I have been contacted by many constituents on the issue and I would like to take this opportunity to explain why I voted against the amendments put forward by Zac Goldsmith MP.
I agree that the public must be able to hold their Member of Parliament to account. The ballot box at a General Election is of course the place where voters can make their judgement on the policy decisions their MP has made, or their stance on controversial matters such as going to war, during the previous Parliament.
I believe it is essential that if an MP fails to meet the standards of conduct expected of MPs and commits serious wrongdoing, constituents should have the option to remove their MP before the next General Election. But I think it would be wrong for an MP to face a constant stream of recall petitions, because he or she had voted a certain way or because they were supporting unpopular causes. This would have been the effect of Zac Goldsmith’s amendments.
This is what happens in the USA where supporters of gun control have been recalled and ejected, following well-funded campaigns to oust them. This would make MPs, particularly those in marginal seats, very wary of speaking out on controversial matters or taking tough, but necessary decisions. This would be very unhealthy for our democracy.
Zac Goldsmith’s proposals would not guarantee that an MP who received a prison sentence would face a recall petition. His four stage process, if implemented, would take over twice as long to conclude as the Government’s. And he acknowledges that his proposals, because of high thresholds – 20% would need to sign a petition, then 51% would need to vote for the MP to be recalled in a referendum – are very unlikely to lead to recall.
There is one important area however where the Government, responding to an all-party amendment led by two Liberal Democrat MPs, David Heath and Julian Huppert, is going to carry out further work. This is a proposal which would provide members of the public with the ability to trigger a recall petition themselves, without reference to Parliament, if they felt their MP had committed serious wrongdoing or misconduct in public office. The Government hopes to be able to bring back an amendment of this nature at Report Stage in the Commons.
The Bill strikes a fair balance between holding to account those who commit serious wrong-doing or a serious offence and giving MPs the freedom to do their job and make difficult decisions where necessary. I am pleased that at Committee Stage, on a free vote, the Government’s proposals for recall received a large majority.
I hope this has helped to clarify my position.
Don Foster, MP for Bath, is looking forward to National School Meals Week, starting on 3 November. National School Meals Weeks was created by the Local Authorities Caterers Association (LACA) and aims to promote healthy school meals to parents, pupils and teachers.
School meals for infants have become the norm thanks to Lib Dem policy guaranteeing free school lunches for infants. In Bath and North East Somerset over 5000 infants benefit from the Universal Free School Meals policy.
Commenting, Don Foster said: “I am really pleased that infant pupils are now guaranteed to get a hot, healthy meal every day at school ensuring they get the best start in life. It’s so important to get a good lunch inside of you and free meals also means savings on the family grocery bill. Definitely something worth celebrating!”
Across England more than one million children are now benefitting from free school meals. Research in pilot areas shows that children who were given a free school meal were academically ahead of their peers elsewhere.
Commenting further, Steve Bradley Lib Dem PPC for Bath said: “It has taken nearly five years to get this policy into place and I’m really proud all the hard work is paying off. Free school meals are leading the fight in cutting the cost of living and creating a fairer society for everyone”
Local data about the number of children and families benefitting from the pupil premium, free school meals and free childcare: http://www.libdems.org.uk/children_local_data?utm_campaign=nsfm_week2&utm_medium=email&utm_source=libdems
Bath MP, Don Foster, has declared himself ‘delighted’ that up to half a million people living in and around Bath can have a greater say over how their health services are run after a local hospital was awarded foundation trust status.
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust (RUH Bath) has been authorised by Monitor as a foundation trust, effective from 1 November 2014. Whilst it authorised the trust, the health regulator has said that RUH Bath needs to continue reducing the number of patients waiting too long in A&E. Monitor will be closely monitoring the trust’s performance against its agreed action plan.
After undergoing a rigorous assessment process, the trust will now be able to give patients, staff and the public the chance to become members or governors with a formal say over how the trust is run. The trust will also have more freedom to shape services that match the needs of local people.
Commenting, Don Foster said: “This is a great day for Bath. I would like to congratulate everyone at the RUH for their tireless work to achieve Foundation Trust status. Greater community involvement can only further improve our health services, by making them more responsive to the needs of the people of Bath.”
Miranda Carter, Monitor’s Executive Director of Provider Appraisal said: “We are pleased to announce the authorisation of Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust. Up to half a million patients could now have a greater say over their healthcare and the new foundation trust will have greater freedom to provide services that meet the needs of local people.”
To achieve foundation trust status, the trust had to prove it is well-led. The independent Care Quality Commission also used its new inspection approach to judge that the quality of care provided by the trust met the standard expected.
As a foundation trust it will be: