Don't Block Brexit Campaign

In response to the Don't Block Brexit campaign, David said:

"In the referendum, millions of people voted to leave the EU. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Repeal Bill, ensures that the UK does this in the smoothest possible way and this is why I support it. This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU or about the terms of our exit.

The Bill honours the referendum result and provides certainty for businesses. It repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which gives effect to EU law in the UK, and converts all EU law into UK law. It also provides ministers in the UK Government and in the devolved administrations with temporary powers to make corrections to the law. Without it there would be holes in our legal system and chaos for the British people.

The Bill does not, however, allow the Government to bypass Parliament. MPs will still be able to scrutinise any changes introduced by ministers using delegated powers and major policy changes will be introduced as separate Bills. The Queen's Speech announced legislation on agriculture, immigration and trade. Future laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. 

The Prime Minister has promised that Parliament will have a say over the final withdrawal deal but it is not within the Government's power to unilaterally extend the negotiation period for further discussions. EU law is clear that the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 whether or not a withdrawal agreement is reached. By voting for this Bill, the UK will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. Voting against the Bill would create chaos and uncertainty."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Girls Education

In response to a recent Global Partnership for Education campaign, David said:

"Investing in education is in all our interests, as education provides children with the best route out of poverty, giving them the power to improve their own lives and their country, and ultimately reduce developing countries' reliance on aid. Globally we must push for education for both girls and boys because evidence shows that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, it has a strong positive impact - she marries later and has fewer and healthier children, and is more likely to be economically productive. But it is not just about having the chance to go to school, children must be well taught and what they learn must improve their opportunities in life.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Department for International Development supported over 11 million children, including 5.3 million girls, in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries. The Government has committed to helping at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education by 2020. DFID is on track to deliver this, having supported 7.1 million children to gain a decent education between 2015 and 2017. This is a huge investment in a better future for these children."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Public Sector Pay

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

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

However, we still must deal with our country's debts to ensure we have a strong economy to enable us to invest in our public services. 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. They will report in 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, 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.

Renew Our World

In response to the Renew Our World Campaign, David said:

"Climate change is one of the most serious long-term economic threats that this country and this world faces.

The UK is taking a leading role as the world works towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels.

The year 2015 was important, and the talks in Paris culminated in a global deal, with every country in the world now signed up to play its part in halting climate change. Britain has already been leading the way, and will work towards reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

It's not satisfactory that the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal, is still a major part of our power generation. The UK will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the equation, with the recent announcement that all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions aren't being captured and stored will be closed by 2025. A new, clean energy infrastructure that is fit for the 21st century will be built, based around gas, nuclear and renewables.

Britain is leading by example and the Energy Act works towards decarbonising the UK's energy sector at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. It puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent. Alongside this, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working with major industrial sectors to set out short-term collaborative actions on decarbonisation through its Clean Growth Strategy."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Parliament Sovereignty

In response to a recent campaign concerning Amendment 7 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, David said:

"The Government has announced that a new Bill will be introduced to implement the withdrawal agreement so that the deal that the UK reaches with the EU can be put directly into UK domestic law. This includes the agreement reached on citizens’ rights, any financial settlement and the implementation period.

This also means that Members of Parliament in the House of Commons and Members of the House of Lords will be able to debate, scrutinise and vote on the final agreement made with the EU. The commitment provided to both Houses of Parliament that they will have a meaningful vote on the final deal will not be affected. This will take place as soon as the deal is agreed and before the European Parliament votes on it. There can be no doubt that Parliament will have a full opportunity to have its say on the final agreement.

The Government has listened and will continue to listen to suggestions from Members of Parliament to improve the legislation relating to the UK’s exit from the EU. Legislators should work together to ensure that the UK can pursue a smooth and stable exit from the EU. This is in everyone’s interest."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

LHA Freeze

In response to a recent campaign on the Local Housing Allowance Freeze, David said:

"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. I welcome that this has already been used to increase 48 LHA rates by 3 per cent in areas with high rental costs this year. The recent Budget announced additional funding of £40 million in 2018-19 and £85 million in 2019-20. This will increase the housing benefit awards of 140,000 claimants next year, by an average of £280 in areas where affordability pressures are greatest.

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 encouraged that further proposals in the recent Budget mean the Government is on track to increase the housing supply by 300,000 a year."

Refugee Families

In response to a recent campaign on refugee families, David said: 

"The UK strongly supports the principle of family unity, and there are already legal routes for families to be reunited safely. Currently, family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them in the United Kingdom and if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under this policy, over 24,000 family reunion visas have been granted over the last five years. They will remain when the UK leaves the European Union and are not affected by Brexit. Furthermore, children recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as refugees can join close family members here in the UK through the Mandate resettlement scheme. In addition, the Immigration Rules provide for family reunion and allow extended family members to sponsor children where there are serious and compelling circumstances.

