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FAQs - 7


Bees and sugar beet crops

Thank you for contacting me about bees.

I entirely agree with you that bees and other pollinators are an essential part of our environment and play a crucial role in food production. Since 2014, efforts by Government, beekeepers, conservation groups, farmers and researchers have been brought together under the National Pollinator Strategy which you can read here. This is a ten-year plan to improve understanding and awareness of the status and role of pollinators, create and enhance habitats and safeguard bee health.

The Government continues to support the restrictions on neonicotinoids to protect pollinators, and emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. The authorisation in this case is strictly limited to the sugar beet crop and available for a maximum of 120 days. Ten EU countries have also issued emergency authorisations since 2018.

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Trade Bill and the NHS

Thank you for contacting me about the Trade Bill and the NHS.

The Trade Bill is a continuity Bill. In other words, it simply puts the trade agreements that we already had as members of the European Union into UK law. It cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements with countries such as the US.

The Government has been clear that the NHS will not form part of trade negotiations in the future. This is a manifesto commitment and other means of Parliamentary scrutiny exist to ensure that the Government is held to account for its promises.

I know that my Ministerial colleagues have no intention of lowering standards in transitioned trade agreements – the very purpose of these agreements is to replicate as close as possible the effects of existing commitments in EU agreements. Indeed, I can reassure you that none of the 20 continuity agreements signed so far have resulted in standards being lowered.

Rigorous checks and balances on the Government’s power to negotiate and ratify new agreements also already exist, including through the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

Moreover, trade agreements cannot by themselves make changes to our domestic law. Any legislative changes required as a result of trade agreements would be subject to the separate scrutiny and approval of Parliament in the usual ways.

I hope this response has reassured you and thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Hospitality Sector Covid 19 Support

Thank you for contacting me about support for hospitality businesses and the Westminster Hall debate on current support measures.

I know that many hospitality businesses in West Worcestershire are experiencing serious challenges as a result of Covid-19.

I have been working on behalf of local businesses to help them to access support and raised anomalies in the system with the relevant Government departments.

The new variant and announcement of new restrictions across England will no doubt have come as a blow to many hospitality businesses, including pubs, restaurants and cafes.

To help support hospitality businesses through this difficult time, I welcome that decisive action has been taken and businesses have benefited from a combination of grants, funds, Government-backed loans and a business rates holiday. This has included cash grants of up to £25,000, business interruption loans, bounce back loans and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which has supported 1.4 million hospitality jobs. I am pleased the CJRS has been extended until the end of April 2021. Eligible closed hospitality businesses may receive grants of up to £3,000 per month.

Furthermore, in light of the England-wide restrictions, the Chancellor has announced additional grants for closed businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector of up to £9,000. In addition, the temporary reduction in VAT to 5 per cent from 20 per cent for hospitality and tourism businesses has been extended until 31 March 2021.

I know that the Chancellor is keeping the situation under close review to ensure that the most effective support can be made available when necessary. Likewise, the restrictions in place and will be kept under regular review and I will continue to follow any developments closely.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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European Union trade deal

I have always respected the result of the 2016 referendum and have always supported leaving the European Union with a deal. I consistently voted to support the Withdrawal Agreement and I am pleased that there is now an agreed trade and security deal in place.

I know that this news will be particularly welcome for the local farmers,
growers and food producers who rely on tariff-free trading arrangements with
the continent and this is also positive news for all the businesses who have contacted me in recent months who trade with specific European countries.

This has been a long and protracted process, but the aim has always been to deliver on the choice of the British people to leave the EU whilst securing the best possible trading arrangements with our closest neighbours.

I’m looking forward to seeing the detail on the new arrangements and Parliament will need to return next week to debate and vote on this deal.
“But with a deal in place, I hope we are all able to move forward as a country and build an ambitious plan for strengthening our position on the global stage.

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Agriculture Act

Thank you for contacting me about the Agriculture Act, which has now received Royal Assent.

This Act will allow ambitious new land management schemes to be introduced in England, based on the principle of public money for public goods. This means that farmers and land managers who protect our environment, improve animal welfare and produce high quality food in a more sustainable way can be rewarded. The Act will help farmers to stay competitive, with measures to increase productivity and to invest in new technology. I am pleased that transparency in the supply chain will also be improved to help food producers strengthen their position at the farm gate and seek a fairer return from the marketplace.

British consumers want high welfare produce, and if our trading partners want to break into the UK market, they should expect to meet those standards. The manifesto I stood on was clear that in all trade negotiations, our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards will not be compromised. The Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers.

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Internal Markets Bill (Lords’ Amendments)

Thank you for contacting me about today’s votes on the Internal Market Bill.

I have always respected the result of the 2016 referendum and have always wanted to leave the European Union with a deal. I consistently voted to support the Withdrawal Agreement and continue to support the Government as it negotiates a new Free Trade Agreement with our European friends and partners.

I voted for the Internal Market Bill in order to give the Government a strong negotiating position to secure a deal which is in the interests of both parties. Negotiations continue and I remain hopeful that a deal can be reached. Today’s votes will give the Prime Minister a stronger negotiating hand and I will support them on that basis.

However, I am pleased that the Bill was amended by the Government to require a further Parliamentary vote in the New Year to bring the sections the House of Lords removed into force. This would only be needed if we fail to agree a deal with our friends in the EU.

Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.

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Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits

Thank you for contacting me about the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits.

This extra support was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the pandemic. The Government has also introduced measures such as mortgage holidays, additional support for renters and has worked with energy suppliers to protect those struggling with energy bills. In fact, Treasury figures show that those on the lowest incomes have seen a small increase in incomes this year.

These existing arrangements remain in place until the end of March and the Government will continue to assess how best to support low-income families and decisions on the future of the uplift will be made in the new year.

Worcestershire County Council has been allocated £1.5 million to help families most affected by the global pandemic, offering them extra support this winter with food and bills. A Covid Winter Grant Scheme comes on top of £63 million already provided to councils this year to assist those struggling to buy food and essentials. A further £220 million will be invested in extending the Holiday and Food Programme until next Christmas, meaning that all children eligible for Free School Meals will have the option to join a holiday-time programme that provides healthy food and fun activities during the summer, Christmas and Easter holidays next year.
If you or someone you know is having issues with accessing financial support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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UK Aid reduction proposal

Thank you for contacting me about the Government’s proposed 0.2% cut to UK overseas aid. As someone who has had the privilege of seeing the good that our aid budget does for the health and education of the world’s most vulnerable, I have grave concerns about the impact such cuts could have on the world’s extremely poor, particularly during the fallout of the current global pandemic.

