Friday, 6 December 2019

Campaign reply - Will you show your support for people affected by dementia?


A number of constituents have written to me with a campaign email concerning support for people with dementia care.

Like many other families I too have a close family member with dementia and know how distressing this is both for the sufferer and the family.

The Conservative manifesto sets out in some detail the issues facing the country on social care and specifically mentions dementia. Above all else I firmly believe a political consensus must be found. I copy below the relevant section:

Improving social care
It is a basic, compassionate
Conservative belief that we should
care for those in need – helping
those who cannot help themselves.
Thanks to decades of economic growth
and scientific innovation, people are
living longer, healthier lives. But this,
alongside the rise of dementia and other
chronic conditions, means that the
pressures on the elderly care system
are ever-increasing. There has also been
significant growth in the number of
working-age people with disabilities who
need care at a younger age.
We need to have a system to give every
person the dignity and security that
they deserve. This is a significant and
complex challenge and in order to lay
the foundations, we must plan for the
infrastructure, workforce growth and
healthcare integration that is required
for a care system fit for the 21st century.
Because this is a long-term problem that
will affect so many people, any solution
has to be able to survive long-term.
We must build the same level of
consensus on social care as we have
already built on the NHS.
So we will build a cross-party
consensus to bring forward an answer
that solves the problem, commands
the widest possible support, and stands
the test of time. That consensus will
consider a range of options but one
condition we do make is that nobody
needing care should be forced to sell
their home to pay for it.
As a first step, and to stabilise the
system, we announced in the autumn
additional funding of £1 billion for the
year beginning in April 2020. We are
now confirming this additional funding
in every year of the new Parliament.
We will also extend the entitlement to
leave for unpaid carers, the majority of
whom are women, to one week.
We also want to save millions of people,
and their families, from suffering
the agony of a slow decline due to
dementia. We will make finding a cure
one of our Government’s biggest
collective priorities – one of the ‘grand
challenges’ that will define our future
along with the impact of climate
change or artificial intelligence. This will
include doubling research funding into
dementia and speeding up trials for
new treatments.
We will also provide £74 million over
three years for additional capacity in
community care settings for those
with learning disabilities and autism.



Campaign reply - As a candidate to be my MP, what are your plans for our trees?




A number of constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email asking what are the plans for our trees.

The Conservative party manifesto sets out a wide range of environmental initiatives and I copy below the section on plans to plant countless thousands of new trees:

We will invest in nature, helping us
to reach our Net Zero target with a
£640 million new Nature for Climate
fund. Building on our support for
creating a Great Northumberland
Forest, we will reach an additional
75,000 acres of trees a year by the
end of the next Parliament, as well as
restoring our peatland.



You can read more on environmental and other commitments here:



Campaign reply - Will you commit to ending the housing emergency?


Will you commit to ending the housing emergency?

Par blog – they only provide the  campaign email address,

A number of constituents have sent me an email regarding housing and homelessness. This important matter is never far from my mind and issues around housing often form part of my case work.


The Conservative party manifesto is now published and I am pleased with it. It recognises the further progress we need to see on this important issue whilst setting realistic and achievable goals:


Helping people buy and rent

The biggest problem that young people

face in getting on the housing ladder

is the deposit. There are more than

three million people, many of them

with good jobs and secure prospects,

who would have been homeowners

before the economic crisis in 2008

but have been locked out of the

mortgage market. We will encourage

a new market in long-term fixed rate

mortgages which slash the cost of

deposits, opening up a secure path to

home ownership for first-time buyers

in all parts of the United Kingdom.

We will offer more homes to local

families, enabling councils to use

developers’ contributions via the

planning process to discount homes

in perpetuity by a third for local people

who cannot otherwise afford to buy in

their area. Councils could use this to

prioritise key workers in their area, like

police, nurses and teachers.

We will maintain our commitment to

a Right to Buy for all council tenants.

We will also maintain the voluntary

Right to Buy scheme agreed with

housing associations. Following the

successful voluntary pilot scheme in

the Midlands, we will evaluate new pilot

areas in order to spread the dream of

home ownership to even more people.

