In order to save time and resources, for any campaign based correspondence Karen receives she will now be placing a copy of her response on her website, rather than replying to each individual piece of correspondence.

I can assure you the Government is committed to an NHS that is there for everyone who needs it, funded from general taxation and free at the point of use. TTIP will not affect how the NHS decides who is best to provide its services.

Negotiators from the United States and the European Union have confirmed that it will continue to be for EU member states to make decisions about whether and to what extent they involve the private sector in the provision of public services. The EU's chief negotiator on TTIP has stated that EU countries will continue to be free to decide how they run their public health systems. A letter from the EU trade Commissioner, Celia Malstrom, to the former UK Trade Minister, Lord Livingston, confirming this is published here:

Any investment provisions included in TTIP will strike the appropriate balance between protection for UK investors abroad, and ensuring the Government is not prevented from acting in the public interest in areas such as public health and the NHS.

This partnership would be the largest bilateral trade agreement in the world and would bring significant economic benefits in terms of jobs and growth, with the potential to deliver £10 billion to the UK economy each year.

03 AUG 2015

Bees and Neonicotinoid Emergency Authorisation

A decision has recently been made to grant an emergency authorisation for two neonicotinoids to treat oil seed rape crops.

The Expert Committee on Pesticides recommended that an application for these treatments should be approved, covering no more than 5 per cent of the national crop and only on seeds to be sown this summer and autumn.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has applied the EU's precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids in full, and makes decisions on pesticides only once the regulators are satisfied they are safe to people and the environment. Based on the evidence, it has followed the advice of the Expert Committee and the Defra Chief Scientist that this limited authorisation should be granted to cover areas where crops are at the greatest risk of damage by pests.

The facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an integral feature of precautionary bans. The Committee had recommended rejecting an earlier application because the proposed use was not targeted closely enough at areas in the greatest need, but concluded that this revised application was sufficiently controlled and limited to warrant approval. The UK's approach stands in contrast to other EU countries such as Denmark, which has issued unrestricted emergency authorisations for the same use of neonicotinoids.

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment. I welcome the work the Government has done over the last few years to understand and protect them, most recently through the National Pollinator Strategy. It will contribute fully to the European Commission review of the evidence about the impact of neonicotinoids.

20 JUL 2015

Illegal Puppy Trafficking

I share your concern about this crime, and am grateful to the Dogs Trust for highlighting the issue recently. Responsibility for stopping illegal movement begins in the country where puppies are born, so the Chief Veterinary Officer has written to the authorities in the countries highlighted in its report to remind them of their duties.

A new EU pet travel regulation in force from 29 December 2014 introduced further measures to strengthen enforcement. A new-style passport will be harder to forge, new rules apply when more than five animals are moved together and all EU countries must carry out compliance checks. A 12-week minimum age for rabies vaccination will assist compliance checking and restrict the movement of very young animals.

There is a robust checking regime for pets travelling here. Every pet travelling with its owner on an approved route is checked for compliance with the travel regime and the UK Border Force carries out a wide range of checks on vehicles arriving in the UK.

It is important to recognise that we cannot expect the Government to defeat this problem by itself. As individuals, we need to take care not to fuel demand for these poor creatures by providing a market for the unscrupulous people who exploit them. Government advice is very clear: people who buy a pet are responsible for knowing where it comes from and, if it is found to have been imported illegally, will be held responsible for any necessary quarantine and veterinary fees.

20 JUL 2015

Tax Avoidance

The so-called 'Mayfair loophole' is part of the capital gains system and was agreed by the last Labour Government. It allows private equity firms to treat their profits as capital gains when there is capital at risk.

I welcome the clampdown, announced in the budget, to ensure that fund managers cannot use tax planning to avoid paying the appropriate amount of capital gains tax on "carried interest". It is correct for the Government to treat carried interest as a capital gain, and not income, as it reflects the underlying long term performance of a fund's investments.

Even so, I can assure you that the Government has taken action to increase tax on private equity by raising the rate of capital gains tax from 18 per cent to 28 per cent. This tax increase also means that hedge fund managers no longer pay less tax than their cleaners - a situation the last Labour Government did nothing about in 13 years in office.

Beyond this, the Government is taking other actions to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion of both large companies and individuals. It has led the world on changing international tax rules and is implementing those changes in Britain.

It has also gone further on tackling tax avoidance and evasion than any previous Government, closing more of the loopholes it inherited, and raising £85 billion in compliance activity. In addition, the Chancellor has made clear the Government's commitment to recoup an additional £5 billion by further clamping down on tax avoidance during this Parliament at the same rate as it has for the last 5 years.

20 JUL 2015

2018 World Cup And Russia

I appreciate your concerns with this issue. It is important to note that participation in the World Cup is ultimately a decision for each of the four Home Nations Football Assocations, and not the Government. However, I hope to address the concerns you have raised.

The instability and violence in eastern Ukraine is deeply concerning. It is clear that the conflict has been fuelled by Russia, initially through covert sponsorship of illegal armed separatists and more recently by the active operation of military units of the Russian armed forces on sovereign Ukraine territory. The UK stands behind the Ukrainian Government and people in the face of continued aggression.

I welcome the ceasefire that has been announced between Russia and Ukraine, but there must be a proper peace plan that ensures that Russia respects Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereign rights. The Government position remains that flagrant violation of international law will bring long-term costs for Russia, its economy and its standing in the world.

