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

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


21 MAR 2019

Ancient Woodlands

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

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


21 MAR 2019

Relationships and Sex Education

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

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

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

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


20 MAR 2019

IHRA

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

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


20 MAR 2019

Private Renters

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

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

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

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

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


19 MAR 2019

Decapod Crustaceans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


17 MAR 2019

Disability Price Tag

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

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

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

These announcements from the DWP are also positive:

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

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


17 MAR 2019

Votes at 16

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

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


17 MAR 2019

UN Report on Gaza

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

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

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

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


17 MAR 2019

INF Treaty

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

West Papua

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

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

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

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

Answered by: Mark Field

Answered on: 07 February 2019

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


15 MAR 2019

Cocoa Farmers

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Asthma Prescription Charges

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

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Children's Services

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Universal Credit and Cancer

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Trade Questions

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Frozen Pensions

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

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

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

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


15 MAR 2019

Household Credit

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

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

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

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

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

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


11 MAR 2019

TV Licences for over 75s

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

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

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

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

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


09 MAR 2019

Bowel Cancer

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

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


05 MAR 2019

Refugee Family Reunification

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

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


05 MAR 2019

Abortion and Northern Ireland

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

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


05 MAR 2019

Calorie Labelling

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

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

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


05 MAR 2019

Yemen Crisis

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

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

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

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

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


05 MAR 2019

School Funding

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

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

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


04 MAR 2019

RBS Sell Off

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

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


01 MAR 2019

Asbestos in Schools

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

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

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

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

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


01 MAR 2019

Medical Cannabis

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

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

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Universal Credit Five Week Wait

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Christophobia

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Arthritis

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Warfare Experiments

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Investor State Dispute Settlement

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

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Plastic Pollution

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Post Brexit Trade Deals

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

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

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Community Energy

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

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

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

The following announcement from BEIS may also be of interest

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


28 FEB 2019

Animal Sentience

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

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

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


28 FEB 2019

Palestinian Health Care Workers

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

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

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


21 FEB 2019

HCPC Fees

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

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


19 FEB 2019

NHS Waiting Times

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

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

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


18 FEB 2019

Neonatal Care

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

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

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


15 FEB 2019

Pancreatic Cancer

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

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

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


14 FEB 2019

Minimum Income

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

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

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


13 FEB 2019

Dubs

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

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

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

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


11 FEB 2019

Probate

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

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

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


07 FEB 2019

Toxic Air

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

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

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


05 FEB 2019

St Mungo's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


05 FEB 2019

World Cancer Day

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

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

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


04 FEB 2019

Horse Whipping

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

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

The British Horseracing Association, the governing and regulatory body for the sport, requires that whips used in horse racing must be used responsibly, for safety reasons and only to encourage the horse.
Its policy on this issue was drawn up in consultation with animal welfare groups including the RSPCA, as was the approved energy absorbing design of the whip itself. Full details can be found on its website at www.britishhorseracing.com.
In addition to sanctions from the sport, using the whip indiscriminately on horses could lead to a prosecution under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, which makes it a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal. Anyone with evidence that a racehorse has suffered unnecessarily from being whipped to report it to the local authority.
The provisions of the 2006 Act, coupled with the BHA's rules on the use of the whip, provide adequate protection for racehorses.


01 FEB 2019

Yemen UK

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

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

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


01 FEB 2019

Close the Loophole

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

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

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


31 JAN 2019

Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill

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

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

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


29 JAN 2019

One Campaign for Real Aid

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

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

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

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


29 JAN 2019

Assisted Dying

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

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


29 JAN 2019

Health and Social Care Committee and Long Term Plan

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

You can now view the entire session here

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


28 JAN 2019

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)

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

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

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


20 JAN 2019

Brexit and Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


17 JAN 2019

Immigration and the NHS

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

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

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

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

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


16 JAN 2019

Faith Schools

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

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

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


15 JAN 2019

Trafficked Children

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

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

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

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

I will monitor the progress of this independent review closely.


15 JAN 2019

Child Refugees

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

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

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


10 JAN 2019

NHS Long Term Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


03 JAN 2019

UK Aid and Palestine

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

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

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


20 DEC 2018

Childrens Services

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

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

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


18 DEC 2018

Dementia Care

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

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

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and I know that the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
It is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia, which is why the Government has doubled research spending on dementia and remains committed to maintaining the current expenditure on dementia research of at least £60 million a year through to 2020. Over £83 million was spent on dementia research by the Government in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, well in excess of the £60 million target.
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. Furthermore, the Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper this year, which will outline a new social care policy, which is financially sustainable, accessible, and properly integrated with the NHS. To this end, the establishment of the Department of Health and Social Care this year is encouraging, which will oversee the intelligent integration of health and social care, which I believe will be vitally important with Alzheimer's, on which so much important research is undertaken in the NHS.


17 DEC 2018

Proportional Representation

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

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

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


17 DEC 2018

Universal Credit

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

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

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


17 DEC 2018

Ancient Woods

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

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

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


17 DEC 2018

Pancreatic Cancer

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

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

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


17 DEC 2018

EDM 1854

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

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1854, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

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


17 DEC 2018

Nurses

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

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

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


17 DEC 2018

Sources of Electricity

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the cheapest new sources of electricity.

I understand you support a move towards renewable energy and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy of interest:

The UK has played a leading role as the world has worked towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Paris Agreement.
Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation. The Government's Energy Act puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent and underpins the remarkable investment that the UK has seen in its low carbon economy since 2010.
The UK is a world leader in clean growth and the Government has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010. The Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy identify and target the huge potential opportunity for the UK from clean growth and transition to low carbon economy, while the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 sets out a strategy for dealing with the effects of a changing climate. The Government has also agreed to support and expand offshore wind and made the historic commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.
Government support has driven down the cost of renewable energy. Solar, for example, has seen costs fall by 35 per cent in the last three years. Support should help low-cost, low-carbon technologies to stand on their own two feet, rather than create dependence on public subsidies, which ultimately drive bills up for consumers.


17 DEC 2018

Save Our Paths

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Save Our Paths campaign.

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:

Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time; bringing in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare.
The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods. The principal public good it anticipates the system promoting is environmental enhancement, but the Agriculture Bill also provides for financial assistance to be granted to promote "supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment."
Outside the Common Agricultural Policy we will have an opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. We will make the very most of this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


14 DEC 2018

Brexit

This week's confidence vote has clearly demonstrated that there is no majority in the Conservative Party in the Commons, let alone across Parliament, for the hard Brexiteer's vision of Brexit. The inescapable truth is that the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework will not pass the Commons either but it is the only realistic negotiated version of Brexit. We have reached deadlock and sooner or later the PM will have to take her deal direct to the people or risk us crashing out in a chaotic Brexit with inadequate transition arrangements in place. Britain is woefully unprepared for that and no responsible government could allow that to happen.

This whole episode was unwelcome and unnecessary but at least we will all be spared the weekly threats of the '48' letters for at least a year and the PM should now stop trying to appease the right wing of the Party. At the time of the original referendum, Brexit was sold on a false prospectus of unrealistic promises and at a time when no one could say which of the many versions would be the final outcome.

We now know what Brexit looks like and people are in a position to weigh up the risks and benefits of the negotiated deal as opposed to unrealistic promises that cannot be delivered. I hope the PM will take her deal to the people with a simple question about whether they wish to proceed on these terms or stick with the deal we already have. I will be continuing to support a People's Vote.


06 DEC 2018

EDM 66

Thank you for taking the time to email me about animal testing and EDM 66.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 66, 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 Home Office is reassuring:

The UK was the first country in the world to ban cosmetics testing in animals, which was implemented on a voluntary basis in 1998. Similarly this country was instrumental in introducing this ban across Europe under the 2009 cosmetics regulations, and it has been illegal to test cosmetics or their intended ingredients on animals in the EU since 2010. In addition, a ban on the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals came into force in 2010.
The Government maintains a strong commitment to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). The regulatory system ensures that animal research and testing is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists, and under controls which keep suffering to the minimum.
This is achieved through robustly applying the principles of the 3Rs which require that, in every research proposal that is submitted to the Home Office, animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible; that the number of animals used is reduced to the minimum needed to achieve the results sought; and that, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined as much as possible to minimise their suffering.

In terms of the UK's international leadership on this issue, the Government is always keen to encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practice with other countries, in order to support the ending of cosmetics testing on animals in favour of alternatives across the world.


04 DEC 2018

Break the Chain

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

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

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to animals, or for a responsible party to fail to provide for their welfare.
The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids, includes advice on how to tether these animals where necessary in a manner that meets their welfare needs. It outlines that tethering is not suitable for long-term use, but it can be used exceptionally in the short term on suitable animals given an appropriate site and equipment. Any failure to adhere to the Code can be used in court to demonstrate neglect.

If anyone is concerned about the way a horse is tethered, I would urge them to report it to the local authority, which has powers under the Animal Welfare Act to investigate such matters. The RSPCA and World Horse Welfare can also investigate.


03 DEC 2018

Brexit

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

My view is that the Withdrawal Agreement helps prevent an immediate chaotic exit because of transition but kicks the can down the road on what we are left with thereafter, taking us out of the EU but on a road to nowhere. The Withdrawal Agreement is a profoundly depressing document for anyone concerned about the future loss of rights and freedoms built up over decades. As such, I will be continuing to support a People's Vote.

Neither the 'Deal' nor a General Election motion will pass the Commons and wasting time at this point is inexcusable, it is time to extend Article 50 and take a vote on the 'Deal' versus remaining in the EU to the people. You may like to read the letter I signed on this topic.

In addition, the my blog sets out my views on this matter in more detail.


30 NOV 2018

Air Pollution

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

I am afraid I was unable to attend the Defra questions as they clashed with a sitting of the Liaison Committee, which I chair. Nonetheless, the issue of air pollution was raised and you can view the exchange here.


28 NOV 2018

Children's Services

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about funding for Children's Services.

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

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


28 NOV 2018

Section 21

Thank you for taking the time to email me about support for private renters.

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

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

Action is being taken to help the 4.7 million households in the private rented sector by protecting them from rogue landlords, banning unfair fees, and ensuring they have access to longer-term tenancies.
While rogue landlords account for a minority of private rented sector proprietors, Government action to put dodgy rogue landlords on notice is welcomed. In April, a national database of rogue landlords was brought in, with landlords convicted of a range of criminal offences to be included so that councils can keep a closer eye on those with a poor track record. Furthermore, landlords convicted of offences under the government's new law may also be given banning orders preventing them from leasing accommodation for a period of time, ranging from 12 months to life.
The landmark Tenants Fee Bill, currently being considered by Parliament, will ban letting agent fees and cap tenancy deposits at six weeks' rent. This will make renting fairer and more affordable for tenants by reducing costs and improving transparency at the outset of a tenancy. The Bill is expected to save tenants between £25 and £70 a year.
The Government has also taken steps to improve private renters' access to longer-term, family-friendly tenancies, publishing a Model Tenancy Agreement which landlords and tenants can use as the basis for longer tenancies. The Government is currently consulting on proposals to introduce minimum three-year tenancy agreements to help to provide certainty and stability to renters in the private sector.
On the specific issue of Section 21 evictions, landlords may only evict a tenant outside of a fixed term period after complying with certain legal obligations. This includes protecting their tenants' deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme.


28 NOV 2018

EDM 158

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 158 and the issue of loans to developing countries.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 158, 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 Treasury is of interest:

The UK continues to be at the forefront of international efforts to promote responsible lending and borrowing practices. This includes ongoing support for the IMF-World Bank Debt Sustainability Framework and OECD lending principles covering official export credits.
The UK also supports the African Legal Support Facility, which provides legal advice to countries facing litigation, and the World Bank's Debt Reduction Facility (DRF), which enables countries to buy back their commercial debt at a deep discount with donor backing. Since its inception, the DRF has played a significant role in extinguishing commercial external debt from the books of the public sector of low-income countries.
Ultimately, the regulation of UK banks is a matter for the independent Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA has robust powers to investigate potential cases of misconduct and to enforce UK financial rules; this includes any issues around the lending practices of UK financial firms.


27 NOV 2018

Trophy Hunting

Thank you for taking the time to email me about trophy hunting imports and the related EDM, number 1829.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1829, 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 reassuring:

It is important we protect endangered animals across the world, the UK Government is committed to conserving the world's wildlife.
The wildlife trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, whose approach is to ensure that the trade is conducted legally and sustainably, not necessarily to reduce or end it. At its most recent conference the UK played a key role in developing a proposal for enhanced global rules on hunting and trade. The resulting tightening of controls are a very positive step towards ensuring sustainability.
Import controls are managed at an EU-wide level and stricter controls on the import of six species subject to hunting, including lions and African elephants, were introduced in 2015. Following our withdrawal from the EU, the Government will be in a position to consider future UK policy in this area.
As part of its efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, the UK hosted a fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, building on previous conferences in held London, Kasane and Hanoi. It has also set up the £13 million Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund to support projects in the developing world, and in 2012 funded a conference in Johannesburg to consider conservation of the African lion with other interested countries.


23 NOV 2018

EDM 1744

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the related EDM, number 1744.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1744, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

It is important to note that, for the time being, the INF Treaty remains in force. While that remains the case, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue in their efforts to bring back Russia into full and verified compliance.
There is no question that the INF Treaty has played a valuable role in supporting Euro-Atlantic security. The Government is clear that it wishes the Treaty to remain in place. Despite this, the UK shares the concerns of the US at certain new Russian missiles. Russia must respect the obligations of the Treaty in order to safeguard global security.
The UK has a close dialogue with the US at all levels on foreign and security policy questions and will continue to work alongside the US and other Allies on next steps.


21 NOV 2018

EDM 1527

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 1527, 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 agree that people should know how animals were slaughtered through clear labelling as to whether it is halal or kosher.


19 NOV 2018

World Watch List

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the launch of the Open Doors world watch list, I will endeavour to attend.

I do appreciate your concerns about freedom of religion and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

It is completely abhorrent that millions of Christians worldwide are persecuted for seeking to practise their beliefs openly, in peace and safety. Here in the UK our freedoms are all too often taken for granted. The Prime Minister has shown a longstanding commitment to address the persecution of religious minorities around the world.
The UK's multiple overseas programmes are an important part of this work to promote and protect religious freedoms. This includes raising concerns over provisions that are being used to limit the freedom to adopt, change or practise a religion around the world. Almost £1 million of funding has been allocated to pursue the Government's freedom of religion and belief policy objectives through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy.
The Government will continue to defend the fundamental right of religious freedom, alongside its commitment to promote and defend human rights more generally. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has recently reissued its toolkit on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) to all of our overseas embassies and missions across the world and encouraged them to promote and defend this important human right. Additional funding of £12 million has also been made available through UK Aid Connect, to work with faith groups, NGOs and academics to promote religious diversity and help countries worldwide embed FoRB policies alongside poverty reduction and development.
The UK acts both multilaterally, through institutions such as the UN, striving to build and maintain consensus, and bilaterally, though the UK's diplomatic network to address the persecution of religious minorities.


19 NOV 2018

S106 Equality Act

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

I will be supporting the campaign concerning S106 and parliamentary seats for women.


16 NOV 2018

Arms Sales

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

I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen. It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end arms sales.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Trade is of interest:

The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.
By adhering to the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will continue to ensure that UK arms exports are not used for internal repression, violating international humanitarian law, or for provoking or prolonging conflict.


16 NOV 2018

Race Horse Welfare

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

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

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is the independent body responsible for regulating the sport of horseracing. It works closely with animal charities such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare to ensure that the highest of standards are upheld. As a consequence, Britain is regarded as having one of the best regulated racing environments across the world.
It is always upsetting to hear about the death of a horse during a race, but the BHA has a number of policies to ensure that racing is as safe as possible for horses. These include not licencing any racecourse in the UK which is not welfare approved, ensuring all races have veterinary surgeons on hand to administer treatment and investigating any course showing an increase in fatalities. In the last 20 years horse fatalities during races have fallen by a third, to 0.2 per cent of runners.
The Retraining of Racehorses is the official charity dealing with the welfare of retired racehorses. It raises funds through regulatory and licence fees from racing, as well as from donations. It runs a nationwide programme find new homes and roles for these horses, including in other recreational activities.


16 NOV 2018

Guide Dogs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about discrimination against guide dog owners.

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

Everyone deserves the right to travel with comfort and dignity. Guide dogs give people with disabilities the freedom and confidence to work and visit friends independently. There are already, as you are aware, strict laws against the discrimination of those who rely on guide dogs.
The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. People who use guide dogs currently enjoy the legal right to travel on routes that other animals or pets are not allowed. This is absolutely the right thing as independence is an important aspect in the lives of many people and should be extended to as many people as it is possible.
The use of guide dogs is encouraged by the clear guidance which clarifies the rights of guide dog owners, and outlines the options available to those who have been discriminated against when using a guide dog. This includes the ability to report those who do not make reasonable adjustments to make a disabled person's journey easier. Distinctive jackets for guide dogs to wear are issued to help clearly identity them. It is also advised that any identification cards, if given, are carried by a person with disabilities to help ensure they are not discriminated against.
The Government's Inclusive Transport Strategy commits to enhancing disability equality and awareness training for transport staff, which will better equip them to safely and confidently assist those with mobility challenges, including guide dog owners.


15 NOV 2018

Red Wednesday

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Red Wednesday with CSW and Aid to the Church.

I share your concern about the persecution of Christians worldwide and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The Prime Minister has consistently reiterated the UK's commitment to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and to allow them to practice their beliefs in peace and safety.
We have recently celebrated International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day and promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is a foreign policy priority for the Government.
The appointment of Lord Ahmad as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on FoRB is welcome, which will promote our firm stance on religious intolerance abroad. Additional funding of £1 million will provide support to places of worship that have been subjected to hate crime attacks, underscoring the Prime Minister's commitment to tackling religious discrimination in all its forms.
The UK worked alongside international partners to maintain consensus on the adoption and implementation of both the Resolution on FoRB and the Resolution on Combating Religious Intolerance at the UN Human Rights Council in March. More recently, the Government has committed £12 million of additional funding to champion FoRB worldwide, working with faith groups, NGOs and academics to promote religious diversity and helping countries embed FoRB policies alongside poverty reduction and development.
The UK, will now, and in the future maintain a firm commitment to promoting and defending FoRB for individuals around the world.


15 NOV 2018

Defend Israel

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

I 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. Ministers have been clear that any investigation into the recent violence in Gaza must examine the role of non-state actors, including Hamas.
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.


15 NOV 2018

EDM 1761

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the water industry and EDM number 1761.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1761, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Properly regulated private markets are the best way to meet the ongoing needs of water customers and the environment.
Since privatisation we have seen £140 billion of investment in water supply, thanks to which consumers are five times less likely to suffer from interruptions to their supply. Ministers have, however, been putting pressure on the water companies to do more to enhance the environment and provide customers with the reliable and resilient service they expect. As a result, water companies now plan to invest £50 billion on improving services, while reducing customer bills on average by 4 per cent in real terms by 2025.
The industry regulator, Ofwat, will scrutinise the water companies' plans to ensure they go far enough, and my ministerial colleagues will hold them to their promises. They submitted draft business plans for the 2019 Price Review in September, and these give an early indication that water companies are responding positively to the Secretary of State's challenge. The industry is raising its game on several fronts, such as cutting prices, investing more and paying lower dividends to shareholders.
Reforming industry governance and empowering the regulator is the best way to secure a water industry that works for everyone, including both customers and the environment.


15 NOV 2018

Brexit

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

I understand that there are many different views on the Withdrawal Agreement and you may like to read the outline of the future relationship

The draft Withdrawal agreement can also be viewed here:

My own stance is that there is simply not enough detail in the Framework for the Future Relationship for anyone to make any sensible judgement. Shockingly, there is absolutely nothing in the Future Framework document about health, care, public health or research. Yet this is an area which profoundly touches the lives of every citizen in the UK and across our partner EU nations.

There are repeated references throughout the Withdrawal Agreement to "the end of the transition period" which hammers home the extent of what we are losing without any detail in the future framework document on which to make a judgement. The Withdrawal Agreement helps prevent an immediate chaotic exit because of transition but kicks the can down the road on what we are left with thereafter, taking us out of the EU but on a road to nowhere.

The Withdrawal Agreement is a profoundly depressing document for anyone concerned about the future loss of rights and freedoms built up over decades. It is now time for MPs to put aside narrow party political or personal interest and unite to demand a People's Vote on the final deal.


15 NOV 2018

Subsidies For Burning Wood

Thank you for taking the time to email me about subsidies for burning wood.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1771 on this topic, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. The UK is already the third best country in the world at tackling climate change, but the Government is working hard to further reduce emissions and increase generation from renewables, while at the same time ensuring a reliable, secure source of energy and protecting consumers from excessive costs.
The Government supports the G20's initiative to reform inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and this commitment is welcome. It is important to distinguish, however, that the Government does not provide subsidies to fossil fuel production or consumption. The sums argued by some are features of the tax regime intended to promote the industries concerned. For instance, the UK oil and gas sector which has made a huge contribution to the economy and supports thousands of jobs.
The Government has also made clear, through its Bioenergy Strategy, that only biomass from sustainable sources should be used in the UK. Under new biomass sustainability criteria bioenergy suppliers must report on the sustainability of their operations if they want to claim Government subsidy, and any generators that do not comply will lose this support.
Ultimately, Britain is already leading the way on tackling climate change and building an energy system fit for the 21st century. We will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the energy mix completely, with the announcement that all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions are not being captured and stored will be closed by 2025. Renewable capacity has quadrupled since 2010, and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses about the shift to a low-carbon economy through its Clean Growth Strategy.


13 NOV 2018

Palestinian Human Rights

Thank you for taking the time to email me about violence in Gaza and Palestinian human rights.

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

The Palestinian right to protest is important, however these protests must remain peaceful. Extremist elements may have used the protests to further their own violent and deplorable aims against the State of Israel. This is another reason why there is an urgent need to establish the facts. 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.
The Government is deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The UK is providing humanitarian support through a number of programmes including those of UNICEF. Of this support, £2 million is helping to support up to a million people in Gaza by providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities in order to prevent the spread of disease. The recent announcement of a new £38.5 million programme to support economic development in Gaza and the West Bank is also welcome.


13 NOV 2018

MS

Thank you for taking the time to email me about multiple sclerosis.

I appreciate how challenging this condition can be to live with and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health and Social Care is reassuring:

With more than 100,000 people across the UK diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, helping those suffering from this condition to lead as normal lives as possible remains a key commitment of the NHS.
Diagnosis in the early stages of multiple sclerosis can be difficult, with some of the symptoms often similar to other conditions. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines to assist clinicians in diagnosing the condition. This guidance also provides clinicians with best practice for treating the many possible symptoms of multiple sclerosis, including mobility problems and fatigue.
Those suffering from multiple sclerosis may also have specific long-term social care needs. £9.4 billion in dedicated funding has been made available for adult social care through to 2020. Better integration between health and social care provision, creating genuinely people-centred coordinated care, is also required.
Almost £288 million has been spent on research into neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, since 2010 through the publicly-funded National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). With the NIHR's annual spending on neurological conditions up by more than £22 million since 2010.


12 NOV 2018

Universal Credit Child Disability Addition

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Child Disability Addition under Universal Credit (UC).

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

Raising a child with a disability is as challenging as it is inspiring and rewarding. That is why parents should receive support from the state to help them raise children with disabilities.
To clarify, there are two rates of extra monthly amount a parent with a disabled or severely disabled child is entitled to under UC. They are £126.11 and £383.86 for, respectively, children who receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and children who receive the highest rate of the care component of DLA or the enhanced rate for daily living of PIP or is registered blind. Parents also receive extra amount for disabled or severely disabled child, no matter how many children they have.
It is important to remember that the Child Disability Addition under UC is only one part of the broader welfare system which is helping everyone with a disability. For example, the Budget announced a £1,000 increase to the UC work allowances for households with children, and people with disabilities. This means that 2.4 million households will keep an extra £630 of income each year.
On top of this, Tax-Free Childcare is also available to over 1.5 million families to help with the cost of childcare. Working parents are able to access up to £4,000 for disabled children. Furthermore, 30 hours of free childcare per week is available for working parents of three and four year olds in England and 15 hours for parents of disadvantaged two year olds. Additionally, UC claimants can have up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs reimbursed with their UC award each month.


12 NOV 2018

Children's Futures

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the upcoming replenishment of the Global Financing Facility.

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

Supporting poor and vulnerable children to access affordable healthcare should remain a priority for UK aid spending. Investing in health services not only saves lives but also helps the most marginalised people to realise their full potential. The UK's £50 million commitment to the World Bank's Global Financing Facility (GFF) at the recent replenishment event is welcome. This will help close the global funding gap for maternal, newborn and child health services.
The GFF has a unique way of working, so that the UK's contribution, and those of other donor countries, will be used to help encourage investment from the private sector and recipient governments. This will help to make medicines, equipment and life-saving resources more available for pregnant women, babies and children in 27 countries across Africa and Asia until 2023.
The UK's new commitment builds on our £30 million investment in the GFF made at the 2017 Family Planning Summit in London, which is designed to enable the GFF to try new financing methods to expand sexual and reproductive health services. Improving access to contraception empowers adolescent girls and women to choose whether or when they have children, giving girls more control over their health and futures.


12 NOV 2018

NHS Funding

Thank you for writing to me and I have long campaigned for funding for the NHS and social care.

As chair of the Health and Social Care Committee in Parliament I will shortly be chairing an inquiry into the funding commitments and will also be looking at the new ten year plan when this is finalised as well as the proposals in the social care green paper.

These hearings will be available to watch online or to read our reports via this link


12 NOV 2018

Universal Credit and Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about people with cancer who claim Universal Credit (UC).

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 is a terrible condition for people to go through, and it is crucial that people who suffer from health conditions like this should receive as much support as possible to help reduce stress and anxiety.
There are people who may struggle with access to the benefits system, which is why £200 million has been invested in Universal Support. From April 2019 it will be delivered by the independent charity Citizens Advice, to support people with every step of making a new UC claim. All Jobcentres across the UK have free Wi-Fi and there are more than 8,000 computers available to support customers with making their claim online. If someone cannot get online then there is a Freephone UC helpline.
There are safeguards in place to ensure people with a terminal illness can access UC more quickly. Any household that needs it will be able to access a full month's payment as an advance within five days of applying, and the repayment period will be increased to 16 months from 2021. If someone is in immediate need, then their payment would be fast tracked, so that they receive it on the same day. The initial seven-day waiting period has been removed so that entitlement to UC starts on the first day of the application.
There is also the Special Rules for Terminal Illness procedure, which allows people with terminal illnesses to be fast-tracked without the need for a face-to-face assessment.


12 NOV 2018

Wild Animals In Circuses

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

I understand your concern on this matter and I 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.
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 determination.


09 NOV 2018

Devon Wildlife Trust

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

I understand you are a supporter of the Devon Wildlife Trust and have noted your position that there should be set targets in law for improving the environment. I can assure you that I meet regularly with the Devon Wildlife Trust and as your MP I will be pressing for environmental standards to be at least equivalent or higher in the event that we do leave the EU.

I hope the following information from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which sets out the Government's general approach to environmental policymaking as we leave the jurisdiction of EU environmental regulations is of interest:

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 will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an 'agricultural transition' period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.
Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement.
Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. 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 this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as 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.

If you would like to come and see me at a constituency surgery to discuss this further then please do call my office on 01803 868 378. However, it would be helpful to collate with other supporters of this campaign so a joint meeting could be held.


09 NOV 2018

Fair Funding for Mental Health

Thank you for taking the time to email me about mental health and funding.

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

While it is hugely welcome that we are on the road to parity of esteem there is still more to do. As part of the five-year funding offer that will see the NHS budget grow by over £20.5 billion a year, mental health services will receive an additional £2 billion per year.
A new mental health crisis service with comprehensive mental health support will be available in every major A&E, alongside new children and young peoples' crisis teams across the country. The additional funding will also deliver more mental health ambulances, "safe havens" in the community; and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline when people are in urgent need of help.
These new services help end the stigma surrounding mental health, offering crucial support to people suffering from crisis and those who have suffered in silence for too long. As you may also be aware, the Prime Minister recently announced the creation of a Minister for Suicide Prevention, who will help continue the progress made in suicide prevention, with suicide rates at their lowest for seven years. The Government is working to ensure mental health spending is spread across the whole country. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are required to achieve the Mental Health Investment Standard, to demonstrate they have increased their mental health spending in line with the growth in their overall budgets. In 2016/17, 85 per cent of CCGs achieved this standard, and NHS England continues to work with CCGs to improve this figure.


09 NOV 2018

Ovarian Cancer

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

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

Early diagnosis makes a huge difference in survival and this is a priority for the Government which is why Public Health England (PHE) is working with cancer charities to pilot and assess the feasibility of an ovarian cancer audit over the next two years.
The NHS is developing new models of care and pathways that will transform services by speeding up diagnosis. This includes a commitment to roll out a new Faster Diagnosis Standard by 2020 to ensure that patients referred for an investigation with a suspicion of cancer are diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days. NHS England has also committed more than £200 million in cancer services between 2017 and 2019, to accelerate diagnosis, improve survival and enhance quality of life.
In October, the Prime Minister announced that NHS England is introducing Rapid Diagnostic and Assessment Centres which will operate as one-stop shops to reduce time-to diagnosis and time-to-first treatment. This is a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated.
More broadly, the Government is delivering the largest single upgrade in NHS cancer treatment for the last 15 years. The £130 million radiotherapy modernisation programme is upgrading and replacing radiotherapy equipment in hospitals across England. Through this programme, patients will have access to the most modern, innovative radiotherapy techniques to create better health outcomes and improve patient experience.
The Government is closely working with PHE to develop an approach to raise awareness of generic symptoms that can indicate a wider number of cancers, including ovarian cancer, and the need to visit the doctor promptly with these symptoms.


09 NOV 2018

Horses and the Highway Code

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

I did manage to attend and speak in the Road Safety debate: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/road-safety/2952

On the topic of horse riders and the Highway Code review, I hope the following information from the Department of Transport is reassuring:

Ministers are aware of the points made by horse riders about the scope of the review. A review of the Highway Code was recently announced to help keep vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, safe on the roads.
It is important to recognise that horse riders are also vulnerable road users and so Highway Code advice on, for example, overtaking or passing cyclists applies equally to them.
When the review was first announced, it was encouraging to see the Government committing to update the Highway Code in relation to close passing. This is a dangerous practice which is the root cause of many road incidents involving horses.
The full scope of the review has yet to be determined, but it will be conducted in consultation with those representing horse riders.
In addition to the Highway Code review, work has taken place with the British Horse Society to support its 'Dead Slow' campaign to encourage drivers to pass horses safely.
It is also welcome that the driving theory test contains questions about how drivers should interact with vulnerable road users, including horse riders. The hazard perception test includes a number of clips where horse riders are the hazard, either directly or indirectly.


08 NOV 2018

St Mungo's

Thank you for taking the time to email me about homelessness and the St Mungo's campaign.

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

Just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and it is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in society, including homeless people and rough sleepers, are helped to get their lives back on track. Over £1.2 billion has been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through to 2020.
The Government has a strong record of preventing and relieving homelessness. Across England, since 2010, there have been over 1. 6 million cases of homelessness prevention and relief.
The launch of a new £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers is welcomed. This will complement the £28 million Housing First pilots which are supporting the most entrenched rough sleepers off the streets by providing them with stable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support.
Furthermore, the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislative reform for tackling homelessness in decades, has recently come into force. This Act, praised by both Shelter and Crisis, requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of homelessness.


08 NOV 2018

Agroecology

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

I have noted your support for this and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

A UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies was launched in 2013, designed to examine how the UK can meet the challenge of feeding a growing population without damaging the natural environment.
Central to the strategy is using basic research and applied science to allow our farmers to access agri-tech expertise and use innovative techniques. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on agri-food research and development, plus further money to accelerate innovation by UK food and farming businesses. There has also been significant spending on agricultural systems research, which includes agroecology. This has included a range of studies in areas such as agricultural landscapes and systems, soil science and the effects of agriculture on ecosystems and the environment.
Evidence and advice on the issue has been published in the Land Use Policy Group commissioned study The Role of Agroecology in Sustainable Intensification (2015) which reviewed the evidence on issues such as productivity, soils, biodiversity from other European countries (notably France and Germany) and North America.
The UK is supporting a research partnership with scientists from India. In February 2015 a three-day event held at the Centre for Pollination Studies, University of Calcutta brought together agro-ecologists from our two countries, with the aim of facilitating knowledge exchange and collaborative research. This was the first step towards establishing joint research.
A range of actions is planned that will enable the UK to regain its world-leading role in the race for better, more efficient and more sustainable agricultural production.


08 NOV 2018

Agriculture Bill.

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

As your MP I will be pressing for environmental standards to be at least equivalent or higher in the event that we do leave the EU and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of 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 will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an 'agricultural transition' period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.
Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement.
Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. 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 this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as 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.


08 NOV 2018

FOBTs

I very much hope that the Chancellor will listen to the strength of feeling across the Commons and agree to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs in April 2019. This is a point of principle about the power of industry lobbying in our politics and frankly it is not good enough for the Chancellor to speak of reducing the tragedy of lives lost to suicide if that is not followed up by timely implementation of the policy levers to make a difference.

The October 19 date is not a 'compromise', it leaves more families and communities unnecessarily facing the misery caused by these machines. The date can and should be brought forward.


06 NOV 2018

Nuclear Weapons

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the UN treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

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

The UK has not taken part in negotiation of this treaty, and does not intend to sign, ratify or become party to it. It will not be binding on the UK. The UK is committed to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons risks weakening the consensus around the near-universal NPT, which has played an unparalleled role in curtailing the nuclear arms race.
The Government is committed to a world without nuclear weapons. It is of the firm belief that the best way to achieve that goal is through gradual, multilateral disarmament, negotiated using a step by step approach within the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The UK has tried over the years to lead by example, with our nuclear warhead stock being much reduced. The UK continues to discuss and negotiate with our international partners on the best way to proceed.
Given the unpredictable international security environment we face today, however, it is right that the Government remains committed to maintaining a minimum credible deterrent for the foreseeable future. For this reason, the UK does not support a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Productive results can only be ensured through a consensus-based approach that takes into account the wider global security environment. However, as a responsible Nuclear Weapons State, the UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.


06 NOV 2018

Changing Places Toilets

Thank you for taking the time to email me about accessible toilet facilities.

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

Many people take the availability of toilets for granted. Yet for adults and children whose needs are not met by standard public toilet provision, the availability of appropriate facilities is central to planning any activity that takes place outside the home.
Campaigns such as Changing Places have done much to increase awareness of this issue in recent years. The Government has worked with Changing Places, as well as with PAMIS, Mencap and the British Toilet Association, to improve the provision of accessible toilets. In 2007, when the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government became involved, there were only around 140 Changing Places toilets in the UK: the 1000th facility in the UK opened in 2017. In addition, guidance on Changing Places was introduced into the Building Regulations in England in 2013.
The Government has also helped fund the development of a website, which has information on the location and details of every registered Changing Place in the UK, to help disabled people and their carers to find the nearest Changing Places toilet more easily.


05 NOV 2018

Protect UK Aid

Thank you for taking the time to email me about our aid budget.

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


05 NOV 2018

Solar Power

Thank you for contacting me about export tariff payments for rooftop solar installations.

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

The Government is currently considering the responses received to a recent consultation on Feed-In-Tariffs export-payments alongside the generation tariff for new applications after March 2019. Its response will be published in due course.
The Government is committed to ensuring the UK has secure energy supplies that are reliable, affordable and clean. Our country generates electricity from increasingly low carbon sources and the electricity powering the UK's homes and businesses in 2017 was the greenest ever, with 50 per cent coming from clean sources, up from 19 per cent in 2010.
Ultimately, the UK has been a world leader in cutting emissions while growing our economy, and in doing so has demonstrated to the world what is possible when government and industry come together to tackle big strategic challenges. Much of this however has been paid for through consumer bills, and the Feed-In-Tariff scheme alone carries a legacy cost to bill payers of around £1.2 billion a year for the coming decade.
Last year saw the launch of the Clean Growth Strategy which sets out 50 major policies and plans that will help us to cut the cost of energy, drive economic growth, create high value jobs right across the UK, and improve our quality of life. The Feed-in-Tariff call for evidence reaffirms the Government's ambition set out in the Clean Growth Strategy to consider its approach to small-scale low-carbon generation and to explore the clear cross overs with a smart energy system.
Ultimately, distributed generation may have a role to play a part in a smarter, more efficient energy system and Ministers should ensure small scale low-carbon technologies have a level playing field as the market for smarter services evolves, rather than continuing to rely on public subsidies.


05 NOV 2018

Diana Johnson Bill

Thank you for letting me know your views on this issue which will always be a matter of personal conscience. I am sorry that we will have to disagree on the nature of this bill which is not about 'self-abortion' but about decriminalising abortion for women seeking help. Those providing services outside a strictly regulated framework would still face penalties and the legal limit would remain in place at 24 weeks.


02 NOV 2018

Injured Workers

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the proposed increase to the small claims limit.

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

It is important that the limit is not disproportionately increased. That said, the proposed increase to £2,000, in line with inflation since 1991 when the current limit of £1,000 was set, is appropriate and reasonable.
With the last increase to the small claims limit made in 1991, followed by a minor technical change to what should be included in the limit made in 1999, it has been decades since the limit was last amended. Reform of the limit is therefore long overdue, with the proposed increase scheduled to come into effect in April 2020. This is part of wider reforms to the small claims track limit for managing whiplash injuries and minor injuries in road traffic accidents.
Following a 2016 consultation on raising the small claims limit to £5,000, the Government listened to concerns and instead limited the rise for claims relating to workplace injuries to £2,000, in line with inflation. The personal injury small claims track limit has been set at £1,000 since 1991, and the Government has used the Retail Price Index to calculate the increase to £2,000 to ensure consistency with the way such increases are dealt with by the Judicial College Guidelines.
The small claims track is the right one for these relatively straightforward claims which do not routinely require help from a lawyer to settle. The vast majority of these claims already settle without going to court, and the Government is developing a helpful new accessible IT portal to support claimants to bring forward claims quickly and efficiently, with or without a lawyer.
All employers are required by law to report accidents and dangerous occurrences in the workplace to the Health and Safety Executive, which will continue to investigate and prosecute those at fault irrespective of whether a personal injury claim arises from an incident. It is welcome that between 2000/1 and 2016/17 the estimated rate of self-reported workplace non-fatal injury is down by around a half, according to the Health and Safety Executive.


02 NOV 2018

MND Association Event

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the MND Association and Marie Curie parliamentary drop-in event on the 13th of November.

Unfortunately, this clashes with a meeting of the Health Select Committee, which I chair so I will be unable to attend but I hope you will be pleased to hear that I have signed Madeleine Moon MP's backbench letter in support of her Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill.


02 NOV 2018

School Funding

Thank you for writing to me about the importance of schools funding.

My personal view is that it would have been better not to have prioritised tax cuts through changes to the thresholds a year early because I do think there was a strong case for this going to support our public services including education.

I have abstained on the budget and will continue to make the case for education funding.


02 NOV 2018

Assisted Dying

I'm sorry I won't be able to attend the meeting in the Boothroyd room.

There is no government legislation or private member's bill before Parliament that could change the law on assisted dying at the moment.

I am sorry to disappoint you on that point but after the next Queen's speech there will be a further ballot for MPs to have the opportunity to do so, much in the way that I am currently taking a bill through Parliament to protect people from stalking.


01 NOV 2018

Tibet

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

I understand that the UK regularly urges China to respect all fundamental rights across the People's Republic of China, including in Tibet, in line with both its own constitution and the international frameworks to which it is a party. I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The Foreign Secretary raised the issue of human rights on his visit to China in the summer.
The UK also pays close attention to the human rights and wider situation in Tibet, which it regularly raises with the Chinese authorities. China remains a Human Rights priority country for the UK and the FCO's concerns were set out in its annual report on Human Rights and Democracy, which was published in July.
The UK will be raising a range of its priority concerns at China's Universal Periodic Review. The advance questions have been published at the following website, including the UK's contribution: https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/china/session_31_-_november_2018/advancequestionschina.pdf.


01 NOV 2018

Post Office

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Post Office network.

Post Office branches are relied upon by communities; they serve a distinct social purpose and are a valuable social economic asset for our communities and businesses, forming a cornerstone of British society. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is reassuring:

Protecting the Post Office remains a priority. Nearly £2 billion has been invested since 2010 to maintain, modernise and protect the network including the Crown branches which account for around 300 branches run directly by Post Office.
The day-to-day management of the network and getting the right branches in the right locations is an operational matter for Post Office. However, it is worth noting that the majority of plans to franchise some of the Crown branches will not lead to the loss of the post office, just its re-location to a viable business partner.
This is an approach the Post Office has been following since 2012, a mix of investment in Crowns and franchising those that are better provided from a partner business. This has helped shift the Crown branch estate from making an annual £50 million loss to breaking even now.
While the Post Office has recently announced a plan to relocate 40 post offices in WHSmith stores, the overall number of Post Offices will not be reduced. WHSmith will also reach a franchise agreement for the 33 post offices that are already in its stores, so the total number of post offices operated by WHSmith in its stores is planned to rise.
It is also worth noting that there are now more than 11,500 Post Office branches in the UK, and the network is at its most stable for decades. More than 4,300 branches are now open on Sundays and nearly 1 million additional opening hours are to be added to the network every month.


01 NOV 2018

Fracking Debate

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Westminster Hall debate on shale gas development that was held on the 31st of October.

I am afraid I was unable to speak in the debate as I already had other commitments at that time and in order to speak, MPs have to be present for the whole debate. Nonetheless, in my view shale gas extraction remains hugely contentious and in my view we are still overly dependent on fossil fuels and whilst on track to meet our short term legal targets to decarbonise, in the long term we are set to fall short. The five hottest years for global surface temperatures since records began have been since 2010 and evidence for the effect of greenhouse gas emissions in causing this rapidly escalating effect is now overwhelming. It is time in my view to move away from investing in polluting technologies to something that allows a better future for our children than one dominated by the misery of climate change. Freak weather extremes will increasingly become a new but frightening normal.

