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

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David Heath campaigns to end child poverty

David Heath has shown his support for helping the UK’s poorest children in this year’s Budget, at an event for the Campaign to End Child Poverty, in Westminster.

MPs came together to demonstrate their concern for the one in three children in the UK who are living in poverty, and to send a message that more should be done to help them.

Mr Heath was photographed in front of a backdrop showing the Campaign to End Child Poverty’s Keep the Promise rally in Trafalgar Square in October. Ten thousand people turned out to urge the government not to forget its promise of halving child poverty by 2010 and ending it by 2020.

Today’s event was organised by Save the Children, as part of the Campaign to End Child Poverty. The Campaign is calling on the government to invest at least £3 billion in the poorest families in this Budget, to give the government a chance of meeting their 2010 target.

Sally Copley, head of UK policy for Save the Children, said: “We are delighted to see MPs showing their support for ending child poverty. Too many children in this country are growing up without enough money for a nutritious diet or a warm home. We need everyone in Westminster to commit to ending this tragedy.”

Recent Save the Children research shows that the poorest are suffering the most from the financial crisis. Nearly half of the poorest parents have cut back on food and heating, around half are suffering sleepless nights and 40% are suffering from depression.

A Save the Children briefing has also argued that investing in the poorest families is the best way to help the economy, because poorer people are more likely to spend any extra money they receive.

David Heath said: "According to the Campaign group, End Child Poverty, 3.9 million children are living in poverty across the UK. I'm appalled that in a country as advanced as ours, we have children who will grow up in impoverished situations. I'll be doing all that I can to put pressure on the government to meet their targets, because otherwise children will continue to live in depravation."

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Government blocks life-saving bill

Today the Fuel Poverty Bill was debated in Parliament.

The Bill was proposed by David Heath and had received the support of MPs from all political parties.

The government were set on blocking the bill despite calls to progress the Bill from members of different political parties.

Mr Heath had also spent time both before and during the debate assuring the Minister, Joan Ruddock MP that he wanted to reach a consensus.

Mr Heath was forced to attempt to close the second reading, nearly four hours into the debate, but fell short of quoracy by just 11 MPs. After this the government were able to talk the bill out.

The bill will resume progress on the 12th of June, however its chances of progressing further will be limited.

David Heath MP said: “This Bill could have offered so much to so many people across the country. By regenerating the building trade we could have kick starting the economy. By relieving hardship, we could have saved thousands of lives every year. By cutting our energy use, we could have begun to seriously tackle climate change.

“I won’t give up the fight to change the dire situation that many people face through fuel poverty, and I don’t want a single extra person to die as a result of fuel poverty. It will be difficult to get this bill back on track, but I am determined to do so.”

Speaking after the debate, Simon Hughes MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change said: "Across Britain millions of families would have gained from the Fuel Poverty Bill. Sadly the government has decided to behave poorly by delaying it. Unless they change their minds in the next few weeks another opportunity to help those struggling with high fuel bills will be missed. It will show that the government is failing on its promise to deliver warm homes for all."

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Flooding must be a higher priority, says David Heath

David Heath yesterday spoke out about flooding in his constituency.

Mr Heath, who had secured the debate on flooding in Somerset, talked about the need for engagement with the problem from all levels.

To combat flooding, Mr Heath called for:

  • Proper maintenance and drainage works across the county.
  • River catchment management as at the River Parrot.
  • Community ideas to provide resilience for individual houses should be spread across flood-prone areas of the country.
  • An organised and formal community response in instances of flooding.

Mr Heath criticised the Government for not having dealt with “facilities such as schools” and claimed that making them flood resistant should be a matter of public policy.

Giving the example of Countess Gytha School in Queen Camel, Mr Heath described how the school had been repeatedly flooded and its pupils repeatedly evacuated and moved into alternative accommodation.

Mr Heath said: “We have seen flooding and the devastation it brings time and time again. We need to seriously consider how to tackle the problems associated with flooding and this can only be done if each body of decision making pulls together, from national through to local. Flooding needs to be a higher priority for all.”

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Face to face passport interviews a farce, claims David Heath

David Heath today spoke out about the passport interview system.

In his role as Shadow Leader of the House, David Heath MP asked the Minister to consider a debate on whether or not the current system is worth the “money and inconvenience” caused to members of the public.

According to a report released by the Home Office, until July 2008 216,000 interviews for passports took place, to the cost of £115 million. Of those 216,000 interviews, not a single person was rejected for a passport.

Harriet Harman said: “The Home Office keeps issues such as face-to-face passport interviews under review. We need to strike the right balance between the ability to use the internet for administrative convenience and for the convenience of those who are applying, and making sure that there is human, face-to-face activity, so that we can ensure that the system is on track.”

Commenting on this Mr Heath said: “It is ridiculous that people are travelling across the country at their own expense for these interviews.

“I’m shocked that these interviews have continued when the Home Office can see from their reviews that they are ineffective at an extreme cost. It seems to be an exercise in spending tax payers’ money and wasting people’s time.”

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