Culture, Media & Sport
Gambling - Fixed Odds Betting Terminals
It is vital that people, particularly the young and vulnerable, are protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling, and I am encouraged that my colleagues in Government are committed to ensuring this continues. Responsibility for the oversight of advertising is shared between the Advertising Standards Authority, Ofcom and the Gambling Commission. In 2014, some of the provisions around advertising in this area were strengthened. I am pleased that the current review, is also looking at gambling advertising to understand whether the right measures in place to ensure that the young and vulnerable are protected.
Environmental Matters & Animal Welfare
Under the existing law an attack on a police dog or police horse can be treated as causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. This carries a maximum penalty of 6 months' imprisonment and the financial element of the penalty was raised in 2015 from a maximum of £20,000 to an unlimited fine. An attack on a police animal can also be considered by the court as an aggravating factor, leading to a higher sentence for other criminal convictions. Under some circumstances assaults on support animals could be treated as criminal damage which would allow for penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment.
The Government has also requested that the Sentencing Council considers assaults on police animals as an aggravating factor as a part of their current review of sentencing guidelines in the Magistrates' Courts, which includes animal cruelty offences. Whilst the current penalties are appropriate, I agree that a charge of criminal damage does not convey the respect and gratitude felt for the animals involved and their contribution to law enforcement and public safety. Work across Government is underway to explore whether there is more that the law should do to offer the most appropriate protections to all working animals.
Breeding and Sale of Kittens
One proposal would apply specific welfare conditions to pet vendors, which they must meet to obtain a licence. These include a requirement that animals are not sold too young: for mammals this is before they are or should have been weaned, which for cats is likely to be at or below eight weeks. Another would remove the licence exemption for those in the business of selling kittens bred from the family's pet pedigree cat.
Cat breeding does not, however, require the same level of control as dog breeding, which can lead to issues relating to public safety and nuisance; this is generally not the case with cats. There can of course be unscrupulous people who exploit the desire for pets, but all captive animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
This makes it a serious criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal, or fail to provide for its welfare. Accompanying it the Government has published a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats which, if breached, can be used to supply evidence supporting a prosecution.
I would therefore encourage anyone who believes that kittens are being treated poorly by a pet shop to report their concerns to the local authority or the police, which have the power to take action to safeguard their welfare.
Dog meat trade
That is why I am relieved that while the Government recognises the need for sensitivity when dealing with countries where eating dog meat is culturally accepted, it has continued attempting to influence those countries. There have often been accusations against countries in Asia of cruel treatment towards animals, and the Government has made clear that there can be no place for cruel or inhumane practices anywhere.
'Help end backstreet breeding'
I am pleased that under existing law, anyone in the business of breeding dogs must be licenced. They must not breed a bitch more than once every 12 months, nor sell a puppy younger than 8 weeks old to the general public. Dogs bred by 'hobby breeders', who are not in business but do breed occasionally, are still protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal, or fail to provide for its welfare.
Save the Asian Elephants
EDM 381 and dog breeding
For dogs bred by so called 'hobby breeders', who are not in business but do breed occasionally, there is the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal or fail to provide for its welfare. Anyone breaking this law could face a fine of up to £20,000 and /or 51 weeks imprisonment.
Only about 70 pet shops sell puppies and kittens, and these are licensed and regulated. Local authorities can restrict which animals a pet shop can sell, and new guidance stresses the need for interaction with people. I share concerns about unregulated sales over the internet, so am pleased that the Government has created a voluntary code which has resulted in 100,000 adverts being removed since the start of 2014.
Lastly on the issue of sales across borders, I am pleased to be able to tell you that changes to the EU pet passport scheme mean that it is no longer possible to bring a puppy under 15 weeks old into this country.
Protect the forests EDM 65
I appreciate your concern that the regulation is not working as effectively as it might, with several EU Member States yet to introduce the necessary legislation or systems to enforce it. That is why the Government is working to achieve better implementation across the EU, for instance by hosting meetings to bring enforcement officials together to share practical advice. The UK is also taking part in an EU-wide review of the rules, arguing for them to cover a wider range of timber products.
Neonicotinoid Insecticides and bees
Pesticides are tightly regulated, and decisions on their approval are made at the European level. Since December 2013, three of the five currently approved neonicotinoids are not permitted for use on a wide range of crops considered attractive to bees. The Government has implemented these restrictions in full, and they will remain in place unless the European Commission decides to change them or, presumably, we as a country decide to withdraw from the EU. The European Food Safety Authority has also begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees, which is expected to conclude later this summer, and the Government is contributing to this review.
