Thank you for contacting me about the medicinal use of cannabis. I sympathise profoundly with the situation faced by Alfie Dingley and his family, and others who are living with a physical condition and are in search of the most effective pain relief.
Alfie's life is blighted by epileptic fits and it is understandable that his family want him to have whatever medication they feel will help him. I believe Ministers must ensure that all evidence relating to Alfie's case has been examined and that all avenues of treatment are being considered to ensure that Alfie has the best possible quality of life.
Thank you for contacting me about the medicinal use of cannabis. I sympathise profoundly with the situation faced by Alfie Dingley and his family, and others who are living with... Read more
Thank you to those who recently contacted me about the use of lethal action outside of armed conflict.
I understand that concerns have been raised about the Government's position on targeting suspects outside of areas of armed conflict following changes made to the Ministry of Defence's joint doctrine publication on unmanned aircraft systems (JDP 0-30.2). I agree it is important that there is transparency around the legal framework and guidance that is employed by the Government around the use of drones and that there is a need for the public to feel confident that rules of engagement are applied and followed consistently.
The Government has said that it does not have a policy of "targeted killing", and that drones are operated in accordance with the same domestic and international legal framework (including international humanitarian and international human rights law) that regulates conventional manned aircraft, other weapons and other means or methods of warfare.
As you may be aware, in September 2015 the then Prime Minister David Cameron informed Parliament of a targeted RAF drone strike against a Daesh fighter whom intelligence agencies had linked to a "credible and specific terrorist threat" to the UK. This strike took place before Parliament approved UK military action against Daesh in Syria as part of the wider global coalition. It was also the first time the UK had conducted a lethal drone strike against a terrorist target outside of participation in a military campaign.
The then Prime Minister said that the strike was "necessary and proportionate for the individual self-defence of the UK" and that there was a legal basis for the action. Given the significance of the circumstances of this strike, a number of cross-party Parliamentary inquiries were initiated by it including one by the Joint Committee on Human Rights into the Government's policy on the use of drones for targeted killing. The Joint Committee concluded that "there is a right of self-defence against armed attack by non-State actors such as Daesh, and that anticipatory self-defence is also permitted."
I appreciate concerns about this issue and it is of course important that our brave service personnel have sufficient legal certainty to reassure them that they are not at risk of criminal prosecution for complicity in unlawful acts. Drones play an important role in our Armed Forces and as their use increases I believe the Government should endeavour to be as open and transparent as possible on its approach to their use.
Thank you to those who recently contacted me about the use of lethal action outside of armed conflict. I understand that concerns have been raised about the Government's position...
Thank you to those who have contacted me about hospital car parking charges.
Nobody goes to hospital because they want to, people go because they are sick. They go for treatment, for surgery, and they go to visit loved ones. In short, hospitals are not destinations of choice: people go because they must.
The Government currently recommends that hospital car parking charges should not be applied to blue badge holders, carers, visitors of relatives who are gravely ill, and patients who have frequent out-patient appointments.
In reality, the trend has been an increase in parking charges and a reduction in the number of people who are exempt. Last year, NHS hospitals made a record £174 million from charging patients, visitors and staff, with 40 hospitals reporting additional income from parking fines. There are cases in which some hospital staff whose shift overruns because they are tending to patients' needs face fine for overstaying their parking time. I do not believe this is fair.
More widely, I recognise the concerns that public transport is not an alternative option for some patients wanting to avoid car parking charges. Even where public transport exists, some patients are too unwell or too frail to travel on a bus.
At the General Election, the Labour manifesto pledged free parking in NHS England for patients, staff and visitors, paid for by increasing the tax on private medical insurance premiums so that no hospitals would lose funding as a result.
On 1 February 2018, the House of Commons unanimously agreed to a motion which called on the Government to undertake a consultation to identify the most efficient means of abolishing car parking charges at NHS hospitals in England. I assure you I will follow any future consultation closely. If the Government introduces free hospital car parking in England it must replace any lost revenue to local hospitals by increased NHS expenditure paid for by increasing taxes.