The recent consultation concerning shale gas developments has now closed but once the government responds you will be able to view this via the following link

You may also like to view the Hansard transcript of the debate which includes a response from the Minister and you can do so here


26 OCT 2018

Breast Cancer

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

I fully agree that we must ensure that people with a secondary breast cancer diagnosis receive the highest quality care and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

The Breast Cancer Care campaign, 'Secondary. Not Second Rate', is raising awareness of secondary breast cancer, which is estimated to affect 36,000 people in the UK. First launched in 2017, the campaign seeks to ensure that every person living with secondary breast cancer receives the appropriate care and support they require.
Efforts are being made to ensure that cancer services continue to improve and that the NHS continues to provide some of the world's best cancer care. In December last year, Health Education England (HEE) published its first Cancer Workforce Plan. The plan outlines HEE's commitment to support the expansion of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) so that every patient has access to a CNS or other support worker by 2021.
The National Cancer Care Programme has also committed to rolling out follow-up pathways in breast cancer by 2020 to ensure patients get the right care after treatment, including information and support to spot signs of secondary cancer. These pathways also ensure that in cases of secondary cancer that patients are supported effectively, taking into account their individual preferences, which I am pleased to learn will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care.
These measures form just part of the NHS's ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes and to improve quality of life for patients. Following the announcement of a £20.5 billion funding increase in the NHS England budget, the cancer strategy will improve outcomes for those currently living with secondary breast cancer.


26 OCT 2018

NCT

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about new mother's mental health.

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

It is vitally important that women have access to the right care during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year. Ministers are aware of the National Childbirth Trust's 'Hidden Half' campaign on this important issue.
Improving perinatal mental health services during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year should be prioritised. The Department for Health is investing £365 million over five years in perinatal mental health services. NHS England is leading a transformation programme to ensure that, by 2020-21, at least 30,000 more women each year are able to access evidence-based specialist mental health care during the perinatal period. Where possible, the transformation programme aims to improve prevention of perinatal mental illness, including through earlier diagnosis and intervention, support for recovery and reducing avoidable harm.
Investment by NHS England in multidisciplinary perinatal mental health clinical networks, which include GPs, will also help drive change. By working together through these networks, health practitioners can ensure women at risk of perinatal mental health problems are identified at an earlier stage and can receive better, more coordinated care.


25 OCT 2018

Human Rights Defenders

Thank you for taking the time to email me about human rights defenders.

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

Human rights defenders are at the forefront of work to promote and protect human rights and democracy, often at great personal risk to themselves. In many places they are persecuted, imprisoned, attacked or even killed because of their work.
In the light of increasing levels of intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders in many parts of the world, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has worked with several civil society organisations to update its internal guidance on working with human rights defenders. This updated guidance was issued to all Embassies and High Commissions in December 2017, and tasks the FCO's network of Embassies and High Commissions to find practical ways to support human rights defenders. This guidance is kept under constant review.
The Government is concerned about the case of Azza Soliman specifically. Lord Ahmad, the Minister for Human Rights, has been clear that the UK continues to raise its human rights concerns privately with the Egyptian authorities and also in public, including at the UN. The decreasing space for civil society to operate in Egypt is extremely worrying.
The Government supports the work of Human Rights Defenders globally and that the FCO works with and supports a wide range of organisations committed to helping human rights defenders either through emergency assistance or by building their capacity to protect themselves.
Support is provided to human rights defenders through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, most of which is allocated for implementation of projects by human rights defenders and civil society organisations. The FCO also highlights repression of human rights defenders in its Annual Human Rights Report.


25 OCT 2018

Offensive Weapons Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Offensive Weapons Bill.

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

It is important to ensure more work is done to break the deadly cycle of violence that devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities. The Government shares this position and is taking action to ensure the sale and possession of dangerous weapons is prevented.
The Serious Violence Strategy to help tackle recent increases in serious violence. This Government action supports a multi-strand approach including robust law enforcement, early intervention and prevention.
A key element of the strategy is the Offensive Weapons Bill. The Bill contains a range of measures to update and strengthen the law on the sale of corrosive substances, ban the delivery of knives and corrosives bought online to residential addresses and ban the possession of weapons including zombie knives, knuckle dusters and death stars both in public and private. The Bill will also make it harder for young people to buy knives and acid online.
The Government has a duty to safeguard the public and to take action in this area.


25 OCT 2018

Ivory

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the plight of the elephant and the ivory 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 decline in the elephant population, fuelled by poaching for ivory, shames our generation. The need for radical, robust action to protect one of the world's most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.
Following a consultation, the Government is banning the sale of ivory and will put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to address the drastic decline in the elephant population.
The ban will cover items of all ages, not just those made after a certain date, and the maximum available penalty for breaching it will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison. It will include certain narrowly-defined, carefully-targeted exemptions for items that do not contribute to poaching, where a ban would be unwarranted. By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK's ban will be one of the toughest in the world.
In addition, in the UK has hosted the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade. This follows the ground breaking London 2014 conference on the illegal wildlife trade, and subsequent conferences in Botswana and Vietnam.
The ban on ivory sales will build on work at home and overseas to tackle poaching and the illegal ivory trade. The UK military is training African park rangers in proven poacher interception techniques in key African countries, and Border Force officers share their expertise in identifying smuggled ivory with counterparts worldwide to stop wildlife trafficking.
Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.
Banning ivory sales will reaffirm the UK's global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.


25 OCT 2018

NC7

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NC7.

I did support the amendment and thought that Stella Creasy MP's speech on women's human rights in Northern Ireland to access safe legal abortion and for same sex couples on equal marriage was superb.


23 OCT 2018

Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan.

Thank you for taking the time to email me about implementing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan.

I have written to the Minister responsible for local transport, Jesse Norman MP asking him to set out what funds local authorities in the Totnes constituency can access.


23 OCT 2018

Public Pay

Thank you for taking the time to email me about public sector pay.

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

Our dedicated public sector workers deserve to be fairly rewarded for the vital work they do. Because of the balanced approach the Government is taking to the public finances, it has been able to announce the largest public sector pay rise in almost a decade, for around 1 million public sector workers. Teachers on less than £35,000 will get a pay rise equivalent to £800 in 2018-19; the average member of the Armed Forces will get a pay rise worth £980 in 2018-19; and band 3 prison officers with modernised terms and conditions will get a pay rise worth 4.1 per cent on average in 2018-19.

These increases represent a fair and responsible deal for public sector workers and are affordable for taxpayers, and will help make sure we have the workforce we need to deliver world class public services.


23 OCT 2018

Saudi Arabia

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

I read your comments with interest and understand you are deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen. I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen. It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end arms sales.

The government position on this matter is as below:

The Government fully recognises the severity of the unfolding humanitarian crisis. The UK is leading the global response to this crisis in Yemen, as the fourth largest humanitarian donor to the country. The UK recently announced an additional £170 million for Yemen, to cover the 2018/19 financial year. This funding is in addition to the over £400 million of bilateral support from the UK since the conflict began in 2015 and will provide food to 2.5 million Yemeni people.
Britain has taken the lead in lobbying across the international community for urgent and unobstructed access for humanitarian assistance into Yemen. The Government continues to call for the modalities for a ceasefire to be agreed. You may be interested to know that the UK proposed and co-ordinated the UN Security Council Presidential Statement earlier this year, which repeated the call for unhindered humanitarian access.
The UK continues to work hard in order to achieve stability in the region. The Houthi insurgency overthrew a legitimate, United Nations backed Government in Yemen. The insurgency has cruelly executed a number of people including the former President of Yemen and prevented humanitarian aid reaching those most in need. The legitimate Government of Yemen requested the support of its neighbours and allies, including the UK and Saudi Arabia, to help tackle the rebel insurgency.
With regards to the recent UK visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Saudi Arabia, the Government is working with Saudi Arabia to address regional and international issues, including addressing the need for a political resolution to the conflict in Yemen.

It is important for the UK to engage with Saudi Arabia in order to encourage change. During a visit to Saudi Arabia at the end of last year, the Prime Minister made clear to the Crown Prince that the port of Hodeidah needed to be reopened for humanitarian and commercial supplies. Saudi Arabia then reopened the port, which shows the value and importance of engagement.

Lastly, on the topic of Jamal Khashoggi I have already publically asked how Britain can expect international support condemning state sponsored murder on our soil unless we stand up against the disgusting state sponsored torture and murder of Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia.


23 OCT 2018

Workers Rights Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill.

I have long standing commitments in the constituency on the 26th of October so will not be in the House for the vote but I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of

Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is reassuring:

While not suitable for everyone, zero-hour contracts do have a part to play in a modern, flexible labour market because, for a small proportion of the workforce, that may be the kind of contract that is right for them. On average, people on these contracts work 26 hours a week and over 70 per cent of those people do not want more hours.
However, it is important to make sure that those benefitting from the flexibility of these contracts are not exploited by unscrupulous employers and action has been taken.
In 2015, the Government legislated to ban exploitative zero hours meaning it is now illegal for employers to include exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts. This means that people have the freedom to look for and take other work opportunities and have more control over their work hours and income. Individuals on these contracts can also make a complaint to an employment tribunal if their employer mistreats them for working, or seeking to work, elsewhere.
Since 2010 employment has increased by 3.3 million and three-quarters of this rise has been in full-time employment. In comparison, less than three per cent of the total workforce are on zero-hours contracts. However, in response to the Taylor Review on modern working practices, the Government has committed to providing a right to request a more predictable contract for all workers, including those on zero hours, as well as a list of day-one rights including holiday and sick pay entitlements and a new right to a payslip.
The Government will now consult on how this can be best achieved and bring forward any necessary legislation in due course.


23 OCT 2018

Legal Aid

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

I agree about the importance of legal aid and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Justice is reassuring:

The Ministry of Justice continues to make provision of £1.6 billion a year in legal aid. Maintaining access to justice remains absolutely vital and continues to be at the heart of reforms to the justice system.
In October 2017, the post-implementation review of the legal aid changes made by, and following, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was announced. The review will consider the effect of the major changes to legal aid fees made by LASPO as well as recent policy changes on access to legal aid. The Government has committed to review a number of areas, including the changes made to the scope of legal aid for family, civil and criminal cases and the introduction of the Exceptional Case Funding scheme, as well as changes to the rules on financial eligibility, including the application of the capital eligibility test to all legal aid applicants.
Our legal aid system is a fundamental pillar of access to justice. The reforms within the Act were founded on delivering better value for money for taxpayers by reducing the cost of the scheme and discouraging unnecessary and adversarial litigation, while ensuring that legal aid continues to be available for the highest priority cases, for example where life or liberty is at stake, where someone faces the loss of their home, in domestic violence cases, or where their children may be taken into care.


23 OCT 2018

People's Vote

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about a People's Vote on Brexit.

I am already publically supporting a People's Vote and actually spoke at the rally in London last weekend.

If a further referendum on the deal is agreed by Parliament, it should offer people the choice between the deal negotiated or to remain. If a deal cannot be negotiated, the referendum should be between that 'no deal' or remain.


22 OCT 2018

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

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

I do understand your concern about the delay in implementing the maximum £2 bet limit and I hope you will be pleased to hear that I have signed an open letter to the Chancellor expressing my own concern about this.


22 OCT 2018

UC Managed Migration

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the managed migration of claimants from the legacy system to Universal Credit (UC).

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

UC is a fair benefit that protects vulnerable claimants. As UC is a simpler, more accurate benefit based on up-to-date information, it will provide people with their full entitlement. This means that 700,000 people will receive on average an extra £285 per month which they have not received under the existing system. Around a million disabled claimants will gain on average £110 a month through UC, because their award is higher through UC than legacy benefits.
UC will help 200,000 more people into work when fully rolled out, and empower people to work an extra 113 million hours a year. People on UC spend around 50 per cent more time looking for a job than they did under JSA. Since 2010, we have seen over 3.3 million people move into work, which is on average 1,000 people each and every day. And youth unemployment has plummeted by over 50 per cent.
As part of their 'testing and learning' approach, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been working closely with stakeholders and other parties to design the best possible process for the migration of people from the old benefits system to UC.
This will include a variety of communication formats including, face-to-face, internet and postal notification, to ensure people are aware of the managed migration process. Work Coaches will also be fully prepared to ensure that claimants move smoothly onto Universal Credit.
Draft Regulations will come before Parliament later this year, with the managed migration process starting later in 2019 and will be tested and refined before larger volumes start from 2020 until completion in 2023.
Transitional Protection will be provided for those moved through managed migration. This means that at the point of moving to Universal Credit, people's incomes will be protected. This includes support for around 500,000 people who are eligible for a Severe Disability Premium.
There will be flexibility to extend the transition period for people alongside a process to ensure that staff check for evidence of complex needs or vulnerability or disability before existing benefits are stopped. Furthermore, if someone misses their deadline to make a claim, there are provisions in the draft Regulations for the DWP to back-date their claim.
For people with capital exceeding £16,000 who are moved onto UC, any capital which exceeds the limit will be disregarded for 12 months. This will affect around 50,000 people. It has been calculated that approximately 50 per cent have capital greater than £40,000.


22 OCT 2018

Diana Johnson Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email and let me know that you have concerns about Diana Johnson's Ten Minute Rule Bill.

Bills of this sort have no chance of becoming law, they are more designed to highlight an issue.


19 OCT 2018

Asylum Seekers Right to Work

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about asylum seekers and employment.

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

The UK has a proud tradition of providing a place of safety for refugees. Each claim for asylum is carefully considered and where it is found that individuals are in need of protection, asylum is given.
Asylum seekers are allowed to work if their claim has not been decided after 12 months through no fault of their own. Those allowed to work are restricted to jobs on the shortage occupation list. This is a fair and reasonable policy, for it is important to protect the resident labour market, and we must ensure that access to jobs is prioritised for British citizens and those with leave to remain here, which includes refugees.
The current policy strikes the right balance, being equitable towards asylum seekers, consistent with our international obligations while taking into account the rights and needs of our society as a whole.
Fully furnished and equipped accommodation is provided to asylum seekers with no utility bills or Council Tax to pay. Access to healthcare and schooling is free. In addition, while it is important to be mindful of the cost to the taxpayer, the Home Office periodically reviews cash payments to ensure they continue to meet essential living needs. Following such a review, the amount someone claiming asylum support is now £37.75 per week for each person in the household.


19 OCT 2018

Pollinators Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Protection of Pollinators Bill.

I am afraid I will be in the constituency on the 26th of October so cannot be in the House for the bill's second reading. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

Bees and other pollinators play an essential role in our food production and are vital to the survival of our wild plant populations. There are 1,500 species of insect pollinator in the UK, and I welcome work over the last few years to protect them. These efforts have been brought together in the National Pollinator Strategy.
The Strategy lays out plans to improve our understanding of the status and role of pollinators, increase the area of habitat for pollinators, raise awareness of their importance, and safeguard be health. It also sets out new work to be done immediately, building on longer-term initiatives. These include conserving and creating good quality wild flower meadows, and minimising risks from pesticides. The Government is working with a range of public, private sector and charitable bodies to create bee and insect friendly habitats.
Since the Strategy was launched there has been encouraging progress on its aims to make farms, towns, cities and the countryside better places for our bees and pollinators. Ministers continue to work with partners such as Friends of the Earth, British Beekeepers' Association and Kew to deliver it.
Ministers have also introduced the first ever wild pollinator and farm wildlife package, which makes more funding made available to farmers and landowners who take steps to protect pollinators. In its first year of its operation over half of the mid-tier applications to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which channels these payments, included this package so it will make a real difference


18 OCT 2018

NSPCC

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the NSPCC parliamentary reception on the 28th of November, I will endeavour to pop by.

I share your concerns about the online safety of children and young people and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is reassuring:

It is important that our approach to the internet supports freedom online, while protecting people, particularly children from harm. While the internet provides access to a world of new information and points of view, it also exposes young people to very real harms. That is why online safety is a top priority for the Government.
In 2013 the Government announced an agreement with the four major Internet Service Providers to offer internet filters to parents, enabling them to select what their children can and cannot view online. The Digital Economy Act also allows the BBFC regulator to direct Internet Service Providers to block pornographic sites that fail to comply with age verification rules.
The Government is also introducing a new requirement for the Information Commissioner's Office to produce a statutory code of practice on age-appropriate website design. This will set standards required of websites and app makers on privacy for children under the age of 16. It will also ensure that websites and apps make clear what personal data of children is being collected.
The Internet Safety Strategy sets out how the Government wants the UK to be the safest place to be online, with proposals aimed at cracking down on dangers like cyber-bullying, trolling, and under-age access to porn. For example, measures include: establishing a new social media code of practice to see a joined-up approach to remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating content online; as well as support for tech and digital start-ups to think safety first, ensuring that necessary safety features are built into apps and products from the very start. A White Paper will be published later this year to set out more detailed plans, including proposals for future legislation.


18 OCT 2018

Work Allowances

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Universal Credit and Work Allowances.

I have joined calls for the Chancellor to restore the work allowances for single parent families and second earners with children to the levels that were set pre 2015. This would help to boost the incomes for 9.6m low income parents and deal with many of the concerns raised.


17 OCT 2018

Puppy Farming

Thank you for taking the time to email me about puppies being smuggled across borders.

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:

Responsibility for stopping illegal movement begins in the country where puppies are born, so in response to a previous report the Chief Veterinary Officer wrote to the authorities in the highlighted countries to remind them of their duties.
An EU pet travel regulation introduced in 2014 brought further measures to strengthen enforcement. The new-style passport is harder to forge, new rules apply when more than five animals are moved together and all EU countries must carry out compliance checks. A 12-week minimum age for rabies vaccination assists compliance checking and restricts the movement of very young animals. As the UK withdraws from the EU, there will be opportunities to re-evaluate the rules.
There is a robust checking regime for pets travelling here. Every pet travelling with its owner on an approved route is checked for compliance with the travel regime and the UK Border Force carries out a wide range of checks on vehicles arriving in the UK.
It is important to recognise that we cannot expect the Government to defeat this problem by itself. As individuals, we need to take care not to fuel demand for these animals by providing a market for the unscrupulous people who exploit them. Government advice is very clear: people who buy a pet are responsible for knowing where it comes from and, if it is found to have been imported illegally, will be held responsible for any necessary quarantine and veterinary fees.


17 OCT 2018

Migrant Impact Fund

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Migrant Impact Fund.

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

While Britain is a great place to live, with a well-integrated society on the whole, in too many parts of our country communities are increasingly divided along ethnic, faith and socio-economic lines. The launch of the Government's Integrated Communities Strategy, an ambitious programme to build strong integrated communities, is welcomed.
The Strategy, to which £50 million will be committed over the next two years, outlines Government proposals across a broad range of areas, including fostering integration through schools and youth groups, providing better English language training, and promoting British values.
These measures include developing a new English language strategy, strengthening the expectations on integration for new free schools, and increasing the prominence of British values within Ofsted inspections.
Proposals in the Strategy will build on the Government's record of fostering community integration. Since January 2017, the Schools Linking programme has brought together over 17,000 pupils from 448 demographically diverse schools to boost integration. Similarly, since its launch in 2011, the National Citizen Service has promoted social cohesion among roughly 400,000 youths.
The £100 million Controlling Migration Fund, launched in November 2016, has helped local areas and services to cope where pressures emerge due to recent migration, pressures which can often be a source of community tension. As of March 2018, over £45 million had been awarded in funding across 82 local authority areas.
The Integrated Communities Strategy will help achieve the aim of building a strong, integrated community across the country, bringing all members of our diverse society closer together.


17 OCT 2018

Macmillan

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Macmillan's coffee morning in Parliament on the 24th of October, I will of course endeavour to pop by.

I hope the following information concerning improving outcomes for cancer sufferers from the Department of Health and Social Care is reassuring:

The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity. NHS England has also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy across England. Furthermore, the Government invested over £1.2 billion to the Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people to access the life-extending drugs they need.
Early diagnosis of cancer is key and that is why earlier cancer diagnosis is at the heart of the new long term NHS plan. Over the next ten years, the way cancer is screened and diagnosed will be overhauled to improve early diagnosis and ensure tens of thousands more people survive for longer after their diagnosis. Screening programmes will include easier and more effective tests and Rapid Diagnostic Centres will be rolled out.
Ministers are working closely with experts to achieve world-class cancer outcomes. Health Education England is developing a cancer workforce strategy, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, among others, to ensure that all cancer patients receive access to specialist nursing staff throughout the course of their treatment and recovery. This workforce plan includes a significant increase in the diagnostic workforce, such as the recruitment of radiologists and endoscopists, who will be instrumental in ensuring the NHS meets its ambitions to offer timely and accurate diagnoses to suspected cancer patients.


16 OCT 2018

Mental Health

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

I agree that tackling poor mental health must be a priority and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health and Social Care is reassuring:

The Government enshrined parity of esteem for physical and mental health in law in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Spending on mental health increased to a planned £11.86 billion in 2017/18.
In February 2016, an independent Mental Health Taskforce published a new national strategy, setting out an ambitious vision for mental health services. To make these recommendations a reality, the Government will spend an additional £1 billion on mental health by 2020-21 so that people receive the right care in the right place when they need it most. This includes increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by 600,000 per year, and helping 20,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies. To help meet these ambitions, the Government is increasing the number of Mental Health professionals in the NHS by 21,000.
The Government is also making £1.4 billion available in order to transform services for children and young people and enable an additional 70,000 children and young people a year to receive access to specialist mental health service by 2020/21.
Performance against Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) waiting time standards consistently exceeds the national targets. According to data from April 2018, 98.9 per cent of those people completing treatment waited less than 18 weeks for their treatment to start in England against a target of 95 per cent, and 89.4 per cent of people completing treatment waited less than six weeks against a target of 75 per cent. Patients experiencing psychosis for the first time should also be treated within two weeks: 76.7 per cent of patients their first episode of psychosis started treatment within two weeks in February 2018, against a standard of 60 per cent by 2020/21.
The Government announced reform to mental health policy in last year's Queen's Speech, in order to continue to reduce the number of people detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act. A comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act, which has remained unchanged for more than three decades, will examine existing practices, and address the disproportionately high rates of detention of people from ethnic minorities. The review will be led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and he will consider the needs of all users of mental health services and their families, and improve the system's support for those during a mental health crisis.
The Government working to ensure that mental health spending is invested throughout the whole country. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are required to achieve the Mental Health Investment Standard, to demonstrate that they have increased their mental health spending in line with the growth in their overall budgets. In 2016/17, 85 per cent of CCGs achieved this standard, and NHS England continues to work with CCGs to improve this figure.


11 OCT 2018

Payday Lenders

Thank you for taking the time to email me about payday lenders and consumer credit.

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

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates consumer credit, has brought in tough new rules for payday lending. In 2015 the FCA decided to introduce a cap on the total cost of payday loans, not just the interest rate, but also the arrangement fees as well as the penalty fees. In total, no one should have to pay back more than twice what they borrowed, and there is a £15 cap on default charges.
The FCA has also been given stronger powers to ensure money is not being lent to people who cannot realistically afford to pay them back. Tougher advertising rules have also been introduced ensuring adverts must warn of the risk of not paying the loans back on time, and must include a line directing customers to free, independent debt advice. The FCA also has the power to ban misleading adverts.
Additionally, the FCA has recently published the proposals of its latest high-cost credit review. Many of the proposals tackle prevention, including new rules on fees from overdrafts, and raising the standards of sales practices in the home-collected credit sector. There is also a proposed cap on rent-to-own lending, the FCA is currently consulting on all of these proposals.


10 OCT 2018

Homelessness

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

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

The Housing First approach to tackling homelessness has a record of being effective at helping people with high and complex needs. That is why the recent launch of a £28 million pilot of Housing First, providing some of England's most entrenched rough sleepers with stable, affordable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support is welcomed. The impact of this pilot will be evaluated to inform any wider roll out of the Housing First approach.
On the issue of social housing, recent statistics show that more than three times as much council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years. That said, more needs to be done, and the £9 billion Affordable Homes Programme will help deliver more social housing, and look forward to the Government's forthcoming green paper on the sector, expected this year.
Working together with leading experts on homelessness, the Government will achieve the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.


10 OCT 2018

Frozen Pension

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

I read your comments with interest and will of course endeavour to pop by the event on this topic on the 31st October. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department for Work and Pensions clarifies the situation:

The UK State Pension is payable worldwide and is uprated abroad where there is a legal requirement to do so. In some countries, however, there is no agreement with the UK for securing the social security rights of people moving between the two countries. As a result, pensioners who move to these countries still receive the State Pension but do not have their payments uprated as they would be for UK residents. The Department for Work and Pensions endeavours to make this clear to those thinking of moving abroad and publishes guidance on its website.
It has been and remains the policy of successive governments not to enter into new agreements with countries or territories where this would include up-rating pensions in order to contain the long-term cost of the UK social security system. This issue has been examined extensively by the domestic courts, culminating in a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010. In all these cases the courts have found in favour of the Government.


09 OCT 2018

Corporations Paying Tax

Thank you for taking the time to email me about corporations paying tax.

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

Digital companies must contribute fairly to funding our vital public services.
The way in which businesses work is changing, which is why the Government is reviewing the taxation of digital companies, to make sure all businesses pay their fair share. The UK Government is leading international efforts to reform the international rules around where profit is made and where it should be taxed.
Pending this global reform the Government is exploring potential interim measures, such as a tax on the revenue of certain digital businesses. This would be targeted at businesses which derive significant value from users, such as social media platforms and search engines. The Chancellor has been clear that if our country cannot reach an international agreement over taxation, we will go it alone with a Digital Services Tax of our own.
Additionally, this country has led the way through tough new rules to crack down on multinationals shifting their profits to lower tax jurisdictions. Around £8 billion has been returned by cracking down on large multinational enterprises that are avoiding paying the right amount of tax in the UK. The Diverted Profits Tax has been introduced at a rate of 25 per cent on multinationals that artificially divert profits out of the UK.
There is more work to be done, but our country has made great strides towards ensuring businesses pay their fair share and will continue to lead international efforts to reform the international rules.


05 OCT 2018

Asylum Accommodation

Thank you for taking the time to email me about accommodation for asylum seekers.

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

Only asylum seekers in the UK who are destitute are provided with free accommodation. The type of accommodation varies, and could be a flat, a house, hostel, or bed and breakfast. The location of the accommodation also varies, and asylum seekers are unable to choose where they live.
The Government has made clear to its contractual providers that the use of hotels is only ever acceptable as a short term measure. Nor does the Government decide which hotels providers use, but it is important to note that asylum seeker accommodation must comply with strict contractual standards relating to safety and habitability.


03 OCT 2018

NHS Funding

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.

I have long argued that we need a whole system response that covers the NHS, social care and public health and takes a long term view. I look forward to the NHS long term plan and to seeing the funding commitments upheld in the Chancellor's budget later this month. I do not yet know the details of this. I do not think there will be a 'Brexit dividend' and I would support a rise in taxation for this purpose and have argued for this to be part of an earmarked health and care tax.


02 OCT 2018

Arthritis

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

I understand your concern about how we best help those suffering from this debilitating condition and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

An independent review of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), which supports disabled people on low-incomes, has recently completed. This review considered how the DFG may need to adapt to changing innovation and technology in the aids and adaptions market. The Department of Health and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is now analysing these recommendations, and I look forward to studying their conclusions.
Funding for the DFG has increased from £220 million in 2015 to 2016 to £431 million in 2017 to 2018, and will rise further to £505 million by 2019 to 2020. However, there is more to do. Clinical guidelines for arthritis currently highlight the importance of self-management, and to help patients manage their condition, and live as independently as possible.
The Department for Work and Pensions ensures that people with arthritis applying for Personal Independence Payments are able to specify whether they need specific aids to help them with daily, physical tasks - making sure that they get the right support to improve their quality of life while maintaining their independence.


02 OCT 2018

Breast Cancer Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about breast cancer care and the reception on the 24th of October, I will endeavour to drop by.

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

Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, with five-year survival rates for women at over 86 per cent, up from just 53 per cent in the 1970s. This is a testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease but more must be done. The Public Health England campaign, Be Clear on Cancer, continues to raise awareness of breast cancer among women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of the disease. First launched in 2014, the campaign drives awareness around key symptoms of breast cancer, encouraging thinking, acting, and treating early.
Great efforts are being made to improve cancer services and to ensure that the NHS continues to provide 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. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also recently updated its guidance on diagnosing and treating breast cancer. This guidance aims to help healthcare professionals offer the right treatments to people diagnosed with breast cancer, taking into account their individual preferences which will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care.
These measures form just part of the NHS's ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes, and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020.


02 OCT 2018

Ancient Woodland

Thank you for taking the time to email me about protections for ancient woodland and veteran trees, I am afraid I will be unable to attend the APPG AGM on this matter as it clashes with a meeting of the Health Select Committee, which I chair.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of

Housing, Communities and Local Government is of interest:

The final revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework, sets out that "development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons". This will ensure that these irreplaceable areas are not lost for future generations.
The revised version of the Framework will protect our ancient woodland and our aged and veteran trees for decades to come.


02 OCT 2018

Teacher's Pay

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about teacher's pay.

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

Teachers are dedicated professionals who work hard every day educating the next generation. The Department for Education has accepted the recommendations of the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) to increase the minimum and maximum of the main pay range for teachers by 3.5 per cent and by 2 percent for teachers on the upper pay range.
The STRB is an independent pay review body that considers evidence from the Department for Education and other stakeholders such as the teacher unions. The Government lifted the 1 per cent pay cap but still had to make sure we could pay for the final settlement. Following the STRB recommendation, Ministers focussed the resources they have on teachers in classrooms. These changes will mean classroom teachers on the main pay range could receive a pay rise between £803 and £1,366. Teachers on the upper pay range could also receive a pay increase of two per cent and 1.5 per cent for those in leadership positions.
It is up to schools themselves to determine how much their staff are paid, but the increases in pay will be funded by a new teachers' pay grant worth £187 million in 2018 to 2019 and £321 million in 2019 and 2020. This will be paid to all schools on top of their core budgets from the National Funding Formula. While this pay rise will help us retain teachers, salaries for new teachers will also increase by between £803 and £1004, helping to recruit a new generation of brilliant teachers.


01 OCT 2018

Children's Society Stand

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Children's Society 'Crumbling Futures' research and their stand at party conference, I will of course endeavour to pop by.

In the meantime, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

The Department for Education are committed to preparing vulnerable children for adult life, and recognise the importance of the transition into adulthood. A range of organisations must work together to identify how to support children in need. The key statutory guidance 'Working Together to Safeguard Children' describes how agencies should jointly agree on, and deliver, joined-up support. The guidance is also clear that known key transition times for a child should be planned for in advance, including where they are likely to transition between child and adult services.
Children in need are more likely than their peers not to be in education, employment or training. That is why Education Ministers are determined to ensure disadvantaged students are properly supported in their post-16 education. £7 billion has been invested in the last academic year to ensure there is a place in training or education for every 16 to 19 year old.
Education is critical to the long-term outcomes of children in need, and getting the best possible education is a vital part of preparing for adulthood. However, there are some other areas that disproportionately affect children in need. Work is being done across Government to improve services, specifically mental health, child sexual exploitation and homelessness services. For example, an additional £1.4 billion is being invested nationally to transform children and young people's mental health services. The Government's mandate to NHS England includes an explicit expectation that the NHS, working with schools and children's services, will support and safeguard vulnerable children through a joined-up approach to addressing their emotional, mental and physical health needs.


01 OCT 2018

Agriculture Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Agriculture Bill and the possibility of using the UK's future agricultural policy to support organic farming.

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

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. Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare.
The Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for "public goods", such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding.
The new environmental land management (ELM) system will bring in a new era for farming, providing an income stream for farmers and land managers who protect and preserve our natural environment. For the first time, farmers and land managers will be able to decide for themselves how they can deliver environmental benefits from their businesses and their land, and how they integrate this into their food, timber and other commercial activities.
Organic farmers will therefore be well placed to benefit from ELM due to the environmental benefits they produce, such as increased biodiversity and improved soil quality, which contribute to the delivery of these goals.
The Bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations.


24 SEP 2018

CSW Toolkit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) and the CSW drop in event next month, I will endeavour to attend.

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

The United Kingdom is an open and respectful society which values people's freedom to be themselves, and practise their religion or belief, without fear, prejudice or persecution. But, we must never be complacent, be it at home or abroad, in rooting out intolerance and standing up and defending the right of freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) for all.
It is hard to comprehend that today we still see people being attacked and murdered because of their faith. We must reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and beliefs and for them to be able to practise their beliefs in peace and security.
This is a priority area for the Government, which was re-emphasised at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting earlier this year.
In the summer, in recognition of the importance of FoRB, the Prime Minister appointed a Special Envoy on FoRB, Lord Ahmad, to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices overseas network and international partners to achieve a step-change in diplomatic efforts to defend the right to FoRB and proactively work for change in selected countries.
The FCO has also made available to staff a new Freedom of Religion or Belief toolkit to assist officials on how to promote freedom of religion or belief in their local context.


24 SEP 2018

Sex Selective Abortion

Thank you for taking the time to email me about sex selective abortion.

I hope the following information from the Department of Health clarifies the situation:

Abortion on the grounds of sex alone is illegal and the Government guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act makes this clear. With regard to the Non-Invasive Prenatal Test, this test is never meant to be used to determine the sex of a child. That is why the Government will continue to review the evidence regarding the test.


24 SEP 2018

End of Life Care

Thank you for taking the time to email me about care for people with terminal illnesses.

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

We must ensure that people receive the most appropriate care personalised to their individual needs as they approach the end of their life.
In 2014, the Government commissioned the Choice in End of Life Care Programme Board to report on how end of life care services could be supported to enable people's choices to be delivered. The Board published its findings in February 2015 in A Review of Choice in End of Life Care.
In July 2016, the Government outlined six commitments to the public to improve end of life care nationally by 2020. These commitments are: honest discussions between care professionals and dying people; dying people making informed choices about their care; personalised care plans for all; the discussion of personalised care plans with care professionals; the involvement of family and carers in dying people's care; a key contact so dying people know who to contact at any time of day.
The NHS must meet these commitments, and new measures are being developed to ensure local health and care leaders are meeting the high standards expected of them.
The National End of Life Care Programme Board is implementing the Government's ambitions, in partnership with all relevant arm's length bodies, to ensure action and accountability. A report was published in August 2017, which highlights the professionalism and compassion throughout the Specialist Palliative Care (SPC) sector, but recognises that there are improvements to be made. You may be reassured to know that, whilst SPC services do not receive a rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), they are accountable to the CQC's inspectors, who are committed to enforcing rigorous standards of care throughout the NHS.
Palliative care services must be properly funded. Hospices receive their funding from charities as well as the NHS. The commissioning of services like hospices is a local matter, and the responsibility of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). On average, hospices receive 30 per cent of their funding from NHS sources, and this year, children's hospices will receive £11 million from NHS England. However, the level of hospice funding is best decided by local health commissioners, who have the best understanding of the needs in their areas.


24 SEP 2018

Alzheimer's Stand

Thank you for taking the time to email me about dementia care and I will of course endeavour to pop by the Alzheimer's stand at the party conference.

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

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
It is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia 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. Furthermore, the Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper this year, which will outline a new social care policy, which is financially sustainable, accessible, and properly integrated with the NHS. To this end, the establishment of the Department of Health and Social Care this year is encouraging, which will oversee the intelligent integration of health and social care, which will be vitally important with Alzheimer's, on which so much important research is undertaken in the NHS


24 SEP 2018

Bahrain

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the recent debate on Bahrain, you may like to read the Hansard transcript and can do so here

I agree that it is certainly true to say that Bahrain has more work to do on human rights and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

It is right that the UK Government makes no apology for the partnership with Bahrain - our two countries share a close and lasting bond that dates back more than 200 years. This partnership is built on mutual interests, shared threats and a desire to promote greater security and peace in the Gulf.
However, the Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said in the recent debate that none of that allows the UK to overlook the things that need to be brought out in a relationship between friends. Bahrain continues to be a human rights priority country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The best approach with human rights is to engage with Governments and work with international partners and civil society organisations to promote and defend universal freedoms, and bring about positive change.
The depth and breadth of the UK's relationship with Bahrain means the UK Government can, and does, express its concerns about human rights in a frank and open way at senior levels. It does this publicly, but crucial and more often, in private discussions. The FCO's latest annual human rights report outlined action taken by the UK, relating, for example, to the prison sentence given to Nabeel Rajab, as well as concerns about the deprivation of nationality, where that renders an individual stateless.
The UK will continue to support Bahrain to address those and other human rights concerns, both through bilateral engagement and through international institutions. However, it is right to acknowledge and welcome the steps that Bahrain is taking to address a range of rights issues.

Lastly, I was encouraged by the decision of the Bahraini Minister of Justice to refer the cases of Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa back to the Court of Cassation for retrial.


24 SEP 2018

Modern Slavery

Thank you 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 reassuring:

The Modern Slavery Act has played a key role in transforming the UK's response to modern slavery on a national and international level. The Act provides police and law enforcement agencies with the necessary powers to bring perpetrators to justice and enhance protections given to victims. The Act has resulted in a significant uplift in law enforcement activity against the criminals behind this abhorrent crime. More than 600 live investigations are currently taking place.
The Government has established this country as a world leader in the fight against modern slavery. However, criminal networks are constantly evolving to find new ways to exploit and control victims. Recent Home Office research highlighted the devastating economic and social costs of modern slavery. It is estimated that modern slavery costs the UK up to £4.3 billion a year and each modern slavery crime is second only to homicide in terms of harm to its victims and society.
The Government has announced plans to launch a cross-party independent review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This will not only enhance the Act where necessary, but also aims to strengthen and accelerate progress from Government and business alike, in eradicating this terrible crime.
Frank Field, the sponsor of this Private Member's Bill, has been asked to be part of the team which will lead the independent review into the working of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.


24 SEP 2018

Fracking Debate

Thank you for taking the time to email about the recent fracking debate, you may like to read the Hansard transcript here

Shale gas extraction remains hugely contentious and you can share your views on the principle of granting planning permission for non-hydraulic shale gas exploration development through a permitted development right.

In practice this would mean early exploratory work could proceed without requiring planning applications, although planning applications would still be required for fracking.

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

The consultation will run until the 25th of October and you can find out how to contribute via the following website

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

Shale development has the potential to deliver substantial economic benefits to the UK economy and for local communities where supplies are located. The Government remains committed to protecting the environment and ensuring that shale exploration happens safely.

A consultation has been launched to consider whether the early stages of shale exploration should be treated as permitted development, and in particular the circumstances where this might be appropriate. This would allow early exploratory work to proceed without requiring planning applications, although planning applications would still be required for fracking.
Other measures include strengthening community engagement by consulting on the potential to make pre-application consultations a statutory requirement, and launching a new £1.6 million shale support fund over the next two years to build capacity in local authorities dealing with shale applications.
A new Planning Brokerage Service for shale applications will also be created, to provide guidance to developers and local authorities on the planning process in order to speed up decision making. Furthermore, to simplify the complex UK regulatory regime for shale gas, a new Shale Environmental Regulator will also be set up, to act as a single coherent face for the public, mineral planning authorities, and industry.


24 SEP 2018

Gaza Briefing

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the current situation in Gaza and the briefing that was held on this.

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

Further restrictions placed upon Gaza will have a detrimental impact on ordinary citizens. UK officials from our Embassy in Tel Aviv raised these concerns regarding additional restrictions with the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories on 18 July. There already exists a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and the Government is clear that Israel should reverse its decision to impose further restrictions.
The Palestinian right to protest is important, however it must be recognised that it is unacceptable for Hamas to use protests to further their own violent and deplorable aims against the State of Israel. Above all, it is important that all those involved commit to peaceful protest, restraint and observe international law.
It is vital that efforts are made to alleviate pressures on the Palestinian economy. Colleagues in the Department for International Development have committed to more than double its support for economic development in Gaza and the West Bank, which will create hundreds of jobs, install vital new infrastructure and boost exports to Israel. A thriving Palestinian economy will create the necessary conditions for a peaceful two-state solution with Israel that will allow Palestinians to truly prosper.


24 SEP 2018

Make Roads Safer

Thank you for writing to me on this issue.

I share the views of cyclists and walkers keen to see vulnerable road users better protected following the review. I have already made clear my view that cyclists are not the problem but part of the solution to unsafe roads.

I'm glad that following representations by cycling groups and MPs such as myself on the All Party Cycling Group, the government has changed its proposals on civil liability so that vulnerable road users will not be forced into the small claims court following RTCs. It is important that as many people as possible submit their views and I hope that you will do so: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-cycling-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury-when-cycling

I will also be speaking directly to Ministers on your behalf.


07 SEP 2018

British Lung Foundation

Thank you for taking the time to email me about lung disease and your support for the British Lung Foundation.

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

There are currently no plans to set up a taskforce on lung health. However, the Government has instructed NHS England to achieve a significant reduction in avoidable deaths by 2020. Reducing premature mortality rates among patients with lung disease will play an important part in this. There are a range of initiatives being taken forward that will support reducing mortality rates amongst patients with lung disease.
Early diagnosis of lung disease is important as timely treatment can help slow down its progression. In March 2016, the NHS concluded a national pilot programme which aimed to improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis in patients experiencing the symptom of breathlessness, test new models of care in various settings and improve the outcomes of patients experiencing breathlessness. This pilot was noted for its success, and was followed by a Be Clear on Cancer campaign to raise awareness of respiratory problems, including breathlessness or a persistent cough, which can be a symptom of lung disease. This will help support increased early identification and diagnosis of patients suffering from possible lung disease.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently updated its advice on the management of acute and chronic breathlessness, including the identification of patients who may require emergency admission.
NHS England's National Clinical Director for Respiratory Disease, Professor Mike Morgan, continues to work on improving outcomes for lung disease with charities such as the British Lung Foundation. Work is also being carried out on how to share best practice in order to address variation in care.
NHS England also funds the Respiratory Futures programme, which is a resource to support innovation and sharing of best practice on respiratory conditions. The National Institute for Health Research funds significant research into lung disease: investment on respiratory disease research has increased by over two-thirds, from £15.7 million in 2009/10 to £26.7 million in 2015/16; and this year will see a review of guidelines on the treatment of asthma.


07 SEP 2018

Executive Pay

Thank you for taking the time to email me about executive pay.

