Policy Statements

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about neonicotinoids and bees. 

The importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy is clear and I support the current European-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. I believe that this is a proportionate response to the mounting scientific evidence which demonstrates the risk of neonicotinoids to bees. 

The UK Government has recently confirmed that it supports further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids due to their effects on bees and other pollinators, and that it will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit. I welcome this announcement. 

I am proud that the Labour Opposition has led the way on this critical issue. Indeed, at the 2017 General Election Labour's manifesto committed to protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so. 

The European Food Safety Authority is currently reviewing the scientific evidence and there are draft proposals for a full EU ban on the three most commonly used neonicotinoids. A vote on these proposals is now expected in early 2018. 

I support a ban on pesticides that are harmful to bees but I also recognise that farmers have to protect their crops. It is therefore vital that we take a science-led approach to pesticide use and consider how best to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators. I would like to see further research into identifying suitable alternatives to neonicotinoids and support for integrated pest management measures which would benefit the farming community without posing risks to the environment, and human or animal life.

The case for a permanent ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids is now unassailable and I welcome the developing political consensus on this issue. I will press the UK Government to continue following evidence-based policy. I will also support efforts to enhance the future sustainability of farming and to safeguard future pollinator populations.

Bees and Neonicotinoids

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about neonicotinoids and bees. The importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy is clear and I support the current European-wide...

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the related campaign by Shelter.

I am opposed to the Government's decision to freeze LHA rates and I am concerned about the effect that this will have on residents both in our constituency and across the country. 

Housing charities, local authorities and social landlords all raised their concerns that freezing LHA rates will result in shortfalls between rent levels and claimants' entitlement to housing support. This could, in turn, result in rent arrears and increase the risk of homelessness for affected tenants. 

Ahead of the Autumn Budget, the Local Government Association (LGA) joined Shelter in calling on the Chancellor to lift the LHA freeze. A recent LGA survey found that 96% of councils are concerned that homelessness will increase as a result of the freeze. A further 94% of councils have said they believe it will be more difficult to meet the requirements of the new Homelessness Reduction Act. 

In the last six years the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has more than doubled, the number of homeless households has risen by almost half to nearly 60,000 and this year over 120,000 children are without a home. 

I am disappointed that the Chancellor did not use the Autumn Budget as an opportunity to end the freeze on LHA, despite some increases in Targeted Affordability Funding. There was no extra Government investment in new affordable homes and no action to help private renters with soaring costs. 

Following pressure from the Labour Opposition and housing charities, the Government has now dropped its plans to apply the LHA levels to social rent. However, funding changes that are due to take effect in April 2020 still risk closing supported housing schemes so I will continue to urge the Government to think again and protect this vital accommodation.

Local Housing Allowance

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the related campaign by Shelter.I am opposed to the Government's decision to freeze LHA rates and...

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons.

I believe the Israeli authorities must implement the recommendations of the 2013 Children in Military Custody report as soon as possible. In the time since the report's publication there have been some welcome developments. However, many concerns remain over issues such as night arrests, abuse and access to lawyers prior to questioning, and further progress is needed. In my view, the UK Government must therefore do more to encourage the Israeli authorities to implement the recommendations.

I have signed Early Day Motion 563. This issue reminds us how vital efforts towards securing a lasting peace agreement are for the interests of the next generation of young people growing up in Israel and Palestine today. Unfortunately, at present, that generation knows nothing but division and violence. I continue to advocate for a two-state solution that recognises the importance of security and stability, and a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis.

I will continue to press the Government on the actions it is taking on these issues and follow any developments closely and with interest.

Palestinian children detained in Israel (EDM 563)

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons.I believe the Israeli authorities must implement the recommendations of the 2013 Children...

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about Ofsted and the hijab in primary schools.

 

I understand that this is an issue which raises concerns for some. I firmly believe in a person's right to choose their expression of faith. The freedom to practice faith - or not - is one of the cornerstones of the free and diverse democratic society in which we live in this country. Indeed, many other countries worldwide do not allow such diversity and freedom of expression or belief.

 

Successive Governments have emphasised the importance of freedom of religion and belief, and it is vital that all communities are able to practice their religion free from persecution. I support the right to wear all forms of religious and other dress for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and many others.

 

I am therefore proud that the Equality Act 2010 helped to foster an open society by strengthening the legislative framework to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief or, indeed, lack of it.

 

I hope that the Government will listen carefully and respond to the concerns that have been raised about this issue.

