Further to this letter, I am picking up real concerns about the future from within the youth and early years sectors, including Westminster Council implying that all direct funding may be withdrawn if the Spending Review outcome is as bleak as predicted (although the extent to which Westminster in particular may see any offsetting benefit from the retention of business rates remains to be seen).
As we know, the users of the youth service are disproportionately drawn from the most disadvantaged members of the community, and already face serious challenges- including the implications of living in the area with the highest population density in the country, and with some of the highest costs for leisure, recreation and other activities.
As it is, centres such as the Stowe and Feathers are already working closely with the Gangs unit in helping to respond to the gang/serious youth violence challenge, which may not involve more than a few hundred young people but which is a hugely expensive and complex problem when left unchecked. There is evidence locally and across Westminster that the progress made over the period 200111/2014 may be slipping back and we need to be extremely careful that we keep on tip of the issue- not least because massively reduced neighbourhood police capacity means it is harder to manage on the streets than it was. Youth centres are also an important resource within our diverse and multi-racial borough in helping us tackle extremism.
Prolonged uncertainty over finances and commissioning make it harder to retain safe and exacerbate the stop-start approach to youth work which we know is so profoundly unhelpful.
Could the Council, at the very least, take early action to bring together all the key players in the sector together with officers and business partners to facilitate a more co-ordinated approach to youth services? Leaving everything till after the Spending Review wastes valuable planning weeks.
Thank you very much
Karen Buck MP
Dear Charlie, Further to this letter, I am picking up real concerns about the future from within the youth and early years sectors, including Westminster Council implying that...
I was in Parliament to vote against the Government’s planned cuts to tax credit, which will hit low-paid working people very hard. Although the government claims that increases to the minimum wage and more child care offset the losses, this is not true for huge numbers of workers, as shown by independent experts the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The losers include lone parents working full time on the minimum wage; two parent families where one works full time and the other part time. Altogether, 3 million households stand to lose, with the average loss being £1300 a year.
I was in Parliament to vote against the Government’s planned cuts to tax credit, which will hit low-paid working people very hard. Although the government claims that increases to...
Increasing access to NHS services out of hours is essential if we are to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and provide more community based care. However, the NHS is, at heart, a service built on the commitment and skill of its staff, and it is vital to negotiate changes in staff working arrangements in a constructive way. The proposed new Junior Doctor’s contract has been described as ‘unsafe and unfair’ by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have stated that this could be ‘gravely damaging to the health and wellbeing of children’ and ‘adversely affect recruitment, retention and the morale’ of junior doctors. Here’s my letter and an article by Shadow health Minister Heidi Alexander:
”I believe that the Government’s current approach is completely the wrong way forward and that they should be working with the BMA and junior doctors to find a fair agreement that avoids the threat of industrial action.
Junior doctors are vital to the future of the NHS and it is clear that if we want to move toward a seven-day NHS and improve patient care we need to ensure that the staff we rely on are supported and valued. So it is very worrying indeed that the BMA have described the proposed contract as ‘unsafe and unfair’ and that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have stated that this could be ‘gravely damaging to the health and wellbeing of children’ and ‘adversely affect recruitment, retention and the morale’ of junior doctors.
I also fear that, rather than addressing the real strains that our NHS is currently facing, the Government are punishing staff for their own financial mismanagement of the NHS. We had an unnecessary and very expensive re-organisation in 2012, for example, and agency costs were rocketing at time when our own nurse training places were being cut.
I believe the Health Secretary should now withdraw the threat of imposing a new contract and re-engage in a meaningful dialogue with the BMA and NHS staff. The Government also need to accept that compromise is necessary to reach a fair settlement and come forward with a better deal that ensures patient safety is not put at risk. “
Obviously our Shadow Health Minister is leading on this and I have copied her recent article on it below
Recent reports suggest the government may be backing off under pressure - so let’s keep the pressure up
Increasing access to NHS services out of hours is essential if we are to reduce avoidable hospital admissions and provide more community based care. However, the NHS is, at...
We are all better served by having international trade rules than by not having them but they have to be properly balanced and fair.
TTIP proposals must receive proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level and that any final deal must have transparency and accountability at its heart. I was disappointed that the Coalition Government paid such little attention to these concerns and I believe it is important that the current Government ensures they are covered in the negotiating process.
I support the principles behind the negotiations on TTIP and I believe there are ways the agreement could bring significant benefits to Britain. It is absolutely vital, however, that the benefits of TTIP filter down to employees, small businesses and consumers, that the deal is open and accountable and that it does not water down current labour, consumer, environmental and food safety standards.
There has been particular concern recently about the potential impact of TTIP on consumer safety standards following recent allegations that the car industry withheld a report suggesting safety standards in some US cars are lower than in the EU. I recognise how important these concerns are given the excess deaths caused by air pollution, and in my view we should not be prepared to accept any deal that does not protect consumer safety standards.
