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Campaign: Talking Buses

The Bus Services Act 2017 includes powers for the Secretary of State to make Regulations requiring bus operators to provide audible and visible information on local bus services in Great Britain.

The Government understands the importance of accessible on-board information in helping bus passengers to travel with confidence, and in Summer 2018 published a public consultation on proposals to require its provision on local bus services throughout Great Britain. This follows the Government’s commitment, set out in the Inclusive Transport Strategy, to invest £2 million towards ensuring that audio visual equipment is installed on buses.

The Government is currently analysing responses to the consultation and expect to announce our next steps regarding the making of Regulations and publication of guidance later in the year.

Campaign: "Misleading Letters"

I have received emails relating to DWP letters being sent to GPs regarding sick notes. The Minister has advised the following: 

The British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners agreed to the revised wording of the ESA65B on 4 August 2016.

The Department is committed to ensuring all of its communications are clear, accurate and understandable and we continuously improve our letters. We engage regularly with the welfare benefits advice sector and disability charities and take into account all of the feedback we receive.

We have received comments from a number of sources including MPs, stakeholder organisations and GPs on the current version of the ESA65B letter and will take all of their feedback into account when revising it.

 

Campaign: Fairtrade Foundation

I appreciate the concerns you have raised and recognise that the income for farmers, who are not part of a Fairtrade scheme, may be substantially lower. I think it is important that we encourage more Fairtrade organisations to engage with cocoa farmers.

The UK currently invests in supply chains through programmes like the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme. Support for in-country processing of basic commodities is a way to add value and support livelihoods in developing countries.

In the Economic Development Strategy launched in January 2017, DfID committed to take an increasingly dynamic approach to agriculture, including boosting agri-business and financing agricultural infrastructure, to provide strong foundations for inclusive growth. The specific support we provide to different countries and sectors will be tailored to local needs and priorities

 

Campaign: NSPCC "Close the Loophole" 

Any sexual activity with a child under 16 is a criminal offence, regardless of whether consent is given. Any non-consensual sexual activity is also a crime, whatever the age of the victim and whatever the relationship between the victim and perpetrator.

Where a manipulative offender rooms a child prior to them reaching the age of consent and then engages in a sexual relationship with them when they are over 16, this could be prosecuted under offences such as Section 15a of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The Government remains absolutely committed to protecting children and young people from sexual abuse and we already have a wide range of criminal offences under which to prosecute and sentence those who carry out such acts. The Government continues to keep this under review.

 

 Campaign: "What will you do to fix Universal Credit?"

I recognise that there are concerns regarding the implementation of Universal Credit and this was also reflected in the Chancellor's Autumn Budget. The Chancellor announced that from April 2019 Universal Credit (UC) claimants will benefit from a £1,000 increase in work allowances. Working parents and people with disabilities on UC will be £630 better off every year as a result of this change. Building on policy changes announced by the government in June, claimants will also benefit from additional support as they move onto UC. In response to lessons from the roll-out of UC to date, and to facilitate the delivery of this package, managed migration will now conclude in December 2023.

 

Heathrow Expansion

I am supporting the expansion of Heathrow Airport and am pleased that the government is progressing this. Heathrow is a well-positioned, world-leading hub airport which brings a great deal of benefit to the whole of the United Kingdom.

UK airports handle over 260 million passengers - up 20 per cent in the last five years. Heathrow is already the UK’s biggest airport for passengers and freight and a new runway would enable Heathrow to nearly double its freight capability, offering businesses across the country the chance to increase exports. Heathrow has been at capacity for over a decade, meaning that new connections to the rest of the world – and to the rest of the UK – have been constrained, negatively impacting UK competitiveness as European hub airport competitors in Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt continue to increase their global networks.

I recognise that constituents have expressed concerns in relation to the environmental impact of this expansion in terms of noise and air pollution. The government has secured a world class package of mitigation, worth up to £2.6 billion which covers insulation, compensation and respite from noise. This will comprehensively combat the impacts on local communities. The promoter has pledged that expansion will not lead to more airport-related traffic on the roads and committed to a target of at least 55 per cent of passengers using public transport to access the airport by 2040.

In terms of protecting the environment, it isn’t a matter of whether we fly or not, because if we don’t expand Heathrow, other airports will take up that capacity, and they may not all be in the UK. For example, Dublin is expanding its airport, and Paris and Amsterdam have benefited from delays under previous governments in expanding Heathrow. We are already introducing cleaner planes, and that is the way to protect the environment.

Regional airports are important, but they appear to be in favour of expanding Heathrow as well, because of its hub airport status and the benefits that brings to them. And expanding Heathrow doesn’t prevent, for example, Birmingham or Bristol from expanding.