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.

 

Queen's Speech

In response to a campaign on the Queen's speech David said:

"The Queen’s Speech is about recognising and grasping the opportunities that lie ahead for the United Kingdom as we leave the EU. It is important to deliver the result of last year’s referendum and to make a success of Brexit. The British Parliament will therefore hold a two-year legislative session to ensure there is enough time for Members to fully consider the laws required to make Britain ready for Brexit.

This includes the Great Repeal Bill which, by converting existing EU law into UK statute, will enable the smoothest possible transition at the point of leaving.

The Prime Minister has been clear that we are leaving the European Union. In the recent general election, over 80 per cent of all votes cast were for parties that have accepted we have to respect the decision of the Referendum last June.

I am pleased that beyond Brexit there will be a number of measures to build a stronger economy so we can improve people’s living standards and fund the public services, such as our NHS and schools, on which we all depend.

The strong programme that Ministers have put together will tackle social inequality in this country and promote our economic prosperity. There will be a broad range of domestic initiatives including legislation on improving mental health, dealing with domestic violence and abuse, tackling extremism, supporting electric vehicles, commercial space flight, and strengthening the Union."

A full transcript of the Queen's speech can be found here.

Grenfell tower block fire

David has recently received a number of emails regarding the Grenfell tower block fire and thought you might be interested in seeing his response. 

"It is impossible to comprehend what everybody affected by the fire has been going through. The response of people who have provided help, compassion and support has once again shown the fantastic spirit of London and the best of Britain. I also pay tribute to the emergency services, who put their lives in danger to save others.

I completely understand the shock, concern, anger and frustration that exists as a result of this. The Prime Minister has ordered a full, judge-led public inquiry, which will give people the answers they deserve. The Prime Minister gave a statement to the House of Commons and you can read her full statement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-commons-statement-on-grenfell-tower-22-june-2017

The Grenfell Tower Recovery task force was set up in the aftermath of the tragedy to ensure a coordinated response. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes representation from a number of government departments. The government is working with the local authority to ensure that people who lost their homes in the disaster are rehoused in the local area at the earliest opportunity (within 3 weeks at the latest). The government is also working with local authorities, housing associations, fire and rescue services, and fire safety experts to ensure that all similar buildings are checked and that residents are assured of this.

A new £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund has also been made immediately available to help those who had to flee their homes. Every household whose home has been destroyed will receive a guaranteed £5,500 minimum down payment from the fund. This money could be used to cover loss of possessions, funerals and emergency supplies. I understand that the fund will be kept under review and will increase if necessary."

Battersea Animal Home

In response to Battersea Animal Homes campaign for stricter sentencing for offences of animal cruelty David said:

"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 law, and the penalties for breaking it, were reviewed by the Parliamentary Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2012. At that time the Committee did not recommend increasing the maximum sentencing available to the courts. However, I am happy to say that the previous cap in the fine charges of animal abuse can attract has been removed, and I can also tell you that the Ministry of Justice is now looking at whether there is a case for increasing the penalties further.

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. There has recently been a public consultation into sentencing guidelines for these crimes, which resulted in the Council confirming the removal of the cap on the financial element of the penalty, and clarifying a range of relevant factors that would indicate a more serious offence."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Ancient Woodland

In response to a campaign on the protection of Ancient Woodland David said:

"Ancient woodland is a precious habitat, and I note that the National Planning Policy Framework already contains protections. It states that planning permission should be refused for development that would result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees elsewhere. This can only be overridden if the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.

The recent Housing White Paper went further, announcing a proposal to clarify planning policy on ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees, upgrading their protection to the same level as the green belt. The Government will consider everyone’s views and develop this further.

Ministers want to protect and enhance our woodland habitats. Over 11 million trees were planted in the last Parliament and there is a pledge to plant a further 11 million in this one. England’s woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century."

More information about the campaign can be found here.