Recall of Parliament: 26/09/14

Tessa

 

As you may be aware, Parliament will be meeting tomorrow to discuss the UK’s role in air strikes against Islamic State (Statement to follow).

This means I will not be able to attend my surgeries in Shepton Mallet and Chilcompton which are scheduled for tomorrow.

However, my caseworkers will be attending on my behalf, and will be happy to discuss any difficulties or concerns you may have.

If you would prefer to see me in person then my full surgery calendar is available here: http://www.tessamunt.org.uk/events/

Tessa

Somerset County Council

SCC

Just five years ago, in 2009, rural Somerset County Council was rated an “excellent authority” with “good and improving Children’s Services”.

The Director of Children’s Services had built his team over many years of service to Somerset.  He was a man who was passionate about care and was committed to his staff and service.

But in 2009, the Conservatives took control of the Council.  The County Councillor for Wells, John Osman, was handed responsibility for Children’s Services by his colleagues.

It should have been easy enough.

He inherited one of the most important and valued portfolios, a department in good shape, well-managed and motivated staff, performing well and consistently improving its services.

He had the opportunity to continue to help supporting young people and turning their lives around.

A real gift for an aspiring politician.

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GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES FINDINGS OF REVIEW OF LICENSED EXPORTS TO ISRAEL

 The Government has today announced the findings of a review of licensed exports to Israel. It has found that the vast majority of exports currently licensed for Israel are not for items that could be used by Israeli forces in operations in Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas.

Twelve licences have now been identified for components which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza. Currently there is a ceasefire in place and the Government continues to urge both sides to respect this and to secure a lasting end to hostilities through the negotiations taking place in Cairo. However, in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities, the Government is concerned that it would not be able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met.  It would therefore suspend these licences as a precautionary step.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.

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Why I’m boycotting Israeli goods and services

Tessa

This summer I’ve added dozens of additional advice surgeries to the usual 11 which I hold every month.

Last night’s surgeries were in and around Priddy, at The Queen Victoria pub and then on to the Hunter’s Lodge. Tonight I’ll be on the other side of the patch in The Trotter Inn, Crickham.

Having a job where you speak to hundreds of people every week is fascinating. You get a real sense of public opinion, far more effective than any opinion poll!

This summer, it’s not the potholes, traffic lights or broadband, not even poor local planning which is dominating discussions – although they are all high on the list and must be dealt with.

This summer, the majority of people I meet out and about are disturbed, upset and angry.

It’s clear that Israel has crossed a line.

It’s not ok to drop bombs on civilians and the sight of parents carrying the remains of their small children in plastic bags is sickening. Bombed hospitals and schools, an entire population stunned and damaged is criminal. It simply cannot be justified.

When civilians are targeted, a crime is committed against us all. By staying silent, governments allow these crimes to become the ‘norm’, thereby failing the public and future generations.

We cannot allow the scenes we are witnessing to become the ‘norm’. They are not normal.

In the meantime, there is something that can be done on an individual level. I’m a huge believer in ‘people power’ and whereas modern history has repeatedly proven violence to be not only ugly but useless, non-violent actions can be hugely effective.

The use of a boycotts is one example of non-violent action and whilst a protest march is effective in raising awareness and publicity, a boycott hits states and organisations where it hurts most – the wallet.

Israel exports all sorts all sorts of things from food to financial services into the UK and we all have a choice about how we spend our money.

I had hoped that Israel’s leaders might have heeded the suggestion by Nick Clegg, that they could surprise the world with “an unexpected act of political magnanimity, rather than sporadic military reprisal”.

Likewise, Hamas could do the same and reject violence – doing so at this time would be likely to force concessions from Israel, when the eyes of the world are firmly on the region.

Unfortunately, shelling from both sides resumed earlier today. The first to die? Someone’s little boy, 12 year old Ibrahim Aldawawseh – innocent, but punished. Slaughtered whilst he played.

But it’s not just the shelling which is wrong.

Gaza is often referred to as an ‘open air prison’. People can’t come and go and access to goods and services is controlled by Israel.

We wouldn’t accept that in Britain and we can’t accept it elsewhere.

That is why I believe the time has come to use the methods that peacefully but successfully isolated South Africa during the apartheid years.

The time has come for me to choose how I spend my money. I must boycott Israeli goods and services and I would encourage others to consider doing the same.

Tessa Munt 

8th August 2014

 

 

Tessa: Bedroom Tax needs to change

Tessa has been lobbying Lord Freud to rethink his bedroom tax policy for some time

Tessa writes a regular fortnightly column in the Daily Mirror.   Below is her most recent article, published earlier this week, on the controversial Bedroom Tax. Since the piece was published, a new Report has revealed that the policy is, in fact, not working.