I voted to make a commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of our gross national income to international aid and I promised to continue with this commitment in the manifesto on which I was re-elected last year. As our economy is smaller, so the aid budget has already fallen by £2.9 billion, so it does not feel like an appropriate time to cut further.

While I have every sympathy for the Chancellor as he deals with the economic challenges of the global pandemic, I made my views on this matter clear to him in the House of Commons which you can read here. This proposed change does not have my support and I will vote against it.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.

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Sewage Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill.

I have three major rivers, the Teme, the Severn and the Avon as well as many smaller waterways and I am acutely aware of the importance of protecting them and preserving the health of those who use them.

Over recent years around £25 billion has been invested to reduce pollution from sewage since water privatisation, covering improvements in sewage treatment and overflows. I also know that in England, between 2015 and 2020, water companies are investing over £3 billion to improve their sewerage infrastructure.

I am aware that sources of pollution identified in a few certain instances of poor water quality ranged from sewer misconnections to sea birds, dogs, run-off from urban and agricultural land, as well as sewage from combined sewer overflows and septic tanks. I am pleased that the Environment Agency is working with its partners to look for solutions to these problems.

I am committed to the environmental ambitions that the Government has already outlined, and as a member of the Conservative Environment Network, I am happy to be one of the Bill’s many co-sponsors.

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All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group

Thank you for contacting me regarding the webinar hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group. Unfortunately, I was not able to participate owing to other diary commitments.

I completely understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on all sides. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, the Government rightly adopts a neutral stance on abortion, allowing Conservative MPs to vote freely according to their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. This is a convention which I support wholeheartedly.

I believe it is vital that, on a matter this sensitive and important, the broadest possible scope of scientific research is examined, informing a comprehensive debate. I would encourage all my colleagues across the House and on all sides of the discussion to engage in this debate.

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Thank you for contacting me about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori.

I want to reassure you that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office continues to work hard to assist British nationals detained in Iran. My thoughts are with Nazanin and Anoosheh, and their families and like you, I want to see them both released immediately.

The UK continues to call on Iran to live up to its responsibilities under international human rights law and the Vienna convention and release dual nationals. Cases continue to be raised at the most senior levels, and discussed at every opportunity with Iranian counterparts.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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EU Negotiations

Thank you for contacting me about leaving the EU.

I have always respected the result of the 2016 referendum and have always wanted to leave the European Union with a deal. I consistently voted to support the Withdrawal Agreement and continue to support the Government as it negotiates a new Free Trade Agreement with our European friends and partners.

In any negotiation, you need to be able to walk away when the other side is making unreasonable demands. The UK negotiating team is working hard with the EU to see if it is possible to bridge the remaining gaps in our positions.

The UK was always due to leave the single market and customs union at the end of the year and so there is no change in this regard. Businesses would always have been required to prepare for this scenario. I would encourage you to visit the following website for the most up to date information: www.gov.uk/transitionM.

Just as I voted to ratify the “oven ready” withdrawal agreement, I stand ready to vote for a comprehensive free trade agreement, that covers other important areas such as security, fishing, data and financial services.

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Nurses Pay

How the NHS values and retains its staff is critical and I was encouraged when a deal was agreed in 2018 ensuring a 6.5 per cent pay rise for over one million NHS workers on Agenda for Change contracts over three years.

Ministers set aside £800 million to support the deal for 2018/19, and the Government’s long-term funding settlement for the NHS, which will provide increased funding of £33.9 billion per year by 2023/24, is funding the pay rise over the remaining two years. Those on the lowest salaries in the NHS are seeing of the largest proportionate pay rises: the lowest NHS starting salary has increased year on year from £15,404 to £18,005 in 2020/2021.

I know that the people who have work so hard in NHS and care settings are supported by a grateful nation and I would support measures which ensure they are appropriately rewarded in the next pay negotiation.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Girls Education

Thank you for contacting me about protecting girls in crisis.

I know the UK works with a wide range of international partners to ensure the best results for girls across the world. I am proud of the leadership that the UK has shown, supporting the UN and national governments to keep girls safe.

Educating girls is the tool that can address a whole host of the world’s economic and social problems and, alongside all 53 members of the Commonwealth, the UK is working to help provide 12 years of quality education for all girls by 2030.

Girls’ Education is one of the five foundations of the UK's wider development work on gender equality, and between 2015 and 2019, the UK supported 5.8 million girls to gain a decent education. In 2018, the Prime Minister, as Foreign Secretary, launched the Leave No Girl Behind campaign. The campaign gets girls learning, builds international political commitment and boosts global investment. Our Girls Education Challenge is the world’s largest fund dedicated to girls’ education and is supporting up to 1.5 million marginalised girls in 17 countries around the world.

I’ve seen at first-hand the important work done across the world made possible by UK Aid, particularly in Africa. It’s an issue with which I am closely involved as I am Chair of the APPG for Global Education, as well as Co-Chair of the recently formed International Parliamentary Network for Education. I will continue to champion girls’ education and welfare as part of these groups I will continue to raise this important matter in Westminster.

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Environment Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Environment Bill.

As set out in the 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, the decision to leave the European Union has created an historic opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced.

I am pleased that the Bill will ensure the environment is at the heart of all policy making and that this and future governments are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties. These will include meeting net-zero by 2050, as well as wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency which will be established under the Bill.

The Office for Environmental Protection, a new, world-leading independent regulator, will be established in statute to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action when necessary. The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan will also be placed on a statutory footing, and a set of environmental principles will be introduced that will be used to guide future government policy making.

In this plan, the Government has committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network and, in the long term, to create or restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site series and a new framework for Local Nature Recovery Strategies, to help support the Nature Recovery Network and better direct investment in the environment and green infrastructure. The Bill will also require the preparation and publication of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, mapping nature-rich habitats, so that investment can be targeted where it will make the most difference.

Once the Bill has completed the Committee Stage, the Government will reflect on concerns about the Bill raised by colleagues and interested parties. I look forward to the Bill coming back to the House, at which point I will have the opportunity to vote on any amendments.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extension

Thank you for contacting me about further support for businesses and self-employed people during this ongoing global pandemic.