This year there was an application for emergency authorisation to use neonicotinoids on a third of the country's oilseed rape crop, but the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the independent body of scientists that advises the Government, advised that the application did not give sufficient assurances that the use would be limited to those areas most in danger, nor that it would be controlled appropriately. Accordingly, Defra followed the advice of the Committee and declined the application.
I have been assured that restrictions on neonicotinoids will not be removed as long as the evidence shows that they should remain.
Protecting London’s Taxi Drivers
I understand the Mayor of London is working extremely hard to ensure that there is a sustainable future for London's iconic black cabs by helping to bring the trade into the 21st century and create a level playing field for both black cabs and minicabs in London. Last week I welcomed the announced plans to increase regulation on PHVs to:
- enhance safety and customer service, including a formal English language requirement for drivers
- investigate the removal of the Congestion Charge exemption for private hire vehicles
- Guarantee fare estimates for customers in advance of their journey.
I have long had an attachment to our Black Cab trade– my husband, Jamie Borwick, until 2003 was the chief executive and chairman of Manganese Bronze Holdings Plc, best known for making the London Black Cab – and therefore I will do what I can to preserve the standing and security of our London taxi service.
In London, I am delighted that the Mayor has already announced that he plans to hold TfL fares in January 2016 at RPI+0 per cent. We are determined to ensure fares are affordable, while balancing the need to maintain an unprecedented investment in the transport network in order to deliver more services and extensions in a city growing in size at twice the predicted rate.
As a result of lobbying from London Conservatives such as myself, last year the Mayor introduced to help part-time workers. He has also protected all free and concessionary travel for older people, students, veterans and disabled Londoners.
Families with children and young people
EU (Notification of Withdrawal)
The task ahead must be to forge a new relationship with Europe that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, as the Prime Minister said today.
Crisis in the Yemen
I recently raised with the Government the question of UK manufacturers selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and have been assured that the UK operates one of the most rigorous and transparent export control regimes. All UK arms exports are scrutinised in detail through established international criteria. The Ministry of Defence takes an active role in monitoring alleged incidences of international humanitarian law violations, and the Government takes such allegations very seriously. Furthermore, the UK regularly raises the importance of compliance with members of the military coalition, and presses for an investigation of any violation.
Reports that entry to the UK under Section 67 of the Immigration Act (the Dubs amendment) was being closed are extremely troubling. In actual fact, the number of 350 children to be transferred to the UK under the amendment is not a cap but an estimate, based on consultations with local authorities. The most vulnerable children will and I agree should be prioritised. However, the Government must ensure that there is the capacity to host additional children and provide them with the support and care they need. Each year around 3,000 unaccompanied children seeking asylum arrive in the UK and it is right that the Government works hard to find homes for children fleeing war and hardship, without incentivising dangerous journeys across Europe.
I think it is right that the Government is working closely with local authorities to find homes in this country for as many of the most vulnerable children as possible.
Demolition of homes by Israel
Underlying the agreement is the opportunity to add £10 billion to our economy every year, which is almost £400 per household, which means more jobs, more choice and reduced prices.
There have been claims that investors could sue a government for losses and win if a government takes a decision in the wider public interest, whether on health, the environment or consumer safety. However, this could not happen. It is important that businesses investing abroad are protected from discrimination and unfair treatment, but there is nothing to allow companies to undermine public policymaking. Extensive consultation has taken place and all provisions are being looked at carefully.
I believe that the EU - US Free Trade Agreement is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and has the potential to deliver £10 billion to the UK economy each year. Ministers have been clear that there is nothing in this proposed agreement that would weaken environmental regulation, lead to the privatisation of the NHS or allow private companies to overturn the laws made by democratically elected governments.
Mediterranean Immigration Crisis
I understand any unease regarding the impacts of large scale immigration but I am glad that the Prime Minister has proposed that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. These refugees will come straight from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. To support our local communities we will use the foreign aid budget to finance these refugees for the first year and help local councils with things like housing.
British action in Syria
What is clear is that Daesh pose a very real threat to the United Kingdom. They have murdered British hostages, carried out the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7 on the beaches of Tunisia, and in 2015 our security services have foiled seven different plots linked to, or inspired by, Daesh. The Paris attacks brought this terror to our doorstep.
The RAF has already played a key role in degrading Daesh and has helped local forces to recover 30 per cent of the territory captured by Daesh in Iraq. The UK's military capabilities, particularly our precision strike capabilities, minimise civilian casualties and have played a significant role in the Coalition's air campaign against Daesh.
However, it is in Syria that Daesh has its headquarters and from where threats against this country are being planned and orchestrated. Daesh does not recognise a border between Iraq and Syria and in taking action to degrade Daesh, neither should we.
