What the Government is doing to help Women in the workplace and at home

October 31, 2014

The Government has been making a concerted effort to help women into employment and address pay related gender inequality and my parliamentary colleague Caroline Dinenage wrote to me recently providing an update about this.

Since 2010 there has been an increase of 711,000 more women in work. This means that as many as 20% of women now run small and medium sized enterprises. Undoubtedly they will have been encouraged by the Government’s introduction of single tier pensions so that 650,000 women will get an extra £400 a year from 2016 and shared parental leave which is being brought in in 2015. Likewise, from autumn 2015, almost 2m families should be able to benefit from the new tax-free childcare scheme which the Government is launching and is worth up to £2,000 per child. I understand that the gender pay gap for full time employees for under the 40’s has been removed and the Government is continuing to work on the gender gap for those over 40. I think it is very important that women are supported back into work and I back the Government’s thinking on extending the right to request flexible working for all.

I am very glad to hear that work has been done to ensure that women can expect to feel protected at home too. The introduction of Clare’s Law means that women are now able to check if their partners have a violent history. Violence Protection Orders which were brought in back in March allow domestic violence victims immediate protection from a perpetrator following a domestic violence incident and this ties in with the Government’s work on the “This is Abuse” campaign which is aimed at stopping teenagers between the ages of 13 to 18 from becoming either a victim or perpetrator of an abusive relationship. The Government’s pledge to reduce Female Genital Mutilation by 30% in 10 countries by 2018 is a further example of the efforts being made to ensure women are being looked after and respected. Back in June I attended the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict which did a huge amount to raise awareness about this issue and focused on the preservation of women’s rights.

I think the Government has been making great strides in ensuring women are better looked after whether it be at home or at work. Whilst there is always more that can be done in terms of readdressing gender pay inequality for over 40s in the work place or curbing genital mutilation and sexual violence against women, the Government is certainly heading in the right direction. I look forward to seeing how its work further progresses.

Some good funding news for charities and sports clubs

October 30, 2014

I was pleased to read about the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme. This scheme allows charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) to claim a Gift Aid style top-up payment of up to £1,250 on small cash donations – those of less than £20 – they receive in the UK each year without a Gift Aid declaration from the donor. Gift aid is a valuable tool that charities can use to increase revenue, but it is often hampered by the need for every donor to complete a form. The GASDS scheme does not require this.

In order to take advantage of this, your charity or CASC must:

  • be recognised by HMRC as a charity for tax purposes or be registered with HMRC as a CASC
  • have existed for at least two complete tax years (6 April – 5 April)
  • have made successful Gift Aid claims in two of the last four tax years, and at least every other year

Only small cash donations received on or after 6 April 2013 can qualify under the scheme.

This is a very useful scheme, and I urge all charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs in North-East Hertfordshire to take up this offer. More information can be found on HMRC’s helpsheet on the subject. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/charities/gads-helpsheet.pdf

Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s new strategy document makes for enlightening and important reading

October 29, 2014

I am a strong supporter of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, who recently launched their strategy for 2013-2025. It is an impressive document and makes some important points about the disease.

Most significantly, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with about 50,000 new cases every year. For men, there are about 400 cases per year. With breast cancer making up about a quarter of all the cancer cases in the UK, it is obvious that advances in preventing, treating, and curing this disease would save many lives, and save the NHS many resources.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is focussing on a five-point plan :

  • To realise the potential for preventative drugs, but also to promote the value of a healthy lifestyle in general. It’s estimated that 40% of cases could be avoided if the sufferer had adopted a healthier lifestyle.
  • If prevention is not possible, early diagnosis is key. It is vital that women check themselves regularly, and report anything unusual to a doctor.
  • Breast cancer is being treated more effectively than ever. This is good news, but cells can become resistant to certain drugs over time, and research must continue to find new and better treatments.
  • Metastatic breast cancer – cancerous cells moving round the body, and spreading the cancer to other organs – is a significant problem. Almost all breast cancers deaths are as a result of this process and it must receive greater focus.
  • Encouraging supportive communities and raising awareness is key in increasing public knowledge of the disease and raising charitable funding against it.

I am proud to be associated with the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Committee locally, who work so hard to raise vital funds and  increase awareness.

