My replies to mass email campaigns

Brexit - No Deal

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me regarding Brexit.

I do not support no deal Brexit and I have been consistent on this. However, the new Prime Minister needs to have the full array of tools at his disposal in the negotiations with the EU. If we are to secure an improved deal, the Prime Minister must know that he has every option available to him.

Just as the new Prime Minister takes office and begins to renegotiate with the European Union is not the time to take options off the table.. The House of Commons will have opportunities before the end of October to express its view after the PM has been able to report back to Parliament on any deal secured."

July 2019

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New Cabinet Appointments

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me regarding the new Cabinet appointments.

All positions in the Cabinet, as well as other Ministers in Her Majesty’s Government are the personal choice of the Prime Minister of the day. Appointing their own Ministers is his or her constitutional right, and has been exercised by every Prime Minister to date.

All Cabinet appointees have to agree to the Ministerial Code, which can be read here. They would also be bound by the Official Secrets Act, regardless of whether they have signed it. Furthermore, any Government Minister with access to sensitive information, such as security issues, are extensively vetted by the security services.

I note your comments regarding the tone of the new Government. However, as you may be aware I have never supported a no-deal Brexit and continue to work to secure a deal. The default position voted for by more than 80% of MPs is a no-deal if we have not reached a deal with the European Union before exit date. Under Prime Minister May no-deal was an option and as such preparations were made for that eventuality. Prime Minister Johnson is simply placing greater emphasis on that possible outcome, while trying to seek a new deal. I continue to support the Prime Minister in seeking a new deal on the terms of our exit from the EU."

July 2019

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Brexit – 2nd Referendum

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me regarding a second referendum.

I have always said that it is vital that we respect the referendum result and leave the European Union. Therefore, I supported the Prime Minister’s deal at every opportunity as it provided certainty for business, while protecting jobs, the economy, and provides many of the benefits of membership of the EU.

I have previously been reluctant to support a further referendum because of the impact on the public confidence in our democratic processes, as well as because of the delay it would cause. This delay would be up to a year and would continue to leave businesses and individuals having to deal with uncertainty regarding the future.

However, as you will be aware, I supported an option for a confirmatory public vote in the second round of indicative votes in April. I am working to try and get a deal done that respects the referendum result, and support a Peoples Vote only in the event of a total log-jam in Parliament where it is clear no withdrawal deal is possible. I do not believe we have currently reached that point and I fully support the new Prime Minister in his efforts to secure such a deal."

July 2019

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Northern Ireland (Executive) Bill amendment about proroguing Parliament

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill aimed at preventing prorogation of Parliament.

My view on a no-deal Brexit has not changed. I continue to support the need to respect the referendum result by gaining a deal for our exit from the European Union, and I do not support a no-deal exit from the European Union.

However, these amendments were not the right way to achieve such an outcome. The piece of legislation is about the governance of Northern Ireland in the absence of a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly, and as such was being misused for unrelated matters, which in my view is wrong.

If a future Prime Minister seeks to implement a no-deal exit, the Commons should approve or vote down such a move in the usual way. This then protects our parliamentary processes and norms."

July 2019

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'Make human rights history in Northern Ireland' - Concerns over Abortion and Human Rights

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about Northern Ireland.

In regard to your abortion concerns, I am pleased that the Government recognises the sensitivity of this issue and the range of views expressed by stakeholders on all sides of the debate. It is a highly sensitive issue, regardless of where your view lies and one where it is important that the matter is considered with due care and sensitivity.
 
The best way forward on these matters would be for the locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland to make decisions in the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, without a Northern Ireland Executive in place since 2017, I believe that the Government has a responsibility to ensure women’s rights in Northern Ireland. Therefore, I voted in favour of the amendment. I am pleased that Parliament voted in favour of the amendment.

Restoring the Executive remains the Secretary of State's key priority and it is very positive news that a new phase of talks began on the 7th May.
 
Regarding equal marriage, I have long been a leading campaigner for equal marriage and campaigned tirelessly when I first arrived in Parliament. As you will be aware, equal marriage has been in law in England, Wales and Scotland since 2013, but not in Northern Ireland as it is a devolved issue. As one of those MPs who led the campaign in Parliament in for Equal Marriage (you can see my speech from 2013 here), I had no hesitation in supporting the amendment. The amendment, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive since 2017, allows for this to be extended to Northern Ireland in the absence of an assembly. I am pleased that Parliament voted in favour of the amendment.

The last General Election saw the highest number of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs voted to Parliament. I know that a lot of hard work is underway to build on this progress and deliver greater equality for all. I supported this amendment for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, so that those in Northern Ireland can enjoy the same freedoms as those in England, Wales and Scotland."

July 2019

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Medicine Supplies with a No Deal Brexit

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about the supply of medicines and the effect of leaving the EU on your health.

I am glad to hear that Ministers have had excellent engagement with industry and I have been assured that if everyone does what they are supposed to, the supply of medicines to the UK in the event of a no deal exit will be uninterrupted.

Following the change of EU exit date, the Department of Health and Social Care has written to all medicine suppliers asking that they continue preparations for all negotiation outcomes. I believe that this is important in order to minimise the risk of disruption. Work continues to ensure that medicines imported from the EU with a short shelf-live can be imported by air in a no deal scenario.

The Government has also been clear that it wants EU nationals currently working in the NHS to stay in this country after we leave the EU. After the country leaves the EU, the UK will set its own immigration policy but the Department of Health and Social Care will ensure that there is sufficient staff to continue delivering high quality services.

The precise detail on future healthcare arrangements will be a matter for the future partnership negotiations but the Government has been clear that there should be continued participation in the EHIC scheme after the UK leaves the EU. In the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, my ministerial colleagues have proposed maintaining existing healthcare arrangements, including an EHIC type arrangement, until 31 December 2020 in order to minimise disruption."

July 2019

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School Budgets

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about school funding.

In November 2018, I hosted a roundtable with the Secondary School headteachers and the Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Minister for Schools Standards to discuss funding challenges. He was clear that all schools had received an inflationary increase, and that the Comprehensive Spending Review is likely to see an uplift in funding. Mr Gibb also confirmed that as well as the inflation increase, the Government would provide extra funds to meet the extra cost of higher needs children, and the teachers’ pay award.

More money is going into our schools than ever before and school funding is at a record high. The core schools’ budget has increased to £42.4 billion this academic year and is set to rise to £43.5 billion in 2019-20. This follows the additional £1.3 billion of funding over and above what was promised in the last Spending Review. In fact, figures from the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies show that real terms per-pupil funding in 2020 will be more than 50 per cent higher than it was in 2000. I welcome that the Autumn Budget last year reiterated the commitment to improving every child's education, with an additional £400 million for schools to spend on improving their facilities.

The main source of income for schools’ budgets is the ‘Schools Block’. The National Funding Formula (NFF) is applied to schools, and the amounts attracted by each individual school are then aggregated up and passed to the local authority. The local authority, in our case Barnet Council, then shares out the overall pot between schools in the area, according to the local formula it adopts. It is worth noting that the Schools Block is the main funding stream for schools, but it is not the only form of funding for schools – others include 16-19 formula funding (for secondaries with sixth forms); the early years formula funding (for primaries with nurseries); as well as pupil premium funding, and any top-up high needs funding for pupils with special educational needs.

The minimum per pupil amounts in the NFF for 2018-19 are £3,300 for primary schools and £4,600 for secondaries. The House of Commons Library has confirmed that the local authority for the schools in Finchley and Golders Green receive significantly more than these minimums per pupil in their main Schools Block funding. In 2018/19, Barnet Council allocated on average £4,391 to primary schools, and £5,700 secondaries per pupil, which is significantly above the Governments minimum values in the National Funding Formula. The 2019-20 per pupil minimums have already been increased to £3,600 for primary schools (Barnet spent £4,300 in 18/19), and £4,800 for secondaries (Barnet spent £5,700 in 18/19). As mentioned, the local authority does not have to reflect the NFF figures in their local funding formula arrangements, although the Department for Education is encouraging them to move close toward the NFF values.

This said, my colleagues in Parliament and I are fully aware of the existing issues, and repeatedly engage with the Treasury to try and secure an uplift in schools’ budgets. The points you have made in your letter are the points that have been made repeatedly by myself and colleagues in the Department for Education while trying to secure increased funding.

I will continue to engage with the Treasury on this matter and hope it will be considered in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review."

July 2019

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Paramedic Killed in Gaza 

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about violence in Gaza.

I am deeply concerned by the deaths and injuries in both Israel and Gaza - the violence is shocking and tragic. Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from rocket fire by militants in Gaza, however all Palestinians and Israelis deserve to live in peace. I would support any independent and transparent investigation into violence at the Israel/Gaza border. It is highly regrettable the recent Commission of Inquiry Report does not look comprehensively at the actions of non-state actors such as Hamas.

I believe the Palestinian right to protest is important, however these protests must remain peaceful. I am extremely concerned by the ongoing approach by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to embrace indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Above all, it is important that this violence is not repeated and that all those involved commit to peaceful protest, restraint and observe international law.

There is a pressing need for all parties to reach a wider agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel, that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance, and that Israel lifts its restrictions to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians.

I recognise your concerns on the safety of health workers in Gaza. No health workers or aid workers anywhere should be at risk of violence. The UK Government continually monitors the humanitarian situation in Gaza and is aware of the significant strain on the health sector and health workers. I am glad the UK Government is raising concerns about the excessive volume of live fire that Israel has used to respond to protests, including against medics, and has stressed to Israel the importance of protecting civilians, especially children and those delivering medical services. I also welcome the announcement that the UK Government will be providing £2 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) Appeal to contribute to the delivery of urgently needed surgical equipment, medicines, wound dressing kits, prosthetic limbs and post-surgery physiotherapy

I firmly believe that the international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers a safe and secure Israel alongside an independent Palestine. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met."