 

Thank you once again to those who contacted me about this important issue. I can assure my constituents that I will continue to follow the issue very closely, and bear in mind the points raised.

Hijab in primary schools

Thank you to those who recently contacted me about Ofsted and the hijab in primary schools.   I understand that this is an issue which raises concerns for some. I...

I am very concerned that if the UK leaves the European Union it will damage developing countries.

 

At the June 2017 General Election, the Labour Manifesto that committed to guaranteeing that the least developed countries had continued access to the UK market in the wake of Brexit. The Conservative Government has agreed to ensure that these countries continue to have market access at the same level that they currently enjoy with the EU. However it would be better to stay in the European Union, and the customs union and single market.

 

I believe the Government must go further and make clear how it will ensure sustainable development is a guiding principle of our trade policy. It also needs to set out how it will extend preferential access to the UK market for developing countries currently covered by the EU's wider Generalised System of Preferences. This could include, as Traidcraft and others have suggested, establishing a non-reciprocal, tariff-free market access scheme for economically vulnerable countries. While the Government's Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill does provide a framework for addressing this issue, I know that the Fairtrade Foundation has expressed concern at the Bill's lack of clarity on the Government's approach.

 

I also agree that we must have proper parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals if we leave the EU. I am therefore concerned that the Government's approach, as set out in the Trade Bill and in a White Paper published in October, gives little acknowledgement of the need for due process in Parliament and no clarity on how trade deals will be scrutinised. Instead it proposes to "transition" existing EU trade deals and to introduce future deals through a procedure that I believe is undemocratic.

 

I do not believe that negotiating, signing and ratifying international treaties should be the exclusive preserve of the Government, operating without checks and balances or democratic oversight. In addition to a debate and vote on future agreements, we need a new House of Commons committee with the power to scrutinise treaties before the Government agrees to them. MPs should have the power to debate, amend and approve mandates before negotiations start; and MPs should have access to negotiating texts as they are formulated. Importantly, negotiations should also be informed by an impact assessment of the social, economic, environmental risks of any potential deal.

 

I can assure you that I will continue to support a trade policy that champions development as Parliament considers the Trade and Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bills.

Post-Brexit trade deals with developing countries

I am very concerned that if the UK leaves the European Union it will damage developing countries.   At the June 2017 General Election, the Labour Manifesto that committed to...

The #StopTheWitchHunt campaign has raised concerns that academic freedom within British universities is at risk after a letter was recently sent by a Government whip to all UK universities asking for the names of those involved in teaching European affairs "with particular reference to Brexit". The letter also asked for a copy of each university's syllabus and any online lectures on Brexit.

 

Academics widely criticised this letter on the basis that it was an attempt to restrict academic freedom.

 

The Government has claimed that it is committed to academic freedom and that it cannot interfere in the manner in which courses are taught, in which they are supervised or in which they are assessed. The Leader of the House of Commons has argued that the letter was very "courteous" and "not at all threatening". She has also stated that it was "odd" for universities to "react in such a negative way".

 

I believe that academics and students are perfectly capable of critical thinking and discussion about policy issues like Brexit. Universities do not need the Government telling them what they are allowed to teach. I believe it was unacceptable for a Government whip to attempt to compile information about what is being taught at universities, and by whom.

 

I will follow developments on these matters closely and will continue to defend the principle of academic freedom.

Academic Freedom

The #StopTheWitchHunt campaign has raised concerns that academic freedom within British universities is at risk after a letter was recently sent by a Government whip to all UK universities asking...

I am very concerned that nearly four million children are currently living in poverty and I agree that End Child Poverty's report, 'Feeling the Pinch', raises several important issues, particularly the impact on low-income families of high cost rent-to-own products.

 

I believe that the continued fall in living standards, growing job insecurity and shrinking public services has put people under increasing strain, and resulted in whole families being held back from the life they have worked towards.

 

I am aware concerns have been voiced about the powers of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to take action against the high interest rates charged in the rent-to-own sector. The FCA launched a consultation on consumer credit in July 2017, considering the circumstances which has resulted in consumers being granted credit which they cannot afford to repay. The FCA expects to publish a policy statement, along with final rules and guidance in 2018. I can assure you I will follow developments on this closely.

