The festive season is upon us and preparations for Christmas are well under way right across the country.
This time of year gives us pause to think about our lives and how thankful we can be for our families, friends and those around us. That is what makes Christmas for me and it is a wonderful time to spend in the company of our loved ones.
However, for some children and families, Christmas is not a time of excitement. That is why I am running my annual Christmas toy appeal, which supports some of the poorest children in the North East via the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army does incredible work for those in need and I would really encourage people, if they can, to Buy One More Toy when out shopping and drop it off for the appeal at one of my offices.
With the Parliamentary Christmas recess fast approaching, the EU Withdrawal Bill continues to be debated thoroughly in the House of Commons as it receives detailed scrutiny to deal with amendments from all across the House.
There are some amendments that I don’t agree with, but it is really exciting and fulfilling to see the future direction of our country and its laws being debated by Parliamentarians in our sovereign House of Commons.
Ensuring that our Parliament is sovereign and British democracy thrives is a key element of why I campaigned for Brexit. This legislation is crucial for the whole of the UK as it ensures we have a functioning statute book and legal system as soon as we leave the EU in March 2019. After that we will be free to amend laws, as will the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Another issue that has caused a great deal of media coverage is animal welfare.
When I offered myself for election, alongside colleagues of every political colour, we knew that you have to have a thick skin and that we would rightly receive close scrutiny from constituents. However, in recent weeks a great deal of false information has been spread.
This new phenomenon, known as ‘fake news’, has spread the lie that Conservatives do not believe animals are sentient or deserving of protection. This shocked me to the core. As an animal lover, a dog owner and fighting campaigns such as Ban the Bolt to improve welfare for animals, I was extremely saddened by the spread of misinformation.
We in the UK recognise the need for outstanding welfare protection and already have much in place stronger than EU law. Across Europe we still see bullfighting, beak trimming, baby quail hunting, the Pero Palo festival, the shooting of migrating birds, fur farming and live exports for slaughter. EU law is no panacea; you can keep animals in poor conditions without breaking it.
I am immensely proud that the UK legislators do not consider this the benchmark for animal welfare law. We want to ensure that our welfare laws, as a nation of animal lovers, will be the very best in the world after we leave the EU.
That is why this Government is making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses, which goes beyond EU rules. That is why we are consulting on legislation to jail animal abusers for up to five years, and are proposing a stronger ban on the ivory trade than anywhere else in Europe. Furthermore, our ban on microbeads to clean up our oceans and take plastics out of the food chain has been welcomed by Greenpeace as “the strongest in the world”.
We have done much on animal welfare over recent months, but there is much more to do and leaving the EU gives us the chance to lead the world.
I hope this has put the minds of those who love animals, like me, at rest.
I wish everyone a joyful and peaceful Christmas and I look forward to continuing to represent you in 2018.