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FAQs - 5

Public Sector Pay

I greatly value the important work that public servants do in delivering essential public services. There is a trade-off between pay and jobs in many public services, and pay restraint is one of the many difficult choices the Government has had to make to help put the public finances back on track.

At Summer Budget 2015, it was announced that the Government will fund public sector workforces for an average annual pay increase of 1 per cent for the 4 years from 2016-17 onwards. At the time, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated that this policy would protect 200,000 public sector jobs.

It is important to consider not just current pay but also the benefit of public sector defined benefit pensions. Treasury analysis has shown that in recent years overall public sector remuneration is still at a significant premium when considering the value of pensions.

As the Chancellor has said, public sector pay policy has always been designed to strike the right balance between being fair to our public servants and being fair to those who pay for them. That approach has not changed and Ministers will continually assess that balance."

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Abortions Performed in England for Women from Northern Ireland

Please find attached a Dear Colleague from Justine Greening regarding Amendment (d) selected as part of the Queen’s Speech.

| Letter from Justine Greening, Women and Equalities Minister

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Grenfell Tower

Thank you for contacting me about the Grenfell Tower fire.
I, like you, have been devastated by this terrible tragedy.

I have received a letter from the Prime Minister and I attach a copy of this. I hope that it will offer you a degree of reassurance and that it will also clarify for you the steps which have been and are being taken to ensure that such a tragedy doesn’t happen again.

I am also having one of my regular meetings with the Hereford and Worcester Chief Fire Officer this month and discussing local issues.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

| Letter from the Prime Minister

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Thank you for contacting me about your position on the Democratic Unionist Party.

This Northern Irish party has been voting with us for many years and they are the largest party in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister is discussing a confidence and supply arrangement with them and needs to agree specifics on economic and security issues with them to ensure a majority for the Queen's speech outlining our legislative programme.

You refer to LGBT rights. I will always champion equal rights and I supported same sex marriage and the passing of "Turing's Law" to remove historic convictions for consensual sexual acts. On womens' rights generally, it would be unheard of for matters of conscience to be put to a whipped vote - that means they would be decided on a free vote and I can assure you that I would never support the reining in of any of these hard won freedoms.

You also refer to climate change and I'm pleased that our carbon emissions have fallen sharply since 2010.

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Equalisation of the State Pension Age

Thank you for contacting me about the equalisation of the State Pension age. I recognise the importance of providing security, choice and dignity for people in retirement, whilst also ensuring the system is sustainable for future generations. Because of the changes that have been made to pension arrangements since 2010, pensioners with a full basic state pension will receive over £1,250 a year more today than at the start of the last parliament. The new State Pension gives people more clarity about what they will receive, and has a full rate above means testing, helping to support private saving. And the new pension freedoms mean that pensioners can draw down their private pensions in the way that suits them best.

The gradual equalisation of State Pension age at 65 for both men and women was first set out in the Pensions Act 1995 in line with our anti-gender discrimination obligations. Rather than increase State Pension age overnight, rises were introduced incrementally by various Governments – Conservative, Labour and Coalition – with the rate of change accelerated in 2011. Acceleration was debated thoroughly in 2011, and the Government agreed to spend £1.1 billion to limit the impact of the rising state pension age on those women most affected so that any acceleration relative to the 1995 timetable was capped at 18 months. Unwinding these changes means asking young people to assume more of the cost of increases in life expectancy.

All women affected by the accelerated increase in the 2011 Act will receive the new state pension, which is more generous for many women who have historically done badly under the previous system. Over 75 per cent of women and over 70 per cent of men are set to gain from the new State Pension in the first 15 years with over 3 million receiving over £550 per year by 2030.

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Thank you for contacting me about the Hunting Act.

As you know, the Conservatives have pledged in their Manifestos at the 2010, 2015 and 2017 General Elections to introduce a government bill to hold a free vote on the Hunting Act. This means MPs would be free to vote as they personally chose, rather than being ‘whipped’ to vote for their party.

However, the Government has so far, over the last 7 years, given priority to other important manifesto commitments and there are no immediate plans for any legislative process in respect of the Hunting Act.

Clearly without knowing what is being proposed, I cannot prejudge my own decision, but please be assured that in making any decision I would take the advice of the Royal Veterinary College on what is best for the health and welfare of the wild animal population, while also ensuring that the many West Worcestershire residents who enjoy hunting under the current arrangements can participate in this traditional activity without fear of saboteurs or being treated as criminals.

