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 MAY 2018

Iran Nuclear Deal and EDM 1251

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Iran Nuclear deal and EDM 1251.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 1251, 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 They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a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 of interest:

The Iran Nuclear deal is the product of 13 years of tireless diplomacy, and it is working, with Iran having reduced its stock of enriched uranium by 95 per cent. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed nine times that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, most recently in February.
The IAEA inspection regime agreed as part of the deal is one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords. It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that the deal is working and that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.
The Foreign Secretary has been clear that the UK Government did its utmost to prevent this course of action by the US. From the moment that President Trump's Administration took office, the UK made the case for keeping the Iran deal at every level.
The UK Government is working hard to maintain the deal following the 8 May announcement of US withdrawal.


21 MAY 2018

Tenant Fees Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Tenant Fees Bill.

I understand your concern about 'default' fees and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is of interest:

This Bill, which will abolish letting agent fees for renters, cap tenancy deposits, and save tenants between £25 and £70 per year, is "welcome news for private renters". On the particular issue of default fees, these concerns are unfounded.
Default fees are payments required from tenants in the event of a default by the tenant, for example, a late payment or a lost key. While the Bill protects the rights of landlords and agents to charge default fees, it is also clear that these fees must not exceed the loss suffered by the landlord as a result of the default.
Where a landlord or agent charges a default fee in excess of the loss suffered by that default, local authorities will be able to subject them to a fine of up to £5,000. Repeated breaches of this protection for renters will be considered a criminal offence, with penalties including even higher fines and a ban from acting as a landlord or agent for at least one year.
That said, with regard to the cross-party Select Committee, which provided pre-legislative scrutiny for the Bill, clear guidance needs to be provided on what type of fee, and how much, constitutes a reasonable default fee. As such, the Government has committed to produce guidance regarding the legislation, including on what constitutes a reasonable default fee.
The Bill will make renting fairer and more affordable for tenants by reducing the costs at the outset of a tenancy, as well as improving transparency and competition in the private rental market.


21 MAY 2018

NHS Funding

Thank you for writing to me to support a long term and ambitious uplift to funding of the NHS.

I feel that this should take a whole system approach to the NHS, social care and public health and assure you that this remains central to my work as your MP.


18 MAY 2018

EEA

Thank you for writing to me about the EEA.

I have long supported this as an option following Brexit and have made this clear to colleagues in Government. I feel that a no-deal walkaway Brexit would be harmful to our economy and I would personally like to see us opt to be part of EEA / EFTA alongside an effective customs arrangement that ensures as frictionless a border as possible.

This would also allow us, like Norway, to regain control over our coastal waters.


18 MAY 2018

Nuclear

Thank you for taking the time to email me about nuclear power and the proposed nuclear power station in Wales.

I understand your concerns on this matter, however I do think that nuclear power should remain part of our energy mix. I am also supportive of the renewable energy sector and would personally like to see more investment in tidal power in a region like the South West.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of interest:

The Government has been working closely with the developer, Horizon Nuclear Power, which is owned by Hitachi, on their proposals for building a new nuclear plant at the Wylfa site on the Isle of Anglesey. Ministers are still in discussions with the developer on their financing plans, but cannot discuss the details publicly as they are commercially confidential.

While nuclear power remains a crucial part of the UK's energy future, the Government has always been clear that this must be delivered at the right price for consumers and taxpayers. This principle runs through all engagement with any new-build developers.

Ultimately, nuclear power will play a vital part in the long-term energy mix of the UK. It provides a low-carbon, home-grown source of electricity, that will power millions of homes and businesses for decades to come. It is vital that we build an energy infrastructure that is not only clean, but also reliable, in order to secure our energy future.

Of course, the Government remains committed to a long-term, low-carbon future in all areas of electricity generation. Government support has driven down the cost of renewables and electricity capacity in the UK has quadrupled since 2010. The UK now has enough solar to power almost 2.7 million homes and is the most attractive market in the world for investment in offshore wind.


17 MAY 2018

ME Awareness Week and EDM 1247

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about EDM 1247 and ME Awareness Week.

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

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

While 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.
Research into this area is vital. 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.
You may be interested to know that 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.


16 MAY 2018

Levenson

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the 'Leveson' amendments to the Data Protection Bill.

I am afraid I was absent for the vote as I had a long standing commitment to chair a select committee visit to Amsterdam. Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this matter from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

The proposed amendments to the Data Protection Bill would have threatened the free press by trying to introduce Section 40 and reopen the Leveson inquiry, albeit in relation to data protection. This would undermine high quality journalism, and have a significant negative impact on local press, which is already struggling. The amendments were contrary to the 2017 Conservative Manifesto. The Manifesto stated that we would not be proceeding with Leveson 2 and would repeal Section 40.
The Government wants to ensure the press is well-regulated with high standards, albeit with their freedom protected. Tough new data protection laws will apply to journalists from 25 May. The Bill protects the confidentiality of sources and supports well run investigative journalism, but does not give journalists a free hand. Journalists must secure the information they hold, must assess risk when processing data, and must notify the Information Commissioner of any serious data breaches. A new Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) code of practice for journalists will set clear data protection expectations and the ICO will conduct a statutory review of media compliance with the new law over the next four years. If the media has not changed its ways and abuses the trust Parliament is placing in it, then this review will expose that.
After conducting a thorough consultation on the Leveson inquiry, the Government determined that that reopening the Leveson Inquiry is not in the public interest, and that Section 40 is no longer necessary.


16 MAY 2018

Mental Health Act

Thank you for writing to me about the Mental Health Act.

I should start by declaring a personal interest as my husband is Registrar of the Royal College of

Psychiatrists and involved in the review.

I do not sign any EDMs however worthy the cause as they have no impact on policy making but I assure you that I will be taking a close interest as Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee in the final recommendations and how they are implemented.

The Committee has recently published a response to the green paper on mental health and education which you can view here: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/transforming-young-peoples-mental-health-provision-inquiry-17-19/


15 MAY 2018

Refugee Children

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about refugee children and Lord Dubs amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

I understand your concern on this matter and I know the government position on the amendment is as below:

"The Government have been clear that when we leave the EU we will seek to maintain a close and effective arrangement, including practical co-operation with the EU and the member states on illegal migration and asylum. Combating illegal migration and having efficient and effective asylum systems will continue to be a priority on which we will work closely with our EU partners. As part of that arrangement, and subject to the negotiations, the UK will seek to agree with the EU a series of measures to enable unaccompanied children in the EU to join close family members in the UK or another EU member state, ​whichever is in their best interests. However, it is important to remember that any such agreement will require agreement and implementation by individual member states. After the outcome of the negotiations is known, we will bring forward the appropriate legislation as necessary."

You can view the full exchange here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-04-30/debates/8EB87728-0FFE-47BB-A2CA-26C1498F1548/EuropeanUnion(Withdrawal)Bill#contribution-D83C662A-EBB4-43DA-9E72-E40FDD8F37D0

In addition, I hope the following information on this matter from the Home Office is reassuring:

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. The UK has granted asylum or another form of leave to over 9,000 children in the past year, and over 42,000 since 2010.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 480 children, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France. It does not however include children transferred to UK where they have close family here.
The Dubs amendment was never meant to be an open ended scheme. The legislation obliged the Government to consult local authorities on their capacity to care for and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at this number. Local authorities informed the Government that they had capacity for around 530 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children until the end of this financial year. Similarly the Government estimated that at least 50 of the family reunion cases transferred from France as part of the Calais clearance will require a local authority placement in cases where the family reunion does not work out.
The UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to meet its obligations under the Dublin regulation and accept responsibility for processing asylum claims where the UK is determined to be the responsible member state, ensuring that it is in their best interests to come here. But if the Dubs scheme is continued indefinitely the Government would be creating a semi-permanent scheme that would create an additional pull factor that will lead to more children taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and put more children in the hands of unscrupulous people traffickers.


15 MAY 2018

Childline

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Childline and the provision of mental health services for young people.

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

It is incredibly important to protect the health of children and young people in our society.
Approximately 10 per cent of 5 to 16 year olds have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. Between 2015 and 2020, an additional £1.4 billion is being invested to transform children and young people's mental health; this money will support clinical commissioning groups and various national programmes, including improving crisis support and expanding the workforce.
The Children and Young People's Mental Health Green Paper is a joint enterprise by the departments for health and education, which sets out ambitious proposals to improve mental health services for children and young people, together with over £300 million of funding. This will incentivise and support schools and colleges to train designated leaders for their pupils' mental health, and introduce new mental health teams, both of which will ease pressure on NHS mental health services.
The Future in Mind report is being implemented to expand access to counselling in schools. This will see all areas in England draw up plans for the greater integration between mental health specialists, GPs and schools. Recent data suggest that 62 per cent of schools offer counselling services.
There is a continued commitment of £2 million a year to the NSPCC to assist with the running of Childline. Those growing up in Britain today experience a range of ongoing pressures and risks in a changing World, and Childline provides them with a safe, supportive and confidential space that empowers them to improve their wellbeing. Over the years, more than 4.5 million children and young people have sought Childline's help and last year more than 295,000 counselling sessions were provided to children and young people.


