Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Campaign reply - Clear Air and Healthy Lungs in Truro and Falmouth

Many constituents have written to me expressing concerns and in support of this campaign to improve air quality.
Poor air quality is the greatest environmental risk to our health. Our air is now cleaner than at any point since the industrial revolution, but there is more work to be done if we are to protect the health of our nation.
The Government’s Clean Air Strategy aims to cut air pollution and save lives, backed up by new primary legislation. The Strategy details how the UK will go further and faster than the EU in reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution. It sets out a goal to halve the number of people living in locations with concentrations of particulate matter above WHO guidelines, legislate to give councils more powers to improve air quality and ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels and stoves can be sold. I am encouraged that it has been described by the WHO as 'an example for the rest of the world to follow'.

The Environment Bill will build on this Strategy, and highlight our drive to go further to clean up our air and fight air pollution so children and young people can live longer healthier lives.
The Bill will set an ambitious, legally-binding target to reduce fine particulate matter, and increase local powers to address sources of air pollution, enabling local authorities to work with families to cut harmful pollution from domestic burning by using cleaner fuels. This target will be among the most ambitious in the world and improve the quality of millions of people’s lives.

Campaign reply - Teachers Pay and increased starting salaries

Several constituents have contacted me regarding the starting salaries for teachers. 

Teachers have a huge impact on children’s futures and so I want all our children to be taught by the brightest and best. We must therefore attract the best candidates to teach in our schools and I am pleased by the Government’s action on teachers’ pay to ensure teaching remains an attractive career choice.

Under plans for the biggest reform to teachers’ pay in a generation, the salaries for new teachers are set to rise to £30,000 by 2022/23. This will make starting salaries for teachers among the most attractive on the market and build on the above average pay increases for teachers in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Teachers also received an above inflation pay rise of 2.75 per cent for the 2019/20 academic year, effective from 1 September 2019. This increase in pay is supported by an additional £105 million, to be paid through the teachers’ pay grant, and will mean a £1,000 increase to average classroom teacher pay and a £1,620 increase in the average pay of school leaders.

These increases to teachers’ pay are made possible by the funding settlement for the next three years, which will see an extra £14 billion going into our schools.

In addition, teachers’ pensions are among the most generous available. It is right that increased contributions to the teachers’ pension scheme will be fully funded, meaning that teachers will get an employer contribution of 23.6 per cent on top their salary towards their pension every year.

I believe that children in Truro and Falmouth deserve the very best start in life and I therefore welcome the significant increases to teachers’ pay that will allow us to attract and retain talented and inspiring teachers.

Campaign reply - APPG on Motor Neurone Disease

Thank you to those constituents who have taken the time to contact me regarding the parliamentary drop-in/report launch as well as the AGM of the APPG on MND.  I will be attending this event should other parliamentary business allow.

It is crucial that people who have a terminal illness receive support when they need it, and that the process for retrieving this support does not involve unnecessary stress. Special Rules for Terminal Illness mean that if you are living with a terminal illness you can have your benefit claim fast-tracked and paid at an enhanced rate, and many charities have campaigned for the rules to be further improved.

I will be paying close attention to the review of the benefits system for terminally ill claimants. I want to make sure the recommendations of this review are implemented so that the most vulnerable people can access the support they need. Along with my colleagues, I will ensure that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) conducts an honest evaluation of our benefits system so that people with severe conditions get the best possible support.

Campaign reply - End Our Pain "Please help severely ill children still being denied NHS access to medical cannabis".

I have been contacted by a number of constituents as part of the campaign End Our Pain "Please help severely ill children still being denied NHS access to medical cannabis".

The Home Secretary last year confirmed that there will be a review on the scheduling of medicinal cannabis.

If the review identifies that there are significant medical benefits then the Government does intend to reschedule.

