Academic Freedom

In response to the campaign on academic freedom, David said:

"Our universities have a proud and successful history, a history that encourages freedom of speech and it is important that this right is preserved. The Prime Minister has said our universities should not be just be places of learning, but should also be placed where there can be open debate.

The Minister for Universities has been clear that universities have a legal duty to secure freedom of speech for students, staff and visiting speakers and must have clear policies in place to support this practice. This duty extends to both the premises of the university and premises occupied by the students' unions, even if they are not part of the university premises. This means that universities have a legal obligation to ensure the use of student union premises is not denied to individuals on the grounds or their beliefs, policy or objectives.

Universities also have a responsibility under of the Equality Act 2010 to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all staff and students. This helps ensure that all individuals are able to express their opinions without fear of discrimination, or harassment by the university.

The Department for Education provides additional support to universities to ensure that ideas and opinions can be heard, challenged and debated - including help to assess the possible risks around external speakers.

Freedom of speech is vital in society, and in particular in higher education. It is essential for academic thinking to remain cutting-edge and for ideas to be explored and challenged. The procedures are in place to uphold this right from any external or internal threats."

More information about the campaign can be here.

Hospital Transport

In response to the campaign on hospital transport, David said:

"I understand that this issue is affecting ever more people as our society ages, and I would like to assure you that there are cross-governmental efforts being made to ensure elderly and frail people are able to gain access to suitable transport to hospitals. The Department of Health is aware of these issues, and runs a number of schemes to assist patients with non-emergency hospital transport.

Some people are eligible for non-emergency patient transport services. These services provide free transport to and from hospital for people whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey.

The Healthcare Travel Costs was set up to help those patients who require assistance with their travel costs to non-emergency medical appointments. Under the scheme, eligible patients (and sometimes carers) are reimbursed for costs incurred in travelling to appointments at non-primary medical and dental services. Patients who are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit but are on a low income may be eligible for assistance through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

The Department of Transport manages a Community Minibus Fund in England and Wales. With a budget of £2 million, this fund is available for charities and community groups to provide minibus journeys for elderly residents, amongst others, to help them reach medical services and local amenities.

The NHS works closely with independent providers, who offer non-emergency patient transport throughout the country, and offer essential support to conventional ambulance services."  

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Green Belt Development

In response to the campaign on development on the Green Belt, David said:

"I do not want to speculate about the contents of the Budget. However, I know this is a very important issue for you and understand the Treasury is aware of the strength of feeling surrounding it. I will be following the Chancellor’s speech closely for any developments in this area.

While it is up to local authorities to determine the development of new homes through local plans, I would like to reassure you that steps have been taken to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development.

The Housing White Paper, published earlier this year, emphasised the Government’s continued commitment to protecting the Green Belt. Ministers want to amend and add to national policy to make it clear that: Green Belt boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances, when local authorities can demonstrate they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements; and where land is removed from the Green Belt, local policies should require the impact to be offset.

Planning policy also guarantees strong protection for National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The Green Belt also enjoys protection against erosion from caravan and traveller sites. The Government also has an ambitious programme to bring brownfield land back into use in England and is working closely with local authorities to drive this forward. This will ensure that development is prioritised on brownfield sites rather than at the expense of our countryside."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Pharmaceutical Drugs

In response to the campaign on the cost of pharmaceutical drugs to the NHS, David said:

"The Government is committed to paying a fair price for medicines used in the NHS. Where companies exploit the NHS by charging higher prices, this money cannot be spent elsewhere on patient care.

The Government has recently legislated to ensure that high prices of generic medicines can be better controlled. This action reflects the Government’s determination to ensure that no pharmaceutical company can charge unjustifiably high prices for medicines used in the NHS.

In 2016, the Secretary of State for Health asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to urgently look into whether pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the NHS by increasing their prices. The CMA have fined companies that have been found to be  charging excessive prices and the Department of Health continues to work closely with the CMA on further investigations into the pharmaceutical sector.

The Government also works with the pharmaceutical industry on a range of issues, including the pricing of new medicines, through mechanisms such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. This scheme is a voluntary agreement between the Government and pharmaceutical industry which controls the costs of branded medicines sold to the NHS.

The Government also commissioned the Accelerated Access Review which has set out a range of ways we can improve and speed up access to the latest treatments, but do so affordably for the NHS. You may also be interested to know that the Government is running a public consultation into medicines which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, in order to assess areas in which the NHS has been spending money on expensive, and clinically ineffective medicines.