14 MAY 2018

Cancer and Young People

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Personal Independence Payments and young people with cancer.

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

Cancer can affect all areas of a person's life, including finances. 83 per cent of people say they are financially impacted by cancer. It is a long standing principle of disability support that it is payable after a person satisfies the disability eligibility conditions for three months. This is to ensure that PIP supports those with long term disabilities which fall under the definition used in the Equality Act 2010. Before it was replaced by PIP, Disability Living Allowance also had this rule. It affects all claimants, not just young people, and there are exceptions such as in the case of terminal cancer.
People over the age of 16 who are unable to work due to an illness or disability can claim Employment and Support Allowance which has both contributory and an income-related strands. For cancer sufferers, a light touch evidence gathering process exists, to help determine eligibility. There is also a presumption that claimants receiving or recovering from cancer treatment will be placed in the Support Group.
More broadly, the Government spends over £50 billion a year supporting people with disabilities and health conditions, more than ever before; this is around 2.5 per cent of GDP and over 6 per cent of all Government spending.


14 MAY 2018

Carers Allowance

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the fact that you cannot usually get Carer's Allowance if you receive the State Pension.

I understand your concern on this matter and the Health Select Committee, which I chair, is currently looking at the whole issue of funding for social care and that will include looking at the German system where family carers can receive extra benefits for care provided at home.


14 MAY 2018

Supporting Pubs and EDM 1233

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supporting pubs and the related EDM number 1233.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1233, 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 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, including pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. There are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.
The £3.6 million 'More than a Pub: The Community Business Support Programme', launched in March 2016, is helping to support communities across England to own their local pub. On top of this, the Government continues to support the work of the Pub is The Hub initiative to help landlords diversify and provide essential services, such as village shops and post offices, in order to improve the sustainability of their pub.
To further support pubs, the Chancellor's announced in the Autumn Budget 2017 a freeze on all alcohol duties for 2018. The Spring Budget 2017 also provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 - 90 per cent of pubs in England - and this was extended in the Autumn Budget for a further year, through to March 2019.


14 MAY 2018

Social Care

Thank you for contacting me about the campaign from Independent Age about the importance of social care.

You may be interested to follow the inquiry that I am chairing jointly with Clive Betts MP of both the Health and Social Care Committee and the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee in Parliament that is looking specifically at what should be in the Green Paper: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/long-term-funding-of-adult-social-care-17-19/

We have received a huge volume of evidence both in person and in writing including correspondence and we are also meeting with people using services and using a citizen's assembly to examine views about many of the options for improving funding and services. I hope to publish our report into this really important issue next month.

In the meantime I have been also pressing the government for an early resolution to the pressing issue of back pay sleep in shifts: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/health-and-social-care-access-to-social-care/2689


11 MAY 2018

ONE Campaign

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the ONE campaign and the Anti Money Laundering Bill.

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

The UK was the first G20 country to establish its own public register of company beneficial ownership and has committed to creating a new beneficial ownership register for overseas companies. At EU level, the UK went beyond the requirements of the fourth anti-money laundering directive in establishing a public register and supported the inclusion in the fifth anti-money laundering directive of a provision that will require all EU member states to have legislation in place to support publicly accessible registers by the end of 2019.
While it is true that the UK has power to legislate for the Overseas Territories, the Government only exercises these powers to legislate without their consent as a matter of last resort. It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that legislation is made for or on behalf of these jurisdictions without their consent.
The Government has recognised the strength of feeling on this issue and did not oppose the amendment. The Government has given assurances to the overseas territories that it will work very closely with them in shaping and implementing the legislation and any legal and logistical support they may need.


11 MAY 2018

Breast Cancer

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

I agree it is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

In 2015, Public Health England launched Be Clear on Cancer, a national scheme which has significantly improved awareness of breast cancer in women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of breast cancer. This has contributed to improved diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. There is significant variation in breast cancer survival rates across different regions and demographics. Public health campaigns like Be Clear on Cancer can make a significant difference when it comes to raising awareness and understanding cancer and its early symptoms throughout the whole country.
Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of cancer, promote healthy lifestyles, and boost funding into tackling this disease.
Ministers are making great efforts to improve cancer services, and ensure that the NHS provides some of the world's best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020 It is working closely with Health Education England and Macmillan Cancer Support to understand the best ways developing and implementing cancer services by the same date.
These developments will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care. The NHS is implementing the independent Cancer Taskforce's recommendation that all breast cancer patients shall receive access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or other key workers. This will enable greater detection of any recurrence or secondary breast cancer, and enable a quick and effective return to care.
This is part of the NHS's ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes, and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020. Great progress is being made. In 2017, there were 21 million diagnostic tests for cancer, and nearly 2 million people were seen by a specialist for suspected cancer, double the amount in 2010.


08 MAY 2018

Fur Trade

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

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

The importation of fur products is tightly regulated. It is illegal to import furs derived from cats or dogs, or products made from them; in addition the fur and skin of endangered animals or fish cannot be imported without a valid permit.
Meanwhile, under European legislation it is prohibited to import furs or fur products from 13 wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught in the wild by leg-hold traps, or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping. Strict rules are in also place in the European Union to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely.
Once the UK has withdrawn from the EU it will be for the Government to consider future policies, taking into account the outcome of exit negotiations.


08 MAY 2018

Circus Animals

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about wild animals in circuses.

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

The Government remains committed to introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses.
Currently, a ban would impact on two travelling circuses in England that continue to operate. Conditions of the remaining wild animals at both circuses are closely monitored under Defra's interim Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012, through regular announced and unannounced welfare inspections.
These regulations expire on 19 January 2020. The Government does not plan to renew them because it intends to ensure that a legislative ban is introduced by then. The Regulations will then be allowed to expire.


08 MAY 2018

Postgraduate Nursing Bursaries

Thank you for writing to me about postgraduate nurse bursaries.

This issue was covered by the Health and Social Care Select Committee report into the nursing workforce and I have raised my concerns with the minister about the issue of postgraduate training and in particular the impact on shortage specialities within nursing: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/inquiry/


03 MAY 2018

People at the Heart of Planning

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

I have already met with TotSoc and other campaign and local neighbourhood planning groups to discuss the importance of preserving as much of our natural environment as possible whilst recognising that we do not have enough affordable homes for people to live in, including in this part of the country.

For my part I will be making direct representations based on views shared with me that we need to make sure the NPPF recognises the precious environments of AONBs and National Parks and the way that areas like the South Hams are so adversely impacted by second home ownership and the lack of genuinely affordable housing. One size does not fit all.

I understand your concern about AONBs and as you may know a consultation is currently running on the draft NPPF and I strongly recommend you share your views. You can view the consultation via the following and it closes on the 10th of May:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-revised-national-planning-policy-framework

In addition, I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is of interest:

The proposed revisions to the NPPF, which the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has publicly "welcomed", address concerns about planning policy. The revised NPPF gives further clarification to the existing strong protections for the Green Belt. It sets out the steps which a local planning authority must take before concluding that "exceptional circumstances" exist to allow boundaries of the Green Belt to be altered. The revised NPPF reaffirms protections for areas of outstanding national beauty and national parks.
The draft NPPF will also introduce a new standardised approach to assessing housing need which help to ensure that new homes are delivered in areas of high demand. The revised NPPF sets out the need to prioritise the use of brownfield land and the importance of delivering more affordable housing. Furthermore, like the CPRE, the draft NPPF "clarifies the primacy of local and neighbourhood plan policies in determining planning applications".
The reforms to planning outlined in the draft NPPF will help address the housing crisis, building on the progress which the Government has already made, including delivering more than 1.1 million homes since 2010.


03 MAY 2018

Caging of Pheasants and Partridges

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the caging of pheasants and partridges and EDM 967.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 967, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The Government is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, so the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already makes it clear that gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering.
A Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes was drawn up based on research carried out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, advised by a working group that included animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. Stock-keepers who fail to follow it could be found to have committed an offence. The Code specifies that these birds must:
1. have an environment appropriate to their species, age and the purpose for which they are being kept, including adequate heating, lighting, shelter, ventilation and resting areas;
2. have ready access to fresh water and an appropriate diet to maintain growth, health and vigour;
3. be provided with appropriate space and facilities to ensure the avoidance of stress and to allow the exhibition of normal behaviour patterns;
4. be provided with company of their own kind as appropriate for the species concerned; and

5. be adequately protected from pain, suffering, injury, or disease. Should any of these occur a rapid response is required, including diagnosis, remedial action and, where applicable, the correct use of medication.

