Lots of organisations now choose to do their lobbying by identical mass email, and the amount of emails of this nature has increased significantly recently. I sometimes receive as many as 200 such emails a day, which makes it very difficult to reply personally to every one. I have therefore adopted a method used by many other MPs, of making my views on these issues available on this dedicated page of my website for all to see.

If the campaign you are looking for does not yet have a response on here, please check back in a few days, as my response will be placed here as soon as possible after an email campaign has been launched.

Of course, if you have any personal comments or specific concerns that you would like to raise with me then please do not hesitate to get in touch, and I will endeavour to respond to these queries as soon as possible.

I am currently looking into the details and issues raised by this campaign, and I will ensure a response is posted here as soon as possible.

Some constituents have contacted me about bilateral investment treaties.

The UK is signatory to over 90 bilateral investment treaties (BITs). The objective of BITs is to provide investors with fair and equitable treatment, protection against discriminatory action and a commitment not to expropriate investments without compensation. Fair, non-discriminatory and proportionate action taken by a state to protect human rights, development and the environment would not breach these agreements. The Government is not aware of any Investor-State Dispute Settlement claims made by UK investors under existing BITs that have led directly to or contributed towards a negative impact on any of these areas.

As we leave the EU, the Government has committed to Britain being the most active and passionate advocate of free trade anywhere in the world, and I welcome the Government's determination to secure the best deals for Britain. Once we begin to negotiate trade agreements on our own terms, Parliament will play its crucial role in ensuring the Government secures the best possible outcomes for the whole of the UK.

People have contacted 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 fine cap for charges of animal abuse 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 case, though, that the courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account the circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. There has recently been a public consultation into sentencing guidelines for these crimes, which resulted in the Council confirming the removal of the cap on the financial element of the penalty, and clarifying a range of relevant factors that would indicate a more serious offence. I welcome these moves.

Constituents have contacted me about the costs of children's funerals.

This is an incredibly important issue, and the death of a child is always a tragedy for which families cannot plan.
 
I understand that a number of local authorities already choose to waive fees for children's funerals, and I would hope all local authorities would carefully consider their policy in this area. As democratically elected organisations, however, they are independent of central Government and are responsible for managing their budgets in line with local priorities.
 
There is, however, a role that central government can play, which is why the Department for Work and Pensions operates the Social Fund Funeral Payment scheme. This continues to provide valuable help for people in receipt of a qualifying benefit. With an average award in 2015-16 of £1,410, the scheme is making a real contribution to the funeral costs of those who need it. Indeed, the average award has increased by 27 per cent since 2006.
 
The scheme meets the full necessary costs of a cremation or burial. Other costs are limited to a maximum scheme payment of £700. There is, however, no restriction on the type of funeral expenses that can be claimed under this category.

I am currently looking into the details and issues raised by this campaign, and I will ensure a response is posted here as soon as possible.

A couple of people have sent me campaign emails about beer duty and business rates.
 
I recognise the important contribution that pubs make to their local communities, and I welcome the Government's efforts to support this through the taxation system.
 
I was pleased to see tax on beer frozen in the 2016 Budget, and this follows an unprecedented cut in duty in each of the three preceding budgets and the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013. This will continue the excellent work the Government has done to support local pubs and over 19,000 jobs.
 
In further help for the industry, I was pleased that, following a consultation, the Government decided that from 2020 business rates will be indexed around CPI. This is a change from the currently used RPI measure, and will represent a tax cut for all business each year from 2020.
 
The Chancellor continues to keep all taxes under review, and future decisions on tax policy are made as part of the Budget process. The next budget is on Wednesday 8th March, and I will of course pay close attention to any measures announced.

I am currently looking into the details and issues raised by this campaign, and I will ensure a response is posted here as soon as possible.

I have had a few template campaign emails sent to me by residents, about the sentences of the Rev. Hassan Abduraheem, Mr Petr Jasek and Mr Abdumonem Abdumawla in Sudan.

I was deeply concerned by the verdict in this case. The British Government has raised its concerns over this case, as well as the wider issue of freedom of religion and belief, directly with the Government of Sudan - most recently on 17 January - and I am assured that they will continue to do so as part of the dialogue on human rights.

I understand from the Foreign Office that the defendants do have the right to appeal against their sentences, and I will follow any appeal closely.

I have been forwarded various different campaign emails by a number of people, all concerning different amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

I consider calls for Parliament to be given a vote on the deal before it goes to the European Parliament, and to be handed a say if no agreement is reached, to be impractical. If deals were repeatedly rejected then the country would face years of uncertainty. In addition, if the rest of the EU knew that MPs and peers were able to hamper the process it would hamstring British negotiators during the two-year period, leading to a less favourable outcome.
 
I do not underestimate the complexity of negotiating our withdrawal and reaching new arrangements with the EU. I know that the Government's priorities in the months ahead will be to limit uncertainty during the transition, ensure that our new relationship with the EU works for all. At every step of the process I will work with my colleagues in Government to ensure the best possible outcome.  We should not, though, seek to tie the hands of the Government who are seeking to reach the best possible deal.

I have received several copies of a standard campaign email about the Green Investment Bank (GIB).

