Bees and Neonicotinoids

In response to the campaign on bees and neonicotinoids, David said:

"Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our environment. I welcome the work the Government has done over the last few years to protect them, most recently through its National Pollinator Strategy.

While we remain in the EU the UK will continue to meet its obligations under EU law, including restrictions on neonicotinoids.

As part of the preparation for exiting the EU, Ministers are considering future arrangements for pesticides. Their highest priority will continue to be the protection of people and the environment and, taking the advice of the independent Expert Committee on Pesticides, they will base these decisions on a careful scientific assessment of the risks."

Asylum for Victims of Torture

In response to the campaign on asylum for victims of torture, David said:

"Granting protection to those who need it and refusing those who do not, in an efficient and effective a way, is crucial.

I have been assured that all members of staff who make asylum decisions receive a comprehensive level of training. This includes a dedicated five-week Foundation Training Programme that includes training on international and domestic law and safeguarding issues, which is supplemented by a mentoring programme with an experienced decision maker that lasts from three to six months.

The course is explicit that decision makers must not make clinical judgements and must properly consider evidence and give appropriate weight to all evidence presented in order to reach an informed decision, only rejecting claims when there is a significant reason to do so. It includes example medico-legal reports which the trainees must analyse and interpret as part of a number of practical exercises. 

Following training, there is a quality assurance process in place involving technical specialists embedded within each team, senior caseworkers within each unit and a national internal quality audit team who ensure that all policies are complied with when decisions are made.

I should also highlight that Asylum Operations recently received funding from the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to review and redevelop its training manual. Asylum Operations is cooperating with a range of charities and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that there is effective safeguarding training.

The cases of those who have been abused who claim asylum in the UK must be processed quickly and efficiently, and I am assured the procedures are in place to do so."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Executive Pay

In response to the campaign on executive pay, David said:

"As you may be aware the Government has now announced its plans on corporate governance reform following a thorough consultation process. A focus of these reforms will be to tackle abuses and excesses in the boardroom, specifically that of executive pay.

Previous reforms introduced by the Government in 2013 have gone some way to strengthening and increasing transparency in the UK executive pay framework - in particular the requirement to gain shareholder approval for executive pay policies every three years and the need to disclose the pay of each director as a single figure. However, I appreciate that executive pay has continued to be a key factor in public dissatisfaction with large businesses, and a source of frustration to UK investors.

That is why action is being taken which will address concerns that a minority of companies are not responding adequately when they encounter significant shareholder opposition to levels of executive pay. Under new measures the Government will name listed companies on a public register if 20 per cent or more of their shareholders revolt over proposals for executive pay package.

In addition, the Government will require listed companies to reveal the pay ratio between bosses and workers. At the same time, remuneration committees will be made to do more to engage with the workforce to explain how pay at the top relates to wider company pay policy. The Financial Reporting Council has also been asked to revise the UK Corporate Governance Code to extend the recommended minimum vesting and post-vesting holding period for executive share awards from three to five years to encourage companies to focus on longer-term outcomes in setting pay."

Home Energy Efficiency

In response to the campaign on home energy efficiency, David said:

"I agree that the sustainability of buildings is crucial to tackling climate change in the UK, and recognise that energy efficiency and decarbonising buildings will be key to meeting our domestic commitments.

All households should be able to invest in energy efficiency improvements and there is a range of programmes designed to support different houses and locations. All homes are eligible for insulation measures, including solid wall insulation, through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. In addition, a package of changes incentivise energy suppliers to deliver more heating and insulation measures in non gas-fuelled homes, including oil fired boiler replacements. Over two million energy efficiency measures have been installed in over 1.6 million homes since 2013, and a further 1 million homes will be insulated by 2020.

For non fuel-poor households, however, the priority is to help create a sustainable market for energy efficiency and low carbon products, rather than rely primarily on subsidy. That is why the Government commissioned the Each Home Counts review of quality, standards and advice in home energy efficiency and renewables, which reported in December 2016. Ministers are now working with industry on its approach to implementing the findings of that review and I will be following the outcome of this closely.