Through measures such as this, the Government is taking action to ensure drugs represent value for money to the NHS and the UK taxpayer."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Public Sector Pay

In response to the campaign on public sector pay, David said:

"Public sector workers deserve to have fulfilling jobs that are fairly rewarded. The Government has confirmed that it will be moving away from the 1 per cent public sector pay policy, towards a more flexible approach on pay.

We must deal with our country’s debts to ensure we have a strong economy to enable us to invest in our public services. This means that it is vital that we continue to take a balanced approach to public spending.

The Government will consider each specific workforce to ensure pay is set so that the public sector can continue to both attract and hold on to the excellent staff that support our world-leading public services.

Before Ministers make final decisions on pay awards, they will seek the views of the eight independent Pay Review Bodies, which will consider the evidence on how best to ensure they can recruit and retain the very best people within our public services, like giving people more flexibility over their working hours. They will report in spring 2018, at which point the Government will consider their recommendations and announce public sector pay awards for each of those workforces.

Since 2010 the deficit has been cut by two thirds, helping secure our economy for the future. There is more to be done, but thanks to the actions that have been taken to get the public finances back into shape, the Government can now apply greater flexibility to public sector pay. Ministers will continue to ensure that the overall package for public sector workers recognises their vital contribution and ensures that they can deliver world class public services, while also being affordable and fair to taxpayers as a whole."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Voting Age

In response to the campaign on lowering the voting age, David said:

"There has been a rising level of interest in the issue following the Scottish Independence Referendum, however, most polls do show that a majority of adults oppose the change. In the 16-18 cohort, there is a modest majority of 16 year olds in favour, 17 year olds are evenly balanced, and 18 year olds are against.

In the UK, there is no single moment when someone moves from childhood to adulthood; instead responsibilities and permitted activities build up over time. For example, a person must be 17 before they can leave home without parents' consent or hold a license to drive and 18 before they can sit on a jury or buy alcohol. I think this illustrates that, so far, we have viewed attaining adulthood as a process rather than a single event.

It is notable that most democracies consider 18 the right age to enfranchise young people. So far in the EU, only Austria and Scotland have lowered the voting age to 16 for national elections.

 Of course, it is important that young people take part in politics, but there are more factors than voting age to take into account when considering how to increase youth involvement in politics. A 2009 report by the Youth Citizenship Commission stated that the voting age is not the principal factor in encouraging young people's interest and involvement in politics and citizenship."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Animal Cruelty

In response to the campaign on animal cruelty, David said:

"I am pleased that we have a robust legal framework to tackle this vicious behaviour in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.

The Government routinely monitors sentencing policy for all offences, including animal welfare offences. I am pleased that the Government will bring forward legislation to increase punishments for the most horrific acts of animal cruelty to five years.

The courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. Currently, in addition to the maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, the courts can also disqualify offenders from keeping animals for as long as they consider appropriate.

Further details on the sentencing guidelines can be found at the following link:

https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/item/animal-cruelty-revised-2017/"

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Beer Duty

In response to the recent campaign on beer duty, David said:

"I recognise the important contribution that pubs make to their local communities, and I welcome the Government's efforts to support this through the taxation system.

The Chancellor said in the 2017 Spring Budget that tax on beer, cider and spirits will only increase by RPI inflation this year, in line with previous forecasts. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented freeze in beer duty.

A £1,000 discount on business rate bills will be applied in 2017 for all pubs with a rateable value lower than £100,000. This applies to 90 per cent of pubs and is in recognition of the valuable role they play in our communities.  The Chancellor has also announced a £300 million fund for local authorities to deliver discretionary business rate relief for individual cases in their local areas.

I am pleased to inform you that the Government, following a consultation, have decided that from 2020 business rates will be indexed around CPI. This is a change from the currently used RPI measure, and will represent a tax cut for all business each year from 2020.

The Chancellor continues to keep all taxes under review and decisions on tax policy are made as part of the Budget process."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

In response to the campaign on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), David said:

"While I appreciate your concerns on this issue, reforms to Housing Benefit are a central part of the Government’s plan to create a welfare system that supports the most vulnerable and is fair to taxpayers.

Around £24 billion a year is spent on Housing Benefit to support people with their housing costs, with over £800 million in Discretionary Housing Payments provided to local authorities to help support vulnerable claimants.