 

There is also an importance of promoting better access to affordable credit, particularly for individuals eligible for Universal Credit (UC). The House of Commons' Treasury Select Committee recently launched an inquiry into household finances, examining the sustainability of household debt and consumer credit, and the effectiveness of financial regulators in monitoring problematic debt. I will follow the outcome of this inquiry, as I am concerned that stagnating incomes have left many families in our constituency and across the country facing large debts.

 

Furthermore, I believe cuts to social security and work allowances in UC have had a damaging impact on low-income families. The Labour Manifesto at the 2017 General Election pledged to reform and redesign UC and introduce a new Child Poverty Strategy.

 

I will continue to press for action to tackle poverty and protect low-income families.

Children living in poverty

I am very concerned that nearly four million children are currently living in poverty and I agree that End Child Poverty's report, 'Feeling the Pinch', raises several important issues, particularly...

I pay tribute to organisations like Beating Eating Disorders (Beat), which campaigns tirelessly for improved services. I was concerned to learn that a research study by Beat found that on average, three-and-a-half-years pass between symptoms of an eating disorder emerging and treatment starting.

 

Eating disorders are serious mental health problems which can have severe psychological, physical and social consequences. Early intervention is crucial for people with eating disorders, the sooner that they get the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.

 

In 2015, NHS England published guidance which established standards and requirements for providing community-based eating disorder services for children and young people. The guidance sets a new access standard, to be achieved by 2020, that 95% of patients should be treated within four weeks of their first contact with a designated healthcare professional. For urgent cases, the standard is due to be set at one week.

 

I am disappointed that the first performance statistics published against this standard revealed both referrals for routine and urgent cases failed to meet the 95% target in all quarters of 2016 -17. These targets have also been missed in quarter 1 and 2 of 2017-18. It is clear that more needs to be done if the Government is to achieve this target by 2020.

 

Despite repeated promises from the Government to give mental health parity with physical health, mental health funding fell by £600 million between 2010 and 2015. There are fewer doctors and 5,500 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010, and it is now clear that money intended for mental health has been used in many areas of the country to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.

 

At the General Election the Labour manifesto pledged at least an extra £1 billion spending for mental health services. The manifesto also promised to ring-fence mental health budgets and invest in early intervention by increasing spending on mental health services for children and young people. Unfortunately we did not win the election.

 

I will continue to press the Government to do more to improve outcomes for children and young people with eating disorders.

Eating Disorders

I pay tribute to organisations like Beating Eating Disorders (Beat), which campaigns tirelessly for improved services. I was concerned to learn that a research study by Beat found that on...

The Government has introduced a Trade Bill which they claim would to allow the UK to pursue an independent trade policy if we leave the European Union. In my opinion leaving the European Union will be very damaging for our economy, and it could take several years to negotiate trade deals which may be inferior to what we have now.

However, I am concerned that the Government's approach, as set out in the Trade Bill and in a White Paper published in October, gives little acknowledgement of the need for due process in Parliament and no clarity on how trade deals will be scrutinised. 

In addition to a debate and vote on future agreements, we need a new House of Commons committee with the power to scrutinise treaties before the Government agrees to them. MPs should have the power to debate, amend and approve mandates before negotiations start; negotiations should be informed by an impact assessment of any potential deal; and MPs should have access to negotiating texts as they are formulated.

At the June 2017 General Election, the Labour manifesto promised to ensure proper transparency and parliamentary scrutiny of all future trade and investment deals. I will continue to press the Government on this issue.

Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals

The Government has introduced a Trade Bill which they claim would to allow the UK to pursue an independent trade policy if we leave the European Union. In my opinion...

In 2012, the Coalition Government replaced all existing planning guidance - except on waste - with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Practice Guidance. These reforms changed the National Brownfield Strategy, promoted in 2003, which actively prioritised building on brownfield sites.

 

The Government published its housing white paper in February, along with a consultation seeking views on amending the NPPF to allow local authorities to amend Green Belt boundaries in "exceptional circumstances". The consultation ran from 7 February to 2 May 2017 and the Government said it expects to announce its conclusions "as soon as possible in 2018."

 

I am concerned that the Government's planning reforms have failed to do enough to promote new housing development. The Government rejected an Opposition amendment to the Housing and Planning Act during its consideration in Parliament, which would have ensured automatic planning permission would be limited to housing on brownfield land.

 

I believe the NPPF should enable reforms to ensure the planning system allows sustainable growth and the new affordable housing we desperately need, while protecting green spaces and the natural environment.

Green Belt

In 2012, the Coalition Government replaced all existing planning guidance - except on waste - with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Practice Guidance....

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