Finally, in the last six years, energy performance for new homes has increased. The Government is carrying out a review to determine whether minimum standards should be further strengthened. It has always been clear, however, that carbon reduction needs to be achieved in the most practical and cost-effective way possible."

More information about this campaign can be found here.

Environment Laws

In response to the campaign on environment laws after the UK leaves the EU, David said:

"Ministers are committed to safeguarding our natural environment. Until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. The Treasury has confirmed that any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime even if they run beyond this point.

Following the vote to leave, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.

I am proud of the Government’s record in creating and improving habitats, and I welcome the commitment to plant 11 million more trees by 2020. Tackling air quality is another priority. Alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, in those cities with the most persistent air quality challenges Ministers will legislate to implement Clean Air Zones.

The UK will continue to play a leading role in combatting climate change, as we did at the Paris Conference. Britain’s share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Bowel Cancer

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

"Over eight in ten cases of bowel cancer occur in the over 60s and I agree that early diagnosis is key.

Under the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, people aged 60-74 years old are sent a home testing kit every two years. Those aged above the eligible age limit are also able to self-refer for screening. As part of the programme, a new test is being introduced which is easier to complete and it is hoped that 200,000 more people per year will take up the opportunity to be screened.  An additional one-off bowel scope screening test is also being introduced for those aged 55 years old. 

All hospital trusts are able to offer screening for patients if clinically appropriate. New cancer referral guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published in June 2015 state that GPs should refer patients for testing in hospital if they present with relevant symptoms at relevant ages. 

Cancer survival rates in the UK have never been higher, however, I am aware that there is still more to be done. The Government is working with the NHS, charities and patient groups to deliver the new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. By 2020, everyone urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks.

The £1.2 billion Cancer Drugs Fund has helped over 95,000 people and I continue to support the Government’s commitment to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

NSPCC's 'Keeping Children Safe' Campaign

In response to the NSPCC's 'Keeping Children Safe' campaign, David said:

"Schools have a vital role to play in keeping children safe and should provide young people with a curriculum that equips them for adult life. The Government has legislated to make Relationships and Sex Education mandatory for all secondary school aged children, and Relationships Education for all primary school aged children, giving pupils the knowledge they will need to stay safe and develop healthy relationships.

This is especially important for this generation of young people, who are growing up with more access to technology and the internet than their parents and teachers. While the internet provides a range of valuable benefits, it also exposes young people to very real dangers. On top of protecting children from being able to access inappropriate material, steps are being taken to educate them about these dangers. The internet safety strategy was announced earlier this year which aims to make the UK the safest country in the world for children and young people to go online. More details about the strategy can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-major-new-drive-on-internet-safety

Tackling all forms of abuse and exploitation of children by anyone is a priority of this Government. Ministers are continuing to reassess how police, social care and other agencies can work together to protect vulnerable children."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Keep Pubs Afloat

In response to the Keep Pubs Afloat campaign, David said:

"Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that each pub contributes £80,000 each year to its local economy. I am glad that the pub sector is being supported in a range of ways.

Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, such as pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. There are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.

Many pubs have also benefited from the Government’s package on business rates for small businesses. The Spring Budget 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.

Tax on beer 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.

There is also greater flexibility on weights and measures, allowing beer and wine to be sold in different sizes. It easier now for pubs to play live music and £350,000 has been provided for the Pub is The Hub initiative and the Plunkett Foundation to help landlords diversify and provide essential services such as village shops and post offices."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Factory Farming

In response to the campaign on factory farming, David said:

"The UK's strong commitment in this area is reflected in World Animal Protection's recent Animal Protection Index, which judged 50 countries on their policy and legislation for animals and saw the UK ranked joint top alongside New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland. Recent changes to legislation regulating the quality of cages for hens shows this protection in action.