I am proud to be part of a Government which moved so swiftly to help local business, to allow them to protect jobs and livelihoods. West Worcestershire has already received nearly £200 million in support - 12,000 people living in West Worcestershire were furloughed – worth £91 million – and 4,100 people have accessed the self-employment support scheme, getting £12 million. On top of that more than 1,500 companies in West Worcestershire have secured loans worth £71 million.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has now extended the job retention and support schemes for business and self-employed people and you can read the full detail here.

I hope that this is welcome news and I remain eager to help any constituent who needs help or guidance as this extended scheme is rolled out across the country.

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E-Scooters

Thank you for contacting me about the electric scooter trials, including one in Redditch and I was recently briefed by a local retailer about the benefits of using electric powered bikes and scooter to help to take pressure off the road network.

E-scooters could ease the burden on the transport network and, in light of the Coronavirus, help to facilitate social distancing. However, the Government will rightly need to understand the full impact of electric scooters on pedestrians and others before any decision is made on whether they should be legalised.

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Breast Cancer Now campaign

Thank you for contacting me about breast cancer.

I am pleased to report that I have supported the Breast Cancer Now on many occasions and earlier this month, asked questions of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about cancer screening. You can read the transcript of my question here: https://bit.ly/3ogdkRn.

I am pleased that screening services have re-started in Worcestershire but I urge you to make sure that you see your GP if you have a symptom that is causing you concern.

Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, with five-year survival rates for women at over 86 per cent, up from just 53 per cent in the 1970s. This is a testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease but more must be done.

Great efforts are being made to improve cancer services and to ensure that the NHS continues to provide some of the world’s best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by the end of 2020.

There will be a one-year review setting budgets for next year, which will allow for a focus on tackling Covid-19 and delivering the Plan for Jobs. I am unable to pre-empt the conclusions of the review. I am, however, assured by my aforementioned colleagues, that they are aware of the policy suggestions you raised.

Thank you for contacting me on this important matter.

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Test and Trace

Thank you for contacting me about contact tracking and tracing measures for coronavirus.

I fully support steps being taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus through sensible social distancing and isolation measures where appropriate.

Mass testing and contact tracing are not, by themselves, solutions, but may allow some social restrictions to be relaxed faster by working to supress transition more precisely. The UK now has capacity to carry out over 340,000 tests per day.

I am pleased to report that in Worcestershire, more test facilities are being introduced this week to allow more people to take a Covid-19 test if they need one: https://www.harriettbaldwin.com/content/extra-covid-testing-sites-planne...

I am also regularly update by the local resilience forum on the local steps taken to identify and mitigate local outbreaks and you can read the council’s detailed response plan here:
https://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/info/20769/coronavirus_covid-19/2273/c...

I hope you are reassured by the comprehensive local and national action which is being carried out to prevent the spread of this virus.

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Cat Microchips

Unfortunately due to Parliamentary commitments, I was unable to attend the Cats Protection event on 20th October, however, I am pleased that the Government is committed to improving the welfare of cats and has a manifesto commitment to introduce compulsory microchipping of cats. Last year, DEFRA published a call for evidence on compulsory microchipping for cats, which attracted over 3,000 responses. I am aware that the responses are now being assessed, with a view to publishing the summary of these in due course. In the meantime, I would encourage all cat owners to make the sensible choice to microchip their felines, ensuring relevant records are kept up to date.

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Property tax reform

Thank you for contacting me about council tax reform and the proposal for a proportional property tax.

I read the proposal with interest and it raises important points about fairness in our tax system. However, as I understand it, a lot of places that are low income areas but also experiencing rising houses prices would be hit very hard by the new proportional property tax.

Another issue to consider is that excessive council tax increases are kept in check by referendum principles, which could not be done under the proposed property tax system. If house prices begin to rise in an area, low income households would quickly see their bills rise at staggering rates well above increases to their income.

It is also important to keep in mind that people in London are much more likely to rent than own their home outright compared to elsewhere in
England. Even if the new proportional tax was to be paid by property owners rather than tenants, it is highly likely that this would simply be passed on back to tenants in rent increases, as property owners still need to make mortgage payments.

On second homes and vacant homes, 95 per cent of second homes are already charged full council tax and vacant homes can be charged double the council tax rate if these are empty for two or more years. Council tax is a valuable source of revenue for local councils and it is important that they have the discretion to raise or lower council tax rates based on the needs in their local area.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

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MPs’ Pay

Thank you for contacting me about MPs’ pay.

As you may know, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority sets MPs pay and also carries out periodic reviews to set the appropriate levels of pay.

IPSA is currently consulting on this matter and I have written to the body suggesting that MPs should not be awarded a pay rise this year.
The consultation is open until November 6, 2020 and I urge you to have your own say on this matter.

https://www.ipsaonline.org.uk/notices/mps-pay-consultation

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Overseas Operations Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Overseas Operations Bill.

I consider the conduct of Armed Forces personnel serving overseas as a matter of the utmost importance. I am proud of the fact the UK has some of the most committed and professional service personnel anywhere in the world, who not only adhere to the rule of law but promote it through the conduct of their operations. I have full confidence that this Bill ensures allegations of torture will continue to be investigated and prosecuted wherever and whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.

I am confident that this Bill ensures serious offences, such as torture, are pursued where appropriate, but also that service personnel and veterans are protected from the endless cycle of vexatious claims and repeated investigations that have blighted so many in recent years.

Service personnel are subject to the criminal law of England and Wales, and a disciplinary framework through Service Law, and have a duty to uphold both, wherever they are serving in the world.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Childhood Obesity

The Government’s obesity strategy established a target to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

The Government is now taking steps to ban unhealthy food adverts on television and online before 9pm, to reduce the likelihood of children seeing them. Further, a short consultation will be held on whether a ban on online adverts for unhealthy foods should apply at all times of the day.

Regarding the relationship between trade agreements and health outcomes, there is no evidence to suggest that a free trade deal with the United States, or indeed any other country, would lead to an increase in child obesity in the UK.

The health and diets of our children is at the heart of the Government’s commitment to the high food standards that protect and benefit British farmers and consumers, and which will not be compromised in any trade negotiation.

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Beer Duty

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation, as well in helping to promote responsible drinking, which is why I am encouraged by the support which has made available to pubs and our manifesto commitment to further cut taxes for small businesses.

I welcome the new measures put in place to help businesses across the country, particularly pubs. It is reassuring that no pub or other business in the hospitality sector will be required to pay business rates this year. Local authorities will apply the rates relief automatically and no action is required by pub rate payers.

Pubs have also received cash grants of up to £25,000 to cover the loss of trade during lockdown.