And we have extended the Help to

Buy scheme from 2021 to 2023 and

will review new ways to support home

ownership following its completion.

We will reform shared ownership,

making it fairer and more transparent.

We will simplify shared ownership

products by setting a single standard

for all housing associations, thereby

ending the confusion and disparity

between different schemes.

We will continue with our reforms to

leasehold including implementing

our ban on the sale of new leasehold

homes, restricting ground rents to a

peppercorn, and providing necessary

mechanisms of redress for tenants.

We will bring in a Better Deal for

Renters, including abolishing ‘no

fault’ evictions and only requiring one

‘lifetime’ deposit which moves with the

tenant. This will create a fairer rental

market: if you’re a tenant, you will be

protected from revenge evictions

and rogue landlords, and if you’re one

of the many good landlords, we will

strengthen your rights of possession.



The housing issue is a major issue and one that is never far from my thoughts. I and the office help people with housing needs every week. It is a stark reminder of the issue – if any were needed.



The biggest factor is housing pressures has been significant changes in family demographics and it is proving a challenge to build our way out of it. Having said new house builds frees up existing properties.


Campaign response - Arthritis must be a priority


A number of constituents have sent me a campaign email entitled arthritis must be a priority.

Arthritis is one of the most debilitating and painful conditions and my experience of those who suffer with such has left me in no doubt how it can affect people in all aspects of their lives.

The vast majority of the millions of patients are delighted with the service they get  but that does not mean there are not very real pressures on the service as demand grows every year.

In order to meet that challenge and improve the service, the government has provided record sums of new cash for the NHS. I have supported and welcomed this. We will also see a brand new hospital built for Cornwall and I hope it will be within our constituency. Certainly it is the investment we need and along  with more cash going in to the service it will give us all better healthcare and outcomes.

All of this is dependent on having a sound economy and with that in mind I firmly believe the Conservatives are the only party who will not only promise the funding but be in a position to deliver.

Campaign reply - Make sure nursing counts at this election.


A number of constituents have sent me a campaign email entitled make sure nursing counts at this election.

The NHS is of fundamental importance to us all and my own experiences of being a patient have only been positive. It remains a fundamental part of our society.

It is a government priority and the NHS is receiving record funding with more to come. You will know that the Conservative party has now released its manifesto which mentions nurses eight times. The section below which I copy for your ease of reference is a key feature:


The 1.4 million dedicated staff who
deliver world-class care day in, day out
are at the heart of the NHS. Our core
priority is to make sure this workforce
can grow and has the support it needs
– in terms of numbers, training and
resources. That means that if you do fall
ill, you’ll get the care and attention you
deserve.
We will deliver:
} 50,000 more nurses, with students
receiving a £5,000-£8,000 annual
maintenance grant every year during
their course to help with their cost
of living – and they won’t have to pay
it back. Everyone will receive at least
£5,000 with further funding in regions or
disciplines that are struggling to recruit
– such as mental health – and help with
their childcare costs.
} 6,000 more doctors in general
practice and 6,000 more primary care
professionals, such as physiotherapists
and pharmacists. This is on top of the
7,500 extra nurse associates and
20,000 primary care professionals that
we have already announced.
} We will improve staff morale with more
funding for professional training and
more supportive hospital management.
} We will introduce an NHS Visa. Our
NHS People Plan will ensure that we
train and employ tens of thousands
more NHS professionals here in the
UK. But we also want to make sure that
those from overseas who want to work
in and support our NHS are encouraged
to do so. That is why qualified doctors,
nurses and allied health professionals
with a job offer from the NHS, who have
been trained to a recognised standard,
and who have good working English, will
be offered fast-track entry, reduced visa
fees and dedicated support to come to
the UK with their families.
Our new funding will deliver 50 million
extra general practice appointments
a year, an increase of over 15 per
cent. That means that if you need an
appointment, waiting times will be
shorter and you’ll get the service you
deserve.
We also want to make sure that
doctors spend as much time as
possible treating patients, so we will
address the ‘taper problem’ in doctors’
pensions, which causes many to turn
down extra shifts for fear of high tax
bills. Within our first 30 days, we will
hold an urgent review, working with
the British Medical Association and
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to
solve the problem.

