Thursday, 11 August 2022

Campaign reply - Irish protocol

Thank you for contacting me about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Government will always work in the best interests of Northern Ireland, making the changes necessary to fix parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, to restore stability and ensure the delicate balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is protected.

To this end, the Government has introduced the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which will address the practical problems the Protocol has created in Northern Ireland in four key areas: burdensome customs processes; inflexible regulation; tax and spend discrepancies; and democratic governance issues. These problems include disruption and diversion of trade and significant costs and bureaucracy for business. They are undermining all three strands of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and have led to the collapse of the power-sharing arrangements at Stormont.  The UK Government is committed to seeing these institutions back up and running so that they can deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

This Bill is a reasonable and practical solution to these problems which is designed to protect all three strands of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, including North-South cooperation, and support stability and power-sharing in Northern Ireland. It will end the untenable situation where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, and protect the supremacy of our courts and our territorial integrity. It will also safeguard the EU Single Market and protect the free flow of North-South trade, ensuring there continues to be no hard border on the island of Ireland. 

I am pleased that the Bill has now passed Third Reading in the Commons and will progress to the Lords.

 

The UK has engaged in 18 months of negotiations with the EU on these issues and the Government’s preference remains for a negotiated solution to fix these problems. However, the EU continues to insist that they will not change their position, even though their proposals do not solve the problems and in many cases would actually make them worse.  Ministers believe that the serious situation in Northern Ireland means they cannot afford to delay. It is the duty of the Government of the United Kingdom to take the necessary steps to preserve stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will support that.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

Campaign reply - Cumbria Coal Mine

Thank you for contacting me about the Whitehaven Coal Mine and EDM 1. 

Parliamentary Private Secretaries do not, by convention, sign any Early Day Motions, as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code’s rules on collective responsibility. However, I appreciate your concern for this issue.

 

While the Government places a strong emphasis on localism and decentralisation when it comes to planning applications, I am aware that Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary at the time, made the decision to ‘call in’ the planning application for the Whitehaven Coal Mine.

 

This decision was taken because of the further developments since his original decision. This included the publication of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for the Sixth Carbon Budget. It is also the case that local authorities are expected to make planning decisions promptly. The planning application for this development was first submitted to Cumbria County Council in May 2017 and was considered by their planning committee on three occasions, without a final outcome being reached.

 

I agree that this application raises planning issues of more than just local importance. A public inquiry was held and the outcome will be considered before any decision is made. I understand that the Planning Inspectorate’s report has been submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. A final decision is expected this summer. 

 

It is worth mentioning that the extracted coal would be used exclusively for steel production rather than energy production. The Government has confirmed its commitment to end unabated coal-power generation from October 2024, having brought this deadline forward from 2025.

 

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

Campaign reply - British Citizen Alaa Abdelfattah

Thank you for contacting me about Alaa Abdel Fattah, a British national imprisoned in Egypt. I appreciate your concerns and thank you for bringing them to my attention.

Through their global network, consular staff at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) endeavour to give appropriate and tailored support to British nationals overseas and their families in the UK 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

What the FCDO can and cannot provide to British nationals abroad, including in the event of imprisonment, is clearly set out in 'Support for British Nationals Abroad: A Guide', available on gov.uk.

 

The FCDO has confirmed that they are in regular contact with Mr Fattah's family to provide them with support and are urgently seeking ​​​​​consular access to ensure Mr Fattah's welfare. The UK Government also continues to raise his case with the highest levels of the Egyptian Government. 

 

I have every confidence that officials from the British Embassy in Cairo are doing all they can to support Mr Fattah but I will press the FCDO on this matter on behalf of you and other constituents who have contacted me.

 

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

 

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Campaign reply - Energy plans

Thank you for contacting me about the UK’s energy strategy.

In light of high global energy prices, provoked by surging demand and Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, the Government has been clear that it’s right we move away from dependence on Russian gas and increase our self-reliance for energy security.

I welcome that the Government’s Energy Security Strategy sets out plans to accelerate the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen, while supporting the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term – which could see 95 per cent of electricity being low carbon by 2030.

To this end, the Energy Security Bill was announced as part of the Queen's Speech 2022, which includes concrete measures to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy. In particular, I am glad that the Bill will enable the extension of the price cap beyond 2023, which would see the Government protect 22 million households who are on default tariffs.