Thank you to those who have contacted me about hospital car parking charges. Nobody goes to hospital because they want to, people go because they are sick. They go...
Thank you to those who have recently contcated me about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
I am deeply concerned at the situation in Gaza and the terrible suffering that many Palestinian people are experiencing. I know that organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians continue to highlight issues arising from the ongoing blockade of Gaza, including access to healthcare and the need for humanitarian aid.
It is clear that the blockade of Gaza by Egypt and Israel undermines basic human rights and economic prospects, as well as the availability of essential services. I agree that these restrictions should be lifted and I hope the Government will urge Hamas to stop firing rockets and making terrorist attacks in Israel and for the Egyptian and Israeli authorities to ease the restrictions.
Thanks to the UNRWA, 500,000 Palestinian children receive schooling every day and millions more receive healthcare. Following President Trump's decision to cut US funding to the UNRWA, we need a long-term and international solution to the shortfall in funding. The Government must lead those efforts and I believe it should consider initiating a special funding conference.
This issue reminds us how vital efforts towards securing a lasting peace agreement are for the interests of the next generation of young people growing up in Israel and Palestine today. Unfortunately, at present, that generation knows nothing but division and violence. I continue to advocate for a two-state solution that recognises the importance of security and stability, and a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Thank you to those who have recently contcated me about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. I am deeply concerned at the situation in Gaza and the terrible suffering that...
Thank you to those who contacted me about bowel cancer awareness and diagnosis. I sympathise profoundly with anybody who has been affected by bowel cancer and I pay tribute to Bowel Cancer UK in its ambition to drive improvements in diagnosis and treatment.
Early diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival and I believe that investment in local screening programmes can make a real difference. Evidence from Beating Bowel Cancer shows that, when diagnosis is made early, bowel cancer can be cured in over 90% of cases.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme for 60-69 year olds was rolled out between July 2006 and December 2010, in which time over 7,000 cancers were detected. Bowel Scope Screening (BSS), an additional one-off examination for men and women aged 55, is being rolled out across the country. However, I am concerned that current guidance from NHS England states that BSS may not be offered in certain areas of England.
At the General Election, Labour's manifesto pledged to tackle the rationing of services across England, and to take action to address 'postcode lotteries' to ensure that the quality of care an individual receives does not depend on which part of the country they are from. More widely, the manifesto pledged an extra £30 billion for the NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need, and to guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks. However we did not win the election.
The Cancer Strategy for England, published by the Independent Cancer Taskforce in July 2015, aims to improve cancer outcomes and strongly emphasises the need to increase uptake in screening and improve early diagnosis. I am disappointed that, in its response to the strategy, the Government has not fully committed to the extra investment the strategy says it needs to establish a National Diagnostic Fund.
Without additional funding, patient care could suffer as a result. Early diagnosis must be a priority for any good cancer service: it is better for the NHS and it is better for patients.
Thank you to those who contacted me about bowel cancer awareness and diagnosis. I sympathise profoundly with anybody who has been affected by bowel cancer and I pay tribute to...
Thank you to those who contacted me about NHS funding and the pressures facing the health service this winter.
I share concerns that our NHS is facing an unprecedented winter crisis. Despite the brilliant efforts of NHS staff, statistics published by NHS England in January reveal that over 100,000 patients have been stuck in the back of ambulances for more than 30 minutes and almost 25,000 patients have waited for more than an hour.
Official targets require that 95% of patients are treated, assessed or discharged within four hours of arriving at A&E. However, the NHS has consistently failed to meet this target since July 2015. Indeed, the latest data from December 2017 shows that just 85% of patients were being seen within four hours.
It is concerning that the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has asked NHS England to explain changes to recording A&E data since October. The UKSA say recent changes could leave people reaching "misleading conclusions" and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has raised concerns that the scale of the crisis facing A&E may be worse than originally thought.
I believe the Government should launch an urgent investigation into claims A&E performance figures have been inconsistently recorded this winter. Ministers should clarify whether this year's winter crisis is significantly worse than currently understood.
