I have been contacted by a number of local business owners and employers who are deeply concerned about their future.
Following the Chancellor’s announcements earlier this week, please make sure you are fully aware of your eligibility as an employer or employee. Follow the link below for the official advice from Government in relation to coronavirus and employment.
Yesterday I spoke in the House of Commons on an issue vital to to our region – health inequalities.
Ten years on from the publication of his ground-breaking report, Professor Michael Marmot’s 2020 review of the state of public health in England provides a grim picture of health inequalities both between regions and across the North East.
Marmot’s report, published last week, measures the state of public health against the widely accepted principle that “good health is an indication that a society is thriving and that economic and social and cultural features of a society are working in the best interests of the population.”
The principle is straight forward; if health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has also stopped improving; and where a society flourishes, so health tends to flourish.
What follows in Marmot’s report, however, is evidence that health inequalities are growing across the country, and here in the North East we’re seeing the trends heading in the wrong direction. Put simply, after a decade of austerity that has disproportionately hurt the North East, we’re not flourishing, we’re failing.
Johnson’s talk of “levelling-up” the regions by the government sounds attractive, but unless talk becomes action, his words will remain meaningless.
It is quite shocking that on this Government’s watch life expectancy has stalled for first time since the turn of the twentieth century and there is particular concern that it is, in fact, decreasing for the most deprived women.
There are also marked regional differences in life expectancy, with the North East seeing the greatest decline compared to other regions. The gap in life expectancy between the most deprived and least deprived areas in Gateshead increased between 2010 and 2018. For both men and women, the largest decreases in life expectancy were seen in the most deprived 10 percent of communities in the North East and the largest increases in the least deprived 10 percent of London communities.
There has been no sign of a decrease in mortality for people under 50. In fact, mortality rates have increased for people aged 45-49. And “healthy” life expectancy is worsening, so we’re now seeing those in the most deprived communities living more of their shorter life in ill-health. Poor health not only harms individuals, families and communities, it also comes at great expensive to the public purse.
The health of a population isn’t only based on how well the NHS is funded and functions. Health is often determined by the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and access to power, money and resources. The impact of massive funding cuts to school budgets, the closure of over a thousand Sure Start centres, and cuts to Local Authorities that have seen central government funding decline by 77% over a decade, all have a negative effect on public health.
Marmot concludes that in order to reduce the gaps, policy makers must strive to give every child the best start in life and enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives. The state must intervene to provide fair employment and good work for all and ensure a healthy standard of living for all. That means prioritising healthy and sustainable homes and communities.
For a decade now, the Tories have shown no real commitment to reducing health inequalities. I agree with Marmot, that the Government must take urgent action to level up health, by addressing the housing, educational, employment, childcare and environmental issues that all factor. That can only be achieved by working with our councils and other public services; providing them with the resources and powers to intervene where necessary.
The focus should be on investing early to lift the level of health in deprived areas in the North up to the level of good health enjoyed by people living in affluent areas in London and the South. Only then can Johnson truly claim to be “levelling up” the regions.
This afternoon Liz asked the Foreign Secretary what progress has been made through international cooperation on tackling climate change, as this issue becomes increasingly important.
His answer was not reassuring. It is clear that climate change is not a priority for this government. It was recently revealed that the government is set to woefully miss its climate targets by almost 50 years. If progress continues at its current rate, the government target of reaching “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050 will not be met until 2099. The government need to do more to tackle climate change, and they need to do it soon.
I recently spoke in a debate on the nationwide ban of the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.
It’s about time we moved on from this archaic practice and realise that our entertainment comes at a price. I’m therefore glad that this ban will be introduced – but it is long overdue.
It is frustrating that we are way behind the times in this country, as many countries across the globe have already implemented similar bans. It is simply unacceptable that the UK is left lagging behind other countries with regards to animal welfare standards. And while this legislation is welcome, it does not go far enough to protect animal rights. We want to see more animals protected under legislation.
This is an issue I know is of great concern to my constituents, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to put these points to the Government.
This morning I led a debate in Westminster Hall on Traidcraft and the future of Fairtrade.
I have been raising the difficulties Traidcraft has been having in Parliament over the past few months. I was therefore pleased to be able to debate these issues in Parliament – with a good number of colleagues contributing.
It’s so important that we keep Fairtrade organisations like Traidcraft running. They do such important work to help those who need it most around the world; and do so by creating good quality products at the same time.
You can watch the debate here: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c70b3b05-301c-4711-ad78-d52ace961ea5