I appreciate your view that the Government should expand the scheme; however as I understand it there are no plans to widen the criteria. The criteria are fully compliant with the UK's international obligations, and enable thousands of people each year to be reunited with their families in the UK. Discretionary resettlement schemes are also in place for recognised refugees for whom resettlement is most appropriate. These schemes are operated in partnership with the UNHCR, and include Gateway, Mandate, Children at Risk, and the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme."

Brain Cancer

In response to the recent campaign on Brain Cancer, David said:

"I appreciate your concerns and it is encouraging that the Government recognises the need to increase research into brain tumours to achieve better outcomes for patients and families.

The Department of Health has recently established a Task and Finish Working Group on Brain Tumour Research. This group brings together clinicians, charities and officials to establish how the level and impact of brain tumour research can be furthered by working alongside funding partners. Under chairmanship of Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific advisor to the Department of Health, the group met for the third time in May 2017. The group aims to report back to Ministers regarding their findings.

The National Institute for Health Research is also supporting clinical trials to contribute to the development and delivery of brain tumour research. In 2015/16, these trials supported 1,061 patients over 37 brain cancer studies, identifying new research opportunities and areas of clinical need.

Survival rates for cancer are at a record high and we are on track to save an estimated 12,000 more lives a year for people diagnosed between 2011 and 2015. However, it is clear that more can still be done. I am therefore encouraged that the Government is working with clinical partners to deliver a new cancer strategy developed by the independent Cancer Taskforce. This will ensure that by 2020, everyone referred with a suspicion of cancer will receive either a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks. This is supported by up to £300 million a year of investment by 2020 to increase diagnostic capacity and a further £112 million to support the skilled personnel and advanced facilities at the forefront of clinical research."

 

Breastfeeding

In response to the campaign on breastfeeding, David said:

"Breastfeeding is a personal choice for each woman to make and not all mothers are able to or choose to breast feed.

It is widely agreed that breastfeeding delivers significant health benefits to new-born babies, and promotes strong bonds between mother and baby. It provides the child with a perfect balance of vitamins and nutrients, and protects mother and baby from infection and disease. That is why, when possible, the Department of Health encourages exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of a child's life.

Breastfeeding rates do vary nationally and I believe that it is important that local commissioners offer all new mothers the best quality of care. There are now 2,000 more NHS midwives than in 2010 who can provide women with the advice and support needed to breastfeed. 

In 2014, the Government established the National Infant Feeding Network with UNICEF UK, which promotes evidence-based practice on infant feeding and early childhood development to deliver improved outcomes for women and their babies. 

In line with UNICEF's "Baby Friendly" guidelines, all women should be supported to make informed decisions and to develop a close relationship with their babies soon after birth. Public Health England is working with local services, midwives and health visitors to make this vision a reality, with a particular focus on areas needing urgent support.

Additionally, the Government is implementing the recommendations from the Better Birth report, to improve maternity services in England. This includes the promotion of breastfeeding, as Public Health England and UNICEF UK commission evidence-based interventions to improve breastfeeding rates.

For those who choose not to breastfeed, the Government supports the safe use of infant formula, and the regulations are in place to ensure that all types of infant formula meet the nutritional needs of babies."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Christian Persecution

In response to a campaign on Christian persecution, David said:

"I understand your concern for Christian communities around the world. Where freedom of religion or belief is under attack, other fundamental freedoms often face threat as well. The Government is motivated by deep concern for religious communities in the Middle East; and by a desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with all well-meaning parties. Ministers have stressed the importance of guaranteeing religious freedom when working with the Lebanese Government and the new Government in Iraq. Additionally, the Government is prioritising reaching the most vulnerable people across Syria, including Christians and those who have suffered from the ongoing violence, with its extensive aid programme."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Animals and Brexit

In response to a campaign on animals and Brexit, David said:

"I am proud that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Ministers have been clear that they intend it to remain world-leading in the future and, as a minimum, to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare laws to become UK laws. Most of these EU laws relate to farmed animals and many were passed after Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) came into effect.

Based on the Animal Welfare Act the Animal Protection Index, maintained by World Animal Protection, rates the UK's formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A. Other Lisbon Treaty signatories such as France, Italy and Spain do not enjoy this rating, having each received grade C.

Article 13 of the TFEU created a qualified obligation on the EU and Member States "to have full regard to the welfare of animals [as they are sentient beings]" when formulating and implementing EU law.   The Government has said that it will consider how the 'animal sentience' principle of Article 13 might be explicitly reflected in the UK when we leave the EU.

I therefore believe that existing UK legislation, which provides necessary and appropriate protection for animals in this country, will not be weakened when we leave the EU."

 

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.