Campaign groups like 38 degrees often organise e-mail write-in campaigns to MPs. Bim welcomes these campaigns as they give him a sense of what his constituents care about. However, due to the capacity they take time to retrieve, compile and reply to them. So, here is a list of replied to the Frequently Asked E-Mail Questions which constituents can refer to.
I therefore support continuing to use locally agreed, voluntary agreements to increase river access for walkers, swimmers and non-powered craft. The rights of other users, as well as protection for wildlife and the environment, are important considerations. These sensitive issues can best be dealt with at a local level rather than through a one size fits all approach decided in Westminster.
I fully support this Government’s aim to make this the first generation which leaves the environment in a better state than we found it. I’m encouraged that the Government has improved more than 5,300 miles of rivers since 2010. This means our water environment is in the healthiest state for 25 years with otters, salmon, sea trout and other wildlife returning to many rivers for the first time since the industrial revolution. While we still have a way to go in keeping our rivers clean, I’m encouraged that we are moving in the right direction.
We need to set out a pathway to Net Zero to get us on track to meet it – one of the most fundamental tasks of this Government will be to design an economy with much less reliance on fossil fuels, whilst also making our country more prosperous over the long term, and in a sustainable way. I’m encouraged that the Government has committed to doing this and that the Treasury Net Zero Review is underway.
The Committee on Climate Change has already made several recommendations for what should be included in the pathway to bridge the current policy gaps. I have also put forward some suggestions of my own. In 2019 I hosted my inaugural Net Zero by 2050: A Policy Response conference which focused on bringing climate change to the heart of the political agenda. Together with academics, experts and local constituents, we produced three lists of policy aims – one list for local Government over the short term, one list for the Government over the longer term, and one list for local Government and civic society in a “community like ours”. I discussed the conference with the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, and they have been put to his senior civil servants for official consideration. I’m pleased that a number of our proposed solutions align closely with the policies implemented in the Environment Bill, presented to Parliament before the General Election.
Protecting our climate and environment is a priority for me, and I pledge that I will continue to push for a greener world in Parliament.
This is why I am pleased that £263 million was announced in December for 2020-21 to help local authorities tackle homelessness in our communities. Between 2010 and mid-2018, there have been over 1.6 million cases of homelessness prevention and relief across England. Whilst this is welcome progress, I recognise that there is much more to be done, which is why I am glad that over £400 million in additional funding was announced this September toward tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.
I welcome the launch of a new £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers. A recent study showed that in 2018 alone, the Rough Sleeping Initiative helped reduce the number of rough sleepers by over a third in funded areas. The Initiative complements the £28 million Housing First pilots which are supporting the most entrenched rough sleepers off the streets by providing them with stable accommodation and intensive wrap-around support. Furthermore, I am glad that the Homelessness Reduction Act requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of homelessness.
I am confident that these measures will reduce homelessness not only in Hitchin and Harpenden, but across our country and help to achieve the aim of ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.
The Government believes that overseas visitors should be able to access our wonderful NHS. However, it is important that the NHS remains free at the point of need in this country. This charge was brought in to make the system better and fairer by ensuring that temporary users of the NHS, from outside the EEA, contribute to the running of the NHS.
I would like to stress that the IHS applies to those living in the UK temporarily. Those with indefinite leave to remain and vulnerable groups, including asylum seekers and refugees, are exempt from the charge. I believe that it is only right that people who come to the UK for more than six months should contribute to the running of the NHS.
After a review of the evidence, the annual surcharge will now cost £400 per annum, with a discounted rate of £300pa for students (and their dependants) and Youth Mobility Scheme applicants. This proposed amount is still below the full average cost recovery level, which is calculated at £470. This increase still offers access to far more comprehensive services at a lower cost than some of our main competitor countries.
Although some non-EEA nursing staff will be paying tax and national insurance contributions, this financial contribution to the NHS will still not equate to that which most UK nationals and permanent residents have made or will make, over the course of their working lives.