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

The Government has now announced its plans on corporate governance reform following a thorough consultation process. A key focus of these reforms will be to increase transparency around executive pay and shareholder control over it.
Previous reforms introduced by the Government in 2013 have gone some way to strengthening and increasing transparency in the UK executive pay framework, in particular the requirement to gain shareholder approval for executive pay policies every three years and the need to disclose the pay of each director as a single figure. However, executive pay has continued to be a key factor in public dissatisfaction with large businesses, and a source of frustration to UK investors.
That is why action is being taken which will address concerns that a minority of companies are not responding adequately when they encounter significant shareholder opposition to executive pay proposals. Under new measures the Investment Association will name listed companies on a public register if 20 per cent or more of their shareholders oppose proposals for executive pay package.
In addition, the Government will require listed companies to reveal the ratio between CEO pay and the average pay of their UK workforce. At the same time, remuneration committees will be required to engage with employees to explain how pay at the top relates to wider company pay policy. The Financial Reporting Council has also been asked to revise the UK Corporate Governance Code to extend the recommended minimum vesting and post-vesting holding period for executive share awards from three to five years to encourage companies to focus on longer-term outcomes in setting pay.
As the consultation findings highlight, the reforms introduced in 2013 already give shareholders sufficient power and oversight over executive pay, and average executive pay increases have been broadly in line with inflation since then. The Government considers that further new powers in this area are unnecessary, given that only a relatively small number of companies have experienced significant shareholder dissent on pay in recent years.


06 SEP 2018

Tenancies

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

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

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

Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in a property for an extended period of time. Renters should be able to feel their house is their home and I strongly hope local constituents shared their views via the consultation before it closed.

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

Longer tenancies help landlords by reducing the time their properties are vacant, as well avoiding the need for more frequent payment of agency fees for renewing a tenancy. Moreover, with many tenants on short-term contracts, longer tenancy agreements will help to provide certainty and stability for renters.

A public consultation has been launched to consider how barriers to landlords offering longer tenancies can be overcome. One of the range of options proposed is the introduction of a minimum three-year tenancy term, with a six-month break clause. This will help renters to put down roots, as well as giving landlords longer term financial security.
Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave the property before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in the property for an extended period of time. Landlords would also continue to be able to recover possession of their property on reasonable grounds under the new proposed arrangements.
Exemptions for a minimum tenancy could, of course, be put in place for accommodation that could not be realistically last three years such as student accommodation and short-term lets. These are being considered as part of the consultation.


06 SEP 2018

Save Our Paths

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Save Our Paths campaign.

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:

Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare.
The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods. The principal public good it anticipates the system promoting is environmental enhancement, but the consultation document Health & Harmony also proposed public access as a public good that could be funded.
Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others and will publish a response shortly.
Outside the Common Agricultural Policy we will have an opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. We will make the very most of this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


06 SEP 2018

Blood Cancer

Thank you for contacting me about stem cell donation and blood cancers.

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

It is very important to increase the number of stem cell (cord blood and bone marrow) donors in the UK. In 2015 the Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services, part of £19 million in additional investment that the Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK. This funding is being used to encourage young adult donors as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.
A single unified bone marrow donor registry has been created streamlining the provision of stem cells and reducing the time to provide cells from adult donors. It is encouraging that the total number of registered stem cell donors continues to expand. In 2010 the total number of registered United Kingdom donors was 770,000, which increased to in excess of one million by the end of 2014. This led to more UK patients receiving a stem cell transplant in 2014 than ever before.
Aiding recovery should be a high priority. As of February 2017, NHS England has confirmed that it will fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer relapses following a first transplant. The commissioning of post-operative care, to enable a swift and effective recovery, is the responsibility of local health commissioners. NHS England is supporting the roll-out of the Recovery Package for cancer patients, which will ensure that patients receive personalised care from the point of their diagnosis until the end of treatment. A large number of hospitals, although not all, offer an Enhanced Recovery programme for those who have received major surgery, to help patients enjoy a speedy and successful recovery.


06 SEP 2018

Injured Workers

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the proposed increase to the small claims limit.

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

It is important that the limit is not disproportionately increased. That said, the proposed increase to £2,000, in line with inflation since 1991 when the current limit of £1,000 was set, is appropriate and reasonable. This will not impact upon the access to justice of employees injured at work.
With the last increase to the small claims limit made in 1991, followed by a minor technical change to what should be included in the limit made in 1999, it has been decades since the limit was last amended. Reform of the limit is therefore long overdue, with the proposed increase scheduled to come into effect in April 2020. This is part of the wider reforms to the small claims track limit for managing whiplash injuries and minor injuries in road traffic accidents.
Following a 2016 consultation on raising the small claims limit to £5,000, the Government listened to concerns and instead limited the rise for claims relating to workplace injuries to £2,000, in line with inflation. The personal injury small claims track limit has been set at £1,000 since 1991, and the Government has used the Retail Price Index to calculate the increase to £2,000 to ensure consistency with the way such increases are dealt with by the Judicial College Guidelines.
These reforms will not impact upon the access to justice of employees injured at work, and claimants will continue to be able to utilise an accessible low-cost courts process.


06 SEP 2018

Local Services

Thank you for taking the time to email me about funding for local government.

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

Local government is the front line of our country's democracy, and local authorities deserve the resources they need to do their job in delivering truly world-class public services. That is why the recent Local Government Finance Settlement provides two years of real terms increases in resources available to local authorities across England.
The recent settlement for the 2018-19 financial year is the third year of a four year offer which was accepted by 97 per cent of councils in return for publishing efficiency plans. For 2018-19, core spending power for local authorities across England will total £45.1 billion, up from £44.3 billion in 2017-18,core spending power for English local authorities will increase again in the next financial year, up to £45.6 billion.
The latest settlement has again prevented local authorities from introducing excessive increases in council tax without first securing the backing of local residents in a referendum. Since being introduced in 2012, referendum principles have helped keep council tax down, with average council tax in England for the current 2018-19 financial year forecast to be 1.4 per cent lower in real terms than in 2010-11, measured against CPI.
The Government is committed to ensuring that all local authorities retain 75 per cent of their business rates from the 2020-21 financial year, granting councils the levers and incentives they need to grow their local economies.


06 SEP 2018

Cancer Research Stand

Thank you for taking the time to email me about improving outcomes for cancer sufferers, I will of course endeavour to drop by the Cancer Research stand at the party conference.

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

The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity. NHS England has also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy across England. Furthermore, the Government invested over £1.2 billion to the Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people to access the life-extending drugs they need.
Early diagnosis of cancer is key and that is why the Government has run a series of Be Clear on Cancer campaigns in order to raise public awareness of the symptoms of cancer.
The Government is working closely with experts in this field to fulfil its ambition of achieving world-class cancer outcomes. Health Education England is developing a cancer workforce strategy, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, among others, to ensure that all cancer patients receive access to specialist nursing staff throughout the course of their treatment and recovery. This workforce plan includes a significant increase in the diagnostic workforce, such as the recruitment of radiologists and endoscopists, who will be instrumental in ensuring the NHS meets its ambitions to offer timely and accurate diagnoses to suspected cancer patients.


06 SEP 2018

BBC

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

I understand you have concerns about the impartiality of their coverage and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is reassuring:

The BBC is operationally, editorially and managerially independent of government. There is no provision for the Government to intervene in the Corporation's day-to-day operations. However,
the BBC must ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and due impartiality in news or other content dealing with public policy or matters of political/industrial controversy. The recent review of the BBC's Royal Charter embeds the core principle of impartiality in the BBC's overall mission and enshrines the principle of editorial independence for the BBC's Director-General. This will make sure the BBC remains the most trusted provider of high quality news for audiences in the UK and abroad.
The new charter has also introduced a complaints system for when viewers believe the BBC is not performing at the level of expectation set for it. In the first instance the BBC handles the complaint. Where a complainant is unsatisfied with the response, or where the BBC fails to respond in a timely manner, the complainant is now able to complain to Ofcom, which has a proven record as an independent media regulator.
This provides for independent regulatory oversight of editorial matters, and means the BBC will continue to be held to the high editorial standards that the public expects.


05 SEP 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.
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 determination.


05 SEP 2018

Early Education

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the quality of early education and the early year's workforce.

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

High quality early education is vital and it is especially important for improving the life chances for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. A good early year's education is the cornerstone of improving social mobility.
In the Early Years Workforce Strategy, the Department for Education committed to undertake a feasibility study into developing a programme to grow the graduate workforce in disadvantaged areas. The aim being to narrow the quality gap between settings in disadvantaged and more affluent areas.
Encouragingly, the quality of early education continues to improve. Ofsted data shows that the proportion of good and outstanding providers is now almost identical in the least deprived areas compared with the most deprived. Similarly, evidence tells us that children in disadvantaged areas are now just as likely to be able to access high quality education as children in more affluent areas. The attainment gap in early year's development has fallen by 14 per cent since 2010.
Recruiting graduates into the early year's workforce remains very challenging, despite successive governments making significant investments in this area. It is therefore important that complementary approaches to improving the skills of the workforce are explored. Significant investment will be made in professional development for the early year's workforce. The Education Secretary has announced £20 million of funding for professional development across the wider workforce, focused on disadvantaged areas. This will ensure early year's professionals have the expertise to support very young children's early language and literacy skills.


24 AUG 2018

Pensions Dashboard

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Pensions Dashboard.

I understand that you are in support of this idea and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Work and Pensions is of interest:

Creating a strong savings culture will help secure a better future for individuals across the UK. This means helping people plan and save effectively for their retirement.
This year it is expected that 10 million people will be newly saving or saving more as a result of Automatic Enrolment. This key reform is making saving into a pension a social norm once again. As more people become savers, it is important that people have access to as much information as possible to help them make informed decisions about their retirement.
This is why the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is establishing a Single Financial Guidance Body which will bring together the provision of free and impartial debt advice, money guidance and pensions guidance to deliver a more streamlined service to consumers. The 'Check your State Pension' service has also provided over 9 million estimates since 2016 to help people forecast their State Pension.
At present, the DWP is also carrying out feasibility work to explore the complex issues associated with the development of a Pensions Dashboard. This work is ongoing and the DWP will report back to Parliament with their findings in due course.


22 AUG 2018

Parkinson's UK

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

I agree that it is important to ensure that people with Parkinson's disease are able to access the necessary treatment to live a fulfilled and independent life and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

There is already an extensive system of prescription charge exemptions in England. This includes provision for people on low incomes who can apply for free prescriptions through the NHS Low Income Scheme, or who get free prescriptions due to the receipt of certain benefits. The system of exemptions taken as a whole means that 90 per cent of prescription items are dispensed without charge. The Government currently has no plans to make any amendments to the list of medical conditions which provide exemption from the prescription charge.
The NHS is committed to improving care for people with long-term conditions such as Parkinson's disease. NHS England commissions the specialised elements of Parkinson's care that patients may receive from 25 specialised neurological treatment centres across England. NHS England has published a service specification setting out what providers must have in place to deliver specialised neurological care. This supports equity of access to high quality services for patients wherever they live. Within these centres neurological multidisciplinary teams ensure patients can access a range of health professionals and that they can receive specialised treatment and support, according to their needs.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently updated its guidance on the diagnosis, treatment and management of Parkinson's disease. These new guidelines will ensure that people with Parkinson's are able to access the best possible care and treatment in order to manage their condition effectively.


16 AUG 2018

Rakhine State ICC

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the plight of Rohingya children.

I understand your concern about the situation in the Rakhine state and realise you would like this referred to the International Criminal Court. I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh in the last year, and urgently need food, shelter and medical help. Those who have stayed in Burma also need immediate help.
I am encouraged by the support that the UK has given to Rohingya refugees generally, and refugee children in particular.
The UK is a leading donor to the humanitarian effort in Bangladesh, having committed £129 million to help since last August. UK assistance has ensured that more than 391,000 children under the age of seven have been vaccinated, 450,000 people have benefited from support to make their shelters more resistant to heavy rain, and UK aid will ensure 250,000 people will continue to have access to safe water through the rainy season.
The UK is supporting 30 'child friendly spaces' to support children with protective services and psychosocial and psychological support, and 19 women's centres will offer a safe space, psychosocial support and activities to women and girls.
The UK has also provided £1 million to the Red Cross and £2 million to the World Food Programme to provide assistance in northern Rakhine.
It is vital that the perpetrators of these atrocities are brought to justice. The UK continues to work with international partners to support those building evidence and testimony for the victims of the violence in Rakhine.
The UK has made it clear that there must be a credible, transparent and impartial investigation. It is imperative that the Burmese authorities show that the Commission of Inquiry announced can deliver accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities. If not, the UK Government will consider supporting international routes to justice.


31 JUL 2018

Brexit and Health

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Brexit and healthcare.

I understand your concern on this matter and you may be interested to look at the inquiry the Health Select Committee, which I chair, held on the topic of Brexit – medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin. You can find out more about this via the following link: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/brexit-medicines-substances-human-origin-17-19/

My view is that Shortages of medicines, blood products and other vital medical supplies weren't on the side of the Brexit bus. But if there are no arrangements in place governing important mutual recognition arrangements then many of the seamless aspects of complex supply and safety checks will simply cease to be in place. No deal Brexit is about far more than tariffs and World Trade Organisation rules, it will have far reaching and irreversible consequences.


30 JUL 2018

Sex Worker Safety

Thank you for taking the time to email me about commercial sexual exploitation.

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

The Government is committed to protecting those selling sex from harm and enabling the police to target those who exploit vulnerable people involved in prostitution. It is also very important to ensure those who want to leave prostitution are given every opportunity to find routes out.
Government and Parliament should be fully informed on this issue before considering any changes in policy or legislation in this area. It is therefore very welcome that the Government has recognised the compelling arguments for commissioning research into the nature and prevalence of prostitution in England and Wales. The Home Office has provided £150,000 to fund this research, which is being carried out by the University of Bristol. The final report is expected in the spring next year.
There are different approaches to prostitution around the world, including New Zealand and in Scandinavia, as well as recent legislative developments in Northern Ireland. However, the Home Office has not yet seen unequivocal evidence that any one approach is better at tackling harm and exploitation. The law around prostitution in England and Wales focuses on tackling harm and exploitation caused to those involved.
Ministers have assured me that they continue to meet and engage with experts, academics, the police and those who sell sex themselves to further their understanding on the issues around prostitution.
The Home Office continues to monitor the impact in the US of the recent change in legislation there brought in by the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and will assess the lessons learned from that approach, and approaches elsewhere in considering any change to legislation in the UK.


23 JUL 2018

Beer Duty

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

I understand you would like to see a cut in beer duty and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Treasury of interest:

As announced at the 2017 Autumn Budget, tax on beer, cider, wine and spirits have again be frozen. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented cuts and freezes in beer duty since then, as well as the removal of the duty escalator for spirits, wine and cider in 2014. When the beer duty escalator was removed in 2013, duty was simultaneously cut by 1p. This was followed by further 1p cuts in both 2014 and 2015, and a freeze in 2016.

I do believe that pubs are often at the heart of the local community, in fact I was delighted to open the Tally Ho at Littlehempston which has reopened due to the support and dedication of the villagers. In addition, as you may know I have been a long-time proponent of minimum unit pricing for alcohol, for which there is a strong evidence base, and will continue to press for this to be introduced, as I feel this would also be beneficial to pubs.


23 JUL 2018

Protect Bakeries

Thank you for taking the time to email me about protecting bakeries and the 'honest crust' campaign. I understand your concern on this matter and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reassuring:

The UK offers some of the best food produce in the world, and it is agreed that consumers have a right to be informed about the products they buy. Longstanding EU regulations ensure that the labelling and advertising of food must not mislead the consumer.
Pre-packaged loaves must display a full ingredient list, whereas loaves sold at the point of production are exempted for the express purpose of reducing unnecessary regulatory burden on small businesses and bakeries, while still retaining essential, relevant information. These requirements, together with guidance on terms such as 'hand-made', 'Farmhouse' and 'home-made', already provide robust protection to consumers against misleading practices. If, however, a consumer thinks they are being misled by bread labelling, it is suggested to either approach the business selling the bread directly or seeking advice from the local trading standards office.
The regulations also define a list of approved additives and their conditions of use. Additives are restricted in sourdough breads. The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 include some limited definitions such as of wholemeal, but their focus is on fortifying white and brown flour with certain nutrients, mainly for restorative purposes.
There are no current plans to introduce a legal definition for sourdough, but the baking industry itself may consider agreeing a code of practice on how a product should be composed in order to be described as a UK sourdough bread.


23 JUL 2018

Fracking

Thank you for taking the time to email me about planning practice and fracking.

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

Shale development has the potential to deliver substantial economic benefits to the UK economy and for local communities where supplies are located. The Government remains committed to protecting the environment and ensuring that shale exploration happens safely.
A consultation has been launched to consider whether the early stages of shale exploration should be treated as permitted development, and in particular the circumstances where this might be appropriate. This would allow early exploratory work to proceed without requiring planning applications, although planning applications would still be required for fracking.
Other measures include strengthening community engagement by consulting on the potential to make pre-application consultations a statutory requirement, and launching a new £1.6 million shale support fund over the next two years to build capacity in local authorities dealing with shale applications.
A new Planning Brokerage Service for shale applications will also be created, to provide guidance to developers and local authorities on the planning process in order to speed up decision making. Furthermore, to simplify the complex UK regulatory regime for shale gas, a new Shale Environmental Regulator will also be set up, to act as a single coherent face for the public, mineral planning authorities, and industry. These measures will help speed up decision making on shale applications, whilst protecting our environment and ensuring that the voices of local communities are heard.


18 JUL 2018

Rohingya Children

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the plight of Rohingya children.

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

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh in the last year, and urgently need food, shelter and medical help. Those who have stayed in Burma also need immediate help.
The UK is a leading donor to the humanitarian effort in Bangladesh, having committed £129 million to help since last August. UK assistance has ensured that more than 391,000 children under the age of seven have been vaccinated, 450,000 people have benefited from support to make their shelters more resistant to heavy rain, and UK aid will ensure 250,000 people will continue to have access to safe water through the rainy season.
The UK is supporting 30 'child friendly spaces' to support children with protective services and psychosocial and psychological support, and 19 women's centres will offer a safe space, psychosocial support and activities to women and girls.
The UK has also provided £1 million to the Red Cross and £2 million to the World Food Programme to provide assistance in northern Rakhine.
It is vital that the perpetrators of these atrocities are brought to justice. The UK continues to work with international partners to support those building evidence and testimony for the victims of the violence in Rakhine.
The UK has made it clear that there must be a credible, transparent and impartial investigation. It is imperative that the Burmese authorities show that the Commission of Inquiry announced can deliver accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities. If not, the UK Government will consider supporting international routes to justice.


17 JUL 2018

Breast Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about breast cancer patients and breast reconstruction surgery in the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area.

I wrote to the CCG on this topic and have now received the following reassuring response:

Thank you for your letter dated 26 June 2018 about our policy on breast reconstruction following breast cancer surgery, following your meeting with Breast Cancer Now.

I can confirm that the two Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups do not restrict breast reconstruction surgery following cancer treatment. It is offered as standard practice.

As a commissioner we routinely review our commissioning policies and have no plans to introduce a policy that will restrict reconstruction surgery following cancer treatment.

I trust this offers you reassurance on our position.


17 JUL 2018

Abortion Northern Ireland

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I am afraid I will not be able to attend the meeting concerning abortion in Northern Ireland tomorrow due to prior commitments, but I appreciate you flagging it up with me.


17 JUL 2018

Incineration Tax

Thank you for taking the time to email me about a tax on incineration.

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

Without urgent action to cut demand, plastic production is likely to reach 34 billion tonnes by 2050, the majority of which will end up in landfill or polluting the world's continents and oceans. Re-using and recycling plastics is critical.
The Government recently ran a consultation on whether the tax system or charges could help reduce single-use plastic waste. During this consultation, a number of respondents suggested the potential for a tax on incineration in order to increase levels of recycling. The Government is currently analysing all the suggestions, and will then announce its proposals to deliver the right environmental outcomes.
More broadly, the new '25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment' commits the Government to working to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. A plan is currently under development for a deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers. The Government is also working with developing nations to tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste worldwide.


12 JUL 2018

Breast Cancer

Thank you for taking the time to email me about breast cancer and the drop in event being held on this matter on the 17th of July.

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

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this disease, which has taken so many lives over the years.
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.
Women recovering from breast cancer treatment must receive the most appropriate support and care. Cancer patients are offered a unique, personalised recovery plan, which takes into account their physical and medical needs, as well has addressing the help they may need at home. It is essential that this care is unique to each patient, and that it properly addresses whether women recovering from breast cancer treatment require additional care and support after they leave hospital.
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.


12 JUL 2018

People's Vote

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about a People's Vote on Brexit.

As Parliament will now not have a meaningful vote on Brexit I am supporting a People's Vote. Whilst I am encouraged that the Prime Minister has come forward with a pragmatic approach there is no guarantee that this will be accepted either by the EU or hard Brexiteer MPs who might seek to block a deal.

If a further referendum on the deal is agreed by Parliament, it should offer people the choice between the deal negotiated or to remain. If a deal cannot be negotiated, the referendum should be between that 'no deal' or remain.


10 JUL 2018

Tier 2 Visa Strike

Thank you for taking the time to email me about migrants and the right to strike.

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

It is the case that a Tier 2 sponsor is required to report, to the Home Office, any migrant they sponsor who is absent from work for ten or more consecutive working days without permission. This should be done within ten working days of the tenth day of unauthorised absence.
The Home Office has also said that if a Tier 2 migrant is absent from work without pay for 4 weeks or more in a calendar year, their leave may be curtailed. Paragraph 323A of the Immigration Rules defines the circumstances where a Tier 2 migrant's leave may be curtailed. There are exceptions to this, including maternity or paternity leave. These rules do not prevent Tier 2 migrants from taking lawful strike action.
If the Home Office is notified of more than 4 weeks unpaid absence by a sponsor in a year, consideration will be given to the migrants leave being curtailed under the Immigration Rules. It is welcome that the Home Office will always consider the individual circumstances before deciding whether to take curtailment action.


09 JUL 2018

Education Funding

Thank you for taking the time to email me about education funding.

My understanding is that funding has not been cut, the problem is that it is not keeping pace with rising costs and pupil numbers. I hope the following from FullFact may be of interest: https://fullfact.org/education/spending-schools-england/

Nonetheless, I think it is important to acknowledge the pressure on schools and I have met with the Education Minister to discuss this in person and with local heads and the director of public health to discuss mental health and education.


05 JUL 2018

Civil Service Pay

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Civil Service pay guidance.

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

The public sector pay cap was never intended to be a permanent or long-term solution, and it is no longer a requirement that public sector pay rises be limited to one per cent if Departments are able to find efficiency savings.
In 2018 to 2019, Departments will be able to make average pay awards within the new range of one to one and a half per cent. This is not a cap and individuals may receive a higher or lower award than this. As each workforce is different, departments will now be able to determine pay awards for their workforces according to their needs and resources. Departments can offer higher pay awards where this can be afforded.
All civil servants deserve to be rewarded for they work they do, so that the public sector can continue to attract the brightest and best. Though difficult decisions were made on pay restraints, the pay cap, which formed part of the Government's long-term economic plan, helped to get this country's finances back under control at a time when the UK had the largest deficit in peacetime history.
Colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have also introduced the National Living Wage, which over the last two years has delivered pay rises to millions of workers, many of whom were our lowest-paid civil servants. Any increases in pay due to National Living Wage will be in addition to average awards higher than the one to one and a half per cent range.


05 JUL 2018

Torture and Rendition

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about a public inquiry into UK complicity in torture and rendition. 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 independent Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) recently published two reports examining allegations of UK involvement in mistreatment and rendition.
It is important to note the context in which the Government, including the security and intelligence agencies, and the armed forces, were working in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The UK responded to the tragic events of 9/11 with the aim of doing everything possible to prevent further loss of innocent life. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that UK personnel were working within a new and challenging environment, for which, in some cases, they were not prepared. The Government has acknowledged that it took too long to recognise that guidance and training for staff was inadequate, and too long to understand fully and take appropriate action on the risks arising from the UK's work with international partners.
The Government has clearly stated that it will give further consideration, both to the conclusions and recommendations of the ISC reports, as well as to calls for another judge-led inquiry, and the Government will update the House of Commons by the end of August on these issues.
We can and should be proud of the work undertaken by our intelligence and security personnel, often in the most challenging of circumstances. It is right that they should be held to the highest possible standards. Changes made in recent years allow the UK to protect our national security and to maintain our global reputation as a champion for human rights across the world.


03 JUL 2018

Trade Bill

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

I can confirm that I have signed Jonathan Djanogly's amendments on this.


02 JUL 2018

Community Buses

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

I read your comments with interest and I realise how important community transport is in a rural area such as this one I understand how much of an impact changes could have.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

The Department of Transport's letter of 31 July was a clarification of the principles to have regard to when permits are granted under existing legislation. Namely, that groups which continue to use permits must either be those which are not primarily transport providers or those which operate exclusively on a non-commercial basis.
Prior to this clarification, two transport operators, one a community transport group using a permit and the other a commercial operator, could be subject to very different treatments in law. Despite similarities between the two operators, the community transport group vehicles would be subject to less stringent MOT tests and could be driven by less qualified drivers.
This disparity has become the subject of potential legal action and hence the clarification of the law surrounding permits. The Department for Transport is seeking to help any affected operators to be compliant, in particular by taking a pragmatic approach to enforcement as the sector adjusts to the clarification. However, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State, Jesse Norman, has assured me that many local community transport operators should not be affected by the Department's clarification. Indeed, he believes that it is likely to affect larger operators in what may in effect be commercial operations.
Looking forward, the Department for Transport are consulting on detailed changes to guidance, so that operators and the general public have the opportunity to air concerns and share ideas. However, there is no intention to replace the entire present permits system, which is generally working well. Ministers are keen to ensure the continued success of the non-commercial community transport sector, and the continued safety of passengers, whilst allowing the road passenger transport sector to compete on a fair basis for commercial contracts.
The Government has a proud record in supporting community transport operators, including through launching the £25 million Community Minibus Fund (CMF) in 2014 where over 400 vehicles have already been delivered to local charity and community groups.

I would like to reassure you that I have already made direct representations to the Transport Minister, Chris Grayling about the integral role that community transport play in rural communities


28 JUN 2018

Mental Health Units

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the use of force in mental health units, and Steve Reed's Private Member's Bill.

I am afraid that I am unable to attend the bill reading on the 6th of July as I have prior commitments in the constituency. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

Inspired by the death of Olaseni Lewis, one of Mr Reed's constituents, in a mental health unit in 2010, this Bill seeks to enforce that mental health units record all uses of force, develop written policies about the use of force, commit to reducing the use of force in all instances, record its use when it occurs, and provide patients clear information about their rights. Furthermore, any eventual death must be reported to the Secretary of State, and independently reviewed.
This Bill is being supported by the Government. Health Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, acknowledged that for too long the use of force has been seen as the norm in health and mental health institutions, and that this Bill will be instrumental in changing this culture.
Also, in October 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would embark on a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act, which has remained unchanged since the 1980s. The review will be led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and he will consider the needs of all users of mental health services and their families, and improve the system's support for those during a mental health crisis, with a particular focus on reducing the use of force under the Act, and ending the disproportionate rates of detention of ethnic minority patients.


28 JUN 2018

Vehicle Emissions

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the APPG Inquiry into Alternative Ways to Lower Vehicle Emissions.

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

Motorists should not be overburdened with the responsibility of improving air quality and tackling climate change. It is crucial that we strike a fair and sustainable balance between keeping the cost of living as low as possible for ordinary hardworking people whilst meeting our obligations towards environmental protection.
It is important to remember that despite significant improvements in air quality over recent decades, air pollution is still having an impact on people's health. Air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. In addition, the UK has challenging legal obligations in relation to NO2 limits and we are required to achieve compliance in the shortest time possible.
As a result, Ministers have directed sixty-one local authorities to develop local plans likely to achieve compliance. It is for local authorities to determine the measures that will enable them to comply with legal NO2 limits in the shortest possible time, and charging is just one possible measure. Local authorities are also able to bid for additional money from a £220 million fund to minimise the impact of local plans on individuals and businesses.
More widely, action is being taken to drive forward innovation in the vehicle industry which results in clean, affordable technology. Ministers have set out a clear mission to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.
Fuel duty in 2018 will remain frozen for an eighth successive year which will save the typical driver £160 a year on average. This shows a commitment to help hardworking people as we transition towards a clean economy.


28 JUN 2018

Antartic

Thank you for taking the time to email me about establishing an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.

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

The UK is one of the leading proponents of establishing a Marine Protected Area in the Weddell Sea. On our behalf the Government will be advocating strongly for its adoption at the meeting this October of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
The UK leads the world on marine protection and is on track to deliver over 4 million square kilometres of protected ocean around the UK Overseas Territories by 2020. Together with existing Marine Protected Areas around the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and within the British Antarctic Territory, more recent developments have seen new and planned enhanced protections in waters around Pitcairn, St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Closer to home, plans have now been set out to create 41 new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK, safeguarding almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and marking the most significant expansion of the UK's 'Blue Belt' of protected areas to date. The proposed protections, announced on World Oceans Day, will cover an area almost eight times the size of Greater London.
Some 50 zones had already been designated around England in 2013 and 2016 as part of the Blue Belt. This third and final tranche will be designated within 12 months of a consultation lasting until 20 July, bringing the total area of protection to over 32,000 square kilometres. Considering other types of marine protected area, the total sea area under protection will amount to around 220,000 square kilometres, meaning almost two fifths of English seas would be protected.


26 JUN 2018

Saudi Arabia Arms Sales

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

I read your comments with interest and understand you are deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen. I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen. It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end arms sales.

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

The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications, including those for Saudi Arabia, are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.
Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it is investigating reports of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law. This is an important process and the UK is fully behind thorough investigations into all allegations of violations of International Law. Finding a political solution to the conflict in Yemen is the best way to bring long-term stability and peace talks are a top priority.

By adhering to the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will continue to ensure that UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia are not used for internal repression, violating international humanitarian law, or for provoking or prolonging conflict. The Government has committed to keeping the situation under continual review, as it does with other countries.


26 JUN 2018

CETA

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

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

CETA, which provisionally came into force in September 2017, has removed 98% of tariffs and other barriers which British businesses face at the border, when trading and investing in Canada. What is more, estimates suggest that the agreement will, per annum, increase British exports to Canada by £676 million and boost UK GDP by £730 million. This is a boost for our industries, jobs and growth.
The Investor Court System (ICS) protects investors, both large and small, from discriminatory or unfair treatment by a state. The EU has not yet formalised the detail of how the ICS will work and it is not yet in force. The UK Government, in developing an independent trade policy for when we leave the European Union, is looking at a variety of investor state dispute systems which will form the basis of the UK's own investor protection model. A dispute system will protect UK businesses trading in Canada as well as Canadian businesses trading in the UK. The UK has such provisions in over 90 agreements already in place between the UK and other countries, and there has never been a successful investor state dispute settlement claim against the UK, nor have potential claims affected the Government's legislative programme
The Government is absolutely committed to protecting the NHS. There is nothing in CETA that will put the NHS at risk. CETA specifically protects the Government's right to regulate and this includes the UK's public health sector. The NHS is protected by specific exemptions in all EU trade agreements, including CETA. As we leave the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections for the NHS are included in all trade agreements it is party to.
Likewise, CETA does not weaken EU environmental standards, nor hold back action on climate change. CETA protects the right of the parties to regulate and would not prevent either side from introducing new environmental and low carbon legislation in order to achieve environmental goals. It specifically prohibits parties from waiving or derogating environmental laws to encourage trade and investment.
Finally, on parliamentary scrutiny, the Government has made absolutely clear that Parliament will have a vital role to play in our future trade policy. The Department for International Trade's White Paper committed to ensuring scrutiny and engagement that is inclusive, meaningful and transparent.


26 JUN 2018

Heathrow

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the 3rd runway at Heathrow.

I did vote to support this expansion and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

The Government's decision to support a new runway at Heathrow in the proposed Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) is a momentous step for our country. Heathrow expansion will deliver a boost of up to £74 billion to the economy and ensure the UK maintains its position as a global leader in aviation.
This will be the first full length runway in the south-east since the Second World War, which sends a very clear message that this country is open for business. Forecasts show that by the mid-2030s all five of the London's major airports will be at full capacity. Expanding Heathrow will not only improve connectivity in the UK itself, but will also better connect the UK to long haul destinations in growing world markets, boosting trade and creating jobs. Heathrow will be privately funded and that the costs will not be met by the taxpayer. It is also important to remember that expansion would create tens of thousands of local jobs.
The NPS has taken into account public and industry feedback. The action taken by the Government to ensure local communities and the environment are protected is welcome. The NPS includes a legally enforceable ban on scheduled night flights for 6.5 hours, at least an hour longer than the current ban in operation. It is also positive news that the NPS includes a world class package of up to £2.6 billion of compensation and mitigation measures to help those most affected by expansion. Development consent will only be granted if the Government is satisfied that UK air quality obligations are not breached.


26 JUN 2018

Divest Parliament

Today I wrote the following to the Chair of IPSA:-

I am writing to you after meeting with constituency members of the Divest Parliament campaign.

I would like to express my view that my pension funds are invested in renewable energy projects rather than in fossil fuels.

I think this would indicate and reinforce the government's commitment to tackling climate change.


25 JUN 2018

Votes at 16

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

I have been a long-time supporter of votes at sixteen and so will not need further convincing and this is reflected in my voting record on this matter.


22 JUN 2018

Diabetes Day

Thank you for taking the time to email me about diabetes and blood glucose testing.

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

It is extremely important for people with diabetes to be fully supported in maintaining their blood glucose levels.
The latest set of National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines were published in February 2016. I understand that NICE recommended some circumstances where continuous glucose monitoring (that use disposable sensors) can have benefit over and above current methods of self-monitoring of blood glucose but advised that they are generally no more effective than current methods of self-monitoring.
More information can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/dg21

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are primarily responsible for commissioning diabetes services to meet the requirements of the local area. In doing so, CCGs need to ensure that the services they provide are fit for purpose, reflect the needs of the local population, are based on the available evidence, taking into account national guidelines. This should include consideration of access to continuous glucose monitoring for people with Type 1 diabetes who might benefit from it. Thus flash monitoring systems such as the FreeStyle Libre system may not be immediately available throughout the entirety of the NHS in England.

Some individuals are already tested for diabetes under the NHS Health Check. Prevention, good management and patient education are key to preventing complications of diabetes, such as amputations.


22 JUN 2018

World Refugee Day

Thank you for taking the time to email me about World Refugee Day.

I am glad that the UK remains a country at the forefront of providing humanitarian assistance and shelter to those in need and I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. Between April 2014 and June 2017, the Home Office received 97,454 claims for asylum and decided over 64,000 of these within 6 months. However the Home Office recognises there is more it needs to do and it continues to work with NGOs to look at ways to ensure that those seeking asylum have their decisions dealt with efficiently and effectively.
Those in the asylum process may be under severe emotional pressure, which is why the Home Office provides relevant information to asylum claimants throughout the process, including signposting to any support they may require. All asylum claimants are provided with a comprehensive leaflet that sets out what to expect at the asylum interview, the possible outcomes of the asylum claim, how to obtain legal advice to support their claim, details of support organisations that might be relevant, rights and responsibilities of asylum seekers, and information about asylum support and how to apply.
Asylum seekers do not need to work whilst their claim is considered as they are provided with accommodation and support to meet their essential living needs if they would otherwise be destitute. But they are encouraged to undertake volunteering activities. Volunteering provides a valuable contribution to their local community and may help them to integrate into society if they qualify for protection. Those granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, including those who are resettled to the UK, have immediate and unrestricted access to the labour market. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK unless their claim has been outstanding for at least 12 months through no fault of their own. This policy is designed to protect the resident labour market to prioritise access to employment for British citizens and those lawfully resident here, including those granted refugee status.


22 JUN 2018

Pet Theft

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

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

To their owners, pets are cherished members of the family, so to steal one from a loving home is a particularly vicious crime. To tackle it I favour rigorously enforcing existing laws, and a number of offences can be used to prosecute these cases.
Where the offence charged is theft, the maximum penalty under the Theft Act 1968 is seven years' imprisonment. In addition, while a stolen pet may not necessarily have been mistreated, where it has been offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of animal cruelty or failure to meet an animal's basic needs carry a maximum of six months imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both; legislation is being brought forward to increase punishments for the most horrific acts of animal cruelty to five years. Courts also have the power to ban an offender from keeping animals in the future.
It is for the courts to decide the right sentence in individual cases, and a new sentencing guideline on theft came into force at the beginning of February 2016. The body responsible did consider suggestions that there should be a separate guideline on pet theft but concluded that aggravating factors, such as emotional distress caused to the victim, already enable the courts to impose appropriate sentences.
With regard to compulsorily scanning microchips, it is already considered the best practice for stray pets to be scanned when received by vets and rescue centres. Guidance from the British Veterinary Association also advises veterinarians always to scan animals brought into their surgeries for the first time.


21 JUN 2018

Global Justice

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Global Justice campaign.

I can assure you that everyone who comes to my constituency surgery can do so, safe in the knowledge, that their case with be dealt with in complete confidence.


21 JUN 2018

Motor Neurone Disease

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Special Rules for Terminal Illness (SRTI) and people with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

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

MND is a terrible condition for people to go through, and it is crucial that people who suffer from terminal conditions like this should receive as much support as possible.
The SRTI procedure helps deliver this goal by allowing people with terminal illnesses to be fast-tracked without the need for a face-to-face assessment. There are, however, safeguards in place to help make sure everyone is treated fairly, including people with MND.
Given how unpredictable terminal conditions such as MND can be, there is some flexibility in the eligibility criteria for SRTI. Medical professionals are asked what they believe to be a "reasonable" expectation of how long someone is expected to live. The six month rule is very much a guideline, and medical professionals do not face any punishment if the patient lives longer than six months. Someone who lives longer than six months will still be able to receive their benefit and will not need to be reassessed until up to three years after their initial claim.
Sadly, a third of people suffering from MND pass away within a year of their diagnosis and over half within two years. But people with MND who are expected to live significantly longer than six months will have to go through the work capability assessment process. Under these circumstances, they would be able to be covered by the Severe Conditions Criteria which would usually exempt them from further face-to-face reassessments.


21 JUN 2018

Meaningful Vote

I fully realise the strength of feeling on this issue and that is because Brexit has such far reaching consequences. It continues to be the most divisive of issues across families, communities and within both main political parties.

This vote was not about whether we leave the EU; that was decided by the referendum, but about the arrangements that will be in place after we leave and whether Parliament should have a Meaningful Vote.

Last week the Prime Minister undertook to address the concerns of those of us who felt that the EU Withdrawal Bill did not adequately address the role of Parliament in having a Meaningful Vote in the event of a No Deal outcome to the negotiations. The discussion that followed led to a position that seemed satisfactory to both sides but the government then altered the agreed wording. This is why the House of Lords returned the originally agreed draft for further debate to the Commons

One argument advanced by the government was that putting an amendable vote on the face of the Bill would encourage the EU to toughen its negotiating stance as it would consider that we believe a No Deal Brexit is to be avoided at all cost.

But the reality is that a No Deal Brexit would be extraordinarily damaging both for ourselves and our EU partners. No member state of the EU would want this. It is just as likely that they would consider that we had made sound contingency plans to deal with the problem a No Deal would cause.

Having listened to the evidence of the impact of a walk away, no deal Brexit on individuals, communities and businesses, I could not support a situation where Parliament has no mechanisms to help to deal with this scenario.

I know the Prime Minister is seeking a good deal and I hope that she is successful in achieving this. I fear however, that we are up against the reality of Brexit and the limited options on offer if we wish to continue to benefit from free and frictionless trade with our nearest and most important trading partners. The dangers go beyond the consequences for our economy and it is worth looking at the many reports from Parliamentary Select Committees which have been taking evidence on this over the course of this Parliament.

I believe it would have been in our best interests to have been able to reduce the risk of Hard Brexit and voted for the amendment. Parliament rejected this by a majority of 16 votes and once the bill receives Royal Assent it will become an Act of Parliament.


20 JUN 2018

NHS Funding

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the 38 Degrees campaign regarding NHS funding, this is a topic firmly on my radar as a former GP and I have attended many meetings and been involved with many organisations and groups campaigning on future funding.

I do support a long term and ambitious uplift to funding of the NHS and I feel that this should take a whole system approach to the NHS, social care and public health. I can assure you that this remains central to my work as your MP.

I have met in person to discuss NHS funding with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Health, the Head of the NHS and I am working with the MHCLG Committee on social care issues. I have also written to the Chancellor as you can see via the following link

I have had many other meetings in parliament about NHS funding and you can view more details about some of these via the following links:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/nhs-clinical-commissioners/2722

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/larwood/2613

I have also spoken in parliament about this as you can see via the following links:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/social-care/2497

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/health-and-social-care-budgets/2222

The Speaker's Lecture I delivered on the NHS may also be of interest

You may also be interested in the following articles I wrote on this topic:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah's-blog/political-courage-is-required-and-determination/2533

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah's-blog/nhs-funding/2522

The Health Select Committee which I chair is also undertaking an inquiry in to the long term funding of adult social care.

Health and social care are irrevocably intertwined and I was pleased to be part of the Citizens Assembly on the future of social care in Birmingham


19 JUN 2018

NHS Funding Announcement

Thank you for writing to me about this week's announcement on NHS spending.

I welcome this uplift and the recognition that it needs to be accompanied by a long term plan which comes from the NHS itself. I have no doubt that the Health and Social Care Committee will want to examine this in further detail especially as it does not currently cover the important areas of public health or social care.

I think the PM's speech is worth reading in full and I will now be working to help to find agreement on the 'who and how' of paying for this much needed increase.

The full text is here


18 JUN 2018

Business Rates

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

Personally, I do think we need a root and branch review of the business rates system so it can better reflect modern trading practices and I hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Small businesses are the backbone of local economies and the Government has responded to the number one ask of businesses in the recent Budget by announcing a new package to reduce business rates.
As announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Budget 2017, the Government has brought forward a planned switch from RPI to CPI by two years, to April 2018, worth £2.3 billion in reduced business rates over five years. Ministers have also listened to the concerns expressed about the five yearly revaluation system and after the next revaluation in 2021, future revaluations will take place every three years.
The business rates system can be a substantial cost, particularly for some smaller companies and those most affected by the recent revaluation have been supported. In 2016 the Government set out cuts in business rates benefitting all ratepayers which will be worth almost £9 billion by the end of this Parliament. An additional £435 million was made also available last year to support businesses most affected by the recent revaluation.
On a final note, the Government remains committed to allowing local authorities to keep more of the money they raise locally, with an aim of ensuring that local authorities retain 75 per cent of business rates from 2020-21. To test aspects of this system, ten new areas have been selected for business rate retention pilots in the 2018-19 financial year.

