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 MAR 2019

Ancient Woodlands

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

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


21 MAR 2019

Relationships and Sex Education

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

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

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

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


20 MAR 2019

IHRA

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

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


20 MAR 2019

Private Renters

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

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

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

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

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


19 MAR 2019

Decapod Crustaceans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


17 MAR 2019

Disability Price Tag

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

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

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

These announcements from the DWP are also positive:

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

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


17 MAR 2019

Votes at 16

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

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


17 MAR 2019

UN Report on Gaza

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2161 on this matter, like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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


17 MAR 2019

INF Treaty

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

West Papua

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

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

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

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

Answered by: Mark Field

Answered on: 07 February 2019

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


15 MAR 2019

Cocoa Farmers

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Asthma Prescription Charges

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

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Children's Services

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Universal Credit and Cancer

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Trade Questions

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Frozen Pensions

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Household Credit

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

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

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

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

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

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


11 MAR 2019

TV Licences for over 75s

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

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

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

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

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


09 MAR 2019

Bowel Cancer

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

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


05 MAR 2019

Refugee Family Reunification

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

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


05 MAR 2019

Abortion and Northern Ireland

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

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


05 MAR 2019

Calorie Labelling

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

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

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


05 MAR 2019

Yemen Crisis

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

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

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

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

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


05 MAR 2019

School Funding

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

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

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


04 MAR 2019

RBS Sell Off

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

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


01 MAR 2019

Asbestos in Schools

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

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

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

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

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


01 MAR 2019

Medical Cannabis

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

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

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Universal Credit Five Week Wait

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Christophobia

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Arthritis

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Warfare Experiments

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 2113, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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


28 FEB 2019

Investor State Dispute Settlement

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

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Plastic Pollution

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Post Brexit Trade Deals

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

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

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Community Energy

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

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

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

The following announcement from BEIS may also be of interest

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


28 FEB 2019

Animal Sentience

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Palestinian Health Care Workers

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

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

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


21 FEB 2019

HCPC Fees

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

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


19 FEB 2019

NHS Waiting Times

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

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

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


18 FEB 2019

Neonatal Care

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

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

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


15 FEB 2019

Pancreatic Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about tackling pancreatic cancer.

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

We all know someone close to us who has been affected by cancer. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is a common form of cancer with a higher mortality rate than others. Tackling this is a top priority for the Government.
There was a debate on Cancer Targets in 2018, at which Members of Parliament raised the devastating impact of Pancreatic Cancer in particular. They discussed work being done in Birmingham to establish a 'fast-track pathway', which sees a dedicated specialist nurse prepare a patient to receive surgery within 16 days of referral. The results of this pilot scheme are being examined by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
In February 2017, Public Health England launched 'Be Clear on Cancer', a campaign targeted at identifying symptoms of pancreatic cancer earlier - early diagnosis is key to improving outcomes. This regional pilot included symptoms like persistent diarrhoea, bloating and discomfort. More than 90 per cent of the target audience reported that the campaign made them realise these symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. More than 80 per cent reported they were more likely to visit a GP as a result.
In October 2018, the Prime Minister launched a new Cancer Strategy, outlining aims for tackling cancer. These priorities include lowering the screening age for bowel cancer, facilitating earlier detection, and establishing a cervical cancer screening programme.
DHSC are working hard to examine the work being done by clinicians to improve treatment timelines across the country.


14 FEB 2019

Minimum Income

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the minimum income requirement concerning spousal visas.

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

It is fair to have rules on bringing spouses from abroad into this country and on family reunion. Indeed, The Supreme Court has upheld the lawfulness of the minimum income requirement for spouse visas, which prevents burdens on the taxpayer and promotes integration. The Supreme Court agreed that it strikes a fair balance between the interests of those wishing to sponsor a spouse to settle in the UK and of the community in general. However, the Home Secretary has been clear that the Home Office constantly reviews the rules to ensure they continue to be fair.


13 FEB 2019

Dubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, otherwise known as the Dubs Amendment.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The Government has approached the implementation of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the Dubs amendment) in such a way that best protects vulnerable unaccompanied children.
The Government consulted with local authorities to determine the number of unaccompanied children who could be relocated to the UK and supported by local authorities under section 67 in addition to the over 4,500 unaccompanied children already in the care of local authorities across the UK. This exercise was essential for ensuring that the children would receive the support required upon arrival in the UK. Following the consultation, the Government concluded that there was capacity for 480 unaccompanied child refugees to be transferred to the UK through section 67. On 3 October the Court of Appeal confirmed that the consultation to determine the specified number of children to be relocated was lawful. UK authorities have worked closely with their French, Greek and Italian counterparts to ensure the smooth transfer of eligible children.
The Government has also introduced an additional provision called 'Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 leave'. This allows unaccompanied children who are relocated to the UK under section 67 but who do not qualify for international protection to remain in the UK long-term.