The full Code can be found at www.gov.uk by searching on the term 'Gamebirds'.
These rules are enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Agency and local authorities, which carry out routine welfare inspections and investigates complaints; prosecutions can be brought where necessary.


03 MAY 2018

Human Trafficking

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

With regard to the specific case you mention, the UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits. As the appeal is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further.

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

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.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 gives law enforcement agencies the tools they need to tackle this heinous crime, places a duty on large businesses to report on their steps to prevent modern slavery in their global supply chains, and ensures that perpetrators can receive suitably severe sentences of up to life imprisonment.
The Work in Freedom programme is helping to prevent trafficking of girls and women from South Asia, while. The world-leading Transparency in Supply Chains provision in the Modern Slavery Act will also encourage business to eradicate slavery from global supply chains.
This Government is utterly committed to ending modern slavery in its entirety, wherever it is found.


03 MAY 2018

NHS Eye Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS eye care and eye clinics.

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

All follow-up appointments should take place when clinically appropriate. It is for doctors to make decisions on when they see patients, in line with their clinical priority, and patients should not experience undue delay at any stage of their referral, diagnosis or treatment. The appropriate interval for follow up appointments will vary between different services or specialties, and between individual patients, depending on the severity of their condition
To ensure that patients are seen at the appropriate time, NHS England has issued guidance which makes clear that when patients on planned lists are clinically ready for their care to commence and reach the date for their planned appointment, they should either receive that appointment or be transferred to an active waiting list.
It is the responsibility of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to commission hospital eye services and to holding their providers to account in terms of contract performance.
CCGs are also able to commission eye care services from community optometrists where they judge them to be needed in their area. These additional services may reduce pressure on hospital eye departments, reduce waiting times and improve patients' access to care in the community. NHS England is working with the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning to support the development of a range of guidelines for Commissioners on evidence-based clinical pathways for eye health.


03 MAY 2018

Non Proliferation Treaty and EDM 1122

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the 2020 Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the related EDM, number 1122.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1122, 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 of interest:

Britain is widely recognised as the most pro-active of the nuclear weapon states on nuclear disarmament. We have reduced our nuclear forces by over half from the Cold War peak in the late 1970s and recently reduced the number of deployed warheads on each submarine from 48 to 40 and the number of operationally available warheads from fewer than 160 to no more than 120. The UK remains committed to reducing our overall stockpile to no more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s.
The Government will use the second Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to engage with a variety of countries on this important issue. Ministers have said that work will be completed on how to tackle the challenges of non-proliferation and disarmament and how to allow for the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
It is important to build trust and transparency between those states with nuclear weapons, as only under these conditions can nuclear armed states feel confident and satisfied to relinquish their weapons. It is very welcome that the UK Government continues to call for all states to join the NPT as non-Nuclear Weapons States.


02 MAY 2018

Modern Slavery

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

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

Tackling human trafficking and modern slavery is a top priority for this Government, and it is crucial that we provide support for victims of this heinous crime. We already exceed our international obligation in providing support to victims through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the system for identifying and supporting victims. Support services are provided to enable victims to leave situations of exploitation, receive specialist care, and begin to rebuild their lives.
The Government has made clear that it is committed to continually improving support and assistance provided before, during, and after the NRM for victims of modern slavery. That is why in October 2017 a comprehensive package of reforms to the NRM was announced. The reforms include measures to significantly increase the period of 'move on' support for victims from 14 to 45 days, helping to create a smoother transition out of care. This will be in addition to the minimum 45 days of support victims already receive before a final decision is reached, increasing the total period to at least 90 days. Government funded 'places of safety' will be created which will provide up to three days of immediate support to victims rescued out of a situation of exploitation by law enforcement, as well as up to 6 months of 'drop-in' services for confirmed victims transitioning out of the NRM. These reforms will ensure the NRM operates as a bridge that supports victims to leave situations of exploitation and enables them to begin to recover and rebuild their lives.
On the issue of Lord McColl's Victim Support Bill, the Government is grateful for Lord McColl's commitment to ensuring that victims of modern slavery are identified and receive the support they need to begin rebuilding their lives.


02 MAY 2018

Gaza EDM 1163

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about protesters in Gaza and EDM 1163.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1163, 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 of interest:

There are a number of important facts which need to be established urgently, including why live fire was used and what role Hamas played in the violence. Above all, it is important that this violence is not repeated and that all those involved commit to peaceful protest, restraint and observe international law.
There is a pressing need for all parties to reach a wider agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel, that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance, and that Israel lifts its restrictions to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians.
The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers a safe and secure Israel alongside an independent Palestine. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.


02 MAY 2018

Gaming Machines

Thank you for taking the time to email me about fixed odds betting terminals.

I will not be supporting any moves that allow high stakes fixed odds betting terminals to continue to destroy lives. The Treasury needs to look at the long term financial & personal cost of the catastrophic harms to individuals, families and society.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

Fixed odds betting terminals are important to the economic viability of many betting shops, which currently employ around 53,000 people nationally. However, we cannot ignore the evidence that has been presented on the potential impact these types of gaming machines can have on individuals and wider communities.
There has been a shift in attitudes within the industry, with more focus on social responsibility. However, Ministers are concerned that self-regulation has had a limited impact in tackling problem gambling and there are still large numbers of higher-staking machines in accessible locations, often in more deprived areas, where it is possible to lose a large amount of money very quickly.
In 2016 the Government launched a review into gaming machines and social responsibility, with Ministers concluding that further action is necessary to strike the right balance between enabling people to bet responsibly and ensuring consumers and communities are protected. A consultation on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures closed on 23 January and the Government is now considering the feedback received.


24 APR 2018

Customs Union

I have received many emails on this subject and I have tried to set out my views in detail, addressing points that have been raised in a range of correspondence.

Trade is about far more than trade deals, and that is why Parliament is debating whether it is in our national interest to remain within an effective form of Customs Union after Britain leaves the EU. I believe that it is.

When we talk about how the Customs Union affects supply chains, border checks and rules of origin, this matters because these affect costs, delays and red tape. These have consequences for future investment decisions, people's jobs, livelihoods and even for maintaining safe and timely access to medicines and medical products. The Customs Union has also played a key role underpinning the Good Friday Agreement and decades of peace in Northern Ireland.

We are now in the stages of negotiation where we are up against the reality of Brexit, rather than the overly optimistic prospectus that is sometimes presented.

It is true that remaining in a Customs Union limits our freedom to conclude independent third-party trade deals, but the inescapable fact is that the ones that we already have by virtue of EU membership are far more valuable. Trade deals are immensely complicated, time consuming and involve compromises, especially if you are negotiating from a smaller base rather than from a position of strength.

The EU is overwhelmingly the UK's most important trading partner: it provides the UK's largest export market for goods, accounting for 48% of total exports (£145 billion), or 7.4% of GDP in 2016, 78% of UK exporting companies sell into the EU, leveraging its 446 million consumers. The vast majority of these companies (96%) are SMEs. We also have access to many more non EU markets through existing trade agreements negotiated as members of the EU. The former lead civil servant in the Department of International Trade, Sir Martin Donnelly, described leaving current arrangements in the hope of closing better trade deals elsewhere as 'giving up a three course meal now ... for the promise of a packet of crisps in the future.'

The CBI has made clear its preference for easy EU trade and points out that UK infrastructure has been built to support it. The Port of Dover deals with the equivalent of 17% of UK trade, with 2.6million freight trucks passing through the port in 2016. That same year, the Eurotunnel transported £100billion in trade between the UK and the EU. This infrastructure however, was not built to cope with customs delays and these are inevitable without a Customs Union. The costs and time taken to construct the necessary infrastructure to cope with the checks and delays would be enormous. These costs would be borne by taxpayers, businesses and consumers. The proposed alternative models suggested by the government have now been firmly rejected by the EU.

It is worth pointing out that the Customs Union is only about goods—it is not about services. Remaining in a Customs Union would leave us free to negotiate new arrangements for trade in services.

There is very little economic downside to a Customs Union and no evidence that in leaving it we would be able to replace the trade we currently enjoy with better trade deals further afield without a raft of unpalatable compromises. I don't want to be forced to accept hormone treated beef for example or to put farmers in my constituency at risk from cheaper but lower welfare standard imports in order to seal a deal on greater trade.

Deals further afield of course look attractive, but they are unlikely to make up for what we stand to lose. The further afield you go, the less we trade. The population of Canada is three times the population of Switzerland but we sell twice as much to the Swiss because they are closer. It is estimated that as distance doubles, trade halves.

The simple reality is that we will only be set to lose if we set barriers in the way of trade with our closest partners by leaving a Customs Union.