It is crucial that this country keeps in step with the latest scientific evidence, so that patients and their families have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment.  My Ministerial colleagues have also been clear that given the nature of the medicine, it should only be prescribed be specialist doctors and on a case-by-case basis. I believe these controls are necessary to develop clinical expertise and an evidence base for this treatment’s effectiveness.

Notwithstanding the above, however, I absolutely understand the concerns and anguish of patients and their families.  The decision whether to prescribe an individual with medicinal cannabis is therefore not a political or financial decision, but a decision by a medical expert, who will have considered whether it is the most effective treatment based on an individual’s particular condition.

I was unable to attend the drop-in session in Parliament this week but I will continue to closely monitor the roll-out of medicinal cannabis.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Campaign reply - Smart Motorways

 I have received many emails regarding concerns over smart motorways and I appreciate these concerns.

It is essential that people feel safe and indeed are safe on smart motorways, and road safety remains an absolute priority for the Government.

Ministers recognise that there are issues with smart motorways around awareness, information, the positioning of refuges, as well as vehicle monitoring and the safety of vehicles re-entering the highway.

While work has already gone into remedying some of these issues, for example through the decision to reduce the spacing of emergency areas from one and a half miles to one mile, a wider range of actions needs to be taken.

I therefore welcome the fact that in October last year the Secretary of State for Transport asked officials to carry out an evidence stocktake to gather facts on the safety of smart motorways and to make recommendations for a package of measures to deal with this issue.

Ministers have reassured me that this work is being undertaken at pace and that the results will be published very soon.

Campaign reply - Government’s Rail Review

 Many constituents have contacted me about Northern Rail and the Government’s Rail Review.

Whilst I believe that privatisation of the railways has been a success, with passenger journeys having more than doubled from 735 million in 1994-5 to 1.73 billion in 2016-17, I recognise that accommodating this growth in demand for rail travel is challenging. I, therefore, welcome that Ministers have launched a root-and-branch review into rail operations.

 The review is being independently chaired by Keith Williams, who brings valuable experience as deputy chairman of John Lewis and as a former chief executive of British Airways.

The review will make recommendations aimed at ensuring the best possible delivery of services for passengers. It has been exploring a wide range of areas, including the current franchising model, the industry’s structures, industrial relations, innovation, as well as value for money and accountability.
Ministers have committed to producing a White Paper in 2020 informed by the recommendations of the review, to deliver genuine and lasting reform.

In the meantime, the Government will continue to take steps to improve passenger experiences, further implementing key elements of its Strategic Vision for Rail. This includes enhancing services and upgrading infrastructure, as well as rolling out smart ticketing and establishing a Rail Ombudsman.

Over the next five years, £47.9 billion will be invested in the rail network to ensure it provides the modern customer services that passengers expect.

Dementia Care Campaign

 I get many emails from constituents worried about Dementia care and understanding of this condition.

I therefore, want to assure you that dementia is a priority for the Government. In 2015, the Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched and I know that the Government remains committed to delivering this. This sets out the vision for dementia care, support, awareness, and research to be transformed by 2020. I fully support the ambition to ensure England offers the world’s best dementia care.

Progress in the care, support and treatment of people with dementia has been made, with more people receiving a diagnosis of dementia than ever before. Over 660,000 NHS staff have received dementia training with further training opportunities rolled out to all NHS staff by the end of 2018. Over 100,000 social care workers have received some form of dementia awareness training. Since 2015, new care staff have been trained to receive the Care Certificate, which equips them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and compassionate care, including for those with dementia.
I believe it is important to increase public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition and I am encouraged that there are almost 2.5 million Dementia Friends.

Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia, which is why the Government has doubled research spending on dementia and remains committed to maintaining the current expenditure on dementia research of at least £60 million a year through to 2020. I am encouraged that over £83 million was spent on dementia research by the Government in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available, well in excess of the £60 million target.

The Government is integrating and improving health and social care to protect people at every stage of their lives. I am informed that the Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper this year, which will outline a new social care policy, which is financially sustainable, accessible, and properly integrated with the NHS.