Karen Buck MP

Working tirelessly for Westminster North

Karen Buck MP

Recent Activity

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I share constituents concerns about the welfare of cats that are bought and sold and about the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices on the welfare of cats.


I believe it is vital that all breeders follow the high animal welfare standards enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) 2006, introduced by the previous Labour Government. The AWA, for the first time, embedded in statute clear standards relating to the welfare of animals. This Act makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring the welfare needs of their animals are met and makes it an offence to cause unnecessary physical or mental suffering to animals, including cats. Under this Act, breeders of cats may be investigated by local authorities where there are welfare concerns. It is also the case that a business that sells cats, unless it falls within certain exemptions, needs a licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951. Local authorities have powers of inspection of pet shop premises.

However, I appreciate that while there is distinct legislation for breeding and for selling in the case of dogs, there is no equivalent legislation that regulates the breeding of cats. I agree that irresponsible breeding is a growing problem and I believe poor breeding practices contribute greatly to the number of abandoned animals rescue centres have to deal with.

At the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to improve protection of dogs and cats and my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are currently reviewing inadequate regulations on the breeding and sale of dogs and cats and are committed to ensure that animal welfare standards can be applied to modern trading practices such as online trade.

The Opposition will look to improve standards on the sale of kittens. The evidence shows kittens should not be sold under 8 weeks of age, and as with dogs, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are looking to see if requiring the kitten to be sold with its mother present will enable new owners to see the wellbeing of the mother. This would be one way of ensuring cats being bred are in good health and are not experiencing consequences of over breeding, like prolapse. The Opposition is also looking at how enforcement could be brought to the number of litters a cat has in any given year. I note the call for all cats to be microchipped, which has been introduced for dogs from April 2016. If this scheme delivers the desired outcome, I believe we should look at how this could be extended to other animals.

As you know, the current Government is reviewing animal establishments licensing in England and is looking at the Pet Animals Act 1951 with a view to updating the laws on the breeding and selling of pet animals. I welcome this review.

The Government has proposed creating a single "animal establishment licence" for dog breeding, animal boarding, riding establishments and pet shops. The Government has said that the law will be clear that online and home-based businesses must also be licensed and plans to update the legal requirements for each licensed activity. The Government consulted on this from December 2015 to March 2016 and in September 2016, published a summary of the responses it had received. The Government has said that over the next few months, regulations will be drafted regarding the specific proposals, which will take into account the views expressed in the consultation.

While the consultation included several proposals on standards around the sale of puppies, I understand that Cats Protection made a submission to the consultation and I hope the Government will carefully consider the charity's views when setting out its response. I also note that the Government has recently indicated that it will be looking, as part of the current licensing review, to make it a requirement that both puppies and kittens should not be sold if they are under 8 weeks of age. I am following developments on this closely.

I will certainly continue to support the improved protection of cats and press for the highest possible standards of animal welfare.

Animal welfare - protecting puppies and kittens

I share constituents concerns about the welfare of cats that are bought and sold and about the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices on the welfare of cats. I believe...

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The NHS is now experiencing the worse financial squeeze in its history, facing on present trends, a shortfall of £20bn by 2020-21.  We also now know that the money committed by the government for the NHS is less than was promised (and, of course, the ‘£350m a week for the NHS’ supposedly to be re-directed from our EU contributions post-Brexit was an outright untruth). NHS finances have been looked into in detail by the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, and I have copied details of their most recent findings at the bottom of this letter.

At my most recent meeting with our local hospital trust, Imperial. I learned that their 2016/7 deficit is projected to reach £52m, and in addition, they must find £54m in ‘Cost Improvements’. Our local Clinical Commissioning Groups are deemed to be ‘over-funded’ and will see their budgets fall by 10% over the funding period. Cuts to the community pharmacy budget could lead to many closing. At the same time, local councils, which have faced cuts of up to 50%, have been forced to slash spending on social care- the home and community based services which can help patients be safely be discharged from hospital or even prevent them from having to go in the first place. And all the while needs are rising, primarily, though not entirely, as our population ages.

As you may know, our health services are part of the North West London region, whose structure has been under consideration for some time as part of a process known as “Shaping a healthier future”. This strategic approach is intended to promote better integration of care and the reshaping of the health and social services to increase specialisms in some areas, and build up primary and community care outside hospital. This was the underlying philosophy of the Darzi review under the last Labour government, which envisaged a big expansion of diagnostic and treatment facilities at a more local level, and those ideas to some extent fed in to the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ plans we now have before us. There is much that is sound and sensible about the approach. The concentration of London’s stroke services into a smaller number of highly specialist units, for example, has definitely saved lives and led to better outcomes, whilst offering some services that currently need a trip to hospital in an expanded GP surgery is more convenient for patients. It is, in my view, important not to lose sight of this agenda- to accept that not all changes are bad, that the NHS needs to innovate, that funding will never be unlimited, and choices do have to be made.

