My Views

I always try to respond to correspondence from constituents as quickly as possible.  Every day I receive a large number of campaign emails from people across Fylde, on a wide variety of issues, frequently, but not always, part of organised campaigns on specific policies.

In order to focus my time on casework and to manage my taxpayer funded staffing costs more effectively, I will be posting my views on topics where I am receiving large volumes of correspondence in this section of my website.  I will not be replying directly on topics where my views are available on this page.

I will continue to reply to all constituency enquiries, and specific policy concerns, but I can no longer guarantee an individual reply to each writing campaign email.  I prioritise cases where I am concerned someone may be at risk of harm.

Furthermore, I do not sign EDMs as they are costly, hardly ever get debated and I prefer to raise issues of concern directly with the relevant Minister. This way I know the Minister has received a letter regarding the issue.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

 

 

 

Repeal Bill

As the UK leaves the EU we must ensure that disruption to businesses and individuals is minimised. The Repeal bill will do this by transferring 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.

The Bill will also allow ministers in the UK Government and in the devolved administrations a temporary power to make legal corrections to transposed EU legislation. This will be time-limited to two years after exit day. Parliament or the devolved legislatures will also be able to scrutinise any statutory instrument made under this power. I understand the concerns for these delegated powers but I must emphasise that the power could only be used to make corrections to transposed law, for example, by removing references in transposed EU law to the UK as a member state of the EU. The Bill is not and will never be a vehicle for major policy changes.

I would like to 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.

There will, of course, be an implementation period as we leave the EU which I believe is required to alleviate any disruption caused. A cliff-edge for business and individuals would not be in anyone’s interests. But make no mistake: this will not be of unlimited duration. This would not be good for the UK or the EU.

 

Environment and exiting the EU

Here in Lancashire and across Britain we benefit from some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, so I am delighted that Ministers are committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment. Until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. I am particularly pleased that 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.

Throughout the negotiations, 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. I welcome the recently-announced plans on this issue that aim to put the UK at the forefront of ULEV development, manufacture and use.

The UK will continue to play a leading role in combating 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.

All in all I support, and share, the overriding goal to ensure that we are the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.

 

Neonicotinoid insecticides and Bees

I entirely agree with you that 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.

 

Factory Farming

There are a large number of independent farms across Fylde. The way in which animals are treated, both on these farms and in slaughterhouses is essential when assessing agricultural policy. I understand the strength of feeling about the issue and I am committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, including on farms.

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. As the UK withdraws from the EU there are great opportunities to re-evaluate existing structures and tailor them to the UK’s unique needs.

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.

 

Animal Cruelty

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 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.

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.

 

Executive Pay

The Government has now announced its plans on corporate governance reform following a thorough consultation process. I am pleased to say that a large 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.

 

Northern Train Services

Rail investment in the north is a hugely important issue.

I have been assured by Ministers that they are committed to ensuring every part of Britain benefits from investment in the railways. To this end, the Government’s investment in railway infrastructure through Network Rail’s Great North Rail Project will stimulate economic growth through better connections between towns and cities in the North. It will enable hundreds more trains to run each day, with more seats and faster services. Projects underway as part of the Great North Rail Project include electrifying key routes across the north west, connecting Manchester’s three stations with the new Ordsall chord and developing plans for upgrading the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds and York.

Manchester and Leeds will also both benefit from the £55.7bn HS2 railway when it opens in 2026. By 2033 there will be up to 18 trains an hour running in each direction on HS2, carrying up to 1,100 passengers each.

Further to this, the current Northern and TransPennine Express franchises are set to help bring the Northern Powerhouse to life, with 500 brand-new modern carriages, room for 40,000 more passengers, 2,000 extra services a week and a host of improvements. This will provide the biggest transformation to rail journeys in the north of England in decades, with the operators overseeing a massive £1.2 billion investment. This will help to rebalance the economy, creating jobs, opportunity and growth, and providing significantly better journeys across the region.

The Department for Transport is also working closely with Transport for the North on Northern Powerhouse Rail, which aims to provide faster and more frequent rail services across the region. The Government has committed £60 million to developing the scheme and is working with Transport for the North on potential route options and their costs and benefits. This analysis is due to be completed by the end of 2017.

 

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a major reform that will transform the welfare state in Britain. At the heart of Universal Credit is a belief that work should always pay. Under the new system, benefit will be withdrawn gradually as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income always goes up.

Rightly for a programme of this scale, the priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of Universal Credit started in April 2013 and I am pleased that significant progress has been made to date. Universal Credit is now available for single claimants in every jobcentre in the country.

Figures have shown that people claiming Universal Credit are 13 per cent more likely to be in work than people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, earning more money and more willing to take a job.

The taper rate has also been reduced since April of this year to help people to progress in work. I welcome this change, which will mean people will keep more of what they earn and will be better rewarded for increasing their hours or pay.

Under Universal Credit, support worth up to 85 per cent of childcare costs is now available regardless of hours worked, significantly higher than the support that was available under tax credits. This will give parents more flexibility to work and earn more money.

 

Energy Market

While I want the market to thrive and maintain the view that promoting competition is the best driver of value and service for customers, I am encouraged that the Government is prepared to act when markets are not working for all consumers.

As you are aware, the Government made a manifesto commitment to extend the price protection currently in place for some vulnerable energy consumers to more of those on the poorest value tariffs. In June, it wrote to Ofgem asking what action they intend to take and I welcome Ofgem’s commitment to protect a further one million families from expensive standard variable tariffs for the first time. This will take the total number of families protected from expensive standard variable tariffs to over five million.

I recognise, however, that this does not address the scale of the detriment suffered by all consumers on expensive default tariffs. That is why the Government has published a draft Bill which will provide for Ofgem to set a cap, or ‘safeguard tariff’, on the Standard Variable Tariffs that 60 per cent of people are on. The Safeguard Tariff will be designed by Ofgem, who will be tasked with setting it at such a level that it still leaves considerable motivation for consumers to shop around for the best deal, but improves the terrible prices paid by some people.

More broadly, there is already a prepayment price cap in place protecting households least able to benefit from competition. In April 2017 a prepayment price cap came into force protecting over four million households using pre-payment meters. This will remain in place until the end of 2020 and will save the average household £80 a year.