You can also view the Minister's response to the recent debate on this issue here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/search/MemberContributions?house=Commons&memberId=3935


18 JUN 2018

Demolitions at Khan al-Ahmar and EDM 1169

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the demolitions at Khan al-Ahmar and the related EDM, number 1169.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 1169, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

Colleagues in Government raised strong concerns with the Israeli authorities over the demolitions at Khan al-Ahmar and repeatedly called on the Israeli Government to halt these demolitions. A British official from the UK Consulate General in Jerusalem visited Khan al-Ahmar to show British support for the community.
Demolitions and evictions of Palestinians from their homes cause unnecessary suffering; call into question Israel's commitment to a viable two-state solution; and, in all but exceptional cases, are contrary to international humanitarian law.
The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers an independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel, and the Foreign Secretary shares this view. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.


18 JUN 2018

Arthritis

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

I understand your concern about how we best help those suffering from this debilitating condition and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

To help clinicians to identify the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and make prompt referrals to specialists, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in 2009. This best practice guideline sets out the signs and symptoms of the disease and emphasises the need for early diagnosis, with urgent referral to a specialist rheumatologist on suspicion of RA. The commissioning of arthritis services, including the establishment of arthritis clinics, is the responsibility of local areas, taking account of the needs of the local population.
The national clinical audit of rheumatoid and early inflammatory arthritis published its latest report in July 2016 and assesses the quality of care by specialist rheumatology services. The report showed significant improvements in patient experience and the time taken to receive treatment, although there are areas where further improvement needs to be made. The report makes a range of recommendations, including improving the training and awareness and amongst GPs, and it encourages all participating organisations to reflect on their own performance and consider what more could be done.
NICE has published best practice clinical guidelines for the treatment of arthritis which highlight the importance of self-management, and lifestyle advice to help patients manage their condition, and live as independently as possible.
The Work and Health Unit has been established to lead the drive for improving work and health outcomes for people with health conditions, like arthritis, as well as improving prevention and support for people absent from work through ill health and those at risk of leaving the workforce. The Unit will seek to do this by improving integration across healthcare and employment services as well as supporting employers to recruit and retain more people with long term health conditions.

Despite tight public finances, the Government has actively supported the NHS' own plan for the future. That is why it is increasing NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years.


18 JUN 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 crack down on unfair practices.
More broadly, 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.


18 JUN 2018

ONE Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the UK's support for vaccinations for the world's poorest.

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

Good health is valuable not only in its own right, but in contributing to the prosperity and stability of developing countries, lifting people out of poverty. Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective ways of improving living standards, health and economies: for every £1 spent on immunisation, £16 is expected to be gained through direct savings on medical treatment costs and lost productivity caused by illness or death. Incredibly, when the broader economic and social benefits of helping children stay healthy and grow up into productive adults are taken into account, the return on investment rises to £44 for every £1 invested.
Vaccination is key to reducing childhood deaths from preventable diseases: vaccines administered in 41 of the world's poorest countries between 2016 and 2030 are expected to prevent 36 million deaths. That would not be possible without the UK's continued support through organisations such as Gavi, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the World Health Organisation.
The UK is the largest investor in Gavi: since its creation in 2000, our investment has helped support the immunisation of 640 million children, preventing nine million deaths. The Government's has continued to support for Gavi's work: between 2016 and 2020, the UK is investing £1.44 billion in Gavi, which will directly enable 76 million children to be vaccinated and will save 1.4 million lives. Gavi's success in bringing down the cost of vaccines, making them more affordable for the world's poorest countries, also means our aid budget goes further. Since 2011, GAVI has enabled a 43 per cent reduction in the total cost of immunising a child, from $33 to $19.


14 JUN 2018

ME and EDM 1247

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 1247, 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 of Health is reassuring:

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.

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.


13 JUN 2018

Cancer Services

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about improving outcomes for cancer sufferers.

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

The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity. NHS England has also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy across England. Furthermore, the Government invested over £1.2 billion to the Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people to access the life-extending drugs they need.
Early diagnosis of cancer is key and that is why the Government has run a series of Be Clear on Cancer campaigns in order to raise public awareness of the symptoms of cancer.
The Government is working closely with experts in this field to fulfil its ambition of achieving world-class cancer outcomes. Health Education England is developing a cancer workforce strategy, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, among others, to ensure that all cancer patients receive access to specialist nursing staff throughout the course of their treatment and recovery. This workforce plan includes a significant increase in the diagnostic workforce, such as the recruitment of radiologists and endoscopists, who will be instrumental in ensuring the NHS meets its ambitions to offer timely and accurate diagnoses to suspected cancer patients.


13 JUN 2018

End Homelessness

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Crisis report "Everybody In" on how to end homelessness.

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

There is much overlap between the ideas Crisis have raised in their recent report and the Government's plan to end rough sleeping by 2027.
The recent launch of a £28 million pilot of Housing First, providing some of England's most entrenched rough sleepers with stable, affordable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support. The impact of this pilot will be evaluated to inform any wider roll out of the Housing First approach.
On the issue of social housing, recent statistics which show that more than three times as much council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years. The £9 billion Affordable Homes Programme will also help deliver more social housing.
Working together with leading experts on homelessness, the Government will achieve the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.


08 JUN 2018

Israel Arms Trade

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 Department for International Trade is reassuring:

The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications, including those for Israel, are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.
Under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, countries have a right to defend themselves, and a properly regulated arms trade can help countries to meet their defence and security needs.
By adhering to the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will continue to ensure that UK arms exports to Israel are not used for internal repression, violating international humanitarian law, or for provoking or prolonging conflict. The Government has committed to keeping the situation in Israel under continual review, as it does with other countries.


08 JUN 2018

Brexit and the Environment

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the future of the environment post Brexit.

I understand your concern on this matter and I have signed the following amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill on this topic:

"Maintenance of environmental principles etc.

(1) The Secretary of State must, within the period of six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, publish a draft Bill consisting of—

(a) a set of environmental principles,

(b) a duty on the Secretary of State to publish a statement of policy in relation to the application and interpretation of those principles in connection with the making and development of policies by Ministers of the Crown,

(c) a duty which ensures that Ministers of the Crown must have regard, in circumstances provided for by or under the Bill, to the statement mentioned in paragraph (b),

(d) provisions for the establishment of a public authority with functions for taking, in circumstances provided for by or under the Bill, proportionate enforcement action (including legal proceedings if necessary) where the authority considers that a Minister of the Crown is not complying with environmental law (as it is defined in the Bill),

(e) such other provisions as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(2) The set of environmental principles mentioned in subsection (1)(a) must (however worded) consist of—

(a) the precautionary principle so far as relating to the environment,

(b) the principle of preventative action to avert environmental damage,

(c) the principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source,

(d) the polluter pays principle,

(e) the principle of sustainable development,

(f) the principle that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of policies and activities,

(g) public access to environmental information,

(h) public participation in environmental decision-making, and

(i) access to justice in relation to environmental matters."


08 JUN 2018

Brexit Amendments

Thank you for writing to me to let me know your views and I assure you that I will be sitting in and listening carefully to both full days of debate next week.

My own views are already on record as opposing a hard, walk-away Brexit.


06 JUN 2018

National Deaf Children's Society Campaign

Thank you for contacting me about the National Deaf Children's Society Campaign.

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

It is important that young people with disabilities can access the services they need for a good education. The system for identifying and meeting the needs of all children with special educational needs and disabilities is designed to deliver the right support where it is needed. The Department for Education is investing more than £25 million in projects to help children with special educational needs access excellent support. This builds on work with charities such as the National Deaf Children's Society, as part of the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, to produce a wide range of support to early years, schools, post-16 providers and local authorities to support children and young people with sensory impairment.
The high-needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is a record £6 billion. Every local authority will see a minimum increase of 0.5 per cent per head in 2018-19 and 1 per cent per head in 2019-20. Underfunded local authorities will receive up to 3 per cent per head gains a year for the next two years and overall, local authorities will gain 4.6 per cent on average on their high needs budgets.


04 JUN 2018

Tier 2 and NHS

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the tier 2 visa issue, this is something that I have raised in Parliament directly with the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid and I will shortly be meeting with him to discuss this further.

I have also raised this with fellow select committee chairs and know that the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper MP is leading on this and will be liaising with me about further Parliamentary action. I strongly support the BMAs view that these restrictions should not apply to NHS staff.


31 MAY 2018

Al Quds and Hezbollah

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

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

Peaceful protest is a vital part of our democratic society. It is a long-standing tradition in this country that people are free to gather together and to demonstrate their views, however uncomfortable or repugnant those can be to the majority of us. However they must do so within the law. Protesters' rights need to be balanced with the rights of others to go about their business without fear of intimidation or serious disruption to the community. Rights to peaceful protest do not extend to violent or threatening behaviour, and the police have the necessary powers to deal with such acts.
Hezbollah's beliefs are outrageous, disgusting, and should be condemned at every opportunity. The UK Government has long held the view that elements of Hezbollah have been involved in conducting and supporting terrorism and, as a result, proscribed Hezbollah's External Security Organisation in 2001, and in 2008 proscription was extended to include the whole of Hezbollah's military apparatus, namely the Jihad Council and all the units reporting to it. Hezbollah's military wing is also designated in the UK under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010. Funds or economic resources owned, held or controlled by Hezbollah's military wing in the UK therefore can, and will, be frozen.
A decision to proscribe an organisation is done on the recommendations submitted by law enforcement agencies, security services here and intelligence services overseas. However it is crucial that we constantly monitor these groups and individuals involved in them, and review the use of proscription as a means to take action where we see fit.


31 MAY 2018

Cladding and Affordable Housing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about cladding and affordable housing.

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

The Government's recent decision to fund cladding removal will not reduce the number of affordable homes built between now and 2022.

The Government has announced it will meet the costs of remedial cladding work on social housing high rise buildings, estimated at £400 million. With remediation work already begun on 65 per cent of buildings in the social sector identified as having Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, the Government's funding will speed up this important work. This will help to prevent another tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire from happening again.

While the £400 million will come from the Affordable Homes Programme in the short-term, the Government has been clear that this temporary withdrawal from the fund will be fully reimbursed for the 2021-2022 financial year. This will ensure that no money will be lost from the Affordable Homes Programme, which remains at over £9 billion. As such, the Programme will provide the same number of affordable homes and will continue to build on the Government's success of delivering 357,000 affordable homes since 2010.

This decision will help speed up essential fire safety work on high rise buildings whilst protecting the over £9 billion in funding allocated for affordable homes.


31 MAY 2018

Torture Guidance

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the consolidated guidance on detainees.

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

The current consolidated guidance, published in 2010, sets out the principles for the interviewing of detainees overseas and the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees.
Following the recommendations of Sir Mark Waller, the then Intelligence Services Commissioner (in his 2016 report on the Government's responsibilities in relation to partner counter-terrorism units overseas), the Government is working to identify what, if any, further changes could be made to the consolidated guidance. Please be assured that the Government has engaged with both the Intelligence Services Commissioner and Investigatory Powers Commissioner, to whom the Prime Minister has passed oversight of the guidance. In addition, the views of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament have also been sought in the context of their current inquiry into detainee matters. The updated guidance paper will be made public and laid before Parliament once it has been finalised.


31 MAY 2018

Universal Credit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Gingerbread campaign on Universal Credit.

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:

Universal Credit is bringing fundamental change to the welfare system. The previous system incentivised working only 16 hours a week or less, preventing people from reaching their potential in work. Universal Credit frees people from those limits and lets them keep more of what they earn. Studies show that under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system.
Key to the design of Universal Credit is the monthly assessment periods. Payments are made monthly in arrears to mirror the world of work, making the transition to working life easier. As you know, from February 2018 the seven-day waiting period has been removed. For those individuals who think they may face difficulties before their first payment, an advance payment can be requested. Any household that needs it will be able to access a full month's payment as an advance within five days of applying, and the repayment period will be doubled to 12 months, regardless of the level of advance taken.
The introduction of the National Living Wage is delivering a pay rise for millions of low paid workers. People are keeping more of what they earn due to increases in their income tax personal allowance, saving a basic rate taxpayer up to £1,000 a year. Over 3 million jobs have been created since 2010, making it important to focus resources on helping those in work. The Universal Credit taper rate has therefore been reduced to 63p to ensure claimants keep more of what they earn.


31 MAY 2018

Live Export

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about live exports and I agree that live exports to slaughterhouses abroad causes unnecessary suffering.

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

All animals deserve to be respected and cared for at every stage of their lives. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and the Party's General Election manifesto included a commitment to take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union.
The six-week call for evidence launched by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, on improving animal welfare in transport and controlling live animal exports is welcomed. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee has also launched a review into the existing welfare standards for animals during transport.
The call for evidence lasted six weeks and sought views from across industry, charities and the general public on how the Government might raise standards of animal welfare during transport
Although much of the discussion to has focused on the export of live animals for slaughter, all options for future improvements in this area are being considered.
Acting on live animal exports forms part of the Government's programme of reforms to cement the UK's position as a global leader in animal welfare as we leave the EU, and deliver a Green Brexit. Other measures include making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses, increasing the maximum sentence for animal abuse from six months to five years and writing the principle of animal sentience into UK law.


31 MAY 2018

EDM 1140

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 1140.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 1140, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The number of whiplash claims has been too high for too long, and is symptomatic of a wider compensation culture. This is being put right through the Civil Liability Bill, which will ensure that whiplash claims are no longer an easy payday and that money can be put back in the pockets of millions of law-abiding motorists.
In 2017 the insurance industry identified 69,000 motor insurance claims that it considered fraudulent. The Government's reforms seek to reduce and control the costs of whiplash claims and to disincentivise people making fraudulent or unmeritorious claims. The level of compensation paid out for such claims is, in the Government's view, out of all proportion to any genuine injury suffered, especially when balanced against its effect on the price of premiums paid by ordinary motorists.
The measures in the Bill relating to whiplash will therefore address a number of issues. They will introduce a ban on settling whiplash claims without medical evidence, discouraging fraudulent claims and encouraging insurers to investigate claims properly. They will also provide for a new system of fixed tariffs for payments for pain, suffering and "loss of amenity" in whiplash claims. This will give claimants proportionate compensation while controlling the costs of claims.


31 MAY 2018

EDM 1219

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 1219.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 1219, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The UN Security Council recently visited Burma, where the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN made representations to senior members of Burma's government on the treatment of the Rohingya. Additionally, on 3 May, the British Ambassador to Burma met the Commander-in-Chief of Burma's military and urged him to accept an inquiry with international involvement into the human rights violations carried out against the Rohingya.
The UK is a staunch supporter of the ICC and the UK Government remains committed to working with all its international partners to secure justice for what has taken place in Rakhine. We are awaiting a decision from the ICC on whether it has jurisdiction over the deportation of the Rohingya from Burma to Bangladesh, on the basis that Bangladesh, unlike Burma, is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.
The UN Security Council could refer Burma to the ICC, but there is currently insufficient support on the Security Council, and Ministers have been clear that a vetoed attempt at a referral would undermine our position.


30 MAY 2018

Abortion NI

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about abortion in Northern Ireland.

I trust all women and will be voting for equal rights to abortion for women in Northern Ireland. This will now depend on whether Parliament is given the opportunity to vote on a cross Party amendment. The Speaker decides whether amendments are allowable/in scope & can be debated.

I would vote to support an extension of abortion rights to all women across the whole UK. As this is a devolved issue, if an amendment is not accepted by the Speaker, then there should at very least be a referendum in Northern Ireland on this issue. The Domestic Violence Bill is being proposed as an opportunity to bring amendments on abortion rights, but also a danger that some will use this as an opportunity to erode women's rights.

I will strongly oppose any threat to women's right to access safe termination of pregnancy. I would support a change to current legislation that demands two doctors need to support the grounds for the termination of pregnancy. Whilst it is a healthcare issue, I think it is paternalistic to insist both need to be doctors.


30 MAY 2018

Don't Block Brexit

Thank you for writing to me about the result of the referendum and the key debates and votes that lie ahead on the EU withdrawal bill as well as the customs and trade bills.

I will be respecting the decision to leave the EU but do not agree that the referendum delivered a mandate for a walk-away, no deal Brexit on WTO terms. That would have far reaching adverse consequences that would leave individuals and families poorer if businesses were unable to trade and collapsed or moved abroad as a result.

I hope that we will be able to remain in the EEA and EFTA in order, like Norway, to regain control of our fishing grounds whilst retaining the benefits of full access to the single market. I also feel that we need an effective customs union to allow frictionless trade and safeguard peace in Northern Ireland.

I do not agree that campaigning for a deal that keeps us closely aligned in a trading relationship with the EU is an attempt to frustrate Brexit. I was struck during the campaign by how many people told me that they had voted to join a 'common market' not a political union and wanted to return to that situation. I recognise that the majority have voted to leave the political union of the EU but would urge you to look at the mounting evidence from cross Party Select Committees which sets out just how damaging it would be for us to leave with no deal.


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.


06 MAR 2018

Israel

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Israel Apartheid Week campaigns.

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

Any discrimination or hostility based on religion or race is deplorable and there is no place for it in our society. Acts of hatred in any form will not be tolerated, and the Government is committed to addressing antisemitism wherever it occurs.
All institutions, including universities, have a responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive environment. All higher education institutions have a legal obligation for ensuring that students do not face discrimination, harassment, abuse or violence. Universities are expected to have robust policies and procedures in place to comply with the law, and to investigate and swiftly address any hate crime and anti-Semitic incidents that are reported.
In 2015 Universities UK (UUK) was asked to set up a Harassment Taskforce to consider what more can be done to address harassment on campus, including on the basis of religion and belief. Last year, it published a directory of case studies detailing the innovative projects universities have developed to address the taskforce's recommendations. Further to this, the Higher Education Funding Council for England has provided £1.8 million for projects to improve responses to hate crime and online harassment on campus. In addition, the new partnership between the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Education, which is providing nearly over £144,000 of joint funding for a new programme to support universities in tackling antisemitism on campus is welcomed.
Our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and freedom of religion. However, there is no place in any education institution for hatred and no student should face discrimination, harassment or racism - including antisemitism.


05 MAR 2018

Devolution

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

I understand you are concerned that Brexit could undermine devolution in the UK. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Exiting the European Union is reassuring:

The Government is taking steps to ensure that any decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations remain in place after the UK leaves the EU. After leaving the EU, legislation on devolution settlements will be set here in the UK by democratically elected representatives and the role of Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly will be strengthened.


02 MAR 2018

EDM 685

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the upcoming visit to the UK by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman and the related EDM, number 685.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 685, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The Government has announced that this visit will take place from 7 March, and that it expects the visit to usher in a new era in bilateral relations focused on a partnership that delivers wide-ranging benefits for both the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Government intends to enhance our co-operation in tackling international challenges such as terrorism, extremism, the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and other regional issues such as Iraq and Syria.
Vision 2030, a programme of internal reforms, has been set in motion in Saudi Arabia by the Crown Prince. These include lifting the ban on women driving from June this year, opening up attendance at major sporting events to women and allowing cinemas to operate in the country. Vision 2030 aims to catalyse and open up the country's economy over the next 15 years, which will provide opportunities for British businesses to help support delivery in areas such as education, entertainment and healthcare where they have world-class expertise.
Maintaining a good relationship with Saudi Arabia allows us to support their important programme of reform, and to have frank conversations on matters where we both have concerns.


02 MAR 2018

Pavement Parking

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

I do appreciate the problems that vehicles parked on pavements can cause for people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, as well as those with pushchairs. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is reassuring:

Improving access for disabled people is a key priority for the Government. During 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) worked with a range of stakeholders to examine the legal and financial implications of an alternative pavement parking regime, and the likely impacts on local authorities. This included a roundtable between Ministers and key stakeholders, to help inform the DfT's evidence base on this issue. A key issue identified was the process for putting in place Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) for the enforcement of pavement parking. The DfT is therefore now considering how best to address the general improvement of the TRO-making process.
More broadly, the Government has already taken steps to make it easier for councils to tackle pavement parking. While there is an historic ban on pavement parking throughout London, elsewhere any local authority that has taken up civil enforcement powers may introduce a ban on pavement parking where it sees fit. In 2011, Ministers gave all councils authorisation to use a sign banning parking on the pavement, removing the need to ask Whitehall first for permission.
Ministers have written to councils on several occasions, encouraging them to use their available powers to prevent parking on the pavement where it is a problem. The Department has also published guidance for traffic authorities, highlighting the difficulties that pavement parking causes for pedestrians and detailing ways that it can be prevented.
The Government are set to make an announcement regarding pavement parking later in the spring.


01 MAR 2018

Plastic Free Parliament

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the plastic free Parliament campaign.

I understand your concerns about the damage plastic causes the environment. I only recently had a meeting with a constituent on this matter and I am hoping to work with them to do more to raise the profile of this issue. In addition, I also attended a Sky Ocean Rescue event in Parliament and you can read more about this on my website.

Parliament is currently reviewing the use of single use disposable plastics and is actively involved in a range of initiatives and pilot schemes looking to reduce the amount plastic thrown away on the estate. One example of this is the sourcing a new reusable cup which will be sold in both retail and catering outlets for visitors as well as pass holders.

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

Without urgent action to cut demand, plastic production is likely to reach 34 billion tonnes by 2050, the majority of which will end up in landfill or polluting the world's continents and oceans. Re-using and recycling plastics is critical.
The new 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment commits the Government to working to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste over its lifetime. It sets out a four-point plan for action at each stage of the product lifecycle: production, consumption and end of life.
Producer responsibility systems including packaging waste regulations will be reformed, which will include exploring extending these requirements to more products. Building on the microbeads ban, Ministers will look into whether other problematic materials should be banned where there are suitable alternatives.
Demand for single-use plastic will be cut. All consumer single use plastics will be removed from central government estate offices, and uptake of the highly successful 5p plastic bag charge extended to small retailers. Businesses will be supported to offer new, free refill points for water bottles to be topped up, and work with retailers will explore introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles, where all the food is loose.
The Plan will make it easier for people to recycle, using existing systems as well as new research into measures to reduce littering and promote recycling of drinks containers. Ministers will work to bring more consistency to which materials are collected by local authorities, and with Research Councils to help develop a standard for biodegradable plastic bags.
Lastly the UK will demonstrate international leadership, doing more to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through UK aid.

You may also wish to read the newly published 25 Year Environment Plan


01 MAR 2018

Brexit and NHS Staffing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the impact of Brexit on NHS staffing.

I understand your concern on this matter and I have long been raising the profile of this issue in Parliament as you can see via the following links:

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/prime-minister-engagements/2503

http://www.drsarah.org.uk/in-parliament/news-and-speeches/implementing-the-withdrawal-agreement/2504

You may also like to read the report from the Health Select Committee's inquiry in to Brexit and Health from the last parliament, additionally we hope to publish a further report into the impact

of Brexit on medicines and medical devices shortly: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/publications/

Thank you for getting in touch and I quite agree that EU citizens make a vast and valuable contribution to our NHS.


28 FEB 2018

Armed Drones

Thank you for taking the time to email me about armed drones.

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

The UK's policy on using force overseas is clear. It will be in line with applicable UK and international law, and bounded by UK rules of engagement, targeting and operational directives. The same laws are adhered to whether the method used is an unmanned and remotely piloted air system (also referred to as drones), a piloted aircraft, or any other weapon.
Under international law, the UK has an inherent right to self-defence against both armed attacks and imminent threats of armed attack. Where a direct and imminent threat to the UK is identified, and there is no other effective option, the Government reserves the right to take lawful action in self-defence to address the identified, imminent threat to the UK and/or UK interests and to report to Parliament after it has done so. The Government made its position clear to the Joint Committee on Human Rights during its inquiry into the use of drones.
The UK expects others to follow the same international laws when it comes to the use of military force. This applies to the use of armed drones, as to any other weapon, including when used against terrorist targets.
One purpose of the Ministry of Defence's Joint Doctrine Publication on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is to increase transparency and understanding around the use of military drones. The doctrine applies to all uses of UAS across Defence at the operational level and it guides operational commanders and planning staff in understanding the terminology, tasking and employment of military drones.


27 FEB 2018

Eastern Ghouta

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the situation in Eastern Ghouta.

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

The current level of violence in the region is the worst since 2013. Hundreds of people have died in recent days with pro-Government forces, backed by Russia, attempting to retake the last major rebel stronghold via airstrikes.
The situation in Eastern Ghouta is appalling and the numbers of civilians, including children who have been reportedly killed or injured. The UK Government is deeply concerned about this humanitarian catastrophe and has called upon the Regime and its backers to end this campaign of violence, to protect civilians and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to the region.
The UK has raised its concerns in the UN Security Council and International Syria Support Group, and continues to work through the UN to try to secure a ceasefire, to support the Geneva peace process and the work of the UN Special Envoy for Syria.


26 FEB 2018

Onshore Wind Farms

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about onshore wind farms.

I understand that you are supportive of onshore wind and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

Clean growth has been placed at the heart of the new Industrial Strategy which aims to cut emissions while keeping costs down for consumers, create high value jobs and to grow the economy.
The development of renewable energy is already a tremendous UK success story and, thanks to significant investment and support, renewable capacity has quadrupled since 2010. Last year, 30 per cent of our electricity generation came from renewable sources and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses that our country is transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
The Government has said that it does not believe that more large-scale onshore wind power is right for England at this time. While onshore wind farms play an important role in supporting our renewable needs, it is important to appreciate that they can often fail to win public support. That is why it is right that more power has been given to local communities on where wind farms can be built, with the final say resting locally.
That said, established technologies such as onshore wind are reducing in cost and if this continues it may have the capacity to play a significant role in the UK's generation mix going forward.
Ultimately, it is right that support should be focused on technologies where it is most needed, which is why the Government announced in the Clean Growth Strategy that it would make up to £557 million of annual funding available for less established technologies including onshore wind projects on remote islands that directly benefit local communities. The next funding auction is planned for spring 2019.


26 FEB 2018

Eating Disorders

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

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

Eating disorders primarily affect the young, and often prove to be family, as well as personal, tragedies if left untreated. However, with the right treatment, delivered on-time, these tragedies can be avoided, and full recoveries achieved.
NHS England has sent an ambitious new access standard by 2020: 95 per cent of patients are to be treated within four weeks of their first contact with a healthcare professional. Urgent cases will be treated within one week, and the worst emergency cases in children should find support within 24 hours. In May 2017, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its updated guideline on eating disorders, covering a range of age groups, including adults.
The Government is investing an additional £30 million per year, until 2020, to improve community care for eating disorders, which has funded 67 new or extended Community Eating Disorder Teams across England. The clinical guidelines put forward by NICE have recommended that patients will be treated at an age appropriate facility, which will ensure patients are cared for in the most comfortable environment possible.
Additionally, more money is being invested in wider mental health care than ever before, with over £1 billion extra funding into crisis care and perinatal services, as well as £1.4 billion devoted to transforming mental health and eating disorder services for children and young people over the next five years.
Eating disorders are an acutely distressing mental illness. With the right approach, and appropriate investment, the Government will be able to offer help, care, and a full recovery to those who currently suffer from eating disorders.


21 FEB 2018

East Coast Railway

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the East Coast franchise.

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

VTEC is a joint venture, 90 per cent owned by Stagecoach. Recent challenges to the franchise have arisen because Stagecoach overbid for the franchise. This means the franchise can only continue in its current form for a very limited period of time. As a result the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has announced he will need to end the contract and establish a successor arrangement to operate the line.
The day-to-day operation of the line will continue as normal and services and staff on the East Coast will be unaffected. Equally, Stagecoach have not and will not receive a bailout. The nature of the competitive franchise system means that businesses in the private sector risk substantial capital and when things go wrong, the business not the taxpayer foots the bill. Stagecoach will lose around £200million.
Despite the challenges it is important to remember that since 2015, the franchise has returned nearly £1 billion to the public purse and has also achieved some of the highest passenger satisfaction scores in the country. It is also very welcome that new state of the art trains are being prepared to operate along the line. Since 2015, Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) has on average contributed more per rail period to the tax payer than when the line was operated by Directly Operated Railways.
The Secretary of State will now assess the options to ensure passenger's interests are protected and the services continue until the new East Coast Partnership on the line is implemented in 2020. This assessment will be published and validated in a transparent manner.


21 FEB 2018

Gaza Health System

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the situation 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 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan assessed that 1.1 million of Gaza's population are acutely vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017; and report that a lack of funding for water, sanitation and hygiene interventions have left 1.45 million Gazans at risk of waterborne diseases.
The UK is a long-term supporter of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, providing basic services to 1.3 million people in Gaza, including basic health care. The UK is also supporting approximately 1 million Gazans by addressing critical water, sanitation and hygiene needs through the United Nations Children's Fund. Moreover, the Government's direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority now focuses solely on vital health and education services, in order to meet the immediate needs of the Palestinian people and maximise value for money.
The Government also continues to lobby the Israeli authorities on the issue of improving movement and access into Gaza, and encourages Egypt to show maximum flexibility on opening the Rafah crossing. By stressing the damage the restrictions are doing to the living standards of ordinary Gazans, the UK is working to highlight that supporting legal trade for Gazans is firmly in the region's long-term interests.
We must continue to encourage prioritising progress towards reaching a durable solution for Gaza, taking the necessary practical steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery.


21 FEB 2018

Conscientous Objection Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities Bill).

I have noted your position on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

While the General Medical Council (GMC) wishes to accommodate and respect the diversity of its members' beliefs, it is committed to providing 'patient-centred' care, and will never allow anyone to be denied medical care and assistance on the grounds of belief.
The GMC has a range of guidelines for their members to ensure 'Good Medical practice', and they state that doctors must explain to patients if they have a conscientious objection to a particular procedure. The 'conscientious objection' clause in the GMC's 2013 guidance allows doctors to opt-out from performing a procedure to which they object, but they must make every effort to notify their patient in advance, and they must not obstruct patients from gaining access to the services they require. Arrangements for patients to see another doctor must be made without delay, and patients must not be left with nowhere to turn. Furthermore, in emergencies, doctors must not withhold treatment from any patient if it may run into conflict with their personal beliefs.
This strikes an appropriate balance between respecting the range of deeply-held personal, moral and religious beliefs of our many healthcare professionals, and the rights of all patients to receive the medical treatment the need and deserve. These guidelines will continue to maintain the NHS's commitment to providing patient care, within their rights as enshrined in the NHS Constitution.


20 FEB 2018

Higher Education Pension

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Universities Superannuation Scheme and related EDM, number 619.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 619, 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 of Education is of interest:

Universities and their staff play a vital role in our economy, ensuring that people have the skills they need to get on in life.
Universities are subject to regular assessment of their financial sustainability, management and governance. Government sets the legislative framework for pension schemes to operate within. However, it is for the trustee and employer to agree appropriate plans to ensure schemes are adequately funded. This is overseen by the independent Pensions Regulator. Where The Pensions Regulator believes that a scheme's position warrants its involvement, it can intervene. Importantly, it has powers to protect member benefits under circumstances set out in legislation, and that remains the case.
There is a review of the scheme every three years, and that a recent study found the ability of employers to financially support the scheme is strong and can be expected to remain so for at least 30 years.


19 FEB 2018

NSPCC Are You There

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the provision of mental health services for children and young people and the NSPCC's campaign on this topic.

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.
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.


08 FEB 2018

MS and Cannabis

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

I read your comments with interest and understand you would like to see medicinal cannabis available to those suffering with MS. I appreciate your stance on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health reassuring:

Cannabis in its raw form is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes. The licensing regime for medicines is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues licences for medicines in the UK which have been tested for their safety, quality and efficacy.
A medicine derived from the cannabis plant, Sativex, has already been licenced for use in the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS). The MHRA is open to considering other licence applications for medicines containing cannabinoids should such products be developed. You may be pleased to hear that the Minister for Safeguarding, Vulnerability and Crime has recently written to and met with the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care to consider how to ensure cannabis-based medicines are available where appropriate.
In 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its clinical guideline on the management of MS that does not recommend Sativex as a cost effective use of NHS resources. In the absence of positive guidance from NICE, it is for commissioners to make decisions on whether to fund this treatment based on an assessment of the available evidence.
There are people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses who seek to alleviate their symptoms by using cannabis. Although such use is illicit, the Sentencing Council's guidelines on drug offences identify such circumstances as a potential mitigating factor.
The Government has no plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. The official advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs cites medical and scientific research showing that cannabis use has a number of adverse acute and chronic health effects, especially for people with mental health problems, and continues to present a significant public health issue.


08 FEB 2018

Palestinian Child Prisoners

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Westminster Hall debate that was held concerning Palestinian child prisoners.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the debate due to prior commitments but I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The detention of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons is extremely worrying and in 2012, an independent report on Children in Military Custody was funded and facilitated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Since its publication, Ministers and our Ambassador to Israel have strongly urged the recommendations of the report to be implemented. Minister of State, Alistair Burt, raised the issue of children in detention with Israeli authorities when he visited the region in August.

In addition, you can view the transcript of the debate, including the Minister's response via the following link


05 FEB 2018

Torture Survivors

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the detention of victims of torture.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 696 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The adults at risk in immigration detention policy came into force in September 2016 and was part of the Government's response to Stephen Shaw's review of the welfare of vulnerable people in immigration detention. The policy strengthens the existing presumption against detention, and is based on a case by case assessment of the appropriateness of detention for each individual, depending on the nature and evidence of vulnerability available in their particular case. It involves a balancing of vulnerability considerations against immigration factors (how soon removal is due to take place, public protection concerns, and compliance with immigration law). If an individual is identified as being at risk, they will be detained only when the immigration factors outweigh the evidence of risk.
Victims of torture and victims of sexual or gender based violence, along with a number of other groups of vulnerable individuals, already fall explicitly within the scope of the policy. Although individuals who have suffered severe physical or psychological violence are not explicitly referenced, it is highly likely that such individuals would in any case fall within its scope in that they would meet one of the other indicators of risk set out in the policy (for example, suffering from a mental or serious physical health condition). The policy is supported by the cross-cutting Detention Gatekeeper team, an important function that assesses vulnerability and provides challenge to decisions about who enters immigration detention in terms of their vulnerability, and also scrutinises prospects and speed of removal.
The follow up to the independent review by Stephen Shaw into the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons started in September 2017. As part of this, Mr Shaw will be assessing the implementation of all of his earlier review recommendations. Similarly in light of the High Court judgment to which you refer, the Government is actively considering how it can best address the Court's findings in respect of the adults at risk policy.
While it is important that the time any individual spends in immigration detention is kept to a minimum, detention remains an important part of the process for enabling returns, and it is essential the Government maintains a robust and workable immigration system which ensures that those with no right to be here leave the UK.


01 FEB 2018

Refugee Families

Thank you for taking the time to email me about reuniting refugees with family members and the debate on this on the 16th of March.

I am afraid I will be in the constituency on the 16th but I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

The UK strongly supports the principle of family unity, and there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely. Currently, family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them in the United Kingdom, if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under this policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. They will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union and are not affected by Brexit. Furthermore, children recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees can join close family members here in the UK through the Mandate resettlement scheme. In addition, the Immigration Rules provide for family reunion and allow extended family members to sponsor children where there are serious and compelling circumstances.
The Government should expand the scheme; however there are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is most appropriate. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR, and include Gateway, Mandate, Children at Risk, and the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.
The Government continues to work with key EU Member States to ensure the family reunification process works effectively. The UK and France have committed to ensuring that the provisions of the Dublin III Regulation are used efficiently and effectively. To assist the handling of such cases, the two Governments have established a permanent official contact group, agreed single points of contact within respective Dublin Units and the UK has seconded an asylum expert to the French administration to facilitate the improvement of all stages of the process. The Government is also providing support to the Dublin Units in Greece and Italy bilaterally and through the European Asylum Support Office.


31 JAN 2018

Dementia Care

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

I understand your concern about dementia care and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
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 is encouraging , which will oversee the intelligent integration of health and social care, which will be vitally important with Alzheimer's, on which so much important research is undertaken in the NHS.


31 JAN 2018

Hospital Parking

Thank you for taking the time to email me about hospital parking charges.

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

Patients and their families should not have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges, at what is already an extremely difficult time. That is why the Department of Health has published a clear set of principles to allow the public to hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices that are in place.
Decisions regarding hospital car parking are taken locally by NHS Trusts and must take account of local circumstances and community interests. The guidance states that charges should be reasonable for the area and concessions should be available to certain groups such as people with disabilities, carers and visitors to relatives who are gravely ill or have an extended hospital stay.
It is a priority to encourage transparency in the NHS. Each year, the Government publishes information about the costs and provision of car parking at each NHS hospital. The guidance makes clear that NHS organisations should work with patients, staff, visitors, local authorities and public transport providers when planning their parking provisions.
The Department of Health has published overarching principles regarding hospital parking charges, to which all institutions must abide. It is right that such guidelines are available publicly, as they ensure that the Government maintains public trust on contentious issues, such as those surrounding hospital parking charges. These principles can be viewed here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nhs-patient-visitor-and-staff-car-parking-principles/nhs-patient-visitor-and-staff-car-parking-principles


30 JAN 2018

Human Rights Defenders

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

I understand you have concerns about Israel and human rights and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:

The Government continues to support a range of projects and organisations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel which work on promoting human rights, dialogue and coexistence.
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. The Government also believes that the best way to combat the BDS movement is through discussion rather than proscription.
British Government officials raised the recent publication of a list of organisations that may be subject to Israeli proscription with the Israeli Ambassador on 8 January and made clear the UK's position. Officials from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv have also raised the matter with the Israeli authorities.


29 JAN 2018

Equal Civil Partnership

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the Private Member's Bill concerning making civil partnerships available to opposite sex couples.

I am afraid I already have prior commitments in the constituency on Friday the 2nd of February so I am afraid I will be unable to be in the house to support the bill. However, I do support this idea in principle and remain hopeful that the bill will progress.


29 JAN 2018

Autism and Education

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supporting autistic children in schools.

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

It is essential, that we have an education system that works for all children, including those with special educational needs such as autism. It is vitally important that autistic children are given the additional support they deserve to achieve educational success and lead happy and fulfilling lives. This is why the recent 'Autism and Education in England 2017' joint report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism and The National Autistic Society is welcomed.
While this report recognises that more can be done to support children with autism in schools, there has already been notable progress in improving the educational infrastructure for children with special educational needs and disabilities. In order to deliver autism awareness training and advice for teachers and other staff, the Department for Education has provided funding to voluntary sector organisations, including the Autism Education Trust (AET). I know the AET has trained more than 150,000 people since 2012, including teaching and support staff, in addition to publishing national autism standards and frameworks.
Further to this, £215 million of capital funding has also been made available to support the expansion of existing provisions for pupils with special education needs and disabilities, including those with autism. There has also been a focus on opening more specialist schools that support children with autism. Under the Free Schools Programme, there are now 29 special free schools in England, including 17 which provide places for children with autism. A further 60 special free schools are due to open in the future, 33 of which will offer provision for children with autism.


29 JAN 2018

Children's Mental Health

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about children and young people's mental health.

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:

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 has made great efforts to transform children and young people's mental health for the better in coming years.
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.

I am also chairing a further joint inquiry with the Education Select Committee into how we improve children and young people's mental health. This is particularly looking at earlier help when children are starting to experience difficulties.


25 JAN 2018

Fireworks Debate

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Westminster Hall debate concerning fireworks being held at 4.30pm on the 29th of January.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend as this clashed with a hearing of the Health Select Committee, which I chair. Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of interest:

Fireworks can of course be very dangerous and the use and sale of them is controlled. Events where fireworks are used should be well planned and safety should be paramount.
Firework regulations allow fireworks for home use to be sold during the traditional firework periods of Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. Suppliers who wish to sell fireworks outside the traditional periods must comply with stringent conditions before being granted a licence by their local licensing authority. This means the availability and use of fireworks outside the traditional periods has been greatly reduced.
The regulations also created a curfew preventing the use of fireworks between 11pm and 7am all year round with the exception of 5 November, when the curfew starts at 12 midnight, and New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, when the curfew starts at 1.00 am on the night of celebration.
Excessive noise from fireworks, or noise during the curfew period, can be considered a statutory nuisance and local authority environmental health officers have the power to investigate complaints of fireworks noise and act to prevent it where appropriate.
Although there is some use of fireworks outside the traditional periods, the Government believes that the majority of people who use fireworks do so at the appropriate times of year and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them. There are no plans at the moment to place further limitations on their use.


25 JAN 2018

End Child Poverty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the End Child Poverty campaign.

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

It is very important that financial services work in the best interests of the consumers and businesses they serve. That is why strong powers to protect consumers have been given to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which has responsibility for regulating consumer credit, including the rent-to-own sector. The FCA's rules already set out that firms should assess each customer's creditworthiness and treat their customers fairly.
The FCA's announcement in October 2017 that Brighthouse, a rent-to own firm, will pay over £14.8 million in redress to 249,000 customers in respect of agreements which may not have been affordable demonstrates the effectiveness of FCA regulation in this sector.
The FCA is also undertaking a wide-ranging review of the high-cost credit market, and this explicitly includes addressing concerns about the rent-to-own sector. Ministers have welcomed this ongoing work. A consultation paper on proposed solutions to the issues identified by the FCA is due to be issued in the spring of 2018.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent people from falling into problem debt is to improve access to good quality low-cost credit. That is why the Government is giving support to the credit union sector, which provides an accessible alternative to high-cost credit.
From 2018, a greater proportion of funds recovered from illegal money lenders will be allocated to incentivise vulnerable people to join credit unions instead of turning to high-cost credit. The £38 million Credit Union Expansion Project is aimed at helping the sector modernise and offer new services. The maximum interest rate that credit unions can charge has also been increased from 2 per cent to 3 per cent, to help credit unions become more stable.


23 JAN 2018

Supported Housing Debate

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supported housing and the debate that was held on this matter.

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

As Rethink Mental Illness recognises, supported housing is a lifeline for many people with mental health conditions. The new funding model for supported housing will put the sector on a sustainable and stable footing.
Concerns raised by the supported housing sector have been listened to and that Ministers have decided that there cannot be a one size fits all solution for this sector. Local Housing Allowance rates will not be applied to tenants in supported housing, nor to the wider social rented sector. This means that long-term supported housing costs will continue to be covered fully through the welfare system.
The need for a distinct model for short-term supported housing has been recognised. As you highlight, funding for this part of the sector will be provided through locally administered ring-fenced grants, underpinned by a new, comprehensive local planning and oversight regime that will be continuously reviewed. By 2020, English councils will have received access to more than £200 billion in funding. This will provide funding security to the sector, providing local councils with greater control over provision in their areas.
Moreover, the two-year period for which short term accommodation will be provided is not a crude cut off. Rather, under the Government's definition, short-term supported housing may be provided for either two years or until transition to suitable long-term stable accommodation is found, whichever occurs first.
The proposed funding for supported housing will enable a more localised approach to providing accommodation for some of the most vulnerable people in this country, including those suffering from mental health conditions.