No party won the General Election in 2010, but the Conservatives received the largest number of votes from the British public, and 307 Tory MPs packed their bags to head for Westminster.

57 Lib Dems were elected at the same time, roughly a sixth of the number of Tories, so when we agreed to enter coalition to form a Government, we knew difficult decisions lay ahead.

To sort out the country’s finances, lots of tough choices had to be made.  One thing was sure – the benefits system would have to be reformed. So many people felt the system was unfair – not just on those who worked hard, but also those who had been left to languish on the dole.

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Tessa speaks about child sex abuse inquiry

Tessa

In an interview on Monday last week, Tessa welcomed The Home Secretary’s announcement to hold a full, independent Inquiry into worrying patterns of ‘lost’, suppressed and destroyed evidence about paedophile rings which, it is alleged, involve high-profile individuals.

Tessa and six other MPs had written to Theresa May last month about the need for a completely independent investigation into the procedures used by the authorities when reports of sexual abuse are raised.  She had serious concerns about apparently side-lined and abandoned prosecutions and alleged cover-ups, stemming from victims’ assertions that abusers were influential, famous and consequently powerful – and able to sway society’s official ‘enforcers’ away from the path to justice.

During that interview, Tessa disclosed that she had been a victim of sexual abuse in her childhood. 

Tessa said:

“I’m a survivor.”

Three small words I dropped into conversation in the House of Commons this week.  I want to explain what those words mean to me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tessa and her colleagues to deliver a £250 bonus for Britain’s unsung heroes

Tessa with Care Minister, Norman Lamb

Local MP and ‘Carers Ambassador’ Tessa Munt has announced her party’s intention to reward almost 1,300 carers in the Mendip area and more than 1,600 carers in the Sedgemoor area with a bonus worth up to £250 a year – should the Lib Dems form part of the next Government.

The annual bonus will help more than one million people who look after disabled loved-ones nationally, and would be available to anyone who receives the Carer’s Allowance or the Carer’s Premium.

The annual payment will help full-time carers get a bit of extra help and is in recognition of the invaluable contribution they make to society.

Tessa said:

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Tessa right on board with Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign

Tessa with Guide Dog

Local MP Tessa Munt has added her support to the Guide Dog charity’s campaign to make travelling by bus easier for people with sight loss.

Tessa attended an event in Parliament last week in support the campaign to make sure all new buses have audio visual (AV) ‘next stop’ announcements, which are so vital for blind and partially-sighted bus travellers.

The meeting, which was addressed by Tessa’s colleague and Bus Minister, Susan Kramer, highlighted how announcements enable blind and partially-sighted people to understand their location and prevent them from missing their stops.

AV systems are only fitted to around one fifth of the bus fleet nationally, with the overwhelming majority operating in London.

Guide Dogs is calling for the Government to require all new buses be fitted with AV.  Currently, bus operators are under no obligation to include this technology when upgrading their fleet.

Tessa said:

“Navigating can be challenging at the best of times, but can become a complete nightmare when you are unfamiliar with an area or route.  It is particularly difficult for blind and partially-sighted people living and travelling in rural areas as often the distances involved are longer, and hard to estimate.”

“This simple step would go a long way towards making leading an independent life easier for blind and partially-sighted bus travellers.”

“Given that only one fifth of the national bus fleet currently has AV installed, it’s pretty clear that operators need some encouragement.”

“If a change in the law means a speedy resolution to the problem, then I fully support this.”

James White, Guide Dog’s Campaigns Manager, said: “Buses are a lifeline for people who are blind or partially sighted, and we welcome Tessa’s support for people with sight loss to be able to travel safely and independently.”

“Without AV, bus travel for people with sight loss can be especially difficult, stressful, and dangerous when stops are missed and they end up in an unfamiliar area.”

“Safe and accessible bus services give people with sight loss much greater freedom to work, socialise and participate in the community.”

Tessa Munt

9th July 2014

Tessa welcomes full Independent Inquiry into allegations of child abuse cover ups at the heart of the establishment

 Local MP Tessa Munt

Local MP Tessa Munt has welcomed the Home Secretary’s announcement that she will establish a full, independent Inquiry into the worrying pattern of ‘lost’, suppressed or destroyed evidence about paedophile rings which, it is alleged, include prominent politicians, celebrities and other high-profile members of the establishment.

The Home Secretary’s announcement follows a letter to her, signed by Tessa and 6 other MPs, last month. The letter has since attracted another 140 MPs’ signatures from across the political divides, and an online petition attracted over 78,000 signatures in a matter of days.