First of all, I am proud of the work done by the Government to support green infrastructure through the GIB. The GIB has proven to be a pioneering venture into sustainable investment, and has committed £2.6 billion of capital to 79 green infrastructure projects across the UK since its launch.

However, as the Independent Chairman of the Bank, Lord Smith, has said, attracting new investors is vital if the GIB is to fund its ambitious plans to double the size of its business, expand into new parts of the green economy and deliver more environmental benefits. Indeed, the Government has always been clear that the GIB was designed with a view to a possible transfer to the private sector. The company was designed to leverage the maximum amount of private capital into green sectors for the minimum amount of public money. Moving the company into private ownership is a natural development that further delivers this aim.

It is with this in mind that plans to explore the privatisation of the Bank were announced in 2013. Since then, the Government and GIB have continued to work together to facilitate the introduction of private capital into the bank, and a two stage auction process was formally launched in March 2016.

While the detail of the sale process is commercially confidential, I have been assured that the Government has no interest in selling to an asset stripper. Potential investors have been asked to confirm their commitment to GIB's green values and investment principles, and how they propose to protect them, as part of their bids for the company. In addition, the Government has approved the creation of a special share, held by independent trustees, to protect GIB's green purposes in future.

A couple of constituents have forwarded identical campaign emails to me, about a UN inquiry into human rights abuses against the Rohingya in Burma

I am deeply concerned by the human rights and humanitarian situation in Rakhine. A range of human rights organisations have reported human rights violations by the security forces. Humanitarian access is also restricted, which is particularly impacting those already affected by malnutrition.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, recently visited the region and has publicly criticised the crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority and urged the military to respect the law and human rights.

I am encouraged that Ministers share concerns about this crisis and continue to engage with the Burmese Government on this. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary visited Burma in January and discussed the need for a restrained security approach with the Home Affairs Minister, as well as the importance of resuming humanitarian access and of ending discrimination against the Rohingya. He also raised these issues with the State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi.

I know that the Government has considered the viability of a UN Commission of Inquiry into this issue. However, I understand that establishing an inquiry would require broad international support; unfortunately this simply does not exist in the current international environment.

As you may be aware, the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which is led by Kofi Annan, was put in place last year and is due to produce a report in August. Ministers have had a number of conversations with Kofi Annan about the work that is ongoing and it is my hope that it will bring about real improvements to the welfare of all in Rakhine State.

A couple of constituents have emailed me, using a template email campaign, about the plight of the elephant and the ivory trade.

Like them, I am seriously concerned about the effect of illegal poaching and ivory trafficking on the long-term prospects for the survival of the elephant.

I know that the Government takes this issue very seriously. Just how seriously 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.

The UK made available £13 million for various projects through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and is now doubling that funding. It is also training rangers in Gabon, home of Africa's largest population of forest elephants, to combat poaching.

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, and the UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.

Some people have contacted me, using a standardised campaign template, about families in debt.

The Families with Children and Young People in Debt (Respite) Bill, introduced by Kelly Tolhurst MP, would place a duty on lenders to provide financial respite for families with children and young people in debt.

The Government has already taken some action to reduce levels of personal debt. Household debt as a proportion of income has fallen to 142 per cent in 2016, down from a peak of 160 per cent in 2008. The Government's plan for a higher wage, lower welfare society makes it easier for families and working people to save, and the new National Living Wage will mean a pay boost for 1.7 million workers this year.

However, I am pleased that the Government is also committed to exploring whether some form of 'breathing space' would be a useful and viable addition to the range of debt solutions. HM Treasury and the Insolvency Service have been asked to explore and identify possible options and have begun work on a review, which I will be interested to read when it is published.

A few people have sent me standard email campaigns about the governance of the Football Association (FA).
 
I understand the strong feelings on this subject and welcome the Government's desire for reform. Indeed, I sit on the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, and was one of three Members of the committee who proposed the motion in question.

The Government published its Code of Governance for Sport in October last year, to help ensure that all sports governing bodies are creating the most effective environment for their sports to thrive. Bodies, including the FA, that fail to comply with the Code will not be eligible to receive public funding after the Code comes into force in April.
 
Public money helps the FA deliver important initiatives on the ground, but it should come with conditions. Non-compliance with the Code would result in the loss of its £30-40m of public funding. Sport England and UK Sport are currently in the process of working with football's relevant governing bodies on reforms needed to ensure compliance.
 
At the grassroots level, the FA has been slow to evolve in line with people's playing habits and lifestyles; and for too long the FA failed to realise the true potential of women's and girl's football. By the end of March, the FA should have in place an action plan agreed with Sport England setting out what steps it is taking to become compliant with the code.

I am encouraged by the Sports Minister's reassurances that if legislation is something that has to be considered in the longer term, then that is something the Government will do. Although I hope that threatening to cut public funding will drive the FA to act before that step becomes necessary.

A few people have forwarded a campaign email to me which asks me not to support HS2. However, I remain supportive of the project.

I am of the opinion that HS2 is a vital project for the UK, which will not only promote economic growth, but also drive regional regeneration and support job creation.