15 JAN 2018

Rights After Brexit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about worker's rights after Brexit.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from

the Department for Exiting the European Union is reassuring:

In the referendum, millions of people voted to leave the EU. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Repeal Bill, ensures that the UK does this in the smoothest possible way.
The Bill honours the referendum result and provides certainty for businesses. It repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which gives effect to EU law in the UK, and converts all EU law into UK law. It also provides ministers in the UK Government and in the devolved administrations with temporary powers to make corrections to the law. Without it there would be holes in our legal system and chaos for the British people.
The delegated power is important because not all laws will make sense after the UK leaves the EU. For example, references to the UK as a member of the EU will have to be removed and temporary delegated powers will allow ministers to do this in time for the UK's departure.
The Bill does not, however, allow the Government to bypass Parliament. MPs will still be able to scrutinise any changes introduced by ministers using delegated powers and major policy changes will be introduced as separate Bills. The Queen's Speech announced legislation on agriculture, immigration and trade. Future laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
The Prime Minister has promised that Parliament will have a say over the final withdrawal deal but it is not within the Government's power to unilaterally extend the negotiation period for further discussions. EU law is clear that the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 whether or not a withdrawal agreement is reached. By voting for this Bill, the UK will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. Voting against the Bill would create chaos and uncertainty.


15 JAN 2018

Firearms Licensing and Medical Procedures

Thank you for taking the time to email me about firearms licensing and medical procedures.

Writing reports for shotgun licences is not part of a doctor's terms of service. Respondents to a consultation may understandably decide that they would prefer for there not to be a fee but I'm afraid this is not in the gift of the Home Office to decide.


12 JAN 2018

St Mungo's Housing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supported housing and homelessness.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is reassuring:

Last year, the Prime Minister unveiled plans for new homelessness prevention schemes, including targeted support for those at risk of sleeping rough. The Government is spending over £1 billion between now and 2020 to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping across England.
The Government is also committed to full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will come into effect from April and aims to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it altogether by 2027. This will be done through setting up a new homelessness reduction taskforce to focus on prevention and affordable housing, and piloting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.
Supported housing supports some of the most vulnerable people across the country and the Government's priority is to safeguard its future. The Prime Minister has announced that the local housing allowance will not be applied to supported housing nor will it be implemented for the rest of the social rented sector. The Government published its proposals on its future model to support and sustain supported housing on 31 October - more information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/funding-for-supported-housing


12 JAN 2018

Guide Dogs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about assistance dog owners and taxis.

I understand the concerns that those with guide dogs are being turned away by taxi drivers and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHV) are essential for many disabled people, and drivers are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. The Equality Act 2010 places duties on taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers to carry assistance dogs at no additional charge. Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers are obliged to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair, provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance, and charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users.
Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. A driver was recently fined £1,546, including legal costs, for refusing access to a guide dog.
Although there is no legal requirement for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake disability awareness training, the Department for Transport's Best Practice Guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing recommends that local licensing authorities to work with the industry in their area to improve drivers' awareness of the needs of disabled people. This includes encouraging their drivers to undertake disability awareness training.


10 JAN 2018

Hezbollah

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Hezbollah and the debate being held on this topic.

I understand your concern on this matter and this topic was raised in the House last year. You can view the exchange via the following link.


10 JAN 2018

REACH

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

I read your comments about REACH and chemical regulations once we leave the EU. I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Exiting the European Union is reassuring:

The registration of chemicals on the single market is a valuable function of the ECHA. Significant decisions will need to be taken following the UK's decision to leave the EU and the Government will act in the best interest of the UK. The import and export of chemicals is a vital function of the economy.
Current EU chemicals law, including REACH, will be converted into domestic law. That will mean that the standards established by REACH will continue to apply in the UK.
The UK's future association with the European Chemicals Agency will be discussed as part the negotiations.
Please rest assured, the UK is still a member of the EU and REACH continues to apply until we leave. After we leave, an implementation period may also apply and this will ensure that changes can be introduced gradually if necessary.


10 JAN 2018

Cancer

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about improving outcomes for cancer sufferers.

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

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


09 JAN 2018

Breathing Space

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about families in debt.

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

The Government is committed to introducing 'breathing space' that would give heavily indebted consumers a period of respite from enforcement action and further interest and charges, for a period of up to six weeks. Ministers have launched a call for evidence to gain as much insight as possible from lenders, the debt advice sector and other stakeholders about how best to design a breathing space scheme. This consultation closes on 16th January 2018.
A number of steps have also been taken to reform consumer credit, including taking action on high-cost short-term credit, and a comprehensive Financial Conduct Authority study into the credit card market.
It is important to improve the help and advice available to those who may face debt problems. In 2016-17 the Money Advice Service put £45 million towards debt advice in the UK, which funded over 380,000 appointments.
Measures have also been taken to encourage household saving, including the Help to Save scheme for those on low incomes, and the new personal savings allowance.


09 JAN 2018

Trade

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the role that trade can play in helping the world's poorest.

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

Alongside the great opportunities increased trade brings to this country, we must ensure that developing nations share in these benefits. Free trade is one of the most powerful tools we have to help those in the greatest need around the world, and ensure that countries have the tools they require to be able to trade their way out of poverty.
Continuity will be sought in our trading relationships with developing countries as we leave the European Union, which includes replicating the effects of the EU's Economic Partnership (EPAs). As we leave the EU, we will also secure existing duty-free access for the world's poorest countries to UK markets. This commitment means that around 48 least developed countries across the globe will continue to benefit from duty-free exports into the UK on all goods, other than arms and ammunition. It is also the wish of our partner countries that, first and foremost, this continuity is maintained as we leave the EU. However, the Government has made clear that it wishes to update these agreements once we have left the EU.
The UK is of course fully committed to promoting and delivering the sustainable development goals and is the first and only G7 country to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas development assistance. There will be scrutiny and engagement that is inclusive, meaningful and transparent and is coherent with the need to ensure we do not undermine our negotiating position.


09 JAN 2018

NHS Funding

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

I read your comments about the NHS with interest and you may like to read the following article I wrote on this topic for the Sunday Express.


09 JAN 2018

Postnatal Mental Illness

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about post-natal mental health and health visitors (HV).

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

Health visitors play a very important role supporting parents and babies across the country. The Government wants people to be empowered to shape and manage their own health and care and make meaningful choices, particularly for maternity services.
To help achieve this, the Government has increased the number of midwives by over 1,800. Furthermore, by the end of the Health Visitor Programme in April 2015, it had delivered almost 4,000 more health visitors compared to May 2010, an increase of around 50 per cent, with 1,000 HV students in training. Health Education England is ensuring sustainable development of the HV workforce and there are presently over 800 HV student training places commissioned, which will offer more families the support they need in early years.
Protecting perinatal mental health is a key priority, and it is integral to both the Better Births strategy - launched in 2016 - and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The HV programme funded the Institute of Health Visitors to train almost 600 perinatal mental health visitor champions to enable health visitors to identify and manage perinatal depression and other maternal mental health conditions. The Government will implement the continuity of carers, so new mothers will receive care from the same midwives throughout their pregnancy and birth, and into the postnatal period, to better guard perinatal mental health. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends a six week postnatal check to assess how a woman has experienced her transition to motherhood, which includes checks on her mental health.
In addition, the Government has invested £356 million in improving perinatal mental health in England over five years, providing support and care for at least 30,000 women by 2021; it has also invested £2.24 million in new safety equipment. £1 million has been invested in improved training for staff to help deliver healthy babies more safely. This is all part of the overall strategy to improve maternity services, and improve perinatal mental health services.


02 JAN 2018

EDM 581

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 581, 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:

While incineration with energy recovery plays a crucial role in diverting waste from landfill, this must not compete with greater prevention, re-use and recycling of waste.
The Government is developing a renewed strategy on resources and waste that looks ahead at opportunities outside the EU. The aim of the strategy will be to make the UK a world leader in resource efficiency and productivity, as well as to increase competitiveness. It will set out how we will work towards our ambition for the country to generate no avoidable waste by 2050, maximising the value we extract from our resources and minimising the negative environmental impacts associated with their production, use and disposal. The strategy will be published in 2018 and will address waste treatment capacity.
The National Infrastructure Commission is also looking at waste as part of its assessment of the UK's major infrastructure needs on a 30-year time horizon. Ministers will consider the Commission's findings along with any capacity issues associated with waste infrastructure as they develop future policy.


27 DEC 2017

EDM 455

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about disability employment and EDM 455.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 455, 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 Work and Pensions of interest:

Since 2013, 600,000 more disabled have moved into employment, but more must be done to help others move into and progress in work.
The Work, Health and Disability strategy has recently proposed a 10 year strategy to remove employment barriers for disabled people. New voluntary employment trials are being launched to understand how to most effectively help people into employment. This includes a £100 million investment into the new Work and Health Programme to provide specialist support for around 245,000 people with disabilities or health conditions. The Fit for Work service is also being reformed to better target the support it offers to employers, employees and GPs. Additionally, all 40 recommendations of the Stevenson/Farmer review into health in the workplace will be acted on, including establishing a framework for large employers to voluntarily report disability within their organisations.
The Access to Work scheme continues to provide support for those who have a disability or long-term health condition. Spending on this scheme increased by 8 per cent this year, supporting over 25,000 people. The Disability Confident campaign is also helping employers take action to improve how they attract, recruit and retain disabled workers. It includes promotion of the Access to Work Scheme. Over 5000 employers have signed up.
Schools play a vital role in supporting children with disabilities. The Department for Education provided an additional £92.5 million of high needs funding to local authorities for the 2016-2017 year, and a further £130 million will be provided for 2017-2018.


22 DEC 2017

Crisis

Thank you for taking the time to email me about private renting solutions for homeless and vulnerable people.

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

The Autumn Budget 2017 provided £20 million of funding for schemes to support people at risk of homelessness to access and sustain tenancies in the private rented sector. Furthermore, the Budget has financed three Housing First pilots in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands, with a £28 million investment to support rough sleepers in turning their lives around.
Help to rent projects play an important role in enabling homeless people to access the private rented sector. Between 2010 and 2016, the Government invested £14 million, working with Crisis to develop a programme for single people to access private rented accommodation. This helped 9,000 people: 90 per cent of these maintained a tenancy for more than six months.
More generally, local authorities have been allocated £315 million for homelessness prevention funding until 2020 and £402 million of Flexible Homelessness Support Grant up to 2019. This can be used to pay for rent deposit schemes and other strategies to support access to the private rented sector.
The Government has also been working hard to improve the private rented sector. For example, a Tenant Fees Bill has been published which will ban unfair letting fees to tenants and cap tenancy deposits, helping millions of renters to avoid costly upfront payments and renewal fees.


22 DEC 2017

Bookies

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Government's proposed reforms to fixed odds betting terminals.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is reassuring:

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. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is now consulting on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. The Government welcomes further evidence on costs and benefits in response to the consultation and you can submit your views on the below webpage:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-proposals-for-changes-to-gaming-machines-and-social-responsibility-measures


22 DEC 2017

Accountable Care Organisations

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs)

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 660 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope that you will be pleased to hear that the Health Select Committee will be conducting an inquiry into Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and ACOs, in the New Year. You are very welcome to submit evidence to the inquiry and to sign up for email alerts to follow the committee's wider programme of work holding government and other health bodies to account: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/

I spend a huge amount of my time in Parliament campaigning on health issues and will continue to do so on behalf of all my constituents.


21 DEC 2017

Trade Policy

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the role that trade can play in helping the world's poorest.

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

Alongside the great opportunities increased trade brings to this country, we must ensure that developing nations share in these benefits. Free trade is one of the most powerful tools we have to help those in the greatest need around the world, and ensure that countries have the tools they require to be able to trade their way out of poverty.
Continuity will be sought in our trading relationships with developing countries as we leave the European Union, which includes replicating the effects of the EU's Economic Partnership (EPAs). As we leave the EU, we will also secure existing duty-free access for the world's poorest countries to UK markets. This commitment means that around 48 least developed countries across the globe will continue to benefit from duty-free exports into the UK on all goods, other than arms and ammunition. It is also the wish of our partner countries that, first and foremost, this continuity is maintained as we leave the EU. However, the Government has made clear that it wishes to update these agreements once we have left the EU.
The UK is of course fully committed to promoting and delivering the sustainable development goals and is the first and only G7 country to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas development assistance. There will be scrutiny and engagement that is inclusive, meaningful and transparent and is coherent with the need to ensure we do not undermine our negotiating position.


21 DEC 2017

ONE Campaign

Thank you for taking the time to email me about education in developing countries.

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

Investing in education is in all our interests, as education provides children with the best route out of poverty, giving them the power to improve their own lives and their country, and ultimately reduce developing countries' reliance on aid. Globally we must push for education for both girls and boys because evidence shows that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, it has a strong positive impact - she marries later and has fewer and healthier children, and is more likely to be economically productive. But it is not just about having the chance to go to school, children must be well taught and what they learn must improve their opportunities in life.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development supported over 11 million children, including 5.3 million girls, in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries. The Government has committed to helping at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education by 2020. DFID is on track to deliver this, having supported 7.1 million children to gain a decent education between 2015 and 2017. This is a huge investment in a better future for these children.
DFID has been the largest bilateral donor to the Global Partnership for Education, providing £210 million for the 2015-2018 replenishment period. The replenishment conference, which will be hosted by France and Senegal in February 2018, will provide an excellent opportunity to bring more finance into the education sector. DFID officials are currently in discussion about the replenishment.


17 DEC 2017

Duty of Care

Thank you for taking the time to email me about a duty of care for providers of financial services.

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

The regulation of financial services firms is a matter for the independent Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA does already apply rules in relation to how firms should deal with their customers. These rules include requiring companies to treat their customers fairly, and to act in accordance with the best interests of their customers. A number of specific rules also include an obligation to take 'reasonable care' for certain activities.
The FCA supervises the activities of firms against these rules and other provisions and, where necessary, can take enforcement action against firms to secure appropriate consumer protection The FCA is of the view that its current regulatory toolkit is sufficient to enable it to fulfil its consumer protection objective.
However, the FCA has said that it will look at the issue of a 'duty of care' as part of a review of its handbook. The precise scope of any proposed duty of care is uncertain, and the impact of introducing any new obligation needs to be fully considered. Many of the FCA's current rules are based on EU legislation, and the FCA's ability to change its rules in some areas will depend on the relationship between the EU and the UK after we have left. That is why the FCA believes it makes sense to include any consideration of a 'duty of care' as part of its review of its handbook post-Brexit.


17 DEC 2017

Clause 2 Finance Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Capital Gains Tax on commercial property transactions.

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

It is vital to ensure that everyone is paying their share of tax. If those with the most in society are not making a fair contribution, we will not be able to fund our public services, and the tax burden will disproportionately fall on those who cannot take advantage of tax-efficient arrangements. Thanks to the significant steps which have already been taken since 2010 to tackle avoidance, evasion, and non-compliance, the UK's 'tax gap' is now one of the lowest in the world.
At the Autumn Budget the Government confirmed its intention to build on this good work by legislating to ensure non-residents do not enjoy a tax advantage when disposing of UK property. All gains on non-resident disposals of UK property will be brought within the scope of UK tax. This will apply to gains accrued on or after April 2019, and there will be targeted exemptions for institutional investors such as pension funds, to ensure there are no unintended consequences to this measure.
With regard to New Clause 2 of Finance Bill, when this issue was brought up during consideration of the Finance Bill in October, for a number of reasons, the Government did not support adding New Clause 2 as drafted. Ministers were clear at that time that the Treasury would continue to look closely into this issue, but commercial property is an incredibly complex area of the law and it is important to ensure any action in this area is properly considered before bringing forward legislation. The Government will now be doing this following the Budget.
Rules have already been introduced in 2015 to ensure that non-residents now do pay tax for the sale of UK residential property. These new measures will strengthen those rules, by ensuring this also applies to disposals of non-residential property. I can also assure you that all UK residents, whether UK-based or non-domiciled, do pay tax on profits from selling UK land.


12 DEC 2017

Child Prisoners

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 563 and Palestinian child prisoners.

I realise you would like me to sign EDM 563, 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 detention of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons is extremely worrying. In 2012, an independent report on Children in Military Custody was funded and facilitated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Since its publication, Ministers and our Ambassador to Israel have strongly urged the recommendations of the report to be implemented. Minister of State, Alistair Burt, raised the issue of children in detention with Israeli authorities when he visited the region in August.


12 DEC 2017

General Practice

Thank you for taking the time to email me about general practice.

This month in Parliament I hosted a meeting for MPs with the chair of the Royal College of GPs and the lead for primary care at NHS England and we were able to discuss the progress and hurdles towards the long term plan to tackle the workforce shortfall and other pressures.

The link to the Forward View for General Practice  sets the issues out very clearly

Great efforts are now going in to try to increase the numbers training to become GPs and to diversify the workforce by allowing greater direct access to physiotherapists, specialist nurses, mental health workers and pharmacists as part of a wider team. In the short term however, this has not kept pace with the retirement bulge of full time GPs. I'm afraid the NHS has long had a poor track record of workforce planning and this is an area which as chair of the Health Committee I have been actively pursuing to encourage further action.

On funding, you may have seen my many statements on this as I believe the best way forward is for the government to look at the sustainable long term sustainable funding of both the NHS and social care together and to plan for this on a cross Party basis. You may find the report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the funding of the NHS of interest.

I support its findings.


08 DEC 2017

EDM 617

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about EDM 617 and bowel cancer screening.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 617, 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 of Health is of interest:

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. 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 and the Government's committed to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years.


06 DEC 2017

Homes Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill.

Unfortunately the Bill has not yet been published, so I cannot comment on its contents but look forward to reading it on publication.


06 DEC 2017

EDM 416

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 416 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this disease, which has taken so many lives over the years.
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. 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.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is updating its guidelines on the diagnosis and management of breast cancer. These guidelines will cover the use of adjuvant bisphosphonates and other cancer drugs, and will be published in July 2018.
Regarding the age at which mandatory mammograms are offered by the NHS. Mandatory mammograms play a key part in the early diagnosis of breast cancer, which is central to the Government's ambition of achieving world-class cancer outcomes. The breast cancer screening programme is currently offered to all women between the ages of 50 and 70. You may be encouraged to hear that the NHS is trialling expanding compulsory screening to women aged between 47 and 73. This trial began in 2009 and is expected to run until the mid-2020s, until the NHS has sufficient information to understand its effectiveness. Figures from Cancer Research UK show a significant increase in the incidence of breast cancer in women in their mid-40s, and very low rates of occurrence in those under the age of 30. It is appropriate that the NHS is looking at expanding the screening process, whilst ensuring resources are allocated wisely, and directed towards those women most likely to be at risk of contracting breast cancer.
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.


05 DEC 2017

Renew Our World

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Renew Our World campaign on climate change.

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

Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today, and it threatens to set back much of the progress made in tackling inequality and poverty. The UK is taking a leading role as the world works towards achieving a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and limiting climate change to manageable levels.
The Government is sending clear signals to investors and businesses that our country is in the process of transitioning to a low-carbon economy. The Energy Act 2013 is being used to decarbonise the UK's energy sector by incentivising investment into new, sustainable technologies, while the Government is doubling its own spending on energy innovation.
Britain is already leading the way. We will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the energy mix completely, with the announcement that all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions aren't being captured and stored will be closed by 2025. Renewable capacity has trebled since 2010, and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses about the shift to a low carbon economy through its Clean Growth Strategy.
As part of the promised climate finance, the Government has committed £5.8 billion by 2020 to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener economic growth, in addition to working with private interests to stimulate investment into developing nations.


05 DEC 2017

Pneumonia

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about childhood deaths from pneumonia.

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

No child should die from the cold. It requires international action to end this tragedy. The UK is the largest donor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which delivers the pneumococcal vaccine to developing countries to protect against the main cause of pneumonia. Between 2010 and 2016, 109 million children received the vaccine with Gavi support, saving an estimated 762,000 lives.
The UK is firmly committed to achieving the Global Goals. As part of this commitment, DFID supports countries to build stronger health systems that can respond to existing diseases and emerging health needs.
In November, the Government announced a new £62 million package of aid to help protect thousands of helpless Syrian children this winter. Temperatures plummet in Syria in the winter and as many as 1 in 3 child deaths could be caused by respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia - up from 1 in 10 before the crisis began. Chest infections are now the number one reason for children in Syria seeking medical attention. UK aid will provide immunisations and give early treatment for coughs and colds, preventing children from suffering life-threatening illnesses and giving them hope for the future. It will also help provide hot meals, warm clothes and blankets and restore large buildings so that people have a safe and clean place to stay now, and in the future, helping to stop children falling ill in the first place.


05 DEC 2017

Palestine Lobby

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about human rights in Palestine.

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 Government remains focussed on achieving a two-state solution to the conflict in the region. It is the only way to see a safe and secure Israel coexistent alongside a viable, sovereign Palestinian state. A long term political settlement, one that ensures a safe future for all, is the only way to resolve the conflict so that the Israeli and Palestinian people can live in peace.
It has long been the UK position that Israeli settlement activity is illegal under international law. Settlement activity by Israel undermines the viability of the principle of two states for two peoples.
Demolitions and evictions of Palestinians from their homes cause unnecessary suffering; call into question Israel's commitment to a viable two-state solution; and, in all but exceptional cases, are contrary to International Humanitarian Law.
The Government remains particularly concerned about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons. In 2012, the Foreign Office funded and facilitated the independent report on Children in Military Custody by leading British lawyers. Since its publication, Ministers and our Ambassador to Israel have strongly urged the recommendations of the report to be implemented. Minister of State, Alistair Burt, raised the issue of children in detention with Israeli authorities when he visited the region in August.


04 DEC 2017

Catholic Schools

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

I understand you would like to see the 50% admissions cap removed and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Education is of interest:

The Prime Minister has made clear that the Government is dedicated to making Britain a fairer society where success is based on merit not privilege, and that education lies at the heart of that mission. In September 2016 a consultation was launched asking for views on a range of proposals aimed at creating an education system that extends opportunity for everyone, not just the privileged few. This consultation has closed and the contributions are being read and listened to.
The reforms to the education system since 2010 have transformed education in this country. There are now more than 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools. Every child should have the best possible start in life. The stark reality, however, is that demand for school places only continues to grow, and too many children in this country still do not have access to a good school. This will continue to be a top priority for the Department for Education over this Parliament.
Schools play a vital role in promoting integration and promoting an understanding of different faiths and communities. Faith schools have a strong record of high pupil attainment and are often very popular with parents. All schools are expected to be inclusive and fulfil their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. The Department for Education will continue to work closely with faith schools to promote and support integration and will outline its plans shortly.


30 NOV 2017

Secret Lives

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Disabled Children's Partnership's campaign 'The Secret Life of Us'.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

Disabled children and their families should receive the support they need to lead fulfilling lives and be part of the community.
The Department of Health welcome the work to increase awareness, and have offered to meet with the Disabled Children's Partnership to discuss this further.
Providing an inclusive education for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is a priority for the Department for Education. The introduction of national funding formulae for schools and high needs is supported by extra investment of £1.3 billion across 2018-19 and 2019-20. This means every local authority will see a minimum increase of 0.5 per cent per pupil in 2018-19 and 1 per cent per pupil in 2019-20. Underfunded local authorities will receive up to 3 per cent per pupil gains a year for the next two years.
Local authorities receive funding for services through local taxes, fees and charges, as well as from central government. They make decisions on spending for social care for children and young people based on their local needs and priorities. Councils will receive more than £200 billion for local services, including children's social care up to 2020.


29 NOV 2017

Global Citizens

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about education in developing countries.

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

Investing in education is in all our interests, as education provides children with the best route out of poverty, giving them the power to improve their own lives and their country, and ultimately reduce developing countries' reliance on aid. Globally we must push for education for both girls and boys because evidence shows that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, it has a strong positive impact - she marries later and has fewer and healthier children, and is more likely to be economically productive. But it is not just about having the chance to go to school, children must be well taught and what they learn must improve their opportunities in life.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development supported over 11 million children, including 5.3 million girls, in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries. The Government has committed to helping at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education by 2020. DFID is on track to deliver this, having supported 7.1 million children to gain a decent education between 2015 and 2017. This is a huge investment in a better future for these children.
DFID has been the largest bilateral donor to the Global Partnership for Education, providing £210 million for the 2015-2018 replenishment period. The replenishment conference, which will be hosted by France and Senegal in February 2018, will provide an excellent opportunity to bring more finance into the education sector. DFID officials are currently in discussion about the replenishment.


27 NOV 2017

Animal Sentience

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

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

Some have suggested the vote cast on New Clause 30 of the EU Withdrawal Bill somehow signalled a weakening in the protection of animals. It did not, and it was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain.
The vote against New Clause 30 was the rejection of a faulty amendment that would not have achieved its stated aims. Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty, which this clause sought to transfer into UK law, has not delivered the progress we want to see: its legal effect is unclear and it has failed to prevent cruel practices across the EU. Ministers will instead make any necessary legal changes to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. The Withdrawal Bill is not the right place to address this, so they are considering the right legislative vehicle.
Here in the UK, we are improving animal welfare standards without EU input and beyond the scope of Article 13. Recent steps include making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses, consulting on draft legislation to jail animal abusers for up to five years and introducing Europe's most comprehensive ban on the ivory trade.
Once we have left the EU we could do even more. EU rules prevent us from restricting or banning live animal export, cracking down on puppy smuggling or banning the import of puppies under 6 months. Article 13 has not stopped any of these practices, and leaving the EU gives us the chance to do much better.


27 NOV 2017

Public Service

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about public sector pay.

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

Public sector workers deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded. The Government has confirmed that it will be moving away from the 1 per cent public sector pay policy, towards a more flexible approach on pay.
We still need to deal with our country's debts to ensure we have a strong economy to enable us to invest in our public services. The Government will consider each specific workforce to ensure pay is set so that the public sector can continue to both attract and hold on to the excellent staff that support our world-leading public services.
Before Ministers make final decisions on pay awards, they will seek the views of the eight independent Pay Review Bodies. They will report in 2018, at which point the Government will consider their recommendations and announce public sector pay awards for each of those workforces.
Since 2010 the deficit has been cut by two thirds, helping secure our economy for the future. There is more to be done, but thanks to the actions that have been taken, the Government can now apply greater flexibility to public sector pay. Ministers will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers recognises their vital contribution and ensures that they can deliver world class public services, while also being affordable and fair to taxpayers as a whole.


22 NOV 2017

World Toilet Day

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

I agree that more needs to be done to ensure everyone has access to basic sanitation and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development reassuring:

Access to clean drinking water and effective sanitation is a basic human need and is vital to give people in developing countries the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilled, and productive lives. It means they can work, driving economic growth and ultimately helping developing countries become self-sufficient.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) helped 64.5 million people access clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions. DFID helps build wells, standpipes, pumps, toilets and sewage systems, and encourages the private sector in developing countries to do more.
Ministers are intent on matching this success by helping at least another 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation by 2020, to stop terrible diseases and boost economic opportunity. Recent figures show that DFID is making good progress towards this figure, having supported 27.2 million people access clean water and/or better sanitation between 2015 and 2017.
The global community must work to achieve the 6th Global Goal, on water and sanitation, and the other goals by 2030, so that we see access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. A more healthy, productive and prosperous world is clearly in our national interest, and access to water and sanitation is a key part of this.


22 NOV 2017

Trade and Customs

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Government's vision for a global Britain.

I understand you wish for trade policy to be guided by poverty reduction and the following is the Government's position on this:

The Government's vision for Britain outside the EU is clear: a fully-independent, sovereign country with the freedom to make our own decisions. We are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. The Government will build a global Britain that will trade around the world, build new alliances with other countries and deliver prosperity for its people.
As an outward-looking, globally engaged nation, the UK should work to tackle international problems at their source - not wait for them to arrive on our doorstep. The UK will continue to play a leading role in international development: the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development assistance, and to achieving the UN's Global Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030. We can help developing countries leave aid dependency behind and become our trading partners of the future.
Withdrawing from the EU will give us the opportunity to shape our own international trade and investment opportunities, drive even greater openness with international partners and put Britain firmly at the forefront of global trade and investment. The Department for International Trade is working closely with counterparts across a wide range of markets in order to promote the UK as a great place to do business and with which to trade. The Government is taking advantage of all the opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes the global leader in free trade once we leave the EU.
We live in a stable and liberal democracy, we are one of the world's largest economies, we have a significant role in maintaining international peace and security and we are open to the world for business.


22 NOV 2017

Trade Democracy

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Trade Democracy launch event, unfortunately I was unable to attend due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Trade is of interest:

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. This means that the UK will be able 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 is determined that the UK will become a world leader in free trade, and ensure that we secure the right deals for the United Kingdom. These bespoke deals will be scrutinised by our Parliament, as are all treaties.


22 NOV 2017

NHS Funding

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

I will be continuing to make the case for increased overall funding for both health and social care and for there to be cross Party working in delivering sustainable long term funding. I recently chaired a hearing of the Health Select Committee with Lord Patel and members of the House of Lords Committee to discuss their conclusions on achieving long term sustainability of NHS funding.

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

The Government is committed to a tax-funded NHS, free at the point of use, wherever and whenever you need it.
Despite tight public finances, the Government has actively supported the NHS's own plan for the future. That is why it is increasing NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. This will ensure that by the end of this Parliament, everyone will be able to access GP services at evenings and weekends.
At the 2017 Spring Budget, additional capital funding was announced to support the NHS, with £325 million for local improvement plans and £100 million to improve A&E services.


21 NOV 2017

EDM 437

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 437 and animal testing.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 437, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Home Office of interest:

The UK was the first country in the world to ban cosmetics testing in animals, which was implemented on a voluntary basis in 1998. Similarly this country was instrumental in introducing this ban across Europe under the 2009 cosmetics regulations, and it has been illegal to test cosmetics or their intended ingredients on animals in the EU since 2010. In addition, a ban on the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals came into force in 2010.
The Government maintains a strong commitment to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). The regulatory system ensures that animal research and testing is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists, and under controls which keep suffering to the minimum.
This is achieved through robustly applying the principles of the 3Rs which require that, in every research proposal that is submitted to the Home Office, animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible; that the number of animals used is reduced to the minimum needed to achieve the results sought; and that, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined as much as possible to minimise their suffering.
In terms of the UK's international leadership on this issue, the Government is always keen to encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practice with other countries, in order to support the ending of cosmetics testing on animals in favour of alternatives across the world.


17 NOV 2017

World Children's Day

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about World Children's Day and reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The UK strongly supports the principle of family unity, and there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely. Currently, family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them in the United Kingdom, if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under this policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. They will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union and are not affected by Brexit. Furthermore, children recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees can join close family members here in the UK through the Mandate resettlement scheme. In addition, the Immigration Rules provide for family reunion and allow extended family members to sponsor children where there are serious and compelling circumstances.

There are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is most appropriate. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR, and include Gateway, Mandate, Children at Risk, and the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.


17 NOV 2017

Breastfeeding

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

I recognise that breastfeeding is a personal choice for each woman to make and that not all mothers are able to or choose to breast feed. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is widely agreed that breastfeeding delivers significant health benefits to new-born babies, and promotes strong bonds between mother and baby. It provides the child with a perfect balance of vitamins and nutrients, and protects mother and baby from infection and disease. That is why, when possible, the Department of Health encourages exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of a child's life.
Breastfeeding rates vary nationally and it is important that local commissioners offer all new mothers the best quality of care. There are now 2,000 more NHS midwives than in 2010 who can provide women with the advice and support needed to breastfeed.
In 2014, the Government established the National Infant Feeding Network with UNICEF UK, which promotes evidence-based practice on infant feeding and early childhood development to deliver improved outcomes for women and their babies.
In line with UNICEF's "Baby Friendly" guidelines, all women should be supported to make informed decisions and to develop a close relationship with their babies soon after birth. Public Health England is working with local services, midwives and health visitors to make this vision a reality, with a particular focus on areas needing urgent support.
The Government is implementing the recommendations from the Better Birth report, to improve maternity services in England. This includes the promotion of breastfeeding, as Public Health England and UNICEF UK commission evidence-based interventions to improve breastfeeding rates.
For those who choose not to breastfeed, the Government supports the safe use of infant formula, and regulations are in place to ensure that all types of infant formula meet the nutritional needs of babies.


17 NOV 2017

Eating Disorder

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

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

Eating disorders primarily affect the young, and often prove to be family, as well as personal, tragedies if left untreated. However, with the right treatment, delivered on-time, these tragedies can be avoided, and full recoveries achieved.
NHS England has sent an ambitious new access standard by 2020: 95 per cent of patients are to be treated within four weeks of their first contact with a healthcare professional. Urgent cases will be treated within one week, and the worst emergency cases in children should find support within 24 hours. In May 2017, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its updated guideline on eating disorders, covering a range of age groups, including adults.
The Government is investing an additional £30 million per year, until 2020, to improve community care for eating disorders, which has funded 67 new or extended Community Eating Disorder Teams across England. The clinical guidelines put forward by NICE have recommended that patients will be treated at an age appropriate facility, which will ensure patients are cared for in the most comfortable environment possible.
Additionally, more money is being invested in wider mental health care than ever before, with over £1 billion extra funding into crisis care and perinatal services, as well as £1.4 billion devoted to transforming mental health and eating disorder services for children and young people over the next five years.
Eating disorders are an acutely distressing mental illness. With the right approach, and appropriate investment, the Government will be able to offer help, care, and a full recovery to those who currently suffer from eating disorders.


17 NOV 2017

New Clause 53

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the EU Withdrawal Bill and New Clause 53.

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

The Government strongly supports the principle of family unity, and there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely. Currently, family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them in the United Kingdom, if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under this policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. They will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union and are not affected by Brexit. Furthermore, children recognised by UNHCR as refugees can join close family members here in the UK through the Mandate resettlement scheme. In addition, the Immigration Rules provide for family reunion and allow extended family members to sponsor children where there are serious and compelling circumstances.
Unaccompanied children cannot make applications for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin Regulation is a mechanism to determine the Member State responsible for the consideration of an asylum claim; it is not, and never has been, a family reunification route in itself. The Immigration Rules are entirely separate from the Dublin Regulation, and will remain in force when the UK leaves the European Union.
On the issue of the future of the Dublin Regulation, cooperation on asylum and migration with our European partners is expected to continue after the UK leaves the EU.


17 NOV 2017

Children's Social Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about children's social care and the Good Childhood report.

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

Figure 17 of the report suggests that the most common disadvantages that children suffer are fears about crime, parental finance difficulties, and parental mental health issues.
On the issue of household finances, the Government has a record to be proud of, lifting four million of the lowest paid out of tax by raising the personal tax allowance and introducing a National Living Wage. While progress has been made, more must be done. The draft bill, published by the Government earlier this month, which would cap energy prices for millions of families is welcomed.
It is important to tackle the root causes of unhappiness in children early on, rather than belatedly intervening. That's why a record £1 billion of funding has been committed to mental health between now and 2020/21, helping both parents and children with their mental health difficulties.
Much of this mental health support is being tailored specifically towards children, especially in regard to bullying, which was outlined as a key problem in Chapter Two of the Good Childhood report. This includes a £3 million programme to tackle LGBT bullying in schools, as well as the PSHE Association project to create lesson plans for teachers on issues relating to mental health, seven of which were published in September.
By cracking down on crime, helping those households struggling with their finances, and investing massively in mental health, we will be a step closer to ensuring that every child has the happy childhood that they deserve.


17 NOV 2017

Sentient Beings

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about animal's status as sentient beings.

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

The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Ministers have been clear that they intend it to remain world-leading in the future and, as a minimum, to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare laws to become UK laws. Most of these EU laws relate to farmed animals and many were passed after Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) came into effect.
Based on the Animal Welfare Act the Animal Protection Index, maintained by World Animal Protection, rates the UK's formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A. Other Lisbon Treaty signatories such as France, Italy and Spain do not enjoy this rating, having each received grade C.
Article 13 of the TFEU created a qualified obligation on the EU and Member States "to have full regard to the welfare of animals [as they are sentient beings]" when formulating and implementing EU law. The Government has said that it will consider how the 'animal sentience' principle of Article 13 might be explicitly reflected in the UK when we leave the EU.

I do not believe that existing UK legislation, which provides necessary and appropriate protection for animals in this country, will not be weakened when we leave the EU.


16 NOV 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

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

Unless there are changes, I will be rebelling on the so called Henry the Eighth clauses which govern the way that laws are changed after Brexit. Anyone who voted to take back control for our Parliament didn't do so to give sweeping powers to a tiny group of government ministers. I have long been shocked by the way that secondary legislation is scrutinised in Parliament and we cannot allow the same rubber stamping exercise to apply to vast swathes of changes to our laws without a process of triage. We need to allow the essential but merely technical changes to be fast tracked but anything which requires greater scrutiny must be given the right level of attention by Parliament.

It is my job to be awkward at times and I intend to continue to scrutinise legislation as best I can on behalf of this constituency.


16 NOV 2017

Mental Health Funding

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

I understand your concern on this matter and I have long called for the parity of esteem between physical and mental health issues for which we legislated to be reflected in greater parity for funding. I will continue to call for more resources for both mental health services and the wider NHS and social care sector. Next Tuesday afternoon the Health Select Committee is following up on this issue in a special session which you may be interested to watch online.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest in setting out the government's view:

Tackling poor mental health must be a priority and Ministers have legislated to treat it with the same importance as physical health. Progress is being made with more Government investment in mental health and an estimated 1,400 more people accessing mental health services every day compared to 2010 - up 40 per cent, as well as around 750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/10.
In February 2016, an independent Mental Health Taskforce published a new national strategy, setting out an ambitious vision for mental health services.
To make these recommendations a reality, the Government will spend an additional £1 billion on mental health by 2020-21 so that people receive the right care in the right place when they need it most. This includes increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by 600,000 per year, and helping 20,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies.
A further £1.25 billion for perinatal and children and young people's mental health, helping professionals to intervene early and more than doubling the number of pregnant women or new mothers receiving mental health support; and training around 1,700 new therapists. To support teenagers with eating disorders, the Government is investing £150 million.
The Government has also introduced the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards, so that 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies to treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 per cent within 18 weeks. These targets have been met and the latest data shows that in May 2016, 84 per cent of people waited less than 6 weeks and 97 per cent of people waited less than 18 weeks. Also, patients experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks.
The Government has announced reform to mental health policy in the latest Queen's Speech, in order to continue to reduce the number of people detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act. You may be pleased to know that in October 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would embark on a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act, which has remained unchanged for more than three decades. This review will examine existing practices, and address the disproportionately high rates of detention of people from ethnic minorities. The review will be led by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and he will consider the needs of all users of mental health services and their families, and improve the system's support for those during a mental health crisis.


15 NOV 2017

World Watch List

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the launch of the 2018 World Watch List report on the 17th of January at 4pm, it is much appreciated.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that day and will be unable to attend, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The persecution suffered by millions of Christians across the world who seek only to practise their beliefs openly, in peace and safety is appalling. Here in the West those freedoms are all too often taken for granted.
This is an issue upon which there is much Parliamentary consensus, and that within Government, much cross-departmental work is being done on these issues. The UK's project work overseas is an important part of this effort to promote and protect religious freedoms. During this tax year, the Government is spending £758,000 on freedom of religion projects worldwide, including in Pakistan and Iraq.
One project is helping to develop lesson plans for secondary school teachers in the Middle East and North Africa. The aim is to teach children about religious tolerance, religious acceptance, and the absolute right to freedom of religion or belief. Teaching children in that way is a vital part of promoting tolerance and respect at grassroots level and of helping to build future resilience against extremism.
The UK Government remains determined to promote and defend human rights more generally.
UK activity is both multilateral, through institutions such as the UN, striving to build and maintain consensus, and bilateral, though the UK's diplomatic network.


15 NOV 2017

Greener UK

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the transfer of EU environmental law in to UK law.

As an MP for a rural area I appreciate your concern on this matter and you may be interested to know that I only recently met with the Devon Wildlife Trust.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Exiting the European Union is of interest:

The Government has made repeatedly clear that all EU legislation will be converted into UK law at the point of the UK's departure from the EU. This will provide continuity and certainty for individuals in the UK and in the EU. Parliament has the power to amend or repeal any laws that it wishes and it will, of course, be able to modify retained EU law in the future.
The environmental principles that you mention have had an important influence on the creation of EU environmental legislation which is itself being transferred into UK law. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will ensure that, wherever practical, the same rules apply in this country after we leave as they did before.
Although the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end, the Government will ensure that strong and effective governance arrangements are in place after the UK's exit from the EU. No decisions have yet been taken on the UK's future relationship with EU agencies including with the European Environment Agency. This is a matter for the negotiations.


15 NOV 2017

EU Fishing

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and for letting me know that you would like us to leave the CFP in March 2019. I hope the following information on this from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

In withdrawing from the EU the UK will be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which allows all European vessels to fish between 12 and 200 nautical miles of the UK and sets quotas for how much fish each nation can catch. We will also withdraw from the earlier 1964 London Fisheries Convention, which allows vessels from five European countries to fish within six and 12 nautical miles of the UK's coastline.

The CFP has had a profound impact both on the UK's coastal communities and on the sustainability of our fish stocks. Since 2010 the UK has led reforms, but 40 per cent of fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea are still being fished at unsustainable levels.

By leaving the CFP, taking back control of our territorial waters, granting access to other countries and allocating quotas all on the basis of what is scientifically sustainable; we can set and follow the very highest standards in marine conservation. At the same time we can support the revival of our coastal communities.

With UK control of waters in our exclusive economic zone we can not only husband fish stocks more wisely, but also ensure that we allow our fishing industry to grow sustainably in the future. Outside the EU, as an independent coastal state, we can be home to world class fishing fleets as well as proving ourselves environmental leaders.

On a personal note, I will make sure that colleagues are aware of your concerns about the potential for delays during the transition and this will no doubt be a subject of intense debate over coming months. I have already stressed to the PM that fishing communities must not be let down by having their interests traded away in favour of other sectors.