The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution calling for Member States to take all necessary measures to eradicate the safe haven Daesh has established in parts of Iraq and Syria. France, the United States and our regional allies have asked for UK support in Syria, because we provide between a quarter and a third of the Coalition's high-end strike capability. The Coalition needs the capability and capacity that we can offer and we cannot expect others to shoulder the burdens and the risks of protecting this country.
That is why I support the extension of our military campaign against Daesh into Syria to protect our own security. The horrific attacks in Paris, Lebanon, Egypt, Sousse, Turkey, Kuwait, Australia and elsewhere, demonstrate the very real and evolving threat from Daesh. I believe it is necessary for Britain to extend our military campaign against Daesh into Syria to help keep Britain safe.
It is important in this extremely difficult situation that people traffickers do not encourage more children to put their lives at risk by making the dangerous crossing to Europe. I therefore support the approach set out by the Government, which provides the best way to focus on the most vulnerable in the conflict region, and work cooperatively with our European partners. I am delighted also that the Government intends to accept an additional number of unaccompanied children already within Europe once a discussion has taken place with local authorities to work out a plan to properly support the children's integration into the UK
The Royal Brompton Hospital
Earl's Court Development
Members of 14 local residents’ associations come along to the meetings and there is a full and frank discussion on the construction plans. If you would like to attend a future meeting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been liaising with the Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Council officers, and also had meetings with the Secretary of State and ministers at the Department for Education, trying to ensure a fair deal for Kensington Schools. I have now submitted my response to the consultation and I hope the Secretary of State takes our concerns into consideration.
Green Investment Bank
Transgender people under the Sexual Offences Act 2003
Having read the Act, I have to say, I do not agree that its wording criminalises transgender people having sex without disclosing their gender history. I can however understand why there is a perception of ambiguity. The decision of a transgender individual to disclose their birth gender to others is deeply personal and sensitive. In the event that gender history is a relevant consideration, this will be only one of a number of factors a prosecutor will consider. Each case is considered on its facts and merits and will only be prosecuted if it meets both stages of the Full Code Test as set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. It is important to note that in cases where gender history is a consideration for prosecutors, this does not mean that a prosecution will necessarily follow.
Housing benefit changes and domestic violence refuges
I welcome the fact that in the last Autumn Statement the Government committed additional support to services for victims of domestic abuse which represented a tripling of the funding compared to the previous four years, and I am proud to say that we will be spending £380 million on these services up to 2020. The Government also published a renewed violence Against Women and Girls strategy in March this year.
Review of driving sentences
Cannabis for medicinal use
The Government has no plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. The official advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs cites medical and scientific research showing that cannabis use has a number of adverse acute and chronic health effects, especially for people with mental health problems, and continues to present a significant public health issue.
Domestic abuse in family courts
Digital Economy Bill
The Government has been clear that the easy availability and nature of online pornography is changing the way children and young people understand healthy relationships, sex and consent. Every child has a right to develop at their own pace. Pornographic websites will be required to have adequate age verification, which is equivalent to what the gambling industry already implements.
The data-sharing elements of the Bill are designed to improve public services, to make sure that we can tackle fraud and to have better statistics. The Bill will allow public services to be targeted and delivered better. If one arm of the public sector knows who needs a service and the other arm is trying to deliver that service, the two need to be brought together.
The Government is committed to ensuring it has the right legal framework in place to support creators and the content they produce. Through the Bill the maximum penalty for online copyright infringement will be increased from 2 to 10 years, bringing it in line with penalties for physical copyright infringement.
Draft Investigatory Powers Bill
The draft Bill includes provisions on each of the key capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and others: communications data; interception; and equipment interference. It provides for the retention of internet connection records (ICR) - although access to the data will be tightly controlled. It is important to make clear that an ICR is a record of the communications services a person or device has connected to. It is the internet equivalent of a phone bill - it is not a person's full internet browsing history.
Law enforcement access to the information would be on a case-by-case basis, where it is necessary and proportionate, limited to three rigidly defined purposes. These are to identify what device had sent an online communication, establish what online communications services a known individual had accessed or identify whether a known individual had accessed illegal services online.
I appreciate any concern on this vital area of national security, but let me assure you that there have been three independent reviews on investigatory powers - by David Anderson, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, and the Royal United Services Institute - and all agreed that the agencies should have the power to acquire and use data in bulk. This draft Bill sets out, in clear detail, existing powers for the security and intelligence agencies to do this, whilst subjecting them to stricter safeguards.
