Topical issues

 

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. Please note that it may take a few days for responses to new campaigns to be added to the website. 

Brexit Negotiations

The government is still hopeful of reaching a deal with the EU about the terms of our leaving and future relationship. However, the EU is saying that a sticking point is the question over the Irish border. I believe this to be a red herring.

At the moment, there is a political border in Ireland. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland also use different currencies, have different rates of Corporation Tax, VAT, excise duties, Air Passenger Duty and Tourism Tax. Even so, trade continues seamlessly and people can move North and South, and to Great Britain for that matter, due to the Common Travel Area which was agreed in 1923.

I see no reason why these movements of goods and people should not continue after the UK leaves the EU. The Trade Facilitation Agreement, together with the World Trade Organisation objectives of frictionless trade, reduce the likelihood of the need for any significant delays or checks at the Irish border which would delay the import and export of goods. This likelihood is further reduced by the availability of technology.

Facilities, such as trusted trader agreements, checks at the origin and destination of goods and further technological procedures are all available now. I therefore see no reason why the EU cannot sign up to an agreement now. Delaying for a further twelve months, after the implementation period, will not bring about further so-called solutions.

 

Offensive Weapons Bill: Shopkeepers

I recognise that shop workers can be confronted with aggression when asking for identification on age restricted sales and that this can cause a great deal of distress.The government has stated the following in relation to the amendment on attacks on shopkeepers.

We have no current plans to introduce a specific offence relating to attacks on shopkeepers who refuse to sell a corrosive substance or sharp weapon. Violence is unacceptable wherever it takes place, and violence or abuse against retail staff should not be tolerated in any circumstances. There are number of existing serious offences which are already available to deal with attacks or threats to shopkeepers, and it is open to the courts to take account of any aggravating factors when passing sentence.

More generally, we are working with the retail sector and the police, through the National Retail Crime Steering Group, to explore what more can be done to tackle violence and abuse against retail staff.

 

 

Agriculture Bill 

Thank you for all the contributions I have received in relation to the Agriculture Bill. As the Secretary of State has outlined, this will be the first comprehensive agriculture Bill for five decades, providing a platform for our farmers to modernise agriculture, and to be able to produce, sell and export more food. The Bill also looks to ensure that our farmers are rewarded for their environmental work and the other public goods that they provide. I meet with our local NFU regularly and will continue to ensure our farmers have the support they need. 

 

Tax rises to fund the NHS

I have received a number of "Tax to fund the NHS" campaign emails from constituents proposing a tax rise in the Budget to fund the NHS. 

As a country, we are a little behind some of our continental neighbours in terms of percentage of GDP in health spending and agree that we do need to ensure our health service is properly funded. 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 have submitted a list of suggestions on how to do so ahead of the budget and hope that these will be considered before we look at asking taxpayers to pay more towards these services. 

 

Fracking

I am in favour of fracking in principle and believe we should explore its potential as part of the UKs diverse energy supply. The government is consulting on the principle of whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale gas exploration development should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right, and in particular the circumstances in which it would be appropriate. 

As noted in the consultation document:

Most permitted development rights are subject to conditions that seek to minimise their impact and to protect local amenity, others are subject to geographic exclusions to ensure environmental protections are maintained. All however, are subject to clearly defined restrictions to cover the specific nature and scope of the operation or quantum of development that would benefit from a permitted development right.

This is essential and I would  oppose any inappropriate applications.

You can read about the consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-for-s…

 

Pensions Dashboard 

The Secretary of State has written to MPs to provide an update on the pensions dashboard, making clear that the Government backs industry to deliver a pensions dashboard. An industry-led dashboard, facilitated by Government, will harness the best of industry innovation, and Government will protect pensions savers by legislating where necessary. The Government has delivered a pensions revolution through automatic enrolment and increased pensions freedoms and will continue to build on these successes to empower people to save for retirement

 

Brexit Proposals

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

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.

 

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. 

 

Social Care 

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.