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BILL WIGGIN MP

MP for North Herefordshire

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Bill Introduces 10 Minute Rule Bill

I am introducing the following Ten Minute Rule Bill:

Dog Meat (Consumption) (Offences) Bill

A Bill to make it an offence to consume dog meat and to transport, possess or donate dog meat for the purpose of consumption; and for connected purposes. 

Tragically, 30 million dogs are eaten every year around the world. Over 10 million are slaughtered in China.

Happily there is no evidence that dog meat is eaten in the UK, but China argue that until we make it illegal why should they?

Due to the vile way in which these dogs are treated, I would like our country to join in setting an example to the world.

It is of particular importance to do this as the method of slaughter is deliberately cruel.

The animals are made to suffer brutally in the belief that raised adrenaline levels caused by pain improve the quality of the meat.

Two months ago, a ban on the human consumption of dog meat was passed in the United States, following Germany, Austria, South Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

My Ten Minute Rule Bill highlights how the UK Government could join these countries in standing up for animal welfare by bringing in a ban.

Bill Wiggin MP calls for Crown Use License Debate

Following an emotional meeting with my constituent, I was moved to call this debate.

I am challenging the Government to take the opportunity to use a legal device to overrule the patent which manufacturers Vertex hold.

This is because Vertex refused the largest ever financial offer the NHS has made in its entire history for this medicine.

The Government offered £500 million over five years for access to the drug Orkambi for CF sufferers.

Vertex refused this offer.

Crown Use licensing can prevent pharmaceutical companies from taking advantage of incredibly vulnerable people.

Orkambi is a very expensive drug to treat Cystic Fibrosis. At £104,000 per patient per year, it is not currently available under the NHS.

However, we have a power under UK patent law that hopefully will enable the Government to lift the monopoly on Orkambi.

This debate aims to give patients an opportunity to access Orkambi under the NHS and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The NHS has to heal all medical conditions, Cystic Fibrosis included, so it must achieve a wise spend of its limited budget for drugs.

In the UK, 1 in 25 people carry the faulty Cystic Fibrosis gene and every week, 5 babies are born with the disease and 2 young people die as a result of Cystic Fibrosis.

Young children in particular should have access to the precision drug Orkambi as it gives them a 42% improvement both of life expectancy and a better quality of their lives too.

Bill Wiggin MP Brexit Statement

21.01.19

Following the Prime Minister’s latest statement to the House of Commons this afternoon on exiting the European Union, it is clear that further compromises must be made soon if the Government are to find a way forward that delivers on the Referendum result.

I firstly welcome the Government’s continued commitment to respecting the Belfast agreement and her willingness to engage with opposition parties, even if they don’t reciprocate.

As it is in the best interests for both the UK and EU for the Northern Irish Backstop to be amended, I hope that this will be achieved in the forthcoming week of negotiations between the EU, the Prime Minister, and Members of Parliament.

If, however, the EU does not compromise on the Backstop, leaving without a deal would be preferable to remaining trapped in the EU single market under the Backstop arrangement currently outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement. “No deal is better than a bad deal!”

Despite my optimism for a WTO clean global Brexit, if the Backstop were to be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement, I would nevertheless be willing to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal.

Of the correspondence that I have received on this subject since early October, roughly twice as many North Herefordshire constituents have contacted me specifically to say that they would reject the deal as it stands than those who have written in support of the deal.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that there is no majority for a Second Referendum in the House, and that the Government has a duty to implement the result of the 2016 Referendum.

I therefore look forward to the revised deal that the Prime Minister will return with after re-negotiating with the EU.

I hope that it is one that I can confidently support in the knowledge that it will deliver the Brexit that the majority of North Herefordshire voted for in June 2016, and address the many important issues raised by my constituents.

Bill Wiggin MP Brexit update

16.01.19

In the House of Commons last night, MPs voted to reject the Prime Minister’s Draft Withdrawal Agreement by 432 to 202 votes.

I wrote before the Withdrawal Agreement vote of the importance of choosing between the two options. Neither was without certain risks or problems.

The most important guideline for me was respecting the vote of 23rd June 2016, in Herefordshire as well as for the rest of the UK.

The first option was to vote for the Deal as it stands, as the Government argued that without a deal, they perceived a threat to Brexit altogether.

I do accept that there is a risk to Brexit because some of the factions in Parliament will certainly try to keep us inside the EU and therefore I will continue to monitor this risk.