I also welcome the temporary cut to VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for all food and non-alcoholic drinks, which applies from 15 July 2020 to 31 March 2021. This will continue to support restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK.

Any decision to modify alcohol duty in the future is a matter for the Treasury. There is a broad recognition of the need to reform the current duty system to support the alcoholic drinks and pubs sector in the longer term, and a call for evidence is due to be published before the end of this year.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Animal Sentience

Thank you for contacting me about animal sentience.

The Government is committed to making any necessary changes to UK law in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is legally recognised after the transition period and legislation will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows. This also includes ensuring the UK has an effective means of making sure animal sentience is reflected in future policy decisions. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently assessing how best to support Government departments in considering the welfare needs of sentient animals when they are developing and implementing Government policy, as well as continuing to engage closely with relevant organisations and authorities to enhance its policies on this issue further.

Having left the EU, I am pleased that the UK will now have the opportunity to do even more. A consultation will shortly be carried out on restricting live animal journeys, requiring approval for longer journeys and bringing forward welfare conditions for these journeys when they are necessary. The Government is also looking at proposals to ban the trade in pet primates, extending compulsory microchipping to cats and controlling the trade in hunting trophies from endangered animals.

We are a nation of animal lovers and I am pleased with the commitments to make Brexit work not just for citizens, but for the animals we love and cherish too.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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XR Climate Change Campaign

Thank you for contacting me about climate change.

I understand that this campaign has been developed by members of Extinction Rebellion, Big Ask and Power for the People.

Climate change is a key priority and I am proud that the UK was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. While I can understand that you want this target to be achieved sooner, and I share this desire, getting to net zero by 2050 is feasible and consistent with avoiding most damaging climate change. Aiming for zero emissions by 2030 is almost certainly impossible, hugely disruptive and risks undermining consensus. Climate change is an emotive issue, but a cross-community consensus will be required to ensure the UK achieves a transition that works for all.

I note that the campaign seeks to examine the UK’s global carbon footprint, such as indirect UK emissions in our supply chain which may affect developing countries. I am encouraged that the UK remains committed to environmentally sustainable development as set out in the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. In September 2019 the Prime Minister committed to doubling the UK’s International Climate Finance over the next five years which I hope will enable the UK to play an active part in protecting the environment and reversing biodiversity loss.

A citizens’ assembly has already been formed on climate change. Parliament sent out 30,000 invitations in 2019 to form a Climate Assembly which was commissioned by six cross-party House of Commons Select Committees. The Assembly looked at how the UK will reach its net zero emissions climate target, and what can be done by members of the public to help reduce carbon emissions.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Young People’s Wellbeing

Thank you for contacting me about young people’s wellbeing.

It must be a matter of priority for all of us that we do everything in our power to ensure our children are happy and healthy. I know Ministers share this view and I am reassured that many steps are already being taken towards this goal.

The introduction of the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum will be an important step in improving our children’s overall wellbeing. The curriculum is designed to equip children early-on with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their wellbeing, health and relationships, as well as preparing them for adult life in a changing world.

Schools make a real difference to children’s mental health, and so I am pleased that Mental Health Support Teams will be rolled out to schools and colleges. These teams will employ new staff who are being recruited and trained specifically for the programme. The first 25 trailblazer sites delivering 59 new teams were announced in December 2018 and a further 57 MHST sites, delivering 123 teams were confirmed in July 2019. The National Health Service is on track to deliver the roll-out of mental health support teams in schools and colleges across 20-25 per cent of areas in England by 2023/24.

Monitoring children and young people’s wellbeing will of course be vital to ensure we are making progress. I therefore welcome the publication of the first ‘State of the Nation’ report into children’s mental wellbeing last year. The report delivers on a commitment made last World Mental Health Day to publish an annual report designed to better understand patterns and issues in young people’s mental health, alongside guidance for schools to help them measure their students’ wellbeing and make sure appropriate support is in place.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Trophy Hunting

Thank you for contacting me about trophy hunting.

I believe that all animals should be treated with thought and care. Trophy hunting involves pursuing another animal in conditions which causes stress, fear and pain, with hunters killing as a form of entertainment, not for food, to control pests or to protect other species.

I understand there are arguments for conservation hunting. Some individuals and organisations make the case for conservation hunting as a way of bringing income into countries with rich wildlife populations, but poor economies. They also argue that commercial hunting provides a strong incentive to manage and safeguard wildlife populations and protect other valuable natural resources from exploitation. I also recognise that occasionally there is a need to cull some species to keep nature in balance and the control of predators to protect other species.

However, I cannot see how those justifications can be used to defend hunters who kill an animal which has been bred in captivity for the specific purpose of being hunted for entertainment. I believe action is needed to stop this sort of exploitation, and to establish how defensible the arguments for conservation hunting are. I am therefore pleased that the Government decided to consult on options to restrict the imports and exports of hunting trophies to the UK - including a potential ban.

This consultation, alongside a call for evidence, will allow ministers to understand the public’s views on all sides of the debate and gather expert evidence to inform any next steps. The consultation closed in February and the responses are now being considered.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Animal Tests

The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and it is right for us to cement our status as a global leader by continuing to raise the bar now we have left the EU. I would like to reassure you that Ministers have stated their determination that there should be no need for any additional animal testing for a chemical that has already been registered to EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).

I am pleased to tell you that the Government will recognise the validity of any animal testing that has already been undertaken and so avoid the need for further testing. The grandfathering of all existing UK-held REACH registrations into the UK system will further avoid the need to duplicate animal testing associated with re-registration.

After the transition period, the UK will be able to establish its own independent chemical regime. Although both the UK and EU will operate REACH frameworks, the two systems will not be linked. This means that companies wishing to retain access to the UK market will be required to notify and submit registration data to the Health and Safety Executive to confirm the registrations and ensure compliance with UK REACH.

As I understand it, the data that supports each substance's registration in REACH is not owned by individual companies or the European Chemicals Agency, but by a commercial consortium of companies. Although there will be some UK companies that already own that data, others will need to negotiate access to fulfil the UK requirements. The Government has set out that to enable businesses to meet the separate requirements of the two markets, the UK and EU could, as part of a Chemicals Annex, agree data and information sharing mechanisms. I am aware that the UK is continuing to negotiate a deal on data sharing with the EU.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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EDM 250

Thank you for contacting me about animal research and EDM 250.

It is my policy not to sign Early Day Motions (EDMs), as they are little more than parliamentary graffiti and I do not feel that they bring about resolutions.

