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."

October 2019

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Brexit – Extension of Article 50

Mike's reply:

"I have never supported leaving the EU on a no-deal basis. As a democrat believe we should respect the referendum result and this was an election promise on which I was re-elected. Anyone who supports democracy must recognise those who voted in the referendum should have their votes honoured. 

To this end I have supported the Withdrawal Agreement each and every time it was put to the Commons. I have spoken to the Prime Minster several times and he is very clear that I will not support a no-deal exit. He has assured me that he wants a deal and is working to secure a deal. 

As for the Benn Act, the Government has been clear that the law is the law. A further extension is not desirable,  businesses and our country need some certainty. That is why I will support a deal making an extension unnecessary."

October 2019

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Hong Kong Protests

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Hong Kong.

The recent protests in Hong Kong make it even more important for the UK Government to be unwavering in its commitment to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It is a legally-binding treaty and remains as valid today as it did when it was signed and ratified over thirty years ago.

There would be serious consequences if the legally-binding agreement between the UK and China is violated. The Foreign Secretary has said that he will not just gulp and move on, and that he is keeping his options open.

It is imperative that Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, and the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people, are fully respected in line with the Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law. The UK Government has made its position on this clear to the Chinese Government, both publicly and in private, and will continue to do so.

Under the 'One Country, Two Systems' model, the proposed amendments to Hong Kong's extradition legislation are a matter for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government. However, I welcome Chief Executive Carrie Lam's statement that she would not proceed with the second reading of the bill.

The UK Government will continue to closely monitor events in Hong Kong. I strongly believe that upholding 'One Country, Two Systems' is the best way to ensure Hong Kong continues to play a vital role for China, and to continue its role and reputation as a global financial and trading centre for the rest of the world."

October 2019

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Trophy Hunting

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about trophy hunting.

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

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

However, I cannot see how those justifications can be used to defend hunters who kill an animal which has been bred in captivity for the specific purpose of being hunted for entertainment. I believe action is needed to stop this sort of exploitation. I am therefore delighted that the Government will consult on a ban on the import of these trophies, which I hope you will be able to take part in.

High standards of animal welfare are one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. We have a long tradition of protecting animals in this country, often many years before others follow. I believe that leaving the EU will allows us to take even bigger steps forward on this."

October 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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Victim Journalism - Following the recent news coverage of Ben Stokes and Gareth Thomas

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about regulation of the press.
 
On a personal level, I have a huge amount of sympathy for Ben Stokes and Gareth Thomas. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to re-live a family tragedy in the public eye, or to feel forced into revealing extremely personal information. Stokes and Thomas are British sporting heroes and we are all protective of their welfare.
 
The majority of national newspapers are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the independent regulator for most of the newspaper and magazine industry in the UK. IPSO has made continued improvements over the years by incorporating steps recommended by the Leveson Inquiry. This was confirmed in Sir Joseph Pilling's 2016 review, which found IPSO had made important achievements in demonstrating it was an independent and effective regulator.
 
In the years since the Leveson Inquiry, many publishers have introduced comprehensive guidance on topics including accuracy and harassment. Where participating publishers fall short of their legal standards, IPSO offers support to victims of libel, slander or malicious falsehood in the form of low-cost arbitration, which offers quick access to fair and independent redress. IPSO can also take action against publishers that do not comply with the Editors' Code of Practice, as it has done on many occasions.
 
The Online Harms White Paper is rightly focused on combatting the spread of horrific terrorist and extremist content. I fully support the ongoing efforts to make the internet a safer place for everyone. A wide range of companies will fall under its scope to ensure there are safeguards to keep UK users, particularly children, safe from illegal content and activity."

October 2019

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Nursing Bursaries

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about reforms to the health education system.

While there are over 13,000 more nurses on wards since 2010, more remains to be done to boost the training of nurses in the NHS. Nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (AHPs) are absolutely essential to our NHS, and I believe that everybody with the qualifications and commitment to undertake these degrees should have the chance to do so.

The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), launched in January 2019, sets out action to expand the number of undergraduate places, ensuring well-qualified candidates are not turned away. The LTP commits to an expansion of clinical placements of up to 25 per cent from 2019/20 and up to 50 per cent from 2020/21. New routes into nursing, including apprenticeships, nursing associates, online qualification, and 'earn and learn' support, are all being backed, alongside a new post-qualification employment guarantee. International recruitment will be expanded over the next three years, and the workforce implementation plan will set out new incentives for shortage specialties and hard-to-recruit-to areas.

The previous system of bursaries had the cost of training nurses, midwives and AHPs largely borne by the NHS. This led to an artificial cap on numbers of the minimum required to meet NHS workforce requirements. Under this system over 30,000 people who applied to be a nurse were rejected. To correct this, it was necessary to move pre-registration nursing, midwifery and allied health students' grants and bursaries onto the standard student support system, in line with all other degrees. This change came into force for undergraduates in August 2017, and for postgraduates in September 2018.

The Government recognises that nursing, midwifery and allied health students often have unique circumstances because of the length of their degree programmes and time in clinical placement sittings. Following a consultation on these reforms, the Government worked with the Royal College of Nursing, hospitals and other partners to provide funding to help cover additional expenses like travel and more support for students with children."

October 2019

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Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Mike's reply:

"Thank you for contacting me about arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
 
The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications, including those for Saudi Arabia, are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. 
 
These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.
 
I am confident that by adhering to the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will continue to ensure that UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia are not used for internal repression, violating international humanitarian law, or for provoking or prolonging conflict."

October 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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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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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."

September 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."

September  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."

September 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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