Yet when these plans were first being drawn up, the financial situation was very different from what it is today. Now we know that necessary improvements have to be funded at a time of unprecedented financial pressure. ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ for NW London (now effectively turning into our local Sustainability and Transformation Plan) envisaged the closure of a number of Accident and Emergency units even though demand is rising, and alternative community based services are not yet fully developed and tested. Meanwhile, the Better Care Fund, which is shifting some money from hospitals to the community, has also had to plug holes made by cuts in Westminster Council support for social care. We saw all this before, when long-stay hospitals closed in the 1980s without adequate ‘care in the community’ being available- the essence of a good idea undermined in practice. And even though we don’t (thankfully) face the prospect of losing our Accident and Emergency unit at St Mary’s, there are many other risks arising from a full blown financial crisis.

The NHS does need to continue to change- developments in treatment and changes in the population make that essential- but it will struggle massively without considerable extra investment, not only in acute/hospital services but in primary, community, social and mental health care services.  We also need to ramp up measures to prevent illness and promote well-being- from tackling air pollution and obesity to better mental health interventions, and give urgent priority to reducing health inequalities.  So it is particularly shocking that the public health budget has been raided to offset the funding crisis in the clinical sector, and that council services which play a valuable prevention role (youth, play, advice) have been reduced so dramatically and poverty and homelessness are rising again. The NHS has never existed in isolation from the wider social and economic context.

So I will continue to make the case and my colleagues and I will hold the present government to account- on funding, on the re-organisation, and on other policies impacting on health. Sadly, it is they who determine both funding and policies, but it is important that we expose their record and I am grateful for constituents willingness to join this campaign.

Funding crisis in the NHS

The NHS is now experiencing the worse financial squeeze in its history, facing on present trends, a shortfall of £20bn by 2020-21.  We also now know that the money committed...

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The Europe debate has taken an extremely disturbing turn in the last few days, and the first thing to say is that there is an urgent need to try and ensure the rhetoric is dialled down. Politics has been conducted in a particularly highly charged atmosphere since the beginning of the referendum campaign, and whilst it would be wrong to link any specific event to this, it is surely no coincidence that hate crimes have risen sharply since the spring. Inflammatory language, whether used by politicians, the press or on social media, has consequences and we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves calmly.

The High Court judgement  recently, represented in some quarters as an attempt to ‘reverse Brexit by undemocratic means’ is, of course, no such thing. As the judgment itself makes clear, the case was not about ‘the merits or demerits of leaving the EU…which is a political matter….but whether the Government is entitled to give notice of the decision to leave the EU under Article 50 by exercise of the Crown’s prerogative powers and without reference to Parliament’.

Whether or not this position is right (I believe it to be so) or whether it is reversed on appeal, it is absolutely right that we all robustly defend the independence of our judges. They are not, and should not be, immune from criticism, but headlines screaming that judges asserting the role of Parliament are ‘enemies of the people’ are both disgraceful and dangerous.

On the substance of Brexit itself, I was amongst the many millions bitterly disappointed by the result, and the last few months have only served to confirm the risks for our country; to say nothing of the extent to which lies put forward by some parts of the ‘Leave’ campaign have been exposed. It is now clear that the ‘Leavers’ have no plan for the country, and that we face the possibility of an extremely damaging ‘hard Brexit’ --which was by no means what most ‘leave’ voters thought they were endorsing.

It would be wholly irresponsible of Parliament not to do its best to mitigate the negative consequences of Brexit, and not to fight for the best outcome for London and the rest of the UK. We need to have a clear idea of what the Government’s preferred options for the UK’s relationship with the rest of the EU are before Article 50 is triggered and the nation is locked into the inflexible 2 year exit period. The ‘leave’ campaign promised that quitting the EU would make us richer, safer and happier. It’s now up to them to demonstrate how they will make it so.

There is a world of difference between ‘thwarting the expressed will of the people’, which would clearly be wrong, and seeking a constructive way of implementing the referendum decision that takes into account the long-term interests of all the British people – both ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’.

I appreciate that the result of the referendum has raised uncertainty over the future rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK, and of UK nationals in the EU, particularly following comments made by Government Ministers which have suggested that this matter will form part of the EU-UK negotiations. This issue has been raised on a number of occasions with the Government in the House of Commons. On 6 July the Opposition put forward a motion calling on the Government to commit with urgency to giving EU nationals currently living in the UK the right to remain. I supported this motion and I am pleased that it passed overwhelmingly. The Government must now accept the decision of the House of Commons, end the uncertainty and confirm the legal status of EU nationals without delay.

My further response to Brexit

The Europe debate has taken an extremely disturbing turn in the last few days, and the first thing to say is that there is an urgent need to try and...


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