The Government has already announced that the import of Russian oil and oil products will be phased out by the end of this year, which makes up roughly eight per cent of UK demand. Further, while the proportion of gas we import from Russia is less than four per cent, I know that the Government is keen to end this altogether. Recognising the importance of these fuels to our energy transition and energy security, and that producing gas domestically has a lower carbon footprint than importing, a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned to launch in autumn. 

I also warmly welcome the new ambition to produce up to 50GW of offshore wind by 2030 – more than enough to power every home in the UK – of which up to 5GW will come from floating offshore wind sites in deeper seas. This will be underpinned by new planning reforms to speed up approvals for new offshore wind farms, in addition to introducing competition into the country's onshore electricity networks, as detailed in the Energy Security Bill. I know the Government is also looking to increase the UK’s current solar capacity, which could grow up to 5 times by 2035, and aims to double our ambition for low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.

 

The strategy will also see the acceleration of nuclear power, aiming to produce up to 24GW by 2050, which could mean delivering up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade. My ministerial colleagues assure me that nuclear presents a safe, clean, and reliable source of power and I am encouraged that a new government body, Great British Nuclear, will be set up immediately to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, including a £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund. Furthermore, facilitating the safe and cost-effective clean-up of the UK's legacy nuclear sites is a key commitment of the Energy Security Bill and will ensure the UK is a responsible nuclear state.

The Energy Security Strategy builds on the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and, together with the Net Zero Strategy, is driving an unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment into new British industries and will support 480,000 new clean jobs by the end of the decade.

Cleaner, more affordable, domestically produced energy will be key to boosting our long-term energy independence and prosperity, and I look forward to witnessing the Strategy's long-term benefits.

It’s also clear that the Government sees Cornwall’s importance when it comes to the future of renewable energy – creating the domestic reliability we need to be truly sustainable. There is potential everywhere we look in Cornwall when it comes to clean, green energy.

 

We’ve got geothermal energy beneath our feet, along with lithium which can be used in Electric cars . We’ve got floating off shore wind out in the Celtic Sea. We’ve also got satellites being sent up to space from Cornish soil, which is also the world’s most environmentally responsible launch location - leading the way in attracting investment in cleaner technologies, driving positive change and pioneering practices which become the new industry standard.

 

Earlier this month we saw the Governments support for Twinhub– based out in the Celtic Sea off the Cornish Coast. 

 

Once up and running, it could generate around 32 megawatts of energy, which is enough electricity to power about 45,000 Cornish homes. The offshore wind industry is also estimated to support 3,200 jobs across the South West and Wales.

 

This is just the start - when operational, the project would also plug into local supply chains such as Falmouth Port, where I am today, which could play an important role in its development, operation and maintenance. 

 

Through investment in old and new industries, like mining, space and renewables, we can ensure there is a skills pathway for Cornish school children wanting the quality careers of the future. We need to retain our talent in Cornwall and have high skilled, well-paid careers.

 

This is the first step in what could be a really exciting new industry for the people of Cornwall and I will continue to work hard along with my five Cornish MP colleagues to ensure we drive forward Cornwall's floating offshore wind ambitions. 

 

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

 

Campaign reply - Please would you consider supporting Ella's Law

Thank you for contacting me about air quality and Ella’s law.

 

Following the tragic death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, I know that Ministers have set out key actions to improve air quality in the short and long term, protect vulnerable groups and effectively communicate information to the public. I would like to assure you that the Government takes its air quality obligations extremely seriously and Ministers are taking significant action to deliver the commitments set out in its response to the Prevention of Future Deaths report.

 

In addition to the measures provided in the Environment Act 2021 and the Clean Air Strategy, I am aware that Defra has published Phase 1 of the National Bundle of Care for Children and Young People with Asthma. This sets out interventions to help children, young people, families and carers to control and reduce the risk of asthma attacks and to prevent avoidable harm. Defra has also established a steering group with the Department for Health and Social Care and UKHSA to undertake a comprehensive review of how air quality information is communicated to ensure members of the public, and vulnerable groups in particular, have what they need protect themselves and understand their impact on air quality. 

 

Air pollution is the biggest single environmental threat to public health and Ministers are continuing to take robust action to improve air quality and minimise public health impacts. Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010: emissions of nitrogen dioxide have fallen by 44 per cent, sulphur emissions have fallen by 70 per cent and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions have fallen by 18 per cent.