I believe animals should be slaughtered locally wherever possible. I am pleased the Government has announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses. However, under European Union single market rules, it is illegal to ban the export of animals to other EU countries; there are instead EU and UK laws to protect the welfare of live animals during transport. You are right to highlight that as the UK withdraws from the EU, it would be possible to re-evaluate existing rules.
 
Mandatory labelling for method of production has to be weighed against the costs involved for businesses, which could be significant. Legislation already provides scope for producers to label their products voluntarily, and several assurance schemes are also in place. Consumers who have a preference for a particular farming method can therefore readily find meat products labelled with information to inform their choice.
 
Ministers are fully committed to ensuring that antibiotics are used responsibly. In September 2016 further plans were announced to tackle the issue, including a commitment to reduce antibiotic use in animals significantly. Long term, sector-specific reduction targets are being set that will bring sustainable change across the agricultural industry, from farm to fork."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

The Ramblers' Manifesto

In response to the campaign on the Ramblers' Manifesto, David said:

"The Secretary of State for EFRA will soon launch a public consultation on the future of agricultural and rural policy after the UK has left the EU. I would encourage the Ramblers Society and individuals to contribute their policy ideas to that consultation.

It is very important for the government and Buckinghamshire County Council to protect access to our public footpaths and bridleways. Our network of public rights of way plays an important role in this effort, so the process of recording them is being simplified to ensure no historic rights of way are lost. Work is also ongoing with Natural England to establish the England Coast Path. We must also ensure that our countryside remains inviting to visit."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Freedom of Religion

In response to the campaign on freedom of religion, David said:

"We fully support the right of people of all religions, and non-religious people, to practise their beliefs in peace and safety. The British Government works bilaterally to lobby host governments to raise individual cases and highlight laws that discriminate against people on the basis of religion or belief. Multilaterally, the Government works to sustain consensus support for United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions which promote freedom of religion. 

The UK supports a number of projects at grass roots level. In 2017/18, the FCO will spend approximately £760,000 on freedom of religion and belief projects. In Syria and Iraq, where religions have suffered such appalling persecution and violence at the hands of Daesh, the UK's main contribution to ending the persecution of religious minorities is by taking part in the campaign to defeat Daesh and return the region to stability and peace. The UK is also collaborating with human rights and faith-based organisations across the world through project work; particularly those which bridge sectarian divides and promote dialogue and understanding between religions. The Government is building on its work in the previous Parliament to correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of ‘the West’. A key focus this year has been support for the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, encouraging countries to promote freedom of religion as one way of tackling the root causes of extremism.

Last year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) hosted a conference on freedom of religion or belief here in London bringing together inspiring speakers from across the world to share very practical examples of how they are working to build a more open society. The FCO has also made available to staff a new Freedom of Religion or Belief toolkit to assist officials on how to promote freedom of religion or belief in their local context."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Puppy Smuggling

In response to the campaign on puppy smuggling, David said:

"Responsibility for stopping illegal movement begins in the country where puppies are born, so in response to a previous report the Chief Veterinary Officer wrote to the authorities in the highlighted countries to remind them of their duties. 
 
An EU pet travel regulation introduced in 2014 brought further measures to strengthen enforcement. The new-style passport is harder to forge, new rules apply when more than five animals are moved together and all EU countries must carry out compliance checks. A 12-week minimum age for rabies vaccination assists compliance checking and restricts the movement of very young animals. As the UK withdraws from the EU, there will be opportunities to re-evaluate the rules.
 
There is a robust checking regime for pets travelling here. Every pet travelling with its owner on an approved route is checked for compliance with the travel regime and the UK Border Force carries out a wide range of checks on vehicles arriving in the UK.
 