We should also stop thinking of existing deals and the Customs Union as a block to increasing trade, we can increase this without awaiting independent and uncertain trade deals. Germany, for example, sells 4.7 times more to China than the UK does, without an independent trade deal. Being in a Customs Union does not prevent growing trade with key markets such as the US and China.

The practicalities of exporting matter as much as the tariffs charged at the border. It is well worth reading the report of the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy BEIS Committee on the impact of Brexit on the processes food and drink sector. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmbeis/381/38102.htm

The processed food and drink sector is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK and contributes £28.8 billion to our economy. Exports were worth £22 billion in 2017 and this vital sector directly employs 400,000 people throughout the country, a third of whom are EU nationals. It is characterised by just-in-time delivery of products with short shelf lives and is heavily integrated with supply chains spread across the UK and the EU for sourcing raw materials, processing goods and selling them. Many manufacturers have factories in both the UK and the rest of the EU and products may cross the border many times before a product reaches the supermarket shelf.

The success of our food and drink sector is highly dependent on participation in both the Single Market and Customs Union with 60 per cent of UK exports going to EU markets. Half of total UK food and drink exports go to five countries, four of which are EU member states.

This matters to this constituency not only for farmers but to the fishing industry. Brixham lands the most valuable catch in England and exports much of that to the EU, our most important overseas market. No one wants to buy fish or shellfish that has been held up at the border.

The Government itself has estimated that non-tariff barriers could have a disastrous impact on the food and drink sector by increasing costs by approximately 17 per cent in tariff equivalent.

Outside an effective Customs Union, there is no such thing as a frictionless border and the implications go far beyond the food and drink sector with the added costs likely to affect future investment decisions.

Presenting the industry's most detailed evidence yet to the BEIS select committee, Honda UK said it relied on 350 trucks a day arriving from Europe to keep its Swindon factory operating, with just an hour's worth of parts held on the production line. A staggering 2m components are moved across the channel every day so any delays at the border would add huge disruption and cost. Honda also reported that it would take 18 months to set up new procedures and warehouses if Britain left the Customs Union.

The Draft Agreement between the EU and the UK on 19 March 2018 provides some welcome reassurance on customs arrangements during the transition period but leaves great uncertainty regarding customs checks beyond December 2020. We do not have the luxury of time before settling the long term position.

The issues go beyond the economic. The Health and Social Care Committee, which I chair, heard evidence about the extent to which NHS care is dependent on a network of highly integrated, complex and time sensitive supply chains for the delivery of medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin. We have long taken it for granted that medicines will be available on the pharmacy shelf and I do not want to see that put at risk.

During their life-cycle, medicines, medical products and technologies cross multiple countries for material sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, sterilisation and other processes. UK and EU supply chains for medicines and medical technologies are highly integrated, for both finished products and components. Pharmaceutical sector supply chains across the EU involve the exchange of medicines, active pharmaceutical ingredients, clinical materials–including the trade and exchange of samples–and raw materials. The delivery of NHS care also depends on the seamless flow of time-sensitive products, such as medical radioisotopes, used in around 700,000 diagnostic or therapeutic procedures each year in the UK. If the supply of medical radioisotopes is affected by problems with supply chains a significant proportion of patients may not have rapid access to, amongst other things, diagnostic imaging. There are many other examples where supply chains are fragile and no supplies are manufactured in the UK for example dialysis equipment.

Frictionless trade is a patient safety issue that will be helped not only by close regulatory alignment, as already recognised by the Prime Minister, but by remaining in a Customs Union. The full report on the many other aspects of Brexit affecting access to medicines, devices and substances of human origin can be read here https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhealth/392/39202.htm

My final point is around the Irish Border. Both sides have committed to avoiding physical infrastructure as that would run counter to the Good Friday Agreement. Leaving the EU without reaching an agreement in relation to avoiding a hard border on the Island of Ireland would have very negative consequences and put decades of progress and peace at risk. It is also important to note that in the event of a walk-away, no deal, hard Brexit, WTO rules prevent the UK from unilaterally creating an open border with Ireland without offering this to the entire membership of the WTO.

The Northern Ireland Select Committee recently examined the opportunities for technical solutions, and concluded that they had not seen evidence "of any such solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border". Given that creating a border down the North Sea is unacceptable to the UK, the only practical solution to this most important issue is for us to remain within a Customs Union alongside a close relationship which allows seamless access to our closest trading neighbour.

In conclusion, the vote on Thursday is not a vote to block Brexit. This is a debate and a non-binding vote about the type of Brexit and MPs will be able to examine the evidence on what is best for jobs, our economy and the security of supply chains. Following the large majority in support of a Customs Union last week in the House of Lords, it will also test the likely view of the Commons ahead of binding votes due in the coming weeks.

I appreciate that some will continue to feel that I should vote for the UK to leave the Customs Union and not to negotiate any arrangement to replace it with any effective Customs Union or arrangement. I hope this at least sets out the reasons why I respectfully disagree.


23 APR 2018

Food Standards

Thank you for writing to me about trade and food standards and hormone treated beef; these are just the kind of issues that I will be raising when it comes to discussing the complexity of trade negotiations. I am afraid that there are some who are portraying these in a very simplistic fashion when the reality is as you describe, we do not want to see a lowering of our own standards as a result.
I am one of the signatories to this week's motion on the Customs Union and, although a different issue, is related in that we need to look this in round with the implications for trade, the complexities around trade deals and any risks alongside frictionless borders.


23 APR 2018

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill

Thank you for taking the time to write to be about the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill.
As someone very familiar with this issue I am fully supportive of this Bill which is likely to pass unopposed. I will not be in Parliament this Friday due to existing commitments so I am afraid I will not be there to vote on amendments.


19 APR 2018

Dementia

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

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

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
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 of dementia and there are over 1.7 million Dementia Friends and 175 Dementia Friendly Communities in England.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia and the Government has doubled research spending on dementia. This will be maintained to total over £300 million by 2020, with the UK's first ever Dementia Research Institute receiving £150 million.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives, increasing NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. Furthermore, 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, 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 is encouraging.


19 APR 2018

Syria

Thank you for writing to me about the targeted action taken at the weekend to degrade and destroy the capacity of the Syrian dictator to use chemical weapons. I understand the concern about the use of force and the dangers of escalation. However, I believe the Prime Minister was right to take the action that she did. This is a link to her statement to the Commons as this sets out the detailed background to events and to the action taken.

Sadly we know that inaction in the face of the use of chemical weapons has consequences. We have witnessed a significant escalation in the use of these horrific weapons use, now including their deployment by Russia on the streets of Britain. Chemical weapons pose a real and terrible threat to us all and it was absolutely necessary to make it clear that their use will no longer go unpunished.

The chemical weapons Convention came into force in 1997-building on the 1925 Geneva protocol which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. The chemical weapons Convention went further in aiming to eliminate a whole category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by state parties. The chemical weapons Convention ascribes nerve agents and blister agents to schedule one, the most controlled category -With good reason. These weapons present a grave threat to all humanity; their effects are particularly horrific and indiscriminate. Liquids droplets of nerve agents can be readily absorbed through the skin and will potentially affect anyone coming into contact with them. They can be transferred to others giving first-aid unless suitably protected and can be persistent in the environment, continuing the threat for days or in some cases weeks as is now demonstrated by ongoing traces of nerve agent in Salisbury. They not only target their intended victims but create further casualties in a way designed to spread maximum distress and to degrade the resources emergency services. Those who die do so in the most distressing manner. The effects of cholinesterase inhibitor nerve agents on the peripheral and central nervous systems has truly awful effects. Severe initial symptoms come from high levels of secretions in the respiratory tract alongside paralysis of the muscles which control breathing these are profoundly distressing symptoms. Painful blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, incontinence, muscle weakness twitching, restlessness, coma and convulsions are all associated with exposure.

This was not an isolated incident. In April 2017 in the rebel held town of Khan Shaykhun in north-western Syria there was well documented use of the highly lethal nerve agent, sarin and this was confirmed following a UN led investigation. The leadership panel of the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons sent a letter to the UN Secretary General summarising in its conclusions that it was confident that the Syrian Arab Republic was responsible for the release of sarin during the attack. The conclusions of the Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the human rights council of the UN in September 2017 make for the most distressing reading . The commission documented 25 incidents of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic between March 2013 and March 2017 of which 20 were perpetrated by government forces and used primarily against civilians.

Those who claim that we must wait for proof from inspectors should read these reports and watch the footage of the aftermath of these atrocities. Whilst we would all prefer action to be sanctioned at the United Nations, this has been repeatedly blocked by Russia using its veto. To insist on a UN resolution would be in effect to hand this decision to Russia and take no action at all.