Tessa said:

“There is the potential for abuse wherever an individual has power over others.  Where that imbalance exists, we should all be alert to the risks of abuse and must try to listen harder to those who may feel they do not have a voice – whether they are children, adults or the elderly, from the playground to the nursing home, whether victims of domestic, sexual, emotional or any other form of abuse.  Then, if we have heard that voice, we have a responsibility to act.”

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Help stop changes to the way access to land is acquired for fracking

no fracking

Tessa recently sent this message to people who have contacted her before about environmental matters.

“As you have contacted me before about environmental matters, I hope you do not mind if I write to update you further on some proposals which relate to Hydraulic Fracturing, known as ‘fracking’, in our part of Somerset, and to ask again for your help.

You may be aware that last month, the Government announced plans to encourage investment in and increase the competitiveness of the UK’s energy infrastructure.

The wording used in the Queen’s Speech was as follows:

“My government will introduce a bill to bolster investment in infrastructure and reform planning law to improve economic competitiveness. The bill will enhance the United Kingdom’s energy independence and security by opening up access to shale and geothermal sites and maximising North Sea resources.”

This would have come as no surprise, as David Cameron is on record stating his intention to “go all out for shale”.

I am firmly opposed to fracking, for which exploration sites have been identified across Somerset and in particular, on the Mendip Hills.  I have asked the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) for clarification about exactly what meaning is intended by the words above.  I await the detailed response, but in the meantime, it has become clear that this relates to plans to change the laws of trespass on accessing underground gas and oil deposits, and geothermal energy. Read the rest of this entry »

Affordable Homes Bill | Commons debates

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Let me pick up on the point that he made. There is no automatic exclusion for people who have to sleep in separate bedrooms for medical reasons. I have had an ongoing correspondence with the Minister for welfare reform. He said that disabled adults are

“able to exercise a greater degree of choice”

than children, and can

“enter into living arrangements knowing that they may have to compromise their individual needs.”

I do not understand how it can possibly be the case that these sorts of couples either have to take in a tenant in the bedroom that is not spare or that they should separate in order to have their accommodation needs met. That is just absurd.

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Engagements | Oral Answers to Questions – Prime Minister | Commons debates

Is the Prime Minister aware that since 2012, when he promised to increase patient access to innovative radiotherapy, particularly for cancer patients, the number of cancers treated by radiotherapy in some hospitals has actually decreased by 70% and state-of-the-art machines are lying idle because NHS England will not allow doctors to use them? Will he meet me and other cancer cure campaigners, such as Lawrence Dallaglio, to discuss this scandal before more patients are refused treatment?

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Flooding (Somerset) | Westminster Hall debates

While we are on the subject of sluices, will the Minister address the problem of Bleadon sluice, bearing in mind that we have all talked about how any approach has to be for the whole catchment

area? My concern is with the Axe and Brue rivers; there is a need for dredging on the Brue, but my most important concern is the Axe, which drains out into the northern part of my patch and over towards Weston-super-Mare. Bleadon sluice was closed by the Environment Agency, which put a red notice on it in 2009. There has been a bundle going on—no one will take responsibility. I was told earlier this year that the sluice was going to be fixed at some point during the year, but we are a long way through it and nothing has happened. Will the Minister address that, since we are on the subject of sluices?

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Head and Neck Cancer | Commons debates

The hon. Lady refers to innovative radiotherapy and I wonder whether she is aware of how much work is being done on the indications suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford)—I congratulate him on this debate. I also wonder whether NHS England does not recognise that this type of radiotherapy can be used for anything except lung cancer.

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NHS Investigations (Jimmy Savile) | Business of the House | Commons debates

Child sexual abuse is always abhorrent. The victims are always innocent and nobody should be above the law. At the beginning of this month, six Members and I wrote to the Home Secretary—now we are supported by a further 104 MPs—requesting an investigation by an independent panel into at least eight cases of child sexual abuse going back over 30 years, where the evidence has been lost or destroyed by the police, by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise and by other agencies, and where the cases have therefore been stalled or abandoned altogether. To date, we have had no reply, so can I ask the Secretary of State to encourage the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary, and anyone who else who might be moved to take the matter on, to do so, and accept that such an independent investigation is essential to search out the truth and to make sure that action is taken after that?

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Severe Eating Disorders (North-East England) | Commons debates

I recognise the similarities between what is happening in the north-east and in the south-west. We have young people being discharged from services when they reach the 18-week threshold or because they have reached a body mass index of 18, yet the Minister has accepted that this is a complex condition which sometimes takes five or six years to recover from.

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