A number of constituents have contacted me about proposed changes to National Insurance and Director’s dividends.

It is the case that some people are exploiting the status of self-employed in order to reduce their tax liability and it is right that this be addressed.

However, those who are genuinely self-employed deserve encouragement and their tax liability should recognise that they are not eligible for a number of benefits such as sick pay.  

I welcome the fact that the Government is keeping to its manifesto promises while considering further how to achieve necessary structural reform.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

A number of constituents have contacted me about the above issue.

I understand what an important issue this is for many people in the constituency. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.  It will not be changed by a Ten Minute Rule Bill.

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged.  Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament.  It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes. 

 

The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. This makes clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health.   Full details can be found online here:

 

www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-doctors-on-compliance-with-the-abortion-act

 

The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act.  I am encouraged that the Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion.

 

A number of constituents have been in touch with me about the auctioning of spectrum. This is a complicated issue and the outcome of previous auctions has sought to balance the aim of maximising coverage with the need to increase competition.

Ofcom recently launched a consultation on the upcoming spectrum auction. The auction consists of 2.3 GHz spectrum, which is already useable for better 4G services and 3.4 GHz spectrum which is unlikely to be useable for at least two to three years, but could help unlock a new wave of future services such as 5G

 

Ofcom agrees that there is a competition concern around the 2.3 GHz spectrum available and it has therefore imposed a cap on bidding. The cap prevents any one company holding more than 45 per cent of spectrum that can be used immediately after the auction. It also argues that by the time 3.4 GHz spectrum is usable, other bands will become available and there is therefore no immediate necessity for action on competition grounds in respect of this spectrum.

 

Ofcom has been clear that its intervention has been minimal as it does not want to distort the auction by giving the smaller operators a price break through the weakening of competition. Furthermore, there are concerns it would provide a perverse incentive for smaller operators to under-bid in this and future auctions if they always expected intervention in their favour on grounds of lacking spectrum.

 

I will watch the progress of the auction but generally I welcome Ofcom’s focus on ensuring effective competition in the mobile market and on getting the spectrum into use as quickly as possible.

 

 

 

A number of constituents have been in touch with me regarding abortion and the Abortion (Decriminalisation) Bill.

I understand what an important issue this is for many people in the constituency. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged.  Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament.  It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes. 

 

The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. This makes clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health.   Full details can be found online here:

 

www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-doctors-on-compliance-with-the-abortion-act


The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act.  I am encouraged that the Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion. 


A number of constituents have been in touch with me regarding adult social care.

I believe that it is important to ensure that as people get older, they are able to receive the dignified care they deserve. I support the Government's commitment to making sure this is a country that works for everyone and that the most vulnerable in society can access the support they need

I know that the Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas. That is why the Government is giving local authorities additional funding and flexibility so that they will have access to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament.  On 15 December, the Government announced greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so that local authorities can choose to raise extra money. Savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million, will be retained by councils for social care. Taken together, this means almost an additional £900 million will be made available over the next two years.

Money alone will not fix the problem and the Government is clear that far-reaching reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils are already providing high quality social care within their existing budgets, showing that reform can be achieved and half of all delayed discharges from hospital to home arise in just 24 local authorities. The Communities Secretary, Health Secretary and others across Government will work to ensure that long-term we have a sustainable system of social care for everyone that needs it.


 



 

 

 

 

 

A number of constituents have been in touch with me regarding child migrants and the so-called Dubs amendment.

The scheme has not closed, as reported by some. The Government was obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. This is the number that has been published and the UK Government will now be working in Greece, Italy and France to transfer further children under the amendment. 

The Government has made it clear that behind these numbers are children and it’s vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support and care they will need.

The Government has also always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children.  That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.

In the last year, we have granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children and of the over 4,400 individuals resettled through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme so far, around half are children.