No one should think this is a distant situation, far from our shores. The deliberate use of a Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury was not an isolated attack, Alexander Litvinyenko was murdered in Britain on the orders of the Kremlin using a lethal radioactive poison in 2006.

I support the humanitarian action to protect civilians in Syria from further use of chemical weapons. I also feel this sends a strong signal to Russia about their own use of these horrific weapons.


17 APR 2018

Central African Republic

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about food insecurity in the Central African Republic (CAR).

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

Around half the population in CAR are food insecure as a result of shrinking agricultural production caused largely by conflict and insecurity.
The UK is one of the largest donors to the crisis in the CAR and is contributing £40 million in humanitarian aid from 2016-2019 through the CAR Humanitarian and Recovery Programme. The programme is designed to address the urgent life-saving and protracted needs of conflict-affected populations in CAR and refugees in Cameroon who have fled violent conflict since December 2013. Since the start of the programme, over 1.5 million people in CAR and over 270,000 refugees in Cameroon have been reached with humanitarian assistance. Over 75 per cent of the country's working population relies on agriculture, which has been so drastically affected by the years of conflict and instability. The UK's support is helping some 300,000 people to restart their livelihoods, through the provision of food-producing seed, disease-resistant cassava cuttings, livestock vaccinations, and agricultural tools. Food aid also help avoid the consumption of seed meant for planting or harvesting crops early.


17 APR 2018

Farming System

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the impact of the UK's decision to leave the European Union on British farming.

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

Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. The Government has pledged to continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament, expected in 2022. Structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure will be honoured for their lifetime.
Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) means we can do much more for our environment. In England the Government plans to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement. Bureaucracy will be minimised and application processes made easier; the system will also provide flexibility, putting more management decisions in the hands of farmers. There will be a smooth transition to this new system over a number of years to give farmers time to adapt.
The Environment Secretary has published a Command Paper and will consult widely with farmers and others. Ministers will work closely with the devolved administrations on an approach that works for the whole of the UK. In particular they are keenly aware of the importance of seasonal labour, so will work with the industry to ensure it has the right people with the right skills.
We must take the opportunity of being outside the CAP to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, while maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. We will harness this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


17 APR 2018

Equine Database

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the welfare of horses and the new central equine database.

I read your comments on this topic with interest and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

By granting local authorities and landowners further powers to rescue and re-home fly-grazed horses, and making those responsible liable for any costs incurred, this Act will go a long way towards safeguarding the welfare of horses.
In addition to the Control of Horses Act, it remains illegal to be cruel to an animal, so the Animal Welfare Act can still be used to prosecute someone for abandoning a horse. Owners or keepers must ensure their horses have an adequate diet and are protected from pain or injury. This legislation is reinforced by the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids, which is frequently used in court to demonstrate neglect.
Enforcement of welfare laws is the responsibility of local councils, which are also responsible for upholding the horse passport regulations more generally, mostly through their Trading Standards or Animal Health Officers.
It is expected that these bodies will fulfil their obligations, but if anyone has concerns over their performance, they are urged to raise them with the responsible authority. If it appears that urgent action is required to protect a horse, reports can also be made to the RSPCA.
All horse passports issued since July 2009 must include a microchip number. Recent reforms have included a new requirement for a central database. The Equine Sector Council described these efforts as "a triumph for Britain's horse sector and Defra", so this will go a long way further towards helping protect these gentle, sensitive creatures.


17 APR 2018

Windrush

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

I read your comments with interest and my own view is that the Home Office should be thanking the Windrush families and making sure they have the reassurance they need and fully deserve.

I have also signed the letter to the PM on this topic and you can view this here.


16 APR 2018

Second Referendum

Thank you for letting me know your views.

At this stage we do not know what the final deal will be and there is no alternative deal on the table from the EU should Britain remain, so I am not campaigning for a second referendum.


16 APR 2018

NHS Mandate

Thank you for contacting me about the NHS mandate.

I share your concern and have directly raised this issue with both the secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt, and with the Prime Minister. As you may already know I have written to the Prime Minister with the backing of over 100 backbench colleagues from across the House of Commons, calling for a whole system approach to the funding of the NHS, social care and public health with an uplift in funding now alongside a long-term settlement. Here is a link to that letter.

The challenge of meeting all the targets set by the NHS requires more than attention to funding alone. In my capacity as chair of the Health and Social Care Committee in parliament, I will continue to look at all the underlying issues including the workforce challenge and the way that this affects coastal and rural communities in places such as South Devon. You may be interested to read the committee's recent report on the nursing workforce.


13 APR 2018

Measure Hunger

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about food poverty and measuring hunger.

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

This is a serious issue, with some of the country's poorest families struggling to afford to feed themselves. It is vital to do everything possible to help people with the cost of living.
Ministers are working hard to improve competition to help producers and retailers offer the best prices. There is a range of policies to promote a growing, sustainable food and farming sector and keep prices down. The Government is also working to promote transparency and openness in global markets.
Food banks provide an incredibly valuable service, and people visit them for a variety of reasons and it is of course highly undesirable that anybody should be in a position where they feel the need to do so.
The welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed, so nobody has to struggle to meet their basic needs, the surest route out of poverty is work. The Government is dedicated to building an economy that works for everyone, and has overseen falls in unemployment, record numbers of jobs, pay cheques rising faster than inflation and income tax cut so that working people keep more of what they earn.


12 APR 2018

Assisted Dying

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

I am sorry to disappoint you but I have not changed my stance on assisted dying. I do think there would be unintended consequences and that was why I voted against the bill when it came to the house previously. I also felt it might move on from a right to die to a duty to die.


11 APR 2018

Defend Israel

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Hamas in Gaza.

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

The recent activities of Hamas in Gaza, including attempts to rearm and rebuild tunnel infrastructure undermine efforts to improve the situation in Gaza and harm prospects for the Middle East peace process. Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements.
The Government's policy towards Hamas is clear - it does not have contact with Hamas, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation. Hamas must make a credible movement towards the conditions set out above, which remain the benchmark against which their intentions are judged, before we consider a change in our stance.
Israel, like any state, has the right to ensure its own security, and its citizens also have the right to live without fear of attack. The UK will continue to support Israel's right to defend itself. The UK Government has called on Iran to end its financial support for Hamas as well as its supply of military equipment.
There is an urgent need for all parties to reach an agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel, that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance, and that Israel lifts its restrictions to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians.
The UK remains focussed on securing progress towards a two-state solution, with a sovereign and democratic Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel. Only a negotiated settlement can achieve this.


10 APR 2018

Food Labelling

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about food labelling and EDM 1095.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1095, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Consumer confidence is more important in this industry than in any other, and is key to the integrity of the supply chain.
The current regulations on food labelling require that any information, including on packaging, advertising or other media, must not mislead consumers as to the characteristics of the food, including its method of manufacture or production. Specifically there needs to be provided, on prepacked food, the name of the food, its ingredients, any ingredients potentially causing allergy or intolerance, the quantity of specific ingredients where this is important to consumers, the net quantity of the product, the use-by or best before date, any special storage conditions, the name and address of the producer, the country of origin for a number of types of food, including fresh and frozen meat, instructions for use where required, alcoholic strength and a nutrition declaration.
There may be a case for looking at expanding the range of production method descriptions covered by such regulations in the future but this additional information must improve consumer understanding.
Leaving the EU creates opportunities to introduce clearer labelling. It is important for there to be continuity at first, which is why the EU Withdrawal Bill will put all our existing regulations on food labelling and all other aspects on a legal footing in UK law. However, there will then be opportunities to revisit them over time. The Environment Secretary's commitment to developing a new 'gold standard' food labelling system after we leave is welcomed.
In the meantime there are some very good voluntary schemes that relate to methods of production, such as the RSPCA Assured scheme recognising high standards of animal welfare, British Lion eggs and the Red Tractor scheme.


10 APR 2018

Crumbling Futures

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Children's Society research, Crumbling Futures.

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

Every effort is being made to support vulnerable children and young people through their education and late teenage years. These years can be particularly volatile for many teenagers, and it is incredibly important for local services to provide continuity of care from the transition from childhood to adulthood.
The Government has announced a programme of work to improve our understanding of the educational experiences and outcomes of all children with additional needs, and those who live in challenging circumstances. The Department for Education has been and is continuing to engage with relevant Departments such as the Department of Health and Social Care.
The Government also announced a review into school exclusions. This will help the Department for Education to understand how and why schools use exclusion, what drives the variation in exclusion rates and, in particular, the disproportionate exclusion rates of some groups - including black Caribbean boys, Children in Need, Looked After Children, and those with Special Educational Needs. Children excluded from school are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system, and we must make sure that every child, whatever their background, should have access to a world-class education which prepares them for life in the modern world. This review will shine a light on how exclusions are used throughout the country, and will suggest how to improve educational outcomes for children who face acute challenges in their lives. It will explore and identify effective practice, which can be shared across the system.
You may be pleased to know that a £4 million grant-funding programme has been launched to support and develop projects that seek to deliver better outcomes for children in alternative provision (AP), and provide an opportunity to share effective practice across the sector.
This investment will also encourage parents to have greater involvement in their children's education and support children moving from alternative provision into post-16 education or training, so they reach adulthood, ready to take the opportunities in front of them and succeed in later life.