13 NOV 2017

St Mungos

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about homelessness and the event being held by St Mungo's on the 29th of November, I am afraid I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I agree that this is a serious issue and I greatly appreciate the work done by the Shekinah Mission and the Revival Life Ministries in the constituency. Homelessness has been one of the factors leading to avoidable tragedies and the government at both national and local level have to play their part in reducing this risk.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Communities and Local Government of interest:

Last year, the Prime Minister unveiled plans for new homelessness prevention schemes, including targeted support for those at risk of sleeping rough. The Government is spending over £550 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in England by 2020 following the 2015 Spending Review. This includes: protecting £315 million homelessness prevention funding that goes to local authorities; increasing central government funding for homelessness programmes to £149 million; and £100 million to deliver at least 2,000 low-cost move-on accommodation places, to enable people leaving hostels and refuges to make a sustainable recovery from a homelessness crisis.
Further, the Government supported Bob Blackman's Homelessness Reduction Act, which will provide vital support for many more people.
The Conservative Manifesto at the recent general election committed to full implementation of the Act, setting an aim to halve rough sleeping over the course of the Parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. This will be done through setting up a new homelessness reduction taskforce to focus on prevention and affordable housing, and piloting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.


09 NOV 2017

Green Belt

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

I read your comments with interest and understand your concerns about protecting the green belt. I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government reassuring:

While it is up to local authorities to determine the development of new homes through local plans, steps have been taken to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development.
The Housing White Paper, published earlier this year, emphasised the Government's continued commitment to protecting the Green Belt. Ministers want to amend and add to national policy to make it clear that: Green Belt boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances, when local authorities can demonstrate they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements; and where land is removed from the Green Belt, local policies should require the impact to be offset.
Planning policy also guarantees strong protection for National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The Green Belt also enjoys protection against erosion from caravan and traveller sites. The Government also has an ambitious programme to bring brownfield land back into use in England and is working closely with local authorities to drive this forward. This will ensure that development is prioritised on brownfield sites rather than at the expense of our countryside.


09 NOV 2017

Nursing Staff

Thank you for writing to me about NHS funding and nurses pay. You may already be aware that I am currently chairing an inquiry into the nursing workforce in my capacity as chair of the Health Select Committee. This will include the impact of 7 years of pay restraint on recruitment and retention as well as the wider issues contributing to the decline in the numbers of nurses registered with the NMC. We will amongst others be looking at wider workforce pressures, the impact of bursaries, new routes into nursing, working conditions and the effect of Brexit.

You may also have heard me discussing overall funding and the need for this to increase. I continue to feel that this will require a cross party approach to agree a sustainable long term agreement on both NHS and social care funding.

The following may be of interest in providing background to these issues:-

http://www.health.org.uk/sites/health/files/Autumn-Budget-2017-briefing.pdf

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldnhssus/151/151.pdf

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/inquiry/

As your MP I will be speaking to the Chancellor about these issues and will continue to debate these in the media in the run up to the budget.


07 NOV 2017

Brexit Impact

Thank you for taking the time to email me.

On the row about publication of sector impact assessments, no one wants to prejudice our negotiating position but it is important for Select Committees to have access to the right information in holding their inquiries on behalf of the public.

Only last week, the Health Select Committee, which I chair, formally called for the four impact studies relevant to health prior to our inquiry into Brexit and health. We do not want to undermine the government negotiating position, we want to do our job in analysing the impact of Brexit on health.


07 NOV 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

I understand there are several amendments to the bill that you would like me to support and I am pleased to confirm that I have already added my name to Dominic Grieve's amendment regarding ensuring that parliament has a vote on any deal.

With regard to amendment 20, asking for a second referendum before we leave the EU, there is no point in giving the EU a direct incentive to offer a terrible deal by promising a referendum in advance.

On the matter of amendment 124, I do not think it is reasonable to back the government in to a negotiating corner by legislating that we must stay in the Single Market.

Lastly, with regard to amendment 131 and the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has published an open letter promising to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to obtain settled status in the UK. The letter explains that the government is in touching distance of an agreement on citizens' rights and promises that the process for EU nationals to register to stay in the UK will be streamlined – with EU citizens having a direct say over how it will work. You can read the full piece at the following website.

It is time for EU negotiators to stop using this issue as an excuse to stall progress. In my view the sticking point is almost entirely about the demand for more cash from the UK in return for opening negotiators on future trade. I'm glad however that there has been some concession in that they are now at least discussing trade amongst themselves and I remain hopeful that common sense will prevail in the end. It is clearly in the best interests of both sides.

You may also like to look at the following link which will allow you to track the bill's passage through the commons and lords and to view the text of the bill, explanatory notes and amendments.


07 NOV 2017

NHS Funding

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

I will be continuing to make the case for increased overall funding for both health and social care and for there to be cross Party working in delivering sustainable long term funding. I recently chaired a hearing of the Health Select Committee with Lord Patel and members of the House of Lords Committee to discuss their conclusions on achieving long term sustainability of funding and I intend to continue to make the case for this directly to ministers and as Chair of the Health Select Committee.


06 NOV 2017

Care International

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

I read your comments with interest and I realise you would like the government to do more to help child refugees. I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is reassuring:

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has indeed been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake dangerous journeys. By 2020, the UK will have resettled 20,000 refugees through our Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, as well as a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region under the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme.
Over 33,000 asylum claims were received in the UK in 2016, and I should also highlight that according to EU figures, in 2016 the UK resettled the highest number of refugees of any EU country, a response that the UN has described as 'remarkable' and comprehensive'. The UK provides support to its European counterparts, providing an expert who has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support those countries' asylum systems. The UK has so far spent £28 million to support migrants and refugees in Greece through key partners such as UNHCR, IOM, the Red Cross, and a consortium of NGOs. This support has reached more than 250,000 people.
With regard to the future of refugee protection post-Brexit, the Government has been clear that it is determined to fulfil its commitments. As negotiations with the EU are currently ongoing, it is too soon to say exactly what technical format that will take.


06 NOV 2017

UK Aid

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

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

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

The UK's development budget is an important part of securing Britain's place in the world. We can be proud to be a country that not only meets its responsibilities to the world's poorest, but in doing so best serves and protects its own security and interests. Spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies helps deliver a more secure and prosperous UK, while having a life-saving impact on the ground.
Whether it's stepping up our support for desperate Syrian refugees, tackling the lethal legacy of landmines or giving life-saving aid to stop people dying of hunger in East Africa, UK aid is keeping Britain safe while the helping the world's poorest stand on their own two feet.
Overseas development assistance saves lives and transforms lives. Over the last five years, UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) has supported over 11 million children in school and helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. DFID is also leading the global effort to save millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.


03 NOV 2017

Seni's Law

Thank you for writing to me about Seni and Steve Reed's private member's bill.

I had a full constituency day and was not able to attend.

Theresa May has commissioned a review of the Mental Health Act and I hope that the issues raised in your email will also be addressed during that review.


02 NOV 2017

Positive Money Campaign

Thank you for taking the time to email me about monetary policy and the Positive Money campaign.

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

Monetary policy is a matter for the independent Bank of England and the Bank's 2 per cent inflation target is a cornerstone of the UK's financial stability and continued prosperity.
Inequality has actually been falling in recent years, with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics showing it to be at its lowest level for 30 years. Thanks to a strong economy, and reforms such as the introduction of the National Living Wage, the lowest paid have seen their pay go up by the most in recent years.
It is understood there are concerns about uncertainty around Brexit, which is why the Government is seeking to provide clarity for businesses and consumers as it negotiates for withdrawal from the European Union. The Bank of England has also been clear that the potential impacts of Brexit are fully considered when setting monetary policy.
The Treasury Select Committee did in fact take evidence from the Bank of England on 17th October, including from the Governor.


02 NOV 2017

Public Sector Pay

Thank you for taking the time to email me with regard to public sector pay.

You will I'm sure have noted my own calls to relax the public sector pay cap and this was further explored with the Health Secretary at the Health Select Committee. The economic uncertainty around Brexit seem likely to make the Chancellor cautious in his approach, but I hope that there will room for greater flexibility on public sector pay in the budget later this month.

In the meantime, I hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:

Public sector workers deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded. The Government has confirmed that it will be moving away from the 1 per cent public sector pay policy, towards a more flexible approach on pay.
We still need to deal with our country's debts to ensure we have a strong economy to enable us to invest in our public services. This means that it is vital that we continue to take a balanced approach to public spending.
The Government will consider each specific workforce to ensure pay is set so that the public sector can continue to both attract and hold on to the excellent staff that support our world-leading public services.
Before Ministers make final decisions on pay awards, they will seek the views of the eight independent Pay Review Bodies, which will consider the evidence on how best to ensure they can recruit and retain the very best people within our public services, like giving people more flexibility over their working hours. They will report in spring 2018, at which point the Government will consider their recommendations and announce public sector pay awards for each of those workforces.
Since 2010 the deficit has been cut by two thirds, helping secure our economy for the future. There is more to be done, but thanks to the actions that have been taken to get the public finances back into shape, the Government can now apply greater flexibility to public sector pay. Ministers will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers recognises their vital contribution and ensures that they can deliver world class public services, while also being affordable and fair to taxpayers as a whole


01 NOV 2017

Supported Housing

Thank you for taking the time to email me about supported housing and homelessness.

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

Last year, the Prime Minister unveiled plans for new homelessness prevention schemes, including targeted support for those at risk of sleeping rough. The Government is spending over £950 million to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in England by 2020 following the 2015 Spending Review. The Government is also committed to full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, and aims to halve rough sleeping over the course of the Parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. This will be done through setting up a new homelessness reduction taskforce to focus on prevention and affordable housing, and piloting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.
Supported housing supports some of the most vulnerable people across the country and the Government's priority is to safeguard its future. The Prime Minister has announced that the local housing allowance will not be applied to supported housing nor will it be implemented for the rest of the social rented sector. The Government published its proposals on its future model to support and sustain supported housing on 31 October - more information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/funding-for-supported-housing.


31 OCT 2017

Hospital Appointments

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about hospital transport for elderly people.

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

There are cross-governmental efforts being made to ensure elderly and frail people are able to gain access to suitable transport to hospitals. The Department of Health is aware of these issues, and runs a number of schemes to assist patients with non-emergency hospital transport.
Some people are eligible for non-emergency patient transport services. These services provide free transport to and from hospital for people whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey.
The Healthcare Travel Costs was set up to help those patients who require assistance with their travel costs to non-emergency medical appointments. Under the scheme, eligible patients (and sometimes carers) are reimbursed for costs incurred in travelling to appointments at non-primary medical and dental services. Patients who are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit but are on a low income may be eligible for assistance through the NHS Low Income Scheme.
The Department of Transport manages a Community Minibus Fund in England and Wales. With a budget of £2 million, this fund is available for charities and community groups to provide minibus journeys for elderly residents, amongst others, to help them reach medical services and local amenities.
The NHS works closely with independent providers, who offer non-emergency patient transport throughout the country, and offer essential support to conventional ambulance services.


31 OCT 2017

Academic Freedom

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about freedom of speech at universities.

I understand your concern on this matter and I agree that the freedom and independence of universities should be respected. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

Our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and it is vitally important that this right is preserved. The Prime Minister has said our universities should not be just be places of learning, but should also be placed where there can be open debate.
The Minister for Universities has been clear that universities have a legal duty to secure freedom of speech for students, staff and visiting speakers and must have clear policies in place to support this practice. This duty extends to both the premises of the university and premises occupied by the students' unions, even if they are not part of the university premises. This means that universities have a legal obligation to ensure the use of student union premises is not denied to individuals on the grounds or their beliefs, policy or objectives. Universities must also follow the statutory Prevent duty surrounding terrorist and extremist groups.
Universities also have a responsibility under of the Equality Act 2010 to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all staff and students. This helps ensure that all individuals are able to express their opinions without fear of discrimination, or harassment by the university.
The Department for Education provides additional support to universities to ensure that ideas and opinions can be heard, challenged and debated - including help to assess the possible risks around external speakers. It also proposes to raise the issue of freedom of speech as part of the consultation on the public interest principles to be included in the public interest governance condition that the Office for Students will be able to improve on higher education institutions.

Freedom of speech is vital in society, and in particular in higher education. It is essential for academic thinking to remain cutting-edge and for ideas to be explored and challenged. Procedures are in place to uphold this right.


31 OCT 2017

Children's Social Care

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about The Children's Society roundtable being held on the 1st of November at 4pm, I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend.

However, I understand the concerns about the future of funding for children's social care and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

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


30 OCT 2017

Mental Health Units

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the use of restraint in mental health settings and about the private member's bill this Friday.

I am afraid that I have full constituency surgery and other constituency commitments booked for that day so will not be able to attend the debate.

I am sorry but there is a problem with the timetabling of private member's bills which I hope will be resolved in future. I hope the Minister in responding to the debate will set out how this issue will be tackled in mental health and custodial settings.


24 OCT 2017

MS

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

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

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. More than £7 billion extra has been introduced to support councils fund social care over the next three years. 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.
There will be further support, with the Chancellor's recent announcement of an additional £2 billion to councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care services. I am encouraged that £1 billion will be 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.
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.
Following the election, the Government will consult on all options for future social care, the consultation will investigate options to create a fair, sustainable, and accessible social care system. There have been many consultations into care policy over the years; however the Government believes that the upcoming consultation will usher in a real cultural change into how we tackle the issues of an aging population as a society.

Those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) may require specific long-term social care needs, and it is essential that any social care system sensitively considers those suffering from MS. Those suffering from long term conditions such as MS may be eligible for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The PIP is designed to offer claimants the correct level of care for their needs, which focuses on an individual's ability to carry out key every day activities, and this system includes regular reviews so those suffering from long-term conditions are appropriately supported by the care and welfare system. Alternatively, those with MS may be eligible for direct payments for care from their local authority, which contribute to the funding of care, and paying for carers.
It must be noted that MS is a spectrum condition, and a blanket approach to MS and social care cannot be appropriately applied. Therefore, as well as providing effective support for those with MS, it is right that the Department of Health works in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions to assist those with MS find effective employment and independence, appropriate for their condition. You may be pleased to know that the Government has recently completed a consultation entitled 'Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives', which intends to help those with long term health conditions into well-supported employment, where appropriate, and improve their health.


20 OCT 2017

Refugee Action

Thank you for taking the time to email me about providing English language tuition for refugees.

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

The ability to speak English is hugely important for integration, and to allow refugees to feel at home in our country. The funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is not ring-fenced, but rather forms a part of the Adult Education Budget. Providers will use their allocation of this budget to put on appropriate provision based on their judgement of the economic and social needs of their local area. I would expect this provision to include ESOL where there is significant demand.
The pledge of up to £10 million to provide a programme to enable Syrian refugees across the UK to access language tuition, and integrate into British society is welcomed. This will go a long way in helping those coming to our country as refugees to play a full and active part in British society.
More widely, the foreign aid budget will be used to finance refugees for the first year they are here, and help local councils with things such as housing.


20 OCT 2017

People's Clause

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Committee Stage of the Repeal Bill.

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

In the referendum, millions of people voted to leave the EU. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Repeal Bill, ensures that the UK does this in the smoothest possible way. This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU or about the terms of our exit.
The Bill honours the referendum result and provides certainty for businesses. It repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which gives effect to EU law in the UK, and converts all EU law into UK law. It also provides ministers in the UK Government and in the devolved administrations with temporary powers to make corrections to the law. Without it there would be holes in our legal system and chaos for the British people.
The delegated power is important because not all laws will make sense after the UK leaves the EU. For example, references to the UK as a member of the EU will have to be removed and temporary delegated powers will allow ministers to do this in time for the UK's departure.
The Bill does not, however, allow the Government to bypass Parliament. MPs will still be able to scrutinise any changes introduced by ministers using delegated powers and major policy changes will be introduced as separate Bills. The Queen's Speech announced legislation on agriculture, immigration and trade. Future laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Repeal Bill is receiving 8 days of debate in the House of Commons to discuss amendments tabled by MPs. This is more than the previous Labour Government provided for the Lisbon Treaty which was similar in its constitutional importance. The Government has said that further time may be considered if necessary.
The Prime Minister has promised that Parliament will have a say over the final withdrawal deal but it is not within the Government's power to unilaterally extend the negotiation period for further discussions. EU law is clear that the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 whether or not a withdrawal agreement is reached. By voting for this Bill, the UK will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. Voting against the Bill would create chaos and uncertainty.


20 OCT 2017

Baby Loss

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

I do understand your concerns about taking care of parents who lose babies and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is reassuring:

Baby loss and parental bereavement affect many people, however the Health Secretary aims to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world to give birth. In November 2015, the Secretary of State announced an ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2030.
In October 2016, the Health Secretary launched the Safer Maternity Care action plan with a range of measures, which include: an £8.1 million Maternity Safety Training Fund, to improve maternity safety throughout England; a new Standardised Perinatal Mortality Review Tool to review and learn from every stillbirth and neonatal death; and, a £250,000 Maternity Safety Innovation fund to support maternity services implement innovative projects to improve the quality of their maternity services.
The Government's collaboration with charities, such as Sands, Bliss, Tommy's and others, to raise awareness of the preventative measures which can be taken to reduce the rate of stillbirths and ensure more healthy babies are born each year is encouraging.
The Government's assistance to perinatal mental health services, with investment of £365 million from 2015/16 to 2020/21, as well as funding better bereavement provision throughout England, which will help grieving parents in such a difficult time, is also welcomed.


19 OCT 2017

Access to Medicine

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the cost of pharmaceutical drugs to the NHS.

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

The Government is committed to paying a fair price for medicines used in the NHS. Where companies exploit the NHS by charging higher prices, this money cannot be spent elsewhere on patient care.
The Government has recently legislated to ensure that high prices of generic medicines can be better controlled. This action reflects the Government's determination to ensure that no pharmaceutical company can charge unjustifiably high prices for medicines used in the NHS.
In 2016, the Secretary of State for Health asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urgently look into whether pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the NHS by increasing their prices. The CMA have fined companies that have been found to be charging excessive prices and the Department of Health continues to work closely with the CMA on further investigations into the pharmaceutical sector.
The Government also works with the pharmaceutical industry on a range of issues, including the pricing of new medicines, through mechanisms such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. This scheme is a voluntary agreement between the Government and pharmaceutical industry which controls the costs of branded medicines sold to the NHS.
The Government also commissioned the Accelerated Access Review which has set out a range of ways we can improve and speed up access to the latest treatments but do so affordably for the NHS. The Government is running a public consultation into medicines which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, in order to assess areas in which the NHS has been spending money on expensive, and clinically ineffective medicines.

Through measures such as this, the Government is taking action to ensure drugs represent value for money to the NHS and the UK taxpayer.


18 OCT 2017

General Practice Indemnity

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about the cost of GP indemnity.

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

The Government is committed to building a thoroughly patient-driven NHS. Enabling patients to make claims of clinical or GP negligence is central to this, as it maintains trust and accountability in the NHS. That is why, in February 2017, the Lord Chancellor announced a change to the personal injury discount rate.
However, the Department of Health has recognised the potential consequences this change may have for GPs. GPs must feel supported by the Government and the Health Service, and the Government has stated in the General Practice Forward View, that GPs will not bear the cost of increased indemnity, the Government will. The Government invested an additional £30 million into covering indemnity costs for 2016-17, and a further sum of approximately £30 million will be made available for the next financial year.
In light of the increasing costs of claims since February 2017 the Department for Health and NHS England are developing a policy to cover rising indemnity costs, and will continue to work closely with GPs and the Medical Defence Organisations to ensure that appropriate funding is provided sustainably, for the long term. In October 2017, the Health Secretary announced that a long-term solution is in development, which will be of great support to doctors throughout the country. It will take at least 12 to 18 months to develop.
NHS England has recently announced plans to help out-of-hours GP services throughout the winter by making an extra £10 million available for indemnity costs. This scheme is running from October to April 2018, and will enable doctors to commit to more out of hours sessions, which are so important for patient care in the winter. The Government is developing a long-term answer to the issue of rising indemnity costs.


18 OCT 2017

Student Funding

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about student funding and tuition fees.

I understand your concern on this matter and I appreciate that the fees and debt accrued can seem intimidating, however the system operates in effect much like a time-limited graduate tax. Continuing with the previous system was not possible given the huge increase in the numbers of students going on to university, especially as it meant that those who did not go to university were, in effect, subsidising those who did through their taxes.

The current system supports and enables those from low income families to continue their education with no up-front costs. The evidence is that a greater proportion of students have been attending university from low income families than under the previous system. You may wish to look at the following information from Full Fact on this topic.

I do feel that as the fees for these institutions rise, there should be greater accountability for what they actually provide students alongside more scrutiny of the pay of chancellors, but their remuneration is not set by the government.

Repayments of student loans only start once a graduate earns above £21,000 and payments are linked to income. As such, if you do not economically benefit from your degree then in essence you will not have to pay for it and the loans are written off after a fixed period.

I take your point that those from low income families will graduate with higher levels of debt because their families will not be able to subsidise their living expenses but this was always the case, even under the previous system, where grants did not meet the actual cost of living at university.

I do share your concern about the level of interest rates that are in place on student loans and I am glad that this is something the government is looking at. I have urged ministers to support a reduction in the rates and will be keeping an eye on developments in this area.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Education is of interest:

No-one with ambition and ability, whatever their background and family income, should come up against barriers to accessing higher education. The number of students in higher education has exceeded half a million for the first time and more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. This is fantastic news and shows the reforms are working as students understand they do not have to pay up front to go to university.
The new system of student finance is more progressive than the one it replaced. Not only do students not pay a penny up front for their tuition but graduates will only pay back their loans once they earn more than £21,000. This threshold will be increased from £21,000 to £25,000 in April 2018,and will be adjusted in line with average income thereafter. Monthly repayments will be lower than under the old system.
Basing university funding on student fees and loans was a tough decision but avoided the situation where universities would have simply faced cuts which would have led to reduced student numbers. The cap on university places has been removed meaning there is no arbitrary ceiling and tens of thousands more can access higher education.
The reforms and new funding methodology have ensured that institutions are investing significantly in widening student access to higher education. As part of their access agreements higher education institutions plan by 2018/19 to increase their spending on outreach, student success and student financial support measures to £735 million, up from £444 million in 2011/12.
The Prime Minister's commitment to increasing diversity in our higher education system and giving students better value for money, and the promise to look again at the question of funding and student finance is encouraging. Immediate action is also being taken to help graduates. Tuition fees will be frozen at their current level and the planned rise with inflation will be scrapped while the system is being reviewed.


17 OCT 2017

Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill

Thank you for getting in touch and for letting me know that you support Chris Bryant's bill.

I think it likely that this will progress but as a private member's bill there is no guarantee that it will do so.

I'm afraid I have a full constituency day of surgeries, meetings and visits which I cannot rearrange and so will not be there for private member's business this Friday to speak in the debate but I am happy to support it through its further stages and am optimistic about its chances of progress.


16 OCT 2017

Capped Expenditure Process

Thank you for taking the time to email me about local health services and the Capped Expenditure Process (CEP).

I understand your concern about this and have raised it in Parliament, and directly with the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, and others involved in the financial governance of the NHS. I do not feel that further in-year cuts should be absorbed by Devon's health services. The savings demanded in the coming year have now been reduced and there are no plans to implement further community hospital closures.

I will be continuing to make the case for increased overall funding for both health and social care and for there to be cross Party working in delivering sustainable long term funding.

Next Tuesday I will be chairing a hearing of the Health Select Committee with Lord Patel and members of the House of Lords Committee to discuss their conclusions on achieving long term sustainability of NHS funding.


12 OCT 2017

Care Home Choice

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the quality of elderly care and the choice of care homes.

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

Improving the quality of elderly care in the UK should be one of our highest priorities. 1.4 million people work in the country's social care sector and caring for the elderly is one of the most significant challenges facing our ageing society. The independent Care Quality Commission (CQC) rightly holds our care system to the highest possible standards, and has recently completed a comprehensive survey of social care in England. CQC ratings are authoritative and independent, and publicly available, so people can make well-informed choices when they come to choosing a care home.
The latest report from the CQC, which has found that, despite financial pressure, four out of five adult social care services in England rated good or outstanding. The CQC report has, however, highlighted areas for concern, such as the regional disparity in quality of care, and the rate of improvement of care services.
Whilst it is clear that money alone will not solve all the difficulties faced by our care sector, the Chancellor's announcement in the 2017 Spring Budget to invest an additional £2 billion in 2017-18 and 2019-20 to aid councils in England improve social care and relieve pressure on the rest of the NHS is welcomed. This funding will be supplemented by measures to rapidly improve areas in need of greatest improvement. Over the following three years, councils will have access to £9.25 billion funding for social care.
Furthermore, the Department of Health is implementing Quality Matters, a vital scheme committed to improving the care sector for patients, families, and carers alike. This scheme makes it clear care home providers must be transparent and work closely with the public, to develop care homes which are not only of the highest quality possible, but adapted to the needs of their locality.


12 OCT 2017

Gaza

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about medical care for those in Gaza.

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

The British Government regularly raises its concerns over Gaza with the Israeli authorities, emphasising the importance of improving daily life for ordinary Gazans, for example, facilitating travel in and out of Gaza.
Of course, this is particularly important to enable medical treatment, or to allow family members to visit those hospitalised outside Gaza.
In addition to raising its concerns with Israel, the Government also continues to call on the Government of Egypt to show maximum flexibility in opening the Rafah Crossing into Gaza to help facilitate travel in and out of Gaza. It has been mostly closed since October 2014, and this impacts on urgent medical cases in Gaza.
The Government continues to press the Israeli Government to facilitate travel in and out of Gaza. The Government also supports the UN Access Coordination Unit to work with the Israeli Government, Palestinian Authority and aid agencies to help facilitate humanitarian access in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


12 OCT 2017

Fair Votes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about electoral reform and the debate on this on the 30th of October.

I understand many would like to see proportional representation introduced. However, people voted to keep our First Past the Post (FPTP) system in a referendum in 2011 and I respect that decision.


11 OCT 2017

Local Housing Allowance

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the impact of the Local Housing Allowance freeze.

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:

Reforms to Housing Benefit are a central part of the Government's plan to create a welfare system that supports the most vulnerable and is fair to taxpayers.
Around £24 billion a year is spent on Housing Benefit to support people with their housing costs, with over £800 million in Discretionary Housing Payments provided to local authorities to help support vulnerable claimants.
In addition, around 30 per cent of potential savings from the LHA freeze will be used to create further Targeted Affordability Funding to help tenants in those areas where local housing allowance rates have diverged the most from local rents. That this has already been used to increase 48 LHA rates by 3 per cent in areas with high rental costs this year. Further funding will be available for this purpose in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Ultimately, however, the key to improving affordability in the private rented sector across England is to build more homes. That is why the Housing White Paper, which was published in February this year, outlined an ambitious plan to fix the broken housing market and build the homes Britain needs. This includes getting the right homes built in the right places, speeding up house building, and diversifying the market.


11 OCT 2017

Fuel Duty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about FairFuelUK's driving survey.

I understand the concerns about fuel costs and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

Fuel costs remain a significant part of business and household costs. In order to reduce living costs, and support those who are just about managing to get by, fuel duty was frozen at the 2016 Autumn Statement for the seventh successive year.
The Government has recently published a draft plan to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide levels. Local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, but will now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on motorists.
The Prime Minister is very conscious of the fact that past governments have encouraged people to buy diesel cars, and Ministers will take this into account when they look at what to do in the future. The Government is not in the business of penalising drivers who use diesel cars.
As was noted in the Conservative Party manifesto, Ministers are currently working through one of the largest-ever investment programmes in our roads and railways, putting some £40 billion into transport improvements across the UK across the rest of this decade. The manifesto included a commitment to continue developing the strategic road network, providing extra lanes on our motorways and improving key routes whilst also paying attention to parts of the country left behind because of poor transport connections. The manifesto also pledged to invest in roads to fix pinch points and open up opportunities for new housing and local growth.
With regards to consumer price protection, the Government monitors fuel prices, and that both rises and falls in crude oil price reach the pumps within 7 weeks.


10 OCT 2017

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

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

Ministers and officials continue to make representations on all consular cases involving British nationals in Iran, including Mr Foroughi's and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's, at all levels with the Iranian Government.
In February the Foreign Secretary discussed both these cases with the Iranian Foreign Minister. The Minister for the Middle East also raised them with Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Ravanchi in August and in a meeting with the Iranian Ambassador previously on 6 July.
The Government has repeatedly requested consular access so that it can be assured of the detainees' welfare and their access to any appropriate medical treatment. However, Iran does not recognise dual nationality and therefore does not grant the Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular access. Nevertheless the British Government will continue to lobby the Iranian authorities about these cases at the highest levels at every opportunity.


10 OCT 2017

EDM 66 and Animal Testing

Thank you for taking the time to email me about EDM 66 and animal testing.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 66, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

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

The carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving the understanding of how biological systems work and in the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies.
At the same time, animals should only be used when there is no practicable alternative and the support and funding for the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs) is welcomed.
Without animal testing, it is considered highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials. However, encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.

Advances in biomedical science and technologies are all providing new opportunities to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research. As part of this, a Non-animal Technologies Road map for the UK has been produced which offers an approach for the UK to develop, exploit and deploy new non-animal technologies for long-term economic and societal benefit.
The EDM rightly draws attention to the UK life science sector's Concordat on Openness in Animal Research which was launched in 2014, and it provides new opportunities for transparency and debate in this area. Ultimately, however, EU and UK law requires safety testing on animals before human trials for new medicines can begin and animal research still plays an important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines.


06 OCT 2017

Good Childhood Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Good Childhood campaign.

I understand your wish to improve the lives of children and young people and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

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


03 OCT 2017

Energy Cap

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about energy bills and for your kind words about me adding my name to John Penrose MP's letter to the PM on this issue.

I will continue to bang the drum on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

Suppliers are protected from recent fluctuations in the price of wholesale energy as they buy their energy up to two years in advance, and prices remain significantly lower than in 2015. It is therefore expected energy companies to treat their customers fairly.
The Government made a proposal to extend the price protection currently in place for some vulnerable energy consumers to more of those on the poorest value tariffs. Rest assured, the Government is committed to doing so and the Energy watchdog Ofgem has accepted the call for further action.
More specifically, the Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, has written to Ofgem asking what action the regulator intends to take to safeguard customers. Ofgem has committed to taking prompt action, in consultation with consumer experts, to develop proposals including a safeguard tariff. The Government wants to see rapid progress on this commitment and has not ruled out taking further action if necessary.
There is already a prepayment price cap in place protecting households least able to benefit from competition. On 1 April 2017 a prepayment price cap came into force protecting over four million households using pre-payment meters. The temporary cap, which will remain in place until the end of 2020, is expected to reduce bills across Britain and will save the average household £80 a year.
Ultimately, Government policy costs make up a relatively small proportion of household energy bills and they cannot by themselves explain price rises announced by energy suppliers. Indeed, a recent report from the independent Committee on Climate Change shows that policies driving energy efficiency improvements have offset the cost of energy policies and have, on average, resulted in lower energy bills for households.


03 OCT 2017

Universal Credits

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

I do understand the concerns about the roll out of Universal Credit and was one of the MPs that signed the letter to David Gauke MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling for this to be paused until we can be certain that all claimants will receive payments without delays. I support the principle of UC as this has many advantages over the existing system and recognise that there are now arrangements in place to allow advances to those who are experiencing delays. I have met with the Citizens Advice Bureau and will continue to follow this carefully.

I hope the following information on this issue from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Universal Credit is a major reform that will transform the welfare state in Britain. At the heart of Universal Credit is a belief that work should always pay. Under the new system, benefit will be withdrawn gradually as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income always goes up.

Rightly for a programme of this scale, the priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of Universal Credit started in April 2013 and significant progress has been made to date. Universal Credit is now available for single claimants in every jobcentre in the country.

Figures have shown that people claiming Universal Credit are 13 per cent more likely to be in work than people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, earning more money and more willing to take a job.

The taper rate has also been reduced since April of this year to help people to progress in work, this change means people will keep more of what they earn and will be better rewarded for increasing their hours or pay.

Under Universal Credit, support worth up to 85 per cent of childcare costs is now available regardless of hours worked, significantly higher than the support that was available under tax credits. This will give parents more flexibility to work and earn more money.


03 OCT 2017

Breast Cancer Care Reception

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Breast Cancer Care reception being held on the 11th of October at 4pm, it is much appreciated.

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

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this disease, which has taken so many lives over the years. 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. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, 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.


03 OCT 2017

UN and Israel

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the UN and Israel.

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

The British Government is proud of the role the UK played in the birth of the state of Israel. Following an invitation from the Prime Minister, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be visiting the UK on the centenary of the Balfour declaration.
There have been a number of country-specific resolutions passed regarding Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UK Government does not support the singling out of Israel, nor the politicisation of UN institutions by the Palestinians.
The UK has already warned the UN Human Rights Council over its disproportionate bias against Israel. The persistence of bias, particularly the disproportionate volume of resolutions against Israel, undermines the Council's credibility as the objective human rights body we all want and need.
The UK co-hosted a meeting on reform of the UN Human Rights Council during the recent UN General Assembly, where it was agreed that reform is urgently needed to ensure that the Council's status as a respected advocate for human rights is secured.


02 OCT 2017

Refugees

Thank you for taking the time to email me about refugees and CARE International's campaign.

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

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable who are fleeing conflict and danger, and the Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition. That is why its response to the migrant crisis has indeed been to establish resettlement schemes from the refugee camps in the region. This allows support to be targeted to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, while not creating a strong incentive for refugees to undertake dangerous journeys. By 2020, the UK will have resettled 20,000 refugees through our Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, as well as a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region under the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme.
Over 33,000 asylum claims were received in the UK in 2016, and according to EU figures, in 2016 the UK resettled the highest number of refugees of any EU country, a response that the UN has described as 'remarkable' and comprehensive'. The UK provides support to its European counterparts, providing an expert who has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support those countries' asylum systems. The UK has so far spent £28 million to support migrants and refugees in Greece through key partners such as UNHCR, IOM, the Red Cross, and a consortium of NGOs. This support has reached more than 250,000 people.
The Government has been clear that it is determined to fulfil its commitments post Brexit. As negotiations with the EU are currently ongoing, it is too soon to say exactly what technical format that will take.


02 OCT 2017

Fishing, Farming and Brexit

Thank you for taking the time to email me about future standards in food, farming and fishing once the UK has left the EU.

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 of interest:

In order to provide legal certainty over our withdrawal, the Great Repeal Bill will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert all EU law into UK law. This will mean the immediate conversion of EU law into domestic law on the day of the UK's departure from the EU, including on food, farming and environmental standards. Parliament will then be free to keep, amend or repeal any law as it sees fit.
To inform future policy, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is engaging with farmers, environmentalists, members of the public and other stakeholders to hear their views and ambitions for the future. Leaving the EU means we can tailor our new arrangements to the needs of our farmers, fishermen, precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries.
Ministers will keep sustainability at the forefront of their efforts, as they consistently have in previous EU negotiations. In particular, the manifesto commitment to maintain the ban on the economically and environmentally-damaging practice of fish discards will be kept. Within the Common Fisheries Policy, the UK played a leading role in securing this important reform.
Our food producers should be freed to grow more, sell more and export more great British food, while upholding our high standards for plant and animal health and welfare. Our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.


02 OCT 2017

Inefficient Homes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about reducing energy waste in homes.

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

The sustainability of buildings is crucial to tackling climate change in the UK, and energy efficiency and decarbonising buildings will be key to meeting our domestic commitments.
All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements so there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations. All homes are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. In addition, a package of changes incentivise energy suppliers to deliver more heating and insulation measures in non-gas fuelled homes, including oil fired boiler replacements. Over two million energy efficiency measures have been installed in over 1.6 million homes since 2013, and a further 1 million homes will be insulated by 2020.
For non-fuel poor households, however, the priority is to help create a sustainable market for energy efficiency and low carbon products, rather than rely primarily on subsidy. That is why the Government commissioned the Each Home Counts review of quality, standards and advice in home energy efficiency and renewables, which reported in December 2016. Ministers are now working with industry on its approach to implementing the findings of that review.
On a final note, in the last six years, energy performance for new homes has increased. The Government is carrying out a review to determine whether minimum standards should be further strengthened. It has always been clear, however, that carbon reduction needs to be achieved in the most practical and cost-effective way possible


02 OCT 2017

Back Off Campaign

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Back Off campaign and buffer zones.

I remain supportive of a woman's right to choose and hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. However, the policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police, the law does currently provide protection against such acts.
The police have a range of powers to deal with protests outside clinics. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, makes it an offence to display threatening, or abusive words or images that, within the sight of someone, is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on the location, duration or numbers attending a public assembly. This can be applied where the police believe that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose by the assembly organisers is to intimidate others to compel them not to do an act that they have a right to do.
The police also have dispersal powers (in public places) under sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or to prevent local crime or disorder. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 includes criminal offences that protect individuals, who are conducting lawful activities, from harassment by protestors.


02 OCT 2017

Breast Cancer

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

I agree we need to do more to prevent and treat breast cancer and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this disease, which has taken so many lives over the years. 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. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, 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.


02 OCT 2017

Royal British Legion

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Royal British Legion's 2017 manifesto.

I agree that we need to support our Armed Forces personnel and their families and hope the following information on this topic from the Ministry of Defence is of interest:

The Government supports the RBL's aspiration to include a veteran's marker in the 2021 census. In light of this, the Office of National Statistics and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have established a working group to review this matter.
The MOD continues to keep a watching brief on gulf veterans illness but in line with the Medical Research Council review carried out in 2003, which confirmed that no discrete diagnosis was present, there are no plans to institute further research either on causation or clinical management.
An independent review of the Covenant pledges made by business and the third sector is being undertaken in 2018 which will identify and document positive examples of how a range of organisations are delivering on their Covenant commitments. These examples of best practice will then be shared, along with appropriate guidelines, to support organisations in drafting and implementing Covenant pledges.
With regard to regard to veterans' healthcare including the treatment of Non-Freezing Cold Injuries, the MOD continues to work with the Department of Health, NHS England, and the Devolved Administrations to ensure that the specific healthcare needs of injured personnel continue to be met when they leave the Services.
The MOD works closely with Local Authorities to make provision for separated or divorced spouses or civil partners as they transit out of the Armed Forces community, and Ministers will consider whether additional measures are necessary. A number of Local Authorities have amended their housing policy to waive the requirement for a local connection to recently divorced and separated spouses, on their first move out of Service family accommodation.


21 SEP 2017

NHS

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

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

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


20 SEP 2017

Macmillan Coffee Morning

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

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

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


19 SEP 2017

Refugee Children

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

PIP Assessments

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Children's Societies

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

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

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


18 SEP 2017

Holiday Food Provision Bill

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Anthony Nolan

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

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

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


15 SEP 2017

Bees

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

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

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

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


14 SEP 2017

Nominations of Members to Committees

Thank you for writing to me about this important issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


13 SEP 2017

Alzheimer's Party Conference

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

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

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


12 SEP 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

An EU withdrawal bill is necessary if Parliament is to respect the outcome of the referendum by repealing the European Communities Act 1972. Given the sheer volume and complexity of EU law that currently applies, it will need to be adopted into U.K. law on the day that we leave in order to prevent legal chaos.

I accept that the Government will need relatively wide delegated powers to amend them but there is a distinction between necessary amendments as a consequence of our leaving the EU, many of which will be technical or minor and those which will implement entirely new policies. The delegated powers in the European Union Withdrawal Bill will touch every aspect of our lives and I have made it clear during the debate in the Commons that there must be a commitment to listen and respond to concerns. You can view my contribution here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-09-11/debates/B10868CD-F096-47A2-84EE-A902C8A271BE/EuropeanUnion(Withdrawal)Bill#contribution-7A481CD3-31EF-4A40-B6C5-C6A6971A0A82

Together with other Conservative MPs, including four other Select Committee Chairs, I have added my name to a number of amendments that would address those concerns. These include limiting the so-called Henry VIII powers to amend primary legislation through delegated powers and to support reform of the procedures for handling delegated legislation so that Parliament rather than Government is able to decide on the level of scrutiny that is appropriate. I have also supported amendments on setting a single exit date and giving Parliament a final say on the agreement. I also feel that the Charter of Fundamental Rights should be restored to the bill and have added my name to an amendment that would achieve this.

Without these amendments to the way we handle secondary legislation, we will not be able to 'bring back control' over our laws to Parliament.

Without reform, secondary legislation will remain, as now, little more than an expensive rubber stamping exercise with little or no meaningful scrutiny. That would be unacceptable given that there could be an estimated 800-1000 of these Statutory Instruments over the coming years.

The bill will return to Parliament in around four weeks for these important issues and amendments to be further debated by the whole House of Commons. Amendments will have to be made if the bill is to pass its final stages.

Thank you for getting in touch and you may also like to look at the following link which will allow you to track the bill's passage through the commons and lords and to view the text of the bill, explanatory notes and amendments: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal.html


08 SEP 2017

Home is Here

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Home is Here campaign and the lobby of parliament on the 13th of September.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments, but I hope the following information on this topic from the Home Office is of interest:

A fair and serious offer which maintains EU citizens' rights here in the UK has been made by the Prime Minister and will be enshrined in UK law. It is important now that these proposals be part of a reciprocal agreement for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in Europe, which should be agreed as soon as possible to give certainty to the three million EU citizens in the UK and the more than one million UK citizens in the EU.
EU citizens are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and their rights should be protected. The policy paper released by the Government makes clear how EU citizens looking to remain in the UK can do so, and confirms the creation of a new 'settled status' for EU citizens who arrive before a cut-off date, which is yet to be specified and will be agreed as part of the negotiations with the EU. This cut-off date will not be before the date of triggering article 50.
Applicants who already have five years' continuous residence in the UK will be immediately eligible for settled status. Those who arrived before the specified date but do not yet meet the five year threshold by exit day will be allowed to stay until they reach that milestone and can also secure settled status. Those EU citizens who are granted settled status will be treated like a comparable UK national, entitled to broadly the same rights and benefits. There will also be a grace period, expected to be around two years for all EU citizens, including those who arrive after the cut-off date, allowing them to regularise their status to remain in the country.
EU citizens looking to remain in the UK will be asked to apply for documentation under a new simplified and more accessible scheme. There will also be protection for the existing healthcare arrangements for both EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. This includes seeking continued participation in the European Health Insurance Card scheme for all UK nationals and EU citizens, including for temporary visits.