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Walking Britain

Thank you for contacting me about walking. I recognise the huge benefits that regular exercise, such as walking, can have on people’s health and wellbeing. Walking not only enables people to access and enjoy our beautiful countryside, but it provides a valuable economic boost to some of our most remote communities.

As we prepare to leave the European Union, we have a once in a generation opportunity to further enhance our countryside by developing policies which are tailored to the needs of our unique landscapes and all those who work, live or visit them. The 118,000 miles of public rights of way in England are protected through legislation, but to ensure historic rights are not lost we have been working to simplify the process for recording, amending and cancelling rights of way.

We continue to work with Natural England to complete the 2,700 mile English Coastal Path, a national trail that will give people, for the first time, the right to access all parts of England’s open coast including land on the coast which has existing rights of way covering parts of it. Work is well underway on more than half the path, with significant stretches of coastline in Somerset, Norfolk, Kent and Yorkshire all opened up over the past year.

Finally, we are encouraging walking as part of a healthy lifestyle. The Chief Medical Officer recommends adults take at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, a week. This helps reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Our recently-published Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, and its ‘ambition to make cycling and walking a natural choice for shorter journeys or as part of longer journeys’, will have a key role to play in delivering this.

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This General Election is not a re-run of the referendum. It’s a chance to back Mrs May’s approach or run the risk of Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister. I think the choice is clear.

We need to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union and forge a deep and special partnership with our friends and allies across Europe. As there is increasingly little distinction between domestic and international affairs in matters of migration, national security and the economy, Britain must stay strong and united – and take a lead in the world to defend our interests.

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Thank you for contacting me about the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that each pub contributes £80,000 each year to its local economy. I am glad that the pub sector is being supported in a range of ways.

Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. I am glad that there are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.

New measures also ensure that tied pubs have rights under a statutory code with an independent adjudicator to resolve disputes. Many pubs have also benefited from the Government’s package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for 90 per cent of pubs.

Tax on beer will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented freeze in beer duty.

There is also greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes, and it is easier now for pubs to play live music.

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Animal Testing

Thank you for contacting me about animal testing.

While I appreciate your concerns, I understand that the carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving the understanding of how biological systems work and in the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies.

At the same time, I believe that animals should only be used when there is no practicable alternative and I welcome the support and funding for the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs).

Without animal testing, it is considered highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials. However, encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.

Advances in biomedical science and technologies are all providing new opportunities to reduce reliance on the use of animals in research. As part of this, a Non-animal Technologies Road map for the UK has been produced which offers an approach for the UK to develop, exploit and deploy new non-animal technologies for long-term economic and societal benefit.

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Animal Welfare

Thank you for contacting me about animal welfare.

Britain has the highest standards of animal welfare in the world, and there have been no proposals to change the legislation that upholds them. Ministers want to draw more closely on the expertise of the farming industry, to ensure our farm animal welfare codes reflect the very latest scientific and veterinary developments.

I do, however, appreciate the concerns you have raised about the proposal to replace the existing statutory farm animal welfare codes, so I am sure you will be pleased to hear that in light of these views Ministers have given the matter further consideration. They have concluded that they can achieve this objective while retaining the existing codes.

The work of the farming industry in establishing the UK as a world leader in animal welfare has been invaluable. Ministers will continue to work with British farmers to ensure the guidance is kept updated, which will help them best to comply with our high welfare standards.

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Pubs and Planning

Thank you for contacting me about the Neighbourhood Planning Bill and permitted development rights.

We are fortunate in West Worcestershire to have some wonderful pubs. I am therefore pleased that the Government has committed to remove the permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of drinking establishments, including pubs. This means that, in future, a planning application will be required in all cases, and it addresses the long-standing call that there should be local consideration and an opportunity for the community to comment on the future of their local pub.

I was pleased to support the Neighbourhood Planning Bill as a whole, as it will help to identify and free up more land to build homes on, and speed up the delivery of these homes.

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Bees and Neoncotinoids

Thank you for contacting me about neonicotinoid insecticides and bees.

I entirely agree with you that bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. I welcome the work the Government has done over the last few years to protect them, most recently through its National Pollinator Strategy.

While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.

As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.

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Ancient Woodland

Thank you for contacting me about Britain’s woodlands.