HS2 is supported by all the major conurbations that it will serve, as they recognise the key benefits that it will bring to their areas. It will provide more capacity by trebling the number of seats into London Euston in the peak times, with up to 18 trains an hour running in each direction. Estimates suggest that, for every £1 invested in the project, the UK economy will receive over £2.50 in benefits. The construction alone will create around 25,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships.

The Department for Transport did assess the potential alternatives to HS2. The study concluded that the alternatives did not provide sufficient additional capacity to meet long-term needs and failed to provide the same level of connectivity benefits.

HS2 Ltd has sought to design HS2 to avoid environmental impacts, including those on ancient woodlands, wherever reasonably practicable. Where this is not possible, I have been assured that mitigation or compensation measures will be undertaken.

I would also like to emphasise that HS2 is only one part of the Government's ambitious programme for improving the UK's infrastructure, and will not come at the cost of other transport investment.

A number of people have sent me a standard campaign email about Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

The UK Government's position on this issue is clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, harder to achieve. Ministers consistently urge the Israeli authorities to cease all settlement building and to remove illegal outposts, as required under international law and in fulfilment of Israel's obligations under the Roadmap.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in the OPTs, about one third of land within the outer limits of settlements is privately owned Palestinian land. Illegal settlements are therefore reducing the amount of land, including agricultural land, available for Palestinian use, and restrict access to water sources. Settlements also contribute to the fragmentation of the West Bank and impede movement and access around the West Bank, making it difficult for Palestinians, particularly those who live close to settlements, to move around and to access agricultural land, or to travel for employment purposes.

There are currently no plans for legislation to ban the import of settlement products. The UK introduced voluntary guidelines in 2009 to enable produce from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be specifically labelled as such. This was in order to enable consumers to make a more fully informed decision concerning the products they buy. In addition, the Government recently updated its online guidance for citizens and businesses on overseas markets, including Israel and the OPTs, in line with the UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. This guidance is available here.

I strongly believe that the UK Government's determination to support a two-state solution is the only way to give the Palestinian people the state that they need and deserve, and the Israeli people the security and peace they are entitled to.

A few people have written to me about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

The UK has been consistently clear with all sides to the conflict in Yemen about the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Government is clear that a political solution remains the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen.

I am informed that the UK operates one of the most rigorous and transparent export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National arms export licensing Criteria, known as the consolidated Criteria. The UK draws on all available information, including reports from NGOs and our overseas network, and risks around human rights violations are a key part of this assessment. The UK Government does not export equipment where it assesses there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, that it might provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or where it may be used aggressively against another country.

I am satisfied that the Government is not in breach of these international standards. Furthermore, I believe firmly that commercial relationships do not prevent us from speaking frankly to governments about issues of concern, such as human rights. Our close political and security relationships can help enhance our scope to positively influence governments helping to promote democratic reform and raise human rights standards.

A few people have sent me a standard campaign email about the Article 50 judgment and the subsequent vote in Parliament.

The Supreme Court decided that an Act of Parliament was required to invoke Article 50. Although I had argued that the Government had the power to begin the withdrawal process on its own, I fully accepted the Court's decision. No-one is above the law and respect for the judiciary is one of cornerstones of our free society. I am glad that the Government moved swiftly to abide by the Court's judgment in full.
 
On 1st February, Parliament voted on a bill to invoke Article 50, and I voted in favour of the Bill. Parliament voted by 498 to 114 in favour of invoking Article 50, which is an overwhelming majority.

As the Bill makes progress through the various stages, I believe that it would be democratically impossible to ignore the wishes of the electorate. The British people voted by an overwhelming majority in June last year to leave the EU and more people voted in the referendum than at any general election since 1992. No Prime Minister or Government in British history has ever received as large a mandate.
 
It is clear that a significant factor in the vote to leave was a desire for the UK to regain its sovereignty. This means being able to control the numbers of people coming to this country from Europe and leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. This can only be achieved by leaving the single market. Being out of the EU but still a member of the single market would mean complying with the EU's rules and regulations without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. I do not believe that this is what the vast majority of Leave voters voted for.

A few people have contacted me about bowel cancer.

I appreciate the concerns raised about this, as I know that bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Over eight in ten cases of bowel cancer occur in the over 60s, and I agree that early diagnosis is key.

Under the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, people aged 60-74 years old are sent a home testing kit every two years. Those aged above the eligible age limit are also able to self-refer for screening. As part of the Programme, a new test is being introduced which is easier to complete and it is hoped that 200,000 more people per year will take up the opportunity to be screened.  An additional one-off bowel scope screening test is also being introduced for those aged 55 years old.
 
Cancer survival rates in the UK have never been higher, however, I am aware that there is still more to be done. I have been assured that the Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. By 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks.

Some constituents have written to me about fuel prices and the FairFuel campaign.

I know this campaign raises a number of issues, however I welcome the progress that the Government has made. Unfortunately, due to diary commitments, I am unable to attend the reading of the 10 Minute Rule Bill on 1st February.

The Competition and Markets Authority, the body charged with monitoring competition within UK markets, investigated the fuel retail market in 2013 in order to determine whether there was anti-competitive behaviour by market participants. It found no evidence that retailers are colluding to fix pump prices.