08 SEP 2017

Repeal Bill Environment

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

As an MP for a rural area I appreciate your concern on this matter and you may be interested to know that I only recently met with the Devon Wildlife Trust.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Exiting the European Union of interest:

The Repeal Bill will transpose all EU law into UK law. This will make sure that the environmental protections currently in place across the country remain in place after the UK leaves the EU. Any future changes to environmental policy will be for Parliament to decide.
The powers given to ministers in the Repeal Bill will be limited in both time and scope. They can only be used to make technical corrections to the law for two years after exit day. Parliament will also be able to scrutinise legislation made under these powers. The Bill is not a vehicle for major policy changes.
The Government has committed to leaving the natural environment in a better state than in which it inherited it. Both the courts and Parliament will continue to make sure that the Government complies with environmental regulations. EU principles, such as those you mention, have had an important influence on the direction of EU legislation and this is being converted into UK law.
More generally, leaving the EU gives the Government an opportunity to design policies that will allow the UK to become a world leader in environmental standards and environmental science. My colleague, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, has stated that this is the ambition of his department.


08 SEP 2017

Support Pubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about keeping our pubs afloat, unfortunately I will be unable to attend the drop in photo opportunity on the 12th of September due to prior commitments.

Nonetheless, I quite agree that pubs are often at the heart of the local community and I was delighted to open the Tally Ho at Littlehempston which has reopened due to the support and dedication of the villagers.

I would like to see more support for pubs, which in a rural area such as this one, often serve as a community hub and local shop also. I will continue to speak up for rural businesses of all kinds and to level the playing field between pubs and the ultra-cheap booze sold in supermarkets which pub landlords tell me is the chief reason for the decline in their business.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is of interest:

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that each pub contributes £80,000 each year to its local economy.
Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as 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.
New measures also ensure that tied pubs have rights under a statutory code with an independent adjudicator to resolve disputes. Many pubs have also benefited from the Government's package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for 90 per cent of pubs.

Tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented freeze in beer duty.
There is also greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes. It easier now for pubs to play live music and £350,000 has been provided for the Pub is The Hub initiative and the Plunkett Foundation to help landlords diversify and provide essential services such as village shops and post offices.


08 SEP 2017

Bottle Deposit System

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to email about your wish for a Bottle Deposit System to be created.

I understand your concern about littering and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

There is no excuse for littering. All businesses are encouraged to work in partnership with their local communities to tackle this problem, and great progress has been made in boosting plastic bottle recycling. Their collection for recycling has increased dramatically, from less than 13,000 tonnes in 2000 to over 330,000 tonnes in 2015, and almost all local councils now collect them routinely.
Considering all product packaging, recycling rates have risen from around 46 per cent in 2005 to 60 per cent in 2015. There is still more to be done, and work continues with the industry and the Waste & Resources Action Programme to build on this progress. Ministers recently announced the intention to increase obligated businesses' packaging recycling targets to over 75 per cent by 2020.
Councils have a legal duty to remove litter from beaches above the high water mark, and are advised to monitor and clean below it where appropriate. Beaches present unique challenges because of the terrain, conditions, accessibility and the need to be sensitive to habitats, but land managers should do as much as they can. The UK's Marine Strategy Part Three sets out comprehensive measures to reduce marine litter.
The Litter Strategy for England, published in April, includes a new working group looking at voluntary and economic incentives to improve the recycling and reuse of packaging. It will consider regulatory options including the full costs, benefits and impacts of drinks container deposit, reward and return schemes. While Ministers would prefer businesses to take voluntary action, they do not rule out regulation.


08 SEP 2017

Scrutiny of Trade Deals EDM 128

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals and the related EDM, number 128.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 128, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Trade is of interest:

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. This means that the UK will be able 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 is determined that the UK will become a world leader in free trade, and ensure that we secure the right deals for the United Kingdom. These bespoke deals will be scrutinised by our Parliament, as are all treaties.


04 SEP 2017

Factory Farming

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about factory 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 of interest:

The UK's strong commitment in this area is reflected in World Animal Protection's recent Animal Protection Index, which judged 50 countries on their policy and legislation for animals and saw the UK ranked joint top alongside New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland. Recent changes to legislation regulating the quality of cages for hens shows this protection in action.
Animals should be slaughtered locally wherever possible. The Government has announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses. However, under European Union single market rules, it is illegal to ban the export of animals to other EU countries; there are instead EU and UK laws to protect the welfare of live animals during transport. As the UK withdraws from the EU, there are great opportunities to re-evaluate existing structures.
Mandatory labelling for method of production has to be weighed against the costs involved for businesses, which could be significant. Legislation already provides scope for producers to label their products voluntarily, and several assurance schemes are also in place. Consumers who have a preference for a particular farming method can therefore readily find meat products labelled with information to inform their choice.
Ministers are fully committed to ensuring that antibiotics are used responsibly. In September 2016 further plans were announced to tackle the issue, including a commitment to reduce antibiotic use in animals significantly. Long term, sector-specific reduction targets are being set that will bring sustainable change across the agricultural industry, from farm to fork.


01 SEP 2017

Executive Pay

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

I understand your concern on 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 now announced its plans on corporate governance reform following a thorough consultation process. A large focus of these reforms will be to tackle abuses and excesses in the boardroom, specifically that of executive pay.
Previous reforms introduced by the Government in 2013 have gone some way to strengthening and increasing transparency in the UK executive pay framework - in particular the requirement to gain shareholder approval for executive pay policies every three years and the need to disclose the pay of each director as a single figure. However, executive pay has continued to be a key factor in public dissatisfaction with large businesses, and a source of frustration to UK investors.
That is why action is being taken which will address concerns that a minority of companies are not responding adequately when they encounter significant shareholder opposition to levels of executive pay. Under new measures the Government will name listed companies on a public register if 20 per cent or more of their shareholders revolt over proposals for executive pay package.
In addition, the Government will require listed companies to reveal the pay ratio between bosses and workers. At the same time, remuneration committees will be made to do more to engage with the workforce to explain how pay at the top relates to wider company pay policy. The Financial Reporting Council has also been asked to revise the UK Corporate Governance Code to extend the recommended minimum vesting and post-vesting holding period for executive share awards from three to five years to encourage companies to focus on longer-term outcomes in setting pay.
As the consultation findings highlight, the reforms introduced in 2013 already give shareholders sufficient power and oversight over executive pay, and average executive pay increases have been broadly in line with inflation over the same period. The Government has also taken into account that new powers in this area would be disproportionate, given that only a relatively small number of companies have experienced significant shareholder dissent on pay in recent years.


29 AUG 2017

British Lung Foundation

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

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

There are currently no plans to set up a taskforce on lung health. However, the Government has instructed NHS England to achieve a significant reduction in avoidable deaths by 2020. Reducing premature mortality rates among patients with lung disease will play an important part in this. There are a range of initiatives being taken forward that will support reducing mortality rates amongst patients with lung disease.
Early diagnosis of lung disease is important as timely treatment can help slow down its progression. In March 2016, the NHS concluded a national pilot programme which aimed to improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis in patients experiencing the symptom of breathlessness, test new models of care in various settings and improve the outcomes of patients experiencing breathlessness.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently updated its advice on the management of acute and chronic breathlessness, including the identification of patients who may require emergency admission.
NHS England's National Clinical Director for Respiratory Disease, Professor Mike Morgan, continues to work on improving outcomes for lung disease with charities such as the British Lung Foundation. Work is also being carried out on how to share best practice in order to address variation in care.
NHS England also funds the Respiratory Futures programme, which is a resource to support innovation and sharing of best practice on respiratory conditions.
A recent Be Clear on Cancer campaign took place to raise awareness of respiratory symptoms, including breathlessness or a persistent cough, which can be a symptom of lung disease. This will help support increased early identification and diagnosis of patients suffering from possible lung disease.


24 AUG 2017

Game Birds

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

I understand the concern about the use of battery cages for pheasant and partridge production. I am afraid I would not support a ban on grouse shooting but I do think that any illegal practices should be prosecuted.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is 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, which carries out routine welfare inspections and investigates complaints; prosecutions can be brought where necessary.


18 AUG 2017

Venezuela

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

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

It is absolutely imperative that human rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers and the integrity of democratic institutions are respected, and our Foreign Secretary has made that clear.
This situation is evolving fast and one of the first items on the agenda for debate when Parliament returns after the summer recess is the political situation in Venezuela.


17 AUG 2017

EDM 152

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about NHS Professionals and the related EDM, number 152.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 152, 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 you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:

NHS Professionals is the largest single supplier of flexible staffing to the NHS. The NHS should maintain a flexible workforce, with adequate supplies of temporary staff, which can meet the shifting needs of the health service.
The Government wants to maintain a healthy supply of permanent and flexible labour to the NHS, which will tackle agency staffing costs, and ensure maximum value for the taxpayer. Agency spend came down by £700 million last year. NHS Professionals helps by saving £70 million a year through supplying staff to hospitals at more affordable rates.
The Government's aim is always to improve patient care, its actions to reduce agency spend will be focused on that objective, and that every pound of the NHS budget is spend as efficiently as possible.


14 AUG 2017

EDM 158

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about transparency of loans issued to impoverished country governments by UK-based banks or under UK law and the related EDM, number 158.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 158, 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 you will find the following information on this matter from the Treasury of interest:

The UK continues to be at the forefront of international efforts to promote responsible lending and borrowing practices. This includes ongoing support for the IMF-World Bank Debt Sustainability Framework and OECD lending principles covering official export credits.
The UK also supports the African Legal Support Facility, which provides legal advice to countries facing litigation, and the World Bank's Debt Reduction Facility (DRF), which enables countries to buy back their commercial debt at a deep discount with donor backing. Since its inception, the DRF has played a significant role in extinguishing commercial external debt from the books of the public sector of low-income countries.
Ultimately, the regulation of UK banks is a matter for the independent Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA has robust powers to investigate potential cases of misconduct and to enforce UK financial rules; this includes any issues around the lending practices of UK financial firms.


14 AUG 2017

Refugee Repeal Bill

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the relocation of unaccompanied children from Europe.

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

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. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.

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 into the next financial year 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.

While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.


11 AUG 2017

Tobacco Control

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the tobacco control plan.

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

It is vital the Government reduces smoking in our society. Smoking is still the leading individual cause of preventable death in the country; it exacerbates existing inequalities in our society, and must be tackled.
In July 2017 the Government published a new Tobacco Control Plan. The last plan ran from 2011 to 2015, and exceeded its ambitions, reducing adult smoking rates from 20.2 per cent, to 15.5 per cent. I believe there is still more progress to be made, and this plan will play a central role in ushering in a smoke-free generation.
This ambitious plan, will bring together local authorities and the Department of Health in efforts to reduce the total rate of smoking, drastically cut smoking in teenagers, provide stop-smoking services and support for those with mental health issues, and eliminate the damaging inequalities long- associated with smoking.
As things stand, there are over 200 smoking-related deaths per day, and although smoking rates have fallen, still 10 per cent of pregnant women smoke, as do 8 per cent of fifteen year olds. Smoking remains stubbornly commonplace amongst the disadvantaged, with those earning less than £10,000 a year almost twice as likely to smoke as those earning £40,000 or more.
The Prime Minister spoke about the burning injustice that sees the poorest die nine years earlier on average than the richest. Smoking accounts for around half of this variation in life expectancy, and it is vital that the Government builds on its successes and uses the latest tobacco control plan to further tackle smoking and eradicate one of the most pernicious inequalities in public health.

You may also be interested in the following answer to a parliamentary question that was asked on this topic:

"Councils will receive £16 billion of public health funding between 2016 and 2021 to provide vital services for their local population including smoking cessation services. As there is such a wide variety in smoking across the country, local councils must have the flexibility to consider how best to respond to the needs of their populations."
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-03-28/69400/


10 AUG 2017

EDM 176

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about civilian enforcement officers and EDM 176.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 176, 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 you will find the following information on this matter from the Ministry of Justice of interest:

The Government takes the recovery and enforcement of court fines extremely seriously. It is committed to ensuring that offenders with outstanding fines either pay or are brought back before the court. It is encouraging therefore that a record £440.5 million was recovered in 2016/17. However, it is also important that the Government continues to look at how it can improve this service and provide the best value for the taxpayer in the years to come.
It is for this reason that the Government is considering a range of options about how best to deliver this service. A tender process has now started which will allow the Government to make informed decisions about which steps to take. As part of this process, discussions are also being had with providers to consider extending the current use of Approved Enforcement Agencies for warrants of arrest. However no decision has been made at this current time.


09 AUG 2017

Energy

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

I understand your concerns about climate change and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is of interest:

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. The UK is already the third best country in the world at tackling climate change, but the Government is working hard to further reduce emissions and increase generation from renewables, while at the same time ensuring a reliable, secure source of energy and protecting consumers from excessive costs.
The Government supports the G20's initiative to reform inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. It is important to distinguish, however, that the Government does not provide subsidies to fossil fuel production or consumption. The sums argued by some are features of the tax regime intended to promote the industries concerned. For instance, the UK oil and gas sector which has made a huge contribution to the economy and supports thousands of jobs.
The Government has also made clear, through its Bioenergy Strategy, that only biomass from sustainable sources should be used in the UK. Under new biomass sustainability criteria bioenergy suppliers must report on the sustainability of their operations if they want to claim Government subsidy, and any generators that do not comply will lose this support.
Ultimately, Britain is already leading the way on tackling climate change and building an energy system fit for the 21st century. We will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the energy mix completely, with the announcement that all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions are not being captured and stored will be closed by 2025. Renewable capacity has trebled since 2010, and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses about the shift to a low-carbon economy.


09 AUG 2017

Pubs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about keeping our pubs afloat.

I quite agree that pubs are often at the heart of the local community and I was delighted to open the Tally Ho at Littlehempston which has reopened due to the support and dedication of the villagers.

I would like to see more support for pubs, which in a rural area such as this one, often serve as a community hub and local shop also. I will continue to speak up for rural businesses of all kinds and to level the playing field between pubs and the ultra-cheap booze sold in supermarkets which pub landlords tell me is the chief reason for the decline in their business.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government is of interest:

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that each pub contributes £80,000 each year to its local economy.
Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as 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.
New measures also ensure that tied pubs have rights under a statutory code with an independent adjudicator to resolve disputes. Many pubs have also benefited from the Government's package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for 90 per cent of pubs.

Tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented freeze in beer duty.
There is also greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes. It easier now for pubs to play live music and £350,000 has been provided for the Pub is The Hub initiative and the Plunkett Foundation to help landlords diversify and provide essential services such as village shops and post offices.


03 AUG 2017

Dignity Not Destitution

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 190 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

The Home Office has discussed Refugee Action's report with the charity itself, and will continue this dialogue as it examines the detailed findings. Complaints about performance failures are taken seriously, and there are robust procedures in place to inspect, investigate and resolve issues when specific information is received.
Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute can apply for free accommodation and cash support to cover their essential living needs. If they have an emergency need for accommodation they can ask to be put in initial accommodation while their applications are being processed and the vast majority of such requests are processed on the same day.
On the issue of asylum seekers being granted the right to work, permission is granted for an asylum seeker to work in one of the jobs on the shortage occupation list if their claim has not been decided after 12 months, through no fault of their own. This is fair and reasonable, as it protects the resident labour market and ensures that access to jobs is prioritised for British citizens and those with leave to remain, including refugees.


03 AUG 2017

Philip Hammond

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Chancellor of the Exchequer's position on leaving the EU.

I have noted your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department for Exiting the European Union is of interest:

Every member of the Cabinet, including the Chancellor, is fully committed to taking the UK out of the EU by March 2019. The Government has always been consistent in its view that we need a good deal with the EU.
As the Chancellor and Government have made clear, we will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, and that means leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market at that point. This means that the UK will regain control over all the issues you mention including immigration and the laws that affect the people of this country.
It is sensible to have an implementation period so that businesses and individuals have time to adjust to our new arrangements with the EU. The Prime Minister has said that instability and a cliff-edge for business would not be in anyone's interests. There will not be an unlimited transition period. This would not be good for the UK or the EU. The Government has been clear about this and this remains the position. While there has been some uncertainty since the vote to leave the EU, economic news remains positive. Unemployment is at its lowest since 1975, retails sales have increased by nearly 3 per cent since last year and manufacturing orders are at their highest level since 1988. This is no small part due to the hard work of everyone in the Government.


01 AUG 2017

Christian Solidarity

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about judicial harassment of Iran's religious and ethnic minorities.

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

It is fair to say that the Iranian Government has an appalling human rights record. That is a matter of great sadness, given the richness and diversity of Iranian civilisation and culture, and the fact that its best traditions accord respect to religious minorities.
President Rouhani pledged to improve the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Iran when he was elected in 2013. He also promised reforms on discrimination against members of ethnic minorities, and greater space for freedom of expression and opinion. However, there has been little evidence of positive change.
The British Government does all it can to encourage the Iranian Government to adopt the kinds of human rights standards that we would expect from a country with a rich civilisation.


31 JUL 2017

Grenfell

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Communities and Local Government of interest:

The Grenfell Tower tragedy was one of the worst this nation has experienced in many years. It is impossible to comprehend what those affected by the fire have had to deal with. The response of people who provided help, compassion and support, once again showed the fantastic spirit of London and the best of Britain.
The Government has been working with local government officials and organisations to provide support to the victims, both in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and in the long term. Everyone whose home was destroyed will be guaranteed a new one on the same terms as the one they lost, and nobody will be forced to move somewhere they do not want to go.
The Government will also do everything possible to seek justice for those people who have been failed. A full, judge-led public inquiry will investigate what happened and who was responsible for the disaster, to give people the answers they deserve. It is vital that the voices of survivors are heard: they will have their legal representation funded. An independent expert advisory panel has also been appointed to advise the Government on any immediate action that should be taken on fire safety.
The disaster at Grenfell Tower should never have happened: the police investigation and public inquiry will find out why it did, to ensure this can never happen again.


31 JUL 2017

Children At Risk

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the relocation of unaccompanied children from Europe.

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

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. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.
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 into the next financial year 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.
While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.


31 JUL 2017

Guide Dogs

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about assistance dog owners and taxis.

I am afraid I will be unable to visit the Guide Dog stall at conference as I am not attending, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Transport is of interest:

Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHV) are essential for many disabled people, and drivers are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. The Equality Act 2010 places duties on taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers to carry assistance dogs at no additional charge. Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers are obliged to transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair, provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance, and charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users.
Failure to comply with this requirement can result in prosecution and a fine on conviction of up to £1,000. A driver was recently fined £1,546, including legal costs, for refusing access to a guide dog.
Although there is no legal requirement for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake disability awareness training, the Department for Transport's Best Practice Guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing recommends that local licensing authorities to work with the industry in their area to improve drivers' awareness of the needs of disabled people. This includes encouraging their drivers to undertake disability awareness training.


27 JUL 2017

Sky TV

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about 21st Century Fox's proposed purchase of Sky.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

Sky has received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own. Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.

On 16 March 2017, the Secretary of State issued a European Intervention Notice on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This decision was made after hearing representations from Sky, 21st Century Fox and many other third parties. This decision triggered action by Ofcom to assess and report on the public interest grounds specified and for the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction by 20 June.

Following this, on 29 June the Secretary of State released her minded-to - not final - decisions on whether to refer the merger to a full phase two investigation. More details of these can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/skyfox-merger

The Secretary of State then accepted representations on her minded-to positions until 14 July and she will now consider the evidence received before coming to a final decision on both grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.

In the interests of transparency, the Secretary of State gave a statement to the House on 20 July. The Secretary of State must fully consider all relevant representations before reaching a final decision, she will take the time needed to look at the many received, balancing the need for careful consideration of relevant evidence with the merger parties' legitimate need for a prompt decision. The Secretary of State is acting in a quasi-judicial basis under the Enterprise Act, and one of the things she is required to do is act without undue delay, in the interests of all parties. Therefore, it is expected that a final decision on referral will be made in the coming weeks.


27 JUL 2017

Gaza EDM 208

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

I understand that you would like me to sign EDM 208 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

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

There will ultimately be no relief for the people in Gaza, until there is a political solution. The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers an independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel.
In tandem with that effort, the UK is continuing to provide aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. British aid is helping to build strong institutions and enabling the Palestinian Authority to deliver essential services such as policing, health and education. UK funding provides around 25,000 young Palestinians with access to an education, up to 3,700 immunisations for children, and 185,000 medical consultations each year.
Ministers are fully engaged with the situation on the ground in Gaza. Earlier this month the UK participated in a joint mission with the UN to Gaza. The UK will continue to closely monitor the situation in Gaza and will work with our international partners in order to bring tangible change and improvements to the lives of those living in Gaza and peace to the wider region.


27 JUL 2017

Cuban Students

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Open University's use of a restricted countries list in its application process.

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

The Open University is an autonomous institution and it is for them to make decisions about how best to meet the needs of their students and structure their workforce. As such, the Secretary of State has not held any meetings with the Open University regarding its use of a restricted countries list in its application process. However, higher education institutions are responsible for meeting their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
The UK welcomes international students and the number of international students studying at UK universities are at record highs. There were over 170,000 entrants to UK higher education institutions for the sixth year running. The latest Home Office data shows that university-sponsored visa applications have increased by around 11 per cent since 2011.
International students make an important contribution to the UK's higher education sector, both economically and culturally. There remains no limit to the number of international students who can come to the UK to study.


25 JUL 2017

Precarious Contracts

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

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

While atypical work arrangements, alongside traditional full-time employment, play a valuable role in today's labour market, the Government is live to the issues that come with new ways of working.
That is why Matthew Taylor was asked to undertake his independent review of modern employment practices, which considered job security among a range of issues. The review highlights the recent success of British business in creating jobs, enhancing earning power and improving life chances across the UK. Employment rates are at the highest since records began, unemployment and economic inactivity are at record lows and minimum wage rates have never been higher.
The Government will now study the report's contents carefully, as well as the public consideration of Matthew's recommendations that will follow, to help inform the development of the Industrial Strategy later in the year. Through the Industrial Strategy, the Government will make sure wherever people are in the country, there are more skilled, well-paid jobs to increase productivity and earning power, benefiting both workers and business.
Ultimately, we have record numbers of people in work thanks to our flexible labour market. That said, the Government recognises that people also deserve to be treated fairly by their employers whatever work they are carrying out and will take action if necessary.


25 JUL 2017

Energy Efficient Homes

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about energy waste in homes.

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

The sustainability of buildings is crucial to tackling climate change in the UK, and recognise that energy efficiency and decarbonising buildings will be key to meeting our domestic commitments.
All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements and there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations. All homes are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. In addition, a package of changes incentivise energy suppliers to deliver more heating and insulation measures in non-gas fuelled homes, including oil fired boiler replacements. Over two million energy efficiency measures have been installed in over 1.6 million homes since 2013, and a further 1 million homes will be insulated by 2020.
For non-fuel poor households, however, the priority is to help create a sustainable market for energy efficiency and low carbon products, rather than rely primarily on subsidy. That is why the Government commissioned the Each Home Counts review of quality, standards and advice in home energy efficiency and renewables, which reported in December 2016. Ministers are now working with industry on its approach to implementing the findings of that review.
In the last six years, energy performance for new homes has increased. The Government is carrying out a review to determine whether minimum standards should be further strengthened. It has always been clear, however, that carbon reduction needs to be achieved in the most practical and cost-effective way possible.


25 JUL 2017

Environmental Laws

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about environmental standards and rivers.

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 of interest:

Since privatisation, around £9 billion has been invested on the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive to reduce pollution from sewage treatment. In England, between 2015 and 2020, water companies are investing over £3 billion to improve their sewerage infrastructure. It is encouraging to see tough enforcement action when things go wrong, as with the unprecedented fine of over £20 million levied against Thames Water in March in response to six cases of avoidable sewage pollution, following an Environment Agency investigation.
The Environment Agency is also responsible for issuing licenses for water abstraction. In making these decisions the Agency is guided by regional river basin management plans, which set out how all interested parties work together to improve the water environment of the area. Collectively they set out how at least 680 waters will improve by 2022, benefitting from around £3 billion of investment.
Following the vote to leave the European Union, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.


24 JUL 2017

Prisoners in Iran

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about British prisoners in Iran and the recent debate in Westminster Hall on this matter.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the debate due to prior commitments. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The British Ambassador raises the issue of our detainees with the Iranian authorities at every opportunity and seeks to secure consular access and to ensure their welfare. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have raised all our consular cases with their counterparts and stressed the importance of resolving them as quickly as possible.
However, there are limitations on what the UK can do, particularly in the light of Iran's refusal to recognise dual citizenship (which all these detainees have). Iran considers them to be Iranian, and therefore does not recognise the British Government's right to consular access.
Britain has re-opened our embassy in Iran and new relationships are opening up, and the Government will take the opportunity to explore what this chance of a new relationship will mean for the UK.
Whilst the Government continues to work hard on behalf of these detainees, it is unfortunately the case that this is not a matter in the hands of the UK Government to resolve, it has to be resolved by the Iranian regime, but the British Government is working hard to facilitate that.
Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East, has pledged to continue to act in the best interests of the detainees, as well as constantly listening to those with other ideas and to the families, so that the Government does as much for them as it possibly can.


20 JUL 2017

Puppies

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about puppies being smuggled across borders.

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 of interest:

Responsibility for stopping illegal movement begins in the country where puppies are born, so in response to a previous report the Chief Veterinary Officer wrote to the authorities in the highlighted countries to remind them of their duties.
An EU pet travel regulation introduced in 2014 brought further measures to strengthen enforcement. The new-style passport is harder to forge, new rules apply when more than five animals are moved together and all EU countries must carry out compliance checks. A 12-week minimum age for rabies vaccination assists compliance checking and restricts the movement of very young animals. As the UK withdraws from the EU, there will be opportunities to re-evaluate the rules.
There is a robust checking regime for pets travelling here. Every pet travelling with its owner on an approved route is checked for compliance with the travel regime and the UK Border Force carries out a wide range of checks on vehicles arriving in the UK.
It is important to recognise that we cannot expect the Government to defeat this problem by itself. As individuals, we need to take care not to fuel demand for these animals by providing a market for the unscrupulous people who exploit them. Government advice is very clear: people who buy a pet are responsible for knowing where it comes from and, if it is found to have been imported illegally, will be held responsible for any necessary quarantine and veterinary fees.


20 JUL 2017

Ivory

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the plight of elephants and the ivory trade.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the event on this matter on the 18th of July due to prior commitments. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if of interest:

Just how seriously the Government takes this issue was demonstrated when it held the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking. Over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species, including elephants, from being poached to the brink of extinction. The Buckingham Palace Declaration followed with a range of commitments to help the private sector tackle this illegal trade.
The UK made available £13 million for various projects including through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and is now doubling that funding. It is also training rangers in Gabon, home of Africa's largest population of forest elephants, to combat poaching.
The UK employs strong rules to control the sale of unworked ivory, backed up by robust enforcement from Border Force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. These go further than the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and EU law; for example, the UK will not issue certificates for the sale of raw African elephant ivory of any age. The Government is currently considering further action on worked ivory and will set this out in due course.
Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.


19 JUL 2017

Health Visitors

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

I agree that post-natal care is of the upmost importance and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health is of interest:

Health visitors play a very important role supporting parents and babies across the country.
The Government wants people to be empowered to shape and manage their own health and care and make meaningful choices, particularly for maternity services.
To help achieve this, the Government has increased the number of midwives by over 1,800. Furthermore, by the end of the Health Visitor Programme in April 2015, it had delivered almost 4,000 more health visitors compared to May 2010, an increase of around 50 per cent, with 1,000 HV students in training. Health Education England is ensuring sustainable development of the HV workforce and there are presently over 800 HV student training places commissioned.
The Government is committed to tackling perinatal mental health and that is why the HV programme funded the Institute of Health Visitors to train almost 600 perinatal mental health visitor champions to enable health visitors to identify and manage perinatal depression and other maternal mental health conditions.
In addition to the £365 million the Government has invested in improving perinatal mental health in England, it has also invested £2.24 million in new safety equipment. £1 million has been invested in improved training for staff to help deliver healthy babies more safely.


18 JUL 2017

Bees and Neonicotinoids.

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

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

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.
As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.


17 JUL 2017

United Against Terror

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about recent terror attacks.

Clearly events in London and Manchester have been deeply shocking and I hope the following information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of interest:

Recent attacks have shown that we need to respond to a new trend in the threat we face, as terrorism breeds terrorism and perpetrators are inspired to attack by coping one another in the crudest of means. The Government remains determined to work with our international partners on security co-operation in order to defeat those who resort to acts of terrorism.


13 JUL 2017

Environmental Protection

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

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 of interest:

The British countryside is some of the most beautiful in the world, so Ministers are committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment. Until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. The Treasury has confirmed that any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime even if they run beyond this point.
Following the vote to leave, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.
Tackling air quality is another priority. Alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, in those cities with the most persistent air quality challenges Ministers will legislate to implement Clean Air Zones.
The UK will continue to play a leading role in combatting climate change, as we did at the Paris Conference. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.


13 JUL 2017

Housing Allowance

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

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:

Supported accommodation plays a vital role for many vulnerable people. The Government is committed to both building a secure long-term funding framework for the sector and encouraging further development in the sector.
The changes to Housing Benefit announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement involve aligning the rules for claimants in the social sector with those for claimants renting privately. This means extending the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules, which limit the amount of rent which Housing Benefit will cover, to the social sector. The Government recognises the importance of ensuring those who are providing supported accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society receive appropriate protections. That is why Government departments have been engaging closely with providers to better understand the issues faced by the supported housing sector.
As a result of these discussions, the Government has decided to delay the implementation of the LHA cap for all social housing to 2019. From 2019 the LHA rules for Housing Benefit will apply to social sector housing, including supported housing. However, for supported housing this will not include the Shared Accommodation Rate, in recognition of the particular challenges this would have placed on tenants. To reflect the higher average costs of offering supported accommodation, which may go above the level of Local Housing Allowance, the Government will devolve 'top up' funding to local authorities (and to the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland). This will give local authorities an enhanced role in commissioning supported housing, and allow them to take a more coherent approach to planning for housing needs in their area.
The Government has made provision for some supported housing providers to continue to be exempt from the one per cent yearly reduction in social sector rents, in cases where they do not have the capacity to offset the decrease through efficiencies or other adjustments. Specialist types of supported accommodation will be exempt from the rent reduction for the full four years of its duration.


12 JUL 2017

Brexit Creative Industries

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me about Brexit and the value of the creative industries.

I am afraid I was unable to attend the meeting on this matter, however I hope the following information from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is reassuring:

The creative industries are one of the UK's greatest success stories, contributing over £87 billion to the economy and over £19 billion in exports. Therefore, it is only right that they be given all the support necessary to continue to thrive after we have left the EU.

Ministers have been working closely with the Creative Industries Council, who represent the whole of the creative industries, to understand both the possible opportunities and impacts presented by the UK's decision leaving the EU.
A series of roundtable meetings have also been held with businesses and industry representatives from across the creative industries to discuss these matters.
These have included representations from the music industry regarding touring musicians and crews. Ministers remain committed to working closely with the music sector to ensure that its needs and views are understood.
Alongside this, Sir Peter Balgazatte is leading a sector review into the creative industries as part of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper which was published in January. This is a vital means of helping to underpin the future prosperity of the creative industries in a post-Brexit Britain.


12 JUL 2017

Arms Sales

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

I read your comments with interest and understand you are deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen. I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen. It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end arms sales.

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

The Government takes seriously its legal obligations as regards the licensing of arms for export to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The UK has one of the most rigorous licensing regimes in the world.
Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking into account the precise nature of the equipment and the identity and track record of the recipient. The Government has consistently said it does not, and will not, issue licences where it judges that the proposed export would provoke or prolong internal conflicts, or where there is a clear risk it might be used to facilitate internal repression or be used aggressively against another country.
Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it is investigating reports of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law. This is an important process and the UK is fully behind thorough investigations into all allegations of violations of International Law. Finding a political solution to the conflict in Yemen is the best way to bring long-term stability and peace talks are a top priority.
The Government is aware of legal opinion having been provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) regarding Saudi Arabia. Allegations made by NGOs are investigated by the Coalition's Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT). The outcomes of this investigation will be taken into account when assessing the Government's position. This, in turn, informs the risk assessment made during licensing judgements.
The Saudi-led coalition confirmed in December that a limited number of BL755 cluster munitions that were exported from the UK in the 1980s were used in Yemen, including by a coalition aircraft not far from the Saudi border. The coalition, whose members are not parties to the convention on cluster munitions, has said that they were used against a legitimate military target and did not therefore contravene international humanitarian law. However, Saudi Arabia has now confirmed that it will not use BL755 cluster munitions further.

The Government continues to monitor the situation closely, using cross-Departmental resources to seek further information. Additionally, the Government continues to welcome any further information NGOs can provide.

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 124, 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.


11 JUL 2017

Blood Cancer

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about tackling blood cancers and stem cell donation.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the Anthony Nolan event on the 18th of July due to prior commitments, however I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

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


11 JUL 2017

Leveson

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Leveson and 21st Century Fox's proposed purchase of Sky.

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is of interest:

The 2017 Conservative manifesto committed to repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts 2013 and terminate Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry. The Government is committed to doing both.
The Government recently held a public consultation on the Leveson Inquiry and its implementation. Over 140,000 responses were received and Ministers will respond to the consultation in due course. You can find further information on the below webpage:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-leveson-inquiry-and-its-implementation

Sky has received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own.

Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.

On 16 March 2017, the Secretary of State issued a European Intervention Notice on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This decision was made after hearing representations from Sky, 21st Century Fox and many other third parties.

This decision triggered action by Ofcom to assess and report on the public interest grounds specified and for the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction by 20 June.

Following this, on 29 June the Secretary of State released her minded-to - not final - decisions on whether to refer the merger to a full phase two investigation. More details of these can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/skyfox-merger

The Secretary of State will now be taking representations on her minded-to positions until 14 July and she will then consider the evidence received before coming to a final decision on both grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.


10 JUL 2017

Wrasse Fishing

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the live wrasse fishery in Devon.

I understand your concern on this matter and the Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, the body responsible for managing these waters, have stated the following on this matter:

"Devon and Severn IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) is taking the lead in the South West to manage a developing fishery to ensure its sustainability and the protection of the marine environment.

Under careful management by the Devon and Severn IFCA, a short-term fishery based in the South West is providing a source of Wrasse, natural feeders of fish lice and parasites, to replace the use of chemical cleaners used on farmed salmon and provide a base breeding stock for hatcheries. It is envisaged that by 2019 there will be no further requirement to use wild caught fish as the hatcheries will sustainably supply the required Wrasse and other cleaners, such as lumpsuckers.

To achieve this and ensure that the fishery is sustainable and a healthy marine environment is maintained, Devon and Severn IFCA has introduced management, creating one of the most restrictive fisheries both nationally and the South West. Multiple management measures should ensure there will be no significant impact on the marine environment or wrasse populations. All three IFCAs in the SW are working closely together to harmonise management of the Live Wrasse Fishery."


06 JUL 2017

Walking Britain

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the future of UK agricultural policy.

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 of interest:

Being outside in nature benefits people physically and mentally, so it is important to protect access to the countryside.
Our network of public rights of way plays an important role in this effort, so the process of recording them is being simplified to ensure no historic rights of way are lost. Work is also ongoing with Natural England to establish the England Coast Path. We must also ensure that our countryside remains inviting to visit.
The vote to leave the EU, and as such the Common Agricultural Policy, gives us an unprecedented opportunity to design policies tailored to our needs. The Secretary of State will shortly launch a consultation exercise that will give all interested parties the chance to share their views and ambitions for the future. This will provide an ideal opportunity for the Ramblers' call for a Walking Britain to be heard.


06 JUL 2017

Dementia

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Alzheimer's Society parliamentary drop in on the 10th of July at 10.30 am, it is much appreciated.

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

Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020.
In March 2016, the Government published an Implementation Plan to support the 2020 Challenge which has been co-produced with key partners across the health and care sectors. Alongside this, a joint declaration has been published setting out an ambition to improve the quality of post-diagnostic care.
Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before.
Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training.
It is important to increase public awareness of dementia and I am encouraged that 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.


05 JUL 2017

Cancer Research UK

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Cancer Research UK's drop in session on the 12th of July at 3pm.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that afternoon so I will be unable to attend but I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:

This Government is committed to improving cancer outcomes throughout the UK, and Ministers recognise that investing in research is vital in order to increase survival rates.
Cancer survival rates are at a record high and we are on track to save an estimated 12,000 more lives a year for people diagnosed between 2011 and 2015. As of March 2017, figures show that at least 7,000 more people per year are surviving cancer than three years previously.
In light of this, it is encouraging that the National Institute for Health Research spending on cancer research has risen from £101 million in 2010/11 to £135 million in 2014/15. The Government along with Cancer Research UK, are jointly funding a network of 18 experimental cancer medicine centres aimed at driving the development and testing of new anti-cancer treatments.
The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity, along with a national training programme for an additional 200 staff to carry out endoscopy tests by 2018.


04 JUL 2017

Israel and Palestine

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the debate being held on Israel and Palestine.

I understand your concerns about the ongoing issues in the area and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers an independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met.
Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal and an obstacle to peace. The Israeli Government is well aware of the UK position on settlements, which has not changed. British Ministers have repeatedly called on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law. They have a regular dialogue with Israel on legal issues relating to the occupation, including settlements.
It is not believed that we should ban the importation of products that originate from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The advice issued by the Government to UK retailers and importers recommends that agricultural produce originating from Israeli settlements in the West Bank should bear an indication which makes this clear. Furthermore, the Occupied Territories are not covered by the current EU-Israel Association Agreement, which governs our trade with Israel. It is up to individual businesses whether they undertake business dealings with companies operating in the settlements.
The UK Government continues to press for an end to restrictions and for urgent measures to relieve the humanitarian suffering of those in Gaza. The Department for International Development is helping to build Palestinian institutions and promote economic growth, so that any future state will be prosperous and an effective partner for peace.


04 JUL 2017

Abortion Law Northern Ireland

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland.

There have been a number of cases recently that have highlighted how the abortion law in Northern Ireland is different to the rest of the UK.

Abortion in Northern Ireland itself is a devolved issue, I understand, however, that in the particular case that you mention, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn.


03 JUL 2017

Ancient Woodlands

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the meeting of the APPG on Ancient Woodland.

I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend, however I understand the wish for veteran trees to be protected. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Ancient woodland is a precious habitat, and would note that the National Planning Policy Framework already contains protections for it. It states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.
Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century.


30 JUN 2017

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.

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

Ministers and officials continue to make representations on all consular cases involving British nationals in Iran, including Mr Foroughi's and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's, at all levels with the Iranian Government.
On 17 February the Foreign Secretary discussed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case with the Iranian Foreign Minister, and her family have confirmed she has legal representation. However, the fact that Iran does not recognise dual nationality makes progress difficult. Most recently, the new Minister for the Middle East raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case in a telephone call with the Iranian Foreign Minister on 21 June.
Concerns are shared for Mr Foroughi. It is vitally important that we continue to uphold the human rights of all the citizens in Iran with our international partners.


28 JUN 2017

War on Want

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Queen's Speech.

I understand your concerns on this and hope the following information on this topic from the government is of interest:

This Queen's Speech is about recognising and grasping the opportunities that lie ahead for Britain as we leave the European Union. We need to get Brexit right, delivering the result of last year's referendum in a way that commands maximum public support. To this end, the Government will work to build a stronger economy so we can improve people's living standards and fund public services.
Ministers have said Parliament will have the fullest possible opportunity to scrutinise Brexit legislation - It is absolutely right that MPs debate our future approach to Brexit. On human rights, the UK signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee human rights long before it joined the EU. Strong workers' rights similarly existed in this country long before the UK became a member of the EU, and the Prime Minister has promised to protect workers' rights in full.
As the Secretary of State for International Trade has made clear, it has never been the UK's approach to enter into agreements that sacrifice the Government's right to regulate public services. Ministers take the UK's environmental obligations very seriously, and the UK will continue to be bound by around 30 international agreements and treaties when it leaves the EU.
Finally, Britain will continue to play an active, leading role in the world, spending 0.7 of cross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies. Britain's aid spending has achieved many successes, of which we can all be proud.


28 JUN 2017

Repeal Bill

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

I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Exiting the European Union of interest:

The Prime Minister has been clear that she wishes to minimise disruption to businesses and individuals as the UK leaves the EU. That is why a Repeal Bill is being introduced. This bill will transfer EU law, including the case law of the European Court of Justice, into UK law at the point of the UK's departure from the EU. This will make sure that the UK has a functioning statute book when it leaves the EU.
Workers' rights, consumer protection and environmental laws will not change and businesses will benefit from this certainty. Parliament will, of course, be free to keep, amend and repeal laws as it sees fit after this date. There may also be some laws which no longer operate as intended and the bill will provide the power for corrections to be made so that the UK legal system can continue to operate.
At the same time, the Government wants to ensure that power is returned as close as possible to communities as laws are returned to the UK.
The UK will not convert the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into EU law. The UK will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights because this is entirely separate from the EU.


27 JUN 2017

UK Aid Budget

Thank you for taking the time to email me about our aid budget.

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

I am afraid I am unable to attend the Global Citizen reception on the 28th of June at 6.30pm as I have prior commitment. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is of interest:

Spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies - alongside our commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence - delivers in our national interest. Britain should continue to play an active, leading role in the world, because our leadership in the world is the surest way to defend and advance the interests of the British people, and to extend around the world those values that we believe to be right.
Britain's aid spending has achieved many successes, of which we can all be proud. By building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world, we can also protect our own people from disease, conflict and instability. The Government is committed to ensuring UK Aid is invested firmly in our national interest, while keeping the promises it has made to the world's poorest people.


26 JUN 2017

Refugee Family Reunion

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The Government's refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK.
There are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Three discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is the most appropriate answer. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR: Gateway; Mandate; and the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
The Government continues to work with key EU Member States to ensure the family reunification process works effectively. The UK and France have committed to ensuring that the provisions of the Dublin III Regulation are used efficiently and effectively. To assist the handling of such cases, the two Governments have established a permanent official contact group, agreed single points of contact within respective Dublin Units and the UK has seconded an asylum expert to the French administration to facilitate the improvement of all stages of the process. The UK and France are running regular joint communication campaigns in northern France which inform unaccompanied children and others of their right to claim asylum in France and of the family reunion process.
The Government is also providing support to the Dublin Units in Greece and Italy bilaterally and through the European Asylum Support Office.