The Home Office has also taken note of the Court of Appeal ruling's criticism of the way in which decisions were communicated to children who were refused relocation from Calais to the UK under Section 67 and is consulting with its legal team.


11 FEB 2019

Probate

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

I understand your concerns over the change to fees for a grant of probate and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is reassuring:

Fees are a vital part of protecting access to justice through the funding of modern courts and tribunal service.
To ensure the courts continue to receive the necessary funding, a banded fee structure for grants of probate has been announced. Ministers have listened to a variety of concerns raised about these changes and, in fact, the most recent proposals have been revised to ensure fees will not amount to more than 0.5 per cent of the value of an estate. This is a welcome change to keep the system fair and proportionate.
It is important to recognise that the rise in estate value threshold from £5,000 to £50,000 will lift around an additional 25,000 estates out of fees altogether every year. This means that after the Government's reform, fifty per cent of people will not pay fees at all. Of those who do pay, around 80 per cent of estates will pay £750 or less and the money raised will be invested into the courts and tribunal service.
The new banded fee system is a fair and progressive replacement to the current flat fee structure and ensures the courts system is properly funded without placing an excessive burden on other taxpayers. The Government is set to release guidance to help applicants choose the option to pay which best suits their circumstances.


07 FEB 2019

Toxic Air

I understand your concern about air pollution and the Health Select Committee, which I chair, has held a joint inquiry on improving air quality and you may be interested to read more about this via the following link

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

Air quality has improved significantly since 2010, but sixty years on from the Clean Air Act air pollution is still making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.
The Government's new Clean Air Strategy which aims to cut air pollution and save lives, backed up by new primary legislation is welcomed. The Strategy details how the UK will go further and faster than the EU in reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution.
The Strategy has been consulted upon and forms a key part of the 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment. It sets out a goal to halve the number of people living in locations with concentrations of particulate matter above WHO guidelines, legislate to give councils more powers to improve air quality and ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels and stoves can be sold.
Other measures include requiring and supporting farmers to invest in reducing emissions of ammonia, working with international partners on new standards for tyres and brakes to reduce emissions of harmful microplastics, investing in research and innovation and a personal air quality messaging system to keep the public informed.
This action supplements the £3.5 billion plan to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles as set out last year. The investment includes £1 billion to support the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, nearly £0.5 billion to help local authorities implement local air quality plans and about £90 million through the Green Bus fund.


05 FEB 2019

St Mungo's

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about rough sleeping and the St Mungos campaign.

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and it is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in society, including homeless people and rough sleepers, are helped to get their lives back on track. Over £1.2 billion has been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through to 2020.

St Mungo's does excellent work in tackling rough sleeping and homelessness, and is a member of the Government-backed rough sleeping advisory panel set up in 2018, which focusses on rough sleeping prevention, intervention, recovery and support. Whilst the number of rough sleepers declined in 2018 compared to the previous year, more needs to be done to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. This is why in January 2019 the Government announced a £500 million boost in funding for housing associations to build 11,000 more affordable homes, including properties for social rent. This will help reach the target of building 300,000 properties each year by the mid-2020s.

The launch of a new £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers is welcomed. This will complement the £28 million Housing First pilots which are supporting the most entrenched rough sleepers off the streets by providing them with stable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support.

Furthermore, the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislative reform for tackling homelessness in decades, has recently come into force. This Act, praised by St Mungo's, requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of homelessness.

These measures will reduce homelessness across our country and help to achieve the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.


05 FEB 2019

World Cancer Day

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about World Cancer Day.

I agree we need to improve outcomes for cancer sufferers and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

Cancer is a priority for the Government and survival rates are at a record high. Since 2010 rates of survival from cancer have increased year-on-year. Around 7,000 people are alive today who would not have been had mortality rates stayed the same as then.
In October 2018 the Prime Minister announced measures that will be rolled out across the country with the aim of seeing three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028 (currently just over half). The plan will overhaul screening programmes, provide new investment in state of the art technology to transform the process of diagnosis, and boost research and innovation. This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, and forms part of how the Government will achieve its ambition to see 55,000 more people surviving cancer for five years in England each year from 2028.
The 2015 Cancer Strategy for England, prepared by the independent Cancer Taskforce, set out a vision of what cancer patients should expect from the health service: effective prevention; prompt and effective diagnosis; informed choice and convenient care; access to the best effective treatments with minimal side-effects; always knowing what is going on and why; holistic support; and the best possible quality of life, including at the end of life.
NHS England has confirmed funding of over £600 million to support delivery of the Cancer Strategy for England. £200 million of this funding was used in 2017 and 2018 on a transformation fund for Cancer Alliances to encourage local areas to find new and innovative ways to diagnose cancer earlier, improve the care for those living with cancer and ensure each cancer patient gets the right care for them.