Reduced duty rates are offered on alternative fuels as an incentive for drivers to move to cleaner fuels. Liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, biomethane and aqua-methanol all benefit from reduced duty rates.

The Government recognises that fuel costs remain a significant part of business and household costs. Motorists paid the costs when oil prices were high, they should not be penalised when oil prices fall. Fuel duty will remain frozen for a seventh year. In total this saves the average car driver £130 a year and the average van driver £350. This is a tax cut worth £850 million next year, and means the current fuel duty freeze is the longest for 40 years. This is something I welcomed at the time of the budget, as continuing to help motorists and businesses here in the High Peak.

A couple of people have contacted me about NHS pay.

Firstly, I strongly believe strongly that the passion, commitment, and specialist knowledge which our nurses and other NHS staff provide is an important part of what makes our NHS so special.

Following recommendations from the independent pay review bodies, the NHS Pay Review Body and the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body, the Government accepted a 1 per cent pay rise for doctors, dentists and all NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts for 2016 to 2017.

Delivering a safer 7-day NHS for patients is a government priority. An important part of this is that the NHS has to ensure it has the right staff, in the right place, at the right time to provide high quality services across the week. The NHS already has 32,000 extra clinical staff since May 2010, including more than 10,000 additional doctors and more than 10,600 additional nurses on its wards.

To help support NHS staff in their duty of care, the Government has committed to increase NHS spending in England by £10 billion in real terms by 2020, of which £6 billion will be delivered by the end of 2016/17. By cutting bureaucracy and championing higher standards, Ministers have ensured this money goes on frontline care not administration.

Finally, I am proud that the NHS has been rated the best healthcare system in the world, something that is only possible thanks to the dedication and hard work of all NHS staff, supported by a strong economy.

A few people have contacted me about slaughterhouses.
 
I am assured that the Government shares my own commitment to maintaining high standards of animal welfare at slaughter, and there are strict legal requirements in place. In slaughterhouses, these requirements are monitored and enforced by Official Veterinarians of the Food Standards Agency to ensure that animals are spared unnecessary suffering, distress or pain during the slaughter process.
 
CCTV, as with other monitoring methods, does have limitations and relies on businesses to monitor their operations appropriately, but can be beneficial to animal welfare. I am pleased to note that the Food Standards Agency estimates that 94 per cent of slaughtered cattle, 96 per cent of pigs, 90 per cent of sheep and 99 per cent of poultry are now processed on premises with CCTV, and the Government is keen to see the minority of abattoirs still without CCTV move quickly to introduce it.
 
Although I would prefer all animals to be stunned before slaughter, the Government recognises the requirements of Jewish and Muslim communities and accepts the importance they attach to slaughter in accordance with their beliefs. I do know, however, that the Government is determined to ensure that religious slaughter is only carried out by licensed slaughtermen in approved or regulated slaughterhouses, and I support this completely.

A couple of people have emailed me about the 'A Place to Call Home' campaign.

Supported housing provides an invaluable service for many vulnerable and disabled people, including many suffering from mental ill-health. The Government has made clear that it understands that supported housing providers have specific needs, so an evidence review of supported housing was carried out and, I am told, has provided a helpful insight into the scale, scope and costs of the sector.

It is right that the Government is reforming the welfare system to ensure the support it provides is fair and reasonable, but I believe it is also important that appropriate protections are in place, and I welcome the fact that the Government has decided to defer the implementation of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates in the social rented sector until April 2019.

At that point, those living in supported accommodation will have their core rent and service charges funded through their benefit up to the level of LHA. In recognition of the needs of those in supported housing, the Shared Accommodation Rate will not apply.

The Government will devolve to local authorities in England an amount of funding to cover costs above the level of LHA, and will ring-fence the top-up fund to ensure it continues to support vulnerable people. An equivalent amount will be provided for Scotland and Wales. Bringing in both the LHA rates and the new model in 2019 gives time to develop the detail in partnership with the sector, and for providers to prepare for the new system.

This ring-fenced pot of money will give local authorities greater flexibility to commission services in line with local needs and to work more closely with other local services. I am assured that the Government is working with the sector to ensure this system of top-up funding will provide a secure long-term funding solution.

A consultation on the details of the new funding regime has been launched, which closes on 13th February. I hope providers and stakeholders will engage positively with that process and feed in to the design of the new model.

The Conservative Party's 12 objectives amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.

  1. Certainty: whenever we can, we will provide it. And the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.
  2. Control of our own laws: we will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.
  3. Strengthen the Union: we must strengthen the precious Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom. We will work very carefully to ensure that – as powers are repatriated back to Britain – the right powers are returned to Westminster and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations. We will make sure that no new barriers to living and doing business within our Union are created.
  4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland: we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.
  5. Control of immigration: the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain but there must be control.
  6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU: we want to guarantee these rights as early as we can. We have told other EU leaders that we can offer EU nationals here this certainty, as long as this is reciprocated for British citizens in EU countries.
  7. Protect workers’ rights: as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained.
  8. Free trade with European markets: as a priority we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and EU member states. It cannot though mean membership of the EU’s Single Market. That would mean complying with European Court of Justice rulings, free movement and other EU rules and regulations without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. And because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. If we contribute to some specific EU programmes that we wish to participate in, it will be for us to decide.
  9. New trade agreements with other countries: it is time for Britain to become a global trading nation, striking trade agreements around the world. Through the Common Commercial Policy and the Common External Tariff, full Customs Union membership prevents us from doing this – but we do want to have a customs agreement with the EU and have an open mind on how we achieve this end.
  10. The best place for science and innovation: we will continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.
  11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism: we want our future relationship with the EU to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and intelligence.
  12. A smooth, orderly Brexit: we want to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded. From that point onwards, we expect a phased process of implementation. We will work to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge.