In addition, I am assured that around 30 per cent of potential savings from the LHA freeze will be used to create further Targeted Affordability Funding to help tenants in those areas where local housing allowance rates have diverged the most from local rents. This has already been used to increase 48 LHA rates by 3 per cent in areas with high rental costs this year. Further funding will be available for this purpose in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Ultimately, however, the key to improving affordability in the private rented sector across England is to build more homes. That is why I am glad that the Housing White Paper, which was published in February this year, outlined an ambitious plan to fix the broken housing market and build the homes Britain needs. This includes getting the right homes built in the right places, speeding up house building, and diversifying the market. I was delighted at the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to increase the affordable housing budget by £2 billion to more than £9 billion."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Live Animal Exports

In response to the campaign on live animal exports, David said:

"I understand that this is an issue which people feel strongly about and I believe that animals should be slaughtered locally wherever possible. However, under European Union single market rules, it is illegal to ban the export of animals to other EU countries. There are EU and UK laws in place to protect the welfare of live animals during transport.

While the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union, it will remain a Member and will continue to exercise the rights and obligations that come with membership. The UK’s involvement in EU rules on animal welfare and trade will likely form part of exit negotiations, with future policy in this area considered by the Government in the context of these talks.

The Government will continue to pursue a more sustainable approach to the transport of livestock on long journeys and has already called on the EU Commission to update the rules on welfare during transport where there is sufficient scientific evidence to support a change."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

School Funding

In response to the campaign on school funding, David said:

"I am proud that we are delivering on the manifesto commitment to put an end to the postcode lottery that created huge differences in funding between similar schools in different parts of the country. Reforms to the school funding system will balance fairness and stability for schools. It will also build on the improved standards delivered since 2010.

I am encouraged by the £1.3 billion boost for core school funding, meaning school funding will rise from almost £41 billion this year to £42.4 billion in 2018/19 and £43.5 billion by 2019/20.

The new national funding formula will increase the basic amount allocated for every pupil and will allocate a minimum funding level per pupil for both secondary and primary schools. This will help to target the lowest funded schools. It will provide a minimum cash increase for every school of 1 per cent per pupil by 2019-20, with the most underfunded schools seeing rises of 3 per cent per pupil in 2018-19 and 2019-20. I am also encouraged that every school will receive a lump sum of £110,000 to help with fixed costs.

I am delighted that, if these reforms are implemented in full, there will be a 7.2% increase in funding for the Buckinghamshire schools block when compared to 2017-18. This is one of the largest increases in the country and will be a substantial boost to local schools. It represents a cash increase in respect of each individual school, with all secondary schools attracting at least £4,800 per pupil and all primary schools attracting at least £3,500 per pupil by 2019-20."

Breast Cancer

In response to the campaign on breast cancer, David said:

"It is important that every effort is made to continue to tackle and raise awareness of breast cancer, a disease which takes so many lives.

In 2015, Public Health England launched Be Clear on Cancer, a national scheme which has significantly improved awareness of breast cancer in women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, and this is testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease.

Ministers are making great efforts to improve cancer services and ensure that the NHS provides some of the world’s best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020. This is part of the NHS’s ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020. Health Education England and Macmillan Cancer Support are working closely with NHS England on this programme to understand the best ways of developing and implementing cancer services.

These developments will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care. The NHS is implementing the independent Cancer Taskforce’s recommendation that all breast cancer patients shall receive access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or other key workers. This will enable greater detection of any recurrence or secondary breast cancer, and enable a quick and effective return to care."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Care Homes

In response to the campaign on the quality of care homes, David said:

"Caring for the elderly is one of the most significant challenges facing our ageing society. The independent Care Quality Commission (CQC) holds our care system to the highest possible standards, and has recently completed a comprehensive survey of social care in England.

I am encouraged by the latest report from the CQC, which has found that, despite financial pressure, four out of five adult social care services in England were rated as good or outstanding. The CQC report has, however, highlighted areas for concern, such as the regional disparity in quality of care and the rate of improvement of care services.

I support the Chancellor’s announcement in the 2017 Spring Budget to invest an additional £2 billion in 2017-18 and 2019-20 to aid councils in England to improve social care and relieve pressure on the rest of the NHS. This funding will be supplemented by measures to rapidly improve those areas most in need of improvement. Over the following three years, councils will have access to £9.25 billion funding for social care.

Whilst it is clear that money alone will not solve all the difficulties faced by our care sector, I support the Government’s real-terms increase in funding for social care. Furthermore, the Department of Health is implementing Quality Matters, a vital scheme committed to improving the care sector for patients, families, and carers alike."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Fuel Prices

In response to the campaign on fuel prices, David said:

"The Government recognises that fuel costs remain a significant part of business and household costs. In order to reduce living costs fuel duty has been frozen for a seventh successive year. In total this saves the average car driver £130 a year and the average van driver £350 a year, compared to pre-2010 fuel duty escalator plans. This is a tax cut worth £1 billion in 2017-18, and means the current fuel duty freeze is the longest for 40 years.