04 FEB 2019

Horse Whipping

Thank you for taking the time to email me about horse races being whipped.

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

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. Anyone with evidence that a racehorse has suffered unnecessarily from being whipped to report it to the local authority.
The provisions of the 2006 Act, coupled with the BHA's rules on the use of the whip, provide adequate protection for racehorses.


01 FEB 2019

Yemen UK

Thank you for taking the time to email me about UN Security Council Resolution 2451 concerning Yemen.

I welcome the positive outcomes of the UN peace talks in Stockholm in December. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeidah and to commit to withdraw troops from the port and city. Additionally, shortly before Christmas, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt Security Council Resolution 2451, a UK resolution to bolster the UN Yemen peace process, designed to build on the momentum generated by the UN peace talks in Stockholm. It was the first resolution passed on the conflict in Yemen since 2016 and is an important step along Yemen's peace process.

Furthermore, the UN Security Council has now unanimously adopted the UK-drafted resolution 2452 which established a special mission to support implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached in Stockholm. The UK has also recently announced an additional £2.5 million in funding to support the UN peace process in Yemen.


01 FEB 2019

Close the Loophole

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Close The Loophole campaign,

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is reassuring:

The protection of children and young people must remain a priority. I want to pay tribute to those who have spoken out about child sex abuse.
Sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 is a serious criminal offence, regardless of whether consent is given. It is also the case that any non-consensual sexual activity is a crime. It doesn't matter the age of the victim or the relationship between the victim and perpetrator. It is also the case that where a manipulative offender grooms a child under the age of consent and then engages in a sexual relationship with them when they are over 16, offences are in place to deal with this such as Section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 also provides increased protection for younger people aged 16 and 17. Offences criminalise those in a position of trust who sexual abuse young people in their care. The offences target relationships where the young person has some dependency on the adult involved and often combined with an element of vulnerability of that young person.
Ministers across Government are keeping this sensitive and important area of the law under review and working together to ensure our young athletes feel safe in their training environment.


31 JAN 2019

Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, which will introduce legislation to replace the current system known as 'Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards' (DoLS).

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

DoLS is an assessment currently carried out on people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care, for example because they are living with dementia. However, the current system is broken and is ultimately failing to provide vulnerable people with the protections they need. More than 48,000 people have been waiting more than a year for an assessment, and we urgently need to act to tackle this injustice.
That is why the Government has brought forward a new system, known as 'Liberty Protection Safeguards', which will become law through the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill. These reforms will introduce a simpler, streamlined process that is essential to tackling the backlog of vulnerable people waiting for an assessment, but, crucially, robustly upholds the rights of the individual at all stages. Giving more power to the individual, the new Safeguards ensure their thoughts and feelings are taken into account throughout.
The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Far from being rushed, the Bill builds on the Law Commission's three years of engagement with vulnerable people, carers, local government and providers.
There has been some concern over the role of care home managers in this system. Care home managers, as in the current system, will continue to play a role in identifying a need for safeguards, as well as playing a role in flagging when someone has objections to their arrangements. The Minister for Care has made clear that care home managers will never be responsible for authorising arrangements or conducting reviews. This will rightly be the sole duty of responsible bodies such as local authorities or hospitals.
For people with long-term progressive conditions, starting the process from scratch every year can be cumbersome and unnecessary. The Liberty Protection Safeguards model therefore triples the maximum authorisation length from one year to three years, as recommended by the Law Commission. This will only be granted to people who have already received two prior assessments and authorisations, and whose circumstances are unlikely to change. Every authorisation will also be supported by a programme of reviews which can take place regularly within an authorisation period to ensure that the care arrangements in place remain appropriate for the individual.
The Government is steadfastly committed to tackling this broken system while ensuring the rights of those affected are robustly protected throughout.


29 JAN 2019

One Campaign for Real Aid

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the ONE campaign for Real Aid.

I support our aid budget as it helps to reduce future costs to the UK by helping to stop countries becoming failed states and thereby adding to the humanitarian disasters unfolding around the world. I believe in particular in trying to support projects which support women and children's health, education and choice based contraception for women as limiting family size makes a real difference to the life chances of children.

