David Heath MP, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome

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July news releases

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David Heath backs fair wage campaign for hospitality workers

David Heath has backed a campaign to bring fairness in wages to workers within the hospitality industry by co-sponsoring Early Day Motion 2035.

The EDM supports the campaign, calling for amendments to the 1998 Minimum Wage Act.

At present some employers within the hospitality industry use tips to make up the wages of their employees, and according to current legislation, they are within their rights to do so.

Commenting Mr Heath said: “I strongly commend the campaign for bringing this issue to the fore. The public have a right to know that when they tip staff, they are not necessarily giving them extra, but merely making up their wages.

“Within the current economic climate, it is particularly worrying that some employers within the hospitality industry choose to treat their staff in such a way. It is disappointing that common decency has been overridden by greed.

“By signing EDM 2035, MPs will be able to show their support for appropriate amendments to the 1998 Minimum Wage Act. I strongly urge the public to contact their MPs to encourage them to sign this Motion.”

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David Heath congratulates lottery award winners

David Heath today congratulated two organisations within his constituency after their Big Lottery Fund awards were issued this month.

High Ham Village Hall’s award will enable larger events within the community. The group hopes that the improvements that they’ll make to the hall will bring in more residents and a variety of events.

Wanstrow Parish Council won their bid to set up a film club within the parish. The film equipment they’ll be able to purchase will also be used at village meetings.

Commenting, David Heath MP said: “The initiative these two groups have displayed is fantastic. I eagerly look forward to seeing what happens with the two projects and where their drive will take them both next. I am sure that others will be inspired by their success.”

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Tax rules on voluntary car drivers must be changed, says Heath

David Heath has called for a change in the tax treatment of volunteer drivers such as the Hospital Car Service to stop the reduction in numbers over recent months.

Many volunteer drivers, who are not paid but receive car expenses on a mileage basis, are being forced to give up because the mileage rates fall short of the real costs of motoring.

The expenses rates are effectively set by HM revenue & Customs rules as to the rates of car mileage payments for tax purposes, which is currently set at 40p a mile.

Recent fuel increase have meant real costs are soaring, and many drivers say they can’t carry on running their cars at a loss.

The issue was raised in treasury questions today by David Heath, who called for a relaxation in the rules or new guidance to del with the current situation.

Mr Heath said: “I am worried we may be losing a huge voluntary resource simply because the rules aren’t catching up with reality. Of course the tax regulations affect everyone, but it's particularly sad that people who are prepared to give up their time for nothing in order to help others in need should be penalised in this way.”

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Re-think tax office closures, says David Heath

David Heath has called on Ministers to re-think the closure of tax offices across Somerset.

Speaking in questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Parliament today, Mr Heath said that the decision to close HM Revenue & Customs offices in Frome, Yeovil, Wells, Bridgwater and Weston-super-Mare would damage the local economy and provide a worse level of service to people in Somerset.

Mr Heath said: “How will the provision of service to individuals and businesses be improved by closing local offices and moving the business to Bristol? How is it fair to loyal staff who will find themselves either out of a job or with quite impossible daily commutes?

“How is it economically or environmentally sensible to close local, accessible offices and make people drive to congested Bristol where commercial property costs are much higher?

“These closures are going to do a lot of damage to Somerset, and the government should think again.”

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David Heath brands new south west select committee a farce

New proposals drawn up by the Government to provide for House of Commons Select Committees for each region of England have been branded a farce by David Heath.

He has called for a re-think, as proposals for the select committee for the south west, which will scrutinise all government activities in the government region, from Gloucestershire to the tip of Cornwall, were revealed.

The new committee of MPs will:

  • Have just ten members, which means not every part of the south west will be represented
  • Have the same party political composition as the House of Commons as a whole, which means a region dominated politically by conservatives and liberal democrats will have six Labour members, three conservatives and just one Liberal Democrat
  • Have members who represent constituencies which are not even in the region at all, just to make up the Labour Party numbers

The proposals are contained in a report from the Modernisation Committee published today called “Regional Accountability”. The report was only agreed on the casting vote of the Chairman, government minister Harriet Harman, when opposition members voted against.

Mr Heath, who has put down a motion to the commons today strongly criticising the arrangements, said: “I’m all for greater accountability. A properly constituted select committee would have enabled us to look properly at what happens in the west country.

"But a committee stuffed full of Labour members, some of whom, given that government ministers and their aides won’t qualify, will not come from the region and therefore won’t have any genuine interest. This simply reduces the whole thing to a farce.

"Of course, I resent the fact that the 16 Liberal Democrat members in the region will have just one place on the committee. If, for example, that place was filled by one of the three Somerset Liberal Democrat members that would mean Cornwall was not represented at all. How can that properly reflect the south west?”

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