The second option, which on balance I decided was the best for North Herefordshire and for the country, was to vote against the Deal, because it did not go far enough to ensure we have properly and sufficiently left the EU.

There are a number of problems with the Withdrawal agreement but most important is the infamous “backstop”. The Backstop would hang over our future negotiations and would have left us in a customs union with the EU, and in some aspects of the Single Market, until the EU permitted us to leave! That is not a good enough and does not seem like a genuine Brexit.

Last night because the Deal was defeated by large majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister has until Monday to announce her new plan for withdrawing. The Prime Minister announced that she would consult with senior MPs before announcing her plan in a statement on Monday.

I hope that the Prime Minister is able to return to the EU and demand, in terms which carry legal force, the removal of the backstop, which I have repeatedly said is unacceptable.

Also the Government must immediately step up its preparations for a World Trade Organisation, Clean Global Brexit without delay. WTO is the baseline, the most basic of trade agreements, from which we can mutually agree with trading partners where we are willing to reduce tariffs to encourage free and frictionless trade.

I believe the Prime Minister should inform the EU that the Deal must be amended so as to be acceptable to the House of Commons, including the legal removal of the backstop, or that the UK will leave the EU on 29th March without a Deal.

This means that we will be less willing to pay the £39 billion or move on to the trade talks. However it does not prevent us from returning to try again once we are no longer bound by the EU rules relating to existing EU members.

The EU can then choose whether to accept our terms, or to have a Brexit on WTO terms.

 

I cannot support any sort of second referendum or attempt to overturn the result of the referendum. This was the largest democratic exercise in our country’s history and it would undermine the value of voting if we seek to avoid delivering the result.

Finally, the Prime Minister invited the Leader of the Opposition to test the confidence of the House in this Conservative Government. The Leader of the Opposition, who has been putting off such a vote for weeks because he does not have an alternative credible plan for Brexit plan but would still like to try to lead this country, finally had to table a No Confidence motion.

This will be debated and voted on today. I fully intend to vote to support our Conservative Government – not only because under Theresa May, we are the only party capable of delivering Brexit, but also because of the huge risk that Jeremy Corbyn pose to our country’s economy, national security services, and our future.

I look forward to the Prime Minister setting out the Government’s position in the coming days.

Bill outlines Brexit position

Brexit Deal

I write following the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the European Union. The Prime Minister has agreed the Withdrawal Agreement, and the associated Political Declaration with the European Union.

Firstly, I commend the Prime Minister’s determination, fortitude and persistence in her negotiations with the European Union, and in her repeated public statements and addresses to the House of Commons.

I, like many of my constituents, want to conclude arrangements with the EU as swiftly as possible, in order to carry out the result of the 2016 referendum. I very much wanted to be able to support the deal which the Prime Minister brought back from the EU.

I have studied the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, and there are some welcome aspects. The political declaration, which contains the details of our future relationship with the EU, is ambitious and wide-ranging.

Backstop

The Withdrawal Agreement, however, contains an enormous problem. The Northern Ireland Protocol, known as the backstop, contains provisions for an extension to the Customs Union which would keep the United Kingdom in the Customs Union and some aspects of the Single Market of the European Union.

The backstop has no unilateral exit mechanism, and so we cannot leave the Customs Union without the permission of the EU.

International treaties always contain a unilateral exit mechanism, so that one side can leave if the deal no longer works for them. In the case of the European Union Treaty, that mechanism was called Article 50, and we triggered it unilaterally in March 2017 to begin the process of leaving. The EU could not stop us from doing so.

Ironically, the lack of a unilateral exit mechanism means that leaving the backstop and the Customs Union could be more difficult than exiting the European Union.

This cannot be right and so I cannot support any deal which leaves the EU able to block our exit from the Customs Union, should that arrangement no longer work for us.

The problem with being stuck in the Customs Union and having to follow EU rules is that we will not be able to sign trade deals with other countries. We would face the choice of either not being able to trade with the rest of the world under the backstop, or accepting whatever trade deal the EU wishes to impose on us as the price for exiting the backstop.

The backstop is also a stumbling block that threatens the Union of the United Kingdom and threatens the peace process in Northern Ireland.

The people who voted for Brexit voted for independence, and the backstop prevents us from fully leaving the EU Customs Union. The current Withdrawal Agreement therefore does not respect the will of the people to leave the EU.