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

Between April 2015 and March 2018, DFID reached 26.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, supported 11.4 million children to gain a decent education, and supported 40.3 million people to access clean water and/or better sanitation.
We need to ensure that our aid budget is spent in the best way possible. This is not only vital for those that UK aid helps, but also for the British taxpayers who deserve the best value for money and deserve the highest levels of transparency. UK aid works to achieve the Global Goals and the priorities set out in the 2015 UK Aid Strategy, to create a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for us all, regardless of which department is responsible for the spending. Efficiency and value for money are at the centre of all this work.
Poverty reduction remains at the heart of UK aid spending and the Government remains committed to the 0.7 per cent target and to untied aid. The challenges the world faces are changing and by working across government we can make use of a greater range of skills and expertise to deliver on our development goals. All UK official development assistance (ODA) spend meets the international ODA rules and DFID experts provide advice to the cross-government funds and departments to ensure this criteria is understood and met.
As the Spending Review approaches, the Government remains committed to improving the lives of the world's poorest and marginalised, and Ministers continue to work to ensure all UK aid spending meets the highest standards of efficiency and transparency.


29 JAN 2019

Assisted Dying

Thank you for taking the time to email me about assisted dying.

I will continue to listen to views on both sides of this debate, however there is currently no legislation on this topic being taken through the Commons.


29 JAN 2019

Health and Social Care Committee and Long Term Plan

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the questioning of the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, on the NHS Long Term Plan by the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which I chair.

You can now view the entire session here

In addition, the committee is currently holding an inquiry in to The Budget and The NHS Long Term Plan and you can find out more about this here.


28 JAN 2019

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)

I welcome ME Awareness Week, and I hope it helps more people understand this condition, which can be so frustrating and distressing for many. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

There is currently no cure for ME/CFS, there are treatments that may help to ease symptoms, although no one form of treatment may suit every patient. Patients should be involved in decision-making throughout every stage of their care. Furthermore, patients should be offered information about local and national self-help groups and support groups for people with ME/CFS and their carers. The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research welcome high quality applications for research into all aspects of ME/CFS. ME/CFS research is a current MRC priority area and so far over £2 million has been invested into this research area.
The majority of services for people with ME/CFS are the responsibility of local clinical commissioning groups. To assist diagnosis, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produced clinical guidance on the diagnosis, treatment care and support of children and adults with ME/CFS.
NICE is currently reviewing these guidelines. This process will require thorough and careful consideration, and NICE expect to publish new guidelines on ME/CFS in 2020. These new guidelines will take into account patients' concerns about the PACE trials and the effectiveness of some existing recommendations.


20 JAN 2019

Brexit and Confidence

I voted against the PM's Brexit deal on Tuesday not only because of concerns about the Withdrawal Agreement itself but because the accompanying political declaration on the Future Framework delivered nothing but uncertainty and the prospect of years of wrangling to come. The scale of the government defeat has made it absolutely clear that this deal cannot pass the House of Commons. It is not just a matter of a few tweaks, the Deal fundamentally pleased neither remainers nor the majority of those who had campaigned for leave.

Far from being the easiest deal in history, the reality was always going to be that compromises and trade offs would be necessary during negotiations. Brexit reality is very far from the sunlit uplands promised during the campaign.

Parliament has reached a complete impasse and I do not believe there will be a majority for any of the alternative proposals and least of all for leaving with no deal at all. In the meantime the days are counting down to March 29th and we risk falling into a chaotic No Deal Brexit unless an alternative is in place. No responsible government could knowingly and deliberately allow that to happen given the serious real world harm to individuals, communities and our economy. The term 'clean Brexit' is a misnomer, it would leave a great deal of avoidable misery for too many of our fellow citizens. No doubt the comfortably off leaders of the Leave campaign would be fine but the economic fallout would hit the poorest the hardest. It has taken a decade to recover from the effects of the 2008 crash and that involved many tough choices about government spending. I want to see an end to austerity, not see us deliberately crashing out with no deal and putting that recovery in jeopardy.

I believe that the only alternative way out of this mess will be to seek an extension of Article 50 and a People's Vote.

