Grenfell Tower: The Fire Safety Bill
The fire at Grenfell was a tragedy and we owe it to the victims to make sure it never happens again. I fully realise that people are eager to see changes to fire safety legislation – as am I – and for these reforms to happen quickly.
I have been following this important legislation and I am aware of amendments to the Bill prohibiting the passing of remediation costs on to leaseholders and tenants. I entirely support the intention of an amendment to protect leaseholders. However, for a number of reasons, I do not support the amendment itself.
Most importantly, this Bill is not the correct place for remediation costs to be addressed. The Government has already committed that it will provide an update regarding remediation costs before the Building Safety Bill returns to Parliament. In addition, work is currently underway with leaseholders and the financial sector to identify financing solutions that protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs while ensuring that the cost does not fall entirely on taxpayers. I hope we can agree that it is important not to interrupt these discussions. Therefore, I fear this particular amendment could lead to unnecessary confusion.
It is the Government's clearly stated intention to follow through on the recommendations of phase one of the Grenfell fire inquiry and this Bill is part of that process.
The Fire Safety Bill sets the foundation for implementing the recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which we all want to see set in law. I am glad that the Bill has now progressed in Parliament, paving the way for more accountability from building owners and enforcement from fire and rescue authorities to hold irresponsible owners to account. I am determined to see the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations implemented swiftly and without delay and I will continue to raise concerns from my constituents in Parliament at every opportunity.
The Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
I understand that nuclear weapons are a highly emotive topic which attract a significant amount of attention. While I am aware the Government does not intend to sign, ratify or become party to the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, I do want to reassure you that the UK is committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
I firmly believe that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament, negotiated using a step-by-step approach, provided for under the NPT. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would threaten this ambition by comprehensively prohibiting participation in development, testing, production, acquisition, possession and storage of nuclear weapons. Given the unpredictable security environment we face, such a move would undoubtedly threaten our national security, and the collective security of our NATO allies.
The NPT, on the other hand, puts in place the structures to further the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last 50 years, it has minimised the proliferation of nuclear weapons, provided the framework to enable significant levels of nuclear disarmament and allowed states to develop secure and safe, peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It has also played a crucial role in providing the basis for discussions with Iran and DPRK.
While I understand this is not the answer you were hoping to receive, I do want to stress that the Government has made significant progress in nuclear disarmament. The UK is the only country to have reduced its deterrent capability to a single nuclear weapon system and has reduced the requirement for its operationally available warheads.
Asylum Conditions: Napier & Penally Barracks
I understand you have concerns regarding the conditions of these facilities. I know that the Government takes the welfare of people in Home Office care extremely seriously and is fulfilling statutory duties to ensure decent, safe and humane conditions. As you will be aware, the Home Office is required by law to provide asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute with accommodation, paid for by the taxpayer.
Since March, the number of people within the asylum system has risen. This is due to the fact that the Government temporarily ceased ending asylum support for those whose claims have been granted or refused. This was necessary to help stop the spread of coronavirus and ensure they are able to follow social distancing guidelines. It has therefore been necessary for the Government to act quickly to source contingency accommodation to create additional capacity and ensure obligations are met in full.
After looking into this, I have been reassured that those accommodated at these sites have access to appropriate medical care, are provided three meals a day, and have access to the 24/7 Migrant Help helpline to raise any issues.
I will continue to monitor the situation very closely. However, I welcome the action taken by the Government to ensure the UK continues to meet its obligations and commitments to the most vulnerable people. This is of course in the context of unprecedented domestic challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation
I know the Government is committed to protecting those selling sex from harm and enabling the police to target those who exploit vulnerable people involved in prostitution. It is also very important to ensure those who want to leave prostitution are given every opportunity to find routes out.
I am aware that there are different approaches to prostitution around the world, including New Zealand and in Scandinavia, as well as recent legislative developments in Northern Ireland. In addition, a Sexual Exploitation Bill was recently introduced in the House of Commons by Labour MP, Dame Diana Johnson. The Bill seeks to criminalise paying for sex and decriminalise selling sex.
I understand the Home Office has not yet seen unequivocal evidence that any one approach is better at tackling harm and exploitation. I welcome the fact that the law around prostitution in England and Wales focuses on tackling harm and exploitation caused to those involved.
Ministers have assured me that they continue to meet and engage with experts, academics, the police and those who sell sex themselves to further their understanding on the issues around prostitution and this is all the more important during the Coronavirus outbreak. I will continue to press the Government to ensure those affected by the outbreak have access to the support they need.
Criminalising Trespass: The Benefits of Walking in Nature
I know the value so many people here in South Cambridgeshire place on access to the countryside. I would like to reassure you that the measures under consideration would not affect ramblers, the right to roam or rights of way. Instead, the new proposed measures could be applied in specific circumstances relating to trespass with intent to reside.
As you may be aware, the Government is consulting on measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales. Ministers are also consulting on other measures to strengthen police powers in order to tackle unauthorised encampments. The consultation survey has now closed, and Ministers are currently analysing feedback. I, like you, await the Government's response and look forward to scrutinising any decisions that are taken.
I am enthusiastic about promoting recreation in the countryside and understand the benefits outdoor activities can produce both physically and mentally. Our countryside is of great importance and it cannot be understated just how much the scenery means to people. I am therefore encouraged by Government action to ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations, including our wonderful countryside.
I support the Government's strong track record on access to the countryside. For example, it has enabled the establishment of a 2,700-mile path around the entire English coastline, meaning walkers will be able to enjoy, explore and experience some of our finest and most important cultural and natural heritage – from the white cliffs of Dover, to the industrial heritage of the North East. When completed, I know that the England Coast Path will be the longest continuous coastal walking route in the world. Furthermore, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to protecting 30 per cent of the UK’s land by 2030. This means an additional 400,000 hectares, the size of the Lake District and South Downs national parks combined, will be protected to support the recovery of nature.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
The response I am looking for is not here
We do endeavour to publish responses to campaign emails and national policy queries in good time, but sometimes a change in circumstance may cause a short delay. We also review our policy responses at the end of each month, so please do check back then for a further update.
If your query relates to a matter previously covered, please do check our 2020 archive by clicking here or using the links in the sidebar to the left.