I agree with you that our woods and forests are an invaluable national asset and I am proud of the Government’s record of action to preserve and extend British woodland.

Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and the Government has pledged to plant a further 11 million in this one. England’s woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century.

I especially welcomed the Woodland Capital Grants programme which provided funding to encourage farmers, land managers and foresters to create new woodland, while protecting existing woodland and restoring tree health. From 2016 these grants have been incorporated into the Countryside Stewardship scheme, which supports improvements to woodland over a period of years, as well as a range of capital items, including woodland infrastructure.

The National Planning Policy Framework states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.

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Thank you for contacting me about the NHS.

In recent weeks, I have met up with the new senior management which has been appointed to help the NHS Acute Trust improve its performance in time for the next Care Quality Commission inspection. This will deliver the necessary clinical and management changes to improve the way patients are treated upon presentation at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital A&E unit.

In order to tackle the problem of waiting times, the Trust has bid for additional funding to allow the expansion of the Emergency Department and this week the Department for Health confirmed that an additional £920,000 will be allocated to the hospital to help deal with additional winter pressures – on top of the extra £2.6 million allocated in the last two years.

I am proud that we continue to invest more money on our local NHS - the Worcestershire NHS budget has risen by £30 million since 2010. These budgets are spent by our local GPs on local services.

I also welcome the recent local capital investment which has seen the opening of a new £17 million community hospital in Malvern, a £22.5 million oncology unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and a new birthing centre and a breast centre.

We all support the hard-working staff in our local hospitals who have to cope with extra demand on a day-to-day basis. We can all help by encouraging friends and family to use A&E only when urgent care is needed and to make more use of GP surgeries, the free 111 advice line and the minor injuries units at our highly-valued community hospitals. The staff at the hospital are absolutely amazing, coping with a huge demand for services on a day-to-day basis. I hope that the new management team will lead the way towards systemic improvements which mean that everyone gets the best possible care across our NHS.

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Longer sentences for animal cruelty

Thank you for contacting me about sentencing for offences of animal cruelty.

I am pleased that we have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.

The law, and the penalties for breaking it, were reviewed by the Parliamentary Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2012. At that time the Committee did not recommend increasing the maximum sentencing available to the courts. However, I am pleased to say that the previous cap in the fine charges of animal abuse can attract has been removed, and I can also tell you that the Ministry of Justice is now looking at whether there is a case for increasing the penalties further.

It is the Courts which must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council.

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Ivory Ban

Thank you for contacting me about the plight of the elephant and the ivory trade.I too am seriously concerned about the effect of illegal poaching and ivory trafficking on the long-term prospects for the survival of the elephant.

Just how seriously the Government takes this issue was demonstrated when it held the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking. Over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species, including elephants, from being poached to the brink of extinction. The Buckingham Palace Declaration followed with a range of commitments to help the private sector tackle this illegal trade.

UK law does not permit trade in raw ivory tusks of any age, and Ministers are pressing for this approach to be taken internationally. The Government has also announced plans to ban sales of modern-day ivory, which will put the UK’s rules on ivory sales among the toughest in the world. This is an important step as we press for a complete ban and I am delighted that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has adopted a proposal calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets. Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.

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Finn’s Law

Thank you for contacting me about police animals.

Police support animals make a valuable contribution in the detection and prevention of crime and in maintaining public safety. Attacks of any sort on police dogs or horses are unacceptable and should be dealt with severely under the criminal law.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 an attack on a police dog or other police support animal can be treated as causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and the maximum penalty is 6 months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. Indeed the financial element of the penalty was raised in 2015 from a maximum fine of £20,000. Similarly an attack on a police animal could be considered by the court as an aggravating factor leading to a higher sentence. 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 on guidelines for sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts, which includes animal cruelty offences.

While the current penalties are appropriate, I agree that it is wrong to think of police animals as merely ‘equipment’, as the charge of criminal damage might suggest, and 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 police animals and all working animals.

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Harriett says...

Harriett Baldwin
This website has been created to keep you in touch with my work both in Westminster and across the constituency.

Surgery Dates

21st July Pershore, Pershore Library, 32 Church Street
28th July Tenbury, Pump Rooms, Teme Street
4th August Flexilble Surgery
Surgeries are held at 5pm on Friday evenings. To book an appointment please talk to a caseworker at the constituency office on 01684 585165. | Full list of dates

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