My feeling is that a People's Vote should at least include the only negotiated deal as well as an option to remain. I know many people would also like to see No Deal included. The Electoral Commission would advise and Parliament would debate and decide on the question if a decision was made to go ahead with a Referendum Bill. The following report from the Constitution Unit at University College London on the mechanics of a referendum sets out the mechanics of organising a referendum and how this could be achieved in far less than a year https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/sites/constitution-unit/files/the_mechanics_of_a_further_referendum_on_brexit_-_constitution_unit_report_183_revised.pdf

Due to a recent amendment which I supported, the PM must now announce her next steps on Monday, rather than having 21 days as she would otherwise have been able to do. Reports are that the government is now in listening mode but I struggle to see any changes to the Deal that would unite enough backbenchers and secondly be approved by the EU to see it succeed. Others a pushing for a Norway Style deal which would allow us to continue membership of the Single Market, alongside a customs arrangement. This would be the softest type of Brexit and whilst far less economically damaging than No Deal, would again run into the problem of pleasing neither remainers nor leavers. It is likely that many leave campaigners would find it even less acceptable than the PM's Deal given that so called 'Norway plus' would prevent an independent trade policy and see the continuation of free movement of people.

I think it is unlikely that the Commons will agree a compromise that the majority of MPs can support and I would only agree to back Norway Plus if the public were also given the opportunity to weigh up its risks and benefits and have the final say.

For further information on this you may like to read my recent blogs and contributions in Parliament and you can do so via the following links:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah's-blog/

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches

I realise that Brexit remains a highly contentious issue and I hear passionate views from both sides of the argument.

I did support the government in the confidence vote on Wednesday and I do not think this lies in contradiction with my vote against the Brexit deal the day before. A general election will not resolve the single most contentious issue before us.

I believe that a People's vote would allow us to move forward together with confidence that the nation had given its consent based on the facts and Brexit reality rather than unrealistic promises. It is now over two years since the original referendum, longer than the period between our two most recent general elections and it is nonsense fo some to suggest it is somehow anti democratic to allow people to change their minds and express a democratic opinion. I fully accept that the result could be the same but it would at least be a settled decision based on all the facts and we could finally move forward together rather than tearing ourselves apart.


17 JAN 2019

Immigration and the NHS

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

I understand the concerns about how Brexit may impact the NHS and have spoken about this often. EEA nationals also play an increasingly important role in social care, where the numbers employed grew by 68 per cent, or 30,600 people, between 2011 and 2016.

It is likely that there will be provision for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, albeit at extra cost and bureaucracy, if the government—as it has indicated—follows the guidance of the Migration Advisory Committee. But the effect on the social care workforce and those who rely on them for care will be particularly significant because of the salary threshold of £30,000.

Just over 5% of the regulated nursing profession, 16% of dentists, 5% of allied health professionals, and around 9% of doctors are from elsewhere within the EEA. We cannot afford to lose or further demoralise those who have given so much to our health service. That so many colleagues now feel unwelcome, as a result of the divisive and xenophobic rhetoric of the last campaign, shames us all.

Thank you for getting in touch and I will be continuing to push for a People's Vote.


16 JAN 2019

Faith Schools

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

I understand why many parents want to have the choice to apply to faith schools and support that choice being available but no child in my view should ever be excluded simply because their parents are of the 'wrong' faith or none.

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.


15 JAN 2019

Trafficked Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about providing support for trafficked children.

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

The Government is committed to tackling every form of modern slavery, including human trafficking. The Government has secured commitment from other governments and institutions, including the UN, the Commonwealth and the EU, to tackle modern slavery, and has successfully lobbied for the establishment of the first ever UN Sustainable Development Goal to end modern slavery. It is also working bilaterally with priority countries to deepen law enforcement cooperation.
The Prime Minister has announced a new taskforce to accelerate progress on tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. At the same time £33.5 million of development assistance funding was also pledged to tackle slavery in countries from where we know victims are regularly trafficked to the UK.
In July 2018, the Home Office announced a review of the Modern Slavery Act, which will incorporate the section on Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs), as you have outlined. This review will be published in spring 2019 and will inform the adoption of any additional methods to protect and support trafficked children. The independent review team has consulted with expert advisers in child trafficking including Professor Ravi Kohli, a Professor of Child Welfare and a qualified social worker. Professor Kohli is responsible for gathering evidence from Child Trafficking interest groups.

If you would like more information on this process you can contact the secretariat by emailing info@modernslaveryactreview.independent.gov.uk

I will monitor the progress of this independent review closely.


15 JAN 2019

Child Refugees

Thank you for taking the time to email me about section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, otherwise known as the Dubs Amendment.