The NHS is one of the best if not the most loved institutions we have and I am confident that with sound government and good management of the country we can continue to invest and deal with the undoubted demands and pressures that it faces.

Campaign reply - “I’ve seen the impact of bowel cancer”.


A number of constituents have sent me a campaign email entitled “I’ve seen the impact of bowel cancer”.

You raise an important matter that many families and loved ones across the UK will be only too well aware.
My Mother died from cancer and thus I have genuine insight into how this terrible disease is.

Investment in the NHS is now at an all-time record and is something we can all celebrate. With the economy now recovered from the Labour crash there is the funds to make inject funding enabling the NHS to improve further care for us all.

The Conservative party manifesto sets out in detail plans for social care and the NHS. It is referred to 45 times in the document:


Thursday, 31 October 2019

Campaign reply: Pledge to contact the Prime Minister and ask him to adequately fund nursery schools



I have recently been contacted by a number of residents as part of a campaign asking me to contact the Prime Minister and ask him to adequately fund nursery schools.

I recognise the concerns raised about funding for nursery schools. I have met with local nursery schools about this in recent months and raised it personally with the Secretary of State for Education during his recent visit to Cornwall.

I welcomed the commitment from the Government of £14 billion for our schools and was pleased to see that schools in Cornwall which have traditionally been underfunded by successive governments of all political parties have received funding boosts.

The Government confirmed schools in Cornwall will receive 4.48% more funding per pupil next year as part of the recent multi-billion investment in primary and secondary education.

This fulfils the commitment made by the Prime Minister this year that every secondary school pupil will receive a minimum of £5,000 next year and every primary school pupil will receive a minimum of £4,000 by 2021- 22.

This funding follows the Prime Minister’s announcement in August that the budget for schools and high needs would be increased by a total of over £14 billion over three years, rising to £52.2 billion by 2022-23.

The Chancellor Sajid Javid also announced that providers of 16-19 education such as further education and sixth form colleges will receive £400 million additional funding to train and teach our young people the skills they need for well-paid jobs in the modern economy, the Chancellor has announced. The boost is the single biggest annual increase for the sector since 2010. I have already held a debate in Parliament arguing that some of this money to used for further education in Mid-Cornwall.

Rest assured that if I am returned as MP following the upcoming General Election I will continue to do all I can to champion and highlight the cause of fair funding for education at all stages in Cornwall.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Newspaper column 30 October 2019 - Good news for mobile phone signal 'not spots!'


The deadline for this week’s column falls in between two important votes in Parliament. In both the Prime Minister is calling for a General Election, in order to break the deadlock of this Parliament doing everything it can to stop Brexit, and in the process losing the respect of the general public.

Monday night’s vote under the Fixed Term Parliament Vote saw the same sorry situation where the Leader of the Opposition continues to call for a General Election and then he and his MPs don’t vote for it. The Government did not secure the required two thirds of MPs voting for an election, which is required, after the Labour MPs refused to vote at all, abstaining.

Tuesday’s vote won’t happen until later today and so I can’t really comment on it, other than that I will be voting with the Government to unblock this Brexit delay and hold a General Election as soon as possible.

Away from Brexit, in other news, last week saw a great announcement for Cornwall as the Government announced a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to banish rural not-spots.
Areas of poor or no mobile phone signal, the so-call ‘not-spots’ are an annoying feature that plagues rural areas. While phone signal has improved throughout Cornwall in recent years, there are still plenty of these places where you simply cannot get a signal on any network in Mid-Cornwall, from Pentewan to Charlestown to Polmassick, or Crantock and St Mawgan to name but a few. This can be annoying for day to day life but particularly important in instances where emergency services or first responders are urgently needed, or for businesses that need reliable mobile connections.

