• the draft Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018

    As you are aware, the draft Order would introduce a sliding range of probate fees for estates where a grant of probate is necessary, between £250 and £6,000, depending on the value of the estate.

    There has been strong opposition to the Government’s proposed changes, from legal experts, charities and legislative bodies. The changes encompass fee increases to a level that is nearly 28 times what some people currently pay. Even apart from this staggering increase, the proposed fees have no bearing on the actual cost of providing the services involved in a grant of probate – which are fundamentally the same regardless of the value of the estate.

    I believe these proposals are disproportionate, excessive and not consistent with the long-standing principle that fees for a public service should recover the cost of providing it and no more.

    I am calling for this draft Order to be pushed to a vote of all MPs in the House of Commons. While I wholly support our justice system being given the investment and resources it needs to operate properly, I will oppose this draft Order as I think it is unfair to place the burden of these costs on vulnerable, grieving people.

  • age verification filters to protect children under 18

    Parents worry greatly about their children accessing inappropriate images and I support the concept of age verification filters to protect children under 18 from online pornography and I am in favour of blocking powers for commercial pornography providers that flout the law.

     In order to be effective, I believe the measures to stop children from accessing pornographic sites must be accompanied by comprehensive education to help children navigate the online world in a safe way.

     It is also essential to protect the anonymity and privacy of those who are over 18 and want to access legal pornographic sites without having their personal details compromised. The draft guidance is clear that age verification should be concerned only with the need to establish the user is aged 18 or above, rather than seeking to identify the user.

     I am aware concerns have also been raised that the Digital Economy Bill could extend internet censorship for adults to certain content. The Government has insisted that this is not the intention and has amended the Bill so that it takes an approach based on the definition of an “extreme pornographic image” as defined in other legislation.

     I believe there should be much wider public engagement around these issues and I would like to see the Government consult further. I also believe there should be wider consultation on the functions of the regulator and that the new powers must be carried out proportionately, with a proper appeals process.

     

  • the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer

    I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected and I pay tribute to Pancreatic Cancer UK for its tireless efforts to transform outcomes for patients.

    Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when potentially curative surgery is not possible. Survival rates are poor in comparison with other cancers and improving outcomes should therefore be a priority for the Government. Early diagnosis and public awareness is key to achieving this, as well as ensuring that GPs have the training, resources and support they need to identify symptoms and refer patients quickly.

    The cancer strategy contains recommendations that could go a long way towards helping people living with cancer. It emphasises the importance of earlier diagnosis and a shift towards faster and less restrictive investigative testing. I welcome that the Government has accepted all 96 recommendations and I am pleased that some have already been met. However, I am concerned that progress has stalled and I believe Ministers should publish a detailed update as soon as possible.

    Improvements in early diagnosis and waiting times also rely on an efficient cancer workforce. NHS staff do an incredible job under difficult circumstances and we should never stop thanking them for the work they do. Staff should be suitably equipped to diagnose, support and care for cancer patients both during and beyond cancer.

    I am concerned that Macmillan Cancer Support has found that hospitals in England have more than 400 specialist vacancies for cancer nurses, chemotherapy nurses and cancer support workers. Cancer Research UK also observes that the vacancy level across diagnostics is at least 10%. The Government must address issues of staff shortages and staff retention as a top priority. If the workforce has the time and resources they need, then the recommendations in the cancer strategy will be achieved. I know that this is something the cancer workforce plan, published in December last year, aimed to address.

  • ONE’s campaign for real aid

    This country’s commitment to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid is a clear expression of how deeply the UK public cares about eradicating poverty overseas. I believe we should continue to honour that commitment as well as using the UK’s global leadership to persuade other countries to do the same.

    I agree that reducing poverty is and always must remain a central objective for international development. It is therefore concerning that the Government has shifted the focus of the aid budget from poverty reduction alone to what it calls the ‘national interest’.

    I support an effective whole of government approach to international development policy that tackles the root causes of poverty, inequality and climate change, not just their symptoms. Labour would set a second twin objective for all international development work and spending: not only to reduce poverty, but also to reduce inequality.

    Finally, we must champion the principle of development effectiveness, striving to ensure that UK taxpayers and people in countries receiving our support get the greatest impact possible from every pound of aid spending.

  • the NHS Long-Term Plan

    Around 500,000 people die in England and Wales every year and half of those deaths occur in hospitals. The palliative care workforce works extremely hard to provide good care for people nearing the end of their life. We owe a debt of gratitude to our hospices, palliative care staff in hospitals and Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses.

    We must ensure that end of life care is fit for purpose in all settings. However, too many people approaching the end of their lives are forced to spend long periods in hospital instead of receiving care in the community. Marie Curie has raised concerns that a lack of investment in community care and the Government’s failure to bring forward a sustainable plan for social care has resulted in more old and vulnerable people being admitted to hospital.

    The NHS Long-Term Plan contains welcome ambitions to improve end of life care, reduce avoidable emergency admissions, and support people to die in a place they have chosen. While the aspirations in the plan are welcome, I remain concerned that our health service will continue to be held back by cuts and chronic staff shortages.

    Almost nine years of austerity has pushed our NHS and social care system to the brink and I believe it is patients who are paying the price. Local authority budgets have been cut by 49.1% since 2010, resulting in £7 billion being lost from adult social care, and a further £1.3 billion will be cut in 2019-20. The Local Government Association is now warning of a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025.

    Ministers have repeatedly delayed publishing their green paper on social care and they have scrapped plans for a cap on lifetime care costs. Meanwhile, 400,000 fewer older people are receiving publicly funded care compared to 2010 and 1.4 million older people now have unmet care needs.