 

This week the Government announced that in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act (the so-called Dubs amendment) we will transfer 350 children to meet the intention and spirit behind the amendment.  This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France, and will include a further 150 over the coming months.

 

I am told that the Government consulted extensively with local authorities over several months to reach this number.  Where local authorities have extra capacity to take children then then they should offer to participate in the National Transfer Scheme. We are facing around 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving in Britain each year and only a small number of councils are taking a disproportionate share of the burden in caring for these children.  You may wish to contact your Councillors and encourage them to press for more to be done locally, or perhaps offer to take in a child migrant yourself.  The more people who can help, the greater the number we can bring in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A number of constituents have been sending me campaign postcards stating their wish to see trade benefit the world’s poorest.
 
Following our decision to leave the EU, the UK now has the ability to shape its own trade policy. There will be many opportunities and responsibilities that come with this. We must now capitalise on harnessing new export opportunities, attracting inward investment and building UK dynamism by making the UK the best place in the world to do business.
 
I agree with you that, alongside the great opportunities increased trade brings to this country, we must ensure that developing nations share in these benefits. I have always believed that free trade is one of the most powerful tools we have to help those in the greatest need around the world. Research shows that trade is one of the best liberators of global poverty, as seen in China and India.

I know that the Government and International Trade Secretary intend for the UK to be a global advocate for free trade, and through this improve the outlook for the poorest nations.


 

 

 


 

I have received a number of correspondence from teachers and headteachers on the subject of school funding.

I note their concerns about maintaining current high standards of secondary school Education Essex. I was very pleased to learn that over 93% of children in Essex attend good or outstanding rated primary school. I understand that you feel that this may not be able to be maintained or improved as a result of the new National Funding Formula, due to be introduced from 2018 to 2019.

As you may know, the Government has announced plans to end the historical postcode lottery in school funding which is intended to ensure every child is funded fairly and according to their specific needs. In order to fix this disparity, the Government has published its fair funding proposals, to ensure that children with similar characteristics and similar needs attract similar levels of funding - regardless of where their families happen to live. I note that you believe that the proposals are more transparent yet you feel that this proposal will cause a reduction in per-pupil spending costs of 8% and will be left for the schools to fund.

 I can appreciate that you were initially supportive of the proposed but feel that the new National Funding Formula does not quite address school funding needs. I understand that you feel that spending should be driven by what is best for the students and you feel that the financial outlook is bleak. However, the Government has pledged to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. The proposals will allow schools and local authorities to manage the transition to fairer funding while making the best use of their resources and managing cost pressures, ensuring every pound is used effectively to drive up standards and have maximum impact for the young people they serve.

I quite understand the educational standards schools in Essex wish to maintain and continue to achieve. Therefore, I can confirm that I have written to the Secretary of State for Education to address the points you have made and for her comments. I will of course let you all know as soon as I receive a reply.

 

A number of constituents have been in touch on the subject of Ivory Trade.

Like you, I am seriously concerned about the effect of illegal poaching and ivory trafficking on the long-term prospects for the survival of the elephant. Just how seriously the Government takes this issue was demonstrated when it hosted and led the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking. Over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species, including elephants, from being poached to the brink of extinction. The Buckingham Palace Declaration followed up on this work with a range of commitments to help the private sector tackle this illegal trade, and the UK has also made available £9.8 million for various projects through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.

The UK does not permit trade in raw ivory tusks of any age, and is pressing for this approach to be taken internationally. The Government has also announced plans to ban sales of modern-day ivory, which will put the UK's rules on ivory sales among the toughest in the world.  The government will consult on plans for the ban early next year, seeking views from conservationists, traders and other relevant parties to ensure clear rules and guidance for those operating within the law, while cracking down on illegal sales.

In addition to the issues in Africa, Ministers also recognise the growing threats to the Asian elephant from the illegal trade in live animals, fed by demand from the tourist and entertainment industries. The UK has been working through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to increase protections, and in 2014 secured agreement for elephant range states to put in place measures to prevent this illegal trade.