This announcement will see high-quality 4G coverage given to 95 per cent of the UK by 2025, meaning consumers will get good 4G signal on the go wherever they live, work or travel.  Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan has said this deal will provide additional coverage to 280,000 homes and businesses and 16,000km of roads.

The plans include all operators sharing phone masts is a world first. A £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators for a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by £500 million investment from the Government.

Government-owned mobile infrastructure built as part of the Emergency Services Network will also be made available to all four operators, taking full advantage of government assets. This is expected to contribute to the coverage target by delivering up to an additional 2% of geographic coverage per operator, in some of the most remote, rural locations.

Improved connectivity for Cornwall in this digital age is something I have long called for. Better 4G connectivity will make flexible working easier, boost regional economic growth and close the digital divide that exists across the country. I am pleased to see this announcement and will continue to work to ensure Cornwall is better connected in all areas.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events

Monday, 28 October 2019

Campaign reply - " Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill."


A number of constituents have sent me a campaign email entitled, " Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill."

I have previously commented on this but set out my view afresh in view of the recent Queens Speech where new legislation is referenced.

As an animal lover myself and with a family who have always owned dogs and also horses at one point, it remains a mystery to me why anyone should mistreat animals. Those that do should be brought to justice and dealt with accordingly.

The government's plans to introduce tougher prison sentences has not been forgotten and recent legislation was passed regarding circus performing animals. Progress is being made.

Because so many of you have expressed concern and in line with my own views on these matters I will make a point of raising these issues with Ministers again.

Campaign reply - Brexit vote


A number of constituents have written to me with a campaign email which asks me to vote against the PM's deal, unless the bill can be amended to include a public vote.

 The best way to see democracy work is to honour the result of the referendum where the majority voted to leave.

The rewards of creating a sound economy are now emerging. What is long forgotten is the crisis the country faced when the coalition government came to office 2010. Borrowing was out of control, the economy and employment in dire straits. It has taken years to put things right. In a crisis drastic action is required which includes stopping spending money we don’t have, attract as much growth and investment as possible and make the UK an attractive place to work and invest. The result? Near full employment, a new higher minimum wage, rising wages, more of the low paid than ever removed from paying any income tax at all, a healthy economy, record investment, the highest ever recorded tax receipts to the treasury and a transformation in our prospects. Now we can invest huge extra funding into the NHS – the highest ever cash injection – and so on but it only comes from taking tough decisions. I am bewildered why there is distain for the fire brigade and not the arsonists.

If MPs will not respect the result of the 2016 referendum why would anyone trust them to respect the outcome of a second one? The Liberal Democrats  have already made clear if the result of another referendum is again to leave they will still campaign to remain!

There is no mandate for another referendum. The 2016 referendum came about because David Cameron put it in the Conservative manifesto in 2015. We won a majority and implemented our manifesto commitment. In 2017 both the main parties pledged to respect the referendum result. The Liberal Democrats campaigned for a 2nd referendum and won a total of 12 seats. If Labour or any other party now want another referendum they should put it in their manifesto, have a general election and let the country decide.

The interpretation of the PMs intentions for the UK post Brexit is not one I share and his future vision for the UK is the reverse of what is set out. He has my full support.

 However people voted in the referendum or at the last election I genuinely seek to reach out to all constituents and assist them in any way I can but that does not include undoing what the majority voted for and still want.


Campaign reply - “It's Time To Back A Compromise - A Public Vote.”


A number of constituents have written to me with an email entitled “It's Time To Back A Compromise - A Public Vote.”

The promise made during the referendum was that voters would decide if we left or remained in the EU. Both sides put forward their best arguments. The vote was to leave. It is imperative that vote is honoured. Many MPs who at the last election said they would honour the referendum result have done all they can to thwart the process.

I will never support a second referendum. If MPs will not respect the result of the 2016 referendum why would anyone trust them to respect the outcome of a second one? The Liberal Democrats  have already made clear if the result of another referendum is again to leave they will still campaign to remain!

