• British Lung Foundation campaign

    I sympathise profoundly with anyone who suffers with respiratory illness and I share many of the concerns you have raised. Lung disease is a major health issue and I believe it is important that we do all we can to make inroads into improving respiratory health. In its report published in March the British Lung Foundation found wide variation in treatment and care across the country. It estimates that lung disease costs the economy £11 billion every year and raises serious concerns about the long-term neglect, under-prioritisation and underinvestment in research, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease. I understand the disappointment that will be felt by many in our constituency and across the country that the Government has no plans to establish an independent taskforce on lung health. I believe the Government need to come up with a credible and comprehensive strategy to minimise the prevalence of lung diseases in our country. I agree that investment in public health and prevention is crucial to tackling lung disease and I have long supported the establishment of a new tobacco control plan. After 18 months of delays, the Government published its updated strategy in July. The plan sets out a bold approach to creating a smoke-free society, with a shift from national action to local action. However, I remain concerned that cuts to public health spending may widen the health inequality gap in our country – £200 million has already been cut from local public health budgets and 3.9% average real-terms cuts are expected each year to 2020-21. At the General Election in June I stood on a manifesto which pledged to invest in our NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need, and to take action to address ‘postcode lotteries’ to ensure that the quality of care an individual receives does not depend on which part of the country they live in. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I will continue to press the Government to be more proactive in raising awareness among the public and invest in preventative health measures which can head off the risks of lung disease in the years to come.

  • Dual UK-Iranian nationals currently being detained in Iran

    I share the understandable concerns that have been raised about a number of dual UK-Iranian nationals currently being detained in Iran, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi. Serious concerns remain around the continued detention of these individuals, particularly over their welfare and access to consular assistance. As you may be aware, the Iranian Government does not recognise dual nationality Iranian citizens, and I know that requests for consular access to detainees in Iran have been rejected on these grounds. The Government continues to be pressed on these matters in Parliament, and I am aware that the Government has repeatedly raised these cases with the Iranian Government. I also understand that the Prime Minister has raised concerns about consular cases involving dual nationals, including these cases, directly with the President of Iran. I believe it is no longer good enough for the Government to just raise concerns on these matters, and must now demand answers. I hope that the Government will do this, and that these cases can be resolved appropriately resulting in release. I can assure you that I will continue to follow any developments closely. The wider human rights situation in Iran continues to be a cause for concern and I hope the Government will also continue to encourage Iran to make improvements to its human rights record.

  • The use of microbeads in cosmetic products

    It is alarming that only 5% of our plastics are recycled and another 40% end up in landfill, while a third is never collected and ends up clogging up our sewers and polluting our ecosystems. As a result, globally, about 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year. I am concerned that current Government policy in the UK has failed to provide the right framework for stopping litter from reaching the sea or indeed to prevent it at source.

    This is hugely damaging to our marine animals and ecosystems. Indeed, it is estimated 90% of birds have plastic in their stomachs and serious concerns have also been raised about small plastics, such as microbeads, entering the human food chain. I share these concerns.

    I have long supported a ban on microbeads in cosmetic products and I welcome the Government’s commitment to legislate for this ban in October 2017. As you mentioned in your letter, the Government is currently consulting on a ban of microplastics for cosmetics and personal care products. I know that Greenpeace in particular has expressed concern that the consultation does not cover all products that contain microplastic ingredients.

    It is worth noting that the Government has said it will gather evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found in other products, including those for domestic use, before it considers what more can be done to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, which affect the marine environment. The consultation closes on 28 February 2017 and I will continue to follow developments on this closely.

    To reduce marine litter and plastic pollution more widely, I believe that we need to rethink the way we manage resources and in particular, to transform how plastics travel through our economy. I believe that the Government’s commitment to ban microbeads in cosmetic products is an important first step but that further action is still required.

     

  • Gingerbread campaign

    A number of constituents have contacting me about the child maintenance system and the Gingerbread campaign to improve it and get the Government to act to collect unpaid maintenance. Child maintenance is, of course, money children are entitled to and a key plank in the fight against poverty. I share constituents concern that parents are now required to pay to use the Child Maintenance Service collection service whilst the evidence on arrears suggests that it is failing to deliver. As you mention, the Gingerbread ‘Maintenance matters’ report, launched in the summer, looked at the current performance of the Child Support Agency (CSA) and that of its replacement, the Child Maintenance Service. The report highlighted that arrears across the child support schemes amount to almost £4 billion. I know that following the launch of the report the Government stated that it was considering the report’s recommendations, and taking steps to implement powers to recover child maintenance arrears from joint bank accounts. The Government conducted a consultation on this specific measure in the summer. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Child Maintenance Service and its effectiveness in ensuring regular payments for children, and will consider recommendations to improve the service overall. I know the Chair of this committee has said that the current maintenance system appears to be failing parents in receiving regular payments. I will follow the outcome of this inquiry closely and will bear your views in mind when the Government responds. Child maintenance is vital in providing children with the essentials, such as food and clothing. With 3.9 million children living in poverty we cannot stand by while maintenance arrears mount. The Government is failing in its duty to ensure that non-resident parents meet their responsibilities and I will continue to support efforts to press for action.