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.

Thank you for contacting me about the progress made in delivering the NHS's own plan for its future, the Five Year Forward View.

I know that the Government is committed to making the NHS the safest and best healthcare service in the world. The Forward View sets out how the NHS will meet the challenges of an ageing population head on and deliver further improvements for patients in key priorities - better cancer treatment, expanding GP access, and transforming mental health care.

It is encouraging that standards have risen in recent years - ten years ago just under half of patients waited more than 18 weeks for treatment, now only around one in ten do. This is testament to the outstanding work of NHS staff, supported by the Government's additional investment of £10 billion per year for our NHS.

It is important to ensure that those who are most in need of urgent treatment are prioritised and that routine treatment can be delivered quickly. Progress continues to be made and in 2016 the NHS carried out more than 1.9 million more operations compared to 2010.

To support the NHS in delivering this plan, there are now 11,600 more doctors and 13,400 more nurses on our wards to help reduce avoidable harm and ensure that patient care remains a priority.

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.
Sentencing guidelines were updated in January 2017 and now include a new aggravating factor of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal being used in public service or as an assistance dog under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
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 few people have contacted me about Tax Credits, and the two child limit.

I believe those in receipt of benefits and those supporting themselves solely through work should face the same sorts of financial considerations when making decisions about having more children. While it's important to support families, it's also important to balance this support with the many families who contribute to the system but won't benefit from financial support of this kind.

I want to assure people that this will only apply to new claims; existing claimants will remain unaffected. It will not affect families in the event of a multiple birth as long as there were previously fewer than two children in the household.

In addition, any child conceived as a result of rape will not be included in the cap. It is also the case that families with a third or subsequent children born after April 2017 who are disabled will still be entitled to disability benefits for these children.

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 emailed me with a campaign letter about neonicotinoid insecticides and bees.

In 2016 there were two separate sets of applications to use neonicotinoids on part of the country's oilseed rape crop, but in each case the Committee advised that the applications did not give sufficient assurances that the uses would be limited to those areas most in danger, nor that they would be controlled appropriately. Accordingly, Defra followed the advice of the Committee and has declined these applications.  They will act in the same way on any future application.
I entirely agree that bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. I welcome the work the Government has done over the last few years to protect them, most recently through its National Pollinator Strategy.
Minimising risks from pesticides is just one component of the National Pollinator Strategy, whose purpose is to lay out plans to improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators, and identify any additional actions that will be need to be taken. It also sets out new work to be done immediately, building on longer-term initiatives that were already under way.
Significant advances over the draft Strategy include raising the profile of existing initiatives to conserve and create good quality wild flower meadows, and minimising risks from pesticides. Organisations such as Network Rail, Highways Agency and the National Trust have agreed that railway embankments, motorway embankments and forests will be used to create bee- and insect-friendly habitats.
It also introduced the first ever wild pollinator and farm wildlife package, which makes more funding made available to farmers and landowners who take steps to protect pollinators. In its first year of its operation over half of the mid-tier applications to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which channels these payments, included this package, so I am confident it will make a real difference.
While we remain in the EU, the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids. As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks.

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 NHS pay.

I believe strongly that the passion, commitment, and specialist knowledge our doctors, nurses and other NHS staff provide is what makes our NHS so special, and I recognise that staff morale is vital to maintaining staff commitment to services.

Delivering a safer 7-day NHS for patients is a priority for the Government and record numbers of frontline staff are now employed, with around 6,500 more nurses in the NHS compared to 2010.

I know that the independent pay review bodies, the NHS Pay Review Body and the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration apply their expertise and objectivity in making recommendations to Government.

The NHS is one of few public sector workforces that receive incremental pay. Around half of staff on Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts receive incremental pay of around 3 per cent on average. For example a typical qualified nurse (Band 5) can expect seven years of pay progression averaging around 3.8 per cent a year, in addition to annual pay awards.

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. By cutting bureaucracy and championing higher standards, Ministers have ensured this money goes on frontline care not administration.

I am proud 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 sent me identical emails about a bottle deposit system.

To support this important objective I am pleased the Government is developing a National Litter Strategy, advised by a Litter Strategy Advisory Group which includes representatives from local government, campaign groups and independent experts, as well as the packaging and fast-food industries.
This will complement existing work, including actions to address litter in the marine environment. It will promote action to reduce litter and littering on land, which should lead to a reduction in the amount of litter reaching the sea. The UK's Marine Strategy also sets out actions to tackle marine litter, and the Government is working closely with other countries sharing our seas.

In addition, the 5p charge on single use carrier bags has brought about an 80 per cent reduction in the use of plastic bags, which will also help to address the issue of litter in the marine environment.

I am told that the Department for the Environment assessed the costs and benefits of introducing a bottle deposit scheme in its 2008 Review of Packaging Deposits System for the UK. It found that although it might increase recycling rates for some materials and reduce litter, the running costs would be much higher than alternative measures. It was therefore decided not to take forward this option for the time being and instead to concentrate on other ways to increase recycling and address litter.

A few people have sent me emails about pavement parking.
I appreciate that vehicles parked on pavements can cause particular problems for people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, as well as those with pushchairs.