Brexit, for me, was about democracy and taking back control, and this arrangement actually leaves us less in control of our own customs arrangements than we were whilst a member of the EU.

What happens next?

The Prime Minister has said that without the backstop there is no deal, and that the EU will not change their position now. I hope she is wrong as if that is the case, I will find it extremely difficult to support the deal.

In this case, it is extremely unlikely that the Deal will gain the support of the House of Commons. The opposition parties have all committed to vote against it, and there are many Conservatives who have publicly said that they cannot vote for the deal with the backstop.

However, there are several other factors to take into account including the two weeks in which the Prime Minister may try to make changes to the Treaty which would enable me to support it.

An example of such a change would be the removal of the backstop arrangement, or the introduction of a unilateral mechanism to exit the backstop, or indeed the retention of our £39 billion ‘divorce bill’ until a future trade agreement has been signed.

If, however, the Prime Minister does not or cannot amend the Treaty, then I am sure the deal will be voted down in the Commons, and I am therefore concerned about what would happen next.

Under the EU Withdrawal Act 2017, the Prime Minister has a further 21 days to make a statement setting out how the Government intends to proceed in the negotiations.

This statement will then be voted on by the House of Commons, but the outcome would not be binding.

For example, the Government could make a statement suggesting that it wishes to make the House vote again on the proposed deal. Even if this motion is defeated, the Government is then able to continue with its preferred course of action, as the vote will not be binding.

Second Referendum

In this instance, the Government could very quickly lose the support of the House, and will want to put forward an option that can be supported by MPs.

If, after 21 days and the Government’s motion on how to proceed being defeated again, I fear that the Government will declare parliamentary deadlock, and begin the process of returning the question to the people, either through a second referendum or through a General Election.

If Parliament cannot decide between the Prime Minister’s Deal and No Deal, I would be happy for that specific question to be put to the people.

However, I do not want a second referendum as many have threatened to use it to keep us in the EU.

I believe this would be a gross miscarriage of democracy, and that the result of the first referendum, however difficult to implement, must be carried out.

No Deal

Many people have said to me that it is sufficient merely to continue voting down the Government’s proposals, as leaving under WTO terms will be the default on March 29th 2019.

I am not scared of leaving on WTO terms, but unfortunately I am not certain that the Government will allow this to happen.

Under the EU Withdrawal Act 2017, if no agreement has been reached with the EU by 21st January 2019, the Government has 5 days to set before the House its plans for the next step, which will be either leaving with no deal, or asking for an extension of the negotiating period under Article 50.

I fear that the Government would have no choice, given the short timescales, but to ask for an extension of Article 50, costing more of our money and leaving us no closer to a deal.

This would not deliver on the result of the referendum.

My position

I have carefully set out what I currently believe will be the likely course of action over the coming weeks.

I write to share with you that I do not currently support the Prime Minister’s Deal, but that with alterations that remove the power of the backstop (which traps us in the EU until they give us permission to leave), then I would be happy to support it.

Indeed, given the likely course of events after voting down the Deal, it is still possible that it may be better than risking losing Brexit altogether.

We want to be independent of the EU and the backstop prevents that.

We do not want to be trapped in the Customs Union until we sign a punitive trade deal.

I must take this decision balancing the threat to Brexit with the restrictions the backstop would create.

Much may change before the meaningful vote on 11th December, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to write to me, from all sides of the political divide.

I have read and taken into account all correspondence, and will always continue to do so.

Bill Wiggin backs Access for All at Ledbury Train Station

I fully support West Midlands Trains in their bid for funding to implement Access for All at Ledbury Train Station

I have long campaigned for these vital improvements as it will benefit so many residents living in Ledbury who are elderly or disabled.

Indeed when the Transport Secretary visited Ledbury in North Herefordshire he witnessed himself just how poor the access for all was at this unique station.

Lifts to all platforms at Ledbury would be a tremendous improvement. At present, while travelling on a train to Hereford, disabled passengers who want to disembark at Ledbury have to continue on to Hereford and catch a train back to Ledbury just to be on the accessible side of the platform.

This is wrong, most of all to people with disabilities but also the lack of access has undermined the useful nature of our station and contributes to the vicious circle which lack of access has on footfall.

Access for all would be the most important improvement for our station not least due to the Ledbury community having a predominately elderly population, not forgetting parents with children in prams and push chairs, as well as people who simply have very heavy luggage, all whom currently have to navigate the steep stairways and elderly bridge.