July 2019

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Onshore Wind Energy

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about onshore wind farms. 
 
I am pleased that clean growth has been placed at the heart of the new Industrial Strategy which aims to cut emissions while keeping costs down for consumers, create high value jobs and to grow the economy. 
 
The development of renewable energy is already a tremendous UK success story and, thanks to significant investment and support, renewable capacity has quadrupled in the past decade. Last year, a third of our electricity generation came from renewable sources and the Government has sent clear signals to investors and businesses that our country is transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
 
However, the Government does not believe that more large-scale onshore wind power is right for England at this time. While onshore wind farms play an important role in supporting our renewable needs, it is important to appreciate that they can often fail to win public support. That is why I agree it is right that more power has been given to local communities on where wind farms can be built, with the final say resting locally.
 
That said, established technologies such as onshore wind are reducing in cost and if this continues it may have the capacity to play a significant role in the UK's generation mix going forward.
 
Ultimately, it is right that support should be focused on technologies where it is most needed, which is why the Government announced in the Clean Growth Strategy that it would make up to £557 million of annual funding available for less established technologies including onshore wind projects on remote islands that directly benefit local communities." 

July 2019

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Pension Credit Uptake

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about the uptake of Pension Credit.

I am committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to, so they can enjoy dignity and security in their retirement. That is why I am glad the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) engages with people who may be eligible to benefits at pivotal stages, such as when they claim State Pension or report a change in their circumstances.

The DWP uses a wide range of channels to communicate information about benefits to potential customers, including information on https://gov.uk/, in leaflets and by telephone. DWP staff in Pension Centres and Jobcentres including visiting officers are able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in Local Authorities who administer Housing Benefit. People can also use the Pension Credit calculator (https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator) to check if they are likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what they may receive. People wishing to claim Pension Credit can do so by calling 0800 99 1234.

One of the best ways to reach eligible customers is through trusted stakeholders working in the community, which is why the DWP developed the Pension Credit toolkit as an online tool for them to use in order to encourage take-up. It can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pension-credit-toolkit. The toolkit contains resources for anyone working with pensioners and includes guides to Pension Credit. It also contains publicity material and guidance designed to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit and help organisations support someone applying for Pension Credit as well as ideas for encouraging take-up. The toolkit also provides links to information about disability and carers benefits.

The DWP is forecast to spend over £120 billion on benefits for pensioners in 2019/20, this includes over £99 billion of expenditure on the State Pension. The Triple Lock will stay in place for the remainder of this Parliament, guaranteeing that up to the full amounts of the basic and new State Pensions will rise by the highest of average earnings growth, price inflation, or 2.5 per cent and in 2019/20 the increase was 2.6 per cent. The full rate of the basic State Pension will be worth over £1,600 more in 2019/20 than in 2010 in cash terms - £675 more than if it had been increased only in line with earnings. From April 2019, the Standard Minimum Guarantee in Pension Credit has also been increased by earnings. This will be the equivalent of over £1,800 per year higher in cash terms for single people and over £2,700 per year higher in cash terms for couples than it was in 2010.

Most recently the DWP has provided a fact sheet to relevant organisations about Pension Credit and the recent changes for mixed age couples to ensure that accurate information is available in the places where people are most likely to seek information.

I hope this reassures you of the efforts being made to encourage people to find out if they are eligible for Pension Credit, but I will continue to engage with the DWP and follow this issue very closely."

July 2019

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Seizure of Iranian Oil Tanker

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about Iran.

Tensions between Iran and the US are rising in relation to Iran's nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East. The UK shares US, European and Gulf partners' concerns about Iran's destabilising activities in the region. The threat that Iran poses is concerning, not only for regional stability, but because of its implications for our security and that of our allies. The UK is working with its allies and partners to de-escalate the situation, understand the facts behind recent events, and protect British shipping.

Freedom of navigation is a vital interest of every nation. That is why the UK Government will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region. The Foreign Office has had constructive discussions with a number of countries and will discuss the best way to complement this with recent US proposals in this area. The new force will be focused on free navigation, bearing in mind that one fifth of the world's oil, a quarter of its liquefied natural gas, and trade worth half a trillion dollars, passes through the Strait of Hormuz every year. The UK Government will seek to establish this mission as quickly as possible. As part of the UK's long-standing presence in the Gulf, the UK Government has dispatched HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, to take over from HMS Montrose. She will arrive in the region by the 29 July.

The UK Government will ask all British-flagged ships to give notice of any intention to pass through the Strait of Hormuz so they can be offered protection. The UK Government will then advise them as to the safest way to transit, which may involve travelling in convoy. Measures will be strengthened to protect ships flying the flags of other countries but which have British crew on board."

