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FAQs - 5


Brexit

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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CAMRA

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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The NHS

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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DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT

This site was established while I was a Member of Parliament. As Parliament has now dissolved there are no Members of Parliament until after the Election on 8 June 2017.

 

During the election campaign I can be contacted on harriett@harriettbaldwin.com
 

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Harriett Baldwin
 
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