I heartily support this bid for what is a key step in making long overdue improvements to Ledbury Station that will make life easier and better for residents and commuters alike.

Bill Wiggin MP attends Leominster Service of Remembrance

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, attended the service of remembrance in Leominster on Sunday.

Mr Wiggin laid a wreath afterwards at the Leominster War Memorial following the Remembrance Sunday Service which also marked the centennial of the end of the First World War.

Commenting after the service Bill Wiggin MP said:

It is very important to lay a wreath to represent the people of North Herefordshire who remember those people from our communities, including in Leominster, who made the ultimate sacrifice in War. Ours was an impressive and very well organised ceremony and it was heartening to see so many members of the public who willingly gave their time pay tribute to our former servicemen and servicewomen whose gift of freedom is so precious to us all.

Indeed what struck me when watching other services on TV later that day was the huge numbers of people who turned out across the country to show their support. Not only to remember the First World War and the lives’ it cost but also for our troops serving today. At a time when there is the endless legal persecution of our soldiers who served in Northern Ireland – this was a wonderful and welcome show of unity.

One hundred years ago the First World War ended. My own Grandfather, after whom I was named, Colonel Bill Wiggin DSO served throughout the War, never once returning home despite being severely wounded twice in Palestine. He led the famous charge at Huj and later served at Gallipoli. He and all those like him, ought to be remembered for what they did, particularly those who lost their lives.

My late father and I visited the site of the Charge in Israel and yet the most powerful and emotional moment hit me at the war graves, so carefully tended, nearby. The names of the men from Herefordshire who died were certainly the relatives of the people I seek to help in my surgery and through my postbag today. Only time has moved on.

It seems strange to us today to even imagine what is must have been like: for example there was little penicillin for wounds so infection was a serious killer. The industrial scale of the slaughter of fine young men on both sides especially on the Western Front and the widespread use of horses and other animals, which today we can only envisage through films.

There are many more differences but the thought that hit me hardest as I stood at the War memorial was that in just twenty years we will be remembering the start of the Second World War in 2039!

It is essential to learn from the lessons of history and we are fortunate that at least once a year we have the opportunity to come together and think about those who gave their lives so that we can live ours freely.

Bill Wiggin MP Meets with Herefordshire College Principals in Westminster

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, last week met with the Principals from a number of Herefordshire Colleges as part of Colleges Week in Westminster.

Colleges, students and trade unions held a rally in Parliament Square, to raise awareness of funding for Further Education and the 2.2m learners that study in Further Education providers each year.

Commenting after the meeting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“This was a very useful meeting where we discussed ways in which we can ensure our young people in Herefordshire have access to the best possible further education to help set them up for their future careers.

I welcome assurances given to MPs by the Minister that the Government are taking this issue very seriously, and the Department for Education are currently part way through conducting a major assessment of funding for the Further Education Sector, ahead of next years’ Spending Review.

It is vitally important that we ensure there is a place in education or training for every 16 to 19-year old who wants one whilst maintaining funding for adult skills participation.”

Bill Wiggin MP welcomes winter social care funding

Today, the government has announced how much additional funding local authorities in England will receive to ease pressures over winter thanks to our balanced approach to the economy, including £880,614 for Herefordshire, County of Unilateral Authority.

Earlier this month, the Health and Social Care Secretary announced £240 million for the social care system over winter, giving councils a significant boost to prevent people from going into hospital unnecessarily and getting them home as soon as they are ready.

This funding will ease pressure on the health system, and follows the announcement of £145 million to improve emergency care within the NHS this winter.

The money will pay for home care packages to help patients get out of hospital quicker, re-ablement packages to help patients carry out everyday tasks and regain mobility and confidence, and home adaptations.

Bill Wiggin MP has welcomed this announcement of £880,614 for social care services in Herefordshire, thanks to the Government’s balanced approach to the economy.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“I am delighted that Herefordshire is receiving this extra funding to help social care services cope with winter pressures.

“This is part of our balanced approach to the economy – spending on key public services while keeping taxes down and getting debt falling.

“Social care packages allow people to leave hospital as soon as they are well enough, and ensure they can regain independence and confidence at home. This funding will allow Herefordshire to meet the care needs of more local people this winter and I fully support the work that Wye Valley NHS Trust are doing to ensure the excellent staff can give patients the best possible care.”

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