A few people have contacted me about the reports into a misfire of a Trident missile last year.

I have absolute confidence in our independent nuclear deterrent. I am aware that in June 2016, the Royal Navy conducted a routine unarmed Trident missile test launch from HMS Vengeance. Having spoken to Ministers and others about this, I am informed that this was as part of an operation which is designed to certify the submarine and its crew. HMS Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested and certified, allowing Vengeance to return into service.

The MOD does not provide further details on submarine operations, for obvious national security reasons. However, the capability and effectiveness of the Trident missile - should we ever need to employ it - is unquestionable. I believe it is absolutely vital that we maintain a continuous independent nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantee of our national security, and I welcome the recent developments in the construction of the Successor submarines.

The Government has consistently set out the case for maintaining our nuclear deterrent: although no state currently has both the intent and the capability to threaten the independence and integrity of the UK, we cannot know how the international environment will change in the future. This is a very sensible position, and one which I fully support.

A few people have contacted me about audio-visual announcements on buses. Having spent an hour doing a 'blindfolded walk' in Glossop with the Guide Dogs charity last year, I fully agree that all disabled people should have the same access to transport services and opportunities to travel as other members of society.
 
Audio-visual systems on buses are not currently mandatory and, for this reason, levels of provision may vary. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) do, however, require all new buses and coaches on local or scheduled services and designed to carry more than 22 passengers to be accessible to disabled passengers. In addition, all existing public service buses will have to comply with PSVAR by January 2017. As a result, local buses are steadily becoming more accessible, and the most recent figures show that 89 per cent of the bus fleet in England met the PSVAR requirements compared to just 59 per cent in 2009/10.
 
Specifically in terms of audio-visual announcements, I completely understand the benefits that these can bring to bus passengers, having talked to the Guide Dogs charity about this at length, and I know that Ministers have encouraged bus operators and local authorities to invest in audio-visual announcement systems for their buses where possible. Previously, however, the systems to provide such information have been expensive to fit and maintain, so Ministers have supported projects to design innovative and low-cost approaches to providing accessible on-board information.
 
Regarding the Bus Services Bill, which is currently progressing through the House of Lords, a Government amendment - which will allow the Secretary of State to require service operators to make audible and visual next stop information available to passengers - is now also part of the Bill as Clause 17. I look forward to discussing the Bill when it comes back to the House of Commons.
 
Finally, I know that the Government also intends to publish an Accessibility Action Plan for consultation by the end of the year, which will present its ambition for further progress on this agenda.

A few people have contacted me about Kadcyla. Whilst I have a full diary on the 26th January, I will attempt to attend as much of the debate as I can.
 
I do appreciate the concern about this issue, and I am aware that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is currently updating its guidance on the use of Kadcyla as a treatment for secondary breast cancer.
 
I know that people with cancer place great importance on drugs that can increase their life expectancy, and therefore NICE applies as much flexibility as it can when looking at new life-extending treatments. Unfortunately, NICE has previously found that the price being charged for Kadcyla by the pharmaceutical company which manufacturers it was too high in relation to the benefits it gives for it to be recommended for routine commissioning in the NHS.
 
Draft updated NICE guidance on Kadcyla has been published for consultation and NICE's final guidance is expected in March. Kadcyla will continue to be available through the Cancer Drugs Fund while the NICE appraisal is ongoing.

A few people locally have contacted me about Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the displacement of the Bedouin Community.
 
The Government's position is clear: demolitions cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; are harmful to the peace process; and are, in all but the most exceptional of cases, contrary to international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention is clear that the destruction of any real or personal property in Occupied Territory is not justified unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
 
The UK continues to encourage the Israeli authorities and Bedouin communities to engage in dialogue to agree a satisfactory solution to the issue, respecting the equality of all of Israel's citizens in a way which avoids forced relocations, and is consistent with Israel's commitments under international law.

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv raised the issue of the demolition of the villages of Um-il-Hiran and Ateer with the Ministry of Justice and the Arab Affairs Officer at the Israeli Prime Minister's office. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation closely. The UK also makes clears its concerns about Susiya and is a supporter of the community in Susiya, with regular visits to see the situation on the ground.
 
The UK is deeply concerned by Israeli proposals to relocate the Bedouin population across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, action that the UN has said could constitute forcible transfer. These plans could have a devastating impact on the communities concerned and could open the way for further settlement expansion - endangering the viability of a two-state solution.

I know that there is, at present, a campaign which raises concern about excessive temperatures in the workplace.