Animal research still plays an important role in providing vital safety information for potential new medicines. It is worth remembering that, as a result of findings from animal studies, a large number of potential new drugs never get as far as being tested in humans. Some aspects of the toxicological assessment of new medicines cannot be adequately assessed in humans, and animal data will be the only kind available.

Without animal testing it is highly likely that a large number of potentially dangerous new medicines would be tested in healthy volunteers and patients in clinical trials, and I know Ministers believe that this would be quite unacceptable. However, animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives, and by encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will ensure that standards of animal welfare are improved.

I fully support all steps to establish new methods and to support the life sciences and research industry. However, existing scientific research methods ensure that, by the time medicines reach clinical trial, risks are significantly reduced.

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Fur Trade

Thank you for contacting me about the fur trade. I am afraid I was not able to attend the briefing event in Westminster owing to prior diary commitments.

We are a nation of animal lovers, so it is only right that we have some of the highest welfare standards in the world. In addition to fur farming being banned in the UK, I am pleased to note that the import of fur products is tightly regulated. It is illegal to import furs derived from cats or dogs, or products made from them. In addition, the fur and skin of endangered animals or fish cannot be imported without a valid permit.

As well as this, it is prohibited to import furs or fur products from 13 wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught in the wild by leg-hold traps, or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping. Strict rules are also in place to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely.

I appreciate that there is considerable support for banning all imports of fur products. The UK continues to support higher animal welfare standards worldwide as the best way of phasing out cruel and inhumane fur farming and trapping practices that are banned here. Now we have left the EU, the Government has retained all the current regulations banning imports of cat and dog fur and seal products from commercial hunts, as well as controls on products from endangered species and humane trapping. Until the end of the transition period it is not possible to introduce additional restrictions on the fur trade, but at the end of that period the UK will have a unique opportunity to ensure we have the highest standards in every area of animal welfare.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Use of Pesticides

Thank you for contacting me about pesticides in future trade deals.

I understand the strength of feeling on this issue. The current high standards of pesticides in the UK safeguards people and the environment from any potential harm, and consumers want to know that these standards will remain. I do not support relaxing the UK’s high standards in any new trade agreements.

The UK will not compromise on its high food and environmental standards. The use of pesticides will only be permitted where the scientific assessments demonstrate that there is no danger of their use causing harm to people or the environment.

At the end of the Transition Period, the UK will be in a position to decide its own regulations on pesticides. This will enable the UK to develop its own dynamic system, that will continue to deliver high standards of protection for the environment and people.

I understand that the Government has been engaging with the agricultural sector in trade discussions, including the National Farmers Union. I encourage these engagements to continue and am confident that the concerns of farmers and other parties are well represented to the Government during discussions.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

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Internal Market Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Internal Market Bill, which had its Second Reading on September 14th. Many people have contacted me about the Bill with a wide range of views and I have taken the time to read all your emails. In order to speed up my response, I am posting my own
views on this matter on my website.

I have always respected the result of the 2016 referendum and have always wanted to leave the European Union with a deal. I consistently voted to support the Withdrawal Agreement and continue to support the Government as it negotiates a new Free Trade Agreement with our European friends and partners.

I voted for the Second Reading of the Internal Market Bill in order to give the Government a strong negotiating position to secure a deal which is in the interests of both parties. The deadline for negotiations is October 15th. Second Reading is just the first stage of the legislative process, which gives outline support for the principles of the Bill.

In my opinion, the EU is currently behaving unreasonably, in particular, concerning the ongoing negotiations on food standards. It is not consenting to the UK having third country status, alleging that it does not know what food standards we will follow. Since all our food standards are completely in line with EU rules, this third country status should be granted automatically. In the highly unlikely event that we would ever wish to lower our food standards, we would be required to notify the World Trade Organisation and all our trading partners long in advance.

In any negotiation, you need to be able to walk away when the other side is making unreasonable demands. I have decided that supporting Second Reading of the Internal Markets Bill makes a deal by October 15th more likely.

Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.

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Summer Exams

Thank you for contacting me about this summer’s exam results.

As you will know, the Government has taken unprecedented steps to deal with the global pandemic and schools were forced to close on March 18 in order to slow the spread of coronavirus and help to keep the pressure off our NHS.
Most schools were able to remain open for children of key workers and those with special educational needs, but the majority of pupils were required to remain at home. Because of that, the difficult decision was taken to cancel
this summer’s examinations and the governing body, Ofqual, was tasked with identifying the most effective method for awarding results to students who have missed half a year of study.

No system is ideal, but I have been working closely with local head teachers, parents and pupils to offer assistance where I can, but if you are aware of a specific pupil who needs further assistance, please urge them to get in touch with my office. I can also refer any university entrance problems to the Universities Minister.

The crucial thing for our young people is that this horrible virus does not affect their lives and opportunities more than it has already, and that schools are ready to reopen for the new school year.

Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.

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Cross Channel Boats

Thank you for your contacting me about the number of small boats carrying migrants attempting to cross the Channel.

To date, the National Crime Agency, Border Force and the Police have been working closely with French authorities to crack down on the criminals who facilitate these dangerous crossings, with 11 people suspected of organising crossings arrested in a single day last month. The UK Government is also funding patrols on the beaches of northern France to prevent migrants from crossing in the first place.

I know, however, that there is more the Government can and will do. This is a view shared by the Home Secretary, who has pledged a two-fold plan to make the Channel route unviable, including:

• Stopping the boats leaving France in the first place – in particular by urging to French authorities to ensure that migrants who are caught attempting to reach the UK by boat are taken away from Calais to prevent them from trying again, with the option of seeking protection in France or returning to their home country.

• Intercepting and returning anyone attempting to make a crossing– the Government is pushing the French to consider interceptions at sea and has offered to work with the French on joint exercises to demonstrate how boats can be returned safely.

We must also accept that until we leave the transition period with the EU later this year, we are limited in the action we can take on the current asylum regime. As it currently stands, the system is inflexible and rigid and is open to abuse by both migrants and activist lawyers to frustrate the returns of those who have no right to be here. Let me assure you that the Government is developing a new asylum system that is balanced and fair, protecting it from abuse but ensuring the most vulnerable people who are genuinely in need of our help, can receive the protection they need.

I have been encouraged in recent days to see the Government taking the firmer action necessary to stop these crossings – both to ensure the integrity of our borders and to protect the lives of migrants, misled by criminals and people smugglers, who are making this dangerous crossing.

