It is not always possible to provide an individual response to issues raised through campaign emails. Please see below for my thoughts on a range of frequently raised topics.
As someone who campaigned and voted for Brexit myself, I have a lot of concerns about the proposals made at Chequers regarding the terms on which we will leave the European Union.
At this stage, these are, of course, just proposals which the government intends to present to the EU. It could be the case, however, that the EU would object to some of these and make counter-proposals, which are likely to be worse (from a Brexit point of view) than those presented by the government. At the end of the process, Parliament will vote on the proposed deal, but it could well be too late then to make any significant improvements.
My concerns about the current proposals centre round the extent to which we would still be obeying rules made in Brussels and the continuing influence of the European Court of Justice. These concerns are shared by a great many other Conservative MPs as well as a number of constituents who have contacted me.
Please be assured, therefore, that I will continue to work with other MPs to try to move the government towards making proposals which are more in keeping with the Prime Minister’s often made pledge that Brexit means Brexit.
People's Vote Campaign
I will not be supporting calls for a people's vote on the final terms of the deal. This is because this would essentially be a re-run of the referendum and it is unclear what would be on the ballot paper and the level of support necessary to decide on an outcome. If there are three options and the vote requires a simple majority, the leave vote could be split, allowing the remain vote to come through the middle, when in fact the majority voted to leave. I believe that we must respect the outcome of the EU referendum, where a majority of the country voted to leave, and achieve an outcome which reflects what people voted for.
Brexit: The Environment
The Secretary of State has been carrying out excellent work in this area, setting out his plans to ensure we leave the planet in a better state for our children, with stronger protections for animal welfare, cleaner air and greener spaces. Earlier this month, our Ivory Bill had its Second Reading in the House. This legislates for one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales, covering ivory of all ages - with some narrow exemptions. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail. From consulting on a ban of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds to introducing tougher sentences for animal abusers, the UK is leading on many environmental issues globally.
I have also received campaign generated emails regarding "Brexit's impact on the environment". As the Prime Minister said in January, Brexit provides an opportunity to strengthen and enhance our environmental protections—not to weaken them. This is why the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a consultation on the development of a new independent statutory body to safeguard the environment alongside approaches to embed EU environmental principles in our own domestic law.
Gloucestershire CCG breast reconstruction provision for breast cancer patients
I have received a number of emails regarding local provision of reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients following updated clinical advice included in Breast Cancer Now's report "Rebuilding My Body". I have contacted the CCG who have advised:
"NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has received correspondence from “Breast Cancer Now” drawing our attention to this report and the recommendations contained.
The CCG are now planning to conduct a review of our Individual Funding Request (IFR) policy on breast reconstruction post cancer treatment on the back of this letter and report. This will be jointly led by the IFR team and the Cancer Clinical Program Group (CPG)."
Heathrow Expansion (25/06/18)
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.
I welcome the latest announcement from the government that the NHS will receive a boost in funding over the coming years. As a country, we are a little behind some of our continental neighbours in terms of percentage of GDP in health spending and I do agree that this additional funding was needed. However, I also believe we need to look at how money is already being spent, and make an assessment of where savings can be made. I am currently drawing up a list of suggestions which I can present to the Chancellor as a budget submission.
In terms of the workforce, we are increasing doctor and nurses training places by a quarter, one of the biggest expansions in NHS history, and training 15,000 GPs between 2015-2020. Already, there are now over 14,900 more doctors than in May 2010, and over 13,100 more nurses on our wards. This is excellent news, but I do recognise that there are challenges, which I continue to raise with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
NHS Visa Cap
I have received a number of emails calling for NHS staff to be exempt from the cap on tier two visas. The Home Secretary has announced that doctors and nurses will be taken out of Tier 2 visa cap. You can read this statement in full here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/doctors-and-nurses-to-be-taken-out-o…
Mental Health: Helplines
The Department for Education supports the NSPCC through an £8 million grant over four years (up to 2020), as a contribution to funding ChildLine (a phone and online advice service for children) and the NSPCC’s National Helpline (for anyone with concerns or worries about a child).
NHS England’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health sets out the current transformation programme to support children and young people’s mental health. In terms of our future plans relating to children’s mental health, the government has recently consulted on ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: a Green Paper’. A response to the consultation will be published before the summer recess.
The government will publish a social care Green Paper this summer which sets out the government's long-term plan for social care and also presents an opportunity to take a more fundamental approach to tackling the challenges carers face. Importantly, it also provides an opportunity to ensure we have a social care system which is sustainable for the future in terms of funding.
I have received a number of emails in relation to the Independent Age campaign. The Minister has provided the following response:
In developing the Green Paper, it is right that we take the time needed to debate the many complex issues and listen to the perspectives of experts and care users, building consensus around reforms which can succeed. The Department has undertaken a period of engagement where the Government is working with experts, stakeholders and users to shape the long-term reforms that will be proposed in the Green Paper. As part of this engagement, officials from the Department have met with Independent Age to discuss their report.
Email Campaign: Please sign the pledge 'MPs not border guards'
The meetings I hold with constituents are confidential. I would always seek the permission of the constituent before divulging details of their circumstances (as a means of helping them) to a third party. People who are in this country illegally, however, ought to be making arrangements to go back to the country they are meant to reside in as we have such rules in place in order to help protect the law-abiding citizens of this country.
Fur Import Ban
I have received many emails asking me to support a fur import ban. While some fur products may never be legally imported into the UK the Government’s view is that national bans are less effective than working at an international level on animal welfare standards.This is because the proportion of fur imported to the the UK is very small and a ban would do little to impact on the trade.
There was a debate on this issue on the 4th June in response to an e-petition calling for the import of fur to be banned. In responding to the debate, the Minister outlined the safeguards currently in place, including a certification system, a blanket ban on the importing of furs from a number of animals, including cats and dogs, as well as seal skins and products from commercial hunts, in addition to regulations that ensure that any fur that can be imported into the UK from the EU comes from animals that have been kept, trapped and killed humanely, as defined by EU regulations.
While there are currently no plans to implement a ban, I would be sympathetic to doing so should the issue be brought forward.