July 2019

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War in Yemen

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about Yemen.

I share your concerns regarding the crisis in Yemen and the plight of the Yemeni people who are caught up in the conflict. I can assure you that the Government fully recognises the severity of the humanitarian crisis.

In February, the Prime Minister announced new UK aid worth £200 million to help millions of people at risk of starvation in Yemen, bringing the total that the UK has committed since the start of the four-year conflict to £770 million. This additional aid will provide vital food assistance right across the country to those most at risk of dying from starvation and disease, meeting the immediate food needs of more than 1 million Yemenis each month over the year, treating 30,000 children for malnutrition and providing over 1 million people with improved water supply and basic sanitation. 

There can be no military solution to this conflict. A political settlement is the only way to provide long term stability to Yemen and address the worsening humanitarian crisis; and I know that Ministers are encouraging further constructive engagement from both parties to achieve this.

The Foreign Secretary recently hosted a meeting of the Quad nations in London. At the meeting, the Quad nations (the UK, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the US) underlined their commitment to a comprehensive political solution for the conflict in Yemen and endorsed the agreements reached in Stockholm at the end of last year."

July 2019

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MPs not Border Guards - Global Justice Campaign

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about MPs and the Home Office.  
 
Let me start by highlighting that the Home Office works tirelessly to protect the nation and makes millions of decisions each year that profoundly affect peoples' lives, and for the most part it gets these right. Similarly, the public expects the immigration rules approved by Parliament to be enforced as a matter of fairness to those who abide by the rules.
 
But you are right that recent events have shown that the Home Office needs to give a human face to how it works as well as exercising greater discretion, where and when it is justified. Steps intended to combat illegal migration have had an unintended, and sometimes devastating, impact on people including the Windrush generation, who are here legally, but who have struggled to get the documentation to prove their status.
 
To ensure that events of this nature do not happen again, the Home Office is conducting a Lessons Learned review, with independent oversight and challenge. The review will seek to draw out how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants. The review will consider the experiences of those involved and wider reflections on Home Office culture as a whole.
 
MPs commonly report concerns raised by their constituents with their consent and at their request. All information passed on to the Home Office is considered on a case-by-case basis. MPs themselves will often not be in a position to form a firm legal view on an individual immigration case which they have passed on to the Home Office at the request of a constituent. 
 
However, equally, I suspect constituents-at-large would expect MPs to report what appeared to them to be clear criminality - including activity linked to organised crime. Like any member of the public, an MP may decide to contact the Home Office to report suspected immigration offences. I believe there may be an expectation from other constituents that MPs report crimes of which they become aware."

July 2019

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End Homelessness

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about the Crisis report "Everybody In" on how to end homelessness.

Like you, I firmly believe that just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and I welcome the important work that Crisis does to help people find their way out of homelessness. Furthermore, I am glad that there is so much overlap between the ideas Crisis have raised in their recent report and the Government's plan to end rough sleeping by 2027.

I share the view of Crisis that the Housing First approach to tackling homelessness has a record of being effective at helping people with high and complex needs. That is why I welcomed the recent launch of a £28 million pilot of Housing First, providing some of England's most entrenched rough sleepers with stable, affordable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support. The impact of this pilot will be evaluated to inform any wider roll out of the Housing First approach.

On the issue of social housing, I welcome recent statistics which show that more than three times as much council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years. That said, I agree with Crisis that more needs to be done, and I am confident that the £9 billion Affordable Homes Programme will help deliver more social housing, and look forward to the Government's forthcoming green paper on the sector, expected this year.

I also recognise the important work that Crisis do in advising the Government on homelessness policy through the Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel, on which Crisis CEO John Sparkes sits. I am confident that, working together with leading experts on homelessness, the Government will achieve the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027."

July 2019

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Let Refugees Learn the English Language

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about English language learning for refugees.

I understand your concerns about support for refugees, and agree that English language funding is vital for ensuring that refugees can integrate into British society. That is why I welcome the Government's recent green paper, which sets out an ambitious Integrated Communities Strategy with English language learning at its forefront.

The Strategy includes proposals for a new national strategy in England for English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which will be published in autumn 2019, as well as a commitment to supporting the development and sharing of good practices in English language training for refugees.

The Government's Integrated Communities English Language Programme and Coordination Fund also aims to address the key causes of poor integration by funding over 19,000 learner places and teaching in communities with a high proportion of adults who speak little or no English.

In addition, local authorities which settle refugee families under the Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme or the Vulnerable Children's Relocation Scheme are already required to ensure that these families receive English language support. £10 million in funding has been provided through to 2021 to enable local authorities to make more English language tuition available.

I am confident that the Integrated Communities Strategy, on which the Government has also held a public consultation, will not only provide greater opportunities for refugees to learn English, but also achieve the wider aim of building a strong, integrated community across the country."