There is no mandate for another referendum. The 2016 referendum came about because David Cameron put it in the Conservative manifesto in 2015. We won a majority and implemented our manifesto commitment. In 2017 both the main parties pledged to respect the referendum result. The Liberal Democrats campaigned for a 2nd referendum and won a total of 12 seats. If Labour or any other party now want another referendum they should put it in their manifesto, have a general election and let the country decide.

Article 50 sets out we will seek a deal with the EU and now against all odds and in record time the PM has achieved what his detractors said would be impossible; a revised deal that has been approved by the House. A momentous achievement. If there is concern over a no deal scenario then the obvious solution is to allow the progress of the PMs deal.

The deal that has been negotiated will create a clear path for the UK to be free from all its currents ties to the EU and work for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, whilst enabling us to develop trading arrangements with other countries. Importantly this deal will also maintain the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, with all four corners of the UK remaining within our customs union when we depart from the EU.

What will serve our children and future generations best is for them to see the democratic process in action, with everyone accepting the result of a ballot – even when they disagree. Further I firmly believe the best future for all of us lies with the UK becoming a sovereign nation again free to trade across the world – and with our friends and neighbours in Europe.



Campaign response: Steve Double please help end delayed diagnosis of blood cancer



Thank you to constituents who have emailed me about th impact that delays to diagnosis of blood cancer has had on patients across the UK.

I am as pleased as they are that the Government has pledged to improve diagnosis rates for all cancers, and I agree that more can be done to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis for blood cancer.

Next Tuesday in the Commons MPs will have a chance to ask questions to ministers at the DHSC, and I am pleased that a number of colleagues have put on the record their intentions to ask a question about the use of the latest NICE guidance to help GPs better spot blood cancer symptoms. I look forward to a positive response from ministers on this issue, and a renewed commitment to develop a course of action to tackle this issue.

As the new Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Health and Social Care, I am keen to use my position to ensure that important issues like the diagnosis of blood cancer are given time for debate and are adequately dealt with.


Campaign response – 5000% increase in aid funding for abortion provider - please sign motion



Recently some constituents have written to me to ask if I would sign an Early Day Motion (EDM) that has been tabled calling on the Government to cut international development funding provided to abortion provider Marie Stopes International (MSI).

As a principle I never sign early day motions as they very rarely achieve anything whilst at the same time running up costs to the tax payer.

However as a pro-life MP I am concerned about the reports that have been brought to my attention about taxpayer’s money being channelled into supporting an abortion provider.

I am pleased that my colleague and friend Lord Alton has recently raised this issue in the House of Lords, saying: “Marie Stopes has been prevented by some Governments from functioning after performing illegal abortions in their countries. It has also been investigated by the Care Quality Commission, who said it had endangered the safety of women in the UK, and that one woman bled to death after having an abortion in one of their clinics in London.”

I will be seeking to bring this matter and the points constituents made to the attention of the International Development Secretary when I next see him, and to seek a full response from his department.


Campaign response – The Home Secretary must urgently review flawed consultation on abortion clinic buffer zones


Campaign response – The Home Secretary must urgently review flawed consultation on abortion clinic buffer zones

In recent weeks some constituents have contacted me to ask if I would write to Home Secretary about the issue of buffer zones around abortion clinics.

This follows reports in the media that a number of medical bodies and charities have appealed to the Home Office to review its decision last year to not install buffer zones.

Constituents have expressed concerns that the introduction of buffer zones around abortion clinics could lead to an infringement on the rights to free speech and to protest.

I am sure all constituents will agree with me that this is a highly sensitive and complex issue but one that the government must get right.

I have therefore written to the Home Secretary to seek a meeting with her to discuss the issue further, and will be updating constituents on the progress and outcome of the meeting.


Campaign response: End Our Pain "URGENT: Queen's Speech NHS Debate - medical cannabis"


Thank you to constituents who have written to me about patients who have not been able to access medical cannabis despite the government's decision to legalise it last year.