I understand your concern about child refugees and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The Government has approached the implementation of section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the Dubs amendment) in such a way that best protects vulnerable unaccompanied children.
The Government consulted with local authorities to determine the number of unaccompanied children who could be relocated to the UK and supported by local authorities under section 67 in addition to the over 4,500 unaccompanied children already in the care of local authorities across the UK. This exercise was essential for ensuring that the children would receive the support required upon arrival in the UK. Following the consultation, the Government concluded that there was capacity for 480 unaccompanied child refugees to be transferred to the UK through section 67. On 3 October the Court of Appeal confirmed that the consultation to determine the specified number of children to be relocated was lawful. UK authorities have worked closely with their French, Greek and Italian counterparts to ensure the smooth transfer of eligible children.
The Government has also introduced an additional provision called 'Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 leave'. This allows unaccompanied children who are relocated to the UK under section 67 but who do not qualify for international protection to remain in the UK long-term.
Broadening the scheme will help speed up transfers and allow other states to identify children for transfer as soon as possible. The Home Office continues to work with local authorities to ensure children are placed as quickly as possible and in a location where their needs are met.
The Home Office has also taken note of the Court of Appeal ruling's criticism of the way in which decisions were communicated to children who were refused relocation from Calais to the UK under Section 67 and is consulting with its legal team.
The UK Government is also committed to allowing refugees to apply for their partners and / or children to join them in the UK if they were separated when forced to leave their country of origin.


10 JAN 2019

NHS Long Term Plan

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the NHS Long Term Plan.

I welcome the NHS Long Term Plan, which is wide ranging and ambitious. It rightly celebrates the successes of the NHS but is realistic about the scale of the challenge to meet relentlessly rising demand and to improve services. It acknowledges the pressure on staff as a result of the workforce shortfall and the urgent need to upgrade facilities including digital resources.

It is one of the greatest triumphs of our age that we are living longer but more of us are living with complex and long term conditions and there are widening inequalities in the degree to which both young and old are living in poorer health. There also remains an unacceptable variation in outcomes and experiences for patients from one area to the next even where that cannot be accounted for by resources or local challenges.

The Plan sets a number of priorities such as making sure that a greater share of NHS resource goes to mental health, especially for children and young people as well as to GP and wider community services. It lays out a number of proposed improvements to major areas such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease as well as a welcome focus on children and young people.

I'm glad to see the Plan accept the recommendations of the Health and Social Care Committee on closer joined up working across the NHS. Not only to bring truly integrated services with social care but to break down unnecessary barriers between GPs and hospitals, and between mental and physical health. Some of these artificial barriers could be better cleared if there were changes to legislation, including to help reduce wasteful and bureaucratic competitive procurement rounds and to allow a greater priority for joint cooperative working rather than competition. The HSCC recommended that any legislative proposals should be designed by and come from those working in and alongside the NHS, rather than as top down proposals from government.

The success of the Plan will depend on having the NHS and Social Care workforce to deliver it and much will also depend on the Spending Review settlement ahead. The 3.4% average annual uplift for NHS England over the next 5 years does not include the public health grants which are central to prevention of ill health and reducing inequality, grants which this year are continuing to fall. Nor does the NHS settlement include the crucial funding for Health Education England which covers education, training and professional development.

The Plan also makes clear that it cannot deliver without a stable and realistic long term settlement for social care. The government's Social Care Green Paper is expected within weeks and it is not possible to fully assess the NHS Long Term Plan without also seeing the long term proposals, including the financial settlement, for social care.

Likewise for capital funding, which is also due to be announced in the Spending Review later this year, because this will underpin new facilities, technology and equipment as well as tackle a worrying maintenance backlog.

The Plan proposes to fund evidence-based NHS prevention programmes, including to cut smoking; to reduce obesity, doubling enrolment in the successful Type 2 NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme; to limit alcohol-related A&E admissions; and for the NHS to contribute to lowering air pollution for example. But for these to be successful there will also need to be cross government action with a willingness to be prepared to look at tackling health inequality and prevention in all areas of policy as these big issues cannot be properly tackled in isolation by the NHS.

In many ways the Plan mirrors themes and priorities that were also set out in the last long term plan, the 5 Year Forward View, many of which remain unfinished business. The last plan was undermined by the cuts to social care, public health, capital and training budgets and it is important not to see this repeated. It is also important to recognise the many important changes that did get underway and a number of successful pilots are highlighted as pointing the way ahead for what delivers better and more joined up health and care for patients. This new plan will be trying to make sure that the best care is delivered everywhere rather than as scattered examples of best practice and that Integrated Care Systems make sure that all parts of the wider health system are working together more effectively.

My view is that there will need to be access to the up-front resources to transform services in the same way as is often available to pilot projects for them to succeed, and to cover the double running costs that make sure that new facilities are in place before old services are dismantled. It is also important to allow time for changes to demonstrate an effect. In the short term new ways of working may even appear to increase costs but if in the longer term they help to prevent conditions worsening and reduce the need for more expensive treatments down the line that is in the best interests of individuals as well as reducing long term demand.

