Letter from Parliament - Tony Lloyd
Date published: 17 May 2019
Tony Lloyd MP
My colleague, Labour MP Louise Haig, raised an urgent question in Parliament regarding plans to roll out consent forms asking victims of crime, including rape victims, to hand over their mobile phones to police. The Labour Party have taken a clear stance on the matter that this would be a huge intrusion of people’s privacy, particularly for rape victims, when they have already been violated.
This move would discourage victims from coming forward. We need to do all we can to support victims of sexual violence to come forward and report cases to the police, not deter them.
The former England and Manchester United football captain Bryan Robson organised an event in Parliament to launch the Radiotherapy4Life campaign. Bryan has benefitted successfully from radiotherapy, but many in the UK continue to miss out on the radiotherapy they need to treat their cancer. This is costing lives and research suggests as many as 24,000 people every year are missing out on radiotherapy they need, some of whom may lose their lives as a result. The situation requires urgent action on the part of Government and the NHS.
Chris Packham, the presenter of Springwatch, also visited Parliament to launch ‘Making Conservation Happen – The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife’. Huge man-made harm has been caused to the natural world in recent decades and the threat to wildlife and natural spaces shows no sign of easing.
The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, led by campaigners like Chris Packham brings together conservationists, academics and businesses, and many others in an effort to combat the harm being caused to our natural world. Their prime goal is to improve public policy and to protect the natural world for future generations.
In Rochdale Town Hall, I attended the Mayor’s Business Breakfast which brought together small local businesses along with Rochdale Development Agency, who gave an update on the development of Riverside Shopping Centre and other areas of investment. Investment in Rochdale is always welcome news and helps increase employment opportunities.
The local elections took place at the beginning of the month. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate new councillors Tom Besford, Rachel Massey and Elsie Wraighte, as well as those councillors across all parties, who are now leaving the Council – Ann Stott, Cecile Biant and Lynne Brosnan. Local politicians do get a hard time, but I know how hard they work, and Rochdale is a better place thanks to the work they do.
Back in Parliament, MPs discussed air pollution. A recent study has identified that over 40 towns and cities in the UK are at, or are exceeding, air pollution limits. Death counts related to air pollution are also on the rise each year and we know children’s lungs can be particularly badly affected.
Local authorities are pressing ahead with efforts to tackle the problem, with a new ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ being introduced in central London and Greater Manchester considering similar measures. But the Government needs to do more to protect public health, reduce our carbon emissions and improve the quality of the air we breathe.
The UK Thalassaemia Society held an event in Parliament to raise awareness of Thalassaemia. It is one of the most common inherited blood conditions in the world which affects the production of red blood cells. Thalassaemia mainly affects those coming from regions such as South America, the Caribbean, Northern and Central Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and South East Asia but has also been known to affect people indigenous to the UK. There are approximately 200,000 carriers of the thalassaemia gene in the UK. While being a carrier does not cause any major health problems, if two carriers have a baby, there is a 25% chance the baby could inherit the more serious form of the disorder; Beta Thalassaemia and as such will require blood transfusions for the rest of their lives in order to survive.
The Society’s aim is to provide awareness to all communities, support patients, their families and medical professionals, campaign for patient centred health changes and fund research. I have known people with this condition, and I was more than happy to provide my support to their campaign.
I organised a meeting between the Chief Officer of Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership, Jon Rouse, and local MPs to discuss changes across the North East Quadrant of Greater Manchester, including Rochdale, to ensure access to health and hospital care is available to everyone across Rochdale.
Hospice and End of Life Care was also discussed as part of an inquiry into improving access to these essential services. We know Springhill Hospice is one of the great institutions which families across Rochdale have relied on when they need it most. It’s important that awareness of issues affecting people living with terminal or life-shortening conditions, and their families and carers is kept on the Parliamentary agenda.
In Rochdale, I visited local business, Dresser Mouldings. Dresser Mouldings launched in 2009 specialising in off the shelf and bespoke timber manufacturing and have grown into a true one stop shop. They’ve invested in the skills of its work force and this has been the driving force in allowing the company to grow, along with continued investment in new technology and equipment, making them one of the market leaders in their field.
Bill Gunn, the Managing Director stated that the employees are the key to the company’s success, most of whom are City & Guild trained or NVQ qualified.
I visited Rochdale Sixth Form and met with the Principal, Richard Ronksley, to discuss the funding challenges Further Education colleges and sixth forms are facing. I join him in supporting the Raise the Rate Campaign, calling on the Government to make two commitments in the 2019 spending review.
First, to raise the national funding rate for 16 to 18-year-old students to at least £4,760 per year (from the current level of £4,000 per year for 16 and 17-year olds, and £3,300 for 18-year olds). And second, to raise the rate in line with inflation each year.
Funding was cut by the Government in 2010 and then frozen since 2013: this cannot go on. A significant increase in funding is essential for excellent Sixth Forms like Rochdale’s, to continue to provide the first-class education they do.
St Patrick’s Church celebrated its 50th anniversary this month and held an open afternoon, complete with displays and entertainment from a selection of choirs and bands. It was great to be able to join them for this special occasion.
The Trade Union involved in aerospace visited Parliament to bring MPs up to date with concerns for the industry and explain how we can help tens of thousands of employees in the UK Defence Air Sector. It’s important that the Government commits to supporting this sector and invests in its future.
Mental Health Awareness Week has taken place this week from 13th-19th May. Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
Our mental health is so important and these figures are truly saddening. Support from across the NHS has improved over the years, but it’s not enough. It’s still an unfunded, neglected Cinderella service which requires huge investment.
Diabetes UK held a parliamentary reception to launch their latest report looking at the links between diabetes and mental health. Diabetes has huge emotional impacts on its sufferers – and unfortunately it is rarely spoken about. At least four in 10 people living with the condition experience mental health problems. Poor mental health impacts the ability and motivation to self-manage, which in turn leads to poorer health outcomes, reduced quality of life and increased healthcare costs. Rochdale volunteer and diabetes champion, Henry Gerber attended the event and it was inspiring to hear all the work he has done to help people recognise the early symptoms of the condition.
Northern Rail held a drop-in event for MPs to discuss any Northern-related matters that would be of interest to our constituencies, and I was very disappointed to hear their feedback. Rochdale will not be benefitting from any investment or improved services. Privatisation of our rail is clearly not working, the system needs to be nationalised to bring the needs of its users to the forefront, and not the bonuses of its owners.
Finally, I attended a meeting to discuss bees and pollinators, which may sound like a bizarre subject. However, many of the foods and crops we rely on need or, at the very least, benefit from bee pollination – which is currently under threat.
Albert Enstein famously once said: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
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