26 JUN 2017

Eating Disorders

Thank you for taking the time to email me about eating disorders.

I agree that early intervention in this area is key and hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Health is of interest:

Eating disorders primarily affect the young, and often prove to be family, as well as personal, tragedies if left untreated. However, with the right treatment, delivered on-time, these tragedies can be avoided, and full recoveries achieved.
NHS England has sent an ambitious new access standard by 2020: 95 per cent of patients are to be treated within four weeks of their first contact with a healthcare professional. Urgent cases will be treated within one week, and the worst emergency cases in children should find support within 24 hours. In May 2017, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its updated guideline on eating disorders, covering a range of age groups, including adults.
The Government is investing an additional £30 million per year, until 2020, to improve community care for eating disorders, which has funded 67 new or extended Community Eating Disorder Teams across England. The clinical guidelines put forward by NICE have recommended that patients will be treated at an age appropriate facility, which will ensure patients are cared for in the most comfortable environment possible.
Additionally, more money is being invested in wider mental health care than ever before, with over £1 billion extra funding into crisis care and perinatal services, as well as £1.4 billion devoted to transforming mental health and eating disorder services for children and young people over the next five years.


23 JUN 2017

Grenfell Tower

What has happened at Grenfell Tower is a devastating tragedy for all those involved and a national shame. So many circumstances combined to lead to a terrible and avoidable loss of life. We must rapidly assess then follow the evidence to take immediate action to protect residents in blocks with similar risks.

The PM has already announced that there will be a full public inquiry as there are so many issues that will need to be examined in addition to the cladding which appeared to allow the fire to spread with such deadly speed. Many of these will have relevance in other settings too; the role of fire alarms and sprinklers, the advice given to residents to stay in their flats, inadequate fire exits and the fire hazards posed by electrical appliances.

The issue of corporate responsibility will be investigated and a criminal investigation has already been launched. The role of local and national government both before and after the blaze will also be examined. These issues require full investigation and public inquiries properly set up need not delay urgent action as they can produce interim recommendations which must be followed.

I realise you would have liked to have seen plans for improved fire safety laws included in the Queen's Speech and I do appreciate the calls for this. However, I think that we first need to understand all aspects of what went wrong in this instance before we can take action to ensure something like this never happens again. Nonetheless, you may be interested in the following from the Queen's Speech concerning the tragedy:

My government will initiate a full public inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.

To support victims, my government will take forward measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.

The PM also provided this further update yesterday(22.06.17)


22 JUN 2017

Refugee Family

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about reuniting refugees with family members.

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

The Government's refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of a person in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection status - that is a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin - to reunite with them in the UK.
There are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Three discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is the most appropriate answer. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR: Gateway; Mandate; and the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.
The Government continues to work with key EU Member States to ensure the family reunification process works effectively. The UK and France have committed to ensuring that the provisions of the Dublin III Regulation are used efficiently and effectively. To assist the handling of such cases, the two Governments have established a permanent official contact group, agreed single points of contact within respective Dublin Units and the UK has seconded an asylum expert to the French administration to facilitate the improvement of all stages of the process. The UK and France are running regular joint communication campaigns in northern France which inform unaccompanied children and others of their right to claim asylum in France and of the family reunion process.
The Government is also providing support to the Dublin Units in Greece and Italy bilaterally and through the European Asylum Support Office.


22 JUN 2017

Environment

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

As the MP for a rural area I appreciate your concern for the future our countryside and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of interest:

The British countryside is some of the most beautiful in the world, so Ministers are committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment. Until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. The Treasury has confirmed that any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime even if they run beyond this point.
Following the vote to leave, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.
Tackling air quality is another priority. Alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, in those cities with the most persistent air quality challenges Ministers will legislate to implement Clean Air Zones.
The UK will continue to play a leading role in combatting climate change, as we did at the Paris Conference. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.


22 JUN 2017

Rough Sleeping

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

Homelessness has been one of the factors leading to avoidable tragedies and the government at both national and local level have to play their part in reducing this risk. Earlier this year I met with members of the Torbay's End Street Homelessness Campaign and homelessness is an area in which I would be happy to join you in calling for further action.

I hope the following information on this matter from the Department for Communities and Local Government of interest:

In the 2010-2015 Parliament, significant progress was made in tackling homelessness across the country. £500 million was provided to councils and charities to deal with homelessness and help the most vulnerable in society get their life back on track. This helped to prevent over one million people from becoming homeless.
In December last year, the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary announced the areas set to benefit from new homelessness prevention funding. This consists of £20 million for Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers to pilot new initiatives; £20 million in rough sleeping grants, to provide targeted support for those at imminent risk of sleeping rough or those new to the streets; and £10 million in locally commissioned Social Impact Bonds, to help long-term rough sleepers with the most complex needs.
It is important to recognise that sleeping rough is rarely the result of a housing crisis alone, and many rough sleepers and homeless people have complex needs, such as mental health difficulties. That is why I am encouraged that the Department of Health is providing £40 million for the Homeless Change and Platform for Life programmes. This will help address mental health issues by providing decent accommodation and health support for homeless people, and highlights the importance of services coming together to help those on the street with complex needs.
The Government has also encouraged local areas to develop and improve hospital discharge arrangements for people who are homeless through the £10 million Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund, including by more effective multi-agency working. In addition, £1 billion a year has been put in place to help alleviate mental health problems more generally.

I will do everything I can to hold the government to the manifesto pledge of halving rough sleeping by 2020.


22 JUN 2017

Open Doors

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about religious freedom and the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

I agree that we need to protect religious freedom across the world and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The British Government supports the right of people of all religions, and non-religious people, to practise their beliefs in peace and safety. The British Government works bilaterally to lobby host governments to raise individual cases and highlight laws that discriminate against people on the basis of religion or belief. Multilaterally, the Government works to sustain consensus support for United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions which promote freedom of religion. The UK also supports a number of projects at grass roots level. In 2017/18, the FCO will spend approximately £760,000 on freedom of religion and belief projects.
In Syria and Iraq, where religions have suffered such appalling persecution and violence at the hands of Daesh, the UK's main contribution to ending the persecution of religious minorities is by taking part in the campaign to defeat Daesh and return the region to stability and peace.
Last year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) hosted a conference on freedom of religion or belief here in London bringing together inspiring speakers from across the world to share very practical examples of how they are working to build a more open society. The FCO has also made available to staff a new Freedom of Religion or Belief toolkit to assist officials on how to promote freedom of religion or belief in their local context.


21 JUN 2017

Global Britain

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the reception in Westminster on the 28th of June at 7pm concerning What the World Needs from a Global Britain.

Unfortunately, I have prior commitments that evening and will be unable to attend. However, I hope the following information on this topic is of interest:

The Government's vision for Britain outside the EU is clear: a fully-independent, sovereign country with the freedom to make our own decisions. We are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. The Government will build a global Britain that will trade around the world, build new alliances with other countries and deliver prosperity for its people.
As an outward-looking, globally engaged nation, I believe that the UK should work to tackle international problems at their source - not wait for them to arrive on our doorstep. The UK will continue to play a leading role in international development: the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development assistance, and to achieving the UN's Global Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030. We can help developing countries leave aid dependency behind and become our trading partners of the future.
Withdrawing from the EU will give us the opportunity to shape our own international trade and investment opportunities, drive even greater openness with international partners and put Britain firmly at the forefront of global trade and investment. The Department for International Trade is working closely with counterparts across a wide range of markets in order to promote the UK as a great place to do business and with which to trade. The Government is taking advantage of all the opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes the global leader in free trade once we leave the EU.]
We live in a stable and liberal democracy, we are one of the world's largest economies, we have a significant role in maintaining international peace and security and we are open to the world for business.


21 JUN 2017

A Woman's Choice

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

I assure you as your MP that I will never agree to any erosion to the rights for women to access safe termination of pregnancy.

With regard to abortion in Northern Ireland, this is a devolved issue and one over which the Government in Westminster therefore has no jurisdiction. It is for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives in Stormont to bring about change.


20 JUN 2017

Save the Children

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

I am pleased to support our commitment to spending 0.7% of our GNI on aid and agree about the importance of early year's education. I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Education is of interest:

Poverty reduction is core to the Department for International Development's strategy and the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies. Over the last five years, UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. For example, between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) supported over 11 million children in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries.
Nurseries and other providers of early education in the UK are required by law to employ staff who are qualified to support the learning and development of young children. The Department for Education is also supporting the growth of the specialist early years graduate workforce by providing funded places and bursaries for eligible students, and financial support to employers to help them release staff to undertake early years initial teacher training.
There are a record number of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders rated as 'Good' or 'Outstanding' and I am encouraged that the proportion of children reaching the expected learning and development standards continues to rise.


20 JUN 2017

Unicef

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Unicef event in Parliament at 7.00pm on the 28th of June.

I am afraid I have prior commitments and will be unable to attend, however I hope the following information from the Home Office concerning the relocation of child refugees from Europe is of interest:

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. In the year ending September 2016, the UK had granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children.
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 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 into the next financial year 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


16 JUN 2017

Children's Society

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about supporting young people and families in debt.

I agree that this is an important issue and hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:

The Government has committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions that are currently offered. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.
The Government has also taken a number of steps to reform consumer credit, including taking action on high-cost short-term credit, and a comprehensive Financial Conduct Authority study into the credit card market.
It is also important to improve the help and advice available to those who may face debt problems. In 2016-17 the Money Advice Service put £45 million towards debt advice in the UK, which funded over 380,000 appointments.
Measures have also been taken to encourage household saving, including the Help to Save scheme for those on low incomes, and the new personal savings allowance.


18 APR 2017

Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) and climate change.

The PCPF is a funded defined benefit pension scheme, managed by Trustees in line with scheme rules and any relevant legislation. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is responsible for oversight of the scheme. Therefore, changes related to divestment would not be a decision for the Government.

Following concerns being raised in this area previously, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Brian Donohoe, stated that he had received legal advice indicating that to exclude a sector would be incompatible with the Trustees' legal and fiduciary duties of investment.


06 APR 2017

Ivory

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the ivory 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 of interest:

Just how seriously the Government takes this issue was demonstrated when it held the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking. Over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species, including elephants, from being poached to the brink of extinction. The Buckingham Palace Declaration followed with a range of commitments to help the private sector tackle this illegal trade.
The UK made available £13 million for various projects through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and is now doubling that funding. It is also training rangers in Gabon, home of Africa's largest population of forest elephants, to combat poaching.
UK law does not permit trade in raw ivory tusks of any age, and Ministers are pressing for this approach to be taken internationally. The Government has also announced plans to ban sales of modern-day ivory, which will put the UK's rules on ivory sales among the toughest in the world. This is an important step as we press for a complete ban and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has adopted a proposal calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets.
Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.


05 APR 2017

Issa Amro

Thank you for taking the time to email me about Issa Amro.

I understand your concern with regard to Mr Amro's treatment and I hope the following information on this matter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

The charges brought against Mr Amro cumulatively could lead to imprisonment for up to three years. Mr Amro has a long history working in the human rights arena. In 2010 he was named Human Rights Defender of the Year for Palestine by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in 2013 he was recognised as a human rights defender by the EU.
While, of course, it is not for the UK Government to intervene in the justice system of another sovereign state, the UK Government is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as compliance with international humanitarian law.
The UK Government regularly discusses those obligations with the Israeli authorities, and the UK Government is following this case closely, including sending representatives from the UK embassy to the trial.


31 MAR 2017

Ancient Woodland

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

I understand the wish for veteran trees to be protected and hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is of interest:

Ancient woodland is a precious habitat, and would note that the National Planning Policy Framework already contains protections for it. It states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.
The recent Housing White Paper went further, announcing a proposal to clarify planning policy on ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees, upgrading their protection to the same level as the green belt. Ministers will consider everyone's views and develop this further.
Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and there is a pledge to plant a further 11 million in this one. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century.


31 MAR 2017

ONE Campaign

Thank you for taking the time to email me about the ONE Campaign.

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

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development is of interest:
The UK's aid commitment means we can be proud to be a country that not only meets its responsibilities to the world's poorest, but in doing so best serves and protects its own security and interests. Our commitments on overseas aid were part of the 2015 manifesto. By continuing to meet the 0.7 per cent target on overseas aid, we are keeping our promise to the electorate.
Recent crises show why aid is so important for us in the UK as well as for developing countries. Whether it is helping to prevent deadly diseases like Ebola from threatening the UK, or enabling Syrian refugees and other migrants to build a life in their home region, our aid tackles the root causes of global problems that affect all of us.
Overseas development assistance saves lives and transforms lives. Over the last five years, UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) has supported over 11 million children in school and helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. DFID is also leading the global effort to save millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.


30 MAR 2017

Enough is Enough

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria.

I understand the concerns about the impact the conflict has had on children and hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

This is a terrible conflict, which has seen hundreds of thousands of lives lost, millions more driven into chaos and a country systematically laid waste. A recent report from UNICEF documents the horrendous suffering of children in Syria, showing many children killed or injured near schools, including schools the UK is supporting to give Syria's future generation some hope.

Over the last six years, the UK has led the international response to the crisis in Syria. In a war that has seen the civilians used as a weapon of war, we have ensured food, shelter and medicine is there for those caught up in the violence. The UK has pledged more than £2.3 billion to support those affected by the conflict, our largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.
The London Conference on Syria last year saw the largest amount ever raised for a humanitarian crisis in a single day. Next month, the UK will co-host the follow-up conference in Brussels, where we will push the international community to once again dig deep to deliver the long-term funding needed to relieve Syria's downward spiral.
The UK continues to urge the Syrian regime to grant unhindered access to independent human rights monitors, including the UN Commission of Inquiry. The International Criminal Court should have a mandate in Syria and the UK Government continues to make the case for this. The UK Government has pursued this at the UN, but unfortunately, this was vetoed by the Russians and the Chinese.
The only way to establish lasting peace in Syria is through a credible and inclusive political transition away from the Assad regime that is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths in the country. The international community must redouble its efforts to support Syrians to negotiate a stable future through the UN-led talks in Geneva and bring about peace for all Syrians.


30 MAR 2017

British Aid

Thank you for taking the time to email me about investment in renewable energy in developing nations.

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

Better access to energy is important for poor people to improve their lives. It is often the world's poorest who suffer most from the negative effects of burning fossil fuels. It is the UK's aim to help low-income countries generate renewable energy. It is also important that Britain continues to move towards a low-carbon energy future.
The Climate Investment Fund (CIF) is designed to help the world's poorest people cope with extreme weather which can cause life-threatening crises such as floods, droughts and famine. This is in all our interests, as it reduces the number of people displaced by natural disasters and associated civil unrest, and boosts the economic growth of potential trading partners.
Ministers have been assured that all programmes are on course to meet published performance targets for 2023, and that UK funding alone has already helped over a million people to cope with the effects of climate change.
One CIF programme works in poor and vulnerable countries to support the delivery of innovative renewable energy projects. The majority of these projects are still in the construction phase, as large infrastructure projects such as these take time to design, implement, and then become fully operational. Once more of the projects are completed and fully up and running, it is expected that the resulting benefits will be more apparent.
It is right that Ministers keep all spending under constant review to make sure Britain's investments are delivering results and value for money.


30 MAR 2017

Yemen's Children

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

I understand your concern for the children affected by this conflict and I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is of interest:

There is a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, sadly exacerbated by conflict. Yemen has historically been a fragile state, characterised by high population growth, food and water scarcity, female illiteracy and widespread poverty and economic stagnation. Clearly the conflict has contributed to further instability in Yemen, with extensive damage to infrastructure. According to the UN, 18.8 million Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in Yemen in support of the legitimate Government of President Hadi. The UK is not part of this Saudi-led coalition but we do support its aims, which are backed by a UN resolution and a legitimate request for help from the Government of Yemen.
The first point to make is that Saudi Arabia has a right to defend itself and to answer the call of the legitimate Government of Yemen in coming to their aid. The second point is that we have a very tough arms export control regime. Each successive licence is weighed up against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. The key test is whether there is a clear risk that the items concerned might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The situation is kept under careful and continuous review, and international humanitarian law is at the forefront of Ministers' minds when they weigh up each successive licence.
The UK Government continues to urge all parties to the conflict to take all reasonable steps to allow the delivery and distribution of aid, and to facilitate rapid and safe humanitarian access, as well as calling upon all sides to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
It remains the case, however, that a political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office assure me that the UK is playing a leading role in diplomatic efforts, supporting the UN Special Envoy's tireless efforts to achieve this.


30 MAR 2017

Yemen Arms

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

I read your comments with interest and understand you are deeply concerned about the situation in Yemen. I particularly have concerns about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia by the UK and the use of those arms against their own citizens as well as their conflict with Yemen. It is often said that government can go further in applying pressure for genuine reform by cooperating with the Saudi regime but the extent of human rights abuses in the Kingdom calls for a far stronger approach and an end arms sales.

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

The UK supports the Saudi-led campaign to restore the legitimate Government in Yemen. This is a campaign that has the backing of the legitimate President of Yemen, as well as the United Nations. Ultimately, a political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and end the conflict. We need to build resilience and protect key institutions to help lay the foundations for post-conflict recovery.
The Government is working in Yemen to address the urgent humanitarian needs and support an effective international humanitarian response. Ministers have more than doubled our humanitarian funding to Yemen over the last year, making the UK the fourth largest donor to the humanitarian crisis. We are providing vital medical supplies, water, food and nutrition, and emergency shelter to those most in need and have so far supported more than 1.3 million Yemenis
The UK has been consistently clear with all sides to the conflict in Yemen about the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The UK operates one of the most rigorous and transparent export control regimes in the world, and all export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Risks around human rights violations are a key part of this assessment. The UK Government does not export equipment where it assesses there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, that it might provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or where it may be used aggressively against another country.
The Government has the power to suspend or revoke any export licence should it consider that this is a necessary and appropriate step.


29 MAR 2017

Loneliness

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

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

We all have a responsibility at an individual, family, and community level to identify people with care needs such as loneliness, and provide support to improve their health and wellbeing. There is no single solution that can tackle loneliness and I think that it is useful to have a range of solutions.
Local commissioners are responsible for ensuring that health services match the needs of the population. Since 2012, local authorities have been expected to identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effects.
The Department of Health has also supported the development of a 'digital toolkit' for local commissioners, developed by the Campaign to End Loneliness, to support them in understanding and commissioning services to tackle loneliness and social isolation in their communities.
The Government also funded the Social Care Institute for Excellence to develop and run the Prevention Library, which includes examples of how to prevent, reduce or delay people's care and support needs from deteriorating. Local authorities can learn from emerging practice, and exchange ideas and experience of the impact that information, advice and befriending services can have on tackling loneliness.
The Government recognises the current pressures facing social care in local areas. That is why the Government is giving local authorities greater funding and flexibility so that they will have access to up to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament.


29 MAR 2017

Pavement Parking

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me with your concerns about pavement parking.

I do appreciate the impediment that pavement parking cases those with visual impairments and have met previously with Devon County Council Highways officers to discuss road safety including the issue of pavement parking.

I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport of interest:

Vehicles parked on pavements can cause particular problems for people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, as well as those with pushchairs.
Improving access for disabled people is a key priority for the Government. During 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) worked with a range of stakeholders to examine the legal and financial implications of an alternative pavement parking regime, and the likely impacts on local authorities. This included a roundtable between Ministers and key stakeholders, to help inform the DfT's evidence base on this issue. A key issue identified was the process for putting in place Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) for the enforcement of pavement parking. The DfT is therefore now considering how best to address the general improvement of the TRO-making process and will provide further information once this is available.
More broadly, the Conservatives in Government have already taken steps to make it easier for councils to tackle pavement parking. While there is an historic ban on pavement parking throughout London, elsewhere any local authority that has taken up civil enforcement powers may introduce a ban on pavement parking where it sees fit. In 2011, Conservative Ministers gave all councils authorisation to use a sign banning parking on the pavement, removing the need to ask Whitehall first for permission.
Ministers have written to councils on several occasions, encouraging them to use their available powers to prevent parking on the pavement where it is a problem. The Department has also published guidance for traffic authorities, highlighting the difficulties that pavement parking causes for pedestrians and detailing ways that it can be prevented.


29 MAR 2017

Animal Welfare Debate

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the debate on animal welfare being held on the 30th of March.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I understand that some are calling for a ban on third party pet sales and I hope the following information on this matter from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if of interest:

A ban on third-party pet sales will not be pursued because such a measure would be extremely difficult to enforce. It would require local authorities, already under pressure to enforce licensing requirements, to expend further resources verifying that all sales to end customers were being handled directly by the breeder. There is also concern that such a ban would drive sales onto the black market, leading to worse outcomes for the animals involved.
It is instead proposed that anyone operating a business selling pets will need a licence, irrespective of the number of animals they sell.


29 MAR 2017

Animal Cruelty

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about sentencing for offences of animal cruelty.

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

We have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
The courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. Currently, in addition to the maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, the courts can also disqualify offenders from keeping animals for as long as they consider appropriate.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in regular contact with the Ministry of Justice in relation to sentencing policy for animal welfare offences, but current sentencing practice does not suggest that the courts are finding current sentencing powers inadequate.


28 MAR 2017

Bottle Deposit

Thank you very much for taking the time to write to email about your wish for a Bottle Deposit System to be created.

I understand your concern about littering and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

The Department for the Environment assessed of the costs and benefits of introducing such a scheme in its 2008 Review of Packaging Deposits System for the UK. It found that although it might increase recycling rates for some materials and reduce litter, the running costs would be much higher than alternative measures. It was therefore decided not to take forward this option for the time being and instead to concentrate on other ways to increase recycling and address litter.

To support this important objective the Government is developing a National Litter Strategy, advised by a Litter Strategy Advisory Group which includes representatives from local government, campaign groups and independent experts, as well as the packaging and fast-food industries.

This will complement existing work, including actions to address litter in the marine environment. It will promote action to reduce litter and littering on land, which should lead to a reduction in the amount of litter reaching the sea. The UK's Marine Strategy also sets out actions to tackle marine litter, and the Government is working closely with other countries sharing our seas.

The recently introduced 5p charge on single use carrier bags has brought about an 80 per cent reduction in the use of plastic bags, which will also help to address the issue of litter in the marine environment.


27 MAR 2017

Turning the Corner

Thank you for taking the time to email me about cycling safety.

As an avid cyclist, I understand your concern on this matter and hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Transport is of interest:

The number of cyclists killed on our roads fell to its lowest level on record in 2015. Ministers remain fully committed to creating a safe environment for all road users, and in particular vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Sections 204 - 225 of the Highway Code aims to educate and remind drivers of the needs of more vulnerable road users, including both cyclists and pedestrians.
A revised Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) came into force in April 2016, which contains a number of measures designed to improve the safety of cyclists on the road, including low level cycle signals, a new type of crossing and changes to advanced stop lines. TSRGD also includes changes that make it easier for local authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas.
The Department for Transport is also working on wider cyclist safety in other ways, including changes to vehicle design, publicity, campaigns, as well as mandatory training for HGV drivers and optional training for cyclists.
The Department for Transport is looking at the issues raised in the Turning the Corner campaign, and that they are currently determining the best way forward.


27 MAR 2017

Breathing Spaces

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about families in debt.

I am afraid I will be unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on this matter on the 29th of March due to prior commitments. However, I hope the following information on this topic from the Treasury is of interest:

The Families with Children and Young People in Debt (Respite) Bill, introduced by Kelly Tolhurst MP, would place a duty on lenders to provide financial respite for families with children and young people in debt.
The Government is committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review.
Further to this, action has been taken to reduce levels of personal debt. Household debt as a proportion of income has fallen to 142 per cent in 2016, down from a peak of 160 per cent in 2008. The Government's plan for a higher wage, lower welfare society makes it easier for families and working people to save, and includes the new National Living Wage which will mean a pay boost for 1.7 million workers this year.


22 MAR 2017

World Water Day

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

I agree that more needs to be done to ensure everyone has access to basic sanitation and I hope you will find the following information on this topic from the Department for International Development reassuring:

Access to clean drinking water and effective sanitation is a basic human need and is vital to give people in developing countries the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilled, and productive lives. It means they can work, driving economic growth and ultimately helping developing countries become self-sufficient.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) helped 64.5 million people access clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions. DFID helps build wells, standpipes, pumps, toilets and sewage systems, and encourages the private sector in developing countries to do more. Ministers are intent on matching this success by helping at least another 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation by 2020, to stop terrible diseases and boost economic opportunity. This was a 2015 Conservative manifesto commitment.
The adoption of the Global Goals in 2015 is welcomed. The UK successfully pushed for Goal 6 on water and sanitation for everyone. The global community must work to achieve this and other goals by 2030, so that in the next 15 years we see access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all.
A more healthy, productive and prosperous world is clearly in our national interest, and access to water and sanitation is a key part of this.


22 MAR 2017

Tax Havens

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about tax havens.

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

The Government is committed to a proportionate, tailored response to improve global tax transparency, including in tax havens. Since 2010, HM Revenue and Customs has secured £140 billion in additional tax revenue by taking robust action to tackle avoidance, evasion, and non-compliance. These actions have helped the UK achieve one of the lowest tax gaps in the world.
Due to steps taken since 2010, crown dependencies and overseas territories are already sharing account information automatically with the UK. They will also start to provide UK law enforcement with access to information on the beneficial ownership of companies. This progress puts the UK and the crown dependencies and overseas territories well ahead of others in their transparency, including major international partners such as the United States.
The Government's next objective is to establish a comprehensive and effective model of public country-by-country reporting, to improve transparency over businesses' tax affairs and build public trust in the tax system. The best way to achieve this is through multilateral agreement, which is why the UK is continuing to work with our international partners to deliver this. The UK continues to support and push for the European Commission's proposal on this matter.


22 MAR 2017

Hedgehog Traps

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Goodnature model A24 animal trap.

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 of interest:

No spring trap, including the Goodnature model A24, is approved for use against hedgehogs. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to use any trap or snare to kill or take a hedgehog, or set a trap or snare in a way that is likely to injure one.
Any new spring traps offered for sale must first be approved for use through a Spring Trap Approval Order. Before it can be approved, the Animal and Plant Health Agency must assess its humaneness and recommend any conditions of use (for example, placement criteria or permitted target species).
The order that applies to the Goodnature A24 states that it may only be used to kill rats and stoats. The trap must also be placed so that it can only be entered through an artificial tunnel suitable for that purpose.
All approved spring traps must, so far as is practicable, be used in a manner that minimises the likelihood of killing, taking or injuring non-target species. It is for the trapper to make sure they comply with these conditions of use, and do not commit any offence. Where the safety of protected species cannot be reasonably assured, non-lethal methods of capture, such as cage trapping, should be used so that non-target species can be released unharmed if they are captured accidentally.


22 MAR 2017

Israel Human Rights

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the recent Israeli law concerning people who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements.

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

On 6 March 2017, the Israeli Parliament passed a law giving authority to deny entry to Israel to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice on Israel accordingly.
It is the case, of course, that Israel, like every other country, is ultimately responsible for determining its own rules on immigration and on visits.
The Government is seeking urgent clarification from the Israeli authorities as to what the application of this new policy might be and I will be following closely how this law will be applied, and what diplomatic pressure can be exerted to ensure that this does not unduly affect British citizens.


14 MAR 2017

Bus Services Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Bus Services Bill.

I understand you are concerned about the implications for local authorities and their ability to set up bus companies and I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:

It is understood that establishing a company for the purposes of operating local bus services may be something that some local authorities would like to do. However, this is not something that has happened for many years, and no local authority has indicated to Ministers that they wish to pursue such a course of action.
Private sector bus operators have been delivering local bus services for the last 30 years and we do not want to lose their experience and know-how. We want to ensure that we get the right balance of local authority knowledge and private sector experience. Local authorities, with their knowledge of the local area, local needs, and controls over other aspects such as local roads and parking policies, are well placed to help shape and influence the services that are provided, with private sector bus operators using their operational experience on the road.
Local authorities have other, more pressing priorities to attend to, and that they should therefore focus on partnership with private operators. The Bill will provide local authorities with a number of opportunities to influence the provision of local bus services in their area, whether through enhanced partnerships or franchising.
There is no doubt that, in a small number of places, municipal bus companies continue to play an important role in the local transport system. However, the creation of further municipal bus companies would stifle the private sector investment that has made such a significant difference. For these reasons the commissioning and provision of services are best kept separate, and that local authorities should not be able to set up new companies to run bus services.


13 MAR 2017

Nuclear Conference

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about nuclear weapons and the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

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

To be clear, 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, as well committing to reduce our overall stockpile to no more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s. The UK possesses around 1 per cent of the total global stockpile of approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.
In addition, the UK plays a leading role on disarmament verification with the US and Norway and continues to press for key steps towards multilateral disarmament, including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and successful negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.
However, given the unpredictable international security environment, and the risk that nuclear weapons may proliferate further in the future, it is right that the Government remains committed to maintaining a minimum credible deterrent. For this reason, the UK does not support the UN conference at the end of March which seeks to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
It is the Government's view that productive results can only be ensured through a consensus-based approach that takes into account the wider global security environment. However, as a responsible Nuclear Weapons State, the UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.


12 MAR 2017

School Funding

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

I understand your concern on this matter and I was pleased to be one of the signatories of the letter that went to the Prime Minister last year supporting the Fair School Funding Campaign. For too long, the school funding model has been a complex affair which has left areas such as ours disadvantaged and MPs have been calling loudly for a better deal for the South West.

I was glad to be able to speak in the Backbench Business Debate on local government funding for rural areas because we must dispel the myth that deprivation is an urban problem. That said, the way that the new formula weights deprivation in a number of ways means that many schools in Devon stand to lose out. Some schools such as small rural schools however do benefit from the formula. Larger schools, especially those with falling numbers of pupils, or with relatively few pupils who speak English as a second language or on free school meals for example, may find that the formula leaves them worse off.

I share the concern expressed by schools which are disadvantaged by the changes and have raised these with the Secretary of State.

I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest in setting out their position. It also sets out how you can directly contribute your views to the consultation.

With regard to the recent campaign by the NUT and ATL on school funding, it would appear to be irresponsible scaremongering. The claims are misleading and are based on poor evidence. To suggest that money is being taken out of the schools system is simply incorrect. The schools budget has been protected and this year it totals over £40 billion which is the highest ever on record.
The unions completely ignore the fact that pupil numbers are rising. Because per pupil funding is protected at current rates, more pupils mean more money in our schools. Taking per pupil funding and rising pupil numbers together, the school budget will be protected in real terms overall in this parliament.
The Government has outlined and sought views on its vision for a new funding system that ends the historic postcode lottery. The existing system is unfair, opaque and outdated. The current disparities mean that a school could receive 50 per cent more funding if it were based in another part of the country. Clearly this cannot be allowed to continue.
The Department for Education has recently set out proposals for how the formula will be implemented including the impact on schools and local authorities and is seeking the views of interested parties. It has also confirmed the factors that will be used in the formula, and has invited responses to the weightings they should be given.

The Government's fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system. The national funding formula will be introduced from 2018-19.

If you would like to share your views on this I would encourage you to submit a response to stage 2 of the consultation which closes on the 22nd of March, you can access via the following link: https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/


10 MAR 2017

Business Rates and Community Pubs

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

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

At the 2017 Spring Budget, tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unpresented freeze in beer duty.
The Scottish whisky industry is a national success story, with exports of over £4 billion per year making up a fifth of UK food and drink exports. Local cider breweries also play a similarly vital role supporting rural communities. Duty on spirits and most ciders has also be frozen.
The introduction of a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 is also encouraging. This applies to 90 per cent of pubs and is in recognition of the valuable service they provide to our communities. Additionally, at the Budget the Chancellor also announced a £300 million fund for local authorities to deliver discretionary relief to target individual hard cases in their local areas.
The Chancellor continues to keep all taxes under review and decisions on tax policy are made as part of the Budget process.


09 MAR 2017

EU Citizens

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

With regard to the rights of EU citizens in the UK, this is something that I have raised directly with both the Prime Minister and with David Davis and I am certain that the residency rights of British and EU nationals are the highest priority for the government in the immediate aftermath of the triggering of A50.

Whilst I will continue to urge the PM to set out our comprehensive offer for the rights of citizens both sides of the Channel to be respected, the current bill is designed wholly to allow this to get underway. I am told that a unilateral offer would simply mean that the position for U.K. Nationals in other EU member states would no longer be a priority for those states, potentially resulting in a long delay for them in receiving reassurances. That would be particularly serious for those who have retired elsewhere in the EU.

I will be voting for an unamended A50 bill but I am confident that the commitment to put this at the top of the agenda will be honoured. The PM has made clear that she wants and expects those settled here to be able to remain. I am also pressing for the procedures for their residency status to be streamlined.


09 MAR 2017

Parliament Final Say on Brexit

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

I will be voting to keep the A50 bill to its original purpose to trigger Article 50 without further delay.


07 MAR 2017

Israel Apartheid

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the Israel Apartheid Week campaigns.

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

Any discrimination or hostility based on religion or race is deplorable and there is no place for it in our society. Acts of hatred in any form will not be tolerated, and the Government is committed to addressing anti-Semitism wherever it occurs.
All institutions, including universities, have a responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive environment. All higher education institutions have a legal obligation for ensuring that students do not face discrimination, harassment, abuse or violence. Universities are expected to have robust policies and procedures in place to comply with the law, and to investigate and swiftly address any hate crime and anti-Semitic incidents that are reported.
In 2015 the Government asked Universities UK (UUK) to set up a Harassment Taskforce to consider what more can be done to address harassment on campus, including on the basis of religion and belief. UUK plans to establish more baseline evidence, and to assess institutions' progress in implementing the recommendations, so that the work of the taskforce makes a real difference. The Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson, recently wrote to UUK to confirm the Government's adopted definition of anti-Semitism to help clarify how anti-Semitism can manifest itself in the 21st Century.
Our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and freedom of religion. However, there is no place in any education institution for hatred and no student should face discrimination, harassment or racism - including anti-Semitism.


06 MAR 2017

Proposed Purchase of Sky

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about 21st Century Fox's proposed purchase of Sky.

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

Sky has stated that it received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own.
Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.
On 3 March 2017 the European Commission confirmed that it had received formal notification of the proposed merger, following which the Secretary of State wrote to the parties informing them that she is minded to intervene on two public interest grounds - media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.
This letter does not constitute a final decision. The parties have been invited to make further representations, following which the Secretary of State will come to a final decision on whether to intervene and will aim to do so - in line with guidance - within ten working days of the merger being formally notified.


06 MAR 2017

Personal Independence Payment

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

I understand you would like me to sign EDM 985 on this matter, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.

Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Department for Work and Pensions is of interest:

Around £50 billion of public money a year is spent to support people with disabilities and health conditions. Spending on disability benefits has risen by over £3 billion in real terms since 2010, and will remain higher in each year to 2020 than in 2010. PIP is an important part of this. It has been designed to focus more support on people who have higher costs associated with their condition. Entitlement is not based on what condition a person has, but on how their condition affects their ability to live an independent life.
Recent legal judgments have interpreted the assessment criteria for PIP in ways which are different from what was originally intended when the Coalition Government introduced the system. For example, one ruling held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as support to manage therapy, such as dialysis, which takes place in the home. A second ruling held that a person who cannot make a journey without assistance because of psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person whose need for assistance results from difficulties in navigating, for example if they are blind. The Government says it is clarifying the criteria to ensure PIP maintains its original policy objectives and support continues to be focused on those most in need.
This will not result in any claimants seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and the intention is not to make any new savings. These amendments are solely intended to reiterate the original policy intent following legal judgments in which the Tribunals commented that the existing regulations were not completely clear.
PIP has been designed to better reflect our modern understanding of disability, including giving mental health conditions the same recognition as physical ones. Over two thirds of PIP recipients with a mental health condition receive the enhanced daily living component, compared with 22 per cent who used to receive the higher rate under Disability Living Allowance. PIP claimants with mental health conditions will continue to be properly supported after these amendments have been made. The changes are simply about ensuring that the assessment criteria properly reflect the barriers to independence a claimant faces, and the costs they might incur as a result.
PIP is an important source of support for many disabled people, and these changes will ensure those people continue to be supported.


06 MAR 2017

Medical Care in Gaza

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about medical care for those in Gaza.

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 British Government regularly raises its concerns over Gaza with the Israeli authorities, emphasising the importance of improving daily life for ordinary Gazans, for example, and facilitating travel in and out of Gaza.
Of course, this is particularly important to enable medical treatment, or to allow family members to visit those hospitalised outside Gaza.
In addition to raising its concerns with Israel, the Government also continues to call on the Government of Egypt to show maximum flexibility in opening the Rafah Crossing into Gaza to help facilitate travel in and out of Gaza. It has been mostly closed since October 2014, and this impacts on urgent medical cases in Gaza.
The Government continues to press the Israeli Government to facilitate travel in and out of Gaza. The Government also supports the UN Access Coordination Unit to work with the Israeli Government, Palestinian Authority and aid agencies to help facilitate humanitarian access in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


03 MAR 2017

Dubs Amendment

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

I abstained from the vote as it was a backbench motion and has no impact on the government's proposals.

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

Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and this 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.
In full accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, the Government has announced it will transfer the specified number of 350 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 400 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 into the next financial year 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.
While the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in Europe lies with the State in which they are present, an expert has been seconded to Greece in addition to the long-standing secondee in Italy to support efforts to identify children who may qualify for transfer to the UK. A £10 million Refugee Children Fund has been established for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving. Since October 2015 the Department for International Development has been supporting child refugees in Greece with assistance such as food, clean water and safe shelter, as well as access to protection and psychosocial care, and in Italy the Department has provided assistance to unaccompanied minors and supported the deployment of child protection experts.


03 MAR 2017

Bees and Neonicotinoids.

I have started to receive campaign correspondence on the Friends of the Earth campaign concerning bees and neonicotinoids.

I understand there is concern about what will happen about this following on from the EU referendum vote and I hope you find the following information on this topic from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reassuring:

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment.
While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.
As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.
There are rules providing for the use of normally restricted products to be authorised in emergency situations to protect crops. If emergency authorisation is granted, this does not mean that the ban has been lifted: the facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an essential feature of precautionary bans.
These decisions are taken based on recommendations from the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the independent body of scientists that advises the Government. It takes all environmental factors into account, including the effects of using greater quantities of less effective alternative pesticides.
Minimising risks from pesticides is just one component of the National Pollinator Strategy, whose purpose is to lay out plans to improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators, and identify any additional actions that will be need to be taken. It also sets out new work to be done immediately, building on longer-term initiatives that were already under way.
Significant advances over the draft Strategy include raising the profile of existing initiatives to conserve and create good quality wild flower meadows, and minimising risks from pesticides. Organisations such as Network Rail, Highways Agency and the National Trust have agreed that railway embankments, motorway embankments and forests will be used to create bee and insect friendly habitats.
It also introduced the first ever wild pollinator and farm wildlife package, which makes more funding made available to farmers and landowners who take steps to protect pollinators. In its first year of its operation over half of the mid-tier applications to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which channels these payments, included this package.


01 MAR 2017

ESA

Thank you for taking the time to email me about changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

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:

In the Summer Budget 2015, it was announced that, from April 2017, new ESA claimants who are placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). This change only affects new claims made after that date and there will be no cash losers among those who are already in receipt of ESA.
The record employment levels and strong jobs growth in recent years have benefitted many, but these benefits have yet to reach those on ESA. While 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefit every month, this is true of just 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants. Those with health conditions and disabilities deserve better than this.
It is important to tackle this as, in addition to providing financial security for individuals, there are economic, social and moral arguments that, for those who are able to, work is the most effective way to improve the well-being of individuals, their families and their communities.
Those in the WRAG currently receive additional cash payments but little employment support. This fixation on welfare treats the symptoms, not the causes of poverty; and, over time, it traps people in dependency as, in the current system, the additional cash payment acts as a disincentive to moving into employment. That is why the Government has now legislated to recycle some of the money currently spent on cash payments, which are not actually achieving the desired effect of helping people move closer to the labour market, into practical support that will make a genuine difference to individual's life chances.
This new funding will be worth £60 million in 2017/18 rising to £100 million in 2020/21. It will support those with limited capability for work to take steps to move closer to the labour market, and when they are able, back to work. This additional practical support is part of a real terms increase that was announced at the 2015 Autumn Statement. How the support will be spent is going to be influenced by a Taskforce of representatives from disability charities, disabled people's user-led organisations, employers, think tanks, provider representatives and local authorities.

It is important to improve what is on offer for these individuals because we know that most people with disabilities and health conditions want to work, including 61 per cent of the WRAG, and there is a large body of evidence showing that work is generally good for physical and mental wellbeing.
In order to do more, the Government published a Green Paper on 31st October which explores ways to improve the system of support for people with health conditions and disabilities. In addition to these reforms there is an emerging package of support which will strengthen the offer to claimants with a health condition or disability:

· Universal Credit (UC) is already beginning to transform people's lives by introducing earlier support and putting claimants in the best possible position to move into and stay in work. Under UC, claimants with health conditions and disabilities will gain more support earlier in their claim to take steps towards work with their dedicated Work Coach working alongside health professionals to ensure they receive personalised, integrated support;

· The DWP and Department of Health have created the Work and Health Unit to help support people with health conditions and disabled people back into employment. This Joint Unit has at least £115 million of funding, including at least £40m for a work and health innovation fund, to pilot new ways to join up across the health and employment systems;

· In the 2015 Autumn Statement the DWP announced that they will introduce a new Work and Health Programme to focus on providing the best possible support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities, as well as those who are long-term unemployed;

· We know that returning to suitable work can improve mental health, and that is why the Government is committed to ensuring that people with mental health conditions receive effective support to return to, and remain in, work. £43 million is being invested over the next three years in trialling ways to provide specialist support for people with mental health conditions;

These reforms are aimed at improving the quality of life of those in greatest need. It is worth noting that we spend around £50 billion every year on benefits to support people with disabilities or health conditions, this is over 6 per cent of all government spending. The Government can be proud of that and is determined to ensure that those in need get the support they require.


01 MAR 2017

Torture Survivors

Thank you for taking the time to email me about asylum for torture survivors.

I understand your concern on this matter but I am afraid I will be unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate being held on this topic on the 2nd of March due to prior commitments. Nonetheless, I hope the following information from the Home Office is of interest:

Granting protection to those who genuinely need it and refusing those who do not, in as efficient, sensitive and effective a way as possible, is cru