It is easy to end up talking about systems but all those tasked with delivering this ambitious Plan must above all keep the needs of patients, families and communities at the heart of everything they do.


03 JAN 2019

UK Aid and Palestine

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Palestinian curriculum and UK aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is reassuring:

The Government strongly condemns all forms of violence and incitement to violence. Both the PA and the Government of Israel need to prepare their populations for peaceful coexistence, including by promoting a more positive portrayal of each other. The Government shares your deep concern about the textbook content revealed in the IMPACT-SE report into the PA's new curriculum. A thorough UK review of textbook content will be carried out this year, and the PA has agreed to take account of its findings.
The Government has also been very clear that the UK does not fund Palestinian terrorism and Palestinian terrorists do not receive UK aid money. Our support for the PA is only used to pay the salaries of health and education public sector workers on a vetted list. This enables the delivery basic services and helps around 25,000 young Palestinians go to school each year. The vetting process covers a large number of different risk categories including terrorism financing, and checks that all UK funds reach the intended beneficiaries.
The UK continues to support a two-state solution that would see a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. By building strong institutions to help create a Palestinian government, as well as continuing to help them to educate a generation of young people and provide vital health services, our support for the PA is essential for promoting stability and reducing poverty.


20 DEC 2018

Childrens Services

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

I appreciate your interest in this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is reassuring:

Local authorities receive funding through local taxes, fees and charges, as well as from central government. They make decisions on spending for social care for children and young people based on their local needs and priorities. Councils will receive more than £200 billion for local services, including children's social care up to 2020. This forms part of a historic four-year settlement which means councils can plan ahead with certainty.
There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of children. Many councils are already doing excellent work, but too many young people and their families are being let down by poor quality services. It is clear that decisive action must be taken where performance is not good enough.
Ensuring children get the best possible support is a top priority for the Department for Education and the investment of £200 million through the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme is encouraging. This provides councils and the voluntary and community sector with funding and support to develop new and better ways of delivering services. £20 million of investment has been announced for an improvement programme for children's social care services, with a sharp focus on making sure that those at risk of failing can make vital improvements. As well as this, the Budget announced that over the next five years £84 million of social care funding will go to expanding children's social care programmes to 20 further councils with rising numbers of children in care.


18 DEC 2018

Dementia Care

Thank you for taking the time to email me about dementia care.

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

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and I know that the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
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. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
It is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia, which is why the Government has doubled research spending on dementia and remains committed to maintaining the current expenditure on dementia research of at least £60 million a year through to 2020. Over £83 million was spent on dementia research by the Government in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, well in excess of the £60 million target.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. Furthermore, the Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper this year, which will outline a new social care policy, which is financially sustainable, accessible, and properly integrated with the NHS. To this end, the establishment of the Department of Health and Social Care this year is encouraging, which will oversee the intelligent integration of health and social care, which I believe will be vitally important with Alzheimer's, on which so much important research is undertaken in the NHS.


17 DEC 2018

Proportional Representation

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Proportional Representation.

I have noted your support for this and the government position on this topic is as below:

First Past the Post ensures stability and clear governance, preventing disproportionate influence by minority parties with minimal public support, who typically end up holding the balance of power in PR systems.
The British people were clear on this matter in 2011. The system is clearly well established and understood by voters, and also provides a very clear link between constituents and their representatives in Parliament.
More often than not, FPTP results in a Government with a working majority in Parliament, making decisive government possible. It allows the formation of a clear opposition that can provide an alternative to, and a check on, the Government of the day. The Government therefore has no plans to change the voting system for elections to the House of Commons.


17 DEC 2018

Universal Credit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Universal Credit (UC) and poverty in the UK.

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

The best route out of poverty is work, which is being supported through welfare reform. Over 3.3 million jobs have been created in the UK since 2010, of which three quarters are permanent, full time and in higher level occupations. There are now 637,000 fewer children growing up in workless households since 2010, a record low. With this Government's changes, household incomes have never been higher, income inequality has fallen, and there are now one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010.
The UK is spending £54 billion this year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions, a record high and up more than £7 billion since 2010. Disabled people should have every opportunity to thrive in the workplace, and it is really encouraging that 973,000 more disabled people have entered work in the last five years.
Universal Credit (UC) is supporting people into work faster, but the Government is listening to feedback and has made numerous improvements to the system. This includes ensuring 2.4 million households will be up to £630 better off a year as a result of raising the work allowance, and providing 1.1 million claimants on income-Jobseekers' Allowance, income-Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support Housing Benefit claimants with an additional payment providing a fortnight's worth of support during their transition to UC.