I fought the General Election on a manifesto that recognised the potential benefits of TTIP but emphasised that any final agreement needs to ensure that the NHS is protected and that it also promotes decent jobs and avoids ‘a race to the bottom’. Labour MEPs have also made the case strongly in the European Parliament to exclude public services – including our NHS – from TTIP negotiations and to ensure workers’ rights, environmental standards and food safety standards are protected.
The Government must listen and respond to these concerns. I can assure you that I will continue to work with my colleagues to press the Government to ensure that TTIP delivers the jobs, growth and fairer deal for consumers.
We are all better served by having international trade rules than by not having them but they have to be properly balanced and fair. TTIP proposals must receive proper scrutiny...
11 million people have fled their homes as a result of the Syrian civil war- the vast majority are sheltering elsewhere in that shattered country, or in Turkey (2 million), Lebanon (1.1 million), Jordan (650,000) and Iraq (250,000). This year, around 500,000 have entered Europe, 400,000 of them via Greece. In addition, refugees continue to flee conflict and vicious repression in Afghanistan and Eritrea, amongst others, and separately, poverty and state failure are also driving migration from parts of Africa and the Indian Sub-continent. The crisis in the Mediterranean- where an estimated 2,600 people have drowned this year attempting to cross both from Libya and from Turkey- demonstrates the appalling risks facing people who see no safe or legal means to claim asylum.
The UN refugee agency says a loss of hope and appalling living conditions are major factors behind the recent spike in the number of Syrian refugees from the region seeking asylum in Europe. Last month, David Cameron was forced to back down and accept 20,000 Syrians over the next 5 years, having admitted fewer than a hundred through an earlier scheme. This is welcome but insufficient and more must be done. However, it also right that that we should be supporting refugees close to home wherever possible, and play our full part in a wider response which includes proper facilities for processing applicants arriving in countries like Greece. Individual claims have to be swiftly and properly assessed so that refugees from war and persecution get the help they need, while those seeking to travel to Europe for work are discouraged from making the dangerous journey, and the people trafficking gangs that exploit this desperation are tackled effectively. The distinction between refugees fleeing war or persecution and those wanting a chance to build a decent life is not always as clear cut as everyone would like, but there is a difference and policy approaches to the two issues are therefore different.
Ultimately, solutions lie in ending conflicts such as the hideous civil war, minimising the impact of other factors in migration such as climate change and poverty. Neither are easy, to say the least- 14 years after the campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda began in Afghanistan, fighting continues and refugees continue to leave- yet conflicts do end and global poverty has been reduced. There is an urgent need to put new life into a Syrian peace initiative, including safe havens for Syrians within the country’s borders. ISIL is a vile organisation that the world cannot ignore. But air strikes against ISIL , in the absence of a much broader approach to Syria will fail to deal with the wider problem, not least since most refugees are fleeing Assad, not ISIL. In the last few days, of course, the dramatic scale of the Russian intervention seems to have set back any early hopes of creating safe havens backed by ‘no-fly zones’ and the situation is changing almost by the hour. This is bad news, but it doesn’t change the essence of what we need.
We need effective action to tackle ISIL/ Daesh, the creation of Safe Zones in Syria to shelter those who have had to flee their homes; the referral of suspected war crimes to the International Criminal Court; increased humanitarian aid to those who have fled to neighbouring states; an international agreement for countries to welcome their share of Syrian refugees; and a major international effort bringing together Russia, Iran, Gulf and neighbouring states, the United States of America and Europe to agree a post-civil war plan for Syria.
11 million people have fled their homes as a result of the Syrian civil war- the vast majority are sheltering elsewhere in that shattered country, or in Turkey (2 million),...
I wish everyone a happy Shana Tova and all the best for the New Year.
Karen Buck MP
I wish everyone a happy Shana Tova and all the best for the New Year. Karen Buck MP Read more
There cannot, of course, be any response which satisfies the deeply and strongly held convictions of people on both sides of this contentious debate. Whilst having deep sympathy with the desire to end intolerable pain and suffering; and to respect the wish of adults to take crucial decisions about their own lives, I remain worried about the safeguards for preventing abuse.
My instinctive position has been towards leaving matters as they stand, with the judicial system determining whether or not individuals who have taken steps to assist others in ending their lives should face prosecution.
And yet…. the Bill brought forward by Rob Marris does seem very well balanced.
As he says:
The Bill has a clear process, with multiple safeguards. It covers:
1. A patient who is “terminally ill”; i.e. life expectancy of less than 6 months. (Hence those with disabilities, however serious, are not covered unless they also have a terminal illness.)
2. The patient must be aged 18 or over.
3. The patient must have been ordinarily resident in England or Wales for at least one year.
4. The patient must be of sound mind. (Hence dementia patients for example are not covered)
5. The patient voluntarily (i.e. not coerced) signs a declaration that they wish to end their own life.
6. The patient’s own doctor counter-signs the declaration that the patient is terminally ill and of sound mind and acting voluntarily.
7. An independent specialist doctor counter-signs the declaration that the patient is terminally ill and of sound mind and acting voluntarily.