July 2019

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Animal Cruelty Sentences

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about animal cruelty sentencing.

I understand your concerns on this issue and I agree that there is no place in this country for animal cruelty. I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law.

I am therefore delighted that a new Bill which will enable tougher prison sentences for the worst animal abusers has now been introduced to Parliament. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill will mean animal abusers could face up to five years in prison, a significant increase from the current maximum sentence of six months. I believe this will send a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, with the maximum five-year sentence becoming one of the toughest punishments in Europe, strengthening the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare

The introduction of this Bill follows a public consultation in which 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.

I believe that 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."

July 2019

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Refugee Resettlment

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about refugee resettlement. 

I am very pleased and encouraged that since 2016, the UK has resettled a greater number of refugees from outside Europe than any other EU state. I continue to believe strongly that we need to do all we can to help the world's most vulnerable people. I agree with the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury who said that the resettlement of thousands of vulnerable refugees over the last four years is something the UK can be proud of. 

However, I understand there are those with concerns about the UK's resettlement programme going forward, particularly from 2020 onwards. It is therefore extremely positive that the Government has announced a new resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable refugees which is set to start in 2020. 

The new scheme will be a consolidation of the Vulnerable Persons' Resettlement Scheme, the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme and the gateway protection programme into a single global scheme from 2020. I am pleased that the new programme will be simpler to operate and will create greater consistency in the way the UK Government resettles refugees. 

It is also welcome that the community sponsorship scheme will continue. This scheme, which allows community groups to welcome and support refugees in the UK directly, will be in addition to the Government's new scheme. You may also be interested to know that the new scheme from 2020 will focus beyond the Middle East and North Africa." 

July 2019

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#DumpTheScales - Eating Disorders

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about eating disorders.
 
With eating disorders on the rise, please let me assure you that tackling these disorders through early and effective treatment remains a key priority of our NHS.
 
Early intervention is absolutely vital in the fight against eating disorders and everyone with an eating disorder must have access to timely treatment. That is why I am glad that an ambitious new access standard is being introduced, aiming for 95 per cent of children (up to 19 years old) with eating disorders to receive treatment within a week for urgent cases and four weeks for routine cases by 2020. I am pleased the latest quarterly figures on waiting times indicate the NHS is on track to meet this target.
 
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019 and delivering a £33.9bn cash funding increase, the next five years will see boosted investment in children and young people's eating disorder services. The NHS is on track to deliver the new waiting time standards for eating disorder services by 2020/21. Four fifths of children and young people with an eating disorder now receive treatment within one week in urgent cases and four weeks for non-urgent cases. As need continues to rise, extra investment will allow the NHS to maintain delivery of the 95 per cent standard beyond 2020/21.
 
The Government is committed to improving eating disorder services for adults. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has updated its guidelines, and NHS England recently completed a national review of provision. While NHS England is now considering next steps, my colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care are working to ensure that people are properly supported as they transfer between children's and adults' services. I am pleased that the Government is currently delivering against the standards set for waiting times for eating disorder treatment.
 
The importance of early intervention to help people with eating disorders cannot be underestimated, which is why I welcome increased funding for children and young people's mental health, in particular, to help to identify people suffering with the mental distress of an eating disorder. The NHS Long Term Plan, through a £2.3 billion uplift in annual mental health funding, makes a commitment enable an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0-25 to access support via NHS funded mental health services and school or college-based mental health support teams. Using BMI to identify people with an eating disorder remains a useful tool, but I am pleased that improved access to mental health support will enable earlier intervention for young people.
 
Eating disorders are an acutely distressing mental illness but with the right approach, and appropriate investment, I am confident that the Government will be able to offer help, care, and a full recovery to all those who suffer from eating disorders.
 
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me."

July 2019

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Dementia Care

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about dementia care.
 
As a Government Whip, and therefore a Minister, I am not able to sign EDMs as doing so would likely breach the Ministerial Code's rules on collective responsibility. However, I can assure you that dementia is a priority for the Government. Having lost my own mother recently - to dementia - I know how important the issue is.

In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and I know that the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020. I fully support the ambition to ensure England offers the world's best dementia care.
 
Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
 
I believe it is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and I am encouraged that there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.
 
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia, which is why the Government has doubled research spending on dementia and remains committed to maintaining the current expenditure on dementia research of at least £60 million a year through to 2020. I am encouraged that over £83 million was spent on dementia research by the Government in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, well in excess of the £60 million target.
 
The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. I am informed that the Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper this year, which will outline a new social care policy, which is financially sustainable, accessible, and properly integrated with the NHS."

June 2019

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Protect Our Rivers

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about plastic pollution in UK rivers. 

The Resources and Waste strategy, published last year, sets out plans to reduce plastic pollution with a target of eliminating all avoidable waste over the lifetime of the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan. The majority of aquatic litter originates from land based sources therefore I believe the best approach to stemming the flow of plastic is by taking action on land.