More widely, I am concerned that the sustained underfunding of our NHS is stretching the finances of hospitals beyond their limits. Ahead of the Autumn Budget, experts said our health service required an additional £4 billion, yet the Government announced just £335 million of immediate funding for the NHS, and for social care the Chancellor did not offer a single penny.
At the General Election, the Labour manifesto pledged an additional £37 billion for the NHS to ensure it is properly resourced and able to deliver the care patients need, including maintaining the 4-hour A&E target, guaranteeing access to treatments within 18 weeks, and taking one million people off waiting lists by 2022. Unfortunately we did not win the election.
I will continue to press the Conservative Government to come up with a sustainable long-term plan for the NHS to ensure it receives the funding it needs.
Thank you to those who contacted me about NHS funding and the pressures facing the health service this winter. I share concerns that our NHS is facing an unprecedented...
Thank you to those who contacted me about private renting solutions for homeless people and the related campaign by Crisis. I share concerns about this important issue.
Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable. Yet, since the conservative-led government was elected in 2010 the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled - with the latest figures confirming there has been a 169% increase. I believe these figures are a terrible reminder of seven years of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; over £5 billion cut from housing benefit; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.
At the General Election, Labour's manifesto pledged a new national plan to end rough sleeping within this parliament and tackle the root causes of homelessness by increasing security for private renters with controls on rent rises. Unfortunately we did not win the election.
I am aware of the Crisis report, 'Home: No less will do', which examines the barriers single homeless people face accessing the private rented sector. I support projects such as 'Help to Rent', which assist tenants and landlords to set up, de-risk and sustain a tenancy, and I agree excellent initiatives such as these need support and funding.
At the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced just three small-scale pilots to help the homeless, with funding which fell short of what homelessness charities had called for. I believe this is a 'nothing has changed' Budget from a Government with no idea of the reality of people's lives and with no plan to improve them.
If the Conservative Government is serious about fixing our rough sleeping crisis, I believe it should back the Labour Opposition's plans to make 8,000 affordable homes available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets and safeguard homeless hostels and other supported housing from cuts to housing benefit.
I will continue to press the Government to do more to tackle homelessness and ensure security and support for private renters.
Thank you to those who contacted me about private renting solutions for homeless people and the related campaign by Crisis. I share concerns about this important issue. Homelessness and...
Thank you to those who contacted me recently about the accessibility of taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV).
The Equality Act 2010 made it a criminal offence to refuse carriage to an assistance dog at no extra cost, unless drivers have a medical exemption. Guide Dogs has highlighted that 49% of guide dog owners have experienced a refusal in the last year. These statistics should concern us all, and I am aware that refusals can have a devastating impact on the confidence and independence of disabled people. It is clear there is still more to be done to end this shameful discrimination.
A Law Commission report, published in 2014, recommended the wholesale reform of taxi and PHV legislation. It included a number of suggestions designed to improve the accessibility of services, and called for all prospective drivers to undergo disability awareness training. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to respond to the report and said it is still considering its recommendations.
The Government recently consulted on its Draft Transport Accessibility Plan, which examined the refusal of assistance dogs. It sought to identify key actions local and central government could take to improve compliance with the Equality Act 2010. The Government is currently considering the responses, which will be used to inform the updated Best Practice Guidance for taxis and PHV licensing authorities. I can assure you I will follow developments on this closely.
As you are aware, the Government also formed a working party group to consider taxi licensing, which is expected to provide its findings in early 2018. The Government has said it expects the guidance will include recommendations for local authorities to use their existing powers to require prospective drivers to complete the training. Unfortunately, the Government has said it has no plans to bring forward legislation to make the training mandatory.
I believe we must ensure our transport system is accessible for everyone, which is why the Labour manifesto at the 2017 General Election pledged to reform the legislation governing taxis and PHVs. Unfortunately we did not win the election. I believe must have national standards to ensure safety and accessibility standards do not vary across localities.