8. If a doctor has a conscientious objection to any of this, then he or she does not have to participate in any way.
9. Upon the application of the patient, a High Court judge agrees that the patient is terminally ill and of sound mind and acting voluntarily.
10. After the court order, there is a 14 day cooling off period.
11. After that cooling off period, the doctor takes the medicine to the patient, and waits there.
12. The patient must choose: to take the medicine themselves, or to change their mind and not take it.
13. NOTE: the medicine is self-administered by the patient, and by no-one else – not by any third party (e.g. not the doctor, not the spouse).
14. If the patient decides not to take the medicine, the doctor leaves and takes the medicine away – i.e. the medicine is not left with the patient.
15. The Chief Medical Officers must monitor the operation of the Act and submit an annual report which must be laid before Parliament/the Welsh Assembly.
16. The Bill does not cover Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Of course, prescribing that that the patient acts voluntarily and without coercion remains the nub of the matter- it is easy to state, less easy to ensure in practice. However, the number of safeguards built in to the procedure should act as a robust check against abuse, and ultimately, it comes down to a choice between two unpalatable risks: the risk of coercion on the one hand, and that of denying adults in sound mind the choice to make this most fundamental decision of all in the face of a terminal illness and imminent death.
I have not yet made a final decision and am continuing to study the details of the Bill and to consider the views of constituents but at this stage I am minded to support it.
Thank you again for your views
There cannot, of course, be any response which satisfies the deeply and strongly held convictions of people on both sides of this contentious debate. Whilst having deep sympathy with the...
Thank you for contacting me with regard to illegal and unsustainable timber and the related WWF UK campaign.
I appreciate your concern about this important issue and I know that organisations including WWF UK have called for stronger action to ensure the timber market is more sustainable.
The previous Labour Government had a strong record on the environment and climate change and was one of the first countries to place an obligation on Government bodies to purchase legal and sustainable timber. The previous Labour Government was also a strong supporter of additional legislation within the EU for a ban on illegally logged timber and was actively involved in developing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) between the EU and timber producing countries. VPAs aim to help stop illegal logging by driving improvements in the regulation and governance of the forest sector.
As I am sure you are aware, the EU Timber Regulation came into force in 2013 and prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market for the first time. During the last Parliament, the Coalition Agreement believed the EU regulation, combined with the VPA process, was sufficient to help eradicate illegal timber from the UK market and support global efforts to tackle illegal logging and deforestation. However, as you know, the regulation only applies to timber when it is placed on the market and if illegal timber is already on the EU market, it is legal to buy or sell it.
It is important therefore that the EU look at this issue and any further action that is needed. Indeed, the European Commission recently held a consultation on the effectiveness of the EU Timber Regulation, which closed on 3 July and a report will be submitted to the European Parliament in December. The current Government state it has recommended the scope of the EU Timber Regulation should be increased to cover a wider range of timber and timber products. I believe we must await the outcome of the European Commission's review and the Government's response but I hope the UK Government will press for improved implementation of the EU Timber Regulation across the EU.
I have already signed Early Day Motion 65 as I believe a global agreement is needed to halt biodiversity loss and protect the world's remaining forests and I can assure you I will press the Government to push for strong international action to tackle the trade in illegal and unsustainable timber and end deforestation.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.
Karen Buck MP
Thank you for contacting me with regard to illegal and unsustainable timber and the related WWF UK campaign. I appreciate your concern about this important issue and I know that...
Thank you for contacting me with regard to ending violence against women and girls.
I share your deep concern about this extremely important issue and I agree it is vital that the international community redouble efforts to tackle and eradicate violence against women and girls. Indeed, Action Aid emphasise that one in three women will experience violence at some point in their lives and that this remains one of the most widespread human rights abuses.
I believe that the UK Government should continue to play a central role in international efforts to address this and push for the inclusion of a clear target in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls around the world.
As I am sure you are aware the UN Open Working Group has included a target (no. 5.2) in their draft SDGs to achieve this. I know has been welcomed by aid organisations including Action Aid and I hope that this target – and the wider goal to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ – will remain in the final SDGs when they are agreed in September. The UK Government have also recently stated that they will push for this goal to be retained in the final SDGs.
I know that Action Aid have also called for adequate financing to be put in place to ensure this goal can be achieved. I agree this is important and believe that, more broadly, the final SDGs should be bold, ambitious and inspiring so that they rise to key challenges such as universal health coverage, human rights and climate change.
As well as tackling violence against women and girls in developing countries, I believe we need to do more to more to address this issue at home. Indeed, two women a week in the UK are killed by a current or former male partner and at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence.
I believe the Government need to do more on this, and that is why I fought the last General Election on a manifesto that included plans for a Violence against Women and Girls Bill, to appoint a commissioner to set minimum standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence and to provide more stable central funding for women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres.
I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue closely and support steps to tackle and eradicate violence against women and girls in the UK and worldwide.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.
Karen Buck MP
Thank you for contacting me with regard to ending violence against women and girls. I share your deep concern about this extremely important issue and I agree it is vital...