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Current Issues

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A number of my constituents have subscribed to e-campaigning websites which produce regular automated campaign emails to MPs.  I always seek to provide replies to personal communications, but a number of my constituents suggested that, rather than sending individual and formal responses to e-lobbying and for the purposes of speed, I should make my own observations available electronically - a suggestion I have decided to adopt.  As such you can find my responses to many of these campaigns, here.


While I have myself consistently voted against any relaxation of the abortion laws during my forty years in the House of Commons I am not at present, as a Deputy Speaker, able to speak or vote upon legislation in respect of this matter. I have however taken the opportunity to make my own views privately known to Ministers.

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The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, of which I am a Patron, will be making a
comprehensive submission in respect of these issues in good time for consideration for the Party's next General Election manifesto.

I am currently acting as a Deputy Speaker in the House and I am therefore not permitted to take part in debates in the House.   You may be sure that many of my colleagues will be taking an interest in these matters.

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I was heavily involved in discussions surrounding the original Dangerous Dogs legislation having worked with lawyers to seek protection for Dempsey and other `Pit Bull Type` terriers.

The issue of XL Bully dogs is complex. First, there is no clear definition of what constitutes an `XL Bully Dog` which is not a breed in its own right. Second there is the adage that `there are no bad dogs – only bad owners` which as a generality is true.

The sad fact is that `XL` dogs are too frequently acquired by young men who do not know how to handle and /or mistreat them and that can lead to animals that are out of control and potentially vicious.

The government clearly has a duty to try to prevent further horrific attacks and deaths of the kind that have been witnessed recently. There is no easy solution but I have come to the conclusion that, while not in favour of yet more bureaucracy, the creation of  a canine register might be a better long-term answer  than the proposal  to `extend the Dangerous Dogs Act` (itself a deeply flawed piece of legislation) to embrace as yet undefined non-breeds that is currently under consideration. We need a considered response not a knee-jerk reaction to the problem and I have written accordingly to the Secretary of State to express my reservations about her Department’s proposals.

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I fully appreciate the desire on the part of some to further amend and strengthen the Hunting Act (2004) which was, to say the least, an imperfect piece of legislation.

I yield to nobody in my commitment to seek an end to the hunting of wild animals with dogs: in the early days I was one of very few Conservative Members of Parliament (in the blessed company of the late Sir David Amess and the late Sir Teddy Taylor) who were prepared to voice antihunt opinions. The legislation introduced under Blair's Government, which in the view of many did not go far enough, at least managed to achieve a passage through both Houses of Parliament and I was honoured to receive the RSPCA's Richard Martin award in respect of my endeavours to support that legislation.

All that said I also understand the desire to further inhibit the unwelcome aspects of trail and drag hunting.

I now have to offer a word of caution: while all those of us on our side of the fence would like to see more robust legislation the fact remains that very many hours of Parliamentary time were devoted to this Act and there is a very considerable danger — because legislation is a two way traffic — that attempts to amend the Act might lead not only to possible improvements but far more probably to attempts on the part of those who wish to continue to pursue hunting to further dilute the legislation and I am sure that that is not the desired intention! I would say to you, therefore, "yes we must continue to monitor and pursue this matter — but we must do so with very considerable caution".

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I have already issued the statement below which sets out my position fairly clearly. Since then, however, the situation — both in Gaza and domestically politically — has moved on and I believe that both the Opposition amendment and the Government's amendment are an improvement on the SNP motion on the order paper and in part at least reflect the sentiments that I had already expressed myself. There is no realistic prospect of a unilateral ceasefire being achieved and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

 That does not mean that we cannot or should not be allowed to mean that we may not strive for a pause in the hostilities to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and hostages held by Hamas — those that may still be alive or their bodies — to be released.

 While serving as a Deputy Speaker I am not permitted to vote and shall not do so but I believe that my constituents have a right to know both where I stand and that I have made my own views known to the Government at an appropriate high level - which is the quid pro quo for, as a Deputy Speaker, not voting.

Notwithstanding the appalling scenes in the House of Commons recently I am hopeful that the matter will be revisited on the floor of the House and a substantive and significant message sent in respect of the situation in Gaza in the immediate future.

STATEMENT: “On Wednesday 21st February parliament will vote on whether or not to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza” say some of the emails that I have received. 

I know of no decent person that would not wish to see a full and final cessation of the hostilities in the Middle East but that is not what the motion and its supporters are calling for.  They are seeking a unilateral ceasefire by the Israeli Defence Force. They know that that is not achievable. Whether intentionally or otherwise they are engaging in futile gesture politics of a kind of which I would not wish to be a part. 

 A true ceasefire will require that both Hamas and the IDF lay down their arms and recant their proclaimed determination to destroy each other.  It will also need to be conducted under clear but quite complex United Nations rules. I believe that the statements, which I wholeheartedly endorse, made by the King of Jordan and by our own Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, point towards the right and probably the only way forward.

I spent some time, last week, in personal discussion with the President of Cyprus and colleagues, exploring the possibility of sending humanitarian aid – food, shelter and medical support – directly into Gaza from the port of Larnaca.  Cyprus is about two hundred miles by sea from Gaza and with goodwill it ought to be possible to send the desperately required assistance without having to route it via Egypt with the inevitable complications and bureaucracy. That is an achievable objective.  It will indeed require, as a prerequisite, a ceasefire – but that ceasefire will have to be bi-lateral and an end to not just some but all of the slaughter.  That is what we should be working for and that is what, when it votes, I would hope that the House of Commons will support rather than the one-sided and meaningless motion  that it is likely be asked to consider  tomorrow.

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I have very great sympathy with the views that have been expressed concerning waste within the NHS.

I know from personal experience that there are, in fact, returned appliance receptacles at the QEQM Hospital and the Kent and Canterbury Hospital — I have in fact returned NHS equipment myself.  That said, you are absolutely right in saying that there is a considerable amount of waste that needs to be addressed and I know that the Secretary of State (Victoria Atkins) and the Minister of State (Andrea Leadsom) regard these matters very seriously indeed and are addressing them.

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As a Patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and as an Honorary Member of the British Veterinary Association I have been a longstanding supporter of this cause.

My son is a practising veterinary Surgeon and as a family we are more than a little aware of the considerable distress caused to both animals and purchasers as a result of the wholly illegal importing of often diseased or deformed dogs.

You may also be aware that the Dogs Trust centre in East Kent, which Suzy and I visited relatively recently, is the 'reception centre' for puppies detected and confiscated at Dover. The scale of the problem should not be under-estimated and my personal view is that penalties, up to and including imprisonment and the confiscation of vehicles used in this trade, should be increased and rigorously enforced.

While Government legislation of the kind promoted by the Dogs Trust was not included in the King's Speech I would hope that a Private Member's Bill embracing the Trust's proposals might receive Government support.

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The Trophy Hunting (Imports prohibition) Bill

I was the founding Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Trophy Hunting !

While currently serving as a Deputy Speaker I am not permitted to vote but I have, of course, discussed the issue privately with Ministers and I remain wholly opposed to the importing of animal body-parts as `trophies.`

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