July 2005 Monthly Archives

Article for Ruislip and Northwood Gazette

July 31, 2005

Harefield and Mt Vernon hospitals are a source of great pride to our community. Extraordinary work is done on both sites, both in the hospitals and the research and voluntary organisations that coexist.

Harefield and Mt Vernon hospitals are a source of great pride to our community. Extraordinary work is done on both sites, both in the hospitals and the research and voluntary organisations that coexist. That achievement is all the more impressive, given the uncertainty over the future of both hospitals. Last month, I commented on the need for local health authorities to rebuild the bridges of trust with the local community after the fiasco of trying to move Harefield to Paddington. This month it is sad to report that the challenge of trust building has just got bigger. At a Board meeting of the North West London Strategic Health Authority on July 19th, it was recommended that the SHA walk away from a commitment to retain some ‘walk in’ radiotherapy services at Mount Vernon after the proposed move of the Cancer centre to a new hospital in Hatfield in 2012/3. I am personally satisfied that this recommendation reflects a genuine concern about patient safety and the ability to deliver a first class service. However both Community Voice and I have made the SHA well aware that many local people, who feel that they have a stake in Mount Vernon, will feel betrayed. My question to them now is what is being offered to the 1 million patients for whom today Mount Vernon is the most convenient location to receive treatment for this most traumatic of diseases? Are they expected to take the tube to Hammersmith or drive to Hatfield? Given that on their own figures demand for cancer services will grow by over 50% by 2012, why not consider developing full cancer services at both Hatfield and Mount Vernon? If there are to be no cancer services at Month Vernon what will take its place? Will someone finally take strategic responsibility for this underexploited site? We are promised some answers by the end of November. Watch this space. "

Article for Conservatives for Europe

July 19, 2005

The clearest message that I heard in the general election was one of frustration and lack of confidence in politicians.

The clearest message that I heard in the general election was one of frustration and lack of confidence in politicians. People feel less able to control what is important to them, and the big decisions seem to be taken by remote, unaccountable bureaucracies.

The EU has begun to symbolise what people feel is wrong with politics: it is too elite; it is too remote; and it is seen as too self-interested and too corrupt. Over the past decade, the British people have recognised the degree to which Europe meddles in their lives, and they want less interference rather than more.

The current European leadership reminds me of the board of a grand multinational company that has lost contact with its customer base over many years. The crisis prompted by the rejection of the EU constitution is the opportunity to save the company, if the board accepts the need for a new strategy.

Instead of appearing to focus endlessly on its own workings and the allocation of power, the EU must prove its value to a new generation. First it must explicitly ditch the principle of ever-closer political union and focus instead on re-establishing the EU’s credentials as a force for prosperity, growth and jobs.

That means focusing minds on extending the single market, breaking down external tariffs and strengthening the economic ties that will do more to bind us together than any artificial political structure. It also requires a fundamentally different approach to regulation.

The second priority is to prove that the EU can deliver an effective lead on some of the issues that we cannot tackle on our own.

Take climate change, for example. The science has moved on, and there is an urgent need to look beyond the first, very small step that was Kyoto. It is clear that the world is not going to get a lead from the superpower. In this vacuum, the EU has a chance to play a constructive and possibly decisive role in building a coalition of the willing around a post-Kyoto framework. It can certainly take practical steps to put words into action. If, for example, we have to live with the common agricultural policy, is not there a case for using it to incentivise the production of biofuels? A robust EU emissions trading scheme could be, and must be, a template for a global scheme.

In short, it is time for the EU to be seen to be taking a lead on the difficult issues that matter to people. It is time to replace a culture of power grab with one of delivering tangible benefits to people. In truth, real progress will require new leadership, and in the short term only Britain can supply it until a new generation of leaders takes the stage in France and Germany.

While the old regime struggles to respond to the impudence of the French and Dutch people, it is time for Britain to find a bold, positive voice on the EU-one that steers the Community towards better defining its role, setting its limits much more clearly and, above all, proving its relevance and value to the people who pay for it. "

Fatherhood and the Care of Children

July 5, 2005

Nick Hurd raises his concerns that the perceived breakdown in community values and respect is related to the way children are being brought up.

Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): I am grateful to you, Mr. Olner, for squeezing me in. This important debate goes to the heart of a growing concern in my constituency about the perceived breakdown in the values that once bound the community together-respect for the law, respect for property and respect for each other.

A growing voice has linked that breakdown with the way in which children are being brought up today. It is not just the voice of nostalgia for a golden age of parenthood that probably never existed. I have spoken with senior London policemen who have to deal with the fact that 40 per cent. of street crime in London is committed by 10 to 16-year-olds playing truant. I have spoken with the headmasters of secondary schools who often find parents who obstruct rather than support their efforts to instil more discipline in their schools. A growing body of research summarises the evidence of family breakdown in Britain and its harmful impact on children.

It is striking how out on a limb we are. Britain is the divorce capital of Europe, with 25 per cent. of children living in lone-parent households. That is twice the European average as measured by EUROSTAT, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. The Government’s approach has been to respect personal freedom and to help those facing the challenge of bringing up children on their own in conditions of poverty by providing them with support. Those good intentions are to be supported-they are thoroughly respectable-but I would argue that they have unintended but damaging consequences.

I would like to pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mr. Crabb), which is that the tax and benefits system now discourages low-earning parents from forming two-parent families. That message comes through strongly in research from a wide range of organisations, including Civitas, Care, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Centre for Policy Studies. It is the inevitable outcome of a system in which income tax is based on individual assessment, with no allowances for marriage, and benefits are based on a joint assessment; arguably, penalties for marriage are built in to the system.

If that is true, Government policy may be helping to increase the number of children being raised without a father in the home, despite increasingly clear evidence that there is a link between marriage or stable cohabitation and a better outcome for children in terms of health, performance at school and crime. That being so, is it not time to confront the awkward truth that children growing up outside the family unit do not have equality of opportunity? Is it not time to re-examine where the interests of children lie and ask whether it can be in their interests to penalise couples and subsidise lone parents? Faced with the growing tension between the need to respect personal freedom and the desire to give children the best possible chance, I argue that the Government should at least be neutral in the signals that they send via the tax and benefits system.

I was canvassing on an estate in Ruislip during the general election when I was pursued down the street by a young man in a dressing gown. He wanted to tell me that his decision to marry his girlfriend would cost him £400 in lost benefit. He was going to do it anyway, because he thought that it was the right thing to do-but he wanted to know whether it was wrong for the Government to be sending that signal to young people. I said yes-and I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.


12.4 pm

For full debate as reported in Hansard, click here.