It is the case that the law does not state a minimum or maximum workplace temperature, though the indoor temperature should normally be at least 16°C (13°C if the work requires rigorous physical effort). The HSE and Local Authorities regulate workplaces to assess compliance with health & safety legislation. They also investigate complaints about working conditions, including excessive high (or low) temperatures. HSE targets its interventions on workplaces in higher risk sectors, such as foundries and bakeries, where high temperatures can be a concern. Inspectors can take enforcement action to improve conditions where they find problems.

A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. If a significant number of employees are complaining about a high temperature, employers should be carrying out risk assessments and should act on the results. While I understand your concern that there is no legal maximum, I do not believe that setting a universal temperature ceiling across the board is the best way to manage the issue. There is extensive guidance on the HSE website on this topic, including on heat stress, and on the practical steps that employers can take to manage risk. HSE has also simplified this guidance to make it easier to use by small and medium sized enterprises.

The UK now has a world-beating health and safety regime, which provides protection for workers while also ensuring employers are not burdened by excessive regulations. Thanks to the hard work of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to simplify regulations and remove unnecessary requirements, businesses have been boosted and workers have never been safer.

A few people have emailed me about world cancer day and improving outcomes for cancer sufferers.

It is very encouraging to note that UK cancer survival rates have never been higher. This is good progress, but I believe there is still more to be done.

I am therefore pleased that the Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. It has committed to ensuring that by 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. The Government is supporting this by investing up to £300 million a year by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity, along with a national training programme for an additional 200 staff with the skills and expertise to carry out endoscopy tests by 2018. In addition, NHS England has also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy across England.

Early diagnosis of cancer is key, and the Government is very aware of this, so a series of 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaigns has been run in order to raise public awareness of the symptoms of cancer. I know that the Government also remains committed to the £1.2 billion Cancer Drugs Fund which has helped over 95,000 people to access the life-extending drugs they need.

Regarding the event in Westminster on 1st Feb, diary commitments that day mean that I am unfortunately unable to attend. However, I know that improving outcomes for cancer sufferers is a major priority for the Government, and I fully support the work it is doing on this.

I have been contacted recently about the Child Benefit freeze.

It is unfortunately the case that, at a time when the Government has to reduce welfare spending, tough choices have to be taken. The scale of the deficit the previous Government inherited, as well as the alarming rise in the welfare budget, have made taking control of the welfare bill a priority.

To these ends, the Government announced that the rates of certain working-age benefits will be frozen at their 2015/16 levels for four years up to 2019/20. I have been assured that the Government has carefully considered the impact of these reforms, and that they are part of a broader array of measures designed to rebalance the welfare state to more effectively focus support on the vulnerable.

Together with other welfare reforms, changes to Child Benefit will mean that the welfare system is there for people who need it; a system where work pays, and one that the country can afford. This can be done while continuing to reduce the deficit, so future generations are not simply burdened with our debts.

A number of people have written to me recently about the NHS.

Having looked into the concerns they have raised, I have been informed that for this winter, the NHS has made more extensive preparations than ever before. There are 11,400 more doctors and 11,200 more hospital nurses in the NHS than in 2010, and to support the NHS, investment of £350 million was included in local Clinical Commissioning Group budgets in 2016/17 for resilience planning, and £50 million was made available for national initiatives. The NHS also assured the winter plans of every trust, launched the largest ever flu vaccination programme and bolstered support outside A&Es, with 12,000 additional GP sessions offered over the festive period.

As a consequence of this preparation and, most importantly, the hard work of frontline staff, I am assured that the system overall is coping and even performing slightly better than last year, in contrast to some recent newspaper headlines. Early in December, the NHS treated a record number of patients within four hours and is seeing 2,500 more patients within the four hour standard every single day compared with 2010.

However, I am also aware that there are a number of trusts where the situation has been extremely fragile, and NHS England is considering a series of further measures to be taken forward on a temporary basis at the discretion of local clinical leaders. Taken together, these actions will give the NHS additional flexibility to take further measures - if appropriate - at a local level.

I know that the Government remains committed to ensuring that the NHS offers the safest, highest-quality care available anywhere in the world, and I fully support this commitment.

Some constituents have contacted me about Proportional Representation (PR) and Early Day Motion (EDM) 591.

I am afraid that I do not agree with PR, as I fully support First Past the Post (FPTP). This system is tried and tested, ensures stability and clear governance, and prevents disproportionate influence by minority parties with minimal public support, who typically end up holding the balance of power in PR systems.

The British people were clear on this matter when voting in the referendum back in 2011. While the EDM suggests that the referendum is not relevant, it is clear that the verdict was not only against the Alternative Vote system (a form of PR), but also in favour of FPTP. The system is well established and understood by voters, and also provides a very clear link between constituents and their representatives in Parliament - something which PR does not easily provide.

More often than not, FPTP results in a Government with a working majority in Parliament, making decisive government possible. It also allows the formation of a clear opposition that can provide an alternative to, and a check on, the Government of the day. I am therefore pleased that the Government has no plans to change the voting system for elections to the House of Commons.

A few constituents have contacted me about pharmacy funding.

Community pharmacies play a vital role in our health service. Following recent growth, 40 per cent of pharmacies are now in clusters of three or more, meaning that two-fifths of pharmacies are within 10 minutes' walk of 2 or more other pharmacies. The community pharmacy budget has also gone up by 40 per cent over the last decade.

