Mail Room: Extradition

A lot of constituents are concerned about the extradition arrangements in place between the UK and other countries, particularly the United States. The is obviously a complex issue but I share some of the concerns that have been raised. You can see my response to constituents below:

Thank you for your recent email regarding extradition.

There  have been a number of controversial extradition cases recently and I feel it is important that the government seeks to take effective action to solidify the UK’s position on these issues. I am particularly concerned about a lack of even-handedness in the extradition treaty between the UK and the United States with the US having far greater freedom to extradite UK citizens than vice versa.

In light of the above, I am pleased to confirm that I have signed EDM 128 which reads:

 

“That this House notes that it has been over five months since it passed a motion on 5 December 2011 calling on the Government to reform the UK’s extradition arrangements to strengthen the protection of British citizens by both introducing, as a matter of urgency, a Bill to enact the safeguards recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its Fifteenth Report of Session 2010-12,HC 767, and by pursuing such amendments to the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 and the EU Council Framework Decision 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant asare necessary in order to give effect to such recommendations; further notes that it is over seven months since the Scott Baker Review of the UK’s extradition laws; welcomes the announcement in March 2012 by President Obama and the Prime Minister of a joint initiative to look into the operation of the UK-US Extradition Treaty; believes that it would not be in the public interest for anyone to be extradited to the US from the UK until theurgent legislation called for by Parliament to amend the 2003 Treaty has been passed; supports the Home Affairs Select Committee’s recommendation for the Home Secretary to publish the evidence to the Baker Review immediately; and calls on the Government to bring forward legislation in line with Parliament’s wishes.”

 

You can view the EDM and signatories here.

You may wish to note that the Government commissioned an independent review of the UK’s extradition treaties that reported last year. You can view their report here.

Furthermore the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee conducted an inquiry into this issue. You can find their report here.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me on this important issue.

There may be further developments on this issue in the near future as the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, looks into further specific cases around which there is a lot of uncertainly. If you would like to discuss this matter, you can contact me by email on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

 

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Mail Room: VAT on listed buildings

Among the raft of VAT changes in the Chancellor’s Budget was the withdrawal of VAT relief on approved alterations to listed buildings. A number of constituents have got in touch with me about this, concerned that it will result in some of our most precious structures falling into disrepair as a result of the increased cost of maintaining them. You can see my response to constituents below:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding VAT exemptions on listed buildings.

You express your disappointment that the Chancellor’s actions in this year’s budget will have severe consequences for the heritage sector in Britain. You note from your own experience that the current zero-rate of VAT on work to listed buildings has made the difference between a project being viable or not.

I share your concerns that a consequence of these measures could be the increase in botched renovations which will have a damaging long term effect to some of the country’s finest architectural triumphs. It is also important to note that as well as the damage to heritage and tourism, the environmental effect of allowing these buildings to fall into disrepair could be widely damaging, causing demolitions and re-building projects. This flies in the face of the government’s supposed commitment to a green agenda.

Harriet Harman MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, has challenged the Government’s plans. She said:

“Listed buildings are our country’s heritage – our past and our values built into bricks and mortar. The Government’s plan to scrap the zero-rating for approved alterations, alterations which will allow them to continue serving their communities, threaten their future as well as their past.

“In his Easter message, the Prime Minister told the nation that the values of the church make our country what it is. But this year’s Budget threatens churches across the country that serve their congregations and wider communities.

“I urge the Government to reconsider.”

There has recently been a small victory, in large part down to the pressure put on the Government by campaigners such as yourself. The Government has  committed an additional £30 million for the Listed Places of Worship Scheme. My colleague Harriet Harman recently issued Labour’s response to this development:

“This Government’s u-turn is a victory for the campaign by churches and local communities against a wrong-headed proposal in the shambolic Budget.

“But it won’t help the National Trust, all the museums, galleries, theatres, libraries and community centres that are in listed buildings, and which are important for heritage, tourism and local communities. They will still be clobbered by the 20 per cent tax increase, so George Osborne must think again on this.”

I can assure you that Harriet and the rest of Labour’s front bench team will continue to urge the government to change their plans when the opportunity arises.

Of course if you would like to comment further on this issue, you can contact me by email on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

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Mail Room: House of Lords Reform – Bishops

As you may be aware, the recent Queen’s Speech included a bill to reform the House of Lords in the near future.House of Lords

Lots of constituents have contacted me about various elements of this reform, but by far the most common complaint has been the possibility of Bishops remaining in the Lords and forming a higher proportion of the overall membership. You can see below my response to constituents who have expressed concern about this:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the government’s proposals for Bishops in the House of Lords.