    I support good quality, free end of life care so that every person nearing the end of life can feel supported and safe in the knowledge that they will receive the best care.

  • rocket attacks launched against Israel from Gaza,

    I condemn rocket attacks launched against Israel from Gaza, these attacks must stop immediately.

     I am deeply concerned at the violence and civilian causalities we continue to see in Gaza and southern Israel. The situation in Gaza is undeniably desperate and complex, and the cycle of violence there serves no one. It has gone on for too long and the civilian populations of both Gaza and Israel suffer the consequences.

     I am a strong advocate of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict: one that brings the people of Israel lasting security and peace one that brings the people of Palestine a viable, democratic and prosperous state.

     However, this requires all sides avoiding actions that make peace harder to achieve, and that must include an end to rocket attacks.

     

  • the tethering of horses

    Thank you for contacting me about the tethering of horses.

    I am concerned about the detrimental effects of tethering on horse welfare. As you know, it is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or to fail to provide for its welfare needs, including the need for a suitable environment, to exhibit normal behaviour patterns and to be protected from pain and suffering.

    The code of practice for the welfare of horses, ponies, donkeys and their hybrids states that tethering is not a suitable method of long-term management for an animal as it can restrict their natural freedoms, such as being able to exercise and access food or water. It can put horses at risk of injury from entanglement in tethering equipment and prevent them from escaping from danger.

    Currently, anyone who has failed to meet the welfare needs of an animal can receive up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine and a ban on keeping animals. I am pleased that maximum sentences for the most severe animal cruelty offences are set to increase to five years’ imprisonment.

    The Government says it considers that existing legislation and guidance in place on tethering horses ensures their welfare needs are met appropriately. The Government advises that if anyone is concerned about the way a horse is tethered, they should report it to the local authority or a charity like the RSPCA or World Horse Welfare for investigation.

  • fracking

    Fracking is bad for local democracy, bad for the environment and bad for our climate. We should ban it.

    On local democracy,  The permitted development system and the nationally significant infrastructure project process are not appropriate for dealing with the complexities of fracking. Both processes ignore the voice of local people. Fracking has already begun in Lancashire through the Government’s overriding of both Lancashire County Council’s rejection of the fracking site and the opposition of local people. We should not be making changes that will further undermine local decision-making.

    On climate change, the leading international body of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently published a report setting out the huge task we face to avoid dangerous climate change. I believe fracking flies in the face of the evidence set out in this report. Shale gas is only a low-carbon option if it replaces coal. However, we are already replacing coal in our energy mix. Shale gas coming online now would displace genuinely low-carbon energy, not coal.

    Finally, on local environmental quality, a Government report from 2015 concluded that fracking increases air pollution, with substantially higher local impacts where activities are clustered. Researchers have also expressed concern about the large quantities of waste water generated by fracking. There are also legitimate concerns about earth tremors. Indeed, Cuadrilla has already had to pause fracking in Lancashire several times following seismic activity in the area.

    Fracking is unpopular with local communities. It will lock the UK into high-carbon energy infrastructure, increase local air pollution, create large volumes of waste water and do little for the UK’s energy security. The Government should not be promoting it at any cost. Instead, we should join France, Germany and other countries in banning it.

  • forced removal flights

    I understand that in December 2018, fifteen people were convicted of intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome. In January 2019, lawyers for the group lodged submissions asking for the case to be reviewed at the Court of Appeal.

    While I will not comment on an ongoing legal matter that is in the courts, I hope it is of interest if I set out my views on immigration policy and forced removal flights.

    There are longstanding concerns about the way migrants are treated on forced removal flights. On a general point of principle, I am clear that I would like to see an end to the practice of deporting people to countries they have little or no connection with.

    I also believe we need a complete change of policy and approach at the Home Office and I am calling for the hostile environment policy – which has ruined people’s lives – to be ended for good. People with a legal right to be here are getting caught up in what can only be described as a nightmare for them.

    More widely, I oppose indefinite detention and instead support a 28-day limit on immigration detention. I believe Yarl’s Wood and Brook House immigration detention centres should be closed, with the £20 million a year in savings from these closures instead directed to support services for survivors of modern slavery, trafficking and domestic violence.

  • DVLA guidance on the use of new monitoring technologies for people living with diabetes

    In January 2018 the law which required people with diabetes who are treated with insulin to test their blood before driving and every two hours during the journey was broadened to allow the testing of interstitial fluid. This means that new forms of testing – such as flash glucose monitoring and continuous glucose monitoring – can be considered for the use of testing while driving.

    Constituents  expressed  serious concern that the DVLA has not yet updated its guidance to come into line with this change in the law. I know that these types of monitoring devices are easier, quicker and less painful than routine finger-prick glucose monitoring and can transform peoples’ lives. I appreciate that the DVLA’s delay on this important matter must have been a significant cause of frustration.

    In January 2019, the Government indicated that the DVLA was amending its Assessing Fitness to Drive guidance on this subject. The revised guidance is due to be published in February 2019 and I can assure you I will follow updates on this closely.

    Diabetes is one of the most serious public health problems facing the UK today and I believe that there should be concerted action to support the estimated four million adults and children in the UK living with the condition.

    I am hopeful that in the future, artificial pancreas technology will be effective, safe and accessible to patients, and that eventually we will create a world without diabetes. However, until that time comes, I believe that it is paramount that we do all we can to support people living with the condition.

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