The UK's world-leading ban on microbeads will help stop potentially billions of tiny pieces of plastic from entering the aquatic environment every year. As well as this, 15.6 billion fewer bags have been handed out to shoppers by the seven main retailers since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2015. I am also pleased that following an open consultation, a ban on the supply of plastic straws - excluding those needed for medical purposes - drinks stirrers and cotton buds will come into force in April next year. 

Ministers have also consulted on a number of key policy measures which will significantly change the way we manage our waste. These include: reforming existing packaging waste regulations; exploring the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks containers; and increasing consistency in the recycling system; with a parallel consultation on the 'Plastic Packaging Tax' which the Chancellor announced in the Budget last year. The responses to these consultations will be published in due course.

On the Environment Bill, draft clauses on environmental principles and governance have now been published. I am encouraged that these clauses are only part of a broader Bill, which will include legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management."

June 2019

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Children Need Their Parents - Family Reunion 

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about family reunion. 
 
I can assure you I strongly support the principle of family unity, and I am glad that there already is a comprehensive framework for refugees and their families to be safely reunited in the UK. There are clear links between human trafficking, slavery, violence towards women and organised crime. Combating this cycle of crime is a top priority for the government.

The present refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of those granted protection in the UK to reunite with them here. The family provisions in the immigration rules provide for relatives with protection in the UK to sponsor children when there are serious and compelling circumstances.

The policy is also clear that where an application fails under the rules, the Government will consider whether there are exceptional reasons to grant leave outside the rules. In addition, refugees with family members in the UK may be eligible for resettlement under the Mandate and Gateway Scheme.

The family reunion policy is designed to provide a safe and legal route for close, dependent family members to join their refugee family in the UK. This avoids the need for family members to make dangerous journeys to seek protection. It is crucial that our efforts are concentrated on ensuring that existing resettlement schemes are used to full effect, and that the current rules work properly and effectively. This way we can help those who need it most.

The government is reviewing the current policy on refugee family reunion, and this process shall include discussions with key NGO partners as we try to better understand this issue and design a policy that addresses these problems effectively."

June 2019

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Child Citizenship Fees

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about fees for registering children as British citizens.

I appreciate your concerns on this issue. I am confident of my Ministerial colleagues' commitment to ensuring that neither the fees nor registration process should act as a barrier to young people playing a full role in society. As you may be aware, naturalisation is not mandatory for the full enjoyment of rights. 

I believe that charges are necessary in principle for funding the infrastructure of visa, immigration and citizenship services. Under the Immigration Act 2014, Parliament agreed that fees could be set by taking factors such as wider immigration system costs into account. Indeed, setting fees above the level of processing costs allows the Government to invest in improvements to the wider immigration service, for example enhancing its security provision and further digitising processes for additional efficiency.

Raising fees for certain services also allows charges for other services, such as short-term visit visas, to be reduced. The 2+ million short term visit visas issued annually deliver significant benefits for UK citizens, generating business and employment, as well as allowing for visits from family and friends. 

I welcome the fact that my colleagues in Government keep the issue of citizenship fees under review."

June 2019

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Ban Live Animal Exports

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about live animal exports.

All animals deserve to be respected and cared for at every stage of their lives. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and I am pleased that my Party's General Election manifesto included a commitment to take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union.

A call for evidence was launched in 2018 by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, on improving animal welfare in transport and controlling live animal exports. The call for evidence lasted six weeks and sought views from across industry, charities and the general public on how the Government might raise standards of animal welfare during transport. The evidence has been passed to the Farm Animal Welfare Committee who are carrying out a review of existing transport standards. They will make recommendations for improvements for when we leave the EU in a report which is expected to be published later this year.

Acting on live animal exports forms part of the Government's programme of reforms to cement the UK's position as a global leader in animal welfare as we leave the EU, and deliver a Green Brexit. Other measures include making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses, increasing the maximum sentence for animal abuse from six months to five years and writing the principle of animal sentience into UK law."

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me."

May 2019

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Stand Against Torture - Freedom From Torture Campaign

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about support for victims of torture.

The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. When making these decisions, the Government is committed to helping people who have suffered from violence, including torture, at an early point in the asylum process so that decision makers can grant protection, where necessary, without undue delay.

I fully appreciate that in these situations, claimants may be under severe emotional pressure, which is why the Home Office provides relevant information to asylum claimants throughout the process, including signposting to any support they may require. All asylum claimants are provided with a comprehensive leaflet that sets out what to expect at the asylum interview, the possible outcomes of the asylum claim, how to obtain legal advice to support their claim, details of support organisations that might be relevant, rights and responsibilities of asylum seekers, and information about asylum support and how to apply.

The Home Office will always provide asylum seekers with accommodation and support to meet their essential living needs if they would otherwise be destitute.

