Weekly Round-Up

I started the week in the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in a pre-appointment hearing for the chair of the UK Statistics Authority. The Government’s preferred candidate for the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority is Sir Robert Chote; this was a meeting to consider Sir Robert’s suitability against the job description and person specification while also acting as an added level of parliamentary scrutiny to verify his suitability for a public appointment. The UK Statistics Authority is an independent statutory body, operating at arm’s length from the Government as a non-ministerial department and reports directly to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The work of the Authority is further defined under secondary legislation made under the Act by the UK Parliament or the devolved legislatures. The Authority aims to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that ‘serve the public good’. The independence of the UK Statistics Authority is vital, especially given the current Prime Minister’s approach to the truth and his persistent use of misleading statistics in Parliament.

On Monday I contributed to the statement by the Education Secretary on the Schools White Paper. When he was interviewed on the weekend’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday”, the Secretary of State could not answer a question on the shocking fall in per pupil funding, particularly compared with private schools. My child, like thousands of children, started school just before this Government came into power and they are just about to finish. The Secretary of State talks about a parent pledge. I asked him to apologise to the thousands of parents and young people for what this Government has done to per pupil funding over the last 12 years. In his answer (that neglected such an apology), the Secretary of State talked about standards consistently going up. I don’t know where he’s been for the past 12 years that the Tories have been in power, but perhaps he should talk to some of the teachers in my constituency who are struggling to help students achieve their potential with ever fewer resources and are desperate to see the funding they need. 

This week I spoke in the Health and Care Bill debate. I spent some six weeks on the Bill Committee trying to alter the original Bill. The list of improvements that have already been made is impressive. Unlike in the Committee, when the Minister batted away every single proposal for change, the Government has adopted some of our suggested changes and there has been some progress. I support the Lords Amendment intended to protect carers, to prevent any further problems with discharge to assess. We need to enhance people’s rights as carers, not take them away. I know from personal experience that the removal of an assessment prior to discharge may result in less priority being given to the assessment once someone has left hospital. Families clearly worry that patients may be “out of sight, out of mind” once they have left hospital.

In Committee, I raised many issues relating to the membership of integrated care boards, particularly in respect of their lack of accountability to local people. I was delighted to see one of my proposals go through the House of Lords. We are happy to support the approach agreed in Lords amendment 105, to give some positive recognition to parity of esteem for mental health. It is vital that there is a mental health voice on our integrated care boards so that consideration of equal level is given to our physical and mental care needs. 

I was pleased to meet with Brian Fisher of the Campaign for a National Care Support and Independent Living Service this week. Their aim is to get the market out of social care and make support free at the point of use, as with other aspects of our health care. They also want disabled and older people, families and communities to be able to shape what is needed to ensure that everyone has choice, dignity, and control over their care and their lives. Informal and unpaid carers deserve to be valued and their contribution recognised. Health care does not end at the hospital doors, and we need to ensure that our care system is accessible and inclusive.

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.