Andrew Smith MP

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Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, condemned the Tory government’s scrapping of maintenance grants and nursing bursaries

“Maintenance grants provide vital support for students from lower income backgrounds, both those from Oxford and those who come to study here. In 2015 they ensured that over 7,000 poorer students in Oxford did not leave further education with greater debts than their more privileged peers. In spite of Labour’s attempt to halt the Tories’ plans in the House of Commons, they have forced through sweeping changes which will scrap these grants.

“Bursaries for nursing education and training have provided crucial support for the students we need to attract to nursing and related professions.  Replacing them with loans will load nurses with debt, and the repayment requirement amount to a future pay cut. 

“These changes won't deliver fairness or sound public finances but could make poorer students think twice about going into higher education due to the considerable debts they will rack-up in the process. Put simply, the Tories have voted to hit students from the poorest backgrounds with an opportunity tax.

Andrew condemns Tory scrapping of maintenance grants and nursing bursaries

Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, condemned the Tory government’s scrapping of maintenance grants and nursing bursaries “Maintenance grants provide vital support for students from lower income backgrounds, both those from...

Andrew has shown his support for the United Nations International Human Rights Day by calling upon the Government to drop their plans to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA).

Andrew said: “The Human Rights Act protects the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of speech, and many other crucial rights. In marking International Human Rights Day and pledging to fight against the Tory plans, it’s important to acknowledge how thousands of people across the country, from innocent victims of crime to people with a disability, rely on the Human Rights Act to protect them. That’s something we should be proud of.”

The HRA, passed in 1998 with cross-party support, has come under threat following a manifesto commitment from the Government to “scrap the HRA, and introduce a British Bill of Rights” and Lord Chancellor Michael Gove is expected to publish a draft bill early next year.

International Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

Shadow Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, said: “The Human Rights Act is one of Labour’s proudest achievements. Repealing it would be disastrous not only for people at home but for the message it would send to people around the world still fighting for the rights it protects. David Cameron and Michael Gove should listen, drop their plans now and protect our human rights.”

Labour’s Shadow Human Rights Minister Andy Slaughter, said: “International Human Rights Day is a very timely occasion to reflect on what a positive impact documents such as the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights have made to our lives in the United Kingdom.”

Defend human rights – Andrew calls on government to drop plans to scrap the Human Rights Act

Andrew has shown his support for the United Nations International Human Rights Day by calling upon the Government to drop their plans to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA). Andrew...

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On December 1st, Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity took the opportunity to highlight the UK’s growing puppy smuggling problem to a host of MPs at its annual House of Commons reception hosted by Sir Roger Gale MP and supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Having attended the event on Tuesday, Andrew said: “I am pleased to support Dogs Trust in raising awareness of the issue of illegal puppy smuggling - something which affects many people in my constituency each year. Not only is this issue affecting unwitting members of the public who are buying puppies without knowing where in the world they have come from, but it also brings with it a risk of disease to humans and dogs, which is simply unacceptable. There are also the huge welfare concerns for the puppies being transported such long distances at such a young age. It’s evident that greater measures need to be put in place to deter people from smuggling puppies into this country illegally.”

Following its initial report into puppy smuggling in November 2014, Dogs Trust this year conducted its second in-depth investigative report focused on the puppies travelling illegally into Britain under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). Dogs Trust found substantial evidence that underage puppies are still regularly entering the country on false documentation and are subsequently sold to unsuspecting consumers.

Despite recent changes to the PETS designed to strengthen the scheme, the report found evidence of;

  • Ineffective border controls and enforcement of PETS at British ports, with no requirement on enforcers to carry out even a basic sight check on the animal being imported
  • Dogs Trust managed to transport a stuffed toy with a pet passport three times without anyone noticing the dog was not alive
  • Breeders and dealers from Lithuania and Romania using the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) for the commercial importation of puppies to Great Britain, it is just for owned pets
  • Breeders and dealers from Lithuania and Romania supplying young puppies under 12 weeks of age – the legal age at which puppies can be vaccinated against rabies – with dates of birth simply being faked on pet passports
  • Vets in Lithuania and Romania falsifying data on pet passports for PETS
  • Puppies bred in horrendous conditions in Eastern Europe
  • Puppies from Eastern Europe advertised online with no reference to their countries of origin

To emphasise how easily unethical dealers are able to bring underage, sickly, or undocumented puppies into Great Britain, MPs were invited to take part in a photo opportunity which saw them standing in front of a giant fake pet passport. They were surrounded by toy puppies that Dogs Trust smuggled through Britain’s ports as part of their investigation, to illustrate the ineffectiveness of patrols at the ports. 

Adrian Burder, Dogs Trust CEO, says: “Dogs Trust’s famous slogan A dog is for life, not just for Christmas is 37 years old but it is still, sadly, as relevant as ever with puppies available to buy at the click of a button online. As we approach the festive period, I would like to remind anyone thinking of getting a dog to do their research and ensure they know where their dog is coming from before making the decision to bring a four legged friend into their home. Dog lovers could inadvertently be lining the pockets of unscrupulous breeders and fuelling the illegal puppy smuggling trade.

“Dogs Trust would like to see far more being done to ensure that proper checks at ports are enforced, that on the spot fines are handed out to those individuals smuggling puppies illegally to act as a deterrent and that a nationwide multi-agency strategy is put in place to deal with this issue once and for all.”

Jo Bucci, Managing Director of People’s Postcode Lottery, added: “I am delighted that the funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery has helped to ensure Dogs Trust is able to carry out important work like this. I hope this event helps to raise further awareness of this issue and bring about some effective change for the welfare of dogs.”

To find out more about Dogs Trust and to read our findings on puppy smuggling please visit www.dogstrust.org.uk

Andrew helps charity raise awareness of puppy smuggling plight

Having paid close attention to the arguments on both sides and the view of my constituents, today I will be voting against the government’s motion on British air strikes in Syria.

I believe that we should do all we can to help bring about peace and to aid those who have been forced to flee their homes.

I am concerned that, learning from previous interventions, we do everything we can to make sure that any action we take will make matters better and not worse, is part of a credible strategy for peace and security and is legitimate in international law. I am not persuaded that the UK joining air strikes presently meets these tests, and will vote against them in the Commons motion today.

I welcome the recent United Nations resolution. The UN has a crucial role to play in bringing together regional and international powers to make progress towards diplomatic and political agreement on the future for Syria, which, though obviously difficult, is the only route to security for the Syrian people. It is crucial that there are clear and agreed plans on working towards a future for Syria which has the confidence of its people, including minorities such as the Kurds and Alawites. I would like to see the UN taking a much more active role in this.

I also favour giving more support, both diplomatic and practical, to the Kurdish defence forces, who have shown themselves to be the most effective at pushing Daesh back. I also believe that a UN-mandated establishment of safe zones in Syria would merit international support as part of a series of steps towards a durable settlement.

I strongly support aid for the refugees, whether in Syria itself, in neighbouring countries or those who have fled to Europe.

We also clearly have to do more to tackle the underlying causes of extreme jihadism and the perversion of Islam which it represents, including the dangerous attraction it has for some disaffected young people.

The situation in Syria is complex and dangerous. This requires a very careful and well thought-through response by the international community, and there is a lot more to do to get a credible strategy in place.

Commons vote on further intervention in Syria

Having paid close attention to the arguments on both sides and the view of my constituents, today I will be voting against the government’s motion on British air strikes in...

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