A few thoughts as the War in Afghanistan comes to an end

October 27, 2014

British troops were first deployed to Afghanistan thirteen years ago, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the USA, because that was the country in which the hijackers had trained. It was imperative to remove Al-Qaeda from their strongholds there. Since then, many British and Afghan lives have been lost, and much treasure spent, in trying to make Afghanistan a better place. In the last thirteen years, our objectives of removing the terrorist threat from Afghanistan have met much success, and the Afghan Army has been trained up in order to take control of the country as it moves on into the future. This is a future that we all hope, and have every reason to think, will be more stable, peaceful, and prosperous than its past. Afghanistan, of course, faces new and difficult challenges, but it is better equipped than ever to deal with them.

This good news has come about thanks to the hard work and enormous sacrifices of British forces. As they head for home, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all those who have been lost, and with everyone else who fought and served with such gallantry, selflessness, and dedication and such demanding circumstances.

Braughing’s Service in Memory of Village’s War Fallen and Veterans

October 24, 2014

I was pleased to be able to attend last week’s service in St Mary’s Church in Braughing which was held in remembrance of a Braughing villager called Freddie Longman and those who both fought and lost their lives during the First World War.

Being the centenary year of the start of the First World War, this service was particularly poignant and was held ahead of the launch of a book called “Braughing at War: the last Post” written by Peter Boylan. The book charts the life of Freddie growing up in the village before he went off to War in 1914, where he sadly lost his life only two months after the War started.

I was joined at the service, which was very well attended, by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire Jane Pitman and the High Sheriff Fergus McMullen. The service included hymns which were based on those sung at Freddie’s memorial service in 1914 and ribbons were used to signify those from the Village who had both served and died in the War. It was a very moving occasion and I am glad that I was invited to be part of the service to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I also look forward to “Braughing at War” which I am sure will make for very interesting reading.

Good unemployment figures

October 20, 2014

It really is wonderful to see yet another improvement in the unemployment figures, both for North-East Hertfordshire, and nationally. The long-term economic plan, though tough, is most definitely working. For the first time since the start of Labour’s recession, unemployment is down to below 2 million. Down 412 in NE Hertfordshire, and nationally, it dropped by 538,000, which is the biggest annual drop ever recorded. Nearly half of this is a drop in youth unemployment, which shows that this government really is getting young people into work. Also, the number of people on Job Seeker’s Allowance is down by half-a-million since the last election, which is a testament to our welfare reforms and the ability of Conservative economic plans to get people off benefits and into a job.

All these drops in unemployment are the best possible news to those to those who have now found work. The number of people in full-time work has increased by 1.26 million since the election, including record numbers of women, and over the last year, the UK had the highest growth in the G7. Britain is leading the way in the developed world in reducing unemployment, and we’re giving great opportunities to more and more people every day. I am proud to have been a part of these enormous economic improvements.

Good news about New Ambulances for the East of England Ambulance Service

October 17, 2014

I am glad to hear that the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) is continuing its fleet modernisation programme. 147 ambulances have already been distributed within EEAS and this latest roll out of new ambulances will mean that by March 2015, its front line crews will be using vehicles which are only 5 years old or less. Paramedics carry out an extremely important role and I am sure that their work will be made easier if they have access to up to date ambulances. I am pleased that one of the stations to benefit from this roll out will be Letchworth. More information about this can be found here.

Good news about clearance work scheduled for Puckeridge Tributary:

October 16, 2014

I was pleased to hear from the Environment Agency about the clearance work which is planned for the tributary in Puckeridge. This work is going to happen in stages with the first section, which will look at clearing the two highway culverts, due to take place this week. Organising this has been slightly more prolonged because the tributary is situated within a Roman town settlement as designated by the English Heritage and permission has had to be sought before some of the work could commence. All being well the channel work can be completed by the end of this month once formal permission from English Heritage has been received. I realise that constituents have felt frustrated that it has not been able to organise this work sooner, but I am glad to hear that it should be completed by the end of October.

Theatre Tax Relief

October 2, 2014

I was pleased to hear that the Government’s Theatre Tax Relief has now come into effect as of 1 September. This measure was announced by the Chancellor in his 2013 Autumn Statement and is designed to provide support for theatres in the form of an additional corporation tax deduction or a payable tax credit. This would be worth up to 25% of qualifying expenditure for touring productions and 20% for all other productions. I am a great supporter of the performing arts within the constituency and I am pleased that the Government has taken steps to support them. For those that wish to find out more information about this tax relief, they can do so by clicking here.