You express your concern that as a result of the upcoming proposals for House of Lords reform the number of Bishops sitting may proportionally increase. You state your belief that this development both lacks intellectual credibility and represents a detachment from majority public opinion. Furthermore, you argue that a continued presence of the Bishops would contradict efforts to create a transparent and legitimate second chamber.

I have some sympathy with you concerns. The draft bill published by Nick Clegg in the last session of Parliament set out proposals that Bishops of the Church of England should retain a presence in the House of Lords, but be reduced in number from 26 to 12. I note that the white paper justifies this proposal on the basis that the Church of England is ‘the established church’ and the reduction in number merely reflects the reduction in size of the house as a whole. I find this proposition quite perverse considering that the Liberal Democrats had previously expressed a wish to end the automatic representation of the Church of England in the House of Lords.

In the Queen’s Speech recently it was announced that the government did intend to go ahead with House of Lords Reform in this session of Parliament, but we are yet to see what changes the Government may have made in its proposals following the lengthy meetings of the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, which resulted in the publication of a minority report as well as the main report.

I believe there should be no automatic ‘spiritual’ representation in the House of Lords. However, should there continue to be an unelected element within the House of Lords and should that element include Lords Spiritual then its composition should reflect the faiths of the country as a whole. For these reasons, I am pleased to inform you that I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is responsible for these matters, asking him to address the concerns that you have raised. I will inform you when I receive a response.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

I have not yet received a reply from Nick Clegg but will post it here when I do.

I would welcome any further comments you may have on this issue. Please feel free to contact me on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

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Mail Room: Food Security

Food security is an issue on which I receive a lot of correspondence. Following on from campaigns run by a number of charities, particularly Save the Children, I have been inundated with letters and emails from constituents asking me to do what I can to ensure that UK aid for the developing world remains a priority for this government. This is of particularly importance in the context of the upcoming G8 Summit when the Prime Minister will have the opportunity to discuss issues of development with his international counterparts.

DFID Aid

You can see my response to constituents below:

Thank you for your recent email regarding food security.

It is a scandal that nearly one billion people face hunger every day. This issue has been exacerbated by the 2008 spike in food prices. With some figures estimating that staple grain prices will rise between 120 to 180% within the next two decades, it is clear that action needs to be taken now.

In your email you mentioned the action by Save the Children on this issue. I understand that they are calling on the Prime Minister to push this issue at the G8 with the aim of creating a food security initiative that focuses on nutrition, increased funding for proven solutions to tackle malnutrition and a global target to reduce malnutrition.

You have requested that I raise this issue during Prime Ministers’ Questions. A ballot takes place to determine which Members of Parliament have the opportunity to ask a question of the Prime Minister and whilst I submit a question every week, there is unfortunately no guarantee of getting picked. On this occasion I have been unsuccessful.

In any case, while David Cameron is often broadly positive when speaking publicly about international development issues, I expect he would be wary of making any firm commitments in the often heated atmosphere of PMQs. It is my belief that a far more effective way of taking action on issues such as this is to write directly to the Secretary of State for International Development, which I am please to inform you I have done. In my letter I urged the Minister to put the points you raised to the Prime Minister strongly ahead of the next G8 summits.

I will inform you when I receive a response from the Secretary of State, thank you for taking the time to write to me.

I am still awaiting a response from the Department for International Development Minister. The response will be posted here when I receive it.

As always, I would welcome any further comments you may have on this issue. Please feel free to contact me on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

 

 

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Mail Room: Trident

Nuclear disarmament is an issue in which I have a lot of interest personally, and on which lots of constituents contact me. I’ve recently received a number of postcards which highlight the cost of replacing Trident – close to £100 billion – at a time when public services are being slashed across the board.

Trident submarine

There are also moral and political arguments against a renewal – a decision which will make the world a more dangerous place than it is today. I set out my response to constituents as you can see below:

Thank you for your recent postcard regarding the UK’s Trident nuclear submarines.

I am a member of Parliamentary CND and I can assure you that I and my colleagues oppose the renewal of trident and will continue to put the case for non-nuclear alternatives as and when we can. You may wish to note that I have signed Early Day Motion 1924 in support of the current review into alternatives to trident replacement. Please find a copy enclosed.

However I regret that neither this review nor the previous Strategic Defence and Security Review have been allowed to consider all options – including non-replacement and a non-nuclear defence policy. I believe a broader review should be carried out before the Trident replacement Main Gate decision in 2016. This could then inform the thinking of all political parties before the General Election.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.

You can view the Early Day Motion mentioned above here.

If you would like to comment further on this issue, please feel free to contact me on sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk.

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