Similarly I am particularly glad that on the question of who, in future, should authorise interception warrants, the Home Secretary has announced that there will be a 'double-lock' authorisation process. This will mean that warrants for the most intrusive powers available to the agencies, such as the interception of communications, will be subject to a 'double-lock', requiring approval by a judge as well as by the Secretary of State.
English Votes for English Laws
These changes aim to answer the 37 year old West Lothian question, ensuring that decisions which affect England (and Wales) only, and are devolved elsewhere, can only be taken with the consent of the majority of MPs representing constituencies in England (and Wales). The new procedure will ensure that new laws are made with the agreement of the whole House of Commons, but that English (and Welsh) laws will be made with the consent of MPs who represent those parts of the country.
As the Scottish Parliament gets new powers, it is only right to give a fair deal to the people of England. It could not be justified to have Scottish MPs sitting at Westminster voting on budgets and laws that only apply to English voters without the consent of English MPs.
These plans provide a fair balance by giving England more control over decisions which it alone is affected by, while ensuring that Westminster continues to be a place where those from across the UK govern in the best interests of those living within the Union.
Housing and Planning Bill
Significant progress has been made in the last five years to tackle this crisis. Over 700,000 homes have been delivered since 2010, including over 270,000 affordable homes. I understand that still more can be done and I believe that the Housing and Planning Bill will help us achieve this.
The Bill will increase the pace of housebuilding through planning permission in principle and the brownfield registers. The Starter Homes programme will see thousands of homes built specifically for first time buyers at a price that they can afford. The requirement to introduce local plans will also ensure that local people have a say on where development takes place in their area.
I believe that many councils could also be managing their high-value assets more effectively. It cannot be right for councils to retain high-value council properties when their sale could fund new homes for local residents. The definition of 'high value' will be set out in regulations and may be different for different areas.
As part of a group of London MPs, led by Zac Goldsmith and Boris Johnson, I have secured a Government amendment to ensure that we are able to increase housing supply in London at the same time as making these changes.
Trade Union Bill
It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for; causing misery for millions of people and harming our economy too.
As a London MP, I am all too aware that many Londoners who are forced to miss work this week or walk miles to the office enjoy nothing like the same range of perks as those striking. I will be working with the Government and the Mayor to pass legislation outlawing Tube strikes that don’t have the support of a majority of union members.
Individual Electoral Registration
To hold the system to account, the Government will set prison performance measures and compile a Prison League Table with a view to rewarding staff in the best performing prisons. The Government is also focusing on preventing crime in prisons by developing a strategy to make sure contraband has no way to enter prisons, working with mobile network operators to block mobile phone signals in prison. It is important to recognise that not all offenders belong behind bars forever, and so the Bill intends to consider the use of new technology - trials of satellite tracking will be carried out, which could revolutionise the way prisoners are released on licence at the end of a sentence. Fundamentally, prison should be used to tackle our deepest social problems and extend life chances. This is why I support moves to allow rehabilitated offenders to return to work so they can provide for their families. These principals will be introduced to the prison system with a new Prisons Bill in the coming year.
The Chancellor previously announced that households with a taxpayer earning over £60,000 will no longer receive Child Benefit. To prevent a cliff-edge, this withdrawal will be gradual for those households where someone earns between £50,000 and £60,000. Even so, 90 per cent of families will still receive the benefit, with 85 per cent getting the full amount. There has been no announcement of any plans to restrict Child Benefit to a set number of children, so Child Benefit will continue to be paid at the same level for all children.
You refer specifically to young people in your email. Young people in the benefit system ought to face the same choices as other young people who go out to work and cannot yet afford to leave home. I do believe, therefore, that the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds should be curtailed. There must be exemptions, however, including for vulnerable young people and those who may not be able to return home to live with their parents. Importantly, those who have been in work for six months prior to making a claim are also exempt.
Sustainability and transformation plans
I do hope many of you will help with this campaign to save our local hospital.
Digital exclusion and subtitles
The findings of this report show that accessible programming can now be found on an increasing range of devices. There is good progress being made, however, ATVOD also said barriers remain and further work needs to take place between content providers, on-demand platform providers and broadcasters to overcome these barriers. Ministers have written to these groups to encourage them to seek innovative solutions to these problems.
I know that Ministers remain committed to seeing an improvement in the provision of accessible services for video-on-demand and will continue to monitor progress. However the Government has concluded that the proposal of legislation and the introduction of targets could have a detrimental impact on what the sector has shown it is able to achieve on a voluntary basis.