Making the Channel route unviable will not be an easy task, with legislative, legal and operational barriers to overcome, but the Home Secretary has assured me that the Government will do everything in its power to achieve this task and stop the crossings.

I will continue to impress the importance of this situation on the
Government for as long as it remains an issue.

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Animal Cruelty Sentencing

Thank you for contacting me about animal cruelty sentencing.

There is no place in this country for animal cruelty, and we must ensure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. I am therefore pleased that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has now been introduced in the House by Chris Loder MP, and will be backed by the Government. The new Bill will enable tougher prison sentences for the most serious perpetrators of animal cruelty, from the current maximum of six months to up to five years. Due to the coronavirus outbreak and the changes to the setup of Parliament, this Bill will now be heard on 23rd October.

I believe that this increase in sentencing will send a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated. The maximum five-year sentence will become one of the toughest punishments in Europe, strengthening the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.

I am aware that a public consultation found 70 per cent of people supported the proposals for tougher prison sentences. I am encouraged that the planned change in law means the courts will be able to take a tougher approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, or gross neglect of farm animals.

These increased maximum sentences will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and gross neglect in the future, and builds on recent positive action to protect animals, including plans to ban third party puppy and kitten sales and banning the use of wild animals in circuses.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.

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Hen Harrier Action Plan

The Government is very concerned about hen harrier populations, which is why we took the lead on the Hen Harrier Action Plan. This sets out what will be done to increase hen harrier populations in England and includes measures to stop illegal persecution. A copy of the plan is available on GOV.UK at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...

The Joint Action Plan was published in January 2016 and we believe that it remains the best way to restore hen harrier populations.

It contains six actions which individually can bring benefits for harriers, but when combined, underpin each other and have the potential to deliver strong outcomes. It includes three measures to stamp out illegality, a trial toolkit comprising two measures for land owners to safely accommodate hen harriers on grouse moors and a measure to reintroduce them to suitable habitat in other parts of England. These six complementary actions have the potential to deliver strong outcomes and set out the expected benefits from each action, who is going to lead actions and the timescales for them to be achieved.

Natural England will report annually on progress on all six actions to the Defra Uplands Stakeholder Forum and also copy this to the UK Tasking and Co-ordinating group for Wildlife Crime.

The Hen Harrier Action plan aims to achieve:
- A self-sustaining and well dispersed breeding population in England across a range of habitats including a viable population present in the Special Protected Areas designated for hen harrier.
- A hen harrier population coexisting with local business interests and its presence contributing to a thriving rural economy.

All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, with strong penalties for committing offences against birds of prey and other wildlife. The Government takes wildlife crime very seriously and has identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority, focusing on hen harrier, golden eagle, goshawk, peregrine, red kite and white tailed eagle. The Hen Harrier Action Plan includes work with enforcement agencies to tackle incidents of illegal persecution. Any persecution incident has a catastrophic impact on this fragile population.

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End of Life APPG

Thank you for contacting me about the End of Life APPG on 15th July. Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to previous diary commitments.

I appreciate your concern on this very sensitive issue. Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for the patient and their families.

I fully accept that suicide, assisting or encouraging suicide, assisted dying and euthanasia are all subjects on which it is entirely possible for people to hold widely different but defensible opinions. This is why the Government believes that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for Parliament to decide rather than one for Government policy.

Everyone would agree that terminally ill patients should receive the highest quality palliative support and end-of-life care, and that they and their families should be certain that their end-of-life care will meet all of their needs. With that in mind I welcome the Department of Health’s End of Life Care Strategy which is intended to improve access to good quality palliative care and encourage the Government further to develop specialist palliative care and hospice provision.

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Arthritis

Thank you for contacting me about arthritis. I recognise that living with a long-term condition, such as arthritis, can have a significant impact upon a person’s wellbeing.

I know that there is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow it down, including lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery. I welcome that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is presently working on updated guidance for treatment of Osteoarthritis, which is due for publication following extensive consultation in 2022.

The NHS was asked to undertake a clinical review of standards relating to waiting times. This must be clinically led to enable best, and safest, delivery of care for patients. I understand that NHS England has now prepared proposals, covering waiting times across the service, including elective procedures, mental health, cancer, and A&E.

I understand that the recommendations following this review have been deferred as part of the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is understandable.

I know that, while it has been important to postpone some NHS activities to protect individuals and enable resources to be used as efficiently as possible, I am urging the NHS to restart elective procedures as soon as it is safe to do so. I am in regular contact with the local NHS management teams and will keep a close eye on this issue as more activities are resumed across the local health service.

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Social Care and Age UK Petition

Thank you for contacting me about adult social care and the Age UK petition.

I believe we must all receive dignified care in old age. With an ageing population, this is one of the biggest challenges our country faces. I support the Government’s commitment to making sure that the most vulnerable in society gain the support they need. While it is important to note that more than 4 of every 5 people in care receive care from good and outstanding organisations, it is clear that more needs to be done to tackle this serious challenge – crucially by securing a long-term funding solution. I’m delighted that the Prime Minister has spoken of his determination to tackle this, stating in his first speech as Prime Minister that “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared, to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.

Since 2015 local authorities have had greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money, as well as retain savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million. In the Spending Round in September, an extra £1.5 billion was made available to councils for adult social care services. This funding should be viewed as a significant down payment as we move towards a long-term funding solution.

Money alone will not fix the problem and reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. It is vital for us to consider ways of better joining up health and care services, and I am encouraged by the use of the Better Care Fund to assist local government and the NHS with the implementation of integrated health and care services.

Last year’s Conservative manifesto made clear that we must build the same level of consensus on social care that we have already built on the NHS across political parties, so that an answer can be brought forward that solves the problem, commands the widest possible support and stands the test of time. I stand by this commitment and urge my colleagues and constituents of all political leanings to take part in a conversation about establishing a care system fit for the 21st century.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Supertrawlers

Thank you for contacting me about supertrawlers.

I welcome the fact that the UK will become an independent coastal state again when the transition period ends on December 31st 2020. I am also proud that the UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas with our “Blue Belt” of protected waters.

For many years, the Common Fisheries Policy has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures within offshore Marine Protected Areas. The Fisheries Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, proposes a new power to allow the introduction of measures for conservation purposes and restore our fish stock back to more sustainable levels. This builds on a manifesto commitment which promised to introduce a legal commitment to fish sustainably.

