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.


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.


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