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.
European Union Withdrawal Bill
As we are receiving a very large number of emails on issues relating to Brexit, I thought it may be useful to outline my position on a range of topics which have been circulating via campaign generated emails.
Respecting the outcome of the referendum
I have received a number of emails asking me to respect the outcome of the referendum and to vote for the Withdrawal Bill. As you may know, I campaigned and voted to leave the EU. This what the majority of my constituents, and the country, also voted for and I will be respecting this decision.
The Single Market and Customs Union
I do not support remaining in the Single Market or Customs Union. The deal we negotiate with the EU must reflect what people voted for, which is control over our own laws, borders and finances. Remaining in the Customs Union would also hinder our ability to forge trade deals with the rest of the world and restrict our opportunities as we leave the EU.
Timescale for consideration of the Lord’s Amendments
Concerns have been expressed in relation to the timescale for consideration of these amendments, with suggestions that the time allocated is insufficient. So far, Parliament has spent an estimated 252 hours, 26 mins debating the bill: 96 hours, 21 mins in the Commons, and 156 hours, five mins in the Lords. Therefore, the issues included within the amendments have been thoroughly debated and mirror amendments which were also proposed, but defeated, in the Commons.
Update- 20/06/18- "Meaningful Vote"
I will be opposing the amendment regarding the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ proposed by the unelected House of Lords in the Commons today. The leader of the rebels in the Commons has sent an email saying that “None of the motions could lead to a resolution dictating to the Government what to do.” So what’s the point of it? To me, the point is obvious – the movers of the motions are just looking to delay or avoid Brexit happening. They will not succeed because, even if the Lords or the Commons rebels have their way, or even if this Bill falls in its entirety, the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019. This is because we have triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by an Act of Parliament, and only unanimous agreement among the 28 members of the EU can delay that departure. This Withdrawal Bill in itself, amended or otherwise, cannot do that.
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.
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.
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.