 as part of the Blue Belt. This third and final tranche will be designated within 12 months of a consultation that closed on 20 July, bringing the total area of protection to over 32,000 square kilometres. Considering other types of marine protected area, the total sea area under protection will amount to around 220,000 square kilometres, meaning almost two fifths of English seas would be protected.

The UK leads the world on marine protection and is on track to deliver over 4 million square kilometres of protected ocean around the UK Overseas Territories by 2020. Together with existing Marine Protected Areas around the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and within the British Antarctic Territory, more recent developments have seen new and planned enhanced protections in waters around Pitcairn, St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

You may also like to look at the government's 25 Year Environment Plan and you can do so via the following website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/25-year-environment-plan

I actually visited a local business earlier this year who are making a difference in marine conservation, reducing bycatch and plastic waste in our oceans. You may like to read more about their work: https://www.fishtekmarine.com/

I do think the government is taking positive steps to protect our marine environment and you can find out more about what is being done here: https://www.gov.uk/environment/marine-environment


13 JUN 2019

Humanist Marriage

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the legal recognition of humanist marriages in England and Wales.

I am supportive of this and have written to the Lord Chancellor. I do hope this is of some help.


07 JUN 2019

Child Citizenship Fees

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about child citizenship fees.

I understand your concern on this matter but I must be honest and say that as immigration and nationality fees were only recently reset at the end of March, I do not think they will be changed again soon. However, I was pleased to note that the price of nationality registration as a British citizen for children did not increase.

This issue was raised in Westminster several times last year as you can see via the following links:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-10-23/debates/B354EE36-28BB-45ED-A6EA-9846CC39594D/ChildCitizenshipFees

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-09-04/debates/5A44F907-7F59-46F2-A015-8AE28CB16237/BritishCitizenshipFeesChildren?highlight=child%20citizenship%20fees#contribution-A60A55D9-9BCF-4030-812D-A581EE2297F4

Lastly, you may find the following briefing from the House of Commons Library on this topic of interest:

researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2018-0196#fullreport


28 MAY 2019

Hamas

I unequivocally oppose the shelling by Hamas and the abuses of human rights on both sides of this terrible dispute.


28 MAY 2019

Environment Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the draft Environment Bill.

Draft clauses to be included in the Environment Bill on environmental principles and governance have now been published. These draft clauses will be central to the new Environment Bill and will place environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government. I am encouraged that these clauses are only part of a broader Bill, which will include legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management. Of course, more detail on all policy areas is due to be published in due course.

I'm sure you will be pleased to see that the Bill introduces a new requirement for the Secretary of State to prepare an Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP); a "plan to improve the natural environment". These are to cover a period of no less than 15 years and are applicable to England only. Further, Clause 8 requires the Secretary of State to "prepare annual reports on the implementation of the current environmental improvement plan", which are to be laid before Parliament. I hope we can agree that this provides the juncture through which the Minister is fully held to account in a constructive and direct manner. This annual scrutiny will maintain the pressure on the Government to act in a careful and considered manner throughout the year.

The draft clauses also place our 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing and introduce a set of environmental principles that will be used to guide future government policy making. As the Bill makes its journey through Parliament, I intend to give my support to amendments that make provision for the independent setting and monitoring of robust statutory targets for natures recovery.

The draft clauses set out how a new system of green governance will be created, establishing an independent Office for Environmental Protection, to ensure we succeed in leaving the environment in a better condition than we found it. I will also consider amendments that strengthen this principle.

I do hope that I have reassured you that I am fully committed to protecting our environment for future generations. I believe that his Draft Bill is a good start and I will be sure to follow its progress through Parliament closely and seek to amend where necessary.


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