A number of constituents have written to me regarding polices implemented by Donald Trump during his first two weeks as President

I do not agree with the recent actions taken by Donald Trump as President of the United States.  However, we have invited many international leaders to the UK who have a far worse record on human rights and used the opportunity to speak to them, encouraging change.  Refusing to engage or debate would lead to the USA taking an even greater isolationist stance.

The USA is a close ally of the United Kingdom. We work together across many areas of mutual interest and we have historically enjoyed a special relationship between our two nations.  The Prime Minister has issued an invitation for a state visit for President Trump to the United Kingdom and that invitation rightly stands.   I would expect these issues to be raised during any visit.

A number of constituents have been in touch with me about the recent judgement by the Supreme Court on Article 50. As you may be aware, I campaigned for Britain to Leave the EU in the referendum.

The Supreme Court reached a judgement which the Government disagrees with.  It will not, however affect our determination to enact the clear will of the British People that we leave the European Union.

I expect all MPs, whichever view they took in the referendum campaign to support the Bill which will permit the Government to move forward. I am greatly encouraged that almost all my Conservative colleagues have made clear that they will do this as have a number of Labour MPs. I remain strongly of the view that this country will prosper as an independent state outside the EU.

I do not underestimate the complexity of negotiating our withdrawal and reaching new arrangements with the EU. It was for this reason that I stood for election to the new Select Committee on Exiting the European Union and am pleased now to be a member. However, I strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s declaration that the decision is taken and that Britain will leave the EU.


 


 

A number of constituents have been in touch with me about various concerns relating to the NHS.

It is the case that the NHS nationally has been under sustained pressure with the number of people aged over 80 rising by 340,000, and life expectancy rising by 12 months in the last six years alone. As a result, the NHS is facing an unprecedented demand. However, I know that the Government is determined to protect the service through an extremely challenging period and ensure its future sustainability.

This winter, the NHS has made more extensive preparations than ever before and there are now 11,400 more doctors and 11,200 more hospital nurses in the NHS since 2010. To support the NHS, investment of £350 million was included in local Clinical Commissioning Group budgets in 2016/17 for resilience planning, and £50 million was made available for national initiatives. The NHS also assured the winter plans of every trust, launched the largest ever flu vaccination programme and bolstered support outside A&Es, with 12,000 additional GP sessions offered over the Christmas period. As a consequence of this preparation and, most importantly, the hard work of frontline staff, the system overall is coping and even performing slightly better than last year. Earlier in December, it treated a record number of patients within four hours and we are seeing 2,500 more patients within the four hour standard every single day compared with 2010.

Locally, I am very conscious that the NHS have faced particular challenges. This is in part due to historic under-funding This has led to the drawing up of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan under the Mid and South Essex Success regime on which there is currently a consultation. You will find details of this here:

www.successregimeessex.co.uk 

Last week, I had a meeting with the NHS Director of Commissioning for the East of England and representatives of the CCG to discuss the problems caused by the shortage of GPs which has led some local practices to close their lists to new patients. I am encouraged that action is being taken through the provision of resilience funding to practices and potential recruitment of GPs from other European countries. Good progress is also being made on a new Health Hub in Maldon to replace St Peter’s Hospital and a health centre in Heybridge.

A number of constituents have been in touch with me about how I would vote if the Supreme Court deem that Members of Parliament must decide whether Article 50 should be triggered.

As you may be aware, I campaigned for Britain to Leave the EU in the referendum.

The High Court reached a judgement on a legal point. The Government disagrees with their interpretation and is appealing to the Supreme Court. However, even if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it will not affect our determination to enact the clear will of the British People that we leave the European Union.

If a vote on triggering Article 50 is necessary then I would expect all MPs, whichever view they took in the referendum campaign to support this. I am greatly encouraged that almost all my Conservative colleagues have made clear that they will do this as have a number of Labour MPs. I remain strongly of the view that this country will prosper as an independent state outside the EU.

