NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Saturday 31st October 2015
We can’t run a decent NHS without an efficient, modern ambulance service. Emergency treatment for critical illness and injury is vital and for some conditions – heart attacks and stroke for instance – a rapid response can mean the difference between life and death. So I was disappointed to learn about East Midlands Ambulance Service response times falling back from their eight minute key targets in the past couple of months, as reported in this week’s Nottingham Post.
I’ve asked for an early meeting with the Ambulance Service chief executive to discuss why timeliness has been slipping. As I said in my remarks to BBC Radio Nottingham on Friday there are many obstacles that paramedics face, including busy traffic, but in the 21st century we need to be managing the service better than 15 minute responses to Red1 and Red2 call outs. Financial pressures are undoubtedly part of this equation. There has also been a changing strategy at the ambulance service, making plans to reconfigure buildings and key locations and then changing those again.
We need the best quality hospitals and primary care in Nottingham, but we also need patients to be able to access treatment quickly when it is urgently needed. It would be deeply regrettable if somehow the ambulance service didn’t receive the same high priority for investment and modernisation as the rest of the NHS.
- I was very pleased to hear that Djanogly Academy on Gregory Boulevard has been taken out of “special measures” following an Ofsted inspection. The school is steadily improving under headteacher Dave Hooker and posted an increase in the number of students getting five GCSEs, including maths and English. They still have some way to go but, as the inspectors said, Mr Hooker is turning the school around. You can read the full story in the Nottingham Post here: http://www.nottinghampost.com/Djanogly-City-Academy-lifted-special-measures/story-28041255-detail/story.html#ixzz3pVsNVA3U
- 9 out of 10 people with learning disabilities have experienced a hate incident over the last year. On Thursday I was invited to Nottingham Mencap to visit ‘Smile! Stop Hate Crime’, a project for people with learning disabilities working to tackle disability hate crime in Nottingham. Their coordinators, Denise Hickman and Karen Aspley, told me about their new scheme, Safe Places, which works with local public premises (e.g. shops, pubs) to provide a ‘Safe Place’ for vulnerable people. If a vulnerable member of the community needs support they can go to a certified ‘Safe Place’ (which will have a badge in the window), and the staff will know how to help them and who to contact. It is a great project, and the Mencap day care services are much valued – and I even had the chance to join them for lunch!
- In September Virgin Media announced that Nottingham would potentially benefit from £25 million investment in ultrafast broadband over the next four years, which could affect up to 50,000 premises. I requested a meeting with Virgin Media in Nottingham on Thursday to discuss this planned extension, and they are asking residents interested in the service to say whether they want to have cable access or not (their survey link is here). Over two hundred people work at the Virgin Media headquarters in Nottingham and it was interesting to look around and see for myself how the company is organised.
- The problem with the clocks going back means it is very dark quite early now – which has a number of downsides to it, including making it slightly more challenging to knock on doors in the evening to talk with local residents about the issues that concern you most! Undeterred by the rain, we were out in Edwards Lane this week (pictured below) and a number of questions came up including the need for better playground facilities, tax credit changes, and support for the work of our armed forces.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- This week the Government suffered two humiliating defeats in the House of Lords over their plan to cut tax credits. Peers voted that the Chancellor should not go ahead with the changes – which take an average of £1,300 a year from three million working families – until he has laid out extra support for those affected for the next three years. Since losing the vote the Tories have tried to manufacture a “constitutional crisis” on the basis that the Lords defied the Commons on a financial matter – but this argument was shattered when one of their own ministers confirmed this was a benefits matter, rather than a tax one, so the Lords had not broken any conventions.
- The reality is that David Cameron and George Osborne do not have permission from voters to cut tax credits and during the election they repeatedly ducked the question of where exactly their social security cuts could fall. So on Tuesday, at Treasury Questions, I asked the Chancellor directly to point to the sentence in the Tory manifesto which outlined this specific tax credit cut. It was a simple question – but of course he could not answer. You can watch the exchange here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/289f1a84-8d7c-4ac8-b8e4-aa3192094b70?in=11:44:29&out=11:45:15
- On Tuesday the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill returned to the House of Commons for its Report Stage and Third Reading. I voted against the third reading of this legislation because attempts to amend away the worse elements were all rejected by Ministers. I was particularly disappointed that the Government refuse to maintain a duty on the Government to report on child poverty targets. I also supported amendments which would have prevented the abolition of the Work-Related Activity Group component of ESA and prevented the cut being transferred to Universal Credit. I believe it is unjust and unfair to cut social security support for disabled people and those with serious health conditions who have been assessed as not fit for work and placed in the work-related activity group. Unfortunately the Government defeated these amendments as well
- On Wednesday there was a debate in the House of Commons on junior doctors’ contracts. Junior doctors are the lifeblood of the NHS and the Government’s handling of the junior doctors’ contract has caused unnecessary anger across the country and is now a real threat to the recruitment and retention of NHS staff. It is vital the new contract is safe for patients and fair to junior doctors and I am concerned that the current proposals remove the safeguards that penalise hospitals who routinely force junior doctors to work in excess of their contracted hours, and cuts pay for those doctors that currently work evenings and weekends putting delivery of a 7-day NHS at risk. The Opposition motion urged the Government to protect junior doctors in the new contract and return to negotiations with the BMA. Unfortunately the Government voted against the Opposition’s motion and it did not pass.
- The first of the two Opposition Day debates on Wednesday called on the Government to take immediate action to protect the steel industry. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the sector over the last few weeks, with more at risk. The steel industry is of vital importance to those local communities it serves, yet it has taken these many job losses before the Government has even talked about action. I supported the Opposition’s motion, which called on the Government to implement immediately the Energy Intensive Industry Compensation Package, to address the high energy costs the sector faces.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
It’s alarming how the issue of carbon reduction and global warming has been on the wane with the media in recent years. Some argue that the economic downturn placed financial matters more to the fore in people’s minds. But we remain in urgent need of a worldwide solution to sustained and high carbon emissions – which is why I want to press the UK Government to take the Paris Conference in December far more seriously.
The United Nations have compiled a survey of what they call ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs), measuring the promised commitments of now 146 countries to cut emissions. While this is four times the number of countries committed since the Kyoto protocol, and if kept would lead to a 9% cut in emissions by 2030, I am still concerned it will see global temperatures rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius about pre-industrial levels.
I’d be interested to know whether you also sense these questions have fallen down the political agenda – and what could be done to raise interest again? I’m pleased that the Paris Conference looks likely to cover 86% of global emissions but it’s the developing world and the large industrialising nations like China, India and Indonesia we need to encourage to do more. Any thoughts or observations always gratefully received.