I fully understand the strength of feeling expressed on this matter and how keen many are to improve access to medical cannabis.

When I spoke about this issue in Parliament last December, one of the points I made was that much more needs to be done to ensure that cannabis for medicinal use gets to the people who really need it, and more needs to be done to get medical professionals on board and adjusted to the new regime.

A number scientific studies have documented the benefits of prescription cannabis and cannabis-based products in certain medical treatments. Indeed, much progress has been made recently on allowing the medicinal use of cannabis products.

I am pleased to learn from constituents that in March, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, met face to face with many of the families that the campaign group End Our Pain are supporting.

This shows that the Secretary of State and his department are serious about improving access to medical cannabis for those who genuinely need it.

I will continue to monitor this issue closely and speak up for constituents who wants to see this form of prescription effectively dispensed to patients who need it.

At the same time there needs to the right safeguards in place to ensure that the system is not subject to abuse. Recreational cannabis ruins lives and I have seen this happen first hand.

As I am now Private Parliamentary Secretary to the Department for Health and Social Care I regret to inform constituents that I am not in a position to speak during the Queen's Speech debate on the NHS. Constituents will also be aware that this has now been delayed due to the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement bill in the Commons. However they can have my assurance that I understand the point they are making and agree with them that more needs to be done.


Campaign reply - NHS Trade deal


I have been contacted by a number of constituents asking me to sign a petition or a pledge that the NHS should be kept outside of any future trade deals with the US.

As a member of the Parliamentary Petitions Committee I cannot sign petitions.

However, I am reassured by both our Government and the US Government who have repeatedly said, at every level, that the NHS will not be a part of any future trade deal.

I support this position and would oppose any change to it, unless there was hard evidence that any deals would mean better value for the public purse on essential services such as drug supplies or similar.

I hope this clarifies my stance on this matter.

Campaign reply - Fossil Fuel Pensions


A number of constituents have written to me regarding the recent campaign asking MPs to divest their pension of fossil fuel industries.

I completely understand what an important issue climate change is to many in St Austell and Newquay and indeed, many around the world.

I have long since been a supporter of various environmental groups including Green Peace, Surfers Against Sewerage and other Ocean conservation organisations. I welcome further interest and support from constituents.

I was delighted to be able to join my colleagues in signing the pledge.

Even though many positive steps have been taken by this Government I realise there is much more to do and I will continue to work hard on this important issue.



Campaign reply - Please help to prevent race horses from dying


A number of you have written to me regarding ongoing concerns over horse welfare and racing.

This industry is already one of the most heavily scrutinised in the world. Further, whilst any injury (or worse) to a horse is a tragedy for all concerned, the percentage of such are a tiny fraction of the numbers of horses involved and thus it could be argued that with such low numbers, attempts to introduce ever more draconian  regulation is really a disguised attempt at a ban on horse racing. As a Conservative, I do not believe in banning things in general.

I copy below  for ease of reference some of the blog I posted last year on this subject:

As many of you will know there was a debate in Parliament on 15 October following a  successful application to the Petition Committee. The petition, had over 105,000 signatures. The Government statement on this said it “does not consider that it is necessary to create a new body to protect racehorse welfare,” and outlines that “the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is responsible for the safety of jockeys and horses at races in this country.” The debate gave opportunity to challenge and question a Minister.

As a family we have been horse owners and lovers and so the debate was of interest, however  I was unable to attend due to other pressing Parliamentary business. The Minister did take note of many of the points raised. It is also worth noting that the debate itself is an invaluable tool in raising awareness amongst MPs and the public around these issues. That has the effect of  influencing decision-making in Government and Parliament.

I firmly believe these debates makes all interested parties take note and the BHA will no doubt review all its' procedures if only to ward off possible punitive legislation. My own view is that I am generally against banning things and over legislating. However this is a matter I can raise with Ministers when I see them.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Campaign reply - HS2 and the climate crisis


I have received a campaign email entitled HS2 and the climate crisis.

Just a few weeks ago I responded to a similar campaign and posted a blog response which I copy below for ease of reference.