The Fisheries Bill prohibits any commercial fishing vessel (including foreign-registered vessels) from operating in UK waters without a licence. It also provides powers to attach conditions (such as the areas that can be fished, species that can be caught and the type of fishing gear that can be used) to fishing vessel licences. Foreign vessels operating in UK waters will have to follow UK rules, including the conditions that are attached to their commercial fishing licence.

On December 31st 2020, we will automatically take back control of our waters, and others’ right to fish in them. For the first time in 40 years, we will be free to decide who can access our waters to fish and on what terms, including considering the recommendations of the Benyon Review.

Thank you for contacting me on this important matter.

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Control of Wild Birds

Thank you for contacting me about general licensing for the control of wild birds.

I understand the concerns that you have raised. In June last year, Defra simultaneously issued new interim general licences and launched a review to inform longer-term licensing arrangements. I am aware that the review has made significant progress, however I understand that additional time is needed to thoroughly analyse the evidence and to fully develop a general licensing solution for protected sites.

I am pleased that six general licences for the control of wild birds have now been reissued on a temporary basis ahead of new licences coming into force on 1 January 2021. No action is required by licence users, beyond the ongoing requirement to act in accordance with the licence conditions. Defra intends to publish new licences in November to allow user groups to become acquainted with the changes before they officially come into force.

In 2019, herring gull and lesser black-backed gull were removed from Defra’s general licences due to their red and amber conservation status respectively. As a result, the lethal control of gulls has been via individual licence this year. I am aware that this is also the case for wild bird control on and near European sites, however, this is an interim position while Defra concludes its review, which will work towards a general licence solution for these sites.

I am aware of calls for a feasibility study into Defra taking back control of individual licensing from Natural England. While I recognise frustration around the individual licence process this year, Natural England is England’s statutory nature conservation body and has the right specialist expertise and site-based knowledge to make licensing decisions.

I would like to reassure you that Natural England, Defra, my colleagues and I are all committed to achieving a general licensing regime for wild birds which is both robust and workable for users, ensuring that longer-term licensing arrangements are informed by the best available evidence.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Trade Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Trade Bill.

The Trade Bill is a continuity Bill. In other words, it simply puts the trade agreements that we already had as members of the European Union into UK law. It cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements with countries such as the US.

I know that my Ministerial colleagues have no intention of lowering standards in transitioned trade agreements – the very purpose of these agreements is to replicate as close as possible the effects of existing commitments in EU agreements. Indeed, I can reassure you that none of the 20 continuity agreements signed so far have resulted in standards being lowered.

Rigorous checks and balances on the Government’s power to negotiate and ratify new agreements also already exist, including through the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

Moreover, trade agreements cannot by themselves make changes to our domestic law. Any legislative changes required as a result of trade agreements would be subject to the separate scrutiny and approval of Parliament in the usual ways.

I hope this response has reassured you and thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Face Coverings

Thank you for contacting me about face coverings.

The Health Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons which you may find useful: “In recent weeks we have reopened retail and footfall is rising. We want to give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protections for those who work in shops. Both of those can be done by the use of face coverings. Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis. The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher among men and 60% higher among women than in the general population. As we restore shopping, so we must keep our shopkeepers safe.

There is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop. The British Retail Consortium has said that, together with other social distancing measures, face coverings can make shoppers feel even more confident about returning to the High Street.”

In addition, the chair of the Federation of Small Businesses has said: “As mandatory face coverings are introduced, small firms know that they have a part to play in the nation’s recovery both physically and financially, and I’m sure this will welcomed by them. We have therefore come to the decision that face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets. Last month, we made face coverings mandatory on public transport and in NHS settings, and that has been successful in giving people more confidence to go on public transport and to a hospital setting when they need to, providing people with additional protection when they are not able to keep 2 metres from others, particularly people they do not normally come into contact with. Under the new rules, people who do not wear face coverings will face a fine of up to £100 in line with the sanction on public transport and, just as with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.”

Our principal aim is to make sure that we protect individuals and workers as we work together to continue to slow the spread of the virus and help us all to allow the economy to bounceback while protecting the health and safety of us all.

You can see helpful information on how to make your own face covering here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-...
Thank you for contacting me on this important matter.

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Fur Trade

Thank you for contacting me about the fur trade and EDM 267.

It is my policy not to sign Early Day Motions (EDMs), as they are little more than parliamentary graffiti and I do not feel that they bring about resolutions.

I am pleased to note that the import of fur products is tightly regulated, and fur farming is banned in the UK. It is illegal to import furs derived from cats or dogs, or products made from them. In addition, the fur and skin of endangered animals or fish cannot be imported without a valid permit. It is prohibited to import furs or fur products from 13 wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught in the wild by leg-hold traps, or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping. Strict rules are also in place to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely.

I appreciate that there is considerable support for banning all imports of fur products. The UK continues to support higher animal welfare standards worldwide as the best way of phasing out cruel and inhumane fur farming and trapping practices that are banned here. Now we have left the EU, the Government has retained all the current regulations banning imports of cat and dog fur and seal products from commercial hunts, as well as controls on products from endangered species and humane trapping. Until the end of the transition period it is not possible to introduce additional restrictions on the fur trade, but at the end of that period the UK will have a unique opportunity to ensure we have the highest standards in every area of animal welfare.

The UK will also be able to press for high standards through international fora such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, CITES and others. The UK will retake our seat on these bodies and be able to promote and support improved animal welfare standards internationally more effectively.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Heat Pumps

Thank you for contacting me about heat pumps. I am convinced heat pumps are central to achieving net zero.

The argument for the 45kW cap is that this will target support where upfront costs are a particular barrier in transitioning to low-carbon heat. Typically, these installations are in households or small and medium-size enterprises. But I do recognise your concern that many bigger schemes need support too. I am sure you are aware that the consultation expressly seeks views on this very point. However, as I have heard from several constituents on this, I have ensured that the Minister's office is aware of concerns about the suggested cap.

It has been pointed out to me that in the recent Budget, the Chancellor announced a £270 million Green Heat Network Fund which will fund large-heat pumps, solar thermal installations and waste-heat recovery in heat networks between 2022 and 2025. I understand that the Government will be consulting later this year on scheme design which will offer the sector to make the case for supporting larger heat pump projects. You mention the efficiency of heat pumps and I am confident that with the right support they will play a massive role in Britain in decarbonising heat.

While we need target incentives correctly, I agree this is best achieved by consulting with industry and I would encourage you to respond to both consultations.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Free School Meals

Thank you for contacting me about free school meals over the summer holidays.