That is why the UK, EU and other international partners have delivered a careful, calibrated and escalating response to the illegal activity coming from Russia. Recent sanctions make it harder for Russian banks and energy and defence companies to borrow money; prohibit the provision of services for the exploration of shale, deep water and Arctic oil; and widen the ban on dual-use goods such as machinery and computer equipment. The sanctions, alongside falling oil prices, are having a clear impact. Capital flight has increased and Russian access to western financial markets is severely constrained.

14 JUL 2015

Hunting Act Amendments

On Tuesday 14th July the Leader of the House of Commons made a statement to the House of Commons to announce that amendments to the Hunting Act would not be debated and put to a vote at this time. I was disappointed that my colleagues and I were unable to vote on amendments to the Hunting Act. I received a vast amount of correspondence on this issue with a wide spread of opinions expressed.

There has been a lot of misinformation and scaremongering on this subject and it is important to note that these technical amendments would not have lifted the ban on hunting with dogs and, while placing greater trust in farmers and gamekeepers, the controls would have remained more restrictive than those in Scotland.

Having said that, there was a commitment in our manifesto to giving Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time. The people of Britain put the Conservative Party in Government and the people of Redditch elected me as their MP on the back of this manifesto and I hope that over the course of the next five years it can be delivered upon in its entirety.

The unfortunate events surrounding this issue also opened up old wounds on the issue of Scottish MPs voting on English matters, with the case being reinforced for the need for English Votes for English Laws as soon as possible.

08 JUL 2015

Wild Animals In Circuses

The Government remains fully committed to introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses and supported the Private Member's Bill, the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill, published by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.

I hoped that this Bill could make progress before the General Election, but unfortunately this has not been possible owing to a lack of parliamentary time. It would have been wrong to bring the Bill forward out of order, ahead of those sponsored by other Members of Parliament. The Government is, however, committed to introducing a ban in the new Parliament.

Currently, the ban stands to impact on two travelling circuses in England that now operate with only a small number of wild animals. Conditions of the remaining wild animals at both circuses are closely monitored under Defra's interim Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012, through regular announced and unannounced welfare inspections.

06 JUL 2015

Small Cider Producers

Small cider makers are a traditional part of rural economies and their cider is enjoyed by many. The diversity of cider that small producers offer is a key part of what makes British pubs such valued institutions that people across the country enjoy spending time in.

I am glad the UK is discussing reforms with the EU Commission and other Member States to allow Member States to support small cider makers through the duty regime. The Government is also exploring alternatives that could apply and will work with the industry on this. The current duty exemption for small cider producers will be retained until and unless a replacement scheme is established, something I am sure you will join me in welcoming.

01 JUL 2015

Child/Tax Credit

As you are aware, the Government has made a commitment to reduce welfare spending. While it has already set out where some of the savings will come from, such as freezing and capping working age benefits, further details will be given in due course. It is, however, a key element of the Government's reforms to restore fairness to the welfare state and to create clear incentives for people to get into work, ensuring taxpayers that the high claims of the past are no longer possible. The system we inherited was not only unaffordable, but trapped people in poverty and created a culture of entitlement.

I believe that the best route out of poverty is to have more people in work, with higher rates of pay and lower taxes. The household benefit cap already ensures that no out-of-work household can receive more in benefits than the average family earns, while Universal Credit is a vital reform which will ensure that it always pays to work. At the same time, I welcome that the Personal Allowance was increased again in April to £10,600. This means individuals can earn up to this amount without paying any income tax on it and means a typical taxpayer is £825 better off in 2015-16 since 2010. This increase also means that over three million of those on the lowest paid have been taken out of tax altogether.

I am proud that the proportion of workless families, and the proportion of children living in workless families, are both the lowest since records began in 1996. Employment is also at record levels, with nearly 2.3 million more people in private sector jobs than in 2010.

I appreciate your concern about Child Tax Credits. As you are aware, details about the welfare savings have not yet been announced. I welcome, however, that other steps have been taken to help families. The new Tax-Free Childcare scheme will provide 20 per cent support on childcare costs up to £10,000 per year for each child, meaning parents will receive support of up to £2,000 per child per year. The scheme will mean all working parents with children under 12 will be eligible for the scheme from autumn 2015.

I also welcome the Government's commitment to doubling the entitlement of free childcare for 3-4 years old to 30 hours a week during this Parliament. 

01 JUN 2015

Seal Culling

This issue has attracted considerable attention recently, and I appreciate that a number of my constituents are concerned about it. It is lawful to kill a seal if it is deemed to pose a threat to fishing operations, in accordance with the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. I am not aware of any current plans to change this position.

I would very much prefer to see non-lethal means of controlling seals being developed so that culling will no longer be thought necessary. I understand that such methods are already in use, and a representative of a Scottish aquaculture organisation recently stated that seals are only shot as a last resort. Culling though is sometimes necessary to prevent damage to fishing operations.

I was pleased to see news in January that the seal colony on Blakeney Point in Norfolk has seen record growth in recent years, and is thriving. Apparently there was some concern that the population growth there might lead to calls for a cull, but the National Trust, which controls the property, has confirmed that there would be no need for this to be considered.

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Important Message


Stepping down


Redditch has been my home for nearly 20 years and it has been a huge honour to have represented its great people for the past seven.

Sadly due to ill health I have decided not to stand for re-election. There is nothing more important or rewarding than helping people, however I need to be fully fit to be able to undertake the job properly.

I am immensely grateful to all the fantastic people I have met during my time as a Member of Parliament and want to say a huge thank you for all of their support.

Redditch deserves strong and stable leadership. Every vote for Theresa May and your local Conservative, Rachel Maclean, on 8 June will strengthen our hand in negotiations to get the best possible deal for Brexit and beyond, leaving Britain stronger and better off for the future.


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