My replies to mass email campaigns

Alleged misuse of UK aid funds by the Palestinian Authority

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about the Palestinian curriculum and UK aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

In your email, you ask me to support Louise Ellman MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill on this issue. As a Government Whip, and therefore a Minister, I am unable to do so as it would likely breach the Ministerial Code's rules on collective responsibility. Likewise, it would not be appropriate for me to raise this subject with Stephen Twigg MP as the Chair of the International Development Committee. However, I know this is an issue the Government takes very seriously.

The Government strongly condemns all forms of violence and incitement to violence. It is, of course, completely unacceptable for the PA to fund or endorse the teaching of anti-Israel hatred in their schools. I know the Government shares your deep concern about the textbook content revealed in the IMPACT-SE report into the PA's new curriculum. A thorough UK review of textbook content will be carried out this year, and the PA has, I understand, agreed to take account of its findings.

The Government has also been very clear that the UK does not fund Palestinian terrorism and Palestinian terrorists do not receive UK aid money. Aid provided to the PA is only used to pay the salaries of health and education public sector workers on a carefully vetted list. This enables the delivery basic services and helps around 25,000 young Palestinians go to school each year. The vetting process covers a large number of different risk categories including terrorism financing, and checks that all UK funds reach the intended beneficiaries.

The UK continues to support a two-state solution that would see a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. Any aid given by the UK to the PA must be spent with this aim in mind and I know Ministers will continue to monitor this matter closely."

January 2019

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Welfare of pheasants and partridges bred for shooting - Animal Aid

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for your email regarding the welfare of pheasants and partridges bred for shooting.

I note that you ask me to sign an EDM. 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 appreciate your concerns on this issue. The Government is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, and as you may be aware, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already makes it clear that gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering.

A Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes was drawn up based on research carried out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, advised by a working group that included animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. Stock-keepers who fail to follow it could be found to have committed an offence. The Code specifies that these birds must:

1.            have an environment appropriate to their species, age and the purpose for which they are being kept, including adequate heating, lighting, shelter, ventilation and resting areas;

2.            have ready access to fresh water and an appropriate diet to maintain growth, health and vigour;

3.            be provided with appropriate space and facilities to ensure the avoidance of stress and to allow the exhibition of normal behaviour patterns;

4.            be provided with company of their own kind as appropriate for the species concerned; and

5.            be adequately protected from pain, suffering, injury, or disease. Should any of these occur a rapid response is required, including diagnosis, remedial action and, where applicable, the correct use of medication.

The full Code can be found here.

These rules are enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which carries out routine welfare inspections and investigates complaints; prosecutions can be brought where necessary."

January 2019

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#BreakTheChain campaign (horse tethering) - HorseWorld equestrian charity

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about horse tethering and the '#BreakTheChain' campaign by the equestrian charity, HorseWorld.

I support the highest standards of animal welfare and agree with you about the importance of protecting horses, ponies and other such animals. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to animals, or for a responsible party to fail to provide for their welfare. I would expect the full weight of the law to fall on anyone who causes unnecessary suffering to these animals.

The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids, which you mention in your email, includes advice on how to tether these animals where necessary in a manner that meets their welfare needs. As you say it outlines that tethering is not suitable for long-term use, but it can be used exceptionally in the short term on suitable animals given an appropriate site and equipment. Any failure to adhere to the Code can be used in court to demonstrate neglect.

If anyone is concerned about the way a horse is tethered (although admittedly rare in Barnet), I would urge them to report it to the local authority, which has powers under the Animal Welfare Act to investigate such matters. The RSPCA and World Horse Welfare can also investigate."

January 2019

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Universal Credit - 38 Degrees

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about Universal Credit (UC).
 
UC is the biggest and most fundamental reform to the welfare state since its creation. It is a modern benefit based on the sound principles that work should always pay and those who need support receive it. It is also fair to taxpayers. 
 
In 2010, the welfare bill cost each household £8,350. This was an increase of nearly £3,000 per household since 1997. Not only was this system failing to reward work, but it was the taxpayer bearing the burden.
 
I firmly believe that UC is a fair benefit that protects vulnerable claimants and ensures that work always pays. As UC is a simpler, more accurate benefit based on up-to-date information, it will provide people with their full entitlement. This means that 700,000 people will receive on average an extra £285 per month which they have not received under the existing system. Around a million disabled claimants will gain on average £100 a month through UC, because their award is higher through UC than legacy benefits. 
 
UC will help 200,000 more people into work when fully rolled out, and empower people to work an extra 113 million hours a year. You might be interested to know that people on UC spend around 50 per cent more time looking for a job than they did under Jobseeker's Allowance. Since 2010, we have seen over 3.3 million people move into work, which is on average 1,000 people each and every day. And youth unemployment has fallen by almost 50 per cent.

In the last Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced a £4.5 billion package for UC, which will make a real difference to the lives of claimants across the country. An extra £1.7 billion a year will be put into work allowances, increasing the amount that hardworking families can earn by £1,000 before their award is tapered away, providing extra support for 2.4 million working families. 

This is on top of a £1 billion package of changes, providing two additional weeks of legacy benefits for those moved onto UC, a twelve-month grace period before the Minimum Income Floor is applied, and a reduction of the normal maximum rate at which debts are deducted from UC awards, from 40 per cent to 30 per cent of Standard Allowances.
 
Rightly for a programme of this scale, the priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of UC started in April 2013 and I am pleased that significant progress has been made to date. By the end of this year, UC will be rolled out to every Job Centre in the country."

January 2019