10 APR 2018

Israel Arms Embargo

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about an arms embargo on Israel.

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

Imposing a blanket arms embargo on Israel would not promote the Middle East Peace Process. Defence and security exports support a country's legitimate right to self-defence. Israel has this right as much as any other nation.
The Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust licensing systems in the world. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking into account all relevant factors.
A licence would not be issued for any country if there was a clear risk that any exports might be used in the commission of a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law. The Government continues to monitor the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and takes into account the latest circumstances when assessing licence applications.


09 APR 2018

RNIB PIP

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Royal National Institute of Blind People's (RNIB) campaign on Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

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

Every year over £50 billion is spent to provide support to people with disabilities and health conditions so they can live as independently as possible, £7 billion more than in 2010. This amounts to 6 per cent of all Government spending. The assessment criteria for PIP are designed to ensure partially sighted people do get appropriate support, including the principle that an individual who satisfies more than one descriptor within an activity should receive the one worth the greater number of points. That ensures, for example, that someone who may be able to read at home using a magnifier but is unable to read something like a sign would be awarded the maximum points available for that activity.

PIP is a fairer benefit than the previous system of Disability Living Allowance as it focusses help on those who need it most, and can respond to fluctuating needs of individuals. The Government is committed to further improving the assessment process, with two independent reviews having been completed, as well as a public consultation on improving the process for claimants.
Generally PIP assessments make the right decision. Since PIP was introduced, only 8 per cent of initial decisions have gone to appeal and only 4 per cent have been overturned. Improvements in the assessment process will ensure this number falls further.


09 APR 2018

National Living Wage

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the National Living Wage (NLW).

I have noted your comments on to this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

The Government has provided such significant support for those on low incomes, aged 25 and over through the NLW.
Following the recommendations of the independent Low Pay Commission (LPC), the Government has increased the NLW by 4.4 per cent from £7.50 to £7.83 as of 1 April 2018. The LPC estimate this will benefit over 2 million workers. In total, earnings for a full-time worker on the NMW will have increased by over £2,000 a year since the introduction of the NLW in April 2016.
Alongside this, further action has been taken to cut taxes for working people. The personal allowance, the amount you earn before you start paying income tax, has risen from £11,500 to £11,850. This means that in 2018-19, a typical taxpayer will pay £1,075 less in tax than in the 2010-11 tax year.
Britain deserves a pay rise and the Government is delivering the higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare economy we all want to see. Boosting wages and making sure that more families have the security of a decent, regular pay packet, while ensuring that people are always better off in work, are at the heart of the Government's long-term plan.
The Government is backing hard work and aspiration, creating opportunity for hardworking people across the country and, with more people in work than ever before, this plan is working.


09 APR 2018

Upskirting

Thank you for taking the time to email me about upskirting.

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

Upskirting is an absolutely unacceptable practice and there should be no doubt that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated.
Depending on the individual circumstances and evidence available in each case, the Crown Prosecution Service will decide whether a prosecution should proceed and if so which specific offence should be charged. It is encouraging to see that such distressing behaviour has been successfully prosecuted on a number of occasions under a range of existing criminal offences including the common law offence of outraging public decency. Officials are reviewing the existing offences, some of which carry an unlimited prison sentence, to ensure they remain appropriate.


06 APR 2018

Misoprostol

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about misoprostol with regard to inducing early-stage, medical abortion and the time it can take to travel home.

The Government is keeping this matter under review, and is monitoring legal developments and evidence from Scotland, which operates under the 1967 Act and has announced that it will designate the home as an appropriate setting for a medical abortion.


05 APR 2018

Social Care

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

There was a very welcome confirmation from the PM at the Liaison Committee hearing that she will bring forward a new long term plan and uplift in long term financial settlement for the NHS in advance of next spending review, saying the service can't afford to wait until next Easter.

Focus will now be on how much extra funding will be available for the NHS, when it will arrive and how it will be phased. If social care remains separate, questions remain on how consensus will be built with public and across Parliament on agreeing how funds will be raised and from whom?

A long term plan will build on the #5YFV but there is no explicit commitment to making this cover social care and public health in a whole system review. Nonetheless, I was glad to hear recognition of the case for considering young adults' social care alongside social care for older adults.

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

We must all receive dignified care in old age. With an ageing population, this is one of the biggest challenges our country faces.
The Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas. Since 2015 local authorities have had greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money as well as retain savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million.
In 2017, the Chancellor committed an additional £2 billion to councils in England over three years to spend on adult social care services. £1 billion was provided in 2017-18, for immediate action. Councils will have access in total to £9.25 billion more dedicated funding for social care over the three years from 2015, and this has been further supported by an additional £150 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this year. The Autumn Budget provides £42 million additional funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant in 2017-18, to support people with disabilities stay in their own homes throughout their care. This investment is central to the Government's efforts to reduce delayed transfers of care from the NHS to social care, and free up thousands of hospital beds.
Money alone will not fix the problem and reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils already provide high quality social care within their existing budgets; and, half of all delayed discharges from hospital to home arise in just 24 local authorities. It is vital for us to consider ways of better joining up health and care services, and I am encouraged by the use of the Better Care Fund to assist local government and the NHS with the implementation of integrated health and care services.
The Government is currently producing a Green Paper, which will establish a new social care policy for the future. This will see a care policy which will meet the challenges of an ageing population, and will grapple with how to properly integrate health and social care, and make sure social care is financially sustainable. There have been many consultations into care policy over the years; however the upcoming Green Paper will usher in a real cultural change into how we care for the elderly and vulnerable.


05 APR 2018

Bowel Cancer

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

I appreciate your concern on this matter as I know that bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health and Social Care is reassuring:

Over eight in ten cases of bowel cancer occur in the over 60s and early diagnosis is key.
Under the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, people aged 60-74 years old are sent a home testing kit every two years. Those aged above the eligible age limit are also able to self-refer for screening. As part of the Programme, a new test is being introduced which is easier to complete and it is hoped that 200,000 more people per year will take up the opportunity to be screened. An additional one-off bowel scope screening test is also being introduced for those aged 55 years old. As of March 2015, roughly two-thirds of screening centres were offering this test to 55 year olds. This is an important test which can find and remove any small bowel growths, which could turn into cancer.
All hospital trusts are able to offer screening for patients if clinically appropriate. New cancer referral guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published in June 2015 state that GPs should refer patients for testing in hospital if they present with relevant symptoms at relevant ages.
Cancer survival rates in the UK have never been higher, however, there is still more to be done. The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. By 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks.
The £1.2 billion Cancer Drugs Fund has helped over 95,000 people.


03 APR 2018

Horse Welfare

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the welfare of horses.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1138, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

By granting local authorities and landowners further powers to rescue and re-home fly-grazed horses, and making those responsible liable for any costs incurred, this Act will go a long way towards safeguarding the welfare of horses.
In addition to the Control of Horses Act, it remains illegal to be cruel to an animal, so the Animal Welfare Act can still be used to prosecute someone for abandoning a horse. Owners or keepers must ensure their horses have an adequate diet and are protected from pain or injury. This legislation is reinforced by the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids, which is frequently used in court to demonstrate neglect.
Enforcement of welfare laws is the responsibility of local councils, which are also responsible for upholding the horse passport regulations more generally, mostly through their Trading Standards or Animal Health Officers.
As you might be aware, all horse passports issued since July 2009 must include a microchip number. Recent reforms have included a new requirement for a central database. The Equine Sector Council described these efforts as "a triumph for Britain's horse sector and Defra."


03 APR 2018

Child Benefit

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Child Benefit freeze.

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

At a time when the Government has to reduce welfare spending, tough choices have to be taken. The scale of the deficit in 2010, as well as the alarming rise in the welfare budget, made taking control of the welfare bill a priority.
To this end, the Government announced that the rates of certain working-age benefits, will be frozen at their 2015/16 levels for four years up to 2019/20. The Government has carefully considered the impact of these reforms. They are part of a broader array of measures designed to rebalance the welfare state to more effectively focus support on the vulnerable.
Together with other welfare reforms, changes to Child Benefit will mean that the welfare system is there for people who need it; a system where work pays, and one that the country can afford. This can be done while continuing to reduce the deficit, so future generations are not simply burdened with our debts.