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

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

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Parental Bereavement

In response to the campaign on parental bereavement, David said:

"I understand this is an extremely sensitive issue. Parents should feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child. Employers are expected be compassionate and flexible at such a difficult time.

I am pleased to say that the Government is backing the Parental Bereavement (leave and pay) Bill. This Bill goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees. It will give a day-one right to parental bereavement leave and employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service will be eligible for statutory parental bereavement pay.

Under the proposed measures, employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will have the right to two weeks’ paid leave to allow them time to grieve. This honours the Government’s manifesto commitment to introduce a new entitlement for parental bereavement leave."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion Buffer Zones

In response to the campaign on buffer zones outside abortion clinics, David said:

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

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

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

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Motor Neurone Disease

In response to the campaign on motor neurone disease, David said:

"I understand that MND is a devastating disease which can be difficult to diagnose. In February 2016, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new guidelines on the assessment and management of MND. This sets out the signs and symptoms of the disease and recommends that robust pathways are in place to inform healthcare professionals about MND and local referral arrangements. NICE is clear that patients suspected of having MND should be referred without delay. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and the MND Association have also worked together to produce a ‘Red Flag Tool’ which sets out key signs of MND to help GPs to identify suspected cases and ensure prompt referral.

All services for people with MND should be commissioned in line with NHS England’s neurosciences service specification which sets out what providers must have in place to deliver high quality specialised neurological care.

MND care is part of the NHS’s specialised services. The budget for these services has increased more rapidly than other parts of the NHS, to £16.6 billion for the year 2017/18.

The Government’s National Institute for Health Research has increased spending on neurological conditions from £29.9 million in 2010/11 to £46.7 million in 2014/15.

I also recognise the valuable contribution made by carers of people with MND, many of whom spend a significant proportion of their life providing support to family members, friends and neighbours. I agree that carers must receive the right support to help them carry out their caring roles and a new cross-Government National Carers Strategy is being introduced to look at what more can be done to support existing and future carers."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Committee Selection Rules

In response to the campaign on committee selection rules, David said:

"These motions have been designed to ensure that the Government's working majority is available right across Parliament, both on the floor of the House and in committees. Where there is an even number of members on a committee there will be equality with other parties. A committee with an odd number of members will see a majority of one. 

This is simply about ensuring that detailed legislation can be dealt with in committee, rather than the Commons at Report Stage having to reverse amendments made by an Opposition-controlled committee. When the Labour Government was faced with a similar situation in 1976 they passed a motion for a majority of one in Standing Committees. 

Parliament plays a vital constitutional role, scrutinising, and often enhancing legislation. However it is also important that the Government is provided with the opportunity to implement the legislative commitments made in the Queen's Speech and to ensure that we leave the European Union in an orderly fashion."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Air Passenger Duty

In response to the campaign on Air Passenger Duty (APD), David said:

"The Government has continued to reform APD in the interests of passengers. Duties on long flights have been reduced and duties on short flights have been frozen, and will only rise by inflation from 2018-19. Children travelling in Economy Class are also exempt from APD. Together, these reforms provided a tax saving to the aviation sector of over £300m in 2016/17 alone.

Furthermore, there is no tax on aviation fuel or VAT charged for aviation travel. Therefore, the Government needs to ensure that the aviation sector plays its part in contributing towards general taxation through APD. Due to these duties the sector contributes £3.1 billion a year, funding that would otherwise have to be found elsewhere.

I am pleased that the aviation sector continues to grow strongly. Passenger numbers at UK airports have grown by 19 per cent since 2010 and the Government’s recent reforms to APD have helped sustain this growth."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

#NoBrexit Campaign

In response to the #NoBrexit campaign, David said:

"The Prime Minister has been clear that she wishes to minimise disruption to businesses and individuals as the UK leaves the EU. That is why the Repeal Bill is being introduced and why I support it. This bill will transfer EU law, including the case law of the European Court of Justice, into UK law once the UK leaves the EU. This will provide the maximum amount of certainty, control and continuity for the UK.

I also believe that a future partnership between the UK and the EU is in the interests of both sides. As the Prime Minister has explained, a good deal for Britain and a good deal for Europe are not competing alternatives and they are not mutually exclusive. The Prime Minister reiterated this in her speech made on the 22 September 2017 in Florence. The full transcript of the speech can found here.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not want or expect an outcome with no deal. A responsible government should, of course, prepare for all eventualities and this is exactly what my ministerial colleagues are doing. This includes the unlikely scenario where no agreement can be reached.

The bill recently passed its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday, with 318 votes for and 301 against. The full debate can be found here."

More information about the campaign can be found here.