17 DEC 2018

Ancient Woods

Thank you for taking the time to email me about protections for ancient woods and the proposals for an M4 corridor around Newport.

I understand your concern on this matter and the following is the government's position:

Ministers in the Welsh Government have said they will not push ahead with the plans unless they get the Assembly's approval in a Senedd vote - something that has been delayed with the change of First Minister.
Extending the M4 is considered to be a vital project and has been a longstanding manifesto commitment of the Welsh Government. The M4's strategic position offers the potential to unlock new business opportunities for South Wales, and the abolition of tolls on the Severn Bridge is likely to lead to an increase in traffic on the M4 at Newport. At the 2018 Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced that the next Spending Review will consider increasing the Welsh Government's borrowing cap for this project by £300 million.


17 DEC 2018

Pancreatic Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about pancreatic cancer treatment timelines.

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

We all know someone close to us who has been affected by cancer. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is a common form of cancer with a higher mortality rate than others. Tackling this is a top priority for the Government.
Ministers have discussed work being done in Birmingham to establish a 'fast-track pathway', which sees a dedicated specialist nurse prepare a patient to receive surgery within 16 days of referral. The results of this pilot scheme are being examined by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
In February 2017, Public Health England launched 'Be Clear on Cancer', a campaign targeted at identifying symptoms of pancreatic cancer earlier - early diagnosis is key to improving outcomes. This regional pilot included symptoms like persistent diarrhoea, bloating and discomfort. More than 90 per cent of the target audience reported that the campaign made them realise these symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. More than 80 per cent reported they were more likely to visit a GP as a result.
In October 2018, the Prime Minister launched a new Cancer Strategy, outlining aims for tackling cancer. These priorities include lowering the screening age for bowel cancer, facilitating earlier detection, and establishing a cervical cancer screening programme.


17 DEC 2018

EDM 1854

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 1854.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1854, 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 Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

President-elect Bolsonaro received a mandate from the Brazilian people. It is not for the UK Government to interfere in the democratic processes of another country.
However, the Government is committed to tackling all forms of extremism, including extremism with a far-right influence. It will continue to raise concerns as part of our bilateral agreements with international partners and explore opportunities to work together to address the wide spectrum of risks associated with extremism. The UK Government will endeavour to work with the incoming Brazilian Administration while making these concerns clear.
The UK Government view on racism, homophobia and misogyny is clear-it would never be acceptable. The UK is also the strongest champion of human rights on the international stage. It is right that we do not shy away from expressing that view where we disagree with other Governments, even where they are close allies.
Standing up for human rights is part of the Government's strategy for creating a more secure and prosperous world. The UK regularly funds human rights projects around the world through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy. This year £11.1 million of funding was allocated, supporting over 100 human rights projects, human rights defenders and civil society organisations. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also highlights human rights abuses in its Annual Human Rights Report.


17 DEC 2018

Nurses

Thank you for taking the time to email me about reforms to the health education system and the effect on nurses.

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

While there are over 13,000 more nurses on wards since 2010, more remains to be done to boost the training of nurses in the NHS. Nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (AHPs) are absolutely essential to our NHS, and everybody with the qualifications and commitment to undertake these degrees should have the chance to do so.
The previous system of NHS-funded bursaries had the cost of training nurses, midwives and AHPs largely borne by the NHS. This led, in effect, to an artificial cap on the numbers in training, limited to only those numbers needed as a minimum to meet NHS workforce requirements in line with Health Education England's annual workforce plan. Under the bursary system, over 30,000 people who applied to be a nurse were rejected.
In order to deliver more nurses and health professionals for the NHS, a better funding system for health students and a more sustainable model for universities, it was necessary to move health students' grants and bursaries onto the standard student support system, in line with all other degrees. This change came into force in August 2017.
The Government recognises that nursing students in particular often have unique circumstances. Following a consultation on these reforms, the Government will look to provide extra funding to help cover additional expenses like travel and more support for students with children. Ministers will work with the Royal College of Nursing, hospitals and other partners in taking this forward.
After lengthy public consultation, it was decided to maintain a limited number of postgraduate bursaries for the 2017 to 2018 academic year, with all postgraduate courses coming into line with the wider funding model from September 2018. Before reforms to the funding model for postgraduates, just 2,500 students successfully entered postgraduate routes to nursing, midwifery and AHPs, compared to 28,000 undergraduates. The new model will help to drive up the number of nurses coming from postgraduate routes.


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