29 MAR 2018

Israel 70th Birthday

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Israel's 70th Anniversary of independence.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu was in London, as a guest of the Government, on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in November last year. Israel is a thriving democracy and an example to the rest of the world for overcoming adversity. The Prime Minister regularly underlines Britain's friendship with Israel and reiterates our support for Jewish communities in the UK.
The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers a safe and secure Israel alongside an independent Palestine. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.
The UK Government is deeply committed to promoting our trade and business ties with Israel and accordingly is strongly opposed to the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. The UK enjoys a productive relationship with Israel which enables us to express our views at senior levels very frankly.


29 MAR 2018

Lynch Syndrome

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about testing for Lynch syndrome.

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

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body responsible for issuing authoritative, evidence-based guidance on best practice for the NHS. NICE's guidance supports the rapid and consistent adoption of clinically and cost effective diagnostic tests in the NHS.

NICE published diagnostics guidance in 2017 that recommends that everyone who is diagnosed with colorectal cancer should be tested for Lynch syndrome. NICE concluded that these tests could have substantial benefits for patients and their families. The new NICE guidance goes even further than the recommendation of the independent Cancer Taskforce, and states that NHS commissioners should ensure that all patients under the age of 50 receiving a bowel cancer diagnosis are offered a genetic test for Lynch syndrome.
The commissioning of these tests lies with local NHS organisations, and they should take NICE's guidance fully into account as they design services to meet the needs of their areas. NICE has also published additional practical information and advice to help NHS organisations to implement its recommendations.


28 MAR 2018

Whistleblower Evidence

Thank you for writing to me about the allegations about Facebook data and Cambridge Analytica.

This is now rightly the subject of an inquiry by the Information Commissioner and I know that the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee have also launched an inquiry into the wider issues raised.


27 MAR 2018

Diabetes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about food labelling and the campaign by Diabetes UK.

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

The Government has not had any recent discussions with the food and drinks industry about food labelling on pre-packaged foods or food sold in restaurants, cafes or takeaways. There are already mandatory requirements for nutrient labels on pre-packaged foods, and the food and drink industry itself is making significant progress to improve food labels, and introduce clear nutritional labels on the front of packages. So far, around two-thirds of pre-packaged food and drinks on the market have front of pack nutritional labels, and around a quarter of food consumed outside the home have calorie labels at the point of sale, such as cafe menus.
The Government has made no central assessment of the merits of introducing mandatory dietary guidelines or labels on fast food packaging, however once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, we will have greater flexibility over what information should be presented of packaged food, and how it should be displayed. The current growth of nutritional labels on food has been a great success, and the Government has suggested the possibility of introducing clearer, visual labels, such as teaspoons of sugar to help people make healthy choices in their shopping.


23 MAR 2018

Modern Slavery

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

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

Tackling human trafficking and modern slavery is a top priority for this Government, and it is crucial that we provide support for victims of this heinous crime, and we already exceed our international obligation in providing support to victims through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the system for identifying and supporting victims. Support services are provided to enable victims to leave situations of exploitation, receive specialist care, and begin to rebuild their lives.
The Government has made clear that it is committed to continually improving support and assistance provided before, during, and after the NRM for victims of modern slavery. That is why in October 2017 a comprehensive package of reforms to the NRM was announced. The reforms include measures to significantly increase the period of 'move on' support for victims from 14 to 45 days, helping to create a smoother transition out of care. This will be in addition to the minimum 45 days of support victims already receive before a final decision is reached, increasing the total period to at least 90 days. Government funded 'places of safety' will be created which will provide up to three days of immediate support to victims rescued out of a situation of exploitation by law enforcement, as well as up to 6 months of 'drop-in' services for confirmed victims transitioning out of the NRM. These reforms will ensure the NRM operates as a bridge that supports victims to leave situations of exploitation and enables them to begin to recover and rebuild their lives.
On the issue of Lord McColl's Victim Support Bill, the Government is grateful for Lord McColl's commitment to ensuring that victims of modern slavery are identified and receive the support they need to begin rebuilding their lives.


23 MAR 2018

Autism

Thank you for taking the time to email me about autism awareness.

I know the delays in the diagnosis of autism can cause unnecessary distress and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health and Social Care is of interest:

To help standardise and improve the diagnosis and management of autism, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published three clinical guidelines and a quality standard on autism. The guidelines recommend that there should be a maximum of three months between a referral and a first appointment for an assessment for autism. NICE expects these guidelines to be fully observed by commissioners as they design services to meet the needs of their local populations.
Early-years providers must have arrangements in place to identify children with special educational needs, including autism. In addition when a child is aged between two and three, early years practitioners must provide parents with a written summary of their child's development, focusing on communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development.
The reforms to the special educational needs and disabilities system that came into effect in September 2014 have transformed the support available to children and young people with autism, by joining up services across education, health and social care. The Care Quality Commission and Ofsted are currently undertaking a five year rolling programme of local inspections of how well local areas support people with special educational needs, helping local commissioners to take appropriate action.
Local authorities and clinical commissioning groups should work together to commission services for children with special educational needs, including autism. This should include publishing a 'Local Offer' of services. More widely, the 2014 cross-government autism guidelines for health commissioners encourage the development of autism strategies for meeting the needs of adults with autism in their local population.


23 MAR 2018

Children's Mental Health

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the provision of mental health services for children and young people.

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

It is incredibly important to protect the health of children and young people in our society. In recent years we have made huge progress in understanding mental health issues, and the Government's efforts to transform children and young people's mental health for the better in coming years are welcome.
Approximately 10 per cent of 5 to 16 year olds have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. Between 2015 and 2020, an additional £1.4 billion is being invested to transform children and young people's mental health; this money will support clinical commissioning groups and various national programmes, including improving crisis support and expanding the workforce.
The Children and Young People's Mental Health Green Paper is a joint enterprise by the departments for health and education, which sets out ambitious proposals to improve mental health services for children and young people, together with over £300 million of funding. This will incentivise and support schools and colleges to train designated leaders for their pupils' mental health, and introduce new mental health teams, both of which will ease pressure on NHS mental health services.
The Future in Mind report is being implemented to expand access to counselling in schools. This will see all areas in England draw up plans for the greater integration between mental health specialists, GPs and schools. Recent data suggest that 62 per cent of schools offer counselling services; this figure continues to increase over time, and more pupils are able to gain access to effective mental support.


22 MAR 2018

Open Doors

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Hannah Rose Thomas' exhibition on Yezidi Women in Parliament from the 26th to the 29th of March.

I understand the calls to ensure that religious freedom is promoted in the Middle East and I am glad that the government is firmly committed to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief for Christians, and indeed individuals of all faiths or beliefs, around the world, and to being a strong voice internationally in defence of this fundamental right.


22 MAR 2018

Yarl's Wood

Thank you for contacting me about issues concerning Yarl's Wood.

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

Ensuring that individuals abide by immigration rules is an essential part of an effective immigration system. This includes individuals leaving the UK if they have no lawful basis to remain. While it is preferable that those with no right to remain in the UK leave voluntarily, and measures are in place to assist those who wish to do so, this does not always happen, and detention is therefore an important tool.
The dignity and welfare of all individuals detained is crucial, and any decision to detain is made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account individual circumstances. Home Office officials work with any individual with no right to be in the UK, including those at Yarl's Wood and in the community, to assist with their return if they decide to leave the UK. 95 per cent of people without the right to be here are managed in the community and most people detained under immigration powers spend only very short periods in detention.
In 2017, 92 per cent of people were detained for four months or less, and nearly two thirds were detained for less than a month. As well as regular reviews of detention, individuals can apply for bail at any time.
The provision of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week healthcare in all immigration removal centres ensures that detainees have ready access to medical professionals and levels of primary care in line with individuals in the community. Any detainees who choose to refuse food or fluid, including the reducing number of residents at Yarl's Wood who are currently refusing food, are closely monitored by on-site healthcare professionals.


20 MAR 2018

Social Care

Thank you for taking the time to email me about social care and the Age UK event on the 28th of March, I have put this in my diary.