The current funding system for community pharmacy does not always promote efficient, high quality services, and the sector could be better integrated with the rest of the NHS. So Ministers have recently announced a set of reforms to improve the service, making better use of pharmacists' valuable clinical skills, and allocating taxpayers' money more efficiently.

To provide certainty, the Government announced a two-year funding settlement for community pharmacy, with pharmacies receiving £2.687 billion funding in 2016/17 and £2.592 billion in 2017/18.

The Government has recently announced reforms to simplify the outdated payment structure for community pharmacy which will better allocate patient resources and allow savings to be reinvested into patient care. For the first time, the Government will pay pharmacies for the quality of service they provide, not just the volume of prescriptions they dispense.
 
By embedding pharmacy into the urgent care pathway, these reforms will relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS. Patients who need urgent repeat prescription medicines will be referred from NHS 111 directly to community pharmacies, and there will be national coverage of minor ailments services delivered through pharmacies by April 2018. In addition, a new Pharmacy Integration Fund will support additional programmes to better embed pharmacists' clinical skills within NHS services.
 
A new Pharmacy Access Scheme will also be established in areas where there are fewer pharmacies and higher health needs in order to protect patient access. I believe this is vital to ensure people in more rural areas do not lose out.

I have been sent some template campaign emails about Brexit and the future of UK trade.

I have been assured that the Government are committed to a free trade agenda including exploring all the benefits that this can bring. Since establishing the Department for International Trade, Ministers have visited 55 countries, promoting UK exports of goods and services and encouraging investment. More than £16 billion has been invested in the UK from overseas during this time.

I am pleased that the Government want to go further, and develop new trading relationships with countries around the world. I welcome the Secretary of State confirming that the UK has already begun informal talks with many of our partners around the world, including Australia, New Zealand and India, and is working with these countries to understand where barriers to trade and investment can be removed to our mutual benefit.

We need maximum freedom to achieve these aims, so the Prime Minister has ruled out full EU Customs Union membership, as membership of this union would prohibit our ability to establish new trade deals. Instead, I am pleased that the UK's aim will be to seek a bespoke agreement with the EU to ensure that cross-border trade remains as barrier-free as possible.

There is a big world for Britain to do business with. Through trade policy, I welcome the Government's opportunity to make Britain stronger, fairer, and more global.

I have been contacted about the proposed takeover of Punch Taverns PLC by Heineken.

Although I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed over the potential takeover, this does remain a commercial matter. Having said that, it is clearly a big vote of confidence in the British pub industry, and I understand that an offer currently rests with Punch shareholders for agreement in the coming weeks. This will, of course, be subject to regulatory approval and receive appropriate scrutiny from the competition authorities.

More broadly, I am a firm supporter of local pubs here in the High Peak, and I know how important a role they play across the constituency. I have no doubt about the Government's support for British pubs, and I fully support the actions they've taken to back pubs, including three cuts in beer duty.
 
In addition to this, the Pubs Code came into force last July, giving tenants more rights and greater protection when dealing with large pub companies that own tied pubs. An independent adjudicator has also been set up to help ensure tied tenants are treated fairly by pub companies and are no worse off than free-of-tie publicans, a principle I firmly support.

Ultimately, the UK has benefited greatly from being an open and free economy, and British companies have been successful in attracting investment into the UK, generating the wealth that the nation needs to prosper.

Some constituents have contacted me about police animals.
 
Police support animals make a valuable contribution in the detection and prevention of crime and in maintaining public safety. I am extremely grateful for the bravery and skill shown by police dogs and their handlers on a daily basis. 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 the previous maximum fine of £20,000. Similarly, an attack on a police animal could be considered by the court as an aggravating factor, which could lead 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.
 
Whilst I believe the current penalties are appropriate, I do agree that it is unpalatable 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. I am assured that work is underway across Government to explore whether there is more that the law should do to offer the most appropriate protections to police animals and all working animals.

A number of people have contacted me about buffer zones outside abortion clinics.

I am aware of a number of protests outside some abortion clinics, and this is a very serious matter. The UK has a proud history of allowing free speech, but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. Although I should make it clear that the policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police, I am pleased to say that the law does currently provide protection against such acts.

The police have a range of powers to deal with protests outside clinics. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 makes it an offence to display threatening or abusive words or images that, within the sight of someone, is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on the location, duration or numbers attending a public assembly. This can be applied where the police believe that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose by the assembly organisers is to intimidate others to compel them not to do an act that they have a right to do.

The police also have dispersal powers (in public places) under sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or to prevent local crime or disorder. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 includes criminal offences that protect individuals, who are conducting lawful activities, from harassment by protestors.

I know that the Government will always make sure that the police have the appropriate powers to protect citizens from abuse and threats, especially in such sensitive circumstances as this.

A few constituents have contacted me in support of the Homelessness Reduction Bill. I will attend the Report Stage of the Bill on 27 Jan if my diary permits.
 
In a civilized society, it is unacceptable that people should be faced with the fear of homelessness. It is vitally important to help the most vulnerable in society get their lives back on track, and I know that this is an issue which the Government is taking seriously.
 
