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.

NHS Takeback Campaign

In response to the NHS Takeback campaign, David said:

"The NHS is a crucial part of the United Kingdom and the Government is dedicated to protecting it and its values. Ministers have guaranteed that it will always provide treatment free at the point of need, regardless of the ability to pay. The Government will not privatise the NHS.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. This will enable the NHS to implement its ‘Five Year Forward View’ plan in order to further improve health care in the future.

The focus throughout the NHS is to provide the highest quality of care to patients. This is why competition between public and private providers in the NHS acts only as a means to an end in improving services for patients, never as an end in itself.

The use of private providers and the voluntary sector in the delivery of NHS services is not a new concept. The Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 introduced the independent sector and competition into the NHS. The use of private providers in the NHS represents just over seven pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of just two and a half pence in the pound since 2010, and a slower rate of growth than under Labour."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Personal Independence Payment

In response to the campaign on disability benefits, David said:

"The aim of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is to ensure support is focused on those with the greatest barrier to independence. Around £50 billion of public money a year is spent to support people with disabilities and health conditions. Spending on disability benefits has risen by over £3 billion in real terms since 2010, and will remain higher in each year to 2020 than in 2010. PIP is an important part of this. It has been designed to focus more support on people who have higher costs associated with their condition. Entitlement is not based on what condition a person has, but on how their condition affects their ability to live an independent life.

I appreciate your concerns about the assessment process. The Department for Work and Pensions is continually reviewing and refining the PIP process in order to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. New claims are now being cleared in under a third of the time they were in July 2014, at a current average of 13 weeks from registration to decision. The Government is committed to further improving this process.

A public consultation has just closed which asked how the assessment process could be made easier and quicker, with particular focus on how information can be shared between decision makers, lessening the amount of paperwork for claimants. Additionally, a new feedback system will be introduced for claimants to talk about their experience claiming PIP, which will help focus reforms where they matter to claimants.

PIP is an important source of support for many disabled people, and these changes will ensure those people continue to be supported."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Anthony Nolan 'Who Cares?' Campaign

In response to the Anthony Nolan 'Who Cares?' campaign, David said:

"It is highly important to increase the number of stem cell donors in the UK, so I understand and welcome the vital work undertaken by Anthony Nolan.

In 2015 the Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services. This is part of £19 million in additional investment that the Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK.  This funding is being used to encourage young adults to become donors, as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.

It is encouraging that the total number of registered stem cell donors continues to expand. In 2010, the total number of registered donors in the United Kingdom was 770,000, increasing to over one million by the end of 2014. This enabled more UK patients to receive a stem cell transplant in 2014 than ever before.

Aiding recovery should be a high priority. In February 2017, NHS England confirmed that it will fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer relapses following a first transplant. A large number of hospitals offer an Enhanced Recovery programme for those who have received major surgery, helping patients enjoy a quick and successful recovery."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Delegated Powers and the EU Repeal Bill

In response to the campaign on the delegated powers granted by the EU Repeal Bill, 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 at the point of the UK's departure from the EU. This will make sure that the UK has a functioning statute book when it leaves the EU and it will provide the maximum amount of certainty, control and continuity.

When closing the Second Reading of the Bill on Monday 11th September, I addressed its 3 main criticisms: the inclusion of underlying principles of EU law; the matter of devolution and the powers of devolved Administrations; and the issue of the delegated powers that are granted by the Bill. My full speech, as well as the full debate on the Bill, can be found here:

The Bill will also give ministers in the UK Government and in the devolved administrations a temporary power to make legal corrections to transposed EU legislation. This power will be limited to two years after exit day. It is important to emphasise that this power could only be used to make corrections to transposed law, rather than implement major policy changes. Crucially, Parliament or the devolved legislatures will also be able to scrutinise any statutory instrument made under this power.

I can also assure you that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019 and that this means leaving the single market and the customs union at that point. The single market and the customs union are the main and essential elements of the EU. To remain in either would mean not really leaving the EU at all. Leaving these will ensure that the referendum result is respected in full and that the UK has more control over the issues you mention.

The Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday 11th September by 326 votes to 290 votes."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

In response to the campaign on Alzheimer's, David said:

"Dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and the Government remains committed to delivering this. This plan will provide more funding for dementia care, support and research, whilst also increasing public awareness.

In March 2016, the Government published an Implementation Plan to support the 2020 Challenge which has been produced with key partners across the health and care sectors. Alongside this, a joint declaration has been published setting out an ambition to improve the quality of post-diagnostic care.

Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Additionally, over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training.

Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia and the Government has doubled research spending on dementia. This will be maintained to total over £300 million by 2020, with the UK’s first ever Dementia Research Institute receiving £150 million.

I believe it is important to increase public awareness of dementia and I am encouraged that there are over 1.7 million Dementia Friends and 175 Dementia Friendly Communities in England."

More details about the Government's plans to tackle dementia and Alzheimer's disease can be found here.

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.