I understand that parents across the country are going through particularly difficult and stressful times. We have never had a period of disruption like this and I know parents and children alike will be longing for a return to normality.

During this period it is right that the Government has encouraged schools to continue providing meals and introduced the free school meal (FSM) voucher scheme, to ensure that those normally eligible for FSM still receive them, even if they are not attending school.

As you will know, provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only, being aimed at providing healthy meals for children in school. However, during the Easter and half term holidays the Department for Education met the costs of the national voucher scheme to provide free school meals for eligible pupils. I very much welcome that in recognition of the unprecedented situation facing parents and children this summer, a new Covid Summer Food Fund has been announced.

The Fund will provide food vouchers covering the six-week summer holiday period. The scheme will not continue beyond the summer, and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals. A one-off six-week voucher will be given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets. Further details about the scheme can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-summer-food-fund

Significant wider support has also been made available for children and families. On 10 June the Prime Minister confirmed an additional £63 million to be distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to COVID-19. In addition, Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit have been uplifted by around £1,000 a year for the next 12 months as part of an injection of over £6.5 billion into the welfare system.

The Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme will also be running this summer at a cost of £9 million, through which will benefit thousands of disadvantaged children. The HAF scheme arranges provision in a range of local settings, including school premises.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Domestic Abuse Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Domestic Abuse Bill and the implications for changes to abortion legislation.

I understand what an important issue this is for many people in the constituency. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.

I completely understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on both sides. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, the Government adopts a neutral stance on abortion, allowing Conservative MPs to vote freely according to their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. This is a convention which I support wholeheartedly.

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged. Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament and such decisions are made on the basis of free votes. The Government has no plans to change the 24-week limit on abortion.

In today’s proceedings, I shall be voting against any amendments which affect abortion laws, but will support this excellent legislation which will protect more victims.

Thank you for contacting me on this important matter.

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Homelessness

A single person without a roof over their head is one too many, and it is important that the most vulnerable people are helped to get their lives back on track. I stood on a commitment to end rough sleeping once and for all and welcome that almost 15,000 rough sleepers and those at risk of doing so have been offered safe accommodation since the start of the pandemic.

Decisive action is being taken to end rough sleeping through more funding, ambitious legislation and improved support for our councils. Dame Louise Casey is leading a taskforce to support rough sleepers back into long-term accommodation as the spread of the virus is reduced. £433 million in funding will provide 6,000 units of move-on accommodation with wraparound support, of which 3,300 units will be available over the next 12 months. A further £105 million was announced in June to help rough sleepers into stable accommodation by paying deposits and securing alternative rooms that are readily available.

Many people will continue to need additional support. That is why I am encouraged that £23 million is being provided to fund substance dependence treatment this year and arrangements are in place with our NHS to cover basic health needs.

I fully support initiatives led by Wychavon and Malvern Hills District Councils, including the appointment of a dedicated officer to help with this issue and I am confident that measures such as these will reduce homelessness across our county and, nationally, help to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.

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Green Economic Recovery

Thank you for contacting me about a green economic recovery.

I do agree that as we recover from Covid-19, the Government needs to deliver an economy which is stronger, greener, more sustainable and more resilient. I was therefore pleased that, on 8 June, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a Green Recovery working group. This group will explore how to capture the economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero emissions.

The UK has played a world-leading role in tackling climate change and the transition to Clean Growth, with the UK being the first country to legislate to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, and the fastest in the G20 to cut emissions. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, and we are a world-leader in offshore wind.

At the same time, the Environment Bill will protect and improve the environment for future generations, enshrining in law environmental principles and legally-binding targets. The first progress report of the Government’s ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan found that 90 per cent of the priority actions have been delivered or are on track for delivery.

Building on considerable recent investments, Ministers have pledged to invest an additional £2 billion in cycling. The first stage of this £2 billion investment will be a £250 million emergency active travel fund which will deliver new pop-up cycle lanes with protected space for cycling, cycle and bus-only corridors, safer junctions and wider pavements. Furthermore, a £50 'Fix Your Bike Voucher' will be introduced, which is expected to help up to half-a-million people to bring bikes out of retirement.

I have also offered my support to local initiatives to build on the rise in cycling during this global pandemic and support improved routes specifically for cycles and pedestrians connecting Worcester and the Malvern Hills.

Action on the Environment remains one of my absolute priorities as we work towards being the first generation to leave our natural environment in a better state than we found it.

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Gender Recognition Act

Thank you for contacting me about the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

I know that colleagues in the Government Equalities Office have been doing a lot of work on this recently to form their response to the consultation, to which I hope you were able to contribute. Understandably, the Coronavirus outbreak has complicated things somewhat, but I have received reassurances from the department that they plan to publish their response in the summer.

I am absolutely committed to protecting women’s rights and freedoms. I completely understand that reforming the Gender Recognition Act is a complex and sensitive issue, which is why it is important for everyone’s views to be heard and listened to. I am especially glad that the Minister for Women and Equalities has recently said that any reforms will ensure the protection of single-sex spaces, which I recognise is extremely important.

I know that many people also have concerns about the impact of this legislation on children. I have raised this with colleagues in the Government and Equalities Office who have assured me of their commitment to ensuring under 18s are protected from making decisions that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to live their life, but I do think it is very important we protect young adults, who are still developing their decision-making processes and capabilities, from taking action which they potentially cannot reverse.

I understand that there are concerns about how this may affect transgender rights more widely and I want to assure you that I will pass these onto my colleagues in the Government Equalities Office.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Transition Period Extension

Thank you for contacting me about an extension to the transition period.

I believe that an extension to the transition period will only create more uncertainty for businesses. A future partnership agreement will provide stability in the long-term and encourage investment and trade. The UK left the EU in January this year and the EU’s control over our affairs without us having any say must come to an end.

Negotiations have been continuing throughout the coronavirus outbreak with discussions by videoconference in April, May and June following the first round of talks in March. Face-to-face discussions are now underway. Progress has been made in a number of areas and the differences that remain are largely of a political nature and I am hopeful that these can be resolved soon. The UK is not asking for a unique deal – we are looking for a deal like those the EU has previously struck with other friendly countries like Canada.

The UK left the EU on 31 January with a deal. The UK and the EU have committed legally to reaching an agreement in good faith by the end of the year and the Government is working hard to achieve that outcome which would benefit both sides. The UK has already notified the EU that we will not be requesting an extension. This will focus both sides on the importance of agreeing a future partnership before the end of the year.

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Harriett says...

Harriett Baldwin
 
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