Childhood obesity strategy
I support the total ban on the advertising of less healthy food during children’s television programmes and in programmes deemed to be ‘of particular appeal’ to children under the age of 16. These are also restrictions on advertising content for both broadcast and non-broadcast media, for example promotional offers may not be used in less healthy food TV adverts targeted at pre-school or primary school children.
The Government is absolutely committed to reducing childhood obesity and one of the best ways to do this is to boost sports in schools. That is why the plan also asks primary schools to help every pupil get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.
Support for carers
In the meantime, the Government is continuing to support the implementation of improved rights for carers, enshrined in the Care Act 2014 and provided £104 million of funding to local authorities for these rights in 2015/16. For the first time, I am glad to say, this included a duty on local authorities to meet carers’ eligible needs for support. I welcome the fact that benefits to support vulnerable and disabled people, including Carer’s Allowance, are exempt from the freeze on working-age benefits. I am relieved that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has announced that people with severe, lifelong conditions will no longer face continuous reassessment.
Off patent Drugs Bill
Potential ‘sugar tax’
Tackling childhood obesity is a major priority and I am concerned about the levels of overweight and obese children, and the impact on individual health. The causes of obesity are complex, and can be caused by a number of dietary, lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors and addressing it will require a comprehensive and broad approach. The Government is considering a range of options including the contribution that it, alongside industry, families, schools and communities can make. Plans for tackling childhood obesity will be announced in the coming months.
Healthy School Meals
I support the Government's commitment to increase NHS spending in England by £10 billion in real terms by 2020/21, of which £6 billion will be delivered by the end of 2016/17. This will allow the NHS to offer 800,000 operations and treatments and spend up to £2 billion more on new drugs. It will also ensure that by 2020, everyone will be able to access GP services at evenings and weekends. This will enable the NHS to fund its own plan for the future, the Five Year Forward View.
It's thanks to our growing economy and the Government's decisions that it can support this investment in a stronger NHS. I know that the Government remains committed to the values of the NHS that are so central to our national identity. This will secure a better future for Britain, where people can be sure that the NHS will always be there for them.
The Government has committed to unprecedented levels of mental health funding, including £1.25 billion for perinatal and children and young people's mental health, helping professionals to intervene early. In the Autumn Statement, an additional £600 million was announced to ensure that significantly more people will have access to talking therapies, perinatal services and crisis care. To support teenagers with eating disorders, the Government has also invested £150 million.
New crisis resolution and home treatment teams will transform the community mental healthcare system and are being supported with a £400 million investment. They aim to assess all patients being considered for acute hospital admission, offer intensive home treatment rather than hospital admission if feasible, and facilitate early hospital discharge. Government investment of £247 million will ensure that psychiatric services are always available in A&E, for those in need.
I am delighted that the Government is introducing the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards. This means that 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies to treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety will start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 per cent within 18 weeks. Also, patients experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks.
The UK continues to be a strong supporter of global polio eradication efforts. In 2013, the UK committed £300 million over six years to polio eradication, which will help vaccinate up to 360 million children. The UK actively participates in the global Polio Oversight Board, helping to ensure a strong focus on results and achieving eradication.
With India declared polio-free in 2014, a world without polio is now tantalisingly close, and it is crucial to maintain international momentum. I welcome the fact that, as of October 2015, there had, for the first time, been no polio cases in Africa for over a year. That is incredible progress, and we will finish off that job.
The current situation, I understand, is that through negotiation approximately 90 per cent of the proposed contract has been agreed with the BMA, including agreement on hours and pay. It seems the only outstanding issue which has led to the strikes this week was in relation to Saturday pay.
The Government has agreed that anyone working 1 Saturday out of 4, or more, should get higher premium pay rates. This is a deal better even than that awarded to nurses, paramedics or other public sector workers such as police officers and fire-fighters.
Moreover, it would certainly be misleading to suggest that the Government has consistently refused to enter negotiations. Over three years, I am told officials had more than 75 meetings with the BMA to negotiate contract reform, which has led to the 90% acceptance of its terms referred to above. During this time, the union walked abruptly out of talks twice, circulated a grossly misleading pay calculator to their members when no proposals were on the table, broke a written promise to compromise on Saturday pay by refusing to discuss the issue in negotiations and rejected a final offer from the Government that independent NHS leaders judged a fair and reasonable compromise.
The process of negotiation has uncovered some wider and more deep-seated issues relating to junior doctors' morale, wellbeing and quality of life. So I welcome the announcement that Dame Sue Bailey, President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, will lead a review into measures outside the contract that can be taken to improve morale. Further details of this review will be set out soon.
Thank you for taking the time to outline your thoughts on this difficult issue. I shall certainly keep them in mind for any future discussions.
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