I do not underestimate the complexity of negotiating our withdrawal and reaching new arrangements with the EU. It was for this reason that I stood for election to the new Select Committee on Exiting the European Union and am pleased now to be a member. However, I strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s declaration that the decision is taken and that Britain will leave the EU. I can confirm that in the event of a vote in Parliament to authorise the Government to invoke Article 50, I will support this unconditionally.


 

 


 

 

 

 

A number of constituents have been in touch with me about various concerns relating to the bid by 21st Century Fox to acquire the remaining shareholding in Sky.

 

As you will be aware, when the previous bid was made by News Corp, the matter was referred to Ofcom who gave clearance for the bid to proceed on condition that measures be taken to protect the independence of Sky News.

 

Since that time the media market has changed dramatically. The Pay TV market has seen new entrants such as Netflix, Amazon and BT resulting in a significant increase in competition. In news provision, the share of newspapers has declined further as a result of decreasing circulation and the most powerful providers are now the online companies like Google and Facebook. Given this, I would be very surprised if Ofcom were to recommend that against the bid proceeding and see no reason for them to do so. However, I do agree that Ofcom should have the chance to assess whether there are any plurality concerns and expect that the Secretary of State will refer the matter to them.

 

A number of constituents have been in touch with me regarding assisted dying and I would like to clarify where both the Government and I stand on this issue.

I fully accept that suicide, assisting or encouraging suicide, assisted dying and euthanasia are all subjects on which it is entirely possible for people to hold widely different but defensible opinions. This is why the substance of the law in this area is not a matter of party politics but of conscience. Should the law in this area ever be altered, it is neither a matter for government to decide nor a matter for the judiciary, but ultimately a matter for Parliament.

I accept that there are imperfections and problems with the current law, but I think that these can be dealt with sensitively and sensibly without having a new law that actually brings in euthanasia. I fear that if we were to introduce such a law, terminally ill people may feel pressurised into ending their lives if they feel they have become a burden on loved ones. I do not believe we should place anyone in this position and believe that any such change in the law may have a profound impact on the relationship of terminally ill patients with their doctors.

I take this view because I believe that there is a very fine, but at the same time very important line to be drawn between allowing nature to take its course under some appalling circumstances and, on the other hand, permitting doctors or others (however well-intentioned) to accelerate death. We should not tread over this line by allowing doctors or others deliberately to accelerate death. However, doctors should be allowed administer pain relief to prevent suffering even if the consequence is death. As I understand it, this is permissible in law and is the practice of many doctors now.

Everyone would agree that terminally ill patients should receive the highest quality palliative support and end-of-life care, and that they and their families should be certain that their end-of-life care will meet all of their needs. With that in mind I welcome the Department of Health's End of Life Care Strategy which is intended to improve access to good quality palliative care and encourage the Government further to develop specialist palliative care and hospice provision.

 

 

 

The debate helped clarify the claim that dog breeders only need a licence if they have a bitch producing five or more litters per year. The Department for the Environment discovered that when the relevant Act came into force under the last Government, the Home Office sent a circular indicating this; however, it is now writing to councils to stress that anyone in the business of breeding dogs must be licenced.

The issue of selling puppies and kittens in pet shops was considered in detail. Only about 70 pet shops do this, and they are already licensed and regulated. Local authorities have the power to restrict which animals a pet shop can sell. Recent Government action shows that much can be achieved without new legislation. I share concerns about unregulated sales over the internet, so am pleased that the Government has acted to create a voluntary code which has resulted in 100,000 adverts being removed since the start of 2014. I was also glad to learn that new guidance on the model conditions for pet vending stress the need for interaction with people.

Lastly on the issue of sales across borders, I am pleased to be able to tell you that changes to the EU pet passport scheme will mean that from December it will not be possible to transport a puppy into this country unless it is at least 15 weeks old.