Anyone who falls within the scope of the adults at risk in immigration detention policy, including individuals who may have been a victim of torture, will only be detained when the evidence of vulnerability in their case is outweighed by the immigration considerations. 

I would like to be absolutely clear that the Government condemns torture of any kind. It is a priority for the UK to combat it wherever and whenever it occurs. Where concerns exist over the possible use of torture, my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will never be afraid to make their opposition known at the highest levels."

May 2019

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Abortion in Northern Ireland and Alabama

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about abortion in Northern Ireland and Alabama. 

Abortion remains a highly sensitive issue, regardless of where your view lies and one where it is important that the matter is considered with due care and sensitivity. When the issue of abortion has been debated in the House it has been as a matter of conscience and has been conducted as a free vote; and the same applies in Northern Ireland. 

I firmly welcome the Government's position, which has been outlined on many occasions by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, that the best way forward is for locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland to make decisions. Restoring the Executive remains the Secretary of State's key priority and it is very positive news that a new phase of talks began on the 7th May.

It is important to note, however, that the Government has acted in this area: since 29 June last year women from Northern Ireland have had access to free abortion procedures performed in England. This decision strikes an appropriate balance between respecting the devolution settlement and supporting women from Northern Ireland to access safe and affordable abortion services in England.

Regarding the abortion legislation in Alabama, the UK has a close relationship with the US at all levels. Our friendship does not preclude disagreement with any of our allies and where these exist, my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will not be afraid to make these clearly heard.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me."

May 2019

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Creation of a New Housing Regulator - 38 Degrees Campaign

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about calls for a new housing regulator.

The Grenfell Tower fire was one of the worst tragedies this nation has experienced in many years. It is impossible to comprehend what those affected by the fire have had to deal with. The Government is determined to ensure that those affected continue to receive the support they both need and deserve, and that swift action is taken to improve housing safety.

Dame Hackitt conducted an extensive and comprehensive review of building regulations and fire safety, and the Government responded by taking forward all of the review's recommendations to create a stronger and more effective regulatory framework to improve building safety. The Government has committed to creating a Joint Regulators Group, which brings together Local Authority Building Control, the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Health and Safety Executive and the Local Government Association. The Joint Group will develop and pilot new approaches to regulation to deliver a stronger and better regime that benefits everyone, and drive culture change among regulators, the construction sector and building owners.

I welcome that a call for evidence on social housing regulation was held, which includes strengthening consumer regulation to ensure social housing tenants have access to high-quality housing and robust protections. I am confident that the Government will consider the merits of a new, separate housing regulator in its response to the consultation.

We must rebuild public trust in the system in tribute to those who lost their lives, the bereaved and the survivors. To this end, I am confident that the new regulatory regime put in place will ensure that a tragedy like the Grenfell fire never happens again."

May 2019

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Support for Cyprus

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about Cyprus.

It is my view that it is important that we put 45 years of great difficulty behind us. I have a long history of standing up for Cyprus and have repeatedly condemned Turkey over many years. I have been active in supporting the Federation of Cypriots, and have a history of long-standing campaigning against the illegal occupation.

I know that the UK Government strongly supports a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue, based on the internationally accepted model of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

I think that the UK has had an important role to play in helping to bring the two sides together and I know that Ministers continue to encourage all sides to work towards a resumption of talks, and stand ready to discuss how the UK can support progress. I continue to work with Foreign Office ministers to ensure the views of our friend and ally Cyprus are protected. The Foreign Secretary has already made clear his view that the waters are for Cypriots.

As a government whip and therefore a Member of the Government I cannot attend APPGs, as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code's rules on collective responsibility."

May 2019

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Hamas and Violence in Gaza

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about violence in Gaza.
 
I am deeply concerned by the deaths and injuries in both Israel and Gaza - the violence is shocking and tragic. Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from rocket fire by militants in Gaza. All Palestinians and Israelis deserve to live in peace. The Government supports any independent and transparent investigation into violence at the Israel/Gaza border. It is highly regrettable the recent Commission of Inquiry Report does not look comprehensively at the actions of non-state actors such as Hamas. The Government has said any inquiry must cover Hamas. 
 
The right to peaceful protest is important. I am extremely concerned by the ongoing approach by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to embrace indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Above all, it is important that this violence is not repeated and that all those involved commit to peaceful protest, restraint and observe international law.
 
There is a pressing need for all parties to reach a wider agreement that addresses the underlying causes of conflict in Gaza and to take the necessary steps to ensure Gaza's reconstruction and economic recovery. Any agreement should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket and other attacks against Israel, that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective governance. 
 
I firmly believe that the international community must redouble its efforts to support a comprehensive peace agreement that delivers a safe and secure Israel alongside an independent Palestine. A two-state solution brought about through agreement is the most effective way for Palestinian aspirations of statehood to be met."

 

May 2019

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Access to Medical Cannabis

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about medicinal cannabis.