I welcome the Government’s efforts to tackle air pollution. The Government has set a target for ultra-low emission cars and vans being effectively zero emission by 2040. Ministers have also pledged to shortly carry out a consultation to consider the earliest feasible date that the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars can be phased out.
I’m also encouraged by the Clean Air Fund of £220 million. This will allow local authorities in England to help individuals and businesses adapt to new air quality improvement measures. There are a range of options local authorities could consider utilising this money, such as new park and ride services, freight consolidation centres, concessionary travel schemes and improvements to bus fleets, have been set out.
Ameliorating the air quality in Hitchin and Harpenden matters to me a lot. This is why I launched a campaign in 2019 to encourage the implementation of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) around all the schools in the constituency. I wrote to every teaching urging them to do so and having returned back to Parliament, I will continue to do so.
A significant number of UK workers in the creative industries regularly travel for work in the EU, and similarly there are creative workers in the UK who are from other EU countries. Movement into and out of the UK for the purpose of short-term engagement, such as orchestral performances, touring and festivals will continue to be important after the UK has left the EU. I know that the Government wants to ensure the creative sector remains a key part of our economy and the UK’s world-class arts and cultural organisations continue to flourish. The Government will announce the details of the UK’s future immigration system early next year.
My colleagues and I fully recognise that international collaboration plays a vital part in the contribution that the creative industries make to the UK’s rich culture and economy. The future system will work in the best interests of the whole of the UK, including that of the creative sector.
I know the Government fully recognises the importance of tackling online harms, including harmful content to children on the Internet. That is why the Online Harms White Paper, jointly published by the Home Office and DCMS in April 2019, sets out plans for world-leading legislation in this area.
As championed by the NSPCC, the Bill will establish a new duty of care on companies towards their users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator. This will make companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users and tackle harm caused by content or activity on their services. The regulator will have a suite of powers to take effective enforcement action against companies that have breached their statutory duty of care. The regulator will take a risk-based approach, prioritising action to tackle activity or content where there is the greatest evidence or threat of harm, or where children or other vulnerable users are at risk.
I also welcome that, as set out in the Online Harms White Paper, the Government will be developing an online media literacy strategy. This strategy will lead to a coordinated and strategic approach to online media literacy education and awareness for children, young people and adults. Online media and digital literacy can equip users with the skills they need to spot dangers online, critically appraise information and take steps to keep themselves and others safe online.
I strongly believe that we need to do all we can to help the world’s most vulnerable people. I agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury who said that the resettlement of thousands of vulnerable refugees over the last four years is something the UK can be proud of. In 2018, the UK received over 3,000 asylum claims from unaccompanied children making the UK the third-highest recipient in Europe. Between September 2018 and September 2019, 6,035 family reunion visas were issued to children and partners of those granted humanitarian protection or refugee protection in our country. The Government is already very much committed to family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This will not change.
In fact, Clause 37 has been tabled to clarify the role of Government and Parliament in negotiations. In short, the clause removes the statutory requirement to negotiate, and would require the Government to lay a statement before Parliament on its policy regarding arrangements for future family reunification for unaccompanied children between the UK and the EU. A statutory obligation to negotiate with the EU does not itself lead to an agreement. This change will enable full flexibility during negotiations and continued family reunification of vulnerable children remains a Government priority. The protection of refugees deserves its own place in our democracy.
It is because of this that I believe that the Dubs Amendment was politically motivated; tabled with the knowledge that the Government could not accept Amendments for areas not directly related to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. It would be very unwise to set a precedent for any Amendment to be permitted which is unrelated to the core function of the Bill. Legislation needs to be coherent and logical.
I continue to be very concerned by the refugee crisis. The UK’s charities also play a huge part in providing support for refugees around the world. One such charity is Humanitas based in Hitchin which has had huge impact, especially to support women and children. If you are interested in their work locally and abroad I would encourage you to visit their website.