On the issue of funding for the NHS and social care, I will be raising this again directly with the PM when she comes to the Liaison Committee which I chair and the underpinning issues of funding, workforce and a whole system approach to health and social care remain at the heart of my work.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Health and Social Care is reassuring:

It is important to ensure that as people receive dignified care in old age. This is one of the biggest challenges our country faces, with an ageing population. The Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas. Since 2015 local authorities have had greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money for adult social care. Local authorities have greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money as well as retaining savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million.
In 2017, the Chancellor committed an additional £2 billion to councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care services. £1 billion was provided in 2017-18, to enable immediate action. Since 2015, councils will have access in total to £9.25 billion more dedicated funding for social care over the next three years. The Autumn Budget provides £42 million additional funding for the Disabled Facilities Grant in 2017-18, which will support people with disabilities stay in their own homes throughout their care for as long as possible. This investment is central to the Government's efforts to reduce delayed transfers of care from the NHS to social care, and freed-up three thousand hospital beds this winter.
Money alone will not fix the problem and reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils already provide high quality social care within their existing budgets, showing that reform can be achieved and half of all delayed discharges from hospital to home arise in just 24 local authorities. It is vital for us to consider ways of better joining up health and care services, and the use of the Better Care Fund to assist local government and the NHS with the implementation of integrated health and care services is encouraging.
The Government is currently producing a Green Paper, which will establish a new social care policy for the future. This will see a care policy which will meet the challenges of an ageing population, and will grapple with how to properly integrate health and social care, and make sure social care is financially sustainable in the long term. There have been many consultations into care policy over the years; however the upcoming Green Paper will usher in a real cultural change into how we tackle the issues of an aging population as a society.


15 MAR 2018

Western Sahara

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

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

The UK's position on Western Sahara is consistent and long-standing. The Government considers the final status of Western Sahara as undetermined, and supports UN-led efforts to reach a lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
The UK considers Morocco to be the de facto administering power of Western Sahara, which remains on the UN list of non-self-governing territories. I would like to point out that the conduct of economic activities by Morocco in Western Sahara is not in itself illegal. As de facto administering power, in order to comply with international law, Morocco must ensure that economic activities under its administration are conducted to the benefit and in the interests of the people of Western Sahara. Such economic activities include the exploitation of natural resources.
The UK encourages both sides to cooperate with the United Nations process to reach a mutually acceptable solution that provides for the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.


15 MAR 2018

End Our Pain

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

I do sympathise with the case of Alfie Dingley and I hope the following information on his case, and the wider issue of medical cannabis in general, from the Home Office is reassuring:

With regard to the difficult situation faced by Alfie Dingley and his family. It is only natural that parents of a child who is in pain would try to alleviate their suffering in any way possible. The Policing Minister wants to explore every option and has met with Alfie's family to discuss treatments that may be accessible for him. No decisions have been made and any proposal would need to be led by senior clinicians using sufficient and rigorous evidence.
Cannabis, in its raw form, is not recognised in the UK as having any medicinal benefits. It is therefore listed as a schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This means that it is unlawful to produce, supply or possess raw cannabis unless it is for the purposes of research. Products must be thoroughly tested in the UK to provide the necessary assurances of their efficacy, quality and safety.
There is a clear regime in place that is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis, to be developed, licensed and made available for medicinal use to patients in the UK, as happened in the case of Sativex. The Home Office will consider issuing a licence to enable trials of any new medicine under schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, providing that it complies with appropriate ethical approvals. Cannabis-based products should be treated in the same way as all other drugs, meaning that they should go through the normal testing procedures applied to any other medicines.
The current situation therefore is that outside of research the Government would not issue licences for the personal consumption of cannabis. The Government continues to monitor the World Health Organisation's expert committee on drug dependence, which has committed to reviewing the use of medicinal cannabis. It will wait until the outcome of the review before considering any next steps.


13 MAR 2018

Wild Animals in Circuses

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I know that the Government remains committed to introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

Currently, the ban stands to impact on two travelling circuses in England that now operate with only a small number of wild animals. Conditions of the remaining wild animals at both circuses are closely monitored under Defra's interim Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012, through regular announced and unannounced welfare inspections.

The draft Bill states that an offence would be committed under the law if an animal 'performs or is exhibited' as part of a travelling circus, a term whose definition is well understood. There is no exemption for businesses claiming that the exhibition is 'for educational purposes' or similar. In any case of doubt, the Bill also allows for the appointment of inspectors who could make a final determination.


13 MAR 2018

Unpaid Work

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about unpaid work periods.

Personally, I think we need to further crack down on the unpaid internships which effectively exclude those from less advantaged backgrounds to some of the best opportunities, and which usurp real jobs.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is reassuring:

Trial periods can offer many benefits to employers and potential employees, and generally an employer does not have to pay for a trial shift so long as it is truly a trial. However, businesses are encouraged to agree payment or expenses, if any, for a trial shift in advance. This way potential employees can enter into a contract with the employer and thus have the right to be paid anything that is agreed.
The UK's flexible labour market gives our businesses a competitive advantage internationally, and works for the majority of the population. That said, exploitation is unacceptable and the Government has provided more support to protect crack down on unfair practices.
In response to the Matthew Taylor review, new measures will be introduced to prevent undercutting by unscrupulous employers who try to game the system by clearly defining who is employed and who is not. The Government will take further action to ensure unpaid interns are not doing the job of a worker, as well as requiring employers to clearly set out written terms from day one of the employment relationship, and to extend that to all workers.


13 MAR 2018

NC3

Thank you for taking the time to email me about NC3.

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union, the Government has made clear that we will be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. My own view is that we should try to remain in a customs arrangement but I will await the outcome of ongoing negotiations on this point.

The government has indicated that it seeks to operate a fully independent trade policy. The Department for International Trade is examining options to ensure continued access to trade agreements negotiated by the European Union which the UK is already party to. In addition, the Government has committed to making new free trade agreements more transparent and inclusive.

The Government have set out that these bespoke deals will be scrutinised by our Parliament.


08 MAR 2018

Family Reunion

Thank you for taking the time to email me about family reunion and refugees.

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

There is already is a comprehensive framework for refugees and their families to be safely reunited in the UK. The present refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of those granted protection in the UK to reunite with them here. The family provisions in the immigration rules provide for relatives with protection in the UK to sponsor children when there are serious and compelling circumstances.
The policy is also clear that where an application fails under the rules, the Government will consider whether there are exceptional reasons to grant leave outside the rules. In addition, refugees with family members in the UK may be eligible for resettlement under the Mandate and Gateway Scheme.
The family reunion policy is designed to provide a safe and legal route for close, dependent family members to join their refugee family in the UK. This avoids the need for family members to make dangerous journeys in order to seek protection. Under the existing family reunion policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. It is crucial that our efforts are concentrated on ensuring that existing resettlement schemes are used to full effect, and that the current rules work properly and effectively. This way we can help those who need it most.
In October 2017 the Lord Chancellor announced the start of a review of legal aid reforms, which will include an assessment of the changes to the scope of legal aid for immigration cases, and will report later in 2018.


08 MAR 2018

School Meals

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about eligibility for free school meals under Universal Credit.

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

The introduction of Universal Credit offers a less fragmented, more fairly targeted system that will ensure more children will benefit from free school meals.
The suggestion that one million children will lose out on free school meals is misinformed. This figure is based on a hypothetical situation where all children in receipt of Universal Credit receive free school meals, which was never the intention. If all children in families receiving Universal Credit were to become eligible for free school meals, around 50 per cent of all school aged pupils would be eligible. Instead, free school meals are rightly targeted at the children who need them most, with around 14 per cent of children eligible for and claiming free school meals last year. The approach of setting an income threshold is comparable to the approach taken in Scotland where a similar net earnings threshold was introduced in August 2017.
The Department for Education recently ran a public consultation, seeking the views of parents, schools, local authorities and charities on eligibility for free school meals. In light of this, the Department has proposed transitional protections so that nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit.
Moreover, recent estimates suggest that by 2022, around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal compared to the previous benefits system. The Government is committed to supporting children go as far as their talents will take them and following public consultations, we can extend free school meals to more disadvantaged pupils.


07 MAR 2018

EDM 591

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about inequality and the related EDM, number 591.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 591, 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 Government Equalities Office is reassuring:

The UK Government's record on equalities is one the best in the world and the Government are determined this will remain so as, and after, we leave the EU.
There is already a Public Sector Equality Duty in place that requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and another other conduct prohibited by the Equalities Act. Public sector bodies must also advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it. However, the Government is reviewing the future of the un-commenced provisions in the Equality Act.
Social mobility has to be a top priority, and real progress has been made in recent years. The attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has narrowed since the introduction of the pupil premium, the proportion of eligible disadvantaged two-year-olds benefiting from funded childcare has risen from 58 per cent in 2015 to 71 per cent in 2017, and more money than ever before is being invested in the early years.
However, there is still more to do and the Department for Education recognises the need to focus on areas of the country with the greatest challenges and fewest opportunity. The Social Mobility Action Plan has been introduced to focus on places and communities across the county that have not yet seen the improvement that other parts of the country have benefited from. It also includes ambitions to boost access to high quality early language and literacy, close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, create world-class technical education to introduce real choice for young people post-16, and ensure rewarding careers are a reality for all. £72 million is being invested in the 12 opportunity areas programme. As this gets into the full implementation stage, we will see improvements in those areas and learn lessons that can be applied elsewhere around the country.


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