This latest campaign fails to take into account the governments world leading pledge to deliver a net zero economy by 2050 nor that banning things works far less well than innovation. The greening of our transport system is going very well and the progress on our rail systems is underway. The same will apply to HS2 should it be built.

The earlier blog is here:

Monday, 9 September 2019

Some constituents have been in touch with a campaign email over concerns regarding HS2 -the high speed rail network.

You may be aware that the government is currently reviewing the scheme and a report is expected later this year.

HS2, a Labour government inspired scheme from 2009 has been controversial on a range of matters and there is growing concern that the overall cost is going to be considerably higher than first thought. This is concerning.

The route for HS2 (should it go ahead) has always been contentious and there are many interested parties that have expressed concerns from inception.

It is worth noting that one of the greenest forms of transport is of course rail, so a balance must be struck with meeting the needs of travel in the UK and the impact it may have following its construction. I am aware that considerable thought and planning has been given to environmental issues but note the concerns raised.

Before commenting further, I will wait to see what is in the government review  and will also take into account the various matters raised.
                


Thursday, 10 October 2019

Campaign response: Please help end victim journalism


Thank you to constituents who have written to me about their concerns over the treatment of public figures such as Ben Stokes, Gareth Thomas and the Duchess of Sussex.

At the heart of the issue two fundamental tenets of democracy are in question: The right to privacy and the freedom of the press, both of which are guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every individual has a right to respect for their private life, their family and their home. At the same time, it is in everyone’s interest to have a free and functioning press that is not subjected to arbitrary interreference from any public body or anyone.

Following multiple allegations of illegal and improper press intrusion on a number of individuals, the Leveson Inquiry was set up in 2012 to thoroughly examined the culture, practices and ethics of our press.

The inquiry and investigations were comprehensive, and since it was set up, there have been extensive reforms to policing practices and significant changes to press self-regulation.

Two regulators have been created since then: IMPRESS and IPSO. The majority of IMPRESS’ members are local publishers but IPSO regulates 95% of national newspapers in terms of their circulation. In 2016, Sir Joseph Pilling concluded that IPSO largely complied with Leveson’s recommendations in his review of its independence.

In 2017, meanwhile, IPSO dealt with over 20,000 complaints and enquiries in 2017, and has ordered multiple front page corrections or clarifications. And since then it has taken significant steps to demonstrate its independence as a regulator with further improvements. It has announced that it is creating a compulsory version of its low-cost arbitration scheme, which national newspapers have now signed up to. This means that someone who has a genuine claim against a newspaper who could have gone to court can now demand arbitration of their claim and the newspaper cannot refuse. This includes a higher level of damages and includes cases of invasion of privacy or harassment which either of the cases you mentioned could have fallen under.

I’m also glad to see that most newspapers have also made improvements to their governance frameworks to improve their internal controls, standards and compliance.

Finally, regarding the government’s proposals to regulate social media, these were published in our Online Harms White Paper in April of this year. I am assured that my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will continue to look at ways to better regulate our media whilst ensuring that it can continue to hold the powerful to account.


Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Newspaper column 9 October 2019 - Brexit update


Another week and another significant time for the Brexit process.

Last Wednesday the Prime Minister presented his proposals to unlock the Brexit stalemate with the EU. These included workable and pragmatic plans to address the issue with the Irish border.

In essence it would see Northern Ireland remain in the Single Market for all goods in terms of regulation and movement of goods between the north and the Republic of Ireland, but not be subject to freedom of movement of people. Northern Ireland would be outside of the EU Customs Union, along with the rest of the UK. There would also be a ‘democratic lock’ which would enable the devolved administration in Northern Ireland to review these arrangements every 4 years if a permanent solution has not been found.

Most importantly, in my view, the proposals lay out a clear path for the UK to be free from all its current ties to the EU and work for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, whilst enabling us to develop trading arrangements with other countries. This is in stark contrast to the previous proposed agreement that had a risk of us being locked into a Customs Union with the EU indefinitely.