Thank you to those who contacted me recently about the accessibility of taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV). The Equality Act 2010 made it a criminal offence to refuse...
The recent report published by the National Autistic Society and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism found that 70% of parents of children with autism say that support was not put in place quickly enough for their child. Additionally, fewer than 5 in 10 teachers say that they are confident about supporting a child on the autism spectrum. The report recommended for the Government to develop a national autism and education strategy by the end of 2019.
I believe that teachers should be given the knowledge and skills they need to be able to identify and support children with autism through the training they receive. Indeed, at the General Election in June 2017, the Labour manifesto committed to deliver a strategy for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and which pledged to embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.
The manifesto also set the ambition to make our country autism-friendly and committed to make sure autistic people are able to access the whole of their community. All children with autism deserve access to high quality, full-time education. Unfortunately Labour did not win the election.
The Conservative Government had a manifesto commitment to improve standards of care for those with learning disabilities and autism and have stated that they would consider the recommendations of the Autism and Education report carefully. I can assure you that I will hold the Government to account on this.
I will continue to press the Government to do more to support families seeking to access appropriate.
Thank you to those who contacted me recently about autism and education. The recent report published by the National Autistic Society and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism...
Thank you to those who have contacted me about Accountable Care Organisations and the related Early Day Motion 660.
Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) and Accountable Care Systems (ACSs) are being established by NHS England as a new phase in the development of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). NHS England aim to bring together local NHS organisations, in partnership with social care services, to join up the health and social care system.
There is a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation about the different models of integration between health and social care that are being developed around the country. The best explanation for what is going on has been published by the highly respected King’s Fund here:
As this makes clear, there are clear opportunities here for vertical and horizontal integration, which would actually move beyond the Single Market and in a public (as opposed to a private system like America’s) make private contracting less, not more likely. Paradoxically, one of the reasons NHS and Social Care leaders are pursuing these models is that they enable them to “work around” the disastrous impact of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which forces commissioners to go out for tender.
In September, the Department of Health launched a consultation seeking views on changes to regulations required to develop ACO contracts. The Government proposes to make these changes to the NHS without a vote in parliament, and they will have legal effect from February 2018. These regulations will have far reaching implications for commissioning in the NHS and I agree with you that large scale organisational changes should be subject to proper scrutiny.
As it stands, there are unanswered questions about how ACOs will be accountable to the public, what the levels of private sector involvement will be, and what the implications will be for NHS staff. STPs have been controversial and concerns have been raised that they are a way for the Government to cut NHS services. The Government has not said how it will deliver the funding which would be needed to make ACOs work. Indeed, following the Budget, NHS England said that the Government's financial settlement will mean the NHS will "not be able to do everything being expected of it" and that difficult decisions will need to be made about which services and treatments it can deliver.
The Government and NHS England only has itself to blame for some of the public reaction to these models of integration, because it has adopted an acronym for an American system (ACO) which is not replicable in a public system like ours, instead of simply focusing on place based integrated care.
The Labour Party is completely committed to defending the NHS and we would repeal the 2012 Act to make the NHS the preferred provider. I am very proud that the last Labour Government achieved record short waiting times, record high public satisfaction and record high staff morale in the NHS.
I believe the sustained underfunding of the NHS is stretching the finances of our healthcare services beyond their limits, I believe it is essential that the decision on whether to introduce ACOs into the NHS is taken in public, with a full debate and vote in parliament.
I have signed EDM 660 and I agree that the Government should provide parliamentary time for MPs to debate and vote on whether to introduce ACOs into the NHS. The secrecy in which ACOs have been conceived and are being pushed forward is, I believe, unhelpful and contrary to the Government's duty to be open, transparent and accountable in NHS decision-making.
I would be very concerned if a campaign based on misconception about structures, diverted us from the main task of exposing this Tory Government’s chronic underfunding of the NHS and Social Care and from ensuring we get a Labour Government as soon as possible to address that.
Thank you to those who have contacted me about Accountable Care Organisations and the related Early Day Motion 660. Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) and Accountable Care Systems (ACSs) are...