View from the House – 23rd February 2018

Friday, 23rd February 2018

HELLO and welcome to my weekly View from the House for Tamworth Informed.

Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to compile a list of potholes around the area to send to Staffordshire County Council, the authority responsible for roads, so that their attention is brought to the problem. So far I have received a great response from residents from around the constituency getting in touch to highlight their roads. If you have any thoughts or know of any that you pass on the roads, please do let me know.

Last week as part of my usual meetings with teams at our local hospitals, I visited the Chief Executives at the Burton NHS Hospitals Trust who are responsible for the Sir Robert Peel Hospital. It was a really positive meeting and I was reassured to hear the plans to improve and provide new services at the hospital for many years to come.

Since the last election, there has been a lot of talk about the post-18 education system, for example cancelling student debt, lowering/zero tuition fees, and whether the current university system is a fair deal for students but also the taxpayer. This week the Prime Minister announced that a review will be taking place to look into the subject of post-18 education. The review is expected to take around a year.

The United Kingdom has a world-class higher education system. Sixteen of our universities are in the world’s top 100 and four are in the top 10. We have record numbers of young people entering university, including from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our student finance system removes up-front financial barriers and provides protections for borrowers so that they only have to contribute when they can afford to do so. A university degree provides significant financial returns to the individual: graduates on average benefit from their university education by over £100,000 over their lifetime.

However, despite this all these positive stories, it is clear there remains some unfairness in the system. The review will look at four key strands: choice and competition across post-18 education and training; value for money for graduates and taxpayers; accessibility of the system to all; and delivering the skills that our country needs now and in the future. This means identifying ways to help people to make the most effective choices between the options available at and after 18, so that they can make more informed decisions about their futures. It is also about ensuring that there is a more diverse range of options to choose from beyond the classic three-year or four-year undergraduate degrees.

There was another major review announced this week by the Health Secretary into how authorities responded to concerns over three major medical problems; namely the pregnancy test Primodos, vaginal mesh implants and epilepsy drug sodium valproate. The cases make for some upsetting reading.

In the case of Primodos, campaigners claim it caused birth defects in their children, such as blindness, deafness, spina bifida and heart and limb defects, as well as cleft palates.

It is claimed that babies exposed to valproate medicines in the womb have a 10% chance of developing physical abnormalities and a 40% chance of developing cognitive problems, such as learning disabilities and autism. Parents who have had babies born with disabilities say they were not sufficiently warned about the risks.

In the case of mesh implants, it is estimated that more than 100,000 women in the country have had a mesh fitted. Campaigners have reported the implants cutting into the body and women being left in permanent pain, unable to walk or work. Truly shocking.

After a long campaign by many, I’m very pleased to see the Health Secretary announce an independent review to look in to these matters which will aim to ensure that these problems will not be replicated by the NHS or any other authority in the future.

Today is what’s known as a ‘Sitting Friday’ where MPs debate Private Member’s Bills (PMBs). These Bills can be put forward by any MP and are always debated on intermittent Fridays. As I write we have just passed the Overseas Electors Bill which is a PMB to extend the basis on which British citizens outside the UK qualify to participate in Parliamentary elections. It will remove the ’15-year rule’ which prevents British citizens living overseas from registering to vote if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years. This is good news for those British citizens living abroad!

Have a great weekend.