I believe these proposals, presented in good faith, are a fair compromise. They show a willingness on behalf of the UK to shift from previous positions and meet the EU half way. What is now required is for the EU to be willing to also compromise a bit and move slightly towards us.

The initial signs were encouraging, that there was broad support from across Parliament for these plans. MPs from different parties and holding different positions on Brexit indicated they could support these plans. However, we then heard that the EU did not see these plans as workable.

It is frustrating that there is a real sense that the EU are now moving the goal posts, having previously indicated an agreement of this nature would work. It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that they are using the issue of the Irish border to back the UK into an untenable position. They appear unwilling to make any compromises in order to find a deal.

Further discussion will be ongoing over this week, with the EU saying they will be coming to a firm position on this by the end of the week.

It is well known that MPs opposed to Brexit rushed a Bill through Parliament last month that seeks to force the Prime Minister to request an extension rather than leave without a deal at the end of this month – the so-called Surrender Bill. It is now blatantly clear that this has undermined our nation’s negotiating position and is actually making getting an acceptable deal harder. Any notion that this Bill was in our national interest is clearly wide of the mark. It has hindered our ability to get a deal, which is I suspect the real intention.

There remain only two ways to prevent a no deal Brexit – either agree a deal or cancel it altogether. The position of the opposition parties is now clear. The Lib Dems want to revoke Article 50 and overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history. The Labour Party refuse to support any deal and simply want to kick the can further down the road and prolong the uncertainty.

There is only one leader of a major party who is committed to deliver on the referendum result. Boris Johnson remains committed to taking us out of the EU on 31st October. Preferably this will be with a deal if the EU are prepared to compromise. But having made a fair and reasonable offer to them, if we cannot agree then we will leave without a deal.

Many will ask how this will be done with the Surrender Bill in place. It is very unclear precisely what the full details of this Bill are. It was rammed through the House of Commons in just four hours without the usual scrutiny and debate. Therefore, it remains to be seen the exact implications of the Bill and whether or not it does leave any holes by which a delay can be avoided.

I have been overwhelmed with the number of people contacting me in recent days. Whether it is by email, phone calls or face to face. There is a very clear message that I am hearing time and time again – Get Brexit Done. No more delays. No more uncertainty. No more talking. We just need to get on and leave. I remain committed to support the Prime Minister in his determination to lead us out of the EU at the end of the month.

Campaign reply -“Stand up for Parliament and Democracy,”


Following a campaign email “Stand up for Parliament and Democracy,” I set will set out again my long held position on the matters raised:

The campaign email ends with these words “…putting the interests of the country first and doing everything in your power to bring this crisis to an end. We are counting on you”.

I can agree with the sentiment expressed but not any of the proposed solutions.

Putting the country first means we must honour the referendum result and leave the EU. Hopefully our European friends will finally settle on a deal but if they will not then as already clearly laid out in Article 50 we will leave without one. Not the preferred option but after years of debate it becomes the appropriate way forward. No doubt if we do leave on WTO terms then the EU in due course will agree a trade deal. There is a mutual benefit in doing so.

Bringing the crisis to end means avoiding any further delay. Far too much time has been spent already debating. The talk must stop and action taken. The PM has shown the leadership we need to achieve just that and you can “count on me” to honour what I said I would do during the referendum campaign which was that I would honour the result and accept the decision of the people to remain or leave. We know the result. I will not waiver from promises made then or at the last election.

What risks destroying democracy and jeopardising our United Kingdom is allowing anyone to usurp the will of the people, who voted by a clear majority to leave the EU.

Those who seek a second referendum (something I will never support) do not accept the result of the first! That is wrong and undemocratic.  If a second poll endorsed leaving, there would then undoubtedly be a demand for a third. Democracy does not operate on the basis that we only accept the outcome of a vote when it coincides with our own view.

I sincerely appreciate that leaving the EU has been a contentious issue, but it is critical that the referendum result be honoured for the sake of our democracy and not least because I believe the UK will be better off doing so.