However, we must also acknowledge that as individuals we need to take care not to fuel demand for these animals by providing a market for the people that exploit them. Government advice is very clear: people who buy a pet are responsible for knowing where it comes from and, if it is found to have been imported illegally, will be held responsible for any necessary quarantine and veterinary fees."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Civil Partnerships for Same Sex Couples

In response to the campaign on civil partnerships for same sex couples, David said:

"The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 had a specific focus on extending marriage to same-sex couples who could not previously marry. The Act did, however, stipulate that there should be a review of civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The Government carried out a full public consultation on the future and operation of civil partnership in 2014, receiving almost 11,500 responses, during which a range of views were expressed. The majority of respondents were against broadening civil partnerships to include opposite sex couples. In 2016 the decision not to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples was subject to judicial review that found the current system does not discriminate against heterosexual couples. The case has recently also been heard in the Court of Appeal and we are awaiting the outcome.

Some people have expressed concern that the continued availability of civil partnerships for only same sex couples could result in inequality and unfairness for opposite sex couples.  On the other hand, many feel that now marriage is available for all couples the need for civil partnerships falls away. There is, of course, the option for all those in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage, however I recognise that not all couples in civil partnerships wish to do this. I believe it is sensible for the Government to get a sense of the impact of extending marriage to same sex couples, before deciding on the way forward for civil partnerships."

Abortion in Northern Ireland

In response to the campaign on abortion in Northern Ireland, David said:

"I recognise that this is a very delicate and sensitive issue. Abortion access is the topic of contentious and emotive debate. For this reason all MPs are free to vote with their conscience on abortion matters, rather in line with their parties, and I support this convention wholeheartedly. The Government wishes to see safe abortion services provided within the law to women who need them.

The provision of abortions is a devolved issue. Devolved NHS authorities are responsible for providing healthcare to those resident in their regions.

However, following a recent Supreme Court judgement, which outlined the law surrounding the provision of abortions to Northern Irish women in England, the Government has announced that payment for abortions for Northern Irish women in the NHS will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding.

This development does not alter the fact that the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue, and the responsibility of politicians in Northern Ireland. The funding of NHS abortion services for Northern Irish women by the Government Equalities Office ensures these women safe access to legal abortions in England, without compromising the devolution of NHS services in the UK.

In response to the case of the mother being prosecuted under the 1861 Offences against the Person Act in Northern Ireland, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion on Demand

In response to the campaign on abortion on demand, David said:

"I understand what an important issue abortion is for many people in the constituency. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged.  Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament.  It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes.  Whenever this issue has come before Parliament I have consistently voted for stricter laws on abortion.  

I am aware that an update to the procedures that detail the conditions that independent sector abortion clinics must adhere to was published in 2014, to take into account a number of regulatory changes and to bring the requirements in line with current policies and guidance.

The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. This makes clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health.   Full details can be found online here:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-doctors-on-compliance-with-the-abortion-act

The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act.  The Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion."

DUP Confidence and Supply Agreement

In response to the campaign on the DUP confidence and supply agreement, David said:

"At this crucial time, the Prime Minister formed a Government in the national interest. With the most seats and most votes, only the Conservative Party has the ability and legitimacy to do that. The Conservative Party have had a strong relationship over many years with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and have finalised a confidence and supply deal. I know there are a number concerns with this approach that I want to address directly.

We are committed to re-establishing inclusive, devolved government in Northern Ireland. The approach and objectives as set out in the Conservative Party Northern Ireland manifesto remain unchanged, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland continues to work to restore a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible.

Governing in the national interest means delivering a successful Brexit that works for the whole country. It means building on our economic record of more jobs, cutting the deficit and investing more in public services like the NHS. It means tackling the social issues we face in the country: issues like mental health, housing, and proper technical education for young people.

Matters of conscience like abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage are decided by free votes in parliament with no official Conservative Party position. MPs and Peers vote according to their own ethical and religious beliefs."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Precarious Contracts

In response to the campaign on precarious contracts, David said:

"While atypical work arrangements play a valuable role in today's labour market, the Government realises the issues that come with new ways of working.