Since 2010 Government funding has helped local authorities prevent more than a million households from becoming homeless. In addition to this, the Government is investing £500 million to prevent, relieve and reduce homeless. This includes £315 million of homelessness prevention funding for councils and a £20 million fund to help local authorities develop new approaches to prevent homelessness.
 
Central government funding for homelessness programmes is also increasing to £139 million over the next four years. A £10 million Social Impact Bond will support the most entrenched rough sleepers and a further £10 million will help those new to the streets or at risk of sleeping rough.
 
The Government has also announced that it will invest £100 million to deliver low-cost 'second stage' accommodation. At least 2,000 places will be available to domestic abuse victims moving on from refuges, and rough sleepers leaving hostel accommodation. A £5 million fund will also help the 25 councils which are facing the greatest pressure in moving people out of temporary accommodation and into a home.

Some constituents have contacted me about energy efficiency and insulation.

All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements, so I am pleased that there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations.

Households struggling with their bills are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. Homeowners and those in privately rented homes who are on specific benefits may also be eligible for support towards heating improvements, including oil-fired boiler replacements, through ECO Affordable Warmth.

The Government has made a commitment to insulate 1 million more homes this Parliament, with 276,000 homes insulated already since May 2015. In last year's Spending Review, the Government announced a new energy efficiency supplier obligation that will be more focused on those that need help the most. This will replace ECO in 2017, and run for five years. These proposal will increase support for low income and vulnerable households from £310 million to £450 million in 2017, with an intention to increase this to £640 million each year from 2018 to 2022.

There are also regulations to be introduced for minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector, which will come into force from April 2018. In addition, the rolling out of the smart meter scheme will help consumers understand and take control of their energy use.

Different energy suppliers may have different funding offers through their installers, so it is important to shop around for the best quote. Ofgem, which administers ECO, provides further information about the scheme for consumers on its website, including contact details for the energy suppliers.

The Government-funded Energy Saving Advice Service can provide independent advice on the full range of energy efficiency support. The number to call is 0300 123 1234.

I have recently been contacted about the breeding and sale of kittens.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers and it is vital that we maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. Ministers are serious about improving welfare in breeding establishments and at the point of sale, so are reviewing the laws that regulate dog breeding and pet sales, including of cats.

One proposal would apply specific welfare conditions to pet vendors, which they must meet to obtain a licence. These include a requirement that animals are not sold too young: for mammals this is before they are or should have been weaned, which for cats is likely to be at or below eight weeks. Another would remove the licence exemption for those in the business of selling kittens bred from the family's pet pedigree cat.

Cat breeding does not, however, require the same level of control as dog breeding, which can lead to issues relating to public safety and nuisance; this is generally not the case with cats. There can of course be unscrupulous people who exploit the desire for pets, but all captive animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

This makes it a serious criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal, or fail to provide for its welfare. Accompanying it the Government has published a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats which, if breached, can be used to supply evidence supporting a prosecution.

I would therefore encourage anyone who believes that kittens are being treated poorly by a pet shop to report their concerns to the local authority or the police, which have the power to take action to safeguard their welfare.

I have recently been contacted about the auctioning of the mobile phone spectrum.
 
In the UK, Ofcom is responsible for the health of the mobile phone market, in line with its statutory duties. These duties include the promotion of competition and efficient use of spectrum.
 
Ofcom recently launched a consultation on the upcoming spectrum auction. The auction consists of 2.3 GHz spectrum, which is already useable for better 4G services, and 3.4 GHz spectrum, which although it is unlikely to be useable for at least two to three years, could help unlock a new wave of future services such as 5G.
 
Having looked into this, Ofcom agrees that there is a competition concern around the 2.3 GHz spectrum available and it has therefore imposed a cap on bidding. The cap prevents any one company holding more than 45 per cent of spectrum that can be used immediately after the auction. I am told that it also argues that by the time 3.4 GHz spectrum is usable, other bands will become available and there is therefore no immediate necessity for action on competition grounds in respect of this spectrum.  
 
Ofcom is clear that its intervention has been minimal as it does not want to distort the auction by giving the smaller operators a price break through the weakening of competition. Furthermore, I believe there are concerns that it would provide a perverse incentive for smaller operators to under-bid in this and future auctions, if they always expected intervention in their favour on grounds of lacking spectrum.
 
Ofcom's focus on ensuring effective competition in the mobile market - and on getting the spectrum into use as quickly as possible - is welcome, and I support this.

A few constituents have contacted me about asylum for torture survivors.

I have been assured that all members of staff who make decisions in asylum receive the same level of training. This includes a dedicated five-week foundation training programme that includes training on international and domestic law and safeguarding issues, which is supplemented by a mentoring programme with an experienced caseworker that can last up to 6 months. More specifically, within this course there are specific sections that detail torture and Medico Legal Reports and how they should be used and analysed in asylum claims.

I should also highlight that Asylum Operations recently received funding from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to review and redevelop its training prospectus. As part of that work, Asylum Operations is liaising with a range of external stakeholders, including migrant charities and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that there is robust and effective safeguarding training in place.

Email Newsletter Signup

 

Follow Me