I am particularly aware of the real inconvenience caused to those with impaired vision, following a blindfolded walk I did with the Guide Dogs charity in Glossop last year. Street furniture and cars parked on pavements caused me real problems when I was trying to negotiate my way around, and this gave me a new insight into life for those with a sight problem.

I am assured that improving access for disabled people is a key priority for the Government. During 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) worked with a range of stakeholders to examine the legal and financial implications of an alternative pavement parking regime, and the likely impacts on local authorities. This included a roundtable between Ministers and key stakeholders, to help inform the DfT's evidence base on this issue. I am told that a key issue identified was the process for putting in place Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) for the enforcement of pavement parking. The DfT is therefore now considering how best to address the general improvement of the TRO-making process and will provide further information once this is available.

More broadly, the Conservatives in Government have already taken steps to make it easier for councils to tackle pavement parking. While there is an historic ban on pavement parking throughout London, elsewhere any local authority that has taken up civil enforcement powers may introduce a ban on pavement parking where it sees fit. In 2011, Conservative Ministers gave all councils authorisation to use a sign banning parking on the pavement, removing the need to ask Whitehall first for permission.

Ministers have written to councils on several occasions, encouraging them to use their available powers to prevent parking on the pavement where it is a problem. The Department has also published guidance for traffic authorities, highlighting the difficulties that pavement parking causes for pedestrians and detailing ways that it can be prevented.

Some people have contacted me about loneliness.

I believe that we all have a responsibility at an individual, family, and community level to identify people with care needs such as loneliness, and provide support to improve their health and wellbeing. There is no single solution that can tackle loneliness and I think that it is useful to have a range of solutions.
Local commissioners are responsible for ensuring that health services match the needs of the population. Since 2012, local authorities have been expected to identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effects.
The Department of Health has also supported the development of a 'digital toolkit' for local commissioners, developed by the Campaign to End Loneliness, to support them in understanding and commissioning services to tackle loneliness and social isolation in their communities.
The Government also funded the Social Care Institute for Excellence to develop and run the Prevention Library, which includes examples of how to prevent, reduce or delay people's care and support needs from deteriorating. Local authorities can learn from emerging practice, and exchange ideas and experience of the impact that information, advice and befriending services can have on tackling loneliness.
I am aware that that the Government recognises the current pressures facing social care in local areas. So the Government is giving local authorities greater funding and flexibility so that they will have access to up to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament.

A few constituents have sent me campaign emails about animal testing and Early Day Motion (EDM) 400.

I was unable to attend the debate in the House of Commons on 30 March but I understand it was a valuable opportunity to discuss these issues. A transcript of the debate is available to read here
The debate focused on a recent report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, and in particular on the issues of sentencing for animal cruelty offences and pet sales by third parties.
The Government responded to the Committee's recommendations in full, noting the conclusions of its recent consultation on introducing a new Animal Activities License. Under its proposals, anyone breeding and selling three litters or more within twelve months will need to be licensed by their local authority, as will anyone breeding commercially. This should take the number of people in England who need a licence from 600 to around 5,000.
I am concerned that a ban in third-party sales would be extremely difficult to enforce. It would require local authorities, already under pressure to enforce licensing requirements, to expend further resources verifying that all sales to end customers were being handled directly by the breeder. There is also concern that such a ban would drive sales onto the black market, which would be worse for the animals involved.
When sentencing in cases of animal cruelty the courts must decide what penalty should apply in each case, taking into account its circumstances and the Sentencing Council's guidelines. Currently, in addition to the maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, the courts can also disqualify offenders from keeping animals. While this issue is kept under review, recent experience does not suggest that the courts are finding their current sentencing powers inadequate.

I have been contacted by some constituents concerned about pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is unlawful and wholly unacceptable. I am therefore encouraged that the Government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have worked together to produce the largest independent research project of its kind to better understand this issue.

It was disappointing to see that around one in eight women reported feeling as though they had to leave work because of pregnancy or maternity leave. However, the report did show that the vast majority of employers believe it is important to support pregnant women and women on maternity leave. It is also worth noting that four in five mothers said their employer supported them during their pregnancy, and three in four of those returning to work said their needs as a new mother were met.  
I am confident that the Government is able to build on this. There are plans in place to work with a range of partners to promote opportunities for women, including pregnant women and new mothers. This will ensure that female talent is recognised, while also making more employers aware of their legal obligations.

On the issue of employment tribunals, the Ministry of Justice has announced a review of the introduction of fees for tribunals. This is now well under way, and will report later in the year. Following this, I will be interested to see whether the current fees or the remission scheme should be adjusted.

I am encouraged that the Government has made a clear commitment to social justice and equality for all at the heart of its mission. This work will continue throughout this Parliament, and I look forward to doing my part to support it.

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 few people have sent me campaign emails about the plight of the elephant and the ivory trade.

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 am heartened, however, by how seriously the Government takes this issue.

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 I am pleased that Ministers are pressing for this approach to be taken internationally. The Government has also announced plans to ban sales of modern-day ivory, which will put the UK's rules on ivory sales among the toughest in the world. This is an important step as we press for a complete ban and I am delighted that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has adopted a proposal calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets.

Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through CITES to increase protections worldwide.

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This website was established while I was an MP, and previous content on it relates to that period. I am not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election. I have therefore reverted to the status of Parliamentary Candidate.

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