There is strong scientific evidence that cannabis is a drug which can harm people's mental and physical health, and damage communities. However recent cases have shown the need to look more closely at the use of cannabis-based medicine in the healthcare sector in the UK. This is why the Government decided it was appropriate to review the scheduling of cannabis.

The decision of the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to reschedule these products is welcome. This decision means that senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need. Following short term advice issued in September 2018 the ACMD are to review the current rescheduling and its appropriateness by November 2020 and provide further initial advice on synthetic cannabinoids by summer 2020.

It is crucial that this country keeps in step with the latest scientific evidence, so that patients and their families have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment.

My Ministerial colleagues have also been clear that given the nature of the medicine, it should only be prescribed be specialist doctors and on a case-by-case basis. I believe these strict controls are necessary to develop clinical expertise and an evidence base for this treatment's effectiveness.

The decision whether to prescribe an individual with medicinal cannabis is therefore not a political or financial decision, but a decision by a medical expert, who will have considered whether it is the most effective treatment based on an individual's particular condition.

I will continue to closely monitor the roll-out of medicinal cannabis."
 

May 2019

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Support Pubs and Cut Beer Duty

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about support for pubs.
 
I recognise the crucial role that pubs play 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 the Government has made available to pubs.
 
Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, including pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell up, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. I am glad that there are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value. 
 
I am pleased that the £3.6 million 'More than a Pub: The Community Business Support Programme', launched in 2016, is helping to support communities across England to own their local pub. On top of this, the Government continues to support the work of the Pub is The Hub initiative to help landlords diversify and provide essential services, such as village shops and post offices, in order to improve the sustainability of their pub.
 
To further support pubs, the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Budget 2018 a freeze on beer, cider, and spirit duties, a decision which I welcome. The Spring Budget 2017 also provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 - 90 per cent of pubs in England - and I was pleased to see this extended in the Autumn Budget 2017 for a further year, through to March 2019. In addition, a one-third discount to business rates for pubs and bars with a rateable values below £51,000 was introduced in 2018."

May 2019

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Climate Change

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about climate change.

I am proud of the Government’s record on addressing climate change. The UK has played a leading role as the world has worked towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We were the first country to introduce legally binding long-term emissions targets under the landmark Climate Change Act in 2008 where we played an important role in offering committed cross-party support to pass the legislation. 

Since 1990, we have now cut emissions by 42 per cent while growing the economy by over 72 per cent and an independent assessment by PWC shows that the UK has decarbonised its economy at the fastest rate of G20 countries since 2000 – we have cut our emissions per unit of national income on average by 3.7 per cent a year, well ahead of the EU average of 2.3 per cent and the G7 average of 2.2 per cent. The last time the UKs emissions were this low was in 1888!

The UK has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010. The Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy identify and target the huge potential opportunity for the UK from clean growth and transition to low carbon economy, while the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 sets out a strategy for dealing with the effects of a changing climate. The Government has also agreed to support and expand offshore wind, and made the historic commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

The threat of global warming has never been more apparent, as highlighted by the sobering conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) special report on global warming of 1.5°C.  But, in parallel, we are also now witnessing an unstoppable momentum towards a more ambitious global response, most recently demonstrated by agreement on a ‘rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement at the most recent round of UN talks in Poland last year."

May 2019

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The Debate on Proportional Representation

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about Proportional Representation (PR).
 
I was unable to attend the Westminster Hall Debate. Such debates are predominantly for backbenchers and as a Government Whip, and therefore a Minister, I was not able to attend.

I am afraid that I do not agree with your views on PR, and fully support First Past the Post (FPTP). This tried and tested system ensures stability and clear governance, preventing 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 in 2011. While the Early Day Motion suggests that the referendum is not relevant, it is clear that the verdict was not only against the Alternative Vote system, but in favour of FPTP. The system is clearly well established and understood by voters, and also provides a very clear link between constituents and their representatives in Parliament.
 
More often than not, FPTP results in a Government with a working majority in Parliament, making decisive government possible. It allows the formation of a clear opposition that can provide an alternative to, and a check on, the Government of the day. The Government therefore has no plans to change the voting system for elections to the House of Commons."

 

April 2019

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5G

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me.
 
I believe it is vital that the UK has the digital infrastructure it needs to compete and grow in the modern economy. The Government wants the UK to be a world leader in 5G and to ensure that the majority of the population have access to a 5G signal by 2027. 5G is still in its development stages and is likely to be rolled out as part of a patchwork of technologies, including those already in use, such as 4G, Wi-Fi, as well as 5G new radio.
 
Considerable research has been carried out on radio waves and the Government does not anticipate any negative effects on public health. I understand that existing technical standards, which take into account international guidelines and research on non-ionizing radiation, are expected to be followed throughout the development of 5G products and networks. I am assured that as 5G continues to develop, the Government will work with Public Health England to monitor available evidence and take any necessary action."

April 2019

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