 

The Environment Act 2021 includes long-term environmental targets, including a maximum annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of 10 µg/m3 and achieving a 35 per cent reduction in population exposure to PM2.5 by 2040, compared to a base year of 2018. The Government has taken action to reduce emissions from domestic burning and introduced legislation in 2021 to phase out the sale of the most polluting solid fuels (wet wood, bituminous (house) coal and high sulphur manufactured solid fuels) used in domestic burning.

 

Further, the Government’s Clean Air Strategy aims to halve the harm to human health caused by air pollution by 2030, which will reduce the incidence of serious illness and improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of people. Ministers have provided £880 million to clean up transport and tackle NO2 pollution. New legislation will be introduced to give local authorities new powers to take action in areas with air pollution problems.  

 

Finally, I am assured that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is working closely with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and advisory bodies such as the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants and the Air Quality Expert Group to keep abreast of research on the impact of air pollution on public health.

 

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

 

Campaign reply - NHS Restrictions

Thank you for contacting me about the impacts of Covid-19 on the NHS

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for us all, particularly the NHS, and the way in which people accessed general practice services during Covid-19 changed. The NHS has set out that GP surgeries should now be providing face-to-face appointments as well as remote consultations. In March 2022, 62 per cent of appointments were face-to-face.

NHS guidance also states that health and care staff should continue to wear face masks when working in Covid-19 and respiratory pathways and in settings where patients are at high risk due to immunosuppression. Inpatients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 and outpatients with respiratory symptoms attending emergency care should also be provided with a face covering. Masks, gloves and aprons should still be worn by staff when carrying out personal care or other tasks involving contact with blood or body fluids for someone not suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19.

 

I also recognise the importance of being able to visit loved ones in hospitals and the contribution this can make to an individual’s wellbeing. Inpatients in hospitals can be more vulnerable to Covid-19 but the Government and NHS England have been clear that visits should be facilitated.

NHS England has published guidance explaining that visiting should be accommodated for at least one hour per day and that patients should not be required to attend hospital on their own in outpatient and emergency settings unless this is a personal choice. Policies for visiting patients in hospital are ultimately at the discretion of the local NHS Trusts and other NHS bodies.

I recognise the impact the pandemic has had on the NHS and waiting lists and an additional £12 billion per year of funding will be invested in health and social care services on average over the next three years. The Government will also spend £2 billion this year, double the previous commitment, to tackle the elective backlog caused by the pandemic. Up to £340 million will also be provided to offer patients earlier access to cutting-edge treatments through the Innovative Medicines Fund.

Finally, the Government’s manifesto committed to 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more doctors in general practice by 2023/24. As of February 2022, there were already 30,000 more nurses compared to September 2019 and 1,672 more full time equivalent doctors in December 2021 compared to the start of the Parliament in December 2019.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

 

Campaign reply - Please attend the Rebuild General Practice event in Parliament

Thank you for contacting me about the recruitment and retention of GPs.

Unfortunately, due to urgent parliamentary business, I was unable to attend this debate. 

 

However, I know that the Government remains committed to increasing the number of doctors in general practice and is determined to deliver this as soon as possible. The number of GP training places has increased, with 4,000 trainees accepting a place in 2021-22, compared to 2,671 in 2014.

Work is ongoing with NHS England and NHS Improvement, Health Education England and the profession to increase recruitment, address the reasons why doctors leave the profession and encourage them to return to practice. We need to draw on talent around the world to increase the numbers of GPs and improve capacity in primary care. The General Practice Forward View (published in 2016) sought to recruit an additional 500 suitably qualified and trained overseas doctors to the NHS.

There are already a number of requirements in place for GPs from overseas to be able to work in general practice in the UK.

Applicants need to be registered and licensed to practise with the General Medical Council (GMC), demonstrate proficiency in English and obtain a Skilled (Health) Workers Visa or have an “indefinite leave to remain” to be able to work in the UK.  Their length of service will partly depend on the applicant’s Visa status and employment status after training.

Through the Covid-19 pandemic, GPs have been able to access additional funding to support expanding capacity through the General Practice Covid Capacity Expansion Fund. 

The updated GP Contract Framework announced a number of new retention schemes alongside continued support for existing schemes for the general practice workforce. In areas where there are GP vacancies, the Targeted Enhanced Recruitment Scheme provides a £20,000 salary supplement to attract GP trainees.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.