That is why Matthew Taylor was asked to undertake his independent review of modern employment practices, which considered job security among a range of issues. The review highlights the recent success of British business in creating jobs, enhancing earning power and improving life chances across the UK. Employment rates are at the highest since records began, unemployment and economic inactivity are at record lows and minimum wage rates have never been higher. 

I understand the Government will now study the report's contents carefully, as well as the public consideration of Mr Taylor's recommendations that will follow, to help inform the development of the Industrial Strategy later in the year. Through the Industrial Strategy, the Government will make sure wherever people are in the country, there are more skilled, well-paid jobs to increase productivity and earning power, benefiting both workers and business.

It is good that we have record numbers of people in work thanks to our flexible labour market. That said, the Government recognises that people also deserve to be treated fairly by their employers whatever work they are carrying out and will take action if necessary."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Game Bird Cruelty

In response to the campaign on the welfare of pheasants and partridges bred for shooting, David said:

"I appreciate your concerns on this issue. Both I and the Government are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare.
 
Under existing laws and regulations all animals, including farmed poultry, must be looked after in ways that meet their welfare needs. Guidance is maintained on the steps stock-keepers need to take to avoid risking prosecution.
 
This includes an explicit reference to the Farm Animal Welfare Council's 'five freedoms', which state that animals must be kept free from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury or disease, from fear or distress and to express normal behaviour. Regulations on housing vary depending on how the birds are being raised, but in all cases it must allow essential biological needs to be fulfilled.
 
Furthermore, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering. Under this Act, 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. It can be found at www.gov.uk by searching on the term 'Gamebirds'.
 
These rules are enforced by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), which carries out routine welfare inspections and investigates complaints; prosecutions can be initiated where necessary."

More information about the campaign can be found here.
 

Proposed Takeover of Sky

In response to the campaign on the proposed takeover of Sky by 21st Century Fox, David said:

"As you are probably aware, Sky has received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61 per cent share of Sky that it does not yet already own.

Under the powers set out in the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a quasi-judicial role that allows her to intervene on the basis of specified media public interest considerations. These considerations refer to the need for there to be a sufficient plurality of media ownership, for the availability of a wide range of high-quality broadcasting and for those with control of media enterprises to have a genuine commitment to broadcasting standards objectives.

On 16 March 2017, the Secretary of State issued a European Intervention Notice on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This decision was made after hearing representations from Sky, 21st Century Fox and many other third parties.

This decision triggered action by Ofcom to assess and report on the public interest grounds specified and for the Competition and Markets Authority to report on jurisdiction. They each had 40 working days to prepare and provide these reports.

On 29 June, the Secretary of State released her initial decisions on whether to refer the merger to a full phase two investigation. More details of these can be found on the below webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/skyfox-merger

The Secretary of State then accepted suggestions on her initial decisions until 14 July and will now consider the evidence received before coming to a final decision.

The question of whether someone is fit and proper to hold a broadcasting licence is a different consideration to those outlined in the Enterprise Act 2002, and one that quite rightly sits with Ofcom. Ofcom had previously announced that it would conduct its fit and proper assessment at the same time it would consider any public interest test, meaning following the intervention decision, Ofcom will conduct its assessment within the 40 working days it has to report on the specified public interests."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi

In response to the campaign on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi David said:

"Ministers and officials continue to make representations on all consular cases involving British nationals in Iran, including Mr Foroughi’s and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s, at all levels with the Iranian Government.

On 17 February the Foreign Secretary discussed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case with the Iranian Foreign Minister. However, the fact that Iran does not recognise dual nationality makes progress difficult. Most recently, the new Minister for the Middle East raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case in a telephone call with the Iranian Foreign Minister on 21 June.

I share your concern for Mr Foroughi. It is vitally important that we continue to uphold the human rights of all the citizens in Iran with our international partners.

I hope that this goes some way to reassure